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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.

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?

Affectus' 9 Stage Change Pathway.

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. Awareness
  2. Immobilisation
  3. Denial
  4. Acceptance
  5. Incompetence
  6. Application
  7. Confidence
  8. Meaning
  9. Mobilisation

The 3 pathway steps and what goes on in our brain

  • Immobilisation – our logical brain stops working and our more primitive (reptilian brain) pushes us to thinking about survival.
  • 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 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.

  • 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, incompetence 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 a previous 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

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.

What levers are you pulling?

Are you conscious of what levers you are pulling? The levers around you? What lever have you put pressure on today?

We have previously discussed a process to maximise your Affectus Leadership Leverage (download the Leadership Leverage Process Checklist here)

This week, we discuss why to use leverage.

I have been doing some volunteer work for many months to help me make further sense of the theoretical. Doing this always helps me when I am trying to get my head around something new. I hope it will help you too.

Leveraging – how it really works.

Nearly a year ago a smart, connected person in my local community asked me to meet her for a coffee in my town, Rutherglen. This was such a pleasure on so many levels:

  • to pause
  • to re-appreciate the main street
  • to get to have a chat with someone I had admired from a distance for a while

Starting the conversation

We started the standard how are you and what are you up to conversation.

We knew each other, but it is always important to know a little more.

This was all very pleasant. The beverages were good,  the ambience was comfortable – tick, tick.

We soon moved onto "what have you been thinking about for your next stretch"?

Those of you who know me know that I can never resist this topic. I love being asked it and figure it is a safe enough question to ask everyone (never assume Jill).

By asking that question the conversation moved to the next level.

My friend shared with me that she was thinking of putting her hand up for the State Election. Now that was greeted with much enthusiasm. I had watched her, with admiration, engage thoughtfully and wisely at a “p” (that is a small p) level for a few years now. What a gift she would be to my electorate.

The conversation quickly moved from “woohoo” to let’s think about this seriously. We teased out the concept of disruption and/or systemic change – it was both. Change this up and change them for the better. Another tick.

I was in! Disruption with a purpose, please!

Taking the conversation to the next level

The conversation then moved to leverage.

What did she have, on which she could put downward pressure, to ensure the disruption resulted in systemic change for the better? What were the available levers?

What were the levers within easy grasp? Well, she had:

  • An inner network of family and close friends. They would be able to become her inner team to run the campaign.
  • Extensive local networks and connections: sport, education, career. She would need them to assist her. How could she put pressure on this lever to create a buzz about her candidacy?
  • A reputation – smart and a doer. She would use this lever to create information and communication to share with her extensive network to increase her “electoral presence”
  • Political nous. She would educate her inner network so they could press on the lever to start community conversations about electoral issues.

Did the leveraging work?

My friend had sorted all of the above out before we sat down that morning in Rutherglen. (I told you she was smart.) But, what was exciting was to see that just by having the conversation with me one lever had been pressed and I was moving things for her (in my mind and as I left the café). I had been levered and as a direct result by the end of the day, I had moved three other people.

By the time we said cheerio we had worked our way through the first four steps of Affectus Leadership Leverage and were well on the way to working on the next three steps.

Are you conscious of the levers around you? What lever have you put pressure on today? Which of the seven steps have you worked through?

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.

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.

Summarising Teams – A Leadership Program Case Study

I want to paint a picture of leadership in action and teams getting to performance during the four days of intense leadership and industry activity.

In summarising teams, through this leadership program case study, I am going to refer to Tuckman’s Theory and illustrate what happened.

I have just arrived back in the office from working with a group of fourteen wonderful young leaders on Rottnest Island. It was such a privilege being in the orbit of their enthusiasm, focus and determination. They are the Next Wave 2018, a select but powerful group brought together under the management of Recfishwest and with the funding from WA Fisheries.


Many of the team knew each other. They had shared holiday destinations and a fishing passion prior to the commencement of the program. However no-one in the team that set-off for Rotto last Sunday knew everyone.  (Apparently Rotto is the local name – not Rotti).

The connection happened on some steps at Hillarys Habour. I always love watching these moments where people are stepping out of their comfort zone:

  • stretching out hands for shaking
  • finding safe topics to talk about
  • feeling uncomfortable during those pauses that always happen.

The group did a great job of making small talk but it was fascinating listening to safe topics and see the group structure start emerging.

Some self-identifying that this was hard work by finding very important things in the luggage that needed to be retrieved. The 14 did a great job and what became clear immediately was that there was lots of generosity in the group:

  • willingness to engage
  • extraverts ensuring the laughter happened early
  • openness as people integrated the more introverted in the group.

As we set off for the ferry terminal additional forming happened with people showing their strengths; finding people to walk with and talk to and others observing and being conscientious with luggage and extra equipment.


This stage happened in a more subtle way and I didn’t observe it all as sleep beckoned most of the evenings.

What was valuable to be reminded of is that when people are clear about the purpose the storming is minimal.

