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Samantha Pickering and Peter Keith from The Eighth Mile Consulting discuss the science behind resilience.

 

There is a difference between positive stress and toxic stress. Long exposure to stress can have significant impacts on our health, but there is good news, we are in control of how we perceive our world. Problem-solving and coping skills are examples of positive stress that we can exercise for our benefit.

There are five areas within our control that can influence our ability to be resilient, which we explain further in this short presentation:

  1. Social Connections
  2. Attitude
  3. Values
  4. Emotional Acceptance
  5. Sense of Humor 

In this video, we also decode the four main chemicals that affect our behaviours and moods. Looking further into how the language we choose to use directs our bodies as to how to respond to a situation. This helps provide an understanding as to how we can make simple changes to create a positive impact in our own lives. Peter Keith coaches on shifting the subconscious speech patterns that are limiting our own experience.

Building our own ability to be resilient is often a precursor to leading our teams through times of uncertainty and managing ambiguity with decisiveness and clarity. The Eight Mile Consulting has developed an online leadership course, specifically for those ambitious leaders seeking to develop themselves professionally, to become greater leaders for their team.

For more helpful videos to help you grow your people and your organisation subscribe to our YouTube channel.

 

The Eighth Mile Consulting holds true to a mantra of Good People Helping Good People. For this very reason, we chose to run this webinar in support of Women in Leadership, aiming to provide guidance for some of the challenges that women face when seeking to promote themselves up the ladder of their chosen career. We believe in equality and inclusive workplaces. Here we interview Anita Cavanough and Allanna Kelsall, two distinguished women in their fields, for their advice and experience.

Creating equality for all

As a community, we need to work together to make diversity within our workplaces the rule, rather than the exception. Barack Obama’s speech at the Women Summit taught us what modern feminism can look and feel like. 

We can all contribute to this growth and continue the positive change that we are seeing. Standing up and challenging the status quo requires both tact and strategy. We discuss setting your stage for success and getting the balance right with our own unrelenting high-performance standards. Often this requires managing up, which is another topic we have covered in a previous webinar, that you can find here. 

Sometimes it is our own limiting beliefs and fears that hold us back, is the “coach and the critic” on your shoulder helping or hindering your leadership ambitions? The Eighth Mile Consulting has built an online course dedicated to providing assistance for those wanting to develop their leadership skills, enhance their opportunities for career progression and live to their own full potential. 

Important points to remember 

  1. Take risks and back yourself! 
  2. Speak up with your creative ideas. 
  3. Keep a highlight reel, noting all of your achievements and share it with your advocates. 
  4. Build alliances and promote each other, know your allies, these can come from both sides of the gender fence. 
  5. Be yourself, authenticity and lightness can go a long way. 

For more helpful videos to feed your mind and develop yourself professionally subscribe to our YouTube channel.

What goals do you have for yourself and your career?

How are you investing in your own professional development to achieve these goals?

Let us know in the comments below!

‘Rupture and Repair’ is a concept widely used in the fields of social work and community services. It has origins in attachment theory founded by John Bowlby (1958) and is well known in therapeutic disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry and contemporary trauma-informed practice disciplines such as neurobiology. It is also something I have adapted to my leadership practice with great benefit.

In simple terms, ‘Rupture and Repair’ is about relationships. Specifically, it’s is about a breach or disconnect in a relationship followed by the restoration and positive continuation of that relationship.

My experience with ‘Rupture and Repair’ primarily comes from my work with children and young people with trauma/abuse histories in ‘state’ care or what we would call ‘Out of Home Care’ or ‘Care Services’ in Victoria. As practitioners, we would practice this concept after a conflict with our clients and also coach the carers of the children/young people to do the same. This model’s healthy relationships and conflict resolution with children and young people that have been abused and betrayed by their loved ones and as a result have trouble forming secure attachments with people. After a time we have the potential to assist in their healing by utilising this type of approach as we are promoting that there are safe and appropriate people in the world.

This concept can apply extremely well professionally from a leadership perspective. Conflict is absolutely inevitable In the workplace but a leader reaching out and re-connecting with their employee after a conflict situation models emotional intelligence, self-awareness and care for the employees. Some research even shows that this can improve and strengthen relationships as people now know they have been through some adversity in their relationship with you and there is strength and durability in their connection (Pinsof, 2009).

 

Rupture

Recently I received an email from a staff member that works under one of the leaders I manage. This individual asked me what I was doing about a new government initiative I had been involved in as he felt it was making him look incompetent to external stakeholders when he was being asked about it continuously and didn’t have the information to give. The message was delivered bluntly and somewhat aggressively with not much ownership on this person’s part. In a moment of weakness, I matched the bluntness and lack of ownership and added in some ego so I replied in a defensive manner and shut him down. Maybe it was the 16-hour days, maybe it was the pressure I was under in another area, maybe it was the fact that I had been in the hospital the past couple of days with a family member undergoing surgery. Who knows, but one thing was for sure it was a leadership failure on my part and there really aren’t any excuses for that. I had created a rupture in the professional relationship.

My experience with the ‘Rupture and Repair’ concept taught me that as a leader it was up to me to have the self-awareness and humility to reach out and repair things, regardless of petty details.

Repair

The day went on and many meetings later I received a text message from this staff member telling me how he had been feeling down all day and the email reply I had sent really rocked his confidence. At first, I was annoyed as my ego and defensive mindset crept back in but then I stopped, took a deep breath and realised this guy was reaching out to me. I had made a mistake and needed to repair the rupture now.

This staff member is a hard worker; a silent achiever and his bluntness are authentic. Most importantly, he was right! I hadn’t deciphered the information from the government and communicated clearly to the teams as was my job as their leader. I allowed the confusion of the information to get the better of me and let this staff member down.

I called the staff member and promptly apologised to him. I spent no time making excuses and telling him about my family member’s surgery, or my workload or anything for that matter. I just genuinely apologised for my poor communication and my lack of ownership and advised him that he was right and I would get onto the task at hand and get some clear information to him and the team as a matter of priority. I brought him on board and asked him to support me in disseminating the information once I had clarified it as he was knowledgeable and a well-respected team member (I also wanted him to take some ownership).

We both ended that phone call feeling positive, connected and had a plan where we both were accountable to get the task completed. He advised how much better he felt that we had talked it out and let me know about some personal troubles he was having which gave me some insight into his original communications to me. I followed up with a text to him before the end of the day advising that I appreciate him, the skills he brings and am very glad we have him in the team. I genuinely believe we come away from that situation with a stronger professional relationship and were able to work together effectively on a complex task and support our teams together.

 

Learning

 

The above example is just one of many mistakes I have made as a leader but what the Eighth Mile team have taught me is that mistakes are an opportune time for reflection, review and improvement. A quick after-action review and some utilisation of my knowledge as a welfare practitioner allowed me to pick up this therapeutic concept and apply it to my leadership practice.

Next time you enter into some conflict and/or experience a rupture with someone at work, I challenge you to spend the extra ