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The questions about leadership

The questions about leadership.

What are the right questions for leadership?

I was with a woman many years ago who shared with me that she thought I wasn’t asking the right questions.

I thought “How bizarre is that?”.

Self-aware leaders continually ask themselves questions and they ask others questions. They are curious, they seek out information and welcome the answers. So, how can someone ask the wrong question?

This confounded me and I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t asking the right questions for her and her needs.

Where do our questions come from?

But where do our questions come from?

Where do your questions come from? From what part of your thinking?

Do you ask questions for solutions?

Do you ask questions to explore concepts?

Do you seek clarification through your questions or perhaps you ask for confirmation?

When do you give yourself enough time to consider answers to your questions?

Exploring concepts

When Affectus works with you we are exploring concepts so that you will ask yourself questions. Questions that help you understand yourself at a deeper level and the environment around you.

Don’t we?

We are hoping you will discover newness – about you and your direction.

We are not interested in directing you. We are assisting you develop great self-direction.

Don’t we?

Sometimes this drives people mad. That we are not often answering machines. But, we believe we have the process right - getting you to find your own answers.

Questions about leadership

What are your questions about leadership and your direction?

At Affectus, we focus our thinking beyond the individual and consider leadership. Why? Because we know that using leadership as the framework ensures that any person is able to step in where they see it is needed.

We call this stepping into your leadership space.

Chinwe Esimai (Forbes Women) talks about great leaders. She says that knowing yourself is essential. “Self-awareness is empowering because it arms you with knowledge and enables you to make better choices — to change or grow.”

Have you asked yourself enough questions to get a clear sense of self and leadership and direction? How often do you pause?

The Big Five

We use Big Five to commence the self-knowledge journey.

Have you thought through the five areas assessed.

What questions arise from Big Five.

Are you wondering about the value of understanding the five key areas?

  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Confidence
  • Openess

It is so valuable to understand this about yourself. It is also empowering to know how your personality and the using of your strengths will impact on those around you.

It is powerful to use these five areas of your personality with insight and self-knowledge. Using your strengths and understanding your weaknesses to ensure that the team around you has great impact (affect 😊)

Two Leadership Questions

Here are two key leadership questions around personalities worth considering…

  • What is my impact?
  • Do you have deeper insights into me and my personality?

And finally, the critical questions about leadership.

What are your values and how do you identify them?

Self-assess what is important to you. Wander around some values cards and think through those patterns of your life. Seek your values.

And what about your passions? We can’t always be working/earning money in our personal area of passion. But as a minimum we need to know what lights us up and what drives us.

Leadership is all about asking questions – your questions. Start asking questions and seeking answers. Listen carefully and weave this new knowledge into your increasing self-awareness.

Sometimes the questions you ask may irritate but they will also illuminate.

It is all about our questions – the ones we mull through quietly on our own minds and the ones we seek answers to in the public realm.

How do you ask questions?

Why do we ask questions?

I spent a week in Canberra recently with our latest group of seafood leaders.

I have reflected on that week of passion and pressure questions were a common theme. But even looking at the photo I have questions.

  • What did Jeremy say to make 4 of the 18 look at him?
  • What was it about Matt that made him make that confused face in the front row?
  • And against all our pleading, how come Laura and Scott kept their sunglasses on?
  • And why did we ask them to do a silly photo?

These are the questions that run through my head all the time.

And if I pause just now there will be questions. Very quite questions in the background, that my mind is sorting with me barely conscious of that activity.

There will be more pressing task-type questions and more strategic why questions that sometimes the task questions push away from my brain power.

Where do those strategic questions go that get ignored go I wonder? Bloody hell – there’s another question!


Have you ever wondered about questions and the impact they have?

Have you ever paused and thought about how you are constructing your questions to get the answers you are seeking?

Now that might seem like what? But it is important to spend your brainpower brownie points on thinking about how to construct questions.

So back to our champion graduates last week in Canberra.

We spend 6 months working with these wonderful people. Honing their skills, stretching their capacity, supporting their activities, providing them with leadership opportunities.

On the second day of the six months we shared with them some of the theory of questions – the how . And we encouraged them to ask the question for the answers they were seeking.

Now that might seem a little manipulative on first reading and it may sound like ask the question you already know the answer. But that is not the case.

Interpreting knowledge

Interpreting some knowledge shared by MaryJo Asmus it would appear that if we ask open thought provoking questions this happens.

  1. 1
    Neuroplasticity of our powerful brain kicks in and we start making sense and have expanded insight.
  2. 2
    The whole brain gets involved as we reflect on what has been asked and we move forward the answer (or potentially another question).
  3. 3
    We get a hit of serotonin (a rush of energy) as our brain sees that we should be moving and doing something new.

So, ask an open-ended, insightful question. Why? Because the brain lights up and expands and will find new pathways and meaning to discover the solution.

Ask questions that open people to new thinking. And construct your questions in ways that will give everyone that brain activity. What a gift!

Asking questions that evoke responses

Back to the leadership graduates.

Although they had spent time asking questions it was not until the second last day that they really fired. Asking questions of industry leaderships that evoked the above responses.

How did that happen?

Well, firstly because we kept at them about getting their questions honed. And it also happened because, as a group, they got organised and mapped the questions they would ask.

  • What they wanted to know
  • Who they needed to ask
  • How they would word their questions

It was magic.

Create brain magic with your questions. Ask the questions that you want answers to that make all our brains expand. 

PURE Breakthrough

Are you interested in further developing your leadership space?

Affectus is heading to Sydney in November to spend two days giving people the insights you need to step into the leadership spaces that you see.

Find out more and register your expression of interest. 

celebrate achievements

Celebrating Achievements

Celebrating Achievements

Delighted, elated and proud! 

That is how we feel when we are celebrating achievements and success of our graduates. 

August has seen many award evenings take place all over the country. Let's celebrate and recap these outstanding achievements.  Beginning in the top end...

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Seafood Industry Awards was a memorable evening for Chris Calogeras. Chris received a nomination for a place in the National Hall of Fame. What a tremendous honor for Chris and his commitment, dedication & hard work in the Seafood Industry acknowledged.

Chris also graciously accepted on behalf of Affectus an award for Highly Commended in the People Development Award. Thank you Chris. We couldn’t be more proud of your achievements and to have you represent Affectus on our behalf.

Western Australia 

We then move to the west of the country to now celebrate and congratulate Justine Arnold. What a delight and honour to watch Justine on her journey towards making her mark in the seafood industry. Justine took home the WA Young achiever of the year award. Justine's commitment and infectious passion for the seafood industry will be sure to lead her to many more successes in her career. Congratulations on your achievements Justine!

Across the Tasman and back again

Now taking a dash across the Tasman to the NZ seafood conference where young Melbournian Josh Pearce also obtained the Young Achievers Award. Josh's commitment to the seafood industry in Australia and New Zealand is evident with his meticulous eye for detail in all aspects of his business and leadership practice. Josh also won the Victorian Young Achievers Award in the  Seafood Industry Victoria Awards. With a focus on a sustainable, ethical and traceable business philosophy, Josh has earned himself  a reputable place in the future of the Australian and New Zealand seafood industry. Well done Josh!

Also in Victoria

Also at the Seafood Industry Victoria Awards, Gary Leonard, a graduate of our Catch the Drift Program won the Industry Ambassador Award. Gary Leonard is a generational fisherman in the Gippsland Lakes. He has done his utmost to ensure that the seafood consumers of Victoria, have access to the freshest, healthiest, most sustainable and ethically caught seafood possible. Congratulations Gary on having such a positive impact on your industry. 

New South Wales

Josh Cook one of our NSILP graduates from 2018 won the Young Acheivers award at the Sydney Seafood Excellence Awards. Josh and the team at Coffs Habour took home so many awards they needed a removalist van.  Josh is passionate about understanding the industry on a national scale and from other angles (eg fishing, conservation & legislation) and being at the forefront of positive changes that can be adapted by all. We'd say he's certainly achieving that. Congratulations Josh. 

And to Brisbane

And at the Australian Prawn Farmers Association night of nights in Brisbane, the 2019 Award for INFLUENCER (and women in aquaculture) who have made an outstanding contribution to the Australian prawn farming industry was awarded to our very own Affectus' Managing Director, Jill Briggs. 

Congratulations Jill, we are all very proud of your achievements and your commitment to people, teams and leadership! 

And to top off the month of awards, Affectus was the recipient of the People Development Award in Tasmania, Victoria, a finalist in NSW and highly commended in the Northern Territory.

Above all, a big congratulations to all the award winners. Enjoy and be proud of celebrating your achievements!

PURE Breakthrough

Are you interested in further developing your leadership space?

Affectus is heading to Sydney in November to spend two days giving people the insights you need to step into the leadership spaces that you see.

Find out more and register your expression of interest. 

Communication and Leadership

Communication and Leadership

A week of conversations

Does life come in patterns for you?

Sometimes Affectus has waves of related activities. This is sometimes due to the calendars of others, such as the award season we have just been through and sometimes it feels random.

Sometimes it is weeks of planning such as our fortnight of intense planning for PURE Breakthrough, the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program or Business Nous.

Or it's weeks of facilitation with our face-to-face and virtual programs and workshops.

Does your year and months have waves of related activities?

This week Affectus pattern has been a week of conversations.

  • New idea conversations
  • Planning conversations
  • Contract conversations
  • Supportive conversations
  • Giving conversations

These are just a few of the conversations themes we have had. Invariably, these conversations have resulted in us finding a way of assisting and building with others in our network.

I love weeks like this. And I will be sharing what happened in a few of our conversations and with some tips woven in about conversation.

Saturday nights “giving” conversation.

We are thrilled to have found a our place for Affectus to give.

In our search for places to give, we have strategically given money to start-ups, NGO’s and connected causes.

We have also been searching for a small organisation that is focused on similar concepts and with similar values to Affectus. And we have found them. Affectus is sponsoring the Murray Felines Football Club

Talking to the young women in this organisation was powerful.

The conversation focused on “We want to have fun but we want to support each other fully in our endeavours”. 

For Affectus that conversation was mostly listening and observing. However, it was also about asking some specific questions. Hearing leadership permeate their ideas was exciting and uplifting. Go Murray Felines!

The highlight conversation

What has been the highlight conversation this week for you?

The highlight of my week was a quiet, supportive conversation with one of our Alumni.

It started with a quiet, grabbed 2 minutes in a public space “it would be good to talk Jill.” And then it was loud and messy and a few others were wanting some of my attention.

I wanted to ascertain the urgency from our graduate as there seemed to be a high level.

"Now would be good". We tried but the environment was never going to let it really happen.

At the end of the short initial conversation I checked – did we get anywhere? "Yeah nah". Now that is hard to gauge but I settled on the “nah”. 

So the learning here is about the environment. 

What environment?

Tip 1 and 2

1. Create the environment that is needed for the conversation. AND 2. Find the time so that the conversation can happen.

My sense was the conversation wasn’t finished so I suggested we find another time to finish it off. We organised a time and environment that suit us both.

Has “it” been said?

Tip 3

Keep the conversation going. If what has to be said hasn’t been said then keep the conversation going.

In a more convivial space we had a 45 minute discussion that resulted in action and future support.

Conversation elements

No…I won’t leave it at that the conversation elements were lots of talking from our graduate. And lots of listening from me. 

Are you listening?

Tip 4

Clear your head of clutter so you can really listen.

Summing up

Summing up what I had heard to make sure I was capturing the key points. 

What are we talking about?

Tip 5

Focus. Somewhere during the conversation you need to establish two foci. 

  • What is the purpose of you being in the conversation
  • What is the other person wanting as an end point to the conversation

At this point it was clear that the initial part of the conversation was about letting some concerns and frustrations out.

And the next part of the conversation was about the graduate building their own path forward with some guidance from me. And we had found what the conversation was all about.

What is the purpose?

Tip 6

Is this just a chat or are we going to have an outcome?

It is really important somewhere in the conversation to understand the overall purpose and for it to be articulated. 

The conclusion

At the conclusion of the conversation it was clear there would be more conversations. And that we both need to go and do a bit of work for the graduate. But it was a constructive conversation. Some may call it coaching…I call it a constructive conversation with a friend.

NB – These tips don’t have to be in that sequence and there will be others. Getting the six ticked off will be valuable for you.

PURE Breakthrough

Are you interested in further developing your leadership space?

Affectus is heading to Sydney in November to spend two days giving people the insights you need to step into the leadership spaces that you see.

Find out more and register your expression of interest. 

Growing Teams

Growing Teams

Have you wondered about the key areas you need to consider when your team is growing?

When you think about your leadership and your people and times of change have you thought about where your focus should be?

I recently presented a speech in Brisbane about growing teams and here are my tips.

Firstly, you need to be conscious that during times of growth the team is disturbed. This disturbance can be large and highly unsettling or gentle moving forward.

Growing Teams Tip 1

Where is your team focused? You will need to have duel-focus.

Focus One - Find the people in your team who tend to focus on the future and new ideas – access their thinking during time of change and give their ideas airtime.

Focus Two - Assist the people in your team who think about details and getting tasks done. Ensure that during these times of change that they have tasks and roles that they can focus on.

By having these two foci during times of change your team is less likely to be tripped up by new developments because some in your team have their focus on the future and some of your team are focused on getting the existing tasks completed.

Growing Teams Tip 2 

How do you map thinking in your team?

There are many analysis tools to be found to help you with this.

At Affectus we use the Big Five, which provides people with an understanding about their personality and areas of strength.

This tool surfaces a number of traits. And two of these traits are openness and conscientiousness.

Finding the people with strong openness assists teams with future focus. And finding people with a drive for conscientiousness helps the team with getting the job done.

Find these people in your team during times of change and ask them to focus their energies in their areas of strength.

Growing Teams Tip 3

Have you thought about the team’s needs?

It is important to think about the business during times of growing. But it is also essential to consider the people in the business. 

We all find it hard to consider new ideas when we are feeling uncertain about our job security. Leadership is required in this complex space.

Providing an environment of security during times of growth (which may feel like disruption) will allow for people to remain their most productive selves.

PURE Breakthrough

Are you interested in further developing your leadership space?

Affectus is heading to Sydney in November to spend two days giving people the insights you need to step into the leadership spaces that you see.

Find out more and register your expression of interest. 

Teams and Individuals

Teams and Individuals

Our graduates receive a regular newsletter. Within each newsletter there is an article on leadership that we discuss and share our knowledge.

In our last newsletter we talked about teams and leadership.

I started the ball rolling with “What gender do you imagine when you think about a particular job/career/role?”. I distinctly remember this activity in the early 2000's. It was a fun and revealing thing to do.


  • What do you see when I say police, doctor, teacher, farmer?
  • What gender do you see?

It surfaced our (my) biases.

In our recent newsletter I explored this as a starting point for my discussion about teams and leadership. Why? Because it is interesting.

But this time I asked our graduates:

  • What do you see when you hear the words; leader, leadership, team leader?
  • What do you see?
  • Do you see different genders?

Why is this important to consider? 

And why has it occupied my thinking about teams and leadership these last couple of weeks?

I think it is important to consider because of the limiting nature of our personal biases.

