Leading through authenticity


Do you consider yourself a leader? Leadership takes on many forms from leading a team of employees, to leading a sports team, a group of friends and even self-leadership. Often we don’t recognise when we are in such a responsible role but we all know that how we act has implications for the way others view us, as well as the outcomes we are trying to achieve.

I have worked with many different types of leaders in my time, some who have encouraged their teams by showing support, being available and being open and honest. Others have been less supportive and more directional, i.e. providing tasks to be completed with little direction or information. The best and most successful leaders I have seen are those that have the former style. This is because these types of leaders share a vision, provide guidance, and care about their team. It’s through this that they get real results.

It’s commonly now known that positive and supportive leadership leads to increased productivity and reduced turnover. Why is this? Well its because leaders who don’t share their vision or provide this type of environment often leave us feeling uninspired, less valued and disengaged. A positive leadership style makes the work more enjoyable, we feel respected and treated as adults, and we see where we fit in to the overall vision. This type of leadership is often associated with the term ‘authentic leadership’.

Authentic leadership is all about being legitimate and having open and honest relationships. Leading from a place that is right for all, not according to self-interests. Therefore by building trust and generating enthusiastic support from their teams, authentic leaders are able to improve individual and team performance.

So how do you become an authentic leader? Well firstly you need to understand and act in accordance with your own values. Personal values are our judgment on what is important in life. They drive our behavior as well as providing a standard to which we hold other’s behaviour. They are our authentic self, what we hold important in our lives.
Authentic leaders uphold their own values when making decisions and taking actions. They look for opportunities to align themselves with activities that support their own beliefs. This is not always easy, especially in a work environment. Often we are asked to do things that may not fit with our own idea of what is right. These actions may also hold consequences for others that we are leading or working with. So how do you balance this? Well it takes courage. Courage to stand up for what you believe in and courage to be honest with those you are working with.

Of course there are times when its not possible to give people all the information you have as it may have negative consequences for them or the business. In cases like this its important to act with respect and consideration, provide what information you can and ensure proper planning is in place to disseminate information and take actions that are appropriate and humanistic.

By acting in this manner you lead by example, you build a team of committed workers, players, friends and you create an honest and open environment where people are not afraid to speak their truth and ask for help. Courageous people pull others along with them and provide benefits for others, just think of people like Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai, the girl shot by the Taliban for pursuing the right to an education. I know the kind of leader I’d rather work with.


Stop, think, respond



Ever find yourself reacting to a person, situation, place, rather than responding? I sure do. Some people just push my buttons and get my back up straight away. Sometimes I’m not so good at taking feedback so I’ll jump straight in to protection/blame mode. Sometimes I’ll feel uncomfortable in a space and I’ll just want to run and get the hell out of there regardless of the reason I’m there in the first place.

When I was working in a corporate environment I often had to give performance appraisals. I used to always find it perplexing that people would be so scared of this process and not find it an opportunity to receive praise, learn and plan their own development with the support of a manager. However, when it came to my own appraisal I’d go in feeling confident but as soon as I was provided with constructive criticism I’d get very defensive and try to excuse myself out of whatever issue was brought to light. This was not a good look. It also provided me with no opportunity to listen or learn because I was so focused on my reaction.

I think we often find ourselves reacting to things without thinking about the consequences. We just go straight in to fight or flight response rather than considering the situation with a level head and considering our response to ensure a good outcome. I had a client the other day talk about how whenever her partner raises a particular topic she just goes straight in to protection mode, becoming defensive and trying to push him away. Clearly the result of this type of reaction will not lead to a sensible considered discussion. It does not provide the other party with an opportunity to really explain and express themselves and it just makes us uptight and angry when perhaps the alternative is not so bad.

My experience in life and business has really shown me that if we can take a step back, identify our feelings and respond appropriately then we can build better relationships, display our emotional intelligence and show others that there are better ways to handle ‘potential’ conflict. I say potential because really if we just react we will find that an agreed outcome is difficult to achieve. If we learn to gain awareness around our reactions and start responding to what happens then there is a far less likely chance of conflict.

So now when I’m provided with feedback I try to take a different approach. I allow the person to finish what they are saying; I hear them out and try to understand things from their perspective. This gives me all the information I need to know and I can then respond appropriately. This isn’t to say that sometimes we don’t need to protect ourselves but by allowing the time to assess and process we remove the urge to try to control and direct things in our own favour. This provides an opportunity for learning as well as connecting with the other person involved. It shows respect to everyone and allows ideas to evolve harmoniously and at the right pace.

If you want more information on how Make Hay coaching can help you gain greater awareness and learn to manage your emotions then check out my website http://www.makehay.com.au.

Gross National Happiness



I went to an incredibly inspiring conference last week. The conference was about ‘Happiness and What Makes a Good Life’ and featured many acclaimed speakers, psychologists, musicians and humanitarians. I was moved and motivated by just about everyone but the highlight for me was Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and author of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill.

Matthieu talked about cultivating altruism as a path to happiness. He explained how altruism and compassion are a win/win for happiness and wellbeing and how selfish happiness doesn’t work. In fact selfish happiness is really just another form of narcissism. He discussed research, which has shown that increased consumption leads to a reduction in one’s number of friends and one’s own happiness.

Matthieu focused on the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and how currently many governments only focus on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He talked about the three states for GNH, which include not only improved economical wealth but also improved social and environmental health. Unfortunately the latter two are seen as bad for the economy by many and therefore the focus remains on GDP while our other obligations as humans are left to the caring few who try passionately to ensure equality and support for those less fortunate as well as the future of our planet.

Given the timing of this message and the recent Australian budget I could not help but reflect on how poorly our, and many other countries, fare in the goal of social and environmental wealth. I wonder what good it does to purely focus on financial stability when people are left in poor health, bad housing situations and few opportunities for a good education. How can these people make a difference in the world if they are not provided with the opportunity to learn and grow and share their ideas?

Further, what good will this strong economy be if in fact our planet is dying around us. How can there be a future for anyone if we don’t take action to ensure the safety of all species, not just our own.

Most people I know have empathy for others who are less fortunate but Matthieu made an interesting comment based on his research, which shows that empathy without altruism leads to burnout. This suggests that just by feeling sorry for others, little will change and we will eventually stop caring so much. To me this just means that more of us need to do more to help. We need to put aside our individualistic attitudes and think about our connection to others and the world around us.

We all know how good it feels to help others and do the right thing and often we put our own needs aside to show care for those we love. Unfortunately though this may not be enough. We need to extend this altruism to the wider community and to future generations. I heard many of the conference speakers tell stories of what they, as individuals, had done to make a difference. People such as Jane Goodall and the amazing Anna Rose, these ladies made me realise that if they had been able to make such a difference through their own passion and hard work then imagine what amazing changes could be made if more of us took a stand and fought for what is socially and environmentally right.

So I’ve started thinking about ways in which my actions and choices can impact the future in a positive way. I’m going to be smarter in my purchasing decisions, I’m going to consider where my food comes from how it got to me and encourage others to do the same. I’m going to continue to focus on how I can help others and fight for those less fortunate. Whilst this latest budget does not bare a great impact on me I know it creates a greater imbalance in society and even though I don’t have my own children I’m going to ensure that my actions, the choices I make and the words that I use contribute to a better future for all.

It’s nice to be nice


Make Hay Coaching

I went on a date last week. This gentleman had been pursuing me for a couple of weeks, messaging every day, so I agreed to meet him for drinks and dinner. We enjoyed a bottle of wine in a great city venue, and whilst he really wasn’t my type, he was a nice guy (so I thought) and I figured I might as well continue the date on to dinner. We discussed the venue of choice, were about to go and he said he’d just fix up the bill and go to the loo which was on a different floor.

He never came back. Yes, just like in the movies!

After 15 minutes I sent him a text to make sure he was ok and to ask if he’d done a runner on me. No response. I waited another 15 minutes and by that time was pretty sure he wasn’t returning. Various scenarios floated through my head, maybe he had an ‘accident’ on the way to the loo? Maybe he had been mugged on his way? Maybe he got his bits caught in his zipper? Maybe he had a call and had to dash off? Maybe he got a better offer? Maybe he was (heaven forbid) lying on the floor somewhere close to death? I also had visions of him climbing out the toilet window to escape. As he was a big guy and the toilet was on the third floor, this image at least kept me entertained as I waited.

