Are you operating at your Performance Potential??

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:  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:

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:

  1. Utilise your network- having a strong network of trusted advisors and connecters saves you lots of time getting the right information / person
  2. Don’t procrastinate – action the things you perceive difficult as soon as possible in your day, make that difficult phone call, have that conversation
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Signpost along the road to 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.

Quiet Quest


International Women’s Day 2014 – How will you get involved?

With International Women’s Day (IWD) rapidly approaching on Saturday 8th March I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate women in leadership and share some recent insights!


Last week I attended Network Central’s 15th Birthday Luncheon which featured a panel of successful Women in Leadership moderated by Georgie Dent from Women’s Agenda.

I was inspired by the authentic panel and there was a feeling in the room that there is no limit to what we can all achieve!

My key takeaways were:

  • Power of the network: Christine Bartlett from NAB shared one of her biggest career learnings was to spend 50% of time doing the job and 50% of time building relationships (The network just keeps coming up, I read a great blog and White Paper yesterday describing five advantages for leaders in a networked world).
  • Finding your passion: Elizabeth Anne Macgregor OBE shared the importance of finding passion in what your leading (which I wrote about in my Meaning@Work Blog) She referenced Ken Robinson’s book: How finding your passion changes everything
  • Power of Male Mentors: Maria Halasz CEO of Cellmid limited described the power of male mentors and advised not to sweat the small stuff and go on your own journey.
  • Tipping Point Research: We need at least 30% of Women on Boards for gender to go out of the door. The latest percentage of women on ASX 200 boards is 17.6% (14 February 2014). More statistics via:
  • This is not just a women’s issue: Kim McGuinness, MD of Network Central talked about the research showing a balanced board and management team positively affects the bottom line and that Women in Leadership is not just a women’s issue. Women have different needs and abilities, coupled with men the result can be amazing.
  • Panel’s Best Career Advice: Specifically map what your future looks like, keep learning & take control of YOUR career!

Renetta Cooper, CEO of Forming Circles gave a touching speech and tribute to Kim McGuinness and stated one woman can make a difference, together we can rock the world!

Check out the great event twitter action via my storify:

What is success for Women (& Men) in Leadership??


I read a great article in Marie Claire at the spa on Monday (recovering after a half ironman!) which was calling for success to be redefined by Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post (@ariannahuff). Arianna writes how success has been defined in male terms predominantly by power and money. She is calling for it to be redefined including elements such as well-being, wonder, empathy and giving.

Most of the women I know do not want to burnout working 80-100 hour weeks, they want to achieve a balanced work-life integration. I agree with integrating the element of ‘giving’ which it seems to be the era of rather than receiving. I attended a ‘Feed the Starving Crowd’ book launch last night for Robert Cooley MBA. What humbled me was that Robert had no budget for his book launch but called on his network and managed to attract a wide array of sponsors to put on a great event which had 300 registrations! Again the power of the network which is crucial to your success!

Having previously written a blog on my key takeaways from Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ I revisited this and reconnected with the insights including Women need to lean in, sit at the table and take risks and be champions of other Women in Leadership!

With celebrating Women in Leadership achievements next month I also think we need to be cautious to not lose focus from the next generation of male leaders. I have been inspired by the Gen Y men in our network for young professionals who have a sense of empathy, fairness and inclusiveness. These men need to be recognised and sponsored too and not feel all the development opportunities are being offered to their female colleagues. I’m all for a balanced workforce. Sydney is full of networking groups focused on women which is great but I feel men need to be part of this movement. Network Central seem to have the balance right with male mentors and males encouraged to attend their events.

At the IECL I am leading a Connected Leadership team to promote more networked organisations. Gone are the days of the hero leader (Yesterday’s Heroes AFR Boss Article) and we need to unlock our organisational networks to discover leaders at all levels (both male and female) who can progress leadership in Australia!

Yesterday's Heroes

Women in leadership is definitely a trend in the 21st Century, let’s make sure this isn’t a fad. Here are some ways for you to get involved in IWD 2014!

*Attend one of the many events being hosted around the world, at my last check there were 119 here in Australia on the International Women’s Day site I will be attending a UN women’s breakfast on Friday 7th March and know my colleagues have signed up to a variety of local events!
*Sponsor a woman in business – who can you connect and advocate for in your network?
*Make some noise on social media to support the cause. Follow the twitter handle @womensday and conversation via #womensday
*Join a women in business community
. A few I am a member of can be found below as a starting point:

Uniting together we can achieve more! 


Survive or Thrive in 2014?

Will you survive or thrive in the New Year ahead?


I’m feeling inspired and set for the New Year ahead after a digital detox during a triathlon training camp in the beautiful Australian Alps!

In seven days we completed 12km of swimming, 370km of biking in the mountains (including up to Charlotte’s Pass and Thredbo) and 55km of running (including the beautiful Kosciusko run to Australia’s highest point). This was a welcome detox after the Christmas silly season and a kick start to my Ironman Training with four months to go until my debut race in Port Macquarie! It also gave me ample time to reflect, unplug from work emails, social media and phone reliance as much as I could.

