Category Archives: Leadership

Leadership attributes can be learned; by observing people you admire, by reading books, by attending training and by experience.

Having a thick skin

In New Zealand at the moment there is a high profile harassment case which is polarising the public, despite none of us knowing what actually occurred.

The public reaction is an interesting glimpse into the psyche of a nation that prides itself on being first to give women the vote. When it involves a man’s career over a woman’s, the choice seems to be that the man’s career is more important.

It also highlights that an organisation “following a process” can end up at a point it probably didn’t intend to get to. Allowing a high profile executive to “leave with dignity” (and I can imagine the conversations that occurred) following findings of serious misconduct has been conducted publicly, providing a forum for the allegations to be rationalised.

The right to “privacy and confidentiality” of the complainant has left her without a voice.

The core of the issue though, is how we expect people to treat each other in the workplace. I have been in the workforce for a long time, long before sexual harassment had a label or a law covering it.  Most of my career has been in a male dominated environment and I will say that, for the most part, I have been treated with absolute respect as an equally valued staff member and colleague. There was sexism, and some behaviour that could be considered to be harassment.

One of the best descriptions I ever heard about sexism is that is is like a cloud, you can see it, you may even feel it, but you cannot touch it or grab hold of it. Much of the behaviour that contributes to harassment is the same.

It is the joke that if you complain about you have no sense of humour, it is the patronising language that is “just what I say, I don’t mean anything by it”, it is the body language, touching and close proximity that is uncomfortable but isn’t visibly threatening, it is the mild flirting that is ‘harmless”. Harassment is likely to be a combination of all of these behaviours.

What is the result of this behaviour? In most instances it doesn’t escalate to a dangerous level, it is often carried out by “a good guy” and doesn’t result in criminal behaviour.

It does result in the recipient feeling uncomfortable, they may question why they need to put up with it and they may leave for another job, they may not be able to have a good working relationship with the person because of this discomfort and fear of where it is going next, they may be absent on days when they feel most vulnerable, it may result in sub optimal performance.

Are you doing everything you can to make sure everyone in your organisation feels valued, has the opportunity to contribute equally and relishes the opportunity to come to work to make a difference?  Or do you expect people to harden up, learn how to take a joke and develop a thicker skin?



Unfurling HR – conversations for change

koruLast week I attended the Unfurling HR Unconference organised and facilitated by Amanda Sterling of NZLead. The fern was used as a metaphor for unfurling, unravelling and re-positioning the people and culture related disciplines in organisations. It was an inspiring and motivational event and I have included links to other blogs with feedback about the unconference below.

I participated in discussions about leadership, personal development and the internal brand. As a consultant I couldn’t resist putting my feedback into a stop-start-continue format with suggestions for organisations and HR.

  Organisations could…. HR could….
  • Leaving all the people stuff to HR
  • Leaving all the compliance stuff to HR
  • Creating a consumer brand disconnected from the employee experience
  • Tolerating poor people management practice
  • Taking on all the people stuff
  • Taking on all the compliance stuff
  • Creating employment brands
  • Tolerating poor people management practice
  • Ensuring all managers are trained how to manage people
  • Supporting personal development for all staff from day one
  • Supporting a culture that is living the brand inside as well as outside
  • Developing leadership across the board
  •  Facilitating processes to ensure all managers are well trained
  • Facilitating personal development plans for all
  • Collaborating with marketing and others to develop the culture that supports the brand
  • Identifying leadership qualities that support the culture
  • To look for better ways to do things
  • To collaborate with HR to create stronger organisations
  • To recognise the knowledge and experience of their people related teams


  • Having challenging conversations about doing things better
  • To learn about the business and how they can best add value
  • To learn from each other and share knowledge widely in their organisations

Thoughts from other attendees- #unfurlingHR created a lot of food for thought.

Amanda Sterling – Reflections from #unfurlingHR – what next

Megan Borrie – #unfurlingHR – Baking these things in

Richard Westney – Off the beaten Track

Angela Atkins – #UnfurlingHR

Vaughan Rivett – Attending my first unconference

Jonathan Hagger – One quick recap

PS- this event will inspire at least one more blog from me,  so watch this space.

Exploring the possibilities of social media

Screenshot_2014-01-21-20-06-09I have been using social media for a few years now, learning and exploring the possibilities. Initially, like many people, I saw twitter as a bit frivolous, FaceBook as too uncontrollable and LinkedIn a bit staid.  But, I had read enough to tell me that as a small business I should be thinking about social media marketing.

I began without much of a plan. I knew I had to be business-like and that I had a lot to learn. I was very lucky to get some great advice early on from Sonya at Cue Social Media about how to engage better.  And then I just practised, tried things out, read lots of articles, observed what others did, observed the reactions to what I did, took a few risks and figured out what worked for me personally and for my business.

My facebook page still hasn’t many “Likes”, I don’t think that is the perfect medium for me and my business, but it’s there and serves a purpose when I want to share business related stuff. LinkedIn has grown and I have learnt to use it to promote myself and what I do.