If we see in our minds a particular image when teams and leadership are mentioned this will limit who we look for. And then we potentially do not see the people who are doing it differently from our norms.

By limiting ourselves we are missing opportunities. And in a rapidly changing world it is important to grab the right opportunities. Well I think so! I figure you do also.

When Affectus works with people, whether facilitating a small working team or a large organisation, the work we do is always about the individual.

It may be about a group changing their direction. But it is the individuals that has to make the change.

Limiting biases 

Therefore, if we are considering limiting biases then to start with ourselves (understanding me) is essential.

Do you know your limiting biases when you consider teams and leadership?

Are you part of a team stretching the boundaries? Have you had a fresh look at your team? Are you looking for newness? Do you know how to do this in your busy life?

Look-up. Wipe off the biases that will be limiting your view. See some difference.


OK so that all sounds a bit vague. Perhaps you need me to be a bit more specific.

These are the scenarios I see…over and over again. I'm guessing you will have seen them also.

Scenario 1 - Established team 
  • Know one another well
  •  Adhere to held biases
  • Very busy
  • Team gets a new task/job/project
  • Everyone does the same roll
  • A good outcome and deliver
Scenario 2 - Established team
  • Know one another well
  • Understand their biases may be limiting them
  • Very busy
  • Team gets a new task/job/project
  • Team decide to move the responsibilities around and see what happens
  • A little bit of chaos happens
  • No-one dies
  • Job gets done
  • Good outcomes 
  • Individuals discover new things about the team and may rethink some biases
Scenario 3 - Established team
  • Know each other very well
  • Openly question norms and biases regularly
  • Very busy
  • Team gets a new task/job/project
  • Most/all roles and responsibilities are available to anyone
  • Chaos occurs regularly and the team know how to operate on the edge of chaose
  • No-one dies
  • Job gets done
  • Good outcomes and new things are discovered about the team 
  • A good post-project review happens and further team development occurs
Scenario 4 - New team
  • Don't know one another much
  • Assumptions are made on general biases held
  • Team gets a task/job/project
  • No-one has a confirmed/held job
  • Chaos occurs and people are uneasy
  • No-one dies
  • Job gets done
  • Huge knowledge is built around the team
  • A good post-project review happens
  • Confirmation of biases are exposed
  • Further team development occurs

Which scenario is most familiar to you?

Affectus sees all the scenarios. But we experience Scenario 3 and 4 all the time.

And we see the richness that is created and the depth of understanding that is built. ​

New and amazing ideas are developed and presented to stakeholders.

Yes, occasionally we see stuff being flung off the fan (s**t). However, when we examine what is and has gone on in Scenario 3 and 4, mostly we witness each person focus on a leadership space that they can move into. And they do!

I don’t know about you but that is what I want when I work in a team. A team that comes together and sees the mental image that prevents people from stepping into their leadership space.

Have a look at our other blogs. The most relevant will be A Reflection Process  and Chaos and Leadership

PURE Breakthrough

Are you interested in further developing your leadership space?

Affectus is heading to Sydney in November to spend two days giving people the insights you need to step into the leadership spaces that you see.

Find out more and register your expression of interest. 

A golden conversation about healthy teams

A Golden Conversation about Healthy Teams

What are your teams?

I recently sat with a mum and dad, parents of a few young kids, employees and managers.  I observed their various obvious teams:

  • partners
  • family
  • work team
  • management team.

We are regularly in teams. And even when we are working independently, we are still often in a team.

What teams are you part of? 

Are they all effective and efficient?

As this mum and dad team chatted we uncovered their need to provide more opportunity to do some leadership development in their business and industry. It was a great conversation. I asked about how often they have undertaken a team review and developed a team enhancement plan.

When was the last time you consciously look your team through the lens of teams and leadership?

We explored short term wins, long term strategy and the desire to harness and continue to refresh the workers in the industry. A bit of a plan emerged that would respond to their need to keep their work team engaged and committed to their work. AND at the same time understand how their contribution to the workplace ensures the industry remains well respected.

I spent a bit of time talking about Affectus’ philosophy and why I do what I do. We spent some time connecting the needs of my potential client and the passion Affectus brings to assist people to step into their leadership space and change the world.

When was the last time you connected the passion of the workforce with a forward direction for your team?

It was a great conversation and both parties went home with homework to see if we could make magic happen. As I left the meeting and the handshakes were done I felt confident that I would be talking to this team about what we could provide.

It wasn’t until I got back to my desk and reflected on the conversation that I realised something else had happened.

There had been a secondary conversation about teams.

I had heard the team philosophy of a family, children and parents, through our initial conversation about holidays. My thoughts that afternoon were "what gold there was in both the conversations".


This is the learning I took from the meeting.

  • Draw on all your teams team experience. Encourage them to bring the external into the workplace to more fully understand teams.
  • Have a team leadership plan. Talk about and address the needs.
  • Review the team skills. Develop areas (new areas) for growth through professional development opportunities.
  • Understand your team “why”
  • Have a regular (and facilitated) team enhancement plan that is firmly connected to your teams “why”.

Building your healthy team

Are you interested in moving your team to performance, through understanding why and surfacing team skills?

Affectus has a simple session that will enhance your workplace and organisation. Email, admin@affectusaus.com.au for further information. 

Teams and other important things

Teams and other important things

Do you regularly see the activity where someone ask individuals or a group to visualise a particular career?

The questioner asks “think of a farmer - what did you imagine?” Careers that are regularly included are police, teacher, lawyer, pilot.

And although “leader” is not necessarily a vocation I still consider “think of a leader - what did you imagine?” This exercise can be revealing for us all.

Having worked in the field of developing leaders for nearly three decades, at Affectus, we are keen for people to see leaders differently.

We  have seen change. However the concept of team leadership can assist with our ability to shake up leadership in a way that will embrace the concepts of courage and vulnerability. We believe these concepts have always been part of leadership.

What is team leadership?

Team leadership is what leadership has always been about. Leadership may appear a solitary occupation and yes, sometimes, it can feel lonely but, we all know that leadership is always done with teams.

Margaret Meade said

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” 

We will come back to this concept and tie these ideas together.

Leadership is about taking those around you to a new visionary future. To do this we must be in an environment where risk is OK’d. and for this to happen vulnerability must be an observable behaviour and embraced as a team value.

So, what does opening yourself up to be vulnerable do? Let’s come back to that also.

Finally, leadership is also about courage. But what allows us to be courageous?

Teams, Vulnerability and Courage


  • leadership to happen
  • the group of individuals to change the world
  • any group anywhere
  • the team to be able to see the leadership space and be courageous to take action

...we need to let people have a go and be OK about making mistakes. And people need to be supported and encouraged by the team.

Can you see the connection?

Can you see how important it is for teams, vulnerability and courage to be the leadership environment? And when this environment exists all of us can be leaders -  everywhere in the space we see and choose.

The Leadership Environment

So now to the trickiest part in this the domain for us all.

Yes, we are all so good at this stuff. It may be some or all of the three elements.

Are these concepts essential? Well possibly not.  But from my years of experience these elements, (teams, vulnerability and courage), ensure that leadership flourishes.

These elements eliminate the false focus on the single person and perfection. Both of which are counterproductive for high performance.

This environment is the environment for all.

Be comforted in knowing that if Team, Vulnerability and Courage are the concepts that are highlighted and rewarded leadership will flourish.

And then the world will change and teams will flourish. And the image in our minds-eye of “Who is a leader?” will be amazing and will include you.

Starting your Team, Vulnerability and Courage 

Here are five tips to start your Team, Vulnerability and Courage environment. 

  1. 1
    Establish whether the unwritten norm is leader (singular) or leadership (team).
  2. 2
    Ensure visionary future been established by the leadership team.
  3. 3
    Introduce the concept of open sharing of vulnerability. "We all make mistakes". "We all need people to assist us" .
  4. 4
    Configure vulnerability in away that ensures people are supported. This is best done firstly by the chair/president/CEO/manager.
  5. 5
    Encourage courage. ”Yeah that is great have a go". "You know we have got your back". "Team leadership is our norm".

Why and How – the importance of both.

Why and How – the importance of both

Does spending time on your“why” stopping you from achieving outcomes?

How much time should you spend on why and how?

Can you do one without the other?

Is either essential for getting to where you want to be?

Affectus has developed a process to assist you to explore your why and develop direction. When we have delivered these powerful “pause and unearth” workshops for small groups and organisations our observations indicate that most people like to think and act.

Do you like to think and act? I like to combine the two – I rarely like to just act.

And, we have found, there is often resistance when we are just encouraged to act.

When Affectus spends time in intense sessions over weekends or mid-weeks we see the comfort levels rise and fall. The variation in comfort levels really depends on the time provided for people to think about why and act (or plan to act) on directions.

Why is it important to discover why and think how?

Thinking about my experience as a teacher, see Lessons From Teaching Naughty Boys Maths,  “Friday Survival” wasn’t developed to get people thinking. Actually it was to distract them from thinking about 3.30 bell.

As soon as I found my why – assisting people to see their leadership space and giving them the skills and courage to step in – I understood the importance of the following:

  • Sometimes people want busy work, but most of the time we want to use our brains
  • We are driven by purpose – our purpose – combined or individual
  • Action without meaning is demotivating
  • Taking action with a connection to what we care about keeps us focused and motivated

Now I am wondering. Do you agree?

Sometimes it is thinking about the opposite that solidifies thought. 


  • If an action you are undertaking has an absence of purpose, how long do you remain enthused?
  • If you spend too much time thinking about your purpose, can you get lost?

Questions to consider

I travel alone, mostly. And on those long drives I can spend many hours thinking. (I can also do a lot of very loud singing.) I find that if I don’t pause my thinking and take the next step into what I can practically do with my ideas I can get lost.

So, here are some questions for you to consider

  • What values must be present in your space?
  • What purposeful, meaningful, engaged activities do you love doing?
  • Whay makes you zing when you do it?
  • What skills, gifts and talents do you possess?
  • What do others say you are good at?

Affectus can guide you through the process of getting the why and how balance right. However, thinking through your responses to the above questions will certainly help you start balancing why and how.

Best of luck in your search for why and how.

The tension of why, and action

The tension of why and action.

This week I am going to share my personal reflection on the tension of why and action. In other words, a comparison of my why, others whys and getting on with it (action). 

A few weeks ago I spent some time talking to a change leader about action being more important than why. I was not convinced by his argument.

Why? Because I am sure you, like me, have spent precious hours and resources fiddling around on busy work but not really being convinced about why I was involved. Foofing around, I call it. Sometimes when I am too tired to do anything expect foof around it is ok. But even mindless foofing is beige after just a short period of time. Don’t you think?

I have spent a good couple of weeks considering my reaction to my learned friends theory that action is more important than why. During this time, I was thinking “what was that all about”.

So, here is a summary of that reflection of my experience and conversation about Why vs Action using Affectus’ 4 Dimensions of Reflection.

Dimension 1: Data – facts

Facts relating to my Why.

  • Using time valuably is important to me.
  • Being efficient is important.
  • Understanding the purpose is highly motivating.
  • Working with no understanding of the purpose is demotivating. 
  • Sorting the purpose (or the why) can happen while I am engaged in doing something action-oriented.
  • If I can’t understand the purpose (big picture or the connection to my why) then I don’t hang in there for very long.
  • Someone else’s why can dovetail into mine and add value to my purpose. And that dovetailing will add to theirs.
  • Doing something with no connection to my purpose bores me quickly.

What do you think about those facts?

Are they too simple?

Should I spend more time thinking through the facts?

For me there are some clear themes about motivation and drive and the connection to my purpose; my why.

Dimension 2: Data – feelings

Feelings relating to my Why.

  • When I am working on or in something that connects to my purpose I usually feel excited and focused.
  • I can find myself drifting into “I’m feeling bored” when I can’t find the reason.
  • When I am immersed in the doing/action of my purpose, either in a group or by myself,  I am happy and energised, .
  • I can find myself luxuriating in the bliss of tracking down research and information that will link to my concept which adds to my passions.
  • And I can spend hours looking for academic papers on all sorts of leadership stuff.  I love it and I honestly can feel like I have won lotto (not that I ever have so how would I really know) when I find research that confirms what I have been chasing.
  • I feel pissed off if I am chasing knowledge that is not relevant to what I am passionate about.

Golly that is revealing. When I look at those reflections I could feel very selfish. But actually, and again I would be interested in your comments, I know that my purpose is about changing the leadership outcomes for everyone I connect with and spend time with.

Mmmmm, I think I can sleep tonight.

Dimension 3: Decoding – meaning

What does the above all mean when I consider purpose, why, focus, meaning.

Well, this can be the most challenging part of thinking through and reflecting on what has happened. For the me insight when considering why is this:

  • I like to have an understanding of why I am doing something and it needs to be connected to what is motivating me and my purpose.
  • When I am working on something that is not connected to my purpose I can lose focus and motivation. But, if something fun or full of great action can be connected to my purpose I will find that connection and will commit to it.
  • Even though I am not great at finishing things off I can stick to something, completely, for a long time and can search for all sorts of querky and fascinating concepts if I am working on what I love and do well.

Is it the same for you? 

Dimension 4: Decisional – Action

Why is complex. 

I am driven by something that makes sense to me, that I love and feel committed too. Why will keep me “in” something that otherwise I may drift away from.

However, it is important to remember why is very personal. And therefore, so is the passion that drives others. So, although someone else's why might be different to ours it is still as important to them.

My decision 

Ask the question rather than make assumptions. Why? Because in asking the question my purpose may connect with another’s why which will be great for both of us.

Have you ever thought Why?

Have you ever thought Why?

A good place to start is with a story we shared recently in our Why and How, not Why or How blog

Read on once you have read the story of Lessons From Teaching Naughty Boys Maths.

Why is Why important? 

Affectus has developed an imaginative process to help you get a hand on your why. But why is why important?

In this current climate of wondering why people are acting the way they are, there are lots of question that might start with why.

  • Why did she speak like that?
  • Why would he have done that?

Why often flummoxes us when we look at the world.

I can remember listening to a dear friend of mine ask her young sons why they had done what they had. There was rarely a succinct answer but you could see their developing brain ponder the why.

The definition of why as a noun is a reason or an explanation and as an adverb for what reason and or purpose.

But Why is more than that.

Why is more than asking questions? It is about finding your purpose. What is your purpose? Why are you doing what you are doing?

Have you considered how to get to the bottom of why?

Do you wonder how more focused you could be?

The essential components of Why

Firstly what are the essential components to consider when exploring why?

Have you considered the values that guide you? Those values that are fundamental to you, your life.

Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They determine your priorities.

This sometimes takes a bit of sorting. But establishing your values is the base block of your Why.

Be encouraged and reflective and uncover your values. You may be able to start seeing your What is being built as you think through your values.

If you understand your values you can see that they guide us in our decisions and our undertakings. Therefore, they are the fundamental block of what drives us. Our purpose.

Our Values and the link to our Why

After spending time considering and establishing your core values can you imagine having to operate against your values?

It is hard to imagine.

I heard a story recently about core values of the business. An interesting concept.

To know your business core values will assist you in knowing how to respond to your business environment.