Dani Kosciusko

This reflection time gave way to my first 2014 blog post on the subject of corporate wellbeing, timely with many of us reflecting over the break and ready to start the New Year with new healthier working habits!

Just before the Christmas break I got together a group from the IECL and my wider network to discuss corporate wellbeing, does it exist in our Australian workplaces and what can we do to promote it?

We agreed corporate wellbeing was higher on the agenda pre GFC and is now coming back strongly with movements such as Conscious Capitalism and Humanity in Business.

“The new breed of conscious business leader cares not only for its staff, but also for the customer, the supplier, business stakeholders and for the community it operates in.   This leader believes that business has a bigger responsibility towards the community that it operates in and that to ensure a sustainable and long term profitable business, people must come first.” Source:


Here are my top five tips that came out of our session to start your year well and ensure you are closer to thriving than surviving on the continuum of life!:

  • Make time for Recovery: Recovery is critical in physical training (recovery weeks, tapering) as all athletes know but why is this principal not always transferred into workplace project cycles? You wouldn’t jump straight into a marathon after completing one but we do this on huge projects in the workplace. A concept I learnt on Avril Henry’s ‘Great Leaders are Made’ program is Dr Adam Fraser’s Third Space: Reflect (What just happened to me?), Rest (Can I turn off and relax?), Reset (How will I show up?)
  • Embrace Silent Time: Where is the reflection time in busy corporate lives? Schedule time for plugging out and have some quiet time in your busy days. It doesn’t have to take a long time, we just need to create the space. For me this can be as little as 5 minutes outside on the ferry each morning.  Proof of the value of quiet time: Einstein had lots of quiet time which is where the theory of relativity came from!
  • Give rather than receive: Research shows the importance of giving opposing to always receiving, try being extra generous with things such as information or your time, karma will come back to you
  • Balance your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual capacity: Imagine you have a bucket of each component and be mindful of energy in and out striving for balance (today I enjoyed a relaxing yoga class after all the triathlon training stress my body has undergone)
  • Have Purposeful Work: Find purpose and meaning in your work which research has shown increases energyengagement and wellness at work

Work Life Balance

A key point raised during our discussion was that we need to give ourselves permission to live a life of wellness and be courageous when interference’s challenge the balance. We also need to overcome guilt associated with being still and taking time out for ourselves.

The title of this blog is the Corporate Athlete and to finish I wanted to share the abstract from a powerful article my great friend and triathlon coach Nicole Ward shared with me recently:

“Some executives thrive under pressure. Others wilt. Is the reason all in their heads? Hardly. Sustained high achievement demands physical and emotional strength as well as a sharp intellect. To bring mind, body and spirit to peak condition, executives need to learn what world-class athletes already know; recovering energy is as important as expending it.” Source: HBR: The Making of the Corporate Athlete: by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

I challenge us all to integrate these aspects into our lives and wish you all a thriving 2014 full of energy, positivity and possibility!



HBR: The Making of the Corporate Athlete:

Examples of leaders showing humanity in business: Richard Jamieson (CFO, Westpac) and Phil Hay (Head of Life Insurance, BT) sharing that they love their people in an authentic way

The Famous Five: Are you Connecting?

At our second IECL NEXGEN event for young professionals last week we had the pleasure of Kim McGuinness from Network Central exploring how do you become a great connector?

The enthusiastic, energetic Gen Y and X audience were eager to learn how to prepare themselves for a lifelong network!

Power of Gen X and Gen Y!

Power of Gen X and Gen Y!

Kim generously shared her business relationship analysis tool that she revisits every three months. This looks at your network broken down into advocates (people who endorse you, who you trust and value the most), close contacts (who you would go to dinner with), known contacts and distant contacts. Outside of this we added a social media layer for people you follow i.e. on twitter and linked in. The aim is to increase awareness and strategically move people closer which I found a very powerful exercise.

Next we looked at our famous five, the most influential and important go to’s in our network. This is important to reflect on as it is said we are a product of our inner circle. If those people have high energy and positivity levels then we will have too-positive emotional contagion! We then had to map our ideal Famous Five and assess the gap.


We touched briefly on ‘Our WHY’ which I have been exploring and wrote about in my Meaning@Work, MeaninginLife blog. Part of my why is to develop, connect and inspire others to create energy, possibility and positivity. I have a mission for this which I am currently developing which I will share once progressed. What’s your why and mission / vision and are you living it?

A great exercise was who can I connect? This involved thinking of our networks and who would benefit from interacting. I was thinking of some upcoming forums I’m part of, a disruption network and a corporate athlete/well being brainstorm with members of my network. My challenge set is to get a group of bloggers (varying from new to experienced) together to learn from each other! If anyone is interested please let me know! Who can you connect in your network for a purpose? 

