Personal development

This is What Conscious Leadership Looks Like…

Photo credit: David Walker/Stuff

Photo credit: David Walker/Stuff

Monday morning. A new week. For that, I am immensely grateful.

I shut down last week and I wasn’t sure why. I was angry, felt hostile inside, and I was reading everything negative online like an addiction.

It occurred to me this morning that I was in shock over the terror events in my peace-loving native New Zealand. For a country of just 5 million, a massacre of this nature is akin to losing over 3,000 people in the US to one terror event. Gunning down 50 people in a small town like Christchurch is like taking out over 1,100 inhabitants of New York City in two small religious sites.

It hurts.

Aotearoa has known worse, of course. The massacres of our brutal history between Māori and Pākeha, the white colonials, have perhaps influenced our desire to be peace-loving and inclusive in modern New Zealand. For sure though, the attacks on those two Christchurch mosques are like nothing we have seen in Middle Earth in modern times where a minority of our community have been so obviously and hatefully targeted.

So I sat with all this over the weekend.

It took me to detox from my newsfeed, lots of meditation and physical exercise to reduce the stress and anxiety, journaling and reading books on subjects such as consciousness to get to a place on Monday morning of clarity, energy and intention.

The clarity that came to me this morning is that Christchurch just might be the breakdown before the breakthrough, the valley before scaling the heights. Perhaps it had to happen to show the world what conscious leadership looks like. It happened when the best person possible was in power to guide the country and the world through their shock and grief - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She is a fine example of conscious leadership that the world has been shaken from its old thinking to witness, a style of leadership that the world is starting awaken to the fact that it is thirsty for.

  • She is vulnerable, visibly weeping when she visited the families of the victims.

  • She is compassionate, reaching out to say that she and her government will do all they can to ease the pain over the next days, months, years.

  • She is empathetic, acknowledging their religious practices by assuring the families that the police are doing all they can to release their loved ones as soon as possible.

  • She is strong, making a commitment to change gun laws so that such a tragedy never happens again on New Zealand soil.

  • She is intentional, focusing only on the families as her priority, unifying political parties, not finding an opportunity to score points for her political advancement or to appease her partisan supporters.

There is nothing weak about how Prime Minister Ardern is showing up to lead us through this crisis.

It is a new era—time we expected more of ourselves and our political, religious and business leaders, demanding more conscious leadership.

“There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness.”
— Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

When our egos run the show, as has become our primary state of consciousness, there is no room for any of the characteristics that Prime Minister Ardern is demonstrating. When we live in ego, as most of us do, it is too busy trying to feel superior, to be right, to gain more at the expense of others, to defend itself, to attack others, and to renew its addiction to unhappiness.

“The ego always wants something from other people or situations.”
— Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

I work with leaders who want to do things differently in their new role, who want to make a positive impact beyond financial measures. Prime Minister Ardern so beautifully demonstrates what I am talking about, creating an environment that allows vulnerability, compassion, empathy, unity, and above all, strength. Ruling by the politics of fear with competition, reprisal, redundancy, creating a toxic environment, and still expecting high performance and profit is as absurd as it sounds.

Creating an environment where teams can connect, create, collaborate - that’s where high performance, purpose and profit lie.

For now, I hope the world is observing Prime Minister Ardern and waking up to what conscious personal, political, religious, and business leadership could look like. My intention and energy to contribute to the general acceptance of conscious leadership is stronger than ever.

How I went from angry and stressed to calm and focused on my goals.

I sit writing this article as the sun streams in the window, the cat plays with the cardboard box on the floor, the jasmine tea is warming, and the creativity flows.

Contrast this to the day 8 years ago when I was such a wound-up ball of stress, I had to use the balustrade to steady me as I climbed the stairs at work, stopping on each step, positioning my back and my hips to be able to tackle the next one. My body felt and moved like an unhealthy eighty year-old.

I had just relocated from Paris to London in difficult circumstances with my career into a new position that was particularly high-pressure (not least of which came from me), traveling a lot for work, having relationship problems with the man I left behind in Paris, and trying to create a new place I could call home (with all the stresses setting that up brings). I was a short-tempered, fatigued woman and I knew this wasn’t “the real me.” It was the day I decided to take myself off to a detox retreat in Glastonbury, United Kingdom to decompress for a week.

