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Personal Power and You image

Power and You

Power and You

Jill Briggs, MD and Founder, Affectus

Where does understanding power originate?

In 1959 two social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven, who had been studying people and power provided us with a deeper understanding to personal and positional power. Although this work is decades old understanding the dichotomy of personal and positional power helps me each day. I also know that when I present a keynote or a workshop and weave in the concept of power the energy of the room changes.

Is this because it is observable? We see it displayed all the time.
Is it because we take our power for granted? I can feel mine wax and wane.

People respond to the concept of power. They are eager to understand and tell me stories of their experience with power. And as I share Affectus’ knowledge with my audience is unlocks responses and understanding about an attribute to access.

Awareness of power

Are you aware of your power? How does it feel?

I have often observed people using their personal power to do such good acts. I think of my father sharing his wisdom; my mother encouraging me to be courageous; a wise older person helping me with the definition of opinionated; and mentors sharing their referent power.

I have also witnessed people’s power being challenged and attacked.

When did you last see someone’s power challenged? How did it happen? How would you have managed the situation?

My story of personal power sources

Have you ever been given a crown? You know; captain of…, head of…?

I have worn a few of those crowns and, sadly, I have tarnished a few.

I distinctly remember becoming a total ratbag when given the School Vice-Captain badge when I was 12 years old. There I was, ordering people about, being pedantic about uniforms, delighting in managing the rubbish collection.

However, it was made very obvious to me within just a few short days that this behaviour was not going to be tolerated, as my lunchtime group of handstand friends shrunk to zero.

It turns out that the way I used coercive power was counterproductive to enhancing my prestige power.

How have you seen power used effectively and caringly? How have you used your power to improve a situation?

I also remember that when I wore a crown later in life that I was open, caring and enabling. I used my referent power intentionally to build the team up and their sense of combined power. The small team I worked with transformed and changed their world. 

The Power Sources.

The learning from the second example was so much more profound than from the first.

I had an opportunity to reflect in a way that challenged my behaviours and grew the positive concepts.

More importantly I understood my connection with the power I hold. I more fully understood the concept of personal use of power and sources of personal power. I gained greater understanding of my desire to be liked and therefore the power that I felt most comfortable cultivating was referent power.

Referent power is a person's perceived attractiveness, worthiness and right to others' respect).

I also gained further insight into prestige and expert power .

Prestige is- your ‘connections’ and/or status and/or reputation. Prestige power is influential or important to others. Expert power is the possession of expertise, skill, and knowledge, which gain the respect of others. Possessing the expertise to influence the behaviour of others.)

Using your personal power sources

Do you want to use your personal power sources?

This next bit is not about building up your resilience and inner strength (although this may happen by applying the tips). It’s about knowing your personal power sources and then using them to improve any situation.

7 tips for finding & using your personal power.

1 – Quiet those voices 

We all have personal power – perhaps you have a voice that says you don’t – not true we all have personal power.

2 – Find your favourite

Review the three personal powers sources mentioned above (prestige, expert and referent) and know yours.

3 – Knowing me

Write down when you most recently used expert and/or prestige and/or referent power, understanding the situation and how the use of your power made an impact.

4 – Deep Dive

Get to know expert, prestige and referent power at a deeper level. Mind map who uses it and when.

5 – Observe and Feel

Become familiar with the building up of others through watching how others use their personal power sources to improve the situation.

6 – Positivity Plus

Scenario plan the positive use of your power sources and the increase of strength of your personal power sources.

7 – Be Intentional

Use your power. Inject each situation with some of your personal power to improve the situation for everyone.

Have a look at my video about power. It will also help. 

Want to know more about power? Sign up for Ready now!

The art of listening

The art of listening

The art of listening

Communicating isn't that easy. So, how can you increase your listening prowess?

Watch the video below for some simple tips.

Understanding the elements of listening

  1. Stop physically
  2. Stop mentally
  3. Compartmentalise
  4. Completely attend to the other person
  5. Quiet your mental acrobatics

Power and Next

Power and Next

I have been thinking about Next. The Next that will be facing you, me, all of us.

The ‘Next’ that will emerge from pain and struggle of COVID19.

I have been thinking:

  • What will ‘next’ look like?
  • How will I adjust?
  • How will I ensure I hold onto the new importance that has emerged for me during this COVID19 time?
  • What learnings must I ensure I don’t lose sight of?
  • And how can I not fall back into ways that I have got rid of when I return to the spaces that will feel like the ‘comfort zone’?

What does Next look like?

Perhaps it is like New Year’s Resolution?

Actually, that is flippant and meaningless for some of us who went through the “fire storm” of NYE 2020. I don’t want to get too heavy, but I certainly don’t want to be light and frivolous.

Let me step through some of the tips that are helping me with my thoughts of understanding my power and ‘Next’.

