Leadership development is a personal journey

Marion Whalan, Training Consultant 

September 2017

We often know good leadership when we see it; and this is part of the often debated and written about construct of what leadership is. Leadership is a difficult term to define because it is different for each of us – leadership is a journey of development that is life-long. The real leadership challenge is being prepared to see where your leadership journey will take you.

Everyone can maximise their own effectiveness as a leader by embarking on an individual development journey. Just like planning for that long awaited holiday, developing leadership skills requires consideration of the personal values, qualities and attributes that can lead to leadership mastery. The characteristics of effective leadership can be acquired by anyone willing to work on their emotional and inner self. The benefits include both improved leadership effectiveness and greater self-fulfilment. Developing contemporary leadership and management skills will also enhance your career.

At Wisdom, our innovative and flexible management and leadership program is designed to help current and aspiring leaders and managers undertake their personal journeys to greater leadership effectiveness and mastery. Make a commitment to your professional and personal development journey. Contact the team at Wisdom to join one of our upcoming Diploma of Leadership and Management programs today.

Learning and personal reflection is the key which keeps leaders flexible, able to respond and plan, to meet the challenges of organisations today and in the future. And therein is the reality: leadership development is a personal journey.

To discover more about leadership within the workplace and how we can help you apply it in your workplace please contact us.

Emotional Intelligence Revisited

Phillip Jones

Phillip A. Jones, Consultant Facilitator

October 2017

No one likes to think they’re devoid of positive emotions, or unable to relate well to others. But clearly some have the knack and can create rapport with complete strangers, or navigate tricker workplace relations situations with aplomb.

As Maya Angelou actress, director, and civil rights activist remarked. ‘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.’

In the realm of customer service, we experience a transaction several times a day sometimes hundreds of times. Buying fuel, getting a coffee, browsing in a shop at lunchtime, paying a bill, grabbing a quick sandwich, or seeking for some help from a colleague in the office on a project: they all add up.

That interaction could be efficient and effective, but it could also make or break your day by the way it made you feel.

Positive emotional delivery is the key to great service, and the vital skill in making that possible is emotional intelligence.

Using your emotional intelligence to relate to customers and potential clients is critical to getting the result you’re after, and theirs.  I’ve always thought that, all things being equal, people will do business with people they like and trust.  Qualifications and experience are one thing, but having someone who ‘get’s you’ helping you with a transaction makes all the difference.

Intelligence and skills alone won’t be the point of difference that matters to the customer necessarily.

Also, these days there is more understanding of the role of the ‘gut feel’ in decision making, so perhaps we should pay more attention to the emotional and intuitive side of our natures.

There are four key elements of emotional intelligence:

Situation Context – we don’t live in isolation, our moods and state of mind are influenced by a range of things every day. The news, the boss’s mood, a sick friend, stressful deadline. You need to be able to understand the context of the relationship and what be affecting its quality or your ability to relate to them. Once you can do that, then using empathy can go a long way to establishing rapport.

Relationship Quality – people are not machines obviously, they are not ‘set and forget’, rather they need constant maintenance and nourishment to ensure a positive and rewarding relationships. To make things even more complicated, we have moods, stresses, issues in our lives and imperfect communication skills. A drag right? But there’s no option, we have to make the effort in ensuring our relationships are healthy everyday.

Self Awareness– this is a critical element, we all have strengths and areas of challenge, and preferred ways of behaving in different settings. There are a range of tools out there, such as HBDI that can give you great insights into your ‘default’ settings and communication / engagement style. In addition, there needs to be some perspective in the moment (this is where mindfulness can be a handy complementary trait also) so you can adjust your settings on the go, so to speak to ensure the right form of engagement with the other person.

Self Management – closely following the previous element, knowing yourself is one thing, but you need to be able to act on that information. If I know I can come across as reserved or aloof, when really I’m just shy, then I can try harder at connecting with my colleagues or customers in conversation and engagement so they don’t get the wrong impression.

Even in a tech-dominated world and the looming AI revolution, these are things that will be essential attributes and worth exploring.

So if you’re in a role that involved customer service, sales, influencing others, leading a team or simply want to be more successful in your work, then these are skills that can, and should, be cultivated.

To discover more about Emotional Intelligence and how we can help you apply it in your workplace please contact us.

