Hand up if you’re a parent or know a parent.

Hand up if you have ever witnessed a three year old have a tantrum in a shopping centre when you said no. When you set a boundary. When they couldn’t have what they wanted there and then.

Hand up if you’ve witnessed an adult have a tantrum when we have said no, when we have set a boundary and followed up on it.

Adult tantrums tend to be less violent. Less thrashing around on the floor; less full on weeping.

Adult tantrums might look like sulking and silent treatment or alternatively they might look like yelling and telling you that you’re an idiot, that you don’t get it.  Often there are lots of words, emails and phone calls to help you understand how unreasonable you are being. There’s lots of drama.

Either way this full on behaviour will be an attempt to manipulate you to let them have what they want.  They don’t want you to hold your ground. They want you to cave – big time.

So there is a lot of pressure to give in. There is a lot of emotion. Anger, sadness, frustration – it’s sometimes very intimidating.

So what happens if you give in; if you are not consistent or if the boundaries are not respected?

Well, it’s just the same as with a toddler; the tantrums will escalate. The behaviour will become entrenched and the level of drama in your life will increase.  

You will lose your authority and the team will lose respect in you.

Who wants that?!


Public shaming is so shameful

The other day I was having a meeting in a cafe that was situated in a busy and dynamic office building just off Flinders Street, in Melbourne.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see this woman talking down to a man about something that had happened in that building.  The woman was trying to speak quietly but she was clearly angry and not accepting the responses she was receiving and her voice got louder and louder.

My meeting ended and I had to wait a while for the rain to pass and I watched as this woman continued to raise and deal with a performance issue in public.  She kept responding to almost everything the said with “no, that is not acceptable” or “we have discussed this before” and it seemed that nothing he said was going to satisfy her. He was wrong and she was right and it was all so very public.

I cringed.

I cringed not only because public shaming is not ok; but because it was clear that she wasn’t listening to him. She had a fixed position and nothing he said was going to change that.

I cringed for this woman that she had so little self awareness that she couldn’t see that she was the one on show; not the person she was attempting to shame.

I cringed for the man who felt he had no option but to stand there and take it because he wanted or needed this job… whatever it was.

To this day, I have never met anyone who goes out of their way to perform badly; particularly to the point where an employer or contractor would tell them off in public. So chances are that this woman has not adequately explained her or the organisation’s expectations. That there was a miscommunication of some sort.

We all need feedback. We all need to know if we have understood what is required of us; what is going well and what we need to work on. That’s fine.

But it is an abuse of power to aggressively provide negative feedback in a public place without any consideration of the wellbeing of the person receiving that information.

People matter. Their mental health matters. And we need to be more considerate.


Leading people up the garden path

The other day I was driving up the freeway. When I went to turn off the freeway I realised that I had had my left indicator on for the entire way.  I was singing pretty loudly so I didn’t hear the click click of my indicator.

I suddenly felt terrible. All the other poor drivers on the freeway had probably been waiting for me to turn left for about 15 kilometres. What a relief when I finally did.

I work with a number of managers who accidentally give misinformation to their teams. They say ‘do what I say’ but then immediately break their own rules.

One manager recently told me that he tries to have a relaxed office but then people take advantage of him. His problem is that he is giving off mixed messages. This is a relaxed workplace but it’s not in certain circumstances; and we’ll know what those circumstances are when they arise. What does relaxed mean? How is a staff member meant to know the boundaries of what will be tolerated and what won’t.

It’s not the staff member’s fault if they take the concept of “relaxed” too far if you have never set any boundaries.

People love rules. They love to know where they stand. For example, we all know the road rules, even those of us who don’t drive. We know what to expect; we notice when people break the rules or are deliberately abusive of the rules. Rules make us feel safe. It helps us manage people’s expectations.

So if you put the left indicator on, it is reasonable for everyone to assume that you are about to turn left within a short period of time.

Don’t mislead people. Be clear. Manage people’s expectations. Don’t say you are one thing; when you are not. Talk it out, write it down and don’t assume your staff know what is going on in your head if you haven’t communicated your boundaries.

I’m tired

There is a saying that keeps coming into my mind “I’m tired”. I say it all the time.

Now, being the queen of overworking, this is hardly surprising but the reality is I don’t think that I am actually tired most of the time. I think I am bored.

For more years than I wish to remember I have had a Government contract to do some very well paid work. It is difficult work dealing with complex issues, which is why I get paid well to do it.