Much has changed since that day. For one thing, a couple of years after “my senior moment” I left the corporate world, “re-relocated” to Paris to go back to the lad, and started my own business as a coach to senior business leaders globally. During the last few years, I have worked with several coaches and the constant throughout was journaling - a safe space for me to unpack sometimes intense emotions that otherwise, I didn’t quite know how to deal with.

I’ve always journaled, but not in an intelligent manner. When I began to ask better questions of myself, my emotions became less intense because having journaled about them, I could recognise them, give them a name, understand their origins and triggers, and let them go. The process of journaling has led me to a calmer state of being, of being more emotionally self-aware and more empathetic to others. I put myself in their shoes more often and can see their side of things.

I believe there are millions of leaders who feel like I did, who feel like they don’t know how to manage their emotions through the stress, urgency, fatigue, meetings, and task lists. It’s one of the most common questions from my clients, “How do I manage my emotions and my stress?” It makes them much less effective, certainly less impactful, and most definitely less inspiring when they don’t know what to do with the intense emotions that have a tendency to explode unexpectedly in high-stress environments.

It’s the benefits of journaling that led me to write my first book about my experience The Executive’s Guide to Journaling: Write Your Way to Less Stress, Better Relationships, and More Impactful and Inspiring Leadership. I have compiled over 300 Artful Questions, journaling prompts to help you ask better questions so you get better answers. The book outlines the research that supports the benefits of the practice of journaling with referenced articles and papers for you to look into further.

I’m an evangelist about the benefits of journaling on our mental health, relationships, and how we show up to the world. In writing this book, I want to help leaders become more emotionally self-aware because - let’s face it - a calm leader who isn’t losing their s*** all the time is a much nicer person to be around and to work for. That’s the leader people want to follow.

Pick up your copy of The Executive’s Guide to Journaling: Write Your Way to Less Stress, Better Relationships, and More Impactful and Inspiring Leadership on Amazon and Kindle.

How to Future-Proof Your Career

Are you worried about your future?

Are the threat of restructures and redundancy hanging over you?

The development of Artificial Intelligence, automation, outsourcing, offshoring, gig economies - all of these are having an impact on the world of work as we have known it for the last couple of centuries. A McKinsey report published in May 2017 states that “about 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of their activities technically automatable.” Only about 5% of occupations, they estimate, will disappear entirely; and still many more will be created.

So the reality is: your work will change. There’s no doubt of that.

But how? And what can you do to future-proof yourself?

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 reports that:

By 2022, everyone will need an extra 101 days of learning.

Life-long learning is imperative “for organizations and for workers whose growth strategies and job roles are being affected by technological change.” In my view, life-long learning is imperative for everyone - regardless of the affect of technological change on job roles.

“The need for finely tuned social and emotional skills will rapidly grow.” McKinsey, Skill Shift: Automation & the Future of the Workforce, May 2018

The World Economic Forum report also identifies the top skills required by 2022, and it’s no surprise to me that at least 75% of those noted are skills clients gain from working with a coach. Active Learning and Learning Strategies, Creativity, Originality and Initiative, Critical Thinking and Analysis, Leadership and Social Influence, Emotional Intelligence are all skills clients develop in working with a coach.

During coaching, clients have the opportunity to self-reflect, self-enquire, and develop self-awareness, which leads to increased emotional intelligence, and better leadership and social influence.

A coaching program, by its very nature, is active learning. No-one with an open mind ever walks away from a coaching experience saying, “I learned nothing.”

A good coach guides the client towards creatively solving their own problems, thinking critically. It is not a case of ‘fixing’ a client, or telling them what to do. The coach has the questions; the client has the answers. The client just needs to be guided to access their genius.

How to future-proof yourself?

Invest in your future.

Learn and develop new skills.

Get a coach.

If you’d like to future-proof yourself, get in touch and let’s discuss.

References:

Workforce Strategies and Trends for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum.

Skill Shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce, McKinsey Global Institute

Technology, Jobs and the Future of Work, McKinsey Global Institute

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What I learned one cold Wednesday evening in the 19th...

What’s one thing you used to do in your childhood that you tell yourself in adulthood you can’t do?

Paint beautiful pictures?

Write imaginative stories?

Dance like a maniac?

For me, it was anything musical. I’ve always loved singing, and I’m always quick to pick up a tune; but somewhere along the way, I got the message that I couldn’t sing well enough, I couldn’t read music, and rhythm and music was not a genetic trait in our family.

So I joined a choir, aged 52.

This Wednesday night, a cold, wintry, rainy evening that rightly should have been spent curled up on the couch, with a ‘blanky’ and the cat, watching Netflix, (I know - enlightening…), I ventured into an arrondissement I’ve never been before, across the other side of Paris, and stood in a circle with 10 other slightly odd-ball people I’ve never met, filled my lungs and sang!

Apparently, I’m some way between an alto and a soprano.

And I can read music.

The thing I am most amazed at is, in looking at sheet music with fresh, curious, adult eyes, how it tells a story that transcends culture and language with a bunch of universally-understood squiggles. I wish reading music had been presented to me in this way as a child. I might not have spent 45 years not doing something that makes me feel good.

Sure - it took some courage to venture out to the 19th, on a cold night, with complete strangers, to do something I thought I couldn’t do, and I remember enjoying - but it was so worth it! And let’s face it - I wasn’t climbing Mt Everest! It was everyday courage, and we all have that.

I absolutely CAN sing, and yet all these years, I haven’t done something I simply feel good doing because I had a story attached to it.

What stories are you attaching to things?

How are those stories stopping you from doing something you vaguely remember you used to love doing?

Get out and do them. You’ll find the stories are exactly that.

Everything I love about my clients also makes me wince

My work leads me to some amazing women - smart, ambitious, successful, action-takers, and go-getters. They inspire me every day I work with them. They're working with me because they know more and better in their lives and careers is available to them as a right, and they want guidance to create their goals and make them happen.

Everything I love about them is also everything that makes me wince.

When did we become so hard on ourselves?

You see, these women have high standards and expectations - of others, and their level of work, effort and accuracy; but they hold themselves to an even HIGHER standard than they do of others.

To hold themselves to a higher standard, they raise the bar so high, they can never feel accomplished, competent, loved, accepted, or content. To live with that every moment of every day leaves a massive imprint on their brains of...

I'm not good enough.

Just imagine doing that to a child every single day. Imagine telling that little child, "You're hopeless," "You can't do that!" "You're not as good as they are."

You just wouldn't do it.

Think about that next time you're berating yourself for not meeting your self-imposed high standards.

I admire those ambitious traits you have, for what they can do for you, and what you can achieve in life and career with them.

Those same traits can also 'undo' you - in a big way.

  • Beating up on yourself on the daily when you don't measure up to the arbitrarily high standards you've set for yourself.
  • Experiencing extreme emotions when you are challenged in a work setting or when you feel you may not have all the answers, affecting your performance and relationships.
  • Feeling fiercely competitive, coming from a place of anger, frustration, and scarcity.

It preys on your well-being - emotionally, mentally, and even physically, with conditions like emotional eating, or over-training and injury. It affects your relationships.

It is exhausting to feel this pressure on a daily basis.

Does this resonate?

It resonates with me - at least, who I ONCE was.

What I practice now is FORGIVENESS: Allowing myself room to fail so I can learn from it, and see how I can do, be, and think differently next time; not, "What SHOULD I have done?" but "What can I do differently next time?"

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" Winston Churchill

What I practice now is ACCEPTANCE: that I am pretty bloody brilliant just as I am. My 'weaknesses' and failings make me human, and are an invitation to greater self-awareness, self-knowledge and self-mastery.

What I practice now is DETACHMENT: I have goals, of course, and I strive to achieve them. At the same time, by letting go of the outcome, I can ease into the goals, flow with the process, have faith that the goals will be achieved. It is a more abundant place to come from, instead of an angst-ridden, scarcity-based "What if I don't achieve my goals?" (The answer to that is, "I will still be pretty freaking awesome as Helen. It won't define me."

"Failure is seldom fatal"

You'll notice I said that I practice forgiveness, acceptance, and detachment - for that's what it is; a practice - every single day. I'm not perfect, and I know it,...and it's OK.

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it" Salvador Dali

Does any of this sound like you? Tired of beating up on yourself in this way? I'm currently offering a free Career Strategy call to help you turn down the volume on the inner critic so you can achieve your goals. Book a Career Strategy call to find out how to balance fierce ambition with fierce self-acceptance, as well as the 5 factors that might be slowing your leadership track.

How Your Loved Ones are Misleading You

Have you got some big ideas and dreams you want to share?

Have you got a problem you'd love help with?

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Don't tell your loved ones!

OK - that might be extreme. Share it with them if you'd like to, but be careful.

Your loved ones don't always have your best interests at heart.

I know you know what I mean:

Scenario: Your partner tells you he's thinking about leaving his job before securing a new one. What's your first thought?

Be honest. Your first thought is likely, "How is this going to impact me?" Even though I know you're a supportive partner, your first thought is for yourself and the effect of his decision, not on whether it's the right thing for your partner.

Family, partners, friends, trusted advisors all share their opinions "looking out for you" but their views are steeped in years of their own fears, limiting beliefs, upbringing, social norms, and yes - their "What's in it for me?" thinking.

I'm writing about it because it came up a couple of times this week with current clients. They shared Ideas they were considering with their loved ones, and close friends, and what they got back was less than supportive, and planted a lot of doubt in their minds.

I did a Facebook Live about it this week, too. View it here.

You see, family, lovers, friends, trusted advisors are all well-intentioned but they come at problems with their own baggage - their own limiting beliefs, the beliefs they were raised with in their family, social norms, and much, much more. And none of what they're basing their opinion on is necessarily helpful to you.

That's why a coach is so transformative and supportive. A good coach's only goal is to ensure you are making the right decision for YOU. A good coach does not have her own agenda or fears or baggage influencing work. In fact, advice is not something a good coach will give, because a good coach believes YOU have the answer. She has the questions that will get you to the right decision for you.

So - by all means share what's going on for you with family, friends, and loved ones, but be mindful, they're coming at it from a place that is not necessarily impartial.

PS Need impartial assistance to make a decision about your life or career? Get in touch - we'll chat.

Ladies, Take a Bow!

I sit writing this on International Women's Day, March 8th. It feels like this day is gathering momentum as being more and more important, rather than less. Although the subject of women's rights is leap years ahead of where it was when the first internationally recognised day was celebrated in 1975, it seems there is a new momentum, a new vigour to it. It's the next iteration of women's rights that's evolving, with a future that looks brighter.

Today, I'm giving thanks to those women, real, fictional, past and current, who have inspired and influenced me to be the woman I am today:

  • Kate Sheppard: a New Zealand activist who campaigned women's suffrage, gaining women in NZ the right to vote as early as 1893. As the first country in the world to do so, and growing up in a relatively egalitarian society, it has given me a sense of "anything is possible."
  • My mother: who gave me steely determination with oodles of generosity and kindness. Although, I've tried hard over the years to not be like her by being a career woman, rather than a home-maker, there's no getting away from the fact that I am my mother's daughter.
  • My grandmothers: Becoming widows early in their lives, I learned that it was possible for women to be alone in the world, and be OK with it. My maternal grandmother, in particular, did so with relish, leading a life full of love and connection with those around her, without a partner.
  • My mentor: who has shown me that when you are fully yourself, and unapologetically so, you can lead an abundant, full life, where anything is possible, by putting your mind, body and spirit into it. (You know who you are! x)
  • Anne Hartley: author of "Financially Free: a Woman's Guide to Creating Wealth," a book I read in my 20s which changed my relationship with money and wealth. I went from low-wealth-consciousness teacher, to a financially secure corporate queen in the space of a few years.
  • HRH Queen Elizabeth II: She has been a public figure all my life, stoically leading and developing the Commonwealth. Although we could get into a debate about the relevance of monarchy today, she has made it completely natural for us to see a woman in power.

I know there are more women who have inspired and influenced me, (I mean - Notorious RBG! #badass; Oprah!) but the list is long.

Whatever your gender, stop a moment and give thanks to all those women who have shaped you and continue to influence and inspire you. #womanlyartofleadership

For more inspiring women, subscribe on Apple Podcasts to the Womanly Art of Leadership Sessions podcast.

If you're not taking a risk, you're taking a risk

Don't you love that headline?

"If you're not taking a risk, you're taking a risk."

Sallie Krawcheck, founder and CEO of Ellevest, and former CEO of Merrill Lynch coined this phrase in her book Own It: The Power of Women at Work (worth a read - it's the book I wished I'd written. She got there first!)

If you're sitting in your office or cubicle thinking that your next career move will be somewhere else in the organisation, or perhaps the next step up, you're taking a career risk.