Have you got your business values sorted? Perhaps you need to get your key people (notice I didn’t say executive team) around a table and discover your core business values.

Values drive our thinking, our responses, our behaviour, our actions. 

When we observe others around us we can see their values on display. Generosity, greed, consideration - we see them on our trains, our roads, in our workplaces, all around us. Our values are on public display. We know this and we display our values.

Connecting Values to Purpose.

Now let’s stretch your thinking about your values and your Why and connect them.

It is important to build the link between your values and your Why.

Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They determine your priorities. Therefore, through knowing your values means you have a clear understanding of what is important to you. You can then directly link this to your purpose.

If your Why is:

  • doing something you see is of value to you (and potentially, hopefully to others)
  •  about working on something that is important to you​

then the link between your values and your Why is strong and should be considered and inseparable.

Know your values and understand that they are one of the building blocks to exploring your purpose.

The Illustration – Values and Why the important tension

To finish, we once heard an acquaintance talking about the workplace and personal values and the importance of working in a place that had similar values.

The personal story was confronting to hear. The tension in the story was clear. There were the espoused values of the organisation, however, the actual values were displayed through accepted behaviour and this created a disconnection with a disappointed employee.

Things had to change because the organisational values were not being lived and this prevented the employee from working with purpose. There was no connection. The employee considered that his purpose was not connected to the work of the organisation. The tension was too great and something had to change.

We have some other interesting blogs on why and other valuable concepts for you and your team here

If you would like your team to find purpose contact us and we will be able to assist in just 3 hours.

Why and How, not Why or How

Why and How, not Why or How

Here at Affectus we have developed a process to assist you to explore your why. Our observations and research has allowed us to develop a workshop that allows you to find where your passion is and how to weave that into your life so that you can fill as much of your days with what makes you zing.

However, what is why? And is it as important as how?

A recent and insightful conversation helped me resolve this question and I believe it will assist us to not navel-gaze for too long.

Lessons from teaching naughty boys maths.

Many, many years ago my professional life lead me to spend a short (but successful) time teaching in the Victorian secondary school system. I believe that schooling has changed a lot since, however, back then Friday afternoon was always faced with some level of anxiety. And, as a young graduate, Year 8 Maths on a Friday afternoon was akin to a death sentence. I always felt the anxiety build.

I learnt very quickly what to do with these lessons. I filled them with busy (and often mindless) easy photocopied maths sheets and simple mindless quizzes. I didn’t really care very much what the students received during those lessons - it was much more about all of us walking out alive as the final school bell for the week rang. It worked all the time (nearly).

The Lesson

The lesson I learnt was that sometimes people want busy work, but most of the time we want to use our brains. And we are driven by purpose – our purpose.

The difference between busy work and getting on with something is valuable to understand.

Continuing on with the above story of Year 8 Maths. If I had only provided busy work to these terrific young people every time I saw them during the week there would have been a real riot.

The question that constantly smacked me in the face during my three insightful and shaping years as a secondary teacher was

“what is the purpose of this activity?”

And I carried that sense of assisting people to understand purpose with me as I moved towards my leadership consultancy years.

It is all very well to keep everyone busy but wouldn’t it be better for you and me if we could find purpose. And see if it aligns with some or all of our combined skills and passions.

Understanding Your Why

And now to the inevitable of questions.

  • Do you know your why?
  • What values are essential to you every day?
  • What purposeful, meaningful, engaged activities do you love doing?
  • What makes you zing when you do it?
  • What skills, gifts and talents do you possess? 
  • What do others say you are good at?

Sometimes the answers to these questions are clear and identifiable? And sometimes we need to take time to respond. Whichever it is it is valuable for us to spend some time considering.

  • What do I like doing?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What do I know I do well that others reinforce?

It is not always that simple. A younger person I know reasonably well said to me recently “I know I don’t love what I do every day – it is harmless and not totally against my principles, but realistically I need to pay the mortgage.”

I completely understand those sentiments. However, my advice was: 

Still make time for what you are passionate about because you may be able to spend all of your time doing that when the financial stress comes off.

Why is Why important? 

Just this week I had a conversation with a change management facilitator. He tried to convince me that why wasn’t important. I remain convinced that why is important. 

It is important to gain understanding why we have spent our time doing something:

  • before
  • at the time 
  • afterwards

Why? Because it helps us identify:

  • what next
  • what more
  • where to from here

Otherwise it is just busy work and we are all back stuck in Year 8 Maths doing what Briggsy told us to. Yuk!

Margie Warrel says

While there’s no one pathway for discovering your life's purpose, there are many ways you can gain deeper insight into yourself, and a larger perspective on what it is that you have to offer the world.

However, I suppose I will concede something. That if we get caught in sorting the why then we may never move onto partaking of the brilliance of what we want to be part of.

What is more important?


Is the “Why I am doing this? Why am I taking this pathway” more important than the “How will I do this? How will I reach the next fork in the path?"?

From my work in leadership, of more than two decades, I think they are both important. And sometimes one comes before the other. Sometimes clarity for both why and how appear simultaneously. And sometimes they occur years and years apart.

My encouragement is to ask yourself if you are in the how (I get this done) stage? And if so,  spend a bit of time contemplating why? Understand does your how stage sit along with your values, passions and gifts?

And then ask yourself if you are moving through towards the end of the why (am I doing this) stage? If so, are you are pleased to have clarity that you have found your why?

And, after all that, then get on with the doing.

Being practical about challenges and change

We have had a few people asking

Can you be more practical about challenges and change?


What else happens with change?

So, here are our thoughts about the first three phases.

When you review the change process it is important to remember that these phases don’t just happen. We move through the phases as we become aware. And we make decisions regarding our responses to the challenge we are facing.

The important message I would like to share is pertinent for those who are about to embark on a leadership learning experience.

Perhaps you are a participant commencing one of our 2019 leadership experiences. This will help you maximise your first moments or days of the experience. I know I can sometimes spin-off into the stratosphere with my ideas but to assist with clarity of my messages I am, once again, going to try to talk about my experiences and what I have observed.

At Affectus, we have found that the first three phases are often the most challenging so I have focused today's thinking there.

1.     Moving on from Immobilisation

When you are frozen the first action to assist you and others to move on is to re-affirm that individuals are safe.

Recently I had a conversation with one of our graduates. The revelation from that conversation was that Affectus facilitators often ask participants to be fearless and have a go. This is not unlike the challenges that can face us in our day-to-day.

The graduate told me of the repeated sense of immobilisation when Affectus asked participants to take action. During these experiences, the participant developed an ability to move from the frozen moment to action. They stated that

this is because a safe space had been created.

Your leadership action

Create the safe space for yourself through examining your concerns and acknowledging that you will be ok. Make sure you are building safe spaces to counter the immobilisation.

2. Denial

We have been asked

How do you recognise denial and move to the next phase?

Our observation is that this isn’t so easy. Why? Because it clearly involves honesty and self-awareness. Honesty that you want to bury your head in the sand. And awareness that you are indeed doing just that.

Patrick Lencioni talks about trust as the key element in assisting teams in raising their productivity. Brene Brown has explored the leadership concept of vulnerability. Both of these are essential to move beyond denial. Trust that you are needing to face this challenge and will be ok.

However, from my experience, it is most valuable to have someone in my team who can call it. Someone who will bravely ask

why are you not getting on with the job?

This is code for you are being an ostrich.

I recently had one of the Affectus team do just that. You should have heard the accountability (NOT) come out of my mouth. However, through the “call it” conversation it became clear that I had my head firmly in the sand. And it was gritty and uncomfortable, and the sand was getting in the way of my ability to be able to see my way out. It was so useful to have someone trust our relationship enough to call it out.

Your leadership action

Find someone who will call it when they see you are stuck in denial.

3. Incompetence

I have someone in my network who is terrific at understanding the constant need to move people out of that space of “yep I have to change but I don’t have knowledge or skills”. In other words, assisting people to move beyond the incompetence phase.

I have observed my colleague over the years. Sometimes she jumps the gun to offer skilling up/knowledge sharing before those around her even know they are feeling incompetent. And occasionally there is resistance. But through working with her over the years I now know the questions that assist me to identify what I can do to move on from incompetence.

The first question is (and I use it often)

Do I need to do anything?

Well to be completely honest sometimes it is someone else’s role. But I know that there is always something I can or need to do. And that is not to resist and to embrace the change upon us/me/the team.

If I do need to take action the questions I have found useful are:

  • What do I need to know?
    Sometimes this requires some thinking through. Identifying what don’t I know (sometimes easy to see sometimes not so easy) and then finding information. Researching and reading or talking and sharing ideas.
  • What skill do I need to develop?
    For me and my learning style, this requires talking and being shown and then being supervised and encouraged as I have a go. If it is a completely foreign skill sometimes I need quite a bit of time and many attempts.

Your leadership action

You will have a learning style. Find a way of learning new skills in a way that works for you.

Develop the expectation that you and your workplace welcomes and encourages the open exploration of knowledge building and skill enhancement.

Seven Phases of Change

The seven phases of change.

When you are facing challenges, knowing the seven phases of change will assist.

1. Immobilisation

When you are frozen, unable to respond to the challenge you are facing.

2. Denial

When you attempt to ignore the challenge you should face.

3. Incompetence

You need to acquire skills and/or knowledge to address the challenge.

4. Acceptance

You gain insight. This IS about me and I need to respond.

5. Testing

You build response strategies and actions.

6. Search for meaning

You personalise the challenge and establish new meaning.

7. Integration

Done! You have managed the challenge.

Are you ready to take on another?

Find new meaning and make sense of change. Join us!

Facing challenge and change

What happens to us when facing challenge and change.

With our amazing team of co-facilitators we “do” leadership with groups of people all over Australia. And I love it. Have I mentioned that before I wonder?

“Do” means long programs, short programs, day sessions. And, we also assist organisations to understand their value and ensure efficient teams.

We encourage and support change and assist in building confidence to take on challenges. When we “do” leadership we are constantly observing how people respond and act.

What is Affectus’ Philosophy?

Affectus’ philosophy commences with encouraging people to find and step into their leadership space. We also incorporate the knowledge that people all learn differently, our minds work and our perception are different.

Essentially, however, each of us tends to prefer one of the following ways of learning – visual, written, listening, doing ( the VARK model). Affectus ensures that these four preferences are woven into our learning events.

It is important to know Affectus’ philosophy because…

When we ask people to move into their leadership space we understand the above but we expect people to change.

We ask them to challenge their thinking and implement change…at that moment. And we encourage attendees to see the leadership space and step into it. We support and coach them as they do, But we ask them to move from their current position and find a new place to demonstrate leadership.

 Some questions about change and challenge to consider

What do you know about your responses to challenges? And to date, how have you have engaged with the change in your life? What do you know about yourself?

A Change Model – 7 Phases of Change.

During our strategic thinking workshop, we use a change model that I have developed. We help people understand their responses to change. When you are in your leadership space responding to change, it is valuable to understand where your greatest leadership impact can be.

7 Phases of Change

  1. Immobilisation
  2. Denial
  3. Incompetence
  4. Acceptance
  5. Testing
  6. Search for Meaning
  7. Integration

The First 3 phases and what goes on in our brain

  1. Immobilisation – our logical brain stops working and our more primitive (reptilian brain) pushes us to thinking about survival.
  2. Denial – our logical brain regains some control over our response but our primitive brain is still saying “run-away this is scary”

From our observations, it is important to assist people during Phase 1 and 2. To breath (sometimes literally) and acknowledge the concern and confusion. And to also understand they can move beyond these first two phases and beyond the concern and confusion.

  1. Incompetence – our brain feels scrambled (no better way to explain it). Often there is a feeling of I can’t really understand this change, I know it is happening but what is really going on. I don’t have the skills to deal with this.

In our experience, this is where the greatest leadership impact occurs. For leaders to step away or hope something will happen is reneging on the position they have stepped into. It is here that leadership “rubber hits the road”.

What can you do when change is upon you and your team and the challenge is real?

What can you do when you are seeing the immobilisation and denial and you are hearing the words “I don’t know how to deal with this”? You assist people to feel confident and develop competency.

How do you assist people?

  • Talk with them about their ability to understand the challenge and respond positively to change.
  • Build their self-awareness of their own capacity to take on new concepts.
  • Reassure them that you are in this too and that a solution will be found.
  • Discuss how they could enhance their skills or knowledge to better embrace the challenge.

Think back to last week’s article imagine if, when facing change and challenge, we also had a deep understanding that if we bring ourselves, all of our talent and knowledge and self-awareness, to a challenge how we could embrace it and respond.

Challenge and Change – You are enough

Challenge and Change – A personal account.

Sometimes I reread my blogs and think gosh that was pretty pointed. But today as I sat down and prepared my thinking for this blog I thought back to all of the times I have been challenged in my life. From getting the arc of the baseball perfect to reach from shortstop to first base to tag the hitter, through to dealing with an unpleasant complaint made against me when I hadn’t been completely professional.

As I thought back through my challenges I remember a particular day. I remember it being exciting, challenging, confronting and scary. I’m going to take you through that day and keep on the topic “challenge and change”.

Picture this.

A weekend retreat in the middle of the Victorian bush with a group of about 30 people. Arrival was a little fraught. We didn’t have mobile phone GPS assistance then. I arrived in the dark and instantly relaxed as I heard the enthusiastic conversations happening inside the barracks that the group would be inhabiting for the weekend.

Food and drinks were communal. BYO and share.

Conversations and activities were to happen in the lounge room and outside was a space for “whatever”.

One short bushwalk was planning for some time and we were anticipating breaking camp after lunch on the Sunday.

Rooms were sparse (and cold). And we shared with others. Some we knew. Others we knew of. And others were soon to become connections.

The purpose

The purpose of the weekend was not very tight. There were some activities/workshops available. You chose to go to what you wanted. There were robust conversations about various topics. You could engage if you were interested. Or you could sleep and wander as you wished or needed.

There were mandalas drawn, meditation and singing. And there were definitely many robust conversations.

All of this challenged me.

During the first morning, the lack of structure took me back to University days. Days where I spent much of my time finding a familiar face and following them to a lecture in the hope that it was part of my degree (I got better but golly I was bad during 1st year).

I felt vulnerable and insecure. What was I supposed to be doing? Wondering what was all of this about?

Food and drink were safe as I knew what I was supposed to be doing. That was university and day one of the retreat.

The ball of clay

Now some of you will have heard me talk about my ball of clay that I carved that illustrates my journey. I sculpted that “magnificent item” during this retreat.

There were many people attending the retreat that I admired and respected. A couple that I idolised. I was pretty desperate to impress them if I am honest.

Towards the end of the first day as I was participating in a robust conversation about power and emotions and the fear of showing our emotions in public. One of the other attendees (who I was desperate to impress) spoke, then paused (waiting for those of us around the table to stop talking) then spoke again.

She said

"You are enough."

I am sure this was in reaction to us all discussing our fear of being vulnerable in public. But I felt like my armour had been pierced. I felt extremely unsettled. What did that statement mean?

I fired questions…seeking reassurance.

  • Are you saying I am enough?
  • Enough what?
  • Am I enough in your eyes?
  • What does enough mean?
  • Can you help me measure that so I have a sense of what you mean?”