I decided to leave, and later I felt bad. I thought ‘what if something did happen to him?’ He didn’t return my text at all, and I thought surely he hadn’t done a runner? There were no signs, he was the one who suggested dinner and anyway, who does that???

So I did some research the next day, I put my investigating skills to work, just to make sure he was still alive. Turns out he was. I also suspect that of the possible scenarios, the better offer was the winner.

I couldn’t believe that he had chosen such a gutless and rude exit; as a mature man you should be able to have a difficult conversation. Difficult conversations are so called because they are ‘difficult’, but by ignoring the situation we only do the other party (and ourselves) a disservice. Until we can face these situations we will always have that slow burning anxiety in our belly because things won’t change and we might get caught out. And really, let’s face it, its just good manners!

So I’m starting a manners movement, I’m encouraging others to act with respect and remember one of life’s important lessons ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’.

So next time you have to reject someone, say no to a colleague or family member, or even performance manage a staff member, do so with speed, honesty and integrity. Don’t just wait for the problem to go away to save yourself the pain, because it probably won’t! Set the example, act with courage and be kind. Support others to do the same, make sure they see all perspectives and have the skills and courage necessary to face challenging discussions and situations with empathy and tact. If we all acted with good manners and respect the world would be a better place to live. After all, as my dear friend would say, ‘its nice to be nice’.

NB. The date wasn’t a total loss, sure I wasted some time, but he did pay the bill so I got few nice drinks amongst some amazing city views and a new blog post out of it!

To learn more about how Make Hay coaching can help you build courage and resilience, visit me at makehay.com.au.

Vulnerability is not a dirty word


So after a couple of amazing weeks I’m back to feeling vulnerable! Not in my usual ‘I’m scared to dare’, ‘I’m not good enough’ way, that I know how to deal with. No, this time its in the foreboding joy, ‘this is too good to be true’, ‘better not count on this continuing’ way.

Of course I didn’t realise what was going on at first. The initial signs were of me going back to my old bad habits. This is something we all do when we aren’t quite ready to face what is going on. We dull our senses, or distract ourselves so we don’t have to deal with certain feelings. Fortunately I now have a level of awareness that helps me identify when things are perhaps not quite right. So I started to analyse what was happening in my life and reached the conclusion that I was scared. Scared to put myself on the line and accept what was happening.

This vulnerability has turned up in an area of my life I usually don’t allow vulnerability to occur; rather I build a wall and avoid the situation at all costs. However there is an even bigger problem. The vulnerability has started spreading to other areas of my life where I am usually more confident. It’s making me doubt my abilities and it’s providing me with unnecessary worry.

So what to do? Well I’ve decided I’m going to embrace it! I’m going to allow myself to be vulnerable. Who knows this situation might just lead to great things that I wouldn’t otherwise receive, and if it doesn’t at least I’ll have no regrets.

I’ve learnt that if we don’t allow our vulnerability to be seen we aren’t really being true to ourselves. We will never be able to reach great heights and do all the things we love because we are too scared to show up and show ourselves openly to others. What’s the point in hiding behind the façade? It will only continue to strengthen patterns which have stopped us from having all we want and deserve in the first place.

There is a great TED talk by Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability, you can view it here http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability. Brené talks about how important it is for creativity and innovation that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and ‘dare greatly’. In her book, called ‘Daring Greatly’, she also explains that if we wait until we are perfect before we take big steps then we will sacrifice opportunities and relationships and ultimately waste our time. So I’m going to do what she says.

In thinking about my situation I also had another idea. If I’m feeling vulnerable in one area of my life and that’s spreading to other areas, then it stands to reason if I build confidence in another area then that confidence should spread. So I’m also going to focus on the things I’m good at, put those skills to work, use my resilience and courage and build my confidence. I’m no longer going to hide behind my bad habits, and I’m going to focus on the other areas of my life where I know I have what it takes, and dedicate the time to being even better. I encourage you to do the same.

What goes down….five easy tips for getting back up again.


I’ve just had the most amazing two weeks. No really, AMAZING! It’s been adventurous, rewarding and fulfilling. I’ve laughed, I’ve danced, I’ve hugged, I’ve loved, I’ve seen my city through new eyes and I’ve made some lovely new friends. But three weeks ago I was feeling quite the opposite. I was lonely, a little depressed, stressed, unfulfilled, vulnerable and a bit scared.