Vocational Training: Results Justify Investment

December 2017

As a business that’s been operating for over 20 years, and as a Registered Training Organisation, Wisdom Learning understands the value of the Vocational Education Sector to Australia. Vocational training offers huge potential to our economy and we’ve seen first-hand the difference it can make to our clients’ business bottom line: more highly qualified employees become more engaged, higher performing and more loyal employees. So businesses investing in skills development have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, as well as increasing profitability.

This makes the current shortfall in qualified and skilled employees across Australia all the more perplexing. A recent ABC 7.30 Report story sheds some light on the situation. In the report, CEO of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, suggested the Vocational Education sector is running down as a result of underfunding. According to Ms Westacott, it will take billions of dollars to put the necessary infrastructure back into the sector to rectify the current shortfall of qualified and skilled employees.

Current predictions are that half of all new jobs will be in the vocational sector: in construction, health care and hospitality. So why aren’t we investing more in this sector? Arguably there is a bias towards university education as a preferred pathway to transition from high school to employment.

We’d never suggest that our university sector should be neglected, but we know that university isn’t for everyone, and the university sector is not necessarily focused on producing the job-capable workers our economy needs. Recent data highlights that a university qualification is not a guarantee of employment. By contrast, Business Council of Australia (BCA) data from 2016 shows 90% of trade apprentices find work on completion of their qualification. The National Centre for Vocational Education Research shows similarly impressive results from its 2017 survey. So if we’re looking for training and education that’s focused on increasing employment, increasing productivity and increasing Australia’s global competitive advantage, then investment in the vocational sector is definitely justified.

Adventures in Leadership

Ingrid Tomanovits

Ingrid Tomanovits, Training Consultant 

December 2017

The world of contemporary work has a number of dangers and traps for the unwary. One of the more common pitfalls is the feeling of overwhelm that comes with thinking you have to be able to do it all, and often alone. If you can’t, it means you aren’t good enough and shouldn’t be in your role in the first place. It’s been my experience that this particularly applies in leadership. It’s something I see commonly with my coaching clients, in my leadership program participants and, if I’m honest about it, in myself.

I was recently working with a coaching client I’ll refer to as Jane, who was drowning in this overwhelm. Jane was routinely working excessive hours, and had to be put onto a forced leave plan as she had accrued so much time off. Even then, she was still responding to emails and managing tasks and issues remotely.

That shows up a few a risks. Jane was at serious risk of burnout because of the volume of work she was doing, and also because she was putting intense pressure on herself to be all things to all people. Beyond the impact on Jane, she was also a serious risk to the business. By taking on so much herself, she left her business exposed to vulnerability by contributing to an environment of over-dependence on her. The realisation that she was contributing to the problem was a hard one for Jane: it was also the beginning of her being able to do something about it.

This is just one of the symptoms of overwhelm. It can also show up as micromanaging, inability to relax, presenteeism, and – crucially – difficulty in asking for help. Where does this need to be ‘perfect’ come from? And why is it a particular problem when exercising leadership?

This has been a topic of significant interest and study. One contributor to the field, Valerie Young, identifies a number of competence types which shed light on this behaviour. The types include the Perfectionist, who sets excessively high goals even as they’re crippled with self-doubt; the Superwoman or man who pushes themselves to work harder than anyone else; the Natural Genius who struggles most when they can’t get something right first try; the Rugged Individualist who struggles to ask for help; and the Expert who feels the need to master every aspect of their role completely in order to be considered worthy.

I really identified with the ‘rugged individualist’ type Young describes. Difficulty in asking for help is something I have struggled with, but I’ve learnt (the hard way, of course!) that I have to do it.

Recently I was struggling with a complex project I was managing. We were approaching a major deadline. I’d put in lots of time and effort, but had simply been unable to make the required progress. So I reached out to some colleagues I thought might be able to help me get ‘unstuck.’

The end result was that not only were several colleagues willing and able to assist, they were delighted to. They brought with them insights, experience and input which improved the deliverable for my client. And by providing a fresh perspective, they helped me see where my work had strengths, as well as where it could be improved.