My problem is that I now find it hard to get enthused about doing this work; I lose energy very quickly when I sit down to do this work. In fact I often want to go and have a nap within a short period of time.

I struggle with the process which is very structured and formal. There is little scope to adapt the process to meet the specific needs of the individuals and some people can legitimately use the process as a weapon rather than a valid tool to solve a problem.

So now every time I catch myself saying “I’m tired” I stop myself and ask am I really tired or am I disenchanted with this work or am I feeling disengaged?

Many managers complain to me that their staff are disengaged. That statement always raises a red flag for me. Why is that staff member disengaged? What is it about the work, the culture, the structure or the like that is having such a profound impact on this staff member? Do they think they are required to do too much work for the money they are paid; is someone else in the organisation getting special treatment? Is there anything you, as their manager, can do to change their circumstances, or is that they are just in the wrong job for their skill set or their main driver, their purpose?

I don’t believe people want to be disengaged at work. I don’t think people want to underperform. There is a reason for why this happening. Go on the journey and explore the issues.

And I need to do something about doing work that is no longer a good fit for me so I can stop telling everyone that “I’m tired”.



Image courtesy of yanalya / Freepik

Focus on the behaviour you want

I recently spent the weekend with my grandsons. They are both adorable. The oldest is nearly two. A toddler. A full on toddler with a seriously strong and direct throwing arm.  The youngest is only a couple of months old.

As you can imagine life is pretty full on. Never a dull moment.

I am constantly just so impressed with how well our eldest daughter and her husband does with managing their toddler’s behaviour.  At the moment, they are sleep deprived, run down and in the trenches. They could so easily notice all the things the toddler does wrong. The food accidentally ending up on the floor, flying teaspoons or a wayward ball ending up on little brother’s head.

But they don’t. They go out of their way not to notice; not to pay attention to behaviour that they don’t want. They don’t make a fuss about these things; they only make a fuss about the behaviour that they want more of.

They let my grandson take appropriate risks, they let him feed himself even though it’s extremely messy, they let him safely try things that he might not be able to achieve quite yet. They ask for his help, even though it is usually more work for them than help.

They notice and provide praise when he uses his manners, when the two year old uses his spoon well, when he is helpful or kind. The notice the behaviour they want more of and they let the rest go. They don’t make any fuss about the behaviour that they don’t want him to engage in.

Adults aren’t very different to toddlers. If you want your staff to model a certain behaviour or attitude then you need to focus on when they demonstrate that behaviour or attitude and not make a fuss about the behaviour you don’t want.  

Draw attention and praise what you want to see more of and you will get more of that behaviour.  At the same time you will create a culture that is positive and rewarding; where people are looking out for others to do the right thing. You will have less complaining and whinging; because that is not the behaviour you will encourage.

Focus on the positive and reap the rewards.


I’ve got something to tell you

I am part of this networking group where we meet every Friday for breakfast. It’s a great group and I thoroughly enjoy going.

I don’t eat many carbs because I can put on weight just by looking at donut. So every Friday I have the same breakfast which includes cooked spinach.

Now I don’t know about you, but the older I have got the more food that gets stuck in my teeth. They are now a magnet for food; in particular cooked spinach.

These days I spend my life checking my teeth in a mirror or on my phone – so that I don’t embarrass myself in front of clients.

Last Friday, like nearly every Friday, I ate my spinach, talked to lots of people and had a great time. As I walked out the door one of my fellow networkers turned to me and said quietly, “you have a bit of food in your teeth”.  

At that moment I realised that I had spent the last 30 minutes talking to a number of people with a great big piece of spinach on one of my front teeth. I was off to meet a new client.

I am so grateful for my friend for telling me about the food in my teeth. I was rushing, so I may have gone off to meet my new client without the usual check of my teeth.

It was no biggie for her to tell me about the spinach. She didn’t make a fuss.  She was looking out for me; she had my back. She would want to know if she had food in her teeth.

Often we need to give feedback to a team member and we worry about them feeling embarrassed; we worry that we will make them feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to upset anyone.  Chances are they would much rather know there is a problem so they can do something about it.

Just say it, quietly, with little fuss and a smile so that they know that you care.

I have the best job

Warning: self serving blog.  

I have been having so much fun lately. I have been running a lot of workshops lately and I’ve been having a ball. It’s my happy place.

