I had the pleasure of connecting with Lisa Forrest, who is speaking at the Authentic Leadership Conference on November 30th in Sydney.
At age 16, Lisa was the captain of the Australian swimming team at the 1980 Summer Olympics as well as winning
two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. Here is a short video where she shares her perspective on what authentic leadership means to her and what is the biggest lesson she has learnt in her career as an Olympian.
What struck me when listening to her perspective, was the importance of compassion in the workplace. Not just with our work colleagues but for ourselves.
Being so passionate about my work, I can sometimes forget the importance of having compassion on myself and relax a bit! It’s easy for me to work in the evenings and weekends because there is “so much to do” and give myself a hard time when things don’t go to plan.
I’m now learning that to truly be compassionate with my stakeholders, I need to be compassionate to myself first. I need to remember to indulge in some “doing nothing” time during the week to truly balance out all the extra time I put in. I need to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and that fun time is equally important as work time. And most importantly, I need to learn from my mistakes rather than be too hard on myself for making them.
Becoming more aware of how I treat myself when the pressure is on, I’m able to better understand how hard it must be for my stakeholders to deal with the pressures they have. And as I get better at accepting my mistakes, it helps me accept the mistakes of others and understand what they are going through.
With so much to do at work, what does it mean to be compassionate to yourself? Have you ever taken an hour off and went for a walk in the park? Do you have such high expectations of yourself that sometimes you struggle to meet them? And is your expectations of your stakeholders based on the standards you have imposed on yourself or based on what they can do?
Having facilitated over a 100 round tables with senior IT executives, I observed that a lot of them were really challenged with being authentic. Saying “NO” to stakeholders was very challenging for a lot of them. Even though they were already stretched for resources, they would really struggle to push back when stakeholders or a senior exec approached them for a new project or request. That would then result in project delays and scope creep.
I used to struggle with the same thing. I didn’t want others to think poorly of me so I would say an ‘indirect’ yes without actually saying no but not really meaning yes! I would then find ways to get myself out of the responsibility or ask someone else to do it.
As I became more aware of why I couldn’t say NO, I realised it was to do with a lack of paternal influence on my life. My father was not around much and so didn’t really have someone to give me feedback and help set my boundaries. This made saying “NO” quite hard. Now, I have learnt that saying NO is fine as long as I can give an authentic response as to why it can’t be done. I’ve learnt that being open and vulnerable about my fears or inability to execute, has helped me communicate and engage with my stakeholders more effectively.
The challenge is getting the balance right between being vulnerable and being strong.The best leaders I’ve met are very know when to be vulnerable or authentic, and when to be strong.
So what does it mean to be authentic with your stakeholders? Are you able to admit your mistakes to them? Can you say what you really feel at meetings? Do you have the courage to say NO when you are overwhelmed?
I was thinking about what gets me out of bed every morning. Before it was the alarm clock but now I have a mission.
Our mission is to create highly engaged and sustainable businesses by supporting and developing purposeful leaders. We need great leaders to help employees be the best they can be, so they can create sustainable organisations that make the world a better place.
On days when I’m feeling down, I dream of what it would be like to have
every company in the world led by a leader who is passionate about people
and planet. Imagine if every CEO was driven to help make the world a better
place? Imagine if every CEO was like Harish Manwani, the Chairman of Unilever in India.
What kind of world would that be? It might not happen in my life time, but still enough to get me fired up and take the challenges in my stride.
My friends wonder why I don’t look for another job to ensure some financial
security but for me, anything else will be a lie. This is what I”m born to do and
for me, this is what I stand for.
Having a higher purpose and mission has made my work enriching and more meaningful, My engagement has gone through the roof as I don’t even mind working on the weekends!
It might be harder for some companies to have such an obvious mission as mine but every company is helping stakeholders in some way but may not have made that their mission. We seem to have lost our way by focusing too much on the goods or service we are selling and not enough on the person who is consuming it!
I’ve seen great leaders always focus on adding value to stakeholders first and then how they are going to make money from it. They are passionate about helping their stakeholders and make that their mission. Inspiring leaders are always seeking collaboration opportunities for win-win outcomes.
So what is the mission of your company and what do you stand for?
How do you make a difference to your customer’s and stakeholder’s lives?
And if you do know your mission, how often do you share it with your stakeholders so they can be a part of your mission?