Isn’t it crazy how life goes in circles like that, how one day all can be wonderful, and yet other days it all sucks? But I guess that’s what it is all about. There is a belief out there that true happiness means that we should always be happy no matter what, but this, I believe, is just a fallacy. I think the answer to true happiness is being able to deal with these ups and downs, understand that everything isn’t always great, but be aware that you have the power to handle situations as they arise and take positive steps to deal with the tough times.

By focusing on the good things in life we can better handle the bad. Research shows that people, who focus on brief, joyful moments, rather than focusing on the small, everyday negatives, tend to be happier overall. They don’t deny that there are peaks and troughs in life but by concentrating on what goes right rather than what goes wrong they set themselves up for longer-term contentment and greater resilience when dealing with negative events.

So how can we do this, how do we get ourselves out of the ‘funk’ and back in the game? Here are my five top tips for getting your happy back on:

1.Be grateful:
When you are feeling sad and unhappy it’s easy to focus on the negatives in life. To counteract this start a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a place where you can list five things a day that you are grateful for. It could be something as small as a delicious meal, or as big as an amazing friendship.

2.Get outside:
Take a walk, explore your surroundings, and start noticing the little things that you miss as you walk swiftly by. The photo in this post is something beautiful that I discovered whilst just walking around my neighbourhood (who would have thought that St Kilda has canals?).

3.Remember that with the downs come the ups:
The ups wouldn’t be nearly so good if the downs didn’t exist so remind yourself that this time will pass and you have many happy, exciting times ahead.

4.Talk to someone:
I’m one of those people who others tell their problems too, not so much the other way around. Often I forget that there are people out there who can help me simply by listening, or sometimes providing advice. Remember that you can reach out. It might be a friend, a mentor or a therapist. Just know that you don’t have to do it all alone.

5.Stop thinking, start doing:
Yep start doing all those things you said you were going to do. Harness your energy, build momentum. Once your brain and body get active you will find that things will really start to roll.

So next time things don’t seem to be going your way try a couple of these out, you’ve got nothing to lose and heaps to gain. The most important thing to remember when life gets you down is that the feelings, the emotions, the pain, will pass, but by making a concerted effort to change your mindset you may just find that they pass more quickly!

Excuse me, have you found my passion?


looking for something
Passion is a word that gets a lot of airtime these days, “she’s following her passion”, “he’s searching for his passion”, “they’re so passionate about their business”.

There seems to be a movement of people who are leaving their old jobs behind to follow these so called passions, and often with great success. I, for one, am. But what do you do when you don’t know what your passions are, or what your purpose in life really is. Well, I’ll let you in on a secret; before I started my business I didn’t know either. However I did know a few things. I knew I wanted to work for myself, I knew I wanted the flexibility to work from wherever I was and I knew I wanted to somehow make a difference

It took me quite a while, and much searching to settle on my business idea and just thinking about what I could do was getting me nowhere, so I started doing stuff. I started talking to people, I started analysing my skills and my interests and I started exploring myself. I went to courses on creativity, I spoke to a life coach, I had some of my favourite treatments (reiki, kinesiology, massage), I explored, I walked and I read and slowly the ideas started forming.

I have to say identifying where my skills and interests met was the most beneficial first step and naturally pointed me towards helping others achieve their goals. It all made sense so I started on the journey. The destination however still wasn’t totally clear and I wasn’t sure whether I was doing the right thing but I just started doing it and its through doing it that I realised I was exactly where I was meant to be.

You see, you don’t get clarity by just thinking about things. In fact you don’t get much done by just thinking about things, unless you are ready to act! The clarity comes from the engagement in the activity, not just the idea of it. Had I continued thinking I would have thought myself out of the idea and would not be where I am today, doing something I love and making that difference.

So now I invite you to start doing. Start engaging with your activities with a sense of passion, be present in your life and explore opportunities, not just with your thoughts, but with your hands and your brain. Notice what energises you, look out for synchronicities, explore those niggling feelings of all the things you’ve previously thought you ‘should’ be doing. You never know you might just find a passion that you never knew you had.

And if you already have a passion that’s not being fulfilled, then what are you waiting for? You’re already a step ahead so jump up, start talking, start planning and then put your plans in to action. There is a happier, more fulfilling life out there for everyone. You’ve just got to go and get it, be it, do it!