I love creating the plan, working out what the team needs and how to best meet their needs. I love meeting the team and finding out more about the different personalities.  I like to see how they work together; the good, the bad and the ugly.

I enjoy working with the leader, whether they be a CEO, a director or a team leader. It is always enjoyable to work with leaders that care; that want to improve their current position, that want to nurture and develop their team and who can take critical feedback.

I believe in giving everyone a voice, so I use the stakeholder engagement software, Powernoodle. I ask the team to answer questions anonymously about what it feels like and looks like when things are going well and what it looks like and feels like when things are not going well. The leader and I usually agree that it is best that everyone reads those results together at the same time; better there than having staff gossiping in the car park.

We usually talk about respect and what respect looks like for their team. We create ground rules and boundaries that are developed by and owned by the team; to be honoured by the team.

We determine how the team will celebrate successes and we make room to grieve any losses.

Putting all that information on the table; letting people own the good and the bad elements of the team; identifying what it feels like when things are going well and working out the triggers for a bad day and creating boundaries that mean something to the team – when you put it all together you get a team that understands what it needs to do to improve; to work better together. You get a team that wants to spend time together, that is productive and can deal with stress and conflict.  

I believe I have the best job in the world.


What’s going on?

I am sitting in our car waiting to disembark from the Spirit of Tasmania.  We are on our way to Launceston to watch our boys (Port Adelaide) play Hawthorn – an important game for both teams.

What a great voyage. My first and only “cruise” so far. Best sleep I’ve had in ages.

What they did so well was manage the experience and all those on board.

No question was too stupid. All staff knew exactly what was going on. At one stage I asked someone doing some cleaning where I needed to go to get our electronic key card fixed.  She gave us directions and when we passed her later she remembered me and asked if the problem had been fixed.

You felt reassured knowing that the staff were all over this.

And over the loudspeaker we were told the rules of what was expected when we disembarked a number of times. They needed us to be compliant. They needed people to move their cars punctually.  If people didn’t follow the rules when we disembarked there would be chaos.

Make life easy for yourself. Have clear boundaries and expectations and make sure everyone in your team knows therm. Talk about the rules and boundaries on a regular basis. Unclear is unsafe, unclear is unfair.  Don’t assume that people know the rules. People love rules; particularly if they make sense.

Be like the Spirit of Tasmania and you will ensure your team has a great journey.

Every team needs a leader

Once upon a time we pretty much all worked in an office. We would start the day at 9am and finish at 5 pm (or later if we did overtime) and we would take a 30 minute lunch break.

Once upon a time there was a ladder to climb and you started at the bottom and you worked your way up to the top. There was a hierarchy and we all knew who the boss was.

This was when we had very basic communication tools and the world was very big.

But the world has changed. A lot of people work flexible hours, they might work from home, there might be no hierarchy or a very even playing field for staff and nowadays it can sometimes be harder to work out who is the leader.

Sometimes now we have regional offices who, as a means of saving money and to show how well connected we are, report to a person in head office; that is, there is no one who is the leader of the regional office.

Sometimes we have teams where people are located all over the country; they may super flexible work arrangements and they only communicate by email or some other communication tool.

The world may have changed; but it hasn’t changed that much. We all need leaders. We need to know who to turn to when there is a problem.

No matter where you are in the world, if you are a member of a team, you need to have some structure to that team. You need someone to guide the decision making process; someone to deal with problems or complaints; someone to turn to if you are having problems with the work that you do. If you don’t appoint that person, they will appoint themself.


Can I be friends with my team if I’m the boss?

I get told over and over that the leader can’t be friends with their team. That they can’t address poor behaviour or make the hard calls if they have a drink with their staff outside of the office.

I recognise that some situations can be quite tricky. But as a leader it is vital that you have a good relationship with your team members.

Because the problems of our team members become our own; that is they impact on how our team performs.

We need to know what is going on with all the members of our team. We need to have a relationship with them.

This takes time. Lots of time. You can’t rush relationships. Saying hello in the morning and goodbye at the end of the day is not a relationship.

Those relationships are crucial when we have to give feedback.

It’s much easier to tell someone that there is a problem if you have a relationship with them. You will know how to start that conversation; you will be in a better position to manage that situation. You will be able to provide empathy because you will have some understanding as to what is going on in their life that might impacting on their performance at work.

Get to know your team. Break bread together. Take an interest in their personal life. Know what football team they barrack for. Your not a robot – you’re their leader.