It was also fascinating to see how quickly a team can be slammed back into storming by external influences…fascinating. By halfway, through the second day, it was clear that storming was well on the way. People had formed smaller groups and some people were being somewhat silenced. How does this happen when the task is clear and the endpoint is known?

My observations are, that for some of the 14, the task and endpoint connected to their existing knowledge. But for others it was beyond their reach and relying on “the others” was difficult because they had only formed the previous day.

Courageous and strong personalities started to emerge and this allowed others to “hang in there” and be pulled along. It was so amazing to see the courage and trust emerge. Roles also started to appear…drivers, thinkers, writers, dreamers and more…some of these roles were embraced while others got squashed.


Norming emerged on Day 3. Who sat where; who spoke first; who listened before sharing input.

It was interesting at this stage to see how often the facilitators (that means me) stepped in to try and steer the team in the “right” direction. At this point, I had to keep checking myself and sit back down and pretend to work on my computer. It was important to let the team work out how do get to the end point with their own accepted behaviours rather than impose concepts. And they did emerge.

Encouragement was such a part of the team norms. I got emotional and had to take a walk when only 60 hours after slamming these people together I heard comments like

"Yep – we have all identified who could do with some support and stretching so we are assisting them in these areas."

Even demonstrations of trust and empowerment. Roles were shared, even though there were clear “keyboard wizards” in the group as they pounded away on laptops; eloquent speakers as they shaped key messages; and team monitors who set small (but then repeated) norms such as refreshments and sugar hits. But this mostly happened because the perceived leaders (the facilitators) stepped away and “gave back” giving the team freedom to find their functional norms and start really reaching for the end-point.


Performance happened on Day 4.

What happened? Well, the group delivered.

Extremely complex knowledge and dreaming were wrangled into coherent “this is what we need to do for our sector of the seafood/fishing community”.

And we all know what that looks like don’t we…

  • people having a go knowing that everyone (everyone, everyone) has their back
  • news ideas being embraced
  • people working their butts off even at the eleventh hour
  • checking that the endpoint is still where they are aiming

but mostly what I see, as someone who is passionate about people stepping into their leadership space, is:

  • courage plus vulnerability
  • strength through openness
  • insight with inclusiveness
  • leadership because of the team.

It was a great experience…I was humbled to be there at the endpoint when I heard laughing, backslapping, when I saw man-hugs and just-hugs…I felt happiness, satisfaction, achievement, joy and POWER within the 14.

Inspiring work Next Wave 2018.

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 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.


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?

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.

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 History of Reflection and what it has provided us

When looking at the history of reflection, Reijo Miettinen states, in his academic writing about reflection, that reflecting on our practices stems from...

...the faith in an individual’ s innate capacity to grow and learn.

It is interesting that some of the initial thinking about reflection happened in the 1940’s. Even back then people were understanding the importance of looking at what they were doing and exploring the concept of reflective practice.

Some of that thinking suggested that the following concepts need to be considered.

  • Defining the problem and getting facts about it
  • Formulating action possibilities in the problem situation
  • Practising human relation skills needed to carry out problem solutions
  • Formulating general principles of action
  • Planning specific steps of back-home action
  • Self-evaluation of its own problem-solving activity

Cross-referencing our thinking

Some suggest that John Dewey did some of the heavy lifting on the reflective process and study. Then other people and developed some further key areas to consider. At about this time, as a society, we started to include in reflective activities:

  • our values
  • how we see the world
  • what that brings

This is a very important part of the reflective process to understand.  If we employ only a personal reflective practice and not cross-reference our thinking with others then perhaps our values may be clouding what we see.

Below are our simplified steps of John Dewey's model:-

  1. Disturbance and uncertainty – “my habit does not work”
  2. Define the problem – “I have got my habit that does not work clearly in my mind”
  3. Observe the environment (the conditions in which this habit occurs) – “where does my habit and behaviour crop up”
  4. Think through what is really going on – “what really happened”
  5. Develop a new process – “what could I do next time”
  6. Test the new process – “I have tried a different habit, action or behaviour”
  7. Solution or back to No. 1 – “I now can see that a new habit is useful” or “That didn’t work let me rethink that”

These are powerful concepts that are covered in a general manner in the 4D Reflection tool we provided in our last blog.

We talk in more detail about our 4D Reflection tool in the weeks to come. What we need to mention is this tool is always used in conjunction with many of our reflective practices. This allows participants to establish their ideas about personal changes, in the environment the changes need to occur.

What needs to occur

Having looked briefly at the history of reflection we believe the following must occur for it to be valuable.

  • Time – I need to pause to think
  • Willingness – I need to be willing to look back with openness and honesty
  • Values – I need to have a clear understanding of the personal values that drive me
  • Process – I need to cover off the number of concepts for value to be delivered
  • Communication – I must think through who to talk to about my reflection

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 5D 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.  

Is change good?

John Kotter talks about the Eight Errors that we make when implementing change.