The response was calmly sent back to my ears.

"You are enough Jill"

As I struggled with the concept of “enough” that was swirling around me I heard my voices. Most/nearly everyone has them. I call them my generational voices. They were rebelling against this concept.

Really? By whose measure? I don’t think so.

These were the words running through my head as I looked across the room seeing friendly, caring faces smiling and confirming that I was enough.

You are enough

I took off. Had a wander amongst the magnificent towering eucalypts. I spent two hours walking, struggling and reconciling my sense of inadequacy.

But I returned having a deep sense of settled knowledge that “I was enough”. Yet, that didn’t mean I could sit back and take it easy. No.

The meaning I made of this statement was

Whatever I do if I bring my whole self to it, the thinking, the dreaming, the doing, then I am enough.

Why have I shared this personal story with you?

Because when I consider challenge and change and understand that sometimes my ideas might be pointy and hold expectations…

You are enough

Bring your whole self…you are enough.

Challenge and Change – Undoing fear

How do you tackle challenge and change?

Shonda Rhimes says that the very act of doing the thing that scared her undid her fear, doing it made it not scary for her.

What an interesting concept that is.

A number of years ago (actually many) I was friends with some of the SAS fellas (and it was only fellas back then). Their weekends comprised doing things together that would scare many of us – rigid.

They did all sorts of amazing and challenging stuff while I watched movies or slept. One of the SAS fellas, let’s call him Phil, was a good friend. He asked quietly, over my fourth drink on a Saturday night in a pub in Melbourne, whether my friend and I would like to go to Hanging Rock with him and a couple of mates. Now the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock (the original one – I’m not going to give you the year…you have to do that work) had only been out for 7 or so years. And although I had been to the Hanging Rock after the scary-as-hell movie release it still made me squirm a bit. Now, remember I was on my fourth drink.

“Yeah sure…are we just doing the picnicking thing?” I enquired.

Phil was pretty straight up sort of a bloke, “Nah, we are going to do some abseiling down the longest straight drop.”

In my head, I instantly thought of some of the surfie chicks I had watched during my summer holidays. They had been sitting on the cliffs watching their boyfriends having all the fun (not that any of them were my boyfriend). But before I could raise this issue Phil added, “Have you and Jenny ever done that before? We could teach you, we are all pretty experienced and have all our certificates”.

Well, the short story is we did. And we did including running face forward down the longest drop. It was so cool I don’t think I came down from the high for days!

Had it been the cheap wine (I was a uni student at the time) that had given me the courage? Or was it the confidence I had in my friend Phil?

Was it the public status he and his gang of friends had? Or was I just at that age that yes came easier?

Do I consider that, actually, was I ridiculously risky in my behaviour?

Some would say yes to that question, I do come from a family of varying risk profiles.

What happens when we take on a challenge

What happens when we take on a challenge? And how should we frame those challenges so that they don’t scare us away.?

What is the link between challenge and leadership and change?

Let’s consider those concepts bit by bit.

What happens inside when we take on challenges and succeed?

There are two general responses when we see a challenge ahead or know that we need to take a risk. This is my experience of observing hundreds of clients approach the challenges we provide for them.

These responses are:

  • Jump in feet first or
  • Yeah-Nah.

Now neither of these are the “correct” response they are just different. And of course ,there is plenty of greyness in between the two responses.

Some questions to consider

What do you know about your responses to challenges?

And to date, how have you have engaged with the challenges in your life?

What do you know about yourself now that you have had a look back?

What happens in your brain

Delving further into this first question there is a link between the grey matter we have in our brains and our responses to challenges. And there is also a link to dopamine.

But our responses happen in our brain…so what happens in your brain?

What have you learned about taking on challenges and succeeding or being unable to complete them?

When we are involved in a leadership role understanding how we respond to challenges is important. And, let’s face it, we know many people in leadership roles who resist challenges and risk.

Is that a problem? I don’t think so as long as they are aware of their responses.

Going back to the abseiling. What did I learn about challenges and me?

Here they are. I

  • was doing this activity with people I trusted so I would be OK
  • had confidence in my body and my strength
  • knew that I would be stretched, but I also knew I had a thoughtful brain that would help me out in a pickle
  • am competitive and so I wasn’t going to be the one not participating (not particularly helpful but definitely an interesting driver)
  • am courageous but I don’t like embarrassing myself…interesting combination when you think through challenges.

Challenges and change

Now onto challenges and change. Can you see the link?

There is no doubt in my mind that challenges require us to change what we are thinking or doing. Otherwise there would be no change happening around us.

Perhaps that is a bit simplistic. But they are connected.

When considering leadership we choose to step into our leadership space when we see that change needs to happen and that can be challenging.

Finally, I would encourage you to have a read of some of the links we have gathered for you about risk and challenge.

And please be encouraged to take on the challenge when you are working with us this year. You will see the benefit and you will be supported by the teams we will build around you.

"To lead an authentic life, we need to take on new challenges that stretch us and give us more opportunities to be ourselves." - Stephen Joseph

Careful Communication

Are you thinking about your communication? Wondering why listening is important?

Let's move from the careful listener space to how it feels to be listened to. There will be questions asked to assist you to remember and then reinforce the importance of listening and the space of leadership and trust that a listening environment builds.

So, what is careful communication and why has Affectus claimed this concept?

The art of careful communication is getting yourself set to hear and understand.

What does Careful Communication mean?

Careful communication starts with understanding careful.

Careful means to be done with thought and showing attention.

What would listening, and the broader communication space, be like if we were careful in our communication? Careful communication is to engage in a communication process with thought and attention.

Careful listening

Now let’s examine careful listening.

Here is where the questions start…

  • How do you feel when you are listened to?
  • Then, how do you feel when you know you have been heard?
  • What has been your experience of the two questions above?
  • What are your emotional responses to the person who has listened and heard you? Relieved, satisfied, thankful, affirmed?

When I have been listened to and heard I am grateful:

  • for the empathy that has been displayed
  • the time that has been spent with me
  • for the outcomes that have been generated
  • the forward momentum that has been created

And I am grateful for the above, no matter what has been shared. I feel a shift and an appreciation, like my thoughts have been cared for by another. Careful communication.

Revisiting your communication

I would now encourage you to pause and think back…

Revisit when you were the speaker and rethink your communication moments.

  • Were you part of a careful communication moment?
  • How do you know that you were?
  • What indicators were present that signaled that you were part of a careful communication moment?
  • What did the listener do?
  • How were they?

By thinking back and wondering about careful communication we gain insight into how we may become more effective communicators.

Leadership and careful communication

And now the link to leadership.

With over 30 plus of working in leadership and learning, I am overwhelmed by the increase in leadership acumen when an individual simply becomes a better listener.

Our leadership stakes increase when we cease being the speaker and provider of our “vast and endless wisdom” (read sarcastic face) and enter into careful communication by listening effectively. This TedTalk talks to this.

I have to remind myself when I am facilitating our leadership workshops and programs, that people want to find their own solutions. And to do that I must spend time listening and providing the environment for trust to flourish and ears and minds need to be open so hearing is present.

Think about how to create an environment where listening is done within an environment of careful communication. And now consider what are the two adjustments you will make to create an environment of careful communication? How will you work on yourself to build your careful communication?

The Art of Careful Communication

What is communication?

I suppose the importance of communication can’t be over-communicated. But really, what is communication?

A bit of a revision lesson here.

Communication is simply (wry smile)…transferring your thoughts into words (written or spoken). And then sharing them with the world. And trusting that the way in which you have transmitted those thoughts ensures that the people receiving your communication synthesise the content in a way so that closely resembles your thoughts. So that sentence wasn’t simple and we know, intuitively, that the practice of communication is not simple either.

On the other hand when we are in the presence of a skilled communicator that movement of “a thought to your thought” is easier.

Often when in a leadership learning experience, the entrance point to re-examining our communication prowess is speaking. This can give the impression that speaking is the most important communication element. Please don’t misunderstand me, nailing your public speaking, is important but listening is the first element to attend to.

I recently spent time in the presence of a focused woman. And I spent significantly more time in the car with her as we travelled our region of Australia, assisting her to understand the community issues. I was assisting. She was the key person in our team and it was a gift for my understanding to watch her and then reflect on what I had observed.

Now before I go ahead and provide you with my observations here is my challenge to you – ditch “great speaker = amazing public address” thinking, perhaps just this once, and consider someone you know who has listened to you as you spoke.

  • How did you know you were being listened to?
  • What was the interaction like when someone listened to you?
  • And how did you feel when you were being listened to?

The art of careful communication

The art of careful communication is getting yourself set to hear and understand.

Do you set yourself up to hear and understand when you are listening?

What does Careful Communication mean?

Careful communication could mean a number of things. Careful has one meaning which suggests caution and tentativeness. The other definition is more useful to my mind…done with thought and showing attention.

Let’s go back to remembering how you felt when you were listened to. When we are listened to we feel that the other person is giving us their attention and doing it in an open, thoughtful way. Are you listening in a careful way now? I hope so.

If we (definitely read “I” here also) commence our careful communication with careful listening as the starting action then all sorts of opportunities open up to us.

I think about all of you as I write, this our community all over Australia. And I see all of you heading...

  • back into your work tomorrow
  • your family room in 10 minutes
  • to your car with your teenager or your toddlers bedroom
  • your school starters classroom

and I think about you all in careful communication mode. And I see problems diminished and others being valued.

Doesn’t that sound like leadership?

So, what is the Art of Careful Communication?

The art of careful communication is, of course, not only about listening. It is also about speaking.

Consequentially, I would consider similar principles.

Talking extraverts - are they any other sort? I believe there is. As one, if I could also bring to my oral communication the same principles of thought and attention how much more effective might I be. I would be considering my words before I say them and I would think through the audience. And I would be imagining the transfer of the information into the persons' thought-processes.

What else would I be doing?

Well, I would also be attending and pay attention to the responses of those I am speaking with. Looking at their faces and unconscious reactions to what I am saying. Building on this feedback and adjusting all elements of my communication.

The careful art of communication is about thinking about the other…not thinking about self.

This doesn’t mean not having ideas and opinions. What it does mean is considering and acknowledging that communication is always two-way and for it to be two-way we have to do carefully.

Listening over Summer

Affectus has emerged out of the summer break with a bounce. We have a new addition to our growing team, you will meet her in a moment, and we have had a break. But mostly my December/January has been a time of intense listening.

  • Listening to me…
  • Listening to the people I love dearly
  • Listening to the community Affectus has built
  • And listening to the political conversations at a local through to an international level.

If our theme for this newsletter is communication then I have to say how I am constantly reminded about listening. As in listening being the fundamental-of-fundamentals of who we are and how we can be our best selves.

I have the privilege of putting my entire year of voluntary work into November. Some of you will have observed my activity assisting a woman from Wodonga who had a tilt at a state seat in the Victorian election. It was such fun and might work. And by golly she got sooooo close.

The November Volunteering actually started well over 12 months prior to the election being called and my leadership learnings from the entire 18 months will remain with me forever.

What did I learn about listening.

  • It helps to not talk if you want to listen.
  • Sometimes you have to stop the other person from talking so you can capture what you have heard.
  • It is really hard to listen when you are juggling too many concepts in your head
  • If you have an active “parrot” that sits on your shoulder and squawks opinions when others are talking then the parrot needs to be caged and shut away all the time.

So as Affectus’ year revs up these are the ideas I will commit to (again).

  • Be quiet, listen, keep listening
  • Shoot the parrot on your shoulder, keep listening
  • Capture the key points and let the other person know you have heard them
  • Listen again and then reflect on how your listening went.

I believe I am a good listener. But, during the election campaign, the effort of listening, capturing and moving other’s thoughts into outputs and action under pressure was an amazing experience. I have a completely renewed appreciation of what we put you through during our programs.

Looking forward to seeing you all during 2019.


Have you ever considered success?


Have you ever considered success?

In an article in our recent graduate newsletter recently we discussed the concept of success. We discussed whether perhaps success is about self-determined success.

I would love to discuss this in a little more depth.

What does success look like?

When we discuss success and how it happens we talk about what it looks like. This discussion is either pretty straightforward or rather challenging depending on the individual and their understanding of purpose. Success is not unlike your "why" but I think it has a harder edge.

What does self-determining success look like?

You determine what success is.

Get rid of any others who may tell you what success is.

Ask what does success look like to me? My day, my month, my workplace?

However, firstly, it requires you determining what is success.

I think it looks like hands on hips, direct gaze, strong voice and simple statement.

For me, it is not about that really big picture. The picture of “I want to make sure everyone in my orbit locates and steps into their leadership space”, which by the way I am still focused on.

It is more a smaller puzzle piece of the bigger picture. Like hands on hips, clear gaze, thoughtful voice.

Something like "in this part of the project, everyone will have a sense of their own leadership power and will have experienced that leadership is always about teams".

Starting self-determined success

My observations are that when people self-determine what they want then the path of getting there and making it happen becomes clearer.

What are the simple thinking processes that might help you get to the harder edge self-determined success?

To start the self-determined success with these questions:

1. Face-up to your success

What does success look like to me?

2. The End

What do I want at the end of this? Satisfaction? Recognition?

3. Shoulds or Musts

What personal behaviours have got in the way in previous attempts to be successful? How will I adjust these behaviours?

4. Agree-ers

Are you seeking approval from others about measuring your success? Examine this need and work on the unhelpful need for that approval.

5. Find a celebration buddy

Is someone else going to assist you in being accountable? Think about who can support and celebrate your success with you.

6. Move today

What actions do you need to put in place today to move you today? Tomorrow? Next month? Write them down and speak them out.

What is success?

Richard St John has a quick Ted-X talk that has some interesting tips about success.

He talks about how he got there and also what happened when he got to his goal. It is short and interesting. I am not completely convinced about all of his messages but his self-knowledge about how his thinking and attitude change when he reached his goal is valuable.

What is success and how do we find it?

It would appear, no matter where you look, success is about ticking off on an aim or accomplishing your purpose. It would appear simple and if the graduates from this year's national programs were authoring this article they would “yeah-nah” nothing simple about it.

Riachard Branson says

“Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with,”

He also wrote on LinkedIn.

“In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”

I often feel a little jaded when I hear hyper-rich people say these things but actually, I think he is right.

Acclaimed author Maya Angelou believed success is about enjoying your work. Her take on success is:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

What does all of that mean?

Perhaps Success is about self-determined success.

When I have observed our participants over the years the greatest level of achievement I see is when we do the skills sessions and guide. But, we keep our hands out of the goal-setting components and we let individuals and/or teams determine what they want to achieve. In fact when our facilitators have started influencing and steering direction the team moves away and the outcomes are less.

So the key is to determine what you want…is it not?

Perhaps we each need to listen, feel vulnerable and modify. But the energy is highest when we say

“that is what I want to achieve”.

Michelle Obama says that she has observed that

“Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

Now I know that some of you reading this have self-proclaimed cash registers for hearts. BUT I also know that those same people care deeply about the people around them and the difference that they are making for the greater good.

Success is not a simple concept.

We can see that success is not a simple concept. And it is definitely not when you combine it, as Affectus does, with our ethos of leadership.