Kim’s connecting tips:

  • Always add a personal message on a LinkedIn contact request. When using the iphone or ipad you need to select add a personal message otherwise it will send the generic message automatically.
  • Follow companies on LinkedIn to learn from
  • You are a sum of your famous five, choose them wisely
  • Get to networking events early, be happy and generous
  • Be active in five LinkedIn groups
  • Pick three social media platforms and give them attention, different content but the same message. For business mine are LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogging
  • Think who can I refer? Be a giver, karma will come back to you
  • Contact follow up post event is crucial, do what you say you will (i.e. send that article)
  • Expand your thinking
  • Create a monthly networking plan


To finish the highly practical session we had a call to action card which I challenge you all to reflect on and commit to at least one:

  • Connect with 5 people you haven’t seen in a while before Christmas
  • Book a networking event (and follow up time)
  • Plan which networks you will attend in 2014 and put a note in your diary to book events
  • Put a group together and see how you can help each other
  • Find three fascinating people on LinkedIn and personally invite them to connect

Happy connecting and enjoy a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Christmas Connect

Disrupt or be Disrupted!

I had the recent pleasure of attending a CBA Women in Focus (@CBAWomeninFocus #womenCAN) event which had been on my look out list. When I saw the title  ‘Disrupt or be Disrupted’ I thought I have to go to this (even though it means missing my Thursday track session!). Women in Focus,  is a community set up to provide information, inspiration and connection for women in business. 


I went to the event with my highly creative colleague Sue-Ella and the first fellow guest we saw at registration was Claire Stretch (@Clairestretch) from filmstretch who we had recently collaborated with to make some short videos. (I would highly recommend Claire to anyone looking for professional, cost effective video production!). I love how Sydney has a core close knit group of regulars on the networking circuit making it a real community. Robin Powis (@robinpowis) was another guest who I know through Network Central. Robin is a image consultant, a great Christmas present if you know anyone who would like a fun half day of getting their colour’s done which I experienced recently! 

The MC for the evening Karen James charmed the audience with her humour and proudly declared she had just hit the big 50. Happy belated birthday Karen! She opened the session referencing a recent AFR article quoting McKinsey and the globalised nature of organisations and the leadership required behind that. Previously deemed Feminine qualities are now being deemed effective for leadership. I read a great article on this recently which I highly encourage you to read: Between Venus and Mars: 7 Traits of True Leaders

As I have written about in previous blogs at the IECL we are responding to the leadership shift required in the modern workplace through our Connected Leadership work integrating Social Network Analysis software to create awareness and mobilise networks which can include discovering the ideas networks in organisations.

Onto the topic of the evening: Disruption which has been a business buzz word in 2013.


Karen explored how large, risk adverse organisations do not respond well to the word disruption but do so to transformation. I question, how can we transform organisations without disrupting the status quo?

CBA showed an impressive timeline of their innovation journey. Tiz from the team shared how they have collaborated closely with Ideo on a Customer Centred Design (CCD) approach. I came across the CCD approach last year with one of our key clients and it left a lasting impression on me and the importance of ‘looking out’ and observing/talking to your customers. It definitely changes the way you think!

From Tiz’s presentation my key insights were:

  • Embrace being uncomfortable (like the tension I explored in my adaptive leadership blog), disruption could be your next big idea!
  • If you’re in retail make it easy (e.g. @menulog), engaging (e.g. @shazam) and a rich experience (@BurberryLondon) to keep you ahead in the next 10 years!
  • Innovation tips: 1) observe don’t ask (Tiz gave an example of learning from a merchant who hid the card terminal because of its ugliness that prettiness could be important, something they hadn’t considered) 2) extreme, not average (I.e. Purchase of a wedding dress – creating an option to split the bill for grandma, mum and aunts!) 3) iterate – don’t perfect (trial before spending a fortune, CBA created hundreds of prototypes including plastic and cardboard to get the card terminal tilt right before creating the material version)

Burberry London

It was then time for a interactive panel discussion. The first question asked via Karen was around the impact of disruption . Commentary included that China had disrupted the Australian manufacturing industry and Australian retailers had needed to respond, I.e. Focusing on lead time.

My key takeaways were: Just do it (this is one of my favourite mantras, I love putting things into action to progress!), it isn’t changing it’s changed (we need to accept this and respond), understand your audience (this is how you win), disrupt before you’re disrupted (to keep ahead), be aware there are no boundaries online and fear keeps you sharp (reminds me of Marty Linsky’s mantra smart risks in smart ways).

Just Do It

A question that got my attention as related to my partnerships role at the IECL was how do you find the right person to disrupt from another organisation that you’d like to partner with?. The advice was simple, the risk taking entrepreneurs are easy to find online, the risk adverse corporates are not!

A useful statement made was disruption is a bigger risk for corporate giants who have professional, perfect brand images to protect versus a start up who are know for mishaps along the way. I understand yet challenge this, I actually respect large organisations who are taking risks like the recent APSC event I attended on adaptive leadership for all their precious consultants that could have gone either way with its controversial nature!