The Eight Errors are interesting concepts and Error Four - Undercommunicating the Vision by a Factor of Ten – is really relevant for all the participants we will be working with over the next month.

Communication can never be underestimated when working through change, and we have spoken about this over the last couple of blogs. But this short blog will consider change from a different angle…the fear of change and six steps to assist others when they are fearful of change.

The fear of change

The fear of change is often difficult to move through. People who are fearful of change may see the change; they may understand the change; they comprehend the need. However, they, no matter the convincing, remain fearful of what is uncertain - the leap into the unknown.

The concept of “if things don’t change, we get in a rut and end up going nowhere” is not unfamiliar but nevertheless, the fear remains.

What can be done?

Are there any steps to be taken to assist people to move beyond their fear?

Here are six steps that may assist.

  1. Spend time acknowledging that there will be stress during the time of change and to remain in the current state is not an option.
  2. Develop thinking processes to visualise the new opportunities that will arise from the change.
  3. Consider consciously rewording conversations…challenging can’t and won’t.
  4. Assist the mind shift through speaking about the positive history of change.
  5. Think through the steps of change so that people can move into newness in steps – not leaps.
  6. Extend the concept of steps and encourage each step to be seen as a growth phase rather than another step towards the fear.


Remember to avoid Kotter’s fourth error – keep the communication happening.

Leadership Space

Leadership Space

I have spent more than 40 years thinking about leadership. At various times during these years, it has totally absorbed me. I have spent time thinking about who I am and where I want to be, what change I want to make and what the team might look like to make that change a reality.

I have flirted with the concepts of:

  • bribing people into voting for me
    (Albury Primary School Vice-Captain – you can see how successful that was)
  • begging to be the sports captain
    (I remained an ineffective winger after that effort)
  • and then understanding that it was always about finding my passion and getting better connected with my why, my purpose.

And this is why I have found the term #leadershipspace so helpful over the last decade.

I feel confident that I have found what #leadershipspace means. And what it might mean to others. So, let me explain, shall I?

#leadershipspace is about finding where we want to be and affecting that space. It is your and my hope that what we do:

  • will have an affect
  • that things will change
  • that there will be a difference
  • and we all have a deep desire that will we have an affect

I have heard it described:

  • as legacy by some
  • a better future by others
  • working on my why, by people I love
  • making a difference
  • helping where it Is needed

…this desire to affect is a powerful driver. It drives me.

I also know that people want to see the affect, people stepping into a leadership spaces and those watching us stepping into leadership spaces some call it the evidence of leadership money spent wisely.

I frown as I hear the perennial comment “So what have we got from our $ spent” and I think look harder, listen carefully, be wiser.

And I think each person has thought about the affect they will make.

Everyone who has been part of any program, (any that I have facilitated or other people), everyone has thought about their affect.

They think about it:

  • their purpose
  • their community
  • the issues
  • the decline
  • the positive changes

and they think “Where is the space for me?”

And then they see it!

Sometimes it takes no time and sometimes it takes a long time; sometimes only the individual can see it (and only ever will) and sometimes the world sees it. But believe me everyone wants to affect their #leadershipspace…

So how do you find the leadership space where you will affect things?

Well, that can take a long conversation, even a whole leadership program or years of mulling through but it takes thinking steps.

We have developed some tips below that will help you.

We believe that these couple of links will help you start your thinking steps about affect and your leadership space.

If you would like further information regarding any of these initiatives, feel free to contact Jill, jill@affectusaus.com.au.

Getting Your Team Going

What are the fundamentals of getting your team going?

I was asked to address a group of ‘Women in STEM’ last week. The convenor asked that I draw on my national leadership knowledge and experience. I spent time thinking through what I have seen work over my 20 years of researching, building and I reflected on how I have assisted in the development of effective teams that deliver outcomes.

I spoke for 10 minutes to the assembled women who work across the STEM field…doctors, researchers, agronomists, technicians, teachers, nurses…women interested in adding to the STEM agenda, both locally and nationally. I was asked to be precise, the woman had to get to work and commitments…so I condensed my long version to an abbreviated one.

I believe that there are fundamentals to get your team ‘going’. When I have worked with teams that need to deliver outcomes within 6 months and those that need to consider the long-term I have noticed the following five concepts are consistent across all. I have then used these five concepts to assist and groups move from a collective of interested individuals to a performing team. They will assist you in getting things moving for you and your team but they will also guide you if your team is in for the long-haul and already established.

  1. Establish the collective values of the team. These values will guide but they will also assist when new people move into your group to help them understand the team baseline.
  2. Find your team purpose – why you are taking this action? Why are you going to make this change? Perhaps you have done a gap-analysis and you have decided that you need to fill the gap or perhaps you are introducing a newness…whichever…find why?
  3. Build a structure that fits your need…remember you can create a structure that works for you.
  4. Analyse your team skills and knowledge so that you can work with the magic you have.
  5. Remember that communication is the essential any team