Reconnect with your Why

My passion for my work was born out of September 11 and I have had time to look back at my progress and my achievements during ‘iso’. I have had time to look forward and see “what else” but mostly I have held in my hands and had a good look at my why, my purpose, my passion and it remains the same.

Do you know your why?

Does your why shine during your day-to-day? Can you see your why connecting with those you will restart sharing your day-to-day with? And what about the different spaces some of may find ourselves in; can you make sure you can see and feel your purpose?

Dust off your core values

I have been dusting off my core values these last couple of weeks because affectus has been facilitating a number of values workshops.

It is wonderful to see people exploring the concept of core personal values. And then to consider and plan about how to have conversations with others that may share the same values or may have different values.

I believe starting with values when we begin to reconnect is important personally, professionally and (dare I say it) globally.

If you are unsure of your core values please get in touch and we can take you and your workteam can help you with Values. There is so much power to be drawn on through knowing your values.

Know your responses

How have you responded during this time of crisis, challenge, bumpy ride?

I have re-identified that I like to think about things not for a long time. I’m not totally a contemplative person, but if a significant concept is being considered I like to think and then to respond and write and find a process.

I now have great insight and personal knowledge about me that I will take forward to assist me and others.

How do you respond?

What is your way of connecting with a complex concept?

Can you sense the personal power you have at your disposal by just knowing this?

Establish your needs

This is a tricky one but…

If you want Next to be brighter for you (and those that you share your day-to-day with) then being honest, open and generous with your needs is a good move.

I have found this a time of deeply understanding my needs around my why and at the same time being more empathetic and aware of the people that I care about. My needs are challengingly intertwined with everyone else’s needs. I don’t want all of those needs to become a complete mess so by getting my needs clear I will assist us all.

Have you established your needs and are you ready to work with others needs Next?

Find your power

I love the concepts of personal and positional power. It is interesting to understand that unless you have given yourself time to explore the concept of personal power then it is often a very blurry concept.

I can feel my personal power wax and wane. However, by knowing my power I am able to give myself a bit of a talking to when I feel it dissipating and I can mentally call on it and most times it returns to me. But I have become aware, during this time of pandemic, that my personal power overwhelm others.

I think that understanding the power that you have and the power you can call upon is so important as we move to Next.

Next may look somewhat familiar or not at all familiar or anywhere in between. But knowing the power that you can draw on will be very useful when you step into Next.

Have the conversations.

Golly now that is glib and I know that’s easier said than done. I know, however, if there was ever a time where you can bring self-knowledge and deeper understanding to conversations about you and Next this will is the time.

It will be easy to chat, easy to be light. It is important that we have the courageous conversations. To think through the why, what, who how and when.

We should all be aware to the importance of having the conversations. Ppeople holding leadership positions should be aware of the conversations to be had and should be making space and opportunities.

Next is not going to be simple or linear.

Next may be wobbly, foggy and unsure. But I am looking for better.

Next can be better. Because, if we each use our self-awareness and access our personal power we can have the important conversations from a position and ‘Next’ will be better.

Head to Lockdown leadership it will help you with Next also. Click through to Lockdown Leaders for practical and useful materials, workshops and information.


Values and Courage

Values and courage

When I think of courage I think of having a strong sense of purpose. But what underpins that courageous purpose?

Well what we know is the basic building block for all of that forward motion is values – personal values.

Values that may not be apparent but nevertheless are part of our decision-making processes.

My values comes from many areas of my lived experience, my parents, my sisters, people I have admired, responses to knowledge gained and experiences had.

What are your core values? Where have they come from? How do your values connect and mesh with those you share your life with?

Essential steps

There are seven essential steps that we have identified to assist you surface your values.

  1. Understand a simple values framework and consider where your values tend to fit.
  2. Reflect on the history of your values – who has given you all or some of your values.
  3. Identify your core values.
  4. Review the “appearance” of your values during times of disruption.
  5. Understand how your values are a “coverall” for your day-to-day activities.
  6. Examine the connection of your values to other’s values.
  7. Develop a communication process that allows for discussion of values.



What are values?

Values are the principles that help you to decide what is right and wrong. These principles, in turn, guide your actions, behaviours and thinking in various situations.

The most useful starting point when surfacing and sorting your values is to find the words that match the principle.

Words like these:


Values workshop

Affectus has a simple one-hour Values to Guide Your Through workshop scheduled for 28 April 2020.

It will help you identify your core values and develop a process to allow these values to guide you through. Additionally, you will be provided with a simple structure for conversations about values.

If you choose not to join the online workshop I encourage you to surface your values, develop some conversational processes to share, and discuss your core values with those who share your (COVID19) life.

It will assist you to get through this challenging time – and beyond.

Finally, and repeating something mentioned above, what I know is the basic building block for all of that forward motion is values – personal values.

