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Courage and difficult conversations

Courage and difficult conversations

~ The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment ~
Dorothy Nevill

For each of us, the world has temporarily changed as we know it.

What this means and how this looks will be different for each person and family. 

Particularly at this time of uncertainty, we are regularly confronted with difficult situations that need us to have confronting, difficult conversations. Conversations that require courage.

A courageous conversation requires you to speak up and express how you feel about the issues that are weighing you down.

Being able to articulate your thoughts and opinions is not always easy and they can be misinterpreted leading to more awkward situations.

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

At Affectus we regularly ask people to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”.

What does being uncomfortable look like for you?

For me the “unknown” manifests all sorts of levels of uncomfortable, but more importantly having conversations about what the unknown means and looks like is daunting.

How do you start these tricky conversations?

How do you find your voice?

The decision that a courageous conversation is needed is the first step…..well done!!!

Courageous tips for courageous conversations

  • Fear and Ego can get in the way. Let them go
  • Know why you want to have the conversation. Be clear
  • Discomfort is highly likely. Be prepared
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Be calm and in the right frame of mind especially if it’s a sensitive issue
  • Don’t talk too much. Listen. Conversations are two way. Talk with people, not at them
  • Be vulnerable

It’s time to be brave and start having those courageous conversations; start being open, transparent and honest…you will become more resilient and it will have a wonderful effect.

~ What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? ~
Vincent Van Gogh


Courage - some thoughts

The ability to do something that frightens you. I like that definition of courage.

I like it because it is your ability, your fear. It is you that is assessing your ability, it is you that has turned to face something. It takes others out of the picture. It is you and yours.

At Affectus, we spend a lot of time asking people to look in the mirror and be bold. Often about personal traits and behaviours; levels of understanding and openness to change.

In fact, as I write this, I know that eighteen courageous individuals are on their way to meet us as part of the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program that we facilitate.

And, again, we will be asking them

  • what do you know about yourself?
  • what are you willing to step into to make the change that is needed?

At no point will we be asking them to measure themselves against one another. They may do this but we are not interested in that.

 What we craft is an environment where people see situations that may be scary. They have a good look at it. And they take a step toward it.

We courage will we see?

We have been specialists in the area of leadership for well over two decades. That means that some of what we see and hear will be familiar to our team because others have trodden similar paths toward their fear. But it will be different and inspiring…I am positive about that. In fact, we often talk about awakening tigers! And that takes courage.

So, what does courage look like?

For one person it could be willing to start a difficult conversation…or any conversation.

For another it could be to address a room full of strangers…or another person.

Or, it could be a young person speaking their mind surrounded by faces with decades of experience.

Perhaps it’s a quieter person chairing a meeting.

Or, an experienced participant sitting and unearthing a deeper, hidden, unexpected wisdom and sharing it with others.

A couple of years ago I was asked to do some work in an unfamiliar setting. I hesitated, I felt my heart lift a few revs and I bit down and stayed quiet.

I found my Third Space, dusted off my courage and agreed. Now as it turned out the dates didn’t match my calendar (mores the pity) but at that moment I realised a couple of things:

  1. It had been long time (2 ½ years) since I had done something way, way out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t had to bite down on my fear for a long time. I realised how inappropriate that was considering nearly every room I walk into that is precisely what I expect others to do. So, I am dusting off my courage more regularly now. When I feel the revs go up a notch or two, I pause and consider more actively; does it connect with my purpose? Yes! Well turn and have a look and move toward it. Step into that new leadership space.
  2. I also realised that courage takes practice. Once you know it there is a familiarity to your responses. However, we can get out of the habit of being courageous.
What about you?

How do you know when you need to be courageous? When was the last time?

I wonder, as I write this out, what percentage of my day/week/year is spent being courageous? And then I wonder about the person sitting next to me on the bench at the gate? Sitting next to me on my previous flight?

And then I pause and consider courage at a more intense level. Fleeing; facing aggression; looking at rage and it takes on a completely different hue.

When will you be courageous? Tomorrow? This week?

How will our amazing eighteen inspire us again as they demonstrate courage and then build deeper self-knowledge?

Don’t let your courage get dusty like mine did.

Have a wonderful courageous day. 

Awaken the tiger.

Juggling You

Juggling you - self care

Do you wonder about juggling you? Do you think “when will I have enough time”? Does your to-do-list feel a little/a lot/just plain crazy?

During periods of time in your life juggling time so you can find care for yourself can be elusive.