Then what should we make of this and what might success look like?

Perhaps success and attaining it is about understanding your responses to a series of questions that only you can answer?

Or if it is group success; questions that the group has to agree on a combined answer?

If it is about self-determined ideas then we would suggest that these questions might assist you if you are seeking success.

  • It is about money?
  • It is about status?
  • Are you seeking fulfillment? Happiness?
  • What are you wanting to achieve? And is it only you who wasn’t to achieve the goal?
  • Will it make a difference? And does this matter?
  • How will I know when I have achieved success?
  • And actually, is success important?

All things that push us along require thinking and rarely require telling. We have learned, over our three decades of working with people, to provide the skills and the knowledge but to go really easy on the telling and direction.

Success is most rewarding when telling is kept quiet.

Affectus’ Leadership Leverage

Leveraging your leadership goals can be challenging. How do you leverage your leadership? What effort does it take?

Here are the Affectus Seven Steps to Leadership Leverage that we have found most effective.

Step 1 - Understanding Effort

What do you want to change? And how do you use the lever?

Step 2 - Clarity

Get clarity about effort. Talk about it and test your thinking.

Step 3 - Understanding Effort... Again

Understand the personal effort required to lever for change.

Step 4 - Group Effort

Bring other people in: people who understand the change you are aiming for.

Step 5 - Build the Fulcrum

Build your fulcrum with the pivot point using all the people as your fulcrum.

Step 6 - Position the Fulcrum

Position the people in a way that will maximise the effort you will all apply.

Step 7 - Effort Applied

And now push. Gently, quickly and with all the force you can muster. Push.

For more information on leveraging leadership, read our other articles here.

What does leverage look like?

What does leverage look like? Sound Like? Feel Like?

And how can you lever so that things move rather than becoming immovable objects.

You know that recent spat about the Sydney Opera House sails being used for advertising? Leaving aside that I was a little surprised that the decision was made, it was an interesting case of leverage don’t you think?

  • Who moved whom?
  • What levers were pulled?
  • What did it sound like?
  • And I wonder, for the people close to the action, how did it feel?

I am not going to side-up here. But some of the levering was pretty loud and aggressive and driven by a big personality. Some levering was more active and included lots of names and quite a big mob.

So, what could putting pressure on the lever sound like?

How can you press on the lever without alienating those who might assist you press on the lever?

It has to sound like an honest conversation doesn’t it?

If it is an attempt to manipulate someone, then using this form of leverage there will eventually be a recoiling. And golly, when that happens…when that happens…

Well, we saw what happened. The big personality had to (again) apologise.

It sounds like trusting your idea with others. But knowing that you have done the thinking that if the sharing isn’t received well then you share again. Perhaps you revise, but you continue to understand the need for a shift to happen.

It sounds like you listening and adding, don’t you think?

How does leverage feel?

Remember the power of the fulcrum in levering.

Remember that, initially, you need to build a fulcrum and then you position your idea in a way that makes the most of the pressure you will apply.

It feels like understanding why and feeling the future.

It feels like you are clear and focused. You can see where you are headed and you want to go there.

But, I believe the pivot needs others who will assist in the movement you are determined to make. And all of that feels like understanding and shared knowledge.

That feeling happens through communication.

How can you be empathetic during the pressing of the lever?

Why is this important?

I have done a lot of thinking about leverage and change.

I have a weed that grows in my garden. It is called marshmallow (nice name but a rotten weed). It is useful to assist with nettle stings (which also grow in my garden and yes, I am not much of a gardener). And if I don’t get the levering right, the marshmallow just breaks off and grows a deeper tap root that is twice as difficult to lever out!

Yep thinking about how others are going to respond to the change is really important. Why? To ensure you don’t simply entrench what you are trying to move. That, in your effort to level, you snap it off and the entrenched thinking/doing becomes further entrenched.

Does it always have to be about the talking?

Can’t the pressure be about the doing also?

Well of course. After all, it is all about getting something done. A group to a new place or a great project started and finished. But yep it does have to start with and continue to be about the talking. And, the bigger the shift the more and the smarter the talking required.

Leverage – get on with it.

The power of pressure on the lever – a bit of physics fun

As we move through “graduation season” at Affectus it is a great time to reflect on “what next” for our graduates.

We spend time discussing how to leverage the life-changing, new-direction-setting leadership experiences to courageously alter your world for the better.

Our facilitators ask people to make a commitment and to publicly state what they are going to focus on now. And we remain committed to continuing the conversation about leadership leverage.

I have found it helpful to sometimes blend my first career as a science educator with my passion “leadership learning” and in the case of leadership, I head back to Physics 101.

Leverage is all about the effort and moving a load to a new place.

Now I am not going rabbit on too long with my physics lesson. I wasn’t actually very good at Physics but I did understand the simple seesaw lever concept. But it is valuable to think through the concept of levering within a framework that makes sense. That is, a plank on a fulcrum with pushing on one end to change the position of the opposite end.

What next?

If you have been part of a leadership program or experience perhaps you have had the option to build teams and take action during the program. And reflect on the process you have developed and tested. Perhaps you have also had an opportunity, toward the conclusion, to future-gaze and consider what next – for you and for your passion.

I have often thought when I have completed life-changing activities – so what next and where to now.

This is where leverage comes into its own.

But let’s think it through. It is at that point, that point of “I could do anything”, that point that your effort can be most effectively used. How can you make the most of this moment? There will be more just like it. But there is something extra exciting about the energy we carry with us as we leave a leadership program.

Here is my thinking…I wonder what you think?

Affectus’ Leadership Leverage

Step 1 – Understanding Effort

Work out what it is you are wanting to shift. What do you want to change? We could call this a “change plank”. Then you need to consider how to use the plank to get others to move.

Step 2 – Clarity about Effort

Get clarity about your affect. Talk it out. Test your thinking. Hone it to a refined concept.

Step 3 – Understanding Effort

Understand the personal effort you will need to put in to create the change. What time is required? What skills are needed? What is the necessary knowledge?

Step 4 – Group Effort

Relook at the effort and consider how to increase that effort by bringing other people in. People who understand the change that you are hoping for.

Step 5 – Build the Fulcrum

The fulcrum is the pivot point on which the seesaw sits (a simple lever). I like to imagine the fulcrum as all the additional people who will understand the change needed as we share the need. We need to consider who might these people be and where are they. Then we can share the idea and bring them together.

Step 6 - Position the Fulcrum

I see the people who we share the change with as a coordinated collection putting their combined hands under the “change plank” at just the right point – close to me or a distance away.

Step 7 – Effort Applied

And then our team (from Step 4) begin to put downward pressure on the plank and the opposite end of the change plank is raised to a new height.


I know, I know, it is a bit clunky. But, it is about understanding that when you work with a group on an idea you have a strong combined effort that will overcome the resistance and lift the load. By gaining support from a wider group of others this will assist to raise the load. And this group, in a strategic place, means the lift will be even easier and the load at the opposite end will be raised.

Work on the power of your leverage.

The Language of Leadership

This week I spent a couple of minutes talking with Libby Gorr and Cameron Schwab about the language of leadership. We spoke about the importance of understanding the difference between leader, leadership and management.

In the work that we do at Affectus, the language of leadership matters and matters a lot.

There are the conceptual words that swirl around leadership.

And then there are the overarching words that frame leadership.

When talking about the overarching these are the key ones that we need to get our head around.


Leadership is the decision to act and affect with a group of others. This group, generally, have an understanding of and an agreement with the direction being taken or the endpoint that has been established.


A Leader is an individual who commands the group and usually has a title. This title is often bestowed by the group.


Management, generally, is about the process of dealing with and/or controlling people or things.

Leadership and Leader

In my conversation with Libby and Cameron, we talked about the importance of understanding the difference between leadership and leader.

Cameron and I agreed that leadership is a decision and an action and done with others. While leading is about a title which comes and goes.

We also discussed management being very different to leadership. That leadership is about finding a direction and moving there. Management, on the other hand, is much more focused on achieving results.

Of course, it is clear that these two concepts can be undertaken by the one person. However, different thinking is required when demonstrating leadership or providing management.

See, the words are important because they change our way of thinking and therefore our actions. Language is incredibly important.


And then there are the other words…

The words that swirl around leadership; the decision to take action and then to act with a group of other like-minded people.

Words like:

  • courage
  • direction
  • vision
  • passion
  • empathy
  • knowledge
  • teams
  • insight
  • capacity
  • humour
  • creativity
  • inspiration
  • awareness.

These are the most common words our people, participants and graduates mention when leadership is reviewed at the conclusion of our programs and events. And this is what you and I seek when undertaking leadership action.

A new level

What leadership do you see demonstrated around you?

I see people being courageous, communicating their vision and living and speaking their passions. We work with people who understand that empathetic, open, insightful leadership is what they are striving to demonstrate.

So how do we (you and I) get to a new level of leadership?

  1. Understand that leadership is always undertaken with others. You may have the idea but it will remain an idea, an interesting activity until you gather others around you to move.
  2. Find a way to grow your understanding and capacity around leadership. Do this by working with a leadership mentor, a mentor focused and experienced in the leadership space.
  3. Identify what your vision is, big or small; immediate or long-term and start talking about it.

Read our other leadership blogs here.

Self or Others? Wearing a leaders crown!

Is it really only three weeks since Scott Morrison became the 30th Australian Prime Minister?

It is fascinating to see how quickly we move onto “the next thing” in this churn of media. Who won the US Open? What has happened with the typhoon in Japan? Florida? What is the latest with Brexit (no dancing please Theresa).

For those of us fascinated by, observers and facilitators of leadership "the-week-that-was" remains pretty fresh.

The words that I typed on Wednesday as I headed to Hobart to speak at the Women in Leadership Australia Symposium, may have reflected some of the frustration that the country was feeling. I feared that many would be thinking “here we go again”. As my frustration cooled on the Friday-to-end-all-Fridays I spent time considering what could I say, what might I write. And, would I have the skill to describe my deepest worries about the message this gave to everyone that leadership is transactional and about squaring some imaginary ledger.

What I felt we witnessed was the evening of scores. Even if that is not what it was that is how it appeared.

In leadership how you are seen and observed and the messages this sends are important.

Wearing the leaders crown

What many of us know is that leadership is not about wearing the leaders crown. However, it is interesting that it is the tussle that we focus on.

Thankfully leadership is not about the crown.

The leader is about the crown-wearing. But as we witnessed that crown slips. The crown is taken. The head gets old, stale, out-of-touch and/or has kicked too many on the way up.

What is my take?

It is this. That what we saw was about being the leader. However what many of us were hoping for was leadership – us, not me! An open stance and ideal that includes us.

Why does this happen?

I am going to move this away from the federal stage and talk about the organisations we work with and the individuals who engage in our programs.

Why does this happen?

Why has it happened in your local voluntary committee, small business, workteam?

Now I don’t want to simplify what is complex, but sometimes the simple can assist. If we want to move beyond “who is wearing the crown and I want the crown” thinking and behaviour, then perhaps we have to understand what the crown can be.

If we are motivated (only or predominantly) to wear the leaders crown then is it possible to think about the crown being bigger than singular.

Does there have to only be one crown? Please don’t read that as “everyone gets a prize”. That is not what I am saying. And yes, in some circumstances, there is only one crown (party politics maybe). Lizzie wears the crown! Hmmmmm.

But perhaps the issue is about bloody minded I want to have that crown VS actually we are all incredibly important here. We

  • know what our values are
  • are all pretty much focused on our purpose
  • all have incredibly important roles
  • will do our best to acknowledge that all roles are incredibly important.

I also reckon we also need to understand that the crown is a bit of a pain. You have to keep cleaning it. And you have to keep making sure that someone else doesn’t want to steal it or kill you to get it. You then need to have guards and sometimes the guards can’t trusted.

Can we do away with the crown?

How would that look?

Would it help Scott Morrison and his ilk if there was no crown?

Would it be more useful to acknowledge the reality that everyone is part of the us and valuable.

I am not in Lalaland. When people understand that there is no crown, that there might be:

  • a spokesperson
  • a details person
  • someone who develops the policy and procedures

Then, the concept of the crown is an illusion.

Except for Lizzie’s of course. She has a real crown. And my understanding is that many before her have been killed to put the crown on their head.

The health of your organisation and trust

The health of your organisation and trust are intrinsically linked.

Below are ten steps to building trust in your organisation to improve your organisational health.

  1. Talk about fear and trust as general topics and the specifics.
  2. Move toward triumphs and risks and away from shaming and blaming.
  3. Be vulnerable as a leader. You made a mistake, so talk about it. Share it.
  4. Reduce the power differentials in your organisation.
  5. When the executive team joins the employees ensure they are well practised in the art of listening.
  6. Ensure that relationship building is given a high priority. Go beyond talking in the lunchroom.
  7. Highlight and acknowledge the demonstration of personal leadership.
  8. Communication needs to be filtered through a human and friendly tone. Get rid of the management jargon.
  9. Seek feedback from everyone in the organisation – you employ people to use their brains.
  10. Being honest is vital – particularly during challenging times.

Build the trust… Work on organisational health.

To read our other articles on organisational health, click here.

Putting the Focus on Organisational Health

A process for shining the spotlight on Organisational Health

What I heard…

On Wednesday I spent the day in the company of 100 terrific women and addressed the assembled group about culture and change. It seemed to connect well with and put a focus on organisational health. It was wonderful to hear the thoughts of the great speakers who preceded the panel session and the women who addressed the room to conclude the day.

As I thought through the messages and questions I heard and responded to, I applied the organisational health filter as I reflected after the event.

My first understanding was how the personal becomes organisational.

The women who spoke provided key messages about:

  • knowing who you are
  • understanding your purpose
  • being brave and stepping into the leadership space you can see.

They provided valuable encouragement to have a go, to stand-up and to feel the fear. Because you can see the leadership needed it therefore fits you and your leadership size and capacity.

We all talked about how to champion change.

The conversation also stretched to the workplace and:

  • what is happening for women, and of course, by default everyone
  • issues that need to be addressed
  • how do you instigate change?

Well, you could call a party room (oops did I actually say that? I meant workplace) meeting and ensure issues are discussed.

Or...you could do the thinking and get your ideas well sorted. Start thinking through your approach to ensure the change that must happen actually occurs.

The other thing I noticed during Wednesday’s session was how stories and connecting with people’s heart and finding out about their why assists you in getting your opinions heard. I also observed that when I put the solutions into the room people were writing and follow-up conversations affirmed that hearing some solutions was really useful.


So, the solutions for understanding your organisation and its health. It starts with questions:

  • How can an organisation understand its health?
  • Do you have a framework?
  • Do you have a process?
  • Is there a strong culture of trust and openness?

The process

We have developed an initial thinking process template for an internal organisational health activity.

Before you launch into the process I would counsel you to consider the first step and a leadership task. Assess one of the key organisational atmospherics. Assess whether there is an embedded sense of trust and openness?  This needs to be the first step because leading your organisation through an organisational health process will not necessarily provide a strong action agenda if the team/tribe/people have a low level of trust/openness.

How do you develop trust quickly?

Why would you ask that? You can but think about why you are wanting to do that...