You see, the world is evolving so rapidly now that many positions that have existed for the last 40 years, even 20 years, will be automated in the future - and it is a not-too-distant future. Some will automated entirely such as assembly line workers, while others are likely to 'morph', evolve or be redefined e.g. social media managers. The future of work is uncertain, but what IS certain is that it won't look the same as it does today.

It is on US as individuals to evolve, up-skill, keep learning, develop broader interests and look outside our current domain to future-proof our careers.

Staying within a 'safe space' means you're taking a career risk. You're taking even more of a career risk if you stick only to what you know and do nothing to evolve or develop.

A great analogy is that of investing. Keeping your thousands in a savings account feels safe and that you're preserving its value. At best, it might earn 1% interest, depending on your national treasury's current interest rate.

Eating away at its value, though, are account fees, tax, and inflation - that unseen but felt factor that means your money today is not worth the same as it will be tomorrow.

The same can be said of your career. Savvy employees are 'inflation-proof-ing' their careers by taking courses in new areas of interest, extending and challenging themselves, opening their minds to new ideas and fields, and ways of working - to stay relevant.

This is not meant to be a portent of doom - it's just a jolt into reality. I invite you to look at work and your career very differently by opening up your mind to new ideas. Get creative, get clear, and get cracking!

In considering your next career move, ask yourself these questions:

  • What have you always wanted to do?
  • What did you love to do as a child?
  • What would be an ideal day for you at work?
  • What area of study interests you?
  • What would you do if you were brave?
  • What can you do all day without being aware of the time passing?

These questions prompt you to look outside the apparent safety of where you are now.

Need some help opening up your mind to the possibilities of the future? Send me a message and let's get on a call to discuss what your future career might look like.

 

 

The "People-Pleaser" Debate

Are you a people-pleaser?

Are you someone who goes out of your way to please others without a thought for yourself?

I've had discussions with a few people recently who question me, "What's wrong with being a 'people-pleaser'? It's kind and generous to want to please others."

Yes, it is...until it's not.

People-pleasing in itself is not bad - in fact more kindness, generosity and a desire to love, connect with and please others is probably just what the world needs now (I feel a song coming on...)

The question to ask yourself is:

"What benefit am I getting from pleasing others all the time?"

  • Is it to be accepted, loved, and approved of because you learned from your parents or guardians that you could only be loved if you were the 'good girl' and helped others?
  • Is it to avoid conflict because you feel like you have to tip-toe around the other person so as not to upset them?
  • Is it because you only feel needed when you are doing things for others?
  • Is it because by doing things for others, you can get others to do things for you?

It's when pleasing others takes on such significance that you do it consistently, without regard for your own needs, at an emotional, physical, mental, financial, or spiritual cost to you, so that you become resentful, a martyr, and afraid to set boundaries, that it's time to look at it, and create new habits and beliefs. The trick is to find a healthy balance of giving to others that feels good to you without it being a compulsion and causing you pain.

So no - pleasing people is not bad, but consider the driving need behind it and at what cost to you. Codependence, self-abandonment, and lack of self-worth can easily be dressed up as 'doing good' for others.

PS I'm flying today to Dubai for 10 whole days! Work and play, I'll share with you what's going on.

Word on the street is...

I've been doing some research recently

I've been asking executive women what their main challenges are right now in life and career. (A big thank you to those who have taken part in the research!)

Here's a flavour of what I'm hearing:

"I don't know whether to try to move up or move on."

"Although I objectively know I'm good at my job and a great asset, I don't 'believe' it and it is holding me back in my career."

"I no longer feel passionate about my job."

"I can't find balance between work and play. It's killing my family life."

"I love my job, and I know I'm good at it. My personal life? That's another story!"

AND, (and this one is a biggie for a lot of you:)

"I hate the 'politics', and feeling like I need to 'play the game' to get ahead."

Any of it sound familiar?

Firstly - my heart goes out to you if you're experiencing ANY of these feelings. I get it. I was there, too.

Secondly - know this...

There IS a better way

- to rise above the politics, to find passion and purpose in what you do, to have balance, to have self-belief, to develop self-confidence - whatever "grinds your gears" or keeps you right where you are now.

If you'd like to speak to me about what's going on for you, click here.

If you'd like to take part in the research, click here.