Some of you may be married and that becomes part of the juggle. Others of you have a terrific leisure life and that becomes part of the juggle. And for others it is the community expectations and kids wants & needs.

Yep many of us can tick off all of those and think..golly there it is in a nutshell…juggling and me…well actually it is just juggling.

Our last blog talked about knowing yourself, your distractions, your type and team.  This blog is just for you and it comes as a story.

Now I am not a great story writer. I am a little more skilled with the talking part. But nevertheless I want to tell you a story. It is a story of juggling and self-care.  I hope you will find it useful rather than just another dose of “suck eggs”.

My juggling story

I took myself away last weekend. I went to a place with people I love and who help me be open and vulnerable.

The opening up element I find ok. On the other hand, the vulnerable part I can find challenging. But when I connected with the people that I shared this weekend with I was able to step into vulnerability.

This probably has something to do with safety. 

So, over the weekend this is what I found out.

Learning 1 - Away 

By taking the time away from the day-to-day I discovered more about myself.
I unearthed a more practical side of my nature and I found out some more about my responses to others.

Some of those are trivial and some immensely valuable.

Learning 2 - Vulnerability

For instance, I can knit squares for refugee bedspreads while I am talking about loss and grief. And in doing this for the first time I didn’t cry.

I found out that when the conversation got a bit heavy and intense I feel the vulnerability rise and so I project and assume others are feeling the same and I lighten the mood.

So a personal learning is to take something to do with my hands when deep conversations might happen. And next time don’t lighten the mood; leave that to another and go into that place that I sometimes avoid.

What about you?

When was the last time you paused long enough to get to those places of self-knowing? And why is that important?

I can’t help you with the answers to those two questions. But I do know how valuable it was for the 18 other people I was with. It was really valuable.

Learning 3 - Distractions

Something else I found was the importance of distraction. You might think I am contradicting myself. But I don’t think I am.

Last blog we talked about juggling in a more practical functional way. So when I am talking about distraction that means suspension/pause/off-button.

Last weekend, like similar weekends I have attended, helped me suspend my life for 56 hours.

Yes there are others who attended this retreat who wanted action at the end. But for me the distraction, the suspension allowed me to be with others. And hear their words, understand their drive and direction.

Through the suspension of my day-to-day I was able to be more present. I was able to access more appropriate responses.

And the true loveliness was that none of others stuff had to become part of my juggling. At the same time it did add understanding to the items I am juggling.

Being in distraction (perhaps suspension is a better word) to ensure you can be more present allows you bring your whole self to a conversation.

The importance of these three learnings

When did you last allow distraction to happen in a way that assisted you to see the things you are juggling more clearly? What can you do to give yourself space to hear and respond in a way that assists you with your own juggling?

The importance of these three learnings for self-care provides more clarity which in turn may assist in forward momentum.


Getting away is vital. Into a beautiful environment helps too.


Go there. It is part of the understanding of self-care and creating a safe space allows this to happen.


Distractions can bring new knowledge in and will assist with juggling more effectively.


Take time. Always take time to pause. Fit the pause in. Put the balls down. Just put them down. You may be frightened that you will then want to pack them away for good, but take the self-care pause. I am so glad I did.

If you would like come and pause with me next time, drop me a line and I’ll be in touch, jill@affectusaus.com.au.

Juggling time and commitments

Juggling time and commitments

“If you're not good at juggling, then you're not juggling. I always tell people that. if you're dropping a lot of balls, then maybe you shouldn't juggle. And that's fine... there's different ways of working.” ~ Amanda Seales

This quote from Amanda summarises the ideas about juggling that I shared last time about Juggling and Focus .

This week we're delving into the practicals about juggling​. There are four key aspects:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Know your distractions
  3. Know your type
  4. Know your team

Know yourself

Do you like to have many things on the go?

Understanding this about yourself will assist you in juggling time and commitments.

How do you identify whether you do like a few things happening at once? Try pausing and understanding your personal response when there are many projects/jobs/commitments needing your attention.

By finding out about yourself you can understand how your response is different.

For example, I am energised by having a number of actions/jobs on the go but I also want no distractions and am more single-minded when I am working with a “people issue”.

Know yourself. 

Know your distractions 

A logical next step is to think about what distracts you?

Perhaps it is a time of day or a type of task.

Do you get distracted very easily when doing certain activities? Or there other activities where you can concentrate really well and maintain focus through all sorts of noise?

Is the latter because you place high value on that task or activity? Such high value that you don’t hear people talk. Is the former because you haven’t placed high value on that activity.