By identifying your values you will have a strong foundation to move courageously forward.

COVID19 – Give Yourself Some Slack

Courage & COVID19

Giving Yourself Some Slack

Written by Heidi Mumme, Affectus Facilitator and Researcher

Have you thought about going easy on yourself?

What are your expectations of yourself ?

These are completely abnormal times, unprecedented circumstances, terms we are all becoming more familiar with since COVID-19 first reared its ugly head. These are times we are all navigating through on a day by day basis. It can be stressful and scary; it is uncertain and there is no handbook to help us. 

What is your new normal?

The reality is that there will be people who no longer have jobs, people who are now juggling work under a new set of conditions, and there will be some for which life hasn’t changed too much. Whatever your new norm is, there will be continuous readjusting to what that means for you. The reality of what your new norm looks like has/or is possibly still kicking in - this new normal will become normal, at least for now.

Goals and standards drive us as individuals whether in work or your personal life, but COVID has shifted many goals posts for almost all of us.

What happens when the goal posts are shifted?

For most of the population working from home is not the norm, let alone trying to work at home with your partner and/or children all trying to function in the same space, throw home schooling into the mix and each day can be a definite challenge – give yourself some slack.

Yes, we are going to make mistakes – big ones and small, and that is OK. Making mistakes is part of life and they are important to learn from. If something didn’t work today, try it differently tomorrow and see what happens – Have you given yourself some slack yet?

Our "Give Yourself Some Slack" Tips.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others – your situation and current set of circumstances is unique to you. What works for your best friend may not work for you and that is OK.
  • Understand the goal posts have shifted and this may mean you need to reassess the expectations you would normally put on yourself – you need to find a happy medium in your new situation.


Ask yourself these questions each day

  • What are 3 things I am grateful for?
  • What are 2 things I did well today?
  • What is 1 thing I would do differently?

Recognise when you need some time out for yourself because you will!!

More than ever we need to take care of ourselves, look out for each other and be considerate to each other.

Be generous and be kind to yourself and those around you.

Courage and Stress

Courage and stress

Written by Katie Scutt,  NSILP Graduate 

How stress influences how we lead

In global crises like we are experiencing now, we are all likely to be experiencing higher levels of stress than we normally do.

This is on top of the stressors we already have. But what is stress, really? And how does it affect our ability to be the strong leaders that we need now more than ever?

​“…stress arises when individuals perceive that they cannot adequately cope with the demands being made on them or with threats to their wellbeing.” 
Lazarus, 1966

To explain this further, for us to feel stressed, we first need to perceive that what is happening is a threat (e.g. there is a t-rex in front of us) and then we need to perceive that we don’t have the resources to cope with that threat (e.g. it can run faster than us).

What is important to note here is how we perceive situations and our ability to deal with them is key to whether we feel stressed and overwhelmed or calm and clear headed.

It’s also part of the solution.

A lot more information on what stress is can be found here and ways to cope with stress here.

Stress, leading and good decisions

So how does stress affect our ability to lead and make good decisions?


For better or worse, stress influences our leadership behaviour.

It can turn us into great leaders in or we can unknowingly become part of the problem.

This in turn, has a significant impact on the stress levels of those who we are trying to lead.

Consciously cultivating positive leadership behaviours in times of stress, such as maintaining a strong vision, communicating a positive outlook and forming strong connections with our team members will focus our leadership skills and also reduce stress for ourselves and others.

Decision making

Leadership takes a lot of brain power, even in the best of times.

To make good decisions we need to address problems and make decisions all the while thinking about the big picture and keeping a watch out for threats to our progress.

When we are under stress, our ability to do this is reduced. This is ok and normal.

Remember, we are stressed when we feel like we don’t have the resources to cope with the demands placed on us. So, if we can find ways to increase the amount of resources we have, we can free up brain space and clear thinking.

Some ways to increase your resources include:

  • delegate, remember you are part of a team and getting through tough times is a team effort
  • remember its ok to ask for help
  • prioritise and cull things off your to-do list that aren’t immediate priorities; what are you trying to achieve and what will help you get there, everything else can wait
  • learn how to say no – when you say no to one thing you are saying yes to another
  • get enough sleep and take care of yourself – remember you need to put your oxygen mask on first
  • think about the positives, take a moment each day to reflect on what is going well

The bottom line

Stressful situations are going to affect us in different ways, including our ability to lead and make good decisions.

The good news is that if we take conscious, simple measures we can be the positive leaders needed to not only survive, but thrive in a crisis.

We just need to keep sight of our vision, bring our teams along with us and free up resources where we can so we can focus on achieving that vision.

Finally, if you or someone you know may be interested in delving deeper and exploring more tools and resources to deal with stress, click here for a free evidence-based e-course. 

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.