The panelists were asked what they are worried about / foresee in this globalised world of technological advance? They responded with; the way we receive products- there was foresight in the manufacturing space about 3D printers in the future; big data and privacy- including inaccurate data; the later effects of what children do online; loss of IP – with the democratisation of knowledge and more admin work outsourced with the example of Phillipenes based EA’s for $8 an hour. It was noted large org’s have benefited cost wise from outsourcing work to places like India, it was acknowledged now small businesses can leverage this too!

Big Data

It was then time for a fun, interactive table activity: A Challenge to disrupt a surprise industry through the following questions prompts in the image below:

Group Activity

Our team was given cars which was interesting. We jumped straight to the big picture, we need flying cars, cars that drive themselves, cars that were synced to your iPhone and became your PA on the go! Then to the environmental footprint of cars, we needed more community sharing, cars without rubber tyres etc.

Flying cars

The panelists were roaming and tended to lure to our table as there was lots of food left! We had some very valuable direction from them. We were concentrating mainly on the exterior of cars which hasn’t changed much in decades. Where the disruption could more realistically be is with the user experience inside the car. This was a aha moment for us and we suddenly latched onto an idea cars of prey like shoes of prey. Design your own car! Similar to Trek’s project one for those who are into bikes. We were then hubs of ideas including all things customisable: fabric, colour, scent, music system, dog /baby seat, make up bag holder, massage function, the list went on. And of course to get the costs down by 90% all manufacturing was going to be outsourced to Asia! Each team then that 2 mins to pitch their idea to the wider group. Claire was our presenter and did a great punchy job of getting our message across. There were nine other great presentations with some fantastic industry disruptions including a bra scanner that finds your exact size which can then custom make any style on the spot, a crowd favourite. Our disruption was voted second by the panel judges, well done team!

photo (16)

A very fun experience which I recommend others to replicate! I know Sue Ella and I will be challenging the IECL on how we can disrupt the coaching and leadership industry which we’re already started doing through innovative client solutions and connection leadership initiatives!

So how you you help your organisation embrace disruption? An idea we’re trialing is creating structure for it through an ideas box and will be setting up regular discussion forums, a disruption network!

In conclusion, my high event expectations were definitely met, what an amazing group of women in the Women In Focus community with superb business acumen plus the ability to have serious fun! I will be back.

I’ll finish with the title of the blog, Disrupt or be disrupted!


Meaning@Work and Meaning4Life

I have been thinking a lot recently about meaning in the workplace and more holistically meaning in life and wanted to share some powerful insights from recent experiences:

On Wednesday 13th November I had the fortune to be taken by my dear colleague John to a Meaning@Work seminar set up by the Positivity Institute with Associate professor Michael Steger from Colorado University.

Meaning at Work

Michael has a wonderful energy and I was enthralled with his presentation based around his Meaningful work model (Steger, Dik & Duffy 2013). He started the session by calling it Wellbeing Wednesday (which I loved and have pitched to the IECL!)– a day to focus on gaining energy from work:

My key takeaways below:

Meaningful Work Model (and how I connect with it, how do you?):

  1. Work must have a point or purpose in an organisation (My work in client relations and partnerships directly correlates to innovative solutions for clients and holistic leadership development initiatives that achieve results including engagement increases)
  2. Work that resonates with life meaning (Our mission at the IECL is to develop the next generation of leaders which resonates with part of my life meaning to inspire and mobilise the next generation)
  3. Work that serves some greater good (We are striving to create sustainable workplaces for the future through our connected leadership practice, always more that can be done here!)

Meaningful work is:

  • More personally involved than satisfaction
  • Deeper and more sustained than engagement (i.e. staff surveys)
  • More outward looking than job identification
  • Stimulates wellbeing more than commitment

Research shows there is desire for meaningful work places, which has been shown to triumph over pay, promotion and job choices. Recent research by Deloitte shows 70% of employers and employees believe org’s don’t provide purpose.

We should think of colleagues like our neighbours and do the small gestures of kindness we see with community spirit, i.e. lending a helping hand, filling up the communal water jug, washing our dirty coffee cups properly (create a culture where all feel a responsibility). This is something I know I need to be more mindful of during those busy, high pressure days. I love the Wake up project’s Kindness cards, PWC recently partnered with them to launch a kindness campaign!

Meaningful work benefits – increased job satisfaction, career commitment, intrinsic motivation, meaning in life, strengths endorsement, strengths utilisation, flow experiences at work

Meaningful work is relevant to all sides of the economic equation- leaders and followers, executives and employees

Meaningful Work

Here are a couple of acronyms Michael made up specifically for this session which I found useful:

  • CARMA for leaders in organisation’s – Clarity of vision, Authenticity, Respect, Mattering, Autonomy – My key takeaways here were that a lack of respect destroys meaning at work, peoples work must make a point and autonomy is crucial to provide opportunity for self-direction, trial and error and innovation
  • SPIRE for individuals – Strengths, Personalisation, Integration, Resonance and Expansion –  Key takeaways here were acknowledging strengths in a non comparing way – those within us, enabling people to discover and utilise their unique strengths and talents (we utilise a strengths based approach at the IECL) and allowing personalisation for workers to find ways to bring a sense of who they are to work

One of Michael’s closing comments when asked a question on the difference between meaning and purpose was meaning is abstract – purpose is drive which I will close his session reflection with.