But I have discovered my all time favourite, the one that fits me like a glove, is Twitter.

Why do I like it?

  1.  I like to talk
  2. I can get a bit passionate about some things (some would say opinionated)
  3. I like to understand all sides of a story
  4. I am an open person and am generous with my knowledge and my time
  5. I love to learn
  6. I really like meeting new people
  7. I’m not fazed by “what” people are- I respect you for who you are as a person
  8. I advocate for what I believe in
  9. I support my friends
  10. I connect people and create networks

These attributes make twitter perfect for me as an individual.  I also believe twitter is perfect for organisations to encourage their people to engage with others; to learn, advocate, find out what their public think, listen to other points of view and generally have great conversations that will ultimately create richer workplaces. The open nature of it is not something to be scared of, if you are clear about what you want to achieve and then trust people to make good choices. There will be people like me in most organisations; those who see the possibilities, embrace the learning and understand the risks.

Finding the HOW is part of the journey. Some will have achieved great things already, but for many it will be a frightening prospect.  I think it is well worth organisations spending  time thinking about the possibilities.

Who is ready to come on the journey with me?




The working year of 2013 has begun and most of us are looking ahead with new enthusiasm and renewed commitment to “being better this year.”

So, should we be making New Year resolutions for our business? My answer is to set goals for the business and  make resolutions for yourself.

As I reflect on last year and plan for the next, I recognise that 2012 was a tough year and that resilience is needed to move into 2013 with positivity. I want 2013 to be less tough personally, to be positive about what can be achieved and to take my business to the next step. My resolutions and goals reflect that overall wish.

Here are my three resolutions to make 2013 a better year.

Resolution #1: I will be true to myself  What is it that will really work for you? What will you focus on for the year? How do you really want to spend your time? If you are working on the things that you think are right, then you will put more energy, time and thought into doing it well. The results will be much better than for the things you do half-heartedly.

Resolution #2: I will believe in myself Once you have decided what it is you most want to do, believe in how well you can do it. Seek support if needed, research and learn all you can to help, but ultimately it is your passion and belief that will make it work. Trust your instinct and act on it.

Resolution #3: I will relax more So often we are busy being busy, in the belief that if there is still work to be done putting in the hours will get you there. It won’t always. Spending time relaxing, unwinding and doing things unrelated to the “work” you have to do will often yield a better result when you get back to it. You will also feel better and have more energy.

 All the best for a wonderful 2013. 

More Lessons

While clearing out some files, I came across notes I had made for a motivational talk to a women’s group a few years ago. I have been thinking about New Year resolutions and reading many other blogs exhorting me to be a better person in 2012. Therefore the following six lessons are in lieu of New Year Resolutions and serve as a reminder to create a more positive 2102. I think they apply both personally and for business.

1. The Limitations of Can’t

There are lots of famous quotes that sum this up. For example: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you will be right. Henry Ford”, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Wayne Gretzky” I was brought up on a saying that was attributed to my Grandmother “Can’t is weak and cannot play, and does not run at all. But a strong I CAN, will make a man of a boy that’s very small.”

Personal experience tells me that there are limitations to things I can do. There are, however, many times I let myself down by limiting what I give a go- usually be saying “I can’t do that.”

Take a problem solving approach, and the sentence can be changed to “How can I do this?”Isn’t that much more empowering?

2. Being a woman is not an excuse 

This one is from growing up in the 70’s. Society did impose gender based limits on us way back then. But my parents told me that there are many reasons in life why I won’t be able to do things, being a woman is not one of them.

But its not just “because I am a woman”.  Many of us add a “because…” to  “I can’t do that…” Whatever the reason is, make sure its not an excuse.

The human potential is not limited by gender, race, religion, age or physical ability.

3. There is always another way

Many years ago I came across this saying “When one door closes, look for a window to climb through”. This sums up the basis of strategic planning. We need to know and understand the changes that have occured in the environment we work or live in and adapt our tactics to achieve our goal.

Sometimes the goal may need tweaking, or a reality may need to be faced, but an obstacle is never the end of the journey.

4. Know your stuff

Substance is better than style everytime. Communication media are changing all the time and technology makes it easier for people to broadcast an opinion about anything they choose to. There is also an incredible amount of information available on every subject known to human-kind, but not everything we see or read is accurate.

“Knowing your stuff” means having the ability to ask questions, assimilate the answers and develop our own knowledge about the subjects that interest us.

5. Follow your gut

For me this is about having a strong moral compass and following it. In other words, “if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it” or “if it feels right, do it”.  Popular culture can create many shades of gray when it comes to doing the right thing. There are examples everywhere of people doing things that just don’t seem right; in business, in the media, in advertising, on TV- everywhere.

In life or in business, if you have the courage to “do the right thing” you can’t go far wrong.

6. Be Happy

Perhaps the most important of all, and one which needs little explanation.

Find out what makes you happy and nurture it