Knowing your distractions and how you value them can help you work out (juggle) when to work on what.

I want to let you in on a secret, I get distracted very easily when I am doing certain activities. And it is always hose activities I don’t place a high value on.

Know your type

At Affectus, we have this amazing personality assessment tool called The Big Five. One of the most robust conversations we have with clients who use this tool centres around conscientiousness.

How is your level of conscientiousness related to juggling and time?

Well I think that highly conscientious people are often more wired for getting things finished. They tend to know the task and where it finishes.

Whereas for someone with low conscientiousness gets distracted and finds something more valuable to bounce onto before finishing what they have started.

Yes, yes I know I know I am generalising here but the point is…knowing your type it is hugely liberating.

Another not-so-secret-secret. I am not very conscientious. It’s funny because even my teachers use to say that about me! But knowing I’m not conscientious makes me more conscious of juggling my time and commitments effectively.

Know your team

This seems an inconsequential concept but it can been liberating to really know who is in your various teams. And how can the team be effective time managers?

You may have many teams in your life. And if you know the team’s strengths you can then see their juggling habits.

What do they do well? How can you tap into that strength to assist you with your juggling.
Going back to the image of the bicycle-riding, tightrope-suspended, ball-juggling aerialist in
Juggling and Focus,she is part of a team. A whole team that makes up Cirque Du Soleil.

Understand your juggling in relation to others surrounding you and draw on their abilities.

How to juggle time and commitments

Knowing yourself is a good starting point.

To assist you with knowing yourself it is valuable to get a bit of a snapshot.

Here is a link to a simple inventory.

This will assist you in establishing your time wasters. And, from that point of knowing, you will have some insight into you, your distractions, your type and your team.

A final secret.Just to let you know this is not how I juggle.

“I'm always trying to show versatility. I'm juggling, and I'm flipping fire, and I'm chewing gum and rhyming at the same time... on a unicycle, while playing the drums.” ~ MF Doom

Juggling and focus

Juggling and focus

Have you seen Cirque Du Soleil?

I watched the performance with a couple of young people. We were entertained. We were amazed. And one of us cried halfway home because he wanted to stay there with all the circus people. Quite the impression!

I found one of the acts was particularly impressive. A women on a bicycle with an umbrella juggling. Juggling lots. So many objects.

It was incredible to watch. Such skill. Such concentration. Whenever I think of juggling that suspended artist on her bike with her umbrella comes straight to mind. How did she do it?

What is juggling? 

Well the definitions read like this

“continuously toss into the air and catch (a number of objects) so as to keep at least one in the air while handling the others.” and/or “cope with by adroitly balancing (several activities).”

How does juggling overlay with opportunity and leadership growth?

Well it depends on what you are trying to juggle doesn’t it?

So back to my mental image. Do you have lots of balls going at once? Are you:

  • able to keep your eye on them all?
  • worried about dropping one or three or perhaps all of them?
  • concerned that others will see this “collapse of order” and you will be embarrassed? What about the globe

Well what happens when we have too many balls going? 

As I watched my suspended juggler maintain a cloud of ping pong balls I did watch her face. And particularly her eyes. They appeared to be glancing through the swirl using her peripheral vision to track flashes.

I have tried to juggle and a modicum of success was achieved through not looking at the individual object. But to predict and then manage my movements in anticipation.

Perhaps someone who juggles may have a succinct description of what the brain and body does. My point is that in the act of juggling perhaps we are not focusing. Well, not focusing on the objects.

And when we manage the complexities of our lives, what do you juggle?

My life can be very complex, as can all of ours. And I have to be candid here. I am OK but not great with juggling. And I have discovered that the way I juggle doesn’t connect to my espoused values.

Does your juggling reflect your life values? 

I have found that it is people in my life that are dropped when the everything I’m juggling becomes too:

  • demanding
  • many 
  • unpredictable

So what can we do about this?

Well, perhaps its the following

  • Know your values and reflect on them when things get complex
  • Understand that juggling requires us to look through the cloud of ping-pong balls and perhaps occasionally the best thing might be to catch a ball and focus on it.
  • Accept that juggling too many things may result in us doing nothing except keep everything in the air.

I am going to keep talking about juggling over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to share if you know someone who is thinking through the concept of juggling. 

And, if you have someone in your gang who knows how to actually juggle ask them give you a demonstration and watch them.

Circle of hero leadership insanity

Looking for leadership

What leadership are we looking for?

Looking for leadership. Is it too soon? Can I dive in? Have I mulled through my thoughts enough?

Emotions (deep, raw, grief-filled), mine, family, friends, and my network aired over the last 17 days.

 Should I wait until after the next wave of heat and wind that could leave more devastation?

I think it is time to dive in. It is time to look in the mirror and have a good think.  If not now when?

One of my graduates put a comment on social media last night that suggesting that it is time that Affectus (my company) develops and delivers a leadership program for all politicians entering parliament. Wouldn’t we love to. I wonder who might attend?

Now to the questions that have been racing around in my head for months, if not years;

Leadership questions

  • What leadership are we (you and I) looking for?
  • What about the globe?
  • What happens if we continue to elect those who work from the hero leader model?

The hero leader model

The hero leader is an oft-used term, but in this opinion piece it in no way refers to any of the amazing people who have been at the frontlines of Australia’s current bushfire crisis.

Dan Forbes talks about hero leaders here.

I have such strong evidence about shared leadership and how it works that sometimes I find it challenging to keep listening when others are speaking.

Then I remember the first part of great leadership is to listen. And so I stop and listen and sometimes I don’t speak at all. As painful and confronting as it is – I listen.

Imagine if what we observed in our leaders was listening.

The problem is that the hero models say that we have all the answers, so listening is limited because answers are at the ready.

Back to the question

With so much anger, pain and distress swirling through much of our nation I wonder whether it is time to think through the question “What leadership are we looking for?”

What are you looking for?

I read and listened as commentators and social media erupted with the words “We need strong/clear leadership”.

But what leadership did you want? This day, this week, this month, this decade? 

I think the challenge may be that we need something different at different times and situations. 

The challenge of leadership

Which leads me to my initial thoughts. 

When Victoria caught fire and I realised a number of my family were trapped in Mallacoota, I probably needed something different to you.

This is the challenge of leadership.

This is the challenge faced if we hold onto the concept that leadership is about one hero, one leader, rescuing us.

They can’t be everywhere. 

So, how can leadership work if we need different things, for different people, in different places (physically and psychologically)?

I believe that is the gift of leadership. Leadership is not about one person. It never has been. It is about the collective.

And yet, we have set up a system that seeks only one person, placing us in a difficult position.

Please don’t get me wrong or read this as some soft concept. I actually think reconfiguring our understanding of leadership is really hard. 

All things to all people

What traditions do we have to rethink?

We have to review our need for a hero leader. Someone who will be all things to all people.

This person will, incidentally, often be the same person we will attack and blame.

This “all things to all people” person doesn’t exist. They don’t. Think about sports leaders, world leaders, leaders of businesses and companies.

If we continue to believe in this hero leader model (and through that thinking continue to place a single person on the top of the pile), then we have to accept their:

  • Ordinariness
  • Inabilities
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Limitations.

Because they are us.

Really, they are us. And we all know that feeling when we are put into a space that we are completely seen – warts and all.

If we want to avoid going around in Einstein’s circle of insanity (and I know that there is some speculation about the validity of this concept) of thinking then we need to be brave enough to say leadership is not about a hero leader. Leadership is about me and I need to step into my space and be the leader I need. 

Circle of hero leadership insanity

I have also read lots of commentary about what we didn’t get during this time of national need. So, I am going to really stick my neck out here and have a go at what might have been useful.

What might have been useful

  • A sense of “We are aware and this is what we are doing”. Strong, informative communication - did you get that?
  • A demonstration of “We are not in control but we have skilled people working on this critical disaster”. A sense of honesty but steady hand – did you get that?
  • “We are listening – we won’t talk because we need to hear you”. A sense of empathy and vulnerability - did you get that?
  • “We have not got this right. This is what we have been told”. A sense of reflection – did you get that?
  • “This is our way forward and these will be the steps”. A sense of understanding – did you get this?

A clear picture of leadership

When I think about those questions and more, I get a clear picture of leadership.

It's many people stepping into a leadership space.

I believe this, not the hero leader, is the truth about leadership.

As I ponder my questions further I sit here in my office, knowing that tomorrow and the next day, and the many days after, will be dangerous days in my part of the world.

I know that many people have sacrificed so, so much.

I understand that sections of my part of the world will possibly never recover.

But I do ache for leadership. A new leadership where we all understand (including those at the top of the hierarchy) that someone should not feel compelled to be our hero. Instead it is about us stepping into that leadership space that we all see.

What leadership do you want?

More importantly, how can we build a leadership style in our community that saves us from a hero leader who can never do it all?

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.