Finding Your True Calling – Client offsite experience with one of our amazing Associate Coaches and Facilitators Jill Danks

Positivity Institute

I had the pleasure of experiencing a powerful self reflection process at a session facilitated yesterday for one of our key clients.

The facilitator Jill took us on a journey adopting a coaching approach through the young you, your values, responsible you, your gremlins and what do you yearn for. My reflections below (I would encourage you to reflect on these areas):

Young You – When you were little what did you want to be when you grew up? My reflection included a PE teacher as a small child, lawyer at high school, sports scientist at college and then a sports marketer at uni! Here we thought about our dreams and what fired you up and made you feel alive at uni. For me in was engaging in robust household debates with peers and playing hockey against all the elements (Jill challenged us with have we lost that in our adult lives?)

Your Values – Reflecting on what really matters to you and whether they’re being lived in your life. My top values included family, health, meaning, challenge and creativity. When I think of them all I feel I am living health, meaning, challenge and creativity through my work, athletic pursuits and WAG pamper sessions. I felt the need to focus more on family which was number one, living overseas you can get caught up in a busy world and it’s important to have regular check ins with your loved ones. I do this but not as much as I’d like. I took an action to call my dear Grandma!

Responsible You – Thinking about when you started work, got married or had kids, what did you give up that mattered to you? For me when I started work in London after uni in the dynamic world of sports marketing (with a big commute) I gave up valuable ‘me time’ including my vigorous exercise schedule, reading and flexibility to roam in the outdoors. This is more balanced here at the IECL in Australia. Having recently gotten married you do give up part of your previous family life to set up with your partner. I have an incredibly close relationship with my sister and although this will always be there it is different from when you lived at home together and hung out all the time. I have lots of friends who are mothers and speak about giving up their freedom with having children. This doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t huge but it’s useful to reflect on what you have given up and if you can find ways to get some of it back.

Your Gremlins – Jill challenged us, when you think about doing things for yourself, what do your gremlins say (those inner voices in your head)?!. For me although I’m learning to manage them things come up like you’re too busy, wait until you have time. With learning to swim it was you can’t swim, you’re from the UK, Pommies can’t swim! (when we all know there are some great UK swimmers!). Being aware of your inner critic and champion which we teach in our Level 2 in Organisational Coaching is very powerful. The position on the balcony of observing the inner conversation and making meaning from it has helped me immensely.

What do you Yearn for? Jill took us through a meditative practice of discovering any sensory yearnings we had. In the categories I found yearnings for: Creative (painting, writing), Career (speak your truth, give back to the industry) Self Nurture (kayaking, running through the countryside, splashing in the waves) Community Service (mentoring others) Relationship (reconnecting with family, having fun)


To help this process we walked around a beautiful collection of image cards to see what connected with us. I connected with a stacked rock image that created a sensory feeling for being outdoors and climbing mountains, a sports field where I yearned for that freedom on a hockey pitch, a lion which reminded me of family trips at the zoo, yearning for family time, a sunset which triggered a sensory feeling for travel and a graveyard which made me yearn for my Grandpa who had a very strong influence on my life.

To conclude Jill in true coaching style asked us to commit to a SMART action and to think about what we need to let go of.

Like Jill, I would love to see more time for reflective practice in the workplace, the value of quiet time is immense. I am inspired by Jill to read Einstein’s autobiography which shows how much quiet time he had, one period leading to the theory of relativity insight.


Jill has a great vision for a corporate silence day which I truly endorse! Would love to hear any thoughts on meaning@work and meaning4life from my valued readers. 

Adaptive Leadership: Smart Risks in Smart Ways

Adaptive leadership… the new black

Complex Adaptive System

I am still in absolute awe and fascination after attending a session for Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) consultants last night in Canberra with Marty Linsky (@martylinsky) from Harvard University (@Harvard) on Adaptive Leadership. I like many others had expected a presentation on Adaptive Leadership where we learnt some principles and took away some acronyms or models.

On the contrary I had one of the most profound and deep experiences of my career to date. Marty started the session saying what if if I left you (a circular group of about 20 consultants and 5 APSC staff) to come up with what you want out of the session. He then stayed silent for 20 minutes and ignored all attempts of questions and invitations into the conversation. We had been abandoned by our authority, what was the next available option?

There was confusion, tension, nervousness, uncertainness. It was interesting observing the group and peoples’ different ways of becoming comfortable in the high tension situation. There were varying tolerances for the silence, some had to fill it whilst others like myself were quite comfortable observing a fascinating adaptive system in action.

