Archive for the ‘Personal Presence’ Category

Need some excellent advice on bullying?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

On a recent flight I overheard a powerful conversation: Guy in his late forties quite quickly got into a deep conversation with a young teenage boy.  Eventually it came out that the kid was being bullied.  The man shared with him that he had the same experience when he was at school and how tough it was. The two sat in empathetic silence for a bit.  The man talked about  some ways he thinks he could have handled it looking back.  He pointed out that it would end. He also suggested that there’s choice about what to do with that experience in your life  – you can use it for positive or negative purposes. The relief I sensed in the young boy’s voice when he received this compassionate response was proof of the positive choice the guy had chosen.

Despite much greater awareness of the drastic damage created by bullying, there’s certainly still a lot of it about in the workplace, as well as the playground. The ramifications are immense, for the perpetrators as well as the victims. While we assume that bullying at work is from a manager towards a staff member.  Presumably that is the usual direction, but there’s also a surprising amount of bullying of managers by very aggressive staff.

Vital Smarts have a recent post titled: Three’s a Crowd, containing excellent advice on how to intervene when your child is being bullied. There are also very relevant comments on that post (37 at last count!) that add some more valuable ideas. This advice could be applied in adult situations as well as in the playground.

Tips for raising your profile

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Question from a current client: How do I raise my profile at work in an informal way? Recent restructuring has meant that all our executive team are based in a different city, including my immediate manager. In the past I’ve built great relationships from casual in-person contact, not from artificially cultivating people. I just don’t blow my own trumpet. Now I have to build those relationships not just for myself but for others, because I am one of the few senior people in our building. 

Here’s a useful slogan: 

‘You can get what you want by helping others get what they want.’

See what you can do by applying that principle, but here are a few suggestions as starters:

  • Work out what the others in your site need by way of interaction with more senior people, figure out with them how it could be achieved and be part of the process of creating it.  Obviously that will help the others in your workplace and you will be seen as pro-active and solution oriented.
  • Create a stimulating sense of group where you are.  You could get together with others to build interactions within your work site such as brown bag lunches, getting senior executives in to speak and social events. This will raise your profile as well as that of your branch.
  • Make your manager look good.  Find out what your manager needs to have happen to look good and make sure you are delivering that from where you are.
  • Tap into the human craving for direct interaction. When you start a new topic of communication with a senior manager, make sure that first conversation about it is voice-to-voice.  You will need to have a routine of being in frequent contact with them and it will mostly have to be by email,  but in person is memorable.  The principle of ‘Don’t start a new thread of conversation by email’ applies to all your contacts, but will be very important in this contex
  • Be part of supporting others in your profession.  Join the local branch of your professional association and take a committee role in that.  You will then be part of supporting others in your profession and will develop a higher profile for yourself.   A plus of New Zealand’s small population is that a strong  local profile will be noticed nationally as well.

There are some practical tips at How to raise your visibility at work and some broader approaches at: How to increase your visibility at work



How much do we really want to change

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I attended some Rotary leadership training yesterday and experienced a very powerful exercise relating to the difficulty of personal change.  In the photo it looks like a strange seance. Maybe it was!  It was so hard to do, I wondered if there were some some supernatural forces at work.      


  • You can see in the photo a long piece of dowel, flat on one side.
  • Each pair had to poke out their index fingers, shot gun style.  Then they had to align them with the opposite person’s index fingers, one inside the other.  The dowel was placed on top.
  • The rule: Everyone’s index fingers must have the dowel resting on them all the time.
  •  The task: Lower the dowel as a team. (Talk about easy!)
I took the photo while I was watching this other team fail completely at the task.  ‘Heavens’, I thought.  ‘What a bunch of klutzes!’
But when it came to my turn, we could not get that dowel to lower!
On the one hand the group knew we had to lower it, so we tried bending our knees. Unfortunately, each individual team member knew they had to keep their index fingers touching the dowel, so each of us must have lightly pressed up on the dowel to achieve that. That darn piece of dowel kept going up and up and up, no matter how hard we tried to lower it.
‘Leadership’, I thought. ‘Okay, on a count of three, we will all bend our knees and lower it that way! One, two, three, bend!’… Darn thing went up.
After multiple tries, the best we managed was that one end lurched way down and the other lifted way up!
Don’t you think change is like that? We  know we need to alter some habit, but we keep sliding back into touching the easy emotional dowel of our old behaviour.
We might be told that our team behaviour has to change and we know that.  But each one of us isn’t truly committed to that because we just relax back into our usual ways.  In umpteen small lapses the change becomes more and more remote.

How to stop pressing back up into past ways of doing things?  There are some good personal tips here at: 12 Tips for Creating Lasting Change and an interesting piece on reducing resistance to change  among your employees at: Change Management Coach

I still can’t believe how hard that exercise was!


Great talk on presenting technical stuff to non-technical people

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Jean-luc Dumont presents a very useful lecture on Communicating Science to Non-scientists.  It applies equally well to technical non-science material and is worth the 1 hour listen. My stimulating friend Lesley Moffatt sent me the link because we are both involved in the Rotary Club of Wellington Eureka Science Communicators awards

Dealing to your self doubt

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Some years ago I led a self-confidence workshop as part of a weekend leadership programme. One of the guys on the programme stood out as confident, good at sport, good personality and, yes, a hunk too!  I was stunned when he told me that his self-confidence wasn’t good and he really needed to work on it.  The incident made me realise that often people who seem confident are probably still experiencing self-doubt.

I’ve been thinking about this because I am finishing up a year’s coaching as part of the coaching panel for an excellent women in leadership programme.  As my clients look back, it is interesting how often these very able women were grappling with self-doubt. Many of them gained a lot from realising that others in the programme experienced the same doubts.

What are some solutions to the problem?

An older and very successful friend once told me that his approach was to: ‘Take a big bite and just keep chewing’.  That fits with Maggie Thatcher’s comment that she wasn’t born strong, she just became strong.

There’s an article by Agapi Stassinoapoulos in that great resource – The Huffington Post taking a constructive angle on the challenge: Notice self-doubt in other people  and ask them how you can support them.

While you’re in the Huffington Post, you might want to look at the article with the wonderful title: Do we ever get over self-doubt? I used to doubt it, but now I’m getting over it!

Great information on women leaders in the workplace

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

The HBR Blog last week provides, in its own words:

‘startling glimpses into what work and leadership is like for women around the world’. The post is titled: Tell me something I didn’t know about women in the workplace.  It quotes recent research across a broad range of issues and links to a host of  HBR archives of relevant articles on those issues. There’s also a series of slides quoting very interesting data on the issues.

Go look at it and ponder! Not all of the research is depressing and some of the information provides pointers for women and talent managers in our workplaces.



Great fix to build your confidence before you speak in a group

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Need to speak up in a group and find the thought terrifying?  There’s a very interesting TED Talk to help you along.  Amy Cuddy  in, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, talks about the impact of body language on the hormone balance in our brains.  Apparently the use of passive body language increases the stress hormone levels in the brain. Use of ‘power’ body language increases the testosterone levels. If you take up a power body posture for two minutes before you need it, you get a wonderful rush of power hormones and will feel much more confident. I suggest you hide yourself in the bathroom while you do that! This victory image is interesting. According to Cuddy, we take up this position when we’re winning, even people who have been blind from birth still use it, though they have never seen it.   There’s a lot more to it than this, how you project makes a big difference to the audience, but Cuddy’s information is about the impact on us.  Give it a go!

The right question can be the key to a person

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

We finally made it! Most weekends we go biking in a local seaside park and then relax at a cafe. The woman at the cafe has always intrigued me because she doesn’t interact with the customers, or even make eye contact.  It’s fortunate the cafe combines a lovely environment with  great coffee, or no one would go there.  A person like this is a challenge for someone like me. I love to know what makes them tick. In this case I’ve made no progress and neither has my husband.

But last weekend – breakthrough!  In yet another attempt, I asked how she manages to take a break over winter and yeh!  Enthusiasm leapt out. My barista is also a marathon runnner, she’s off to do her 12th marathon and now what I don’t know about her running career, isn’t worth knowing.

What a buzz!  Made me think about the power of questions and the importance of enthusiasm.  Okay, she’s pretty self-absorbed, and for me,  I really didn’t care about her 12 marathons, but what I loved was the transformation in her. Enthusiasm won the day and swept me up with it too. Of course we may not still be NBFF, but I am sure there’s a chink opening up.

In your communication, seek to communicate your own enthusiasms, or better still – connect to the other person’s passions.  And never forget the power of the right question.