The more important question is how can I ensure we have the internally robust atmosphere of trust.

Now that you have sorted that, and you have run an eye over the level of openness and trust, you can safely embark on reviewing the organisational health from a broader perspective.  Our template may assist you.

We, of course, are happy to develop a customised process for your team. And now you will know what our first question will be; trust and openness – how are you tracking?

Read our other blogs on organisational health here.

Why is Organisational Health Important

You may be wondering why organisational health is important.

From a personal perspective

I have been investigating organisations (for years), individuals who make up these organisations and now organisational health. I respond to the concept of organisational health from the personal perspective, with a leadership overlay. That is, why do I do this? It's because my mantra has always been “it starts with me (you) and leadership is for everyone and all the time”.

Organisational health and the individual

Our recent Alumni newsletter explored the idea of organisations and organisational health, but let’s start with you and me.

What is the link from individual to organisational health?

And how can the individual impact positively on organisational health?


Many months ago I was having a mentoring conversation with one of Affectus’ mentees. We were talking about how he felt at work and how he felt about work.

The conversation went included questions like:

  • How do you know that “work” listened to you?
  • Did they listen to you?
  • What will assist you in getting to the next stage in your process of leading on this matter?
  • Has this changed your feelings towards your workplace?

The conversation the mentoring session prior to this had been:

  • Why are you working for them?
  • Do your values align with your workplace values?

Conversation value

Both these mentoring sessions were valuable to the mentee and me. Why? Because it assisted in understanding more about the impact of the individual on organisational health and vice versa.

The value of the conversation was that the mentee during the first conversation was clear that either he had missed the goals, vision and values of the organisation or that there were none.

Understanding these options would have assisted him to be less reactive about his feelings about the workplace. As well as being more proactive and display personal leadership. And that would then have a positive impact on the organisation and organisational health.


The first conversation allowed him to step back into the workplace and ask some questions of his line-manager about goals, vision and value. Leadership conversations then ensued about organisational communication and autonomy.

This simple “what are we all about and what are we achieving” brought forth important thinking and discussions. Those discussions allowed my mentee to feel significantly more connected to the workplace and the goals. Why? Because the goals were there and the vision was there; the communication just hadn’t been.

Further down the path, it allowed the mentee then to think through:

  • What is my value?
  • Does the workplace fully understand the value I bring to the business?

It was clear that his value was not being demonstrated to the organisation. The autonomy and goal-kicking he was doing were not well observed. His leadership allowed him to bring this to the attention of the managers.

At Affectus, we consider organisational health very important. We understand the impact it has on the organisation and the individual. And we also know that the leadership required to undertake these conversations is considerable.

We encourage you to think about how healthy is your organisation? And what can you do to improve the current state?

We can all bring organisational health onto the agenda.

What is organisational health?

Organisational health, as defined by www.organizationalhealth.com, is an “organization’s ability to function effectively, to cope adequately, to change appropriately, and to grow from within.”

There is some sense that organisational health is comprised of a number of areas. Some suggest there are many areas that Affectus deals with but let’s have a look at a few:

  • Goals. The organisation having a goal, a vision and for everyone to buy into that goal or vision.
  • Communication. Clear channels and clear messages – up, down and across with and from everyone.
  • Power. To understand power and equalising (or evening out) the power within an organisation structure.
  • Cohesion. People within the organisation understanding where they fit in and how to influence the organisational direction and outcomes.
  • Edge of Chaos. The flexibility in the organisation to ensure people are working on the edge of chaos to ensure new concepts are in circulation.
  • Team. A state of security and satisfaction for the people who are part of the organisation.
  • Autonomy. Organisational understanding of and personal opportunity for autonomy.
  • Resilience. A high tolerance for coping with stress, and a leadership responsibility to support and oversee the personal resilience of people connected to the organisation.

Why is it important?

When Affectus considers the above areas we understand again the importance of our work in the leadership space. However, it is really valuable to consider why it is important to review and lead in the area of organisational health.

We have collected many anecdotes over many years that illustrate organisations who take organisational health seriously. Also, unfortunately, those who haven’t. We are not sure about the direct connection with financial benefits. However, it goes without saying that in our years we see organisations who consider these aspects have more engaged and rewarded people.

A couple of examples.

About four years ago Affectus was invited to be part of a business review. We attended as thought leaders to assist the organisation move beyond their current market position. It was a fascinating day asking “why” “what else” “really?” “how about this left field idea?”. However, as we drove away, our debrief and reflective conversation concepts where:

  • That team is clear about its purpose: all levels of the business were sitting in the room and they know where they are heading.
  • They are all clear about each of their roles: the employees, contractors, and Board all know what they are there for.
  • Who were the supervisors in the room: it was hard to identify who was more important as nearly everyone spoke candidly.
  • They have clearly been through challenging times but are also not afraid to go to the edge of chaos and see what else is out there.

Outcome: At the time the company was at the leading edge of the industry. Currently, they are a long way ahead of the pack.

At precisely the same time and by coincidence, Affectus began mentoring a couple of employees within another organisation in a different industry. Both mentees self-identified as middle-level supervisors.

We heard stories that concerned us for the future of the business. Therefore, key areas we encouraged the mentees to action were:

  • Discover the vision/purpose/why of the organisation. Then integrate their individual work.
  • More fully understand the flow of communication within the organisation. Attempt to relieve the “roadblocks” to ensure more effective decision-making and action.
  • Discuss the senior management understanding of autonomy and team. Get a sense of how to build both these areas for the overall building of workforce resilience.

Outcome: This business, as highly regarded as they were, lost key and “edge of chaos” staff. One staff member exited the businesses and specifically mentioned the need for the business to think through autonomy, communication and team. It is also clear that this organisation has disengaged with leadership skilling of staff.

What can you do to influence organisational health?

It is important to understand how valuable it is to review organisational health. In early 2019 Affectus will be developing an organisational health program. This program will provide further opportunity to get a better handle on your organisational health.

If you are reading this and wondering what steps can I take now to get a better handle on my organisation's health we encourage you to review the workshops you have attended. We are sure, through our evaluation processes, that our workshops and programs have a very positive impact. Sometimes the knowledge and information we provide need to be looked at again.

If you have attended an Exploring Your Why Workshop or a Chaos workshop, relook at your thinking. Consider how can this be relevant to my organisation. Plus, what action can I take to assist “us” regarding this area of organisational health?

If you have attended a 3 or 9-day program with us we encourage you to go back and look at the areas of:

  • communication
  • goal setting
  • power
  • teams

and find ways to action greater change in the organisations you are part of.

Stay tuned and get involved in our single workshops. They may spark great organisational health. And as mentioned above we will be developing an organisational health concept in 2019.

Teams and Personalities

Is there a link between teams and personalities?

And what connection is there to leadership? What about the practicalities and the theories?

Have you ever done a personality profile? There are so many tools out there aren’t there! Perhaps it was Myer-Briggs, Hogan, LSI? Perhaps none of those is familiar. Or perhaps you have spent time at one of our events experiencing the power of The Big Five?

I see people’s fascination when I mention personality profile and I often wish I had a week to sit down and discuss the fascination of what makes us tick and our fundamentals.

This week I'm providing a quick “heads up” regarding teams and the connection with personalities.

The Big Five

The Big Five model of personality is widely considered to be the most robust way to describe personality differences and is the basis of most modern personality research.

When I first started reading about The Big Five some of the research indicated that the five traits were closely connected and tested against the society’s expected demonstrated behaviours of leaders. This drew me to The Big Five Inventory (leadership and Jill – who would have known).

And it has proved a vital tool. When we work with the diverse teams in our leadership events and programs the combining of teams and personalities is unavoidable.

What makes up The Big Five?

When analysing personalities the question is

What is the best way to summarise you?

Researchers have done this with many samples all over the world and five stand out:

  • extraversion
  • neuroticism
  • agreeableness
  • conscientiousness
  • openness to experience.

The Big Five has been constructed to assess these five traits. We, and others, have relabelled neuroticism as confidence – nobody wants to score any numbers in the neurotic column, right!

Is understanding personality important?

Yep, you bet.

It does not put you in a box, as people have often suggested. Rather, it provides insight and understanding.

Understanding personality and teams, like most concepts that enhance your leadership knowledge and insight, are connected.

What are the connections? Well, let's look at teams first.

The highly respected, and constantly used, Tuckman’s Stages of Teams are:

  • forming
  • storming
  • norming
  • performing
  • adjourning.

Have a look at last weeks blog for some further detail about Tuckman.

Now, let's see where personality adds to team stages.

Layering The Big Five and Teams.


A time when members are getting to know one another, building an understanding of who is in the team.

The usefulness of all of the Big Five is valuable during Forming. However, one would stand out as highly prized during the very initial stage.

Extraversion – the ability to be energised by being in a group.

Can you see the value of adopting extraversion during this period?

The other Big Five trait that would be very useful during this stage is Openness – the willingness to take on new ideas and being open to newness.


A time when members can be testing the boundaries of the allotted task and are potentially vying for positions within the team.

When you consider The Big Five Confidence (low neuroticism) as a trait, the opportunity to remain calm and not get caught up in some of the game-playing that can occur during this stage would be a highly prized trait.


A period of time when team rules and accepted behaviours are sorted.

The ability to ensure that details are sorted and new ideas are heard and discussed. Here, the display of The Big Five Openness, Extraversion and Conscientiousness would be useful for the team.


And then there is Performing from Tuckman’s Teams. My observations, when I witness or experience teams performing, is that all The Big Five traits are being used effectively and efficiently.

  • extraversion
  • confidence
  • agreeableness
  • conscientiousness
  • openness.

This is also the case for the Adjourning stage when the team is celebrating success, disbanding and look for new opportunities.

Questions to consider

From a leadership perspective these are the questions to consider:

  1. Have you stopped and watched your team?
  2. Have you looked and thought through this is what is happening here at the moment with this group of people?
  3. What development stage is the team at?
  4. Which of the Big Five traits are being displayed?
  5. And which could be helpful and assist?

 We run a Teams Intensive Workshop to help you build and turn your team into a performing team.

What are the theories about Team stages?

In 1965 Bruce Tuckman identified four stages of development that every team experiences. He suggested that all teams go through the first three stages before the final Performing stage.

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing

His work has provided us all with decades of clarity and direction, ie, we know the stages and understand the complexity of each stage. Affectus says thank goodness for Tuckman and today we share what we know.

If you think through your times of working in teams (is there ever a time when you aren’t in a team?) you can understand the Tuckman stages. The four stages of Tuckman’s initial theory were Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Later Tuckman and Jensen added a fifth stage adjourning.

What does Tuckman provide?

What we all know about teams is that teams are not just about the job or the project or task.

Teams are about the people, and the process, and how we feel about the job, people and process.

This makes teams fun, dynamic, chaotic, frustrating, powerful and functional. And these are just some of the words used by our alumni over the years.

Tuckman understood these complexities. And the five stages were developed to include the three elements that he labelled as:

  • Content (the job)
  • Process (the functioning of the team)
  • Feelings.

By knowing these three elements, at Affectus, we have been able to observe teams in various stages and marvel at the leadership demonstrated by so many of the people we have worked with.

Perhaps these leaders know Tuckman and apply their knowledge? Or have had so many experiences that they just simply know? Or is it that they have an intuitive understanding? Whatever knowledge is available within the teams this is what happens during each of the stages.


Forming - when the team first meets each other.

The team shares information about their backgrounds, interests and experience and form first impressions of each other, and they are exposed to the job.

During this time they are treading lightly and wonder about how they might work together.

At Affectus we call this the honeymoon phase.

The team is very dependent on the person who appears to be the leader. Leadership is in process. Ensuring that the sharing of information happens, not just once, but that there is a regular "who are we/how are we" conversation.


Storming – when some edges become sharp.

Every team goes through this part of developing as a team. And for some of us, this stage may be our most enduring memories.

At Affectus we call this “the devil appears” stage.

Status and acceptance of difference of opinions will cause conflict within the team. Hence the Storming title. And sometimes you definitely see devilish behaviour surface.

The team, although usually unable to articulate this, is needing roles and responsibilities to be discussed and allocated. The leadership during this stage is about listening, adjusting and communicating about the developing and allocated roles.

Teams that get stuck here need a lot of leadership. While the focus may seem completely on the people and the processes and the feelings rather than the content…that is ok. It is a stage.


Norming – refining the process and get stuck into the content (the job)

When the team moves into the Norming stage, they are beginning to work more effectively as a team. They are no longer focused on their individual goals and others positions in the teams. Tthey are focused on developing a way of working together.

The leadership here is to ensure that the focus on “how we work together” secures the development of respectful, productive processes and not “norms” that will create power imbalances or unproductive unwritten activities.

Great teams are enabled by personal leadership to monitor this stage and to be reflective.


Performing – we are there!!

When a team moves into the Performing stage, they are high-functioning and are focused on getting the content ticked – the job done.

I have been a part of many teams who are in Performing. It is like high energy, trusted team members, edge to chaos seeking activities, and confidence that the job is being done. It is WOW!

If you would like to enhance your understanding of teams to get your team to WOW, our Teams Intensive Workshop will assist you with answering “What do I do if my team is stuck in forming, storming and norming?”

What is a team?

When defining "What is a team," the business dictionary says a team is

A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.

Team members:

  1. operate with a high degree of interdependence
  2. share authority and responsibility for self-management
  3. are accountable for the collective performance
  4. work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s).

A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.

Teams are not simple!

Gosh, that above definition sounds simple(ish) and seems to suggest “so come on what is your problem, this is all obvious and easy”.

When you look at teams there are functional to dysfunctional teams. There are once-was-functional to almost-there-functional. And there is everything in between.

So how do you assist teams to move into functional, whether they are new or old teams?

We will be discussing teams over the coming weeks, developing the four stages below in a more detailed manner.

A foundational theory of Teams

This theory is an old one and a good one - Tuckman’s theory of teams.

There are many others but this theory is practical. What I mostly love is that you can see it. And I know how valuable it is to go through each step with the advantage of not lingering in any of the early stages identified by Tuckman.

The first stage is forming when people are orienting themselves to one another, getting to know one another.

The second stage of storming is when people tend to become a little fractious

The third stage is when the team build roles and rules to bring great functionality to the team.

The ultimate stage in Tuckman’s work is the team is performing where people have defined their purpose, understand the presence of chaos, and are willing to embrace the edge of chaos because they understand the individuals in the team and what they bring.

What are the components of Performance?

I now appreciate that there is great value gained by understanding the components of the team stages. This understanding will provide movement of the team through the lower stages and seek the performing stage.

Forming, when done well, as the team above has done, allows people to get to know one another, to find common ground and understanding. Storming, if understood and identified, will ensure that a team sees it’s vulnerabilities, passions and sharp edges.

If, in the first two stages, honesty and openness have been confirmed and reinforced then the third stage, norming, will be about developing behaviours and unwritten rules that allow, rather than restrict, the edge of chaos activity that stretches a team into performance. A performance level that is not just doing the “job” but much more.

So to get to performance have a look at our tips below. Or register for the Affectus Teams Intensive Workshop

What about the personality layer?

It is important to see teams and personalities as highly connected. Because they are highly connected!

At Affectus we use the highly valued Big Five Inventory. There is so much discussion about the five big traits and we are pleased to have used this tool in our programs for the last 15 years. Our reading on the Big Five now informs significant portions of our work. In the future, we will be exploring the breadth of understanding this tool will bring to your teams.

Quick Tips – Fast-tracking through Tuckman’s Stages

Moving from Forming to Storming

Ensure that forming is done in a manner that allows people (everyone in the team) to actually get to know one another's personal insights and professional understanding. Develop some guidelines so that the team experiences “getting to know us”.

Getting through Storming

All teams need to go through this stage. Some teams get stuck here. The skill is understanding what storming is about and letting people know what is happening. Storming goes from people displaying their power and passion to dysfunctional behaviour if the displays are not acknowledged and discussed.


Norms are about conscious (and perhaps written) rules that make sense, to weird “accepted” behaviour. The latter need to be called out and addressed early and openly in a team that is going through the stages. In a team where norms are entrenched due to dysfunction then vulnerability in the leadership behaviour that may be of highest value. People willing to share in a vulnerable manner the “madness” of accepted behaviour that is undermining the opportunities for the team to reach for the edge of chaos...can help.


We all know what that feels like. If you observe a team at an earlier stage understand and acknowledge that is expected. If you see a team stagnating in one of the earlier stages then have the courage to explain and assist them to get to performing (not once in a while performing mind you) and stay there.

Invite your team to our Teams Intensive.


Have you ever formed a team?

Have you ever invested richly in the initial moments of a team?

When you have done the investment what team elements have you focused on?

I have recently become part of a team that has a defined timeline. We came together in the full knowledge of the sunset date. It is marvellous to be part of the beginning of a group and it will be equally as exciting to have accomplished our challenge.

The entire lifetime of this team will be 22 months. The sunset on this group provides us with the knowledge that our effort will be fully expended in November.

What does the endpoint allow me to do?

This month's feature article outlines what this allows and I will possibly share another article after the adjournment of this team. But, for now, I would like to focus on the front end which started informally, for me, in January 2017 in a coffee shop in Rutherglen.

As I have reflected on these initial moments of this team I admire how careful investment occurred. People were informally canvassed to gauge their interest, availability and passion for the concept/idea and after the concept was scoped the first step was to invest in the people of the team.

There was no sense that this team didn’t know what the endpoint could look like but before we discussed outputs we discussed us. This was such a valuable investment and I will tell you why.

It was important to invest in the team because:

  1. Some of the team had worked together before
  2. Some of the team knew no other team members
  3. Some brought new knowledge into a new environment, some brought knowledge many knew they had
  4. Some of us knew others by reputation; some not so much

Because of this inconsistency across the team (like all teams) investing in ourselves allowed us to understand each other more fully and have a clearer picture of our capacity.

What could that investment be?

I would guarantee that you innately know the answer to that question.

From my perspective, it is getting to know people…facilitated (not cheesy) processes that encourage the team to understand each other. Perhaps it is simple as chatting and checking in with all the team before business starts. Or organising processes where people get to share what they would like.

If your team doesn’t do this component then how can people really work together effectively?

Leadership and Control

Do Chaos and Control matter in leadership?

What is chaos and what is control and are they opposites? Does it have anything to do with leadership?

Today we are focusing more a list of questions with our considerations…and yes these are questions we ask ourselves continually at Affectus and they stretch us constantly.

What is control?

Control has many definitions. From

the power to influence or direct people's behaviour or the course of events


a member of an intelligence organization who personally directs the activities of a spy.

Considering those two definitions the next question may be "is control something an individual decides or an institute expects?".

Thinking from an individual perspective I observe the struggle of control happening at an individual level everywhere – parents, councils, managers. Therefore “the power to influence or direct people's behaviour or the course of events” fits most comfortably when considering control.

Why do we seek control?

This can challenge at a very fundamental level.

There is no doubt that directing the course of events has to happen constantly. The alternative paints a bizarre picture in my mind of all of my extended family sitting glummy on my verandah.

But what about the idea of directing people’s behaviour.

Firstly, what I now think about when I want to influence (not direct – I have given up on directing) is Johari’s Unknown Unknown.

If control is about influencing outcomes you have to acknowledge that you cannot possibly know what others know. And then there is a whole bucket of information you are unaware of being unaware of. You cannot control this...you have no idea.

Therefore the logic is why would you be seeking to control. The public example of this is the Australian Government trying to control the cross-benchers. From this perspective, control is about "me" rather than others.

What happens when our focus is on control?

Moving from the above thinking to our focus. What happens if our control moves from others to ourselves? What happens? Will the world stop turning? Unlikely me thinks!

At Affectus, what we witness happening is that we more fully focus on what we are bringing to a situation. We are more aware of our contributions and our responses, reactions and actions.

Having found that if we are more aware of managing ourselves, rather than trying to manage the unknowns, then we more fully contribute with all our passion and knowledge and skills.

So if you focus on you and controlling you, you are potentially giving more to the direction and outcomes than if you try to control others. We know this makes sense because day-to-day we see it in action with the teams we work with.

What is chaos?

In all of the research and thinking  done on Chao, we have a significantly clearer understanding of the chaos concept now.

It is not a disaster or a critical incident.

Chaos is the unpredicatability of all systems.

Chaos is because we can’t have control. And we can’t have control because of the unknown.

Now... we are aware that this freaks people out a bit!

But (take a deep breath let it out slowly)

Chaos is all the time…

You can’t control what another person does. You might be able to have a logical discussion with others, come to a conclusion of next steps or endgame. But you can’t control what they are going to do…even if they are in your employ.

This is the nub of leadership and chaos.

In leadership positions you have to know that you can’t control and that chaos is all the time.

So then what might be your options.

  1. To hold on tighter to all the levers in the crazy hope that the tighter you hold the more people will do what you want.
  2. To let go of the levers and let things happen fluidly

"Are you joking?" We hear the yells? Don’t scream too loudly at the screen…

We are not suggesting anarchy - we are not.

But perhaps, just perhaps, the suggestion is that holding on is madness and thinking through chaos might be valuable. And by thinking through chaos, we mean thinking through the fact that systems are unpredictable because we (you and I) are involved.

When you next step into a leadership space, think:

  • how can I more fully bring myself to this situation and control me and my inputs
  • AND how can I allow everyone else to do the same

Perhaps that is the opportunity of chaos? To constantly be inviting the unknown into the leadership space.

Read our other articles on Chaos and Leadership here

Chaos – What happens to our brains

Have you considered what happens to our brains in times of chaos?

In 2014, Havard Professor Sendhil Mullainathan spoke about the latest research on how stress can affect intelligence, a factor in successful decision-making.

Mullainathan said.

“Though multitasking has become a way of life in the modern era and may be a smart way to maximize time, it might not be the best way to maximize decision-making. Each person has only so much intellectual bandwidth.”

So what happens in your brain when you are faced with the stress of chaos?

What could be happening in your brain in the mess of chaos and how can we maximise our bandwidth?

It is important to understand a little bit about the neurology of response and the idea of chaos

What is chaos?

A chaotic system is characterized by unpredictability.

This means, simply, that one cannot predict how a system will behave in the future on the basis of a series of observations along time.

That sounds like so many times in my life…last week, yesterday, pockets of January. When I accept that unpredictability is how most day-to-days rollout out I can let go of some of my learnt behaviours. And then I can use the slower decision-making loop in my brain to respond to the chaos.

Rarely during chaotic times do I (now) respond with the Three Fs - flight, fright or flee. But this has taken awareness and feedback and lots of work.

During the work I do with amazing people all over Australia through our leadership programs and workshops, I do see the Three Fs responses. So how can we quiet this automatic response when chaos reigns and what difference will it make?

The Third Space

The Third Space has helped me and many people quiet the Three Fs.

Affectus has adopted The Third Space concept to assist individuals to unlock the idea that the brain can be trained to pause and then see the chaotic situation differently.

Our research and observations over the last 15 years suggest that people need a 3-hour session to find a new way of thinking about the opportunities available during chaotic moments.

The OPEN Process

However, to start your thinking about how to retrain your brain during chaotic times consider Mullainathan’s concept of bandwidth and employ our OPEN process to assist you with expanding your bandwidth during messy times.

  • Observe – observe yourself and be conscious of your responses. It is good to get a handle on yourself first.
  • Pause – give yourself a moment to breathe by pausing, by taking a breath, and quiet your self-talk. You can unlearn the response to chaos.
  • Engage – look around you. This can be a moment of discomfort if your brain is telling you to freeze or flee but chaos is not natural disaster or life-threatening moments. It is important to keep engaging because doing this can unlock the golden moments – the edge - of chaos.
  • Notice – know that your brain is able to take in large amounts of information and process it (and learn many new responses). So notice what others are doing and how the chaos can be optimised.

Reactions to Chaos

Brown and Eisenhardt state that the most successful businesses compete on the edge, with a chaos approach to strategy, leadership and management, with just enough structure to keep things from flying apart.

But what about you? And what about me? And what about the people we share of lives with?

How do we react when times are chaotic? How do others react?

Why is it important to understand your response(s) to chaos?

Let me start with the last question.

Why is it important to understand your response?

It is most valuable to get a handle on what happens when things become chaotic.

When I think back to a period of 2017 when things were particularly messy in my life I reflected (again) on my responses to previous times of chaos. At that moment of reflection in 2017, I could see a pattern. I could see what I thought were my responses. With deeper reflection, I realised that what was my reaction to chaos was actually how I settled back into equilibrium – my normal pace.

So how do we respond to chaos?

Our thinking and understanding is the important thing about chaos. And finding the power of disequilibrium, the edge of chaos.

It is possibly not very useful for me to describe what really happens in my head and how I behave. But it is fundamental to get to the centre of how I respond and harness the power of these moments of chaos.

So what is your response?

It is ignoring? Panic? Fuzziness? Working harder? Reinforcing the rules or processes?

It is a tightening of your jaw muscles and pulling the control to you?

Or is it work harder and go faster?

Is it just get on with it?

Do you pause and think? Do you pause and think and not act?

For me, it is a moment of “oh s..t” and tunnel-vision. I can only see and react to what is directly in front of me and I become a bit machine-like. In times gone by I have also been known to “point the finger”. This is a very, very unhelpful response when in chaos.

When we know our responses we can then more clearly spend our brainpower not doing the automated response. This is the learnt response. And we ensure that our brain works for us in these moments of messiness.

Conscious response to chaos

So, how can we become conscious of our responses to chaos?

Ask yourself a few reflective questions.

Take yourself through a 4D reflection process and cross-reference this with someone who will have observed you during times of chaos.

Finally, successfully navigating our way through times of chaos is to redefine our understanding of your sense of equilibrium and our comfort level with disequilibrium.

To confront the chaos with a clear head, not a panicked brain.

Giving ourselves time to reset our thinking when we feel our innate responses to the chaos kicking in and review the situation. And see a way through. Because it is there.

Chaos and leadership

So, what is chaos?

Chaos is a scientific concept that is now used to describe the state of a system. That system, when considering leadership might be of mind, of environment, of interactions. It is a state. And, like H2O, that chaotic state is about the fact that it is in change. It is not fixed.This makes chaos a powerful state because there is the opportunity to respond to the state of chaos.

Over the next four weeks, we will explore Chaos in more detail, starting this week with the idea of chaos being an opportunity.

The idea of chaos opportunity

In a “tongue-in-cheek” comment  Peter Marsh and Stefan Stern, in their initial evaluation of WL Gore’s success, suggest that If you want to achieve 50 years of almost continuous growth, you now know what you have to do: abolish management and get rid of all the employees.

But, taking the tongue out of the cheek, they later uncover that some of the success is actually about the non-hierarchial structure of the company.

The chaos conversation…

A number of years ago, during a casual conversation with an executive of a financial institute I discovered that, for him, the thought of not having a hierarchical and rigid organisation and decision-making structure would allow for “people going off and doing their own thing”. What irony considering what has been revealed thus far from the Banking Royal Commission here in Australia.

However, this executive clearly thought I was barking mad to suggest that chaos might be a valuable area to explore as an organisation. And he thought I was even madder when I encouraged him to understand the edge of chaos and how valuable it could be to find and be in it. Anyway, a strong tea was made and we moved onto whether the Wallabies would win – not much joy there either.

The exploration…

The conversation peaked my interest in what actually is it about things not being “under control” that gets some people very jumpy and so I started reading and observing.

The learning…

I remember as a child riding my pony – she was a bugger and very strong-willed - we were a good match. She never quite did what I wanted and I loved her for it. I was regularly instructed to “get Polly under control”. But, secretly I delighted in the fact that she always didn’t quite do it the way she should have. I think I enjoyed being on the chaotic side, which is why chaos and my theory about “leadership space” have interested me for so long now. It is edgy and just a tad unconventional.

It was later on while studying for my Masters in Leadership, that I discovered the idea of the edge of chaos.

What is chaos?

Chaos is a scientific concept. It is simply a system that is characterised by unpredictability – that we can’t predict what will happen next.

An example is a raindrop running down a window panel. We can’t predict where it is going to flow. It is still a raindrop. We think we can see where it will run but we can never be certain. I remember long car trips as a child on rainy days watching the water streak horizontally across the passenger window. And I remember thinking “I wonder where this drop will go? I thought I could predict but never got it right, they seemed to track the paths of other droplets but would then do something “new”. Chaos!

Chaos is not a crisis or a natural emergency or an accident or a disaster.

Chaos is an unpredictable system.

There are parameters. There is connectivity. There is purpose. There is direction. But the system is not predictable – raindrops on a car window.

What does this mean for leadership?

Well, in my experience and the experience of Affectus, it means that the people we work with are not predictable. Their responses, reactions, behaviours, actions can’t be predicted and therefore can’t be controlled.

Scary or exciting? A bit of both I think.

Scary because we have been told “get Polly under control” - thinking that we can get “her/him/them/it” under control.

However, what we also know, innately, is that control is an illusion.

We can manage ourselves and control many things about ourselves but we are literally wasting our time thinking we can control our people. Yes, we can direct or tell or demand (if that is our style), encourage, motivate, cajole, bribe others to “do what I want”. But ultimately (as we all know) people have to make a decision.

This is why the chaotic people stuff is hard – really hard. And why it is worth spending energy thinking “well if control is off the agenda what is available to me, to all of us?”

I guarantee that the Big 4 Banks and AMP (and all the others yet to be revealed) have lots of control process to stop their financial advisers randomly behaving unethically. In fact, I am sure many of you have signed statements, I know I have, from financial advisers outlining how they will behave and what I can expect of them. However, if the Banking Royal Commission tells us anything, that control process hasn’t worked!

The exciting bit

The part of the conversation that years ago ensured me and my banking buddy started talking about the Wallabies, is:

What would happen if the myth of control was removed and we allowed people to step find their individual leadership space?
What would it be like if we said there is the edge of chaos, where the system is not rigid?
Where people are able to try things, experiment, challenge, probe, try out their ideas.
What if we go there – all of us? What would happen?
Perhaps the question is "what would happen?" What might happen? What would you need to let go of to let this happen and what might the outcomes be?

Quiet your mind, let go of your initial thinking (that anarchy would occur/it would be amazing) and think about the people – not the system. Think about their amazing capability, their knowledge, their desire for good things to happen.

Experience reveals that something different happens. Not perhaps what you expect, but does that matter.

The work Affectus does, as many of you have experienced, lets go of the structure. We give you parameters, yet we let you find your leadership space (collectively or individually). And then we say “go there" and ask what has happened? Magic, brilliance, disorder. A newness forms and in that newness, you find out. You find the edge of chaos where your mind is stretched, your knowledge enhanced, your participation is magnified and you add great value.

To finish

Ori Braffman, in the book The Starfish and the Spider says

“When you put people in an open system, some of them will get high, dance all night long, and attack street signs. But most people will create elaborate art, share snow cones, and try as hard as they can—in thier own way—to contribute to the community. And Burning Man, though outside them ainstream, holds a crucial lesson for businesses. When you give people freedom, you get chaos, but you also get incredible creativity.” 

Sandpaper on the Affectus 4D Reflection Process

Is it too soon to talk about reflection and sandpaper?

Do we dare to go into this space?

Is it valuable to step into such a short-lived but fundamentally challenging idea as sandpaper?

Cue deep breathe…yep let's give this a go.

Will we answer any questions? Perhaps. But we will also have a few.

What is the connection between sandpaper and leadership?

This is a short reflection on sandpaper. And this, as for many of us, will be a piece from observations via the recent media surrounding sandpaper - overlaid on Affectus’ 4D Reflection model.

Values – were they present?

If, as we have suggested in earlier articles, reflection is a key part of leadership, my first question is:

'What were the core values of the Australian sandpapergate team?"

Fundamental to leadership action is knowing our values.

Had the team values been reviewed, openly discussed, reconsidered?

Did these values align with the behaviours of the team before sandpapergate?

How did the values that became the drivers for the behaviour for the team during the game(s) then lead to deciding that someone would put a piece of sandpaper in a trouser pocket?

Worldviews – we all have them

When anyone starts the process of reflection, as all the people directly and indirectly connected to sandpapergate have had to do, that person needs to consider the values and worldview he/she brings to the reflection. We also need the opportunity to bounce our reflections off others who see the world differently. We all see the world differently.

Prior to and during sandpapergate were there any others? Or was the team so hunkered down with a sense of “fortress Australia” in a foreign and competitive country that “others” were not readily available? Also, who are the others that the whole team have connected with since?

I am sure much reflection is happening now. These questions and concepts are important when we think about reflection. We need to think about these broader concepts that are essential for reflection to be helpful.

Now to the actual Affectus 4D process of reflection on the use of sandpaper.

The first and second “D” - Data – facts and feelings.

The 4D model asks what are the facts about what you are reflecting upon?

Now this will never be known by us out here in media-consumption land. What were the facts?  The facts:

  • of the moment
  • before the moment
  • immediately after the moment of sandpapergate.

What other facts might be included?

The first D - Data Facts

Mining for facts.

It is so important because it helps understand how we see the situation.

There would be no doubt in sandpapergate that this has been completed. The facts in sandpapergate will be mixed by powerful emotions and potentially impacted by “fortress Australia”.

It is important to see the non-linear nature of gathering facts. We need to spend time thinking about the facts and then pause and return to facts again later.

In such a complex matter as sandpapergate the facts may still be coming out. The hope is that all the facts, in some forum somewhere, have all been surfaced. In any reflection process if facts are hidden then the opportunity of real reflection has been missed.

The second D - Data Feelings

Feelings will have been high and angry, regretful and painful. We all saw a small portion of this on screen and it was hard to watch. Such raw pain.

Sometimes reflection will do this to us. Accessing our feelings of “after it happened” is usually more readily captured. It must be said that the feelings before and during sandpapergate are equally as important.

And (warning offensive material) have the men involved in sandpapergate been provided with good counsel to surface the feelings. It is my experience that some people find it challenging to do the “feelings” part. An older generation person once fed me, numerous times, to stop being emotional, which was not very helpful.

Is it important to surface the feelings? How do you surface the useful feelings? And are there any useless feelings?

The importance of feelings cannot be understated in reflection. Why? Because if we can surface them thoroughly then we will move from the Data component to the Decoding component with solid knowledge.

The third D - Decode Understanding

Why Decode?

Decoding is the third component of the Affectus 4D Model and is impossible to complete if the Data components are not done openly.

As media consumers, we will never know the decoding that went on around sandpapergate. But the third D – Decoding is complex and insightful.

My initial reaction, I admit, around sandpapergate was how embarassing – for us. These thoughts were formed with only one piece of Data – my own feelings. And then I moved straight to the fourth D - Decision. Decision - send them all (the whole team) home. Such a knee-jerk reaction. No contemplation. Doing-the-sandpaper might be how you could describe it. No decoding on my behalf, just straight to decision. And what an over-reach that might have been.

It should be noted that I chose the word reaction carefully. Because it was a reaction. It was not a decision. I reacted. Did other people just react? Or did they contemplate, collect data, decode and then decide?

Reflection gives us the gift of deciding rather than reacting because we learn about ourselves.

Decoding benefits from discussion with the others. Were others brought into sandpapergate at this point? Has a subsequent reflection on the response to sandpapergate been done? Have “others” been allowed into the reflection process?

Decoding can be complex. However, if reflection is going to be valuable to commence the decoding in your own bubble may not, perhaps never, give you a complete and thorough decoding.

The fourth D - Decide Commitment

Decision is the fourth D of our model.

Did the sandpapergate decision get rushed? Was it rushed because a thorough reflective process was omitted? How was the decision arrived at?

There were, within 14 hours of the “hand in pocket” moment, decisions made. We witnessed them. But what about reflection and decision about how sandpapergate was handled?

It would be a circuitous process (much reflection is of course). But what about reflecting on all of it, not just the micro-moment, as dreadful as that was. That is where reflection can sometimes take you - to a bigger issue and spending time contemplating, which is so valuable.

 But remember decision then needs action

Decision requires you to think – what next time?

Ah, sandpaper. We have much to reflect on.

The Reflection Process – A Summary

Affectus has blogged about Reflection during April and March this year.

This video is the summary of the process of reflecting that we have covered.

Please feel free to share with your friends and networks.

Or, to discover more about Reflection and other Leadership topics, head to our News page.

Who Reflects?

Who reflects and how does the reflection process assist them in leadership.

Do you ever wonder who reflects? And does it make a difference?

Have the leaders down through the ages demonstrated a propensity to sit down at regular intervals and cast an eye backwards and consider “what could I have done differently?”

Having done some desktop search it would appear that leaders do reflect and it does make a difference.

Recently in the UK seven executive directors where part of an in-depth interview to establish the use of reflection in the executive role. The research found that all seven agreed that reflection had been a major contributor to their own development as leaders.

It was interesting to note, that from this research, it was established that reflection was about intentionally creating thinking spaces to enable a different kind of structured thinking.

The research also confirms observations when facilitating reflection sessions during Affectus leadership programs and from my personal experience.

Reflection Insight

An essential part of reflection is having a process which enables you to learn from experience and to develop new understandings to apply in the world.

From the same research, it was clear that the thinking provided insight.

At Affectus, we see that reflecting unlocks:

  • new benefits
  • different ideas
  • creativity around issues
  • openness to personal change
  • relationship adjustments
  • behavioural insights.

We also see that people feel differently after reflecting. Empowered has become a bit yesterday but empowered is the most common feeling that results from reflective processes.

Missed Opportunities

One of the most startling components highlighted in the research was the missed opportunities of not reflecting.

The seven leaders identified loss of:

  • understanding
  • creativity
  • relationships
  • energy
  • productivity.

So, insight is what you gain from the reflection process. And, what you miss if you don’t have a process to look back to understand where you have been and what you have done.

Other Reflections

One of the international leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela, illustrated his reflection in his autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela, although not using this language, used a four-lens reflective process. The lens assisted him to review the constant challenge of power imbalance, reappraise his assumptions, monitor his increased knowledge through observing his political party and reassess his behaviour as he moved through his years as a freedom fighter.

Elizabeth Patterson’s information is most useful for us in our reflective practice, Elaine Patterson (2015) ‘What are leaders’ experiences of reflection?’ What leaders and leadership developers need to know from the findings of an exploratory research study, Reflective Practice, 16:5, 636-651, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2015.1064386.

Therefore, it focuses our intent when we move to reflection, it tunes-up our minds before we start the process.

During the reflection process

During your reflection process you need to:

  • be intentional
  • pause
  • create a “thinking” space
  • ask yourself open questions to explore what has happened
  • allow open questions to challenge your thinking
  • be brave and compassionate during the thinking – open and creative
  • have the conversations with yourself and potentially with others
  • commit to change during the reflective process.

To discover more about Reflection and other Leadership topics, head to our News page.

The Habit of Reflection

"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way"
Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and New Science)

More than three decades ago I commenced my career in assisting others to discover their own personal leadership. At that point, I also discovered the power of reflection.

Reflection was part of reflective practices during my initial years of schooling and university reflection. But, it was not discussed formally even during the educational psychology components of my undergraduate study.

However, the practice of research is always about looking back; reviewing what others have done before you in the field and in the laboratory.

Studying and learning, growing and developing was always about “look back to see where to go next”. But it was in my first (short but successful) career as a teacher that reflection first became a personal practice.

Pausing at the end of each frantic day during my first year of teaching was scary and valuable all at once. That daily ritual of staying in the environment of the school and sitting at the staff table as the building emptied and collecting the data was powerful and at times sanity saving. That data included the facts and the feelings, finding meaning and deeper understanding of what went on and then planning out my next day and week.

I had a clear goal of where I wanted to get my students to by the end of the year. Reflection assisted me enormously in becoming a sound facilitator of people who are looking to stretch and grow into leadership.

I didn’t know the Kierkegaards quote then but I knew it.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”
Soren Kierkegaard

What is the habit of reflection and why is it so important.

The definition of reflection is serious thought and reflection. Serious thought requires time and brain space.

When I think of reflection I think of the chapters in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Dumbledore extracts his memories. The extraction of the memory was valuable as it allowed the professor to see the circumstances, the events again and with new eyes.

When I commence a period of reflection now I actually create a space, (no, not where I draw out a wand and point it to my temple), where I have stillness to allow my thoughts to come to consciousness.

The first step of reflection

The first step of reflection is finding the time.

Yep, there goes the gong – time! Where do you find the time?

There is always this tussle about time. However, what you need to consider is what is valuable time usage.

If you spend your time moving forward without looking back then you are at risk of doing the same thing over and over again. Doing the same thing over and over can be useful if what you are doing is worthwhile.


But, and it's a big but. BUT, if your endeavour is repeating the same mistake over again then this is a waste of time.

A recent example in my life was that during a time of intense work pressure I fell back into the habit of not checking the dates. The result was a time-consuming fix-up job. If I had spent ten minutes reflecting on my management and leadership practice I would have seen where I was headed. And I would have avoided the fix-up job.

Jennifer Porter states in her article that research demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting on lessons learned performed 23% better after then days than those who did not reflect.

Porter also goes onto say that you need to find a process for reflecting. We agree, which is why our tips section may assist if reflection has slipped off the agenda for you or if you never really hooked into the concept.

Claude Monet said

“It is on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve…”

And we would add to Monet’s quote with

"then find new meaning and implement change in behaviours."

It is important to not just do the Albus Dumbledore pensieve process of extracting our memory. Also, consider what does this mean and what action should/could/must I take to change my ways.

Have a look at our 4D Reflection Model here.

Explore Your Why

One of the exciting things when you explore your Why is the new sight you get; the clarity you receive and the understanding that occurs. 

Our experience in assisting people to explore their Why, and the process we take them through, allows us to observe individuals and groups and their responses. And the deeper knowledge we have gained is what you, as an individual, need to bring to the process of exploring your Why.

So, no matter how you are exploring your Why we would encourage you to consider the following.  

Letting go

Why is it important to let go?

It is important to let go of “what I have to do” and see this frame for what it is – something you feel compelled to do. Sometimes this compulsion is “your Why” but sometimes it is not. So let go and relook. 

Opening up

Opening up is a process of allowing other concepts, ideas and thoughts find their way into your consciousness.

This takes courage for many because it requires us to change our self-talk. Opening up and letting new ideas in and giving ourselves an open orientation requires us to also quiet the voices that might whisper “you can’t do that”. 

Looking deeper

Affectus has seen people not only do the above but also get their new Why between their teeth and dig. This is where the exploring your Why really kicks into gear.

Even in a 3-hour workshop we have seen people's enthusiasm and passion spur them on. They then work really hard to see their Why clearly. And they more deeply understand what is drawing them to their new understanding of their Why. This step takes honesty.   

Understanding Yourself

Many consider this simply about the individual. However,  in one of our recent Exploring Your Why workshops, participants found that understanding yourself was actually about understanding oneself in relation to others.

The powerful activity of stepping into the Circle of Why was full of information. Information about others:

  • that circle around our lives and therefore our Why
  • who will share in the Why
  • help with the Why
  • have the same or similar Why
  • be impacted by the Why.

And therefore understanding yourself is linked to…Sharing with others.

The concepts that we are providing here are not sequential they are present all the time during the why exploration. 

Over our many years of assisting leaders transform we have done research about the power and importance to “sharing”. Sharing where you are headed, what you have found. It is amazing how helpful it is to “share your Why”. 

We have seen these concepts swirling around in rooms where “Why explorers” are thinking, talking and imagining why. But we are convinced that to really get to your Why, then you need to bring them fully to the exploring experience. 

We have a number of Exploring Your Why workshops scheduled and now have 60 Explorers.

We invite you to come and Exploring Your Why with Affectus.  

What is Why made up of?

The Four Components of Exploring Your Why.

1. Values

In our last blog, we talked about the foundational component of Why, (values), and the essential connection between your values and your Why.

When Affectus works with teams to assist them to explore their Why we start with a values identification exercise. This session helps “explorers” understand the foundation of their Why. The values exercise then becomes a focused conversation with a peer to assist them to consolidate their thinking.

There are three other key components that we encourage our “explorers” to investigate.

2. Passion

The second component is passion.

We have developed a process for the harnessing of personal passion and enthusiasm. Keywords that assist in this part of the exploration of Why are:

  • on fire
  • humming
  • light you up.

It is surprising that the use of such words might make some explorers uncomfortable, however when these emotions are brought into a space of interest and openness the energy becomes enabling, eager and intense…the emotions of Why become present.

3. Gifts

The third component is to equip you with your gifts.

To visualise personal gifts and bravely hear others name your gifts unseen. A few theories of “unseen” and “unknown” assist to see clearly your gifts…the gifts you know you have and the gifts you hear others speak about you. The humbleness of exploring this part of yourself needs to be counter-balanced with pride and confidence.

4. Commitment

The fourth component is the “explorers” commitment.

This involves thinking through how can you be working in your Why more fully, more frequently, more consciously. This is a physical activity and an open communication activity. A powerful naming of your Why.

Exploring your Why is a revealing process, a powerful process. It is something we all should spend time doing.

You might like to share the video below with those you care about…it might assist them in their exploration of their Why.