Activity included a gentleman who had a eight hour round trip from Sydney stating in a confused manner that he hoped he would get some value from the session, another tried to break the circle into smaller groups to explore adaptive leadership and another was perplexed by the APSC staff who were staying quiet – was it a secret pact with Marty to discomfort us?

What Marty was artfully doing was gathering important data for the session. A key point being we look at authority at having all the answers and in this complex, ever changing world how can they? 

After his 20 minutes of silence Marty’s two key pieces of data from his observation were:

  1. Why did all the varying suggestions from consultants for action fail?
  2. Why did a member of the APSC team seem invisible after she spoke and later there were three comments on why no one from the APSC had spoken?

During the debrief conversation that followed here were my key insights which align with the IECL’s Connected Leadership work:

  • We shouldn’t be using the word leader but leadership which is a behaviour or activity 
  • Just because a Senior Exec has a big job it doesn’t mean they exhibit leadership
  • We often tell ourselves our own stories and testimony which are untrue, being heroes of our own stories, we need to take ownership. If we take a risk and it fails, own it
  • We assume people in leadership know what they’re doing, in reality in this ever changing, fast paced, technological world how do we prepare followers they can have no idea and are responding to pressure to pretend they know. Can we be brave in the face of this less comfortable interpretation and trust the system? 

Adaptive Leadership Wordle

When asked about his definition of Adaptive Leadership Marty shared some thoughts from his vast experience:

  • Leadership with purpose – risks on behalf of something you care deeply about
  • Smart risks on behalf of purpose to change the current reality for greater good using the filter of changing society for the better
  • Smart risks in smart ways 
  • Marty’s favourite definition of leadership: Disappointing your own people at a rate they can absorb 
  • Leadership is about the distribution of loss, in win – win situations, nothing important will happen although it may be nice. This was an aha moment for me as I often try and find a win, win solution

So what skills or technique practices are required to exercise Adaptive Leadership? I think the Four M’s of Connected leadership I mentioned in my last post are a great reference here, Membership, Mobilising, Moderating and Mindfulness focusing on the betweeness and relationships versus the individual.

Marty challenged us as consultants to think big and define where we’d like the state of Australian leadership to be. To achieve this we will need to take risks together. He said to do this it will require challenge and tension, our client sponsors are used to 4.5/5 on the program happy sheets, to take a risk and raise the tension we may be ranked lower with 3/5’s but it will be better for the greater progression of the nation. The challenge is getting people to think systemically when their investment in own autonomy is huge.

Two examples of adaptive leadership that Marty shared:

  • Obama campaign trail – One of Obama’s speeches where he acknowledged small business owner entrepreneurs are reliant on so many others for their successes not their own autonomy
  • Kennedy school – An Executive Director of a NFP came to one of Marty’s programs with her leadership challenge: she couldn’t find enough people to benefit from their NFP services with her budget available – half way through the program she left. Marty then facilitated a conversation around this- the first response was it was her own fault and responsibility for leaving, then Marty’s, at the end of the conversation the group took responsibility for her leaving. The key learning like with the social network analysis we’re using, the person on the outside is not always the problem, it’s a problem in the system, we are all interrelated

Adaptive Leadership

Marty drew us a flip chart to show where we need to move people in leadership positions, from the left to the right side of the table below:

Technical Adaptive
Individual Systemic
Benign Conflict

We were fortunate to have been given an experience of the right side, it’s hard to imagine this. We’re often ingrained in our left hand side thinking, to fix a problem we can get rid of bad leader, get rid of that one person, that thinking doesn’t get you over on the right side of chart.

Trying to push us to the right hand side of chart is very hard with our sense of our own agency, it is emotionally complicated not intellectually complicated to shift to the right.

Unresolved value conflict holds organisations in place, we need to orchestrate conflict, one way we’re practicing that at the IECL is through constructive argumentation practices in our workshops.

We need to be comfortable that in order to progress people will follow our proposals for different reasons and not the same reason we go for – at the IECL we talk about passionate intent. How can we align our individual passions with the organisation’s strategic destination?

Adaptive leadership requires you to be optimistic you can change the world and brutally realistic about what it’s going to take. I love this quote from Marty: “Realism prevents the optimism from becoming naive, optimism stops realism becoming cynical.” Mission driven people can hold the two in tension, can you?

During a powerful follow up conversation with a colleague one of my key insights was Adaptive Leadership starts with us, how can we take smart risks in smart ways? Like Marty did I challenge you to disrupt your weekend and do something that’s not on your to do list, even if it means being accountable to someone for changing your schedule. I will continue to absorb this concept and reconvene with a small group from the event in Canberra in a few weeks to socialise our learning. I am truly inspired and would love to go to Harvard Kennedy School one day and experience the full program!  


Check out Marty’s TedX St Charles talk ‘Adaptive Leadership-Leading Change’ here:

Recommended read ‘The Practice of Adaptive Leadership’ by Ronald A. Heifetz Marty LinskyAlexander Grashow

It’s not who you know, it’s who they know!

I wanted to write a blog on a subject I’m incredibly passionate about, the power of connection. Human beings are wired for it and now we have evidence that it’s crucial for business success.


Networking has been a buzz word for a while and there is lots of talk currently that it should be replaced by connecting. This implies purposeful conversation versus meaningless small talk. I love this quote from Carolyn Tate’s blog post on this subject which can be read in full here:

“Connecting is about getting to know, like and trust someone by asking meaningful questions and actually listening to the answers. It’s about sharing your story thereby giving the other person the courage to share theirs. It’s about following up your conversation with some valuable information or a trusted connection to others.  In short, it’s about making friends.”

A useful way to view our professional network is through LinkedIn Labs In Maps. I’ve presented mine below, which is categorised by colours. The dense blue connections on the left shows my London sports marketing network and the orange on the right my Sydney leadership and coaching network. Other categories include university friends and triathletes from my club. Of great interest from a network perspective are the brokers between my network areas and those on the periphery who are most likely to disrupt my thinking or introduce me to someone outside of my network. I would encourage you to map your network and have a look! To make real connections with key members of your network I recommend you reach out and arrange a face to face meeting or skype with a mutual purpose to build rapport.


Now, let’s look at connection in a leadership sense….

At the recent Change Management Institute (CMI) Conference I attended Dr Hilary Armstrong our Director of Education at the IECL explored the notion of Connected Leadership which I have had the pleasure and fortune of working with her closely on. The key here is that leadership in the modern world is not about the individual hero leader, it is about mobilising the network of relationships (connections) within and without. The traditional formal hierarchy org charts that nearly all companies have do not reflect the informal network and the way the work really gets done in organisations (fun graphic below!). I know in my work one of my greatest working efficiencies is with a colleague John who I would not be connected to on a formal org chart, have a think about the 5 key people you work with and whether you are connected on an org chat?

Informal Network

Some key insights from Hilary’s presentation:

  • How work gets done in organisations is through informal networks of reciprocal (two-way) relationships
  • These networks of relationships can be mapped and the data made transparent
  • Connection is key for innovation, efficiency and effectiveness 
  • The four M’s of Connected Leadership are Mobilising, Mindfulness, Membership and Moderating

I’ve created a storify of the twitter action during Hilary’s presentation:

The method of measuring connections and collaboration patterns is achieved through evidence based Social Network Analysis (SNA) software. The IECL have partnered with connection and SNA software experts Optimice in the leadership and coaching space to bring this to life for organisations. Cai Kjear, a partner at Optimice is featured in this great HR Monthly Article You Need a Map for those who are interested in reading more (highly recommended!).

Below is an example of an SNA map to show collaboration patterns across different business units (different coloured nodes) in a part of a well known organisation. The live map is dynamic and can be filtered many ways including to show intact team connections and for the idea and energy networks in organisations,  fascinating stuff! In this example, after Optimice mapped the data the IECL worked closely with the network through insight and action workshops and collaboration forums to find motivators to create membership and mobilise the network during a period of transformation. The results have been highly impressive including a 15% increase in employee engagement this year. 


I’m excited to start Optimice’s Organisational Network Analysis online course this week and am eager to explore this area of passion further which I truly believe has the potential to change organisations for the future!

Useful references for further reading:

The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents
(HBR – July 2013)

Don’t Let Your Best-Connected People Become Bottlenecks
(HBR blog post –  July 2013)

Find Your Digital Disruption Change Agents (Disrupt Sydney blog post September 2013)

I Need a Map
(HR Monthly October 2013)

“Follow the Leader – Leadership Development for the Future”
(IECL White Paper)

Getting to Change Agility – Creativity

Today I was fortunate to attend the Change Management Institute (@ChangeMgtIns) 2013 conference on ‘Getting to Change Agility’ (#changemanagement) at Doltone House in scenic Pyrmont. Here is the first in a series of blogs sharing summaries of the sessions I attended including my key takeaways.

Keynote: Todd Sampson (@toddsampsonOz) ‘A celebration of the power of creativity in solving any problem’

I was highly anticipating this keynote from Todd having watched him in action on ABC’s, The Gruen Transfer and he did not disappoint! His session describing creativity as one of the last remaining competitive advantages companies have today was practical and inspiring for all. Todd started with a story of a 2006 breakfast meeting at the Hilton in Sydney where the creative idea of earth hour was conceived. Seven years later the event has become a global movement with 135 countries participating reaching over 1 billion people!

earth hour

He shared how the most successful leaders in his vast experience balance creativity and fear and that creativity can solve any business problem. This links to Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability being at the core of creativity and innovation. Organisations need to be looking internally for creativity and not just at the top of organisations but looking down. The average age at Todd’s agency Leo Bunett is 26!

Todd’s own approach to leadership hires enthusiasm over experience and qualifications which I would highly advocate. His process in order is People (first), Product then Profit. This has seen employee engagement increase from 42-88%.

My key session insight was that creative leaders have the ability to be braver for a little bit longer than others the audience were challenged, can you be brave for 5 minutes longer? Todd shared a personal and professional example of this which I reflected on from my own experience:

  • Personal: Mountain climbing alone in Alaska, after being stationary for four days due to a Blizzard Todd had a decision to continue to the mountain summit or retreat down the mountain. He embraced fear which led to amazing clarity at the summit. I resonated with this thinking back to the world age group triathlon champs in Auckland last year. I was still very new to swimming and got completely disoriented by the rough incoming tide with a lack of open water experience. In that moment where I felt like I was going nowhere I could have held onto a lifesaver board and be taken in or battle through to complete the swim. I was brave fro 5 minutes longer and had a great experience on the bike and the run to complete the race in my GB colours. 
  • Professional: Todd took the step up to CEO after being a number 2 for years and utilised fear to be brave to change the poor organisational culture. A recent example of embracing fear in my professional life to balance creativity is taking a risk and starting a network of young professionals, IECL NEXGEN which has been very well received so far. 

We learnt the optimum duration for a creative stream is 20 minutes and were encouraged to try this on a problem we’re trying to solve. The good news is creativity can be learnedone tip is to ‘rent a head’ and borrow someone else’s perspective, i.e. think how would Apple or Richard Branson approach this? Learning to be creative requires a mindset switch. Todd explores this in episode two of his show Redesign my Brain, ‘Make me Creative’ which is available on iview here


Todd shared his concern and passion area about the current education system which teaches children to magically memorise vs thinking for themselves. He describes the importance of thinking laterally and references Dr Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats.  A TED talk for those interested in this topic is Ken Robertson on how schools kill creativity.

As a final comment linking back to my key insight bravery is acknowledging fear (not an absence) and pushing through, I challenge myself and readers to be brave for 5 minutes longer.

Thank you Todd for sharing your stories and encouraging us all to embrace creativity as the last competitive edge!

Lean In

On a recent vacation in Hawaii I finally got round to reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. This had been on my reading list since attending Avril Henry’s ‘Great Leaders are Made’ program earlier in the year. The book described as “The business manual of the year” by the Times has received a multitude of media coverage and testimonials from key figures including Sir Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Chelsea Clinton.

I’ve summarised my top ten takeaways below and would love to hear from others who have read the book and your insights!:

1. Honesty and authenticity are key leadership attributes. These are attributes we talk to leaders about frequently at my workplace, the IECL. Sheryl talks about exploring this with Fred Kofman, founder of the conscious business model to make her a better leader.

2. Mentorship and sponsorship are key for success in business. I can testament to this from recent business success supported by a powerful mentoring relationship.

3. Having a supportive life partner who supports you and doesn’t compete is a great benefit. My husband Owain has been one of the biggest supporters of my career and always encourages me to be the best I can be.

4. Women need to lean in, sit at the table and take risks – I have seen this first hand in board room meetings where women can have less presence because of their voice. I love seeing an assertive woman make a positive impact.

5. Lean in until childbirth – not years before! Sheryl talks about not leaving a job before you leave having seen experienced women leaning back from opportunities due to wanting a family in the future even a decade before this is reality. She encourages us this is the time to lean in, continue to add value, seize opportunities and ensure you come back to a job you will enjoy!

6. Think of your career path as a jungle gym and not a ladder where you can step down and across in order to climb higher. I love this analogy and that challenging yourselves with a sideways move into a new can be just as constructive as taking a step up the traditional ladder.

7. Be champions of other women in leadership! Sheryl quotes a former secretary of state Madeleine Albright who once said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” which I cannot agree we more. We need to work together and pay our success forward to the next generation.

8. Importance of open feedback and receptiveness to learn. The best leaders are the ones who are open to feedback and continually learning. Sheryl describes a successful negotiation from a colleague who then asked what they could have done better. If we only believe our own truth we lack self awareness and mindfulness, key attributes of inspirational leaders.

9. Success and likeability. When a woman excels at her job, Sheryl writes about her experience of hearing remarks such as she may be accomplishing a lot but is “not as well-liked by her peers.” as male coworkers and is probably “too aggressive”, “not a team player”, “difficult” etc. I have come across such hostility and do not feel the need to be liked but respect is key. I also happen to think that being nice is one of the most underrated positive business traits, we’re all human after all!

10. Speak your truth – like young children do Sheryl encourages us to speak our truth for a more authentic leadership style. I have the pleasure of currently collaborating with a leader who does this remarkably, always in a mindful, calm and collected state.

I think women and men need to work together to make the workplace more balanced and that we such all take a lesson from Sheryl and lean in to opportunities and challenge ourselves!

I encourage you to view Sheryl’s TEDtalk ‘Why we have too few women leaders’ and join the lean in community at and