Once upon a time, I had thought asking for help was a sign of weakness, and an admission of failure: if I couldn’t do it on my own, then I wasn’t good enough, especially when exercising leadership. With time and experience, I have learnt that this is not the case. Indeed, it’s the exact opposite. According to David Stuart and Todd Nordstrom, writing for Forbes, asking for help makes you a stronger leader in four critical ways: it forces you to grow and develop; it’s a healthy self-protective measure as it reduces your risk of burnout; it strengthens your ideas, insights and output; and finally, it gives those around you a chance to learn something new and grow their own capacity too.

Asking for help might run counter to our traditional ideas of leadership, but the evidence is clear: having the humility and self-awareness to ask for help makes us better, as well as reducing our risk of burnout.

When did you last ask for help? As we approach the end of this year and the beginning of another, consider whether being more willing to ask for help should appear in your list of resolutions for 2018.


To discover more about Leadership and how we can help you apply it in your workplace please contact us.

Small Business Smarts – what you need to know about building a successful business in Australia

Running a small business can be incredibly rewarding, but with 60 per cent of businesses failing in the first three years it also comes with many challenges. So whether you are just starting out or are already running a small business, it makes sense to get advice from people who are leaders in their field.

Canberra businesswoman Louise Curtis owns three thriving businesses Lollypotz, Pink Frosting and Hamperesque, and with more than twenty years’ experience as a business owner she understands what it takes to stay relevant in a changing marketplace.

When asked recently what she thinks are the keys to business success, she narrowed it down to five things: commitment; cash reserves; resilience; having a digital strategy; and knowing how to ‘pivot’.

“Success takes time and you have to make a concerted effort and give 100% commitment over a long time when you’re starting out.” Louise said.

“Businesses also need a lot of capital at the start. You have to be prepared to take a significant risk when times are tough and that is hard to do if you don’t have the cash reserves.

“People also need to be really resilient. There are always unexpected challenges in business and you will make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from them and keep on going. When I went to Silicon Valley and visited Facebook and Google the main message I took away was ‘to be successful you have to pivot’, and it’s true. I’m always looking at what is being thrown at me today and thinking how I can change direction to fix it and move forward.

“And to do that you have to be continually learning. Business has changed so much over the last twenty years that if I wasn’t staying current and constantly learning new things, I wouldn’t be successful.

“One of the biggest changes has been the digital environment. Having a digital strategy is the most important aspect of any business in terms of growth. Gone are the traditional ways of marketing and doing business, and anyone who thinks otherwise is missing opportunities.

“Learning new things that can drive your business is exciting” Louise said.

Mentoring other business people has always been important to Louise and as part of her ongoing support of local businesses she is sharing her business success story in the new Small Business Smarts learning and development program created by Wisdom Learning and supported by the Canberra Business Chamber.

Louise will be joined by other innovative business leaders, including Dr Nina Terry from strategic design consultancy ThinkPlace. With over twelve years’ experience in building a global brand Nina will share her views on the importance of building strong teams with shared values; knowing your business model and staying true to it; knowing your numbers; and enjoying the responsibilities that come with building a successful business.

“In business you need a theory of abundance. You should look at ways to give back to the people who work with you. It’s not about money necessarily but more about understanding how everyone contributes to your business success. It’s never just one person who makes something successful, it comes down to having a good team,” Nina said.

“You also need to be innovative and ahead of the pack. One way we have achieved this is by having mentors and strong business networks, people who can provide business coaching, advice and just general conversation. Like-minded people who understand your realities.

“That is one of the benefits of a program like Small Business Smarts. On top of the practical skills people will learn, they will also have an opportunity to meet like-minded people and establish networks that could last a life-time,” Nina said

The program, designed to develop the capabilities of owners’ and managers to grow their small business, starts on Friday, 23 March and runs through to Friday, 27 July at the Wisdom Learning Centre in the Fairbairn precinct of Canberra International Airport.

The program focuses on key areas to improve and grow small business, including planning for growth, developing a digital strategy, improving operations management, managing finances, and enhancing personal productivity.

As part of the program, experienced facilitators and industry experts share their expertise in growing their businesses in Canberra, and work closely with participants to complete the curriculum.

Participants who successfully complete Small Business Smarts achieve the nationally recognised Small Business Growth Skill Set, which forms 50 per cent of the Certificate IV in Small Business Management.

The program fee can be subsidised for eligible participants under the Skilled Capital Program—an ACT Government training initiative.

To find out more about the Small Business Smarts program visit https://www.wisdomlearning.com.au/our-courses/real-estate/small-business-smarts-program/