I recently chaired a CIO Summit in Queensland and was talking to one of delegates in attendance
about the challenges of leading change when he reminded me of the importance of empathy in making change happen.
I used to find it very hard to be empathetic when a stakeholder was not buying into an initiative I know was going to add value to them. What I used to do is keep emphasising the benefits of my strategy and hope they would buy in to it. It was very
frustrating not knowing why they would not engage.
This recurring frustration, forced me to take a good look at myself to understand what I was doing wrong.
I spent a lot of time over the years getting a better understanding of my leadership vulnerabilities. I realised that to really understand other people’s leadership challenges better, I needed to understand my own first.
Mindfulness played a big role in this process.
Being mindful has helped be more empathetic about the challenges others face in their leadership.
By having more empathy, I’m able to get a better understanding of what is REALLY going for someone
who is having to buy in to what I’m asking them to do. I literally have to close my eyes and put myself in their shoes and imagine I’m trying to do their job, with the pressures they are facing.
What would it be like to ask them to take on another new way of doing things?
What issues will they come up against with their stakeholders?
How will the change impact other things they are doing? What are other fears that might show up which they might not be
telling me? Do they have the capacity to take it on?
I’ve learnt that when I take the time to have a deeper understanding of what they have to go through, it helps me understand the resistance better thereby informing me of what else I need to do to make it easier for them to engage in the change.
So how much effort do you put into truly understanding your stakeholders?
Do you spend enough time with them to get to know them better and their challenges?
Do you know what keeps them awake at night?
How much do you actually care?
Timothea Goddard will be sharing the benefits of mindfulness at the “Leading Happy Workplaces”
event next month. Check out this video where she share’s her perspective on happiness at work and mindfulness.
Here is a short video from Simon Rountree, CEO of Camp Quality
who will be running a workshop at the event on “Leading Happy Workplaces”.
Camp Quality has invested a great deal of time to create a framework
called “ORANGES’, which stands for Optimism ,Resilience , Attitude,
Now, Gratitude, Energy and Strengths.
This initiative has been so successful, that it has created a new revenue
stream for them! Hope you can join us to be part of his practical
What really resonated with me from Simon’s video was about creating an
environment where failure is accepted. With every organisation
talking about the importance of agility to meet the challenges of
disruption and competition, what does it mean to allow for failure?
What impact does it have on the person and the team? How do we
encourage and empower them to try again?
I know when I fail at something new, I get irritated with myself and
fearful of what others think of my failure.
Two years ago, I launched a subscription service for a leaders
which did not get any traction. I was sad that it didn’t work out
and it took me a few weeks to get over it.
The emotional recovery was a bit harder because I was doing it alone
and did not have a team to help me move on.
I now realise how important that failure was to help me not go down
a path which I have already been!
So how do you cope with failure? Do you have team mate who can
support you to deal with the disappointment? How
do you create a safe environment for people to be open about
As HiB is a purpose driven organisation, my focus is now
on creating a stakeholder centric vs. a profit centric organisation.
What this means is that if budget is a challenge for anyone
who wants to attend one of our events, then they are able
to suggest a fee they can afford to pay. Our purpose is
to help educate as many people as possible with our events
therefore, we will reduce the investment if need be to make
the event affordable. So if you want to attend, but are stretched
for budgets, please drop me a note with what you can afford.
Someone told me it’s not in the Australian culture to ask for discounts.
Is that true? If so, why is that? Too embarrassing?
Love to have your feedback.
As a community builder, I’m passionate about helping my stakeholders
build their own communities. I have facilitated round tables for
over 10 years and have seen how much value the attendees
get when they learn from each other. I believe it’s critical for a
business to enable it’s stakeholders to learn from their
peers through sharing of challenges and lessons learnt.
Events enable us to stay connected to our stakeholders so
we can support them while they are on their journey rather then
waiting for them to call us when there is an issue or a need.
Building a stakeholder community around your business unit or brand
is a powerful way to build trusted relationships and enables you to
add value sooner vs. later. So how do you engage your
stakeholders besides the usual 1-1 meetings?
How can you pre-empt the challenges they will face? How
do you show you care?
After every panel discussion at the Change Leadership Summit,
you have an opportunity to facilitate a conversation with your
stakeholders so you can discuss change in the context
of their challenges at your table, with YOU as the facilitator. This
also gives them a sense of belonging and that they are not alone
solving the same problem. I also call it group therapy! 🙂
As the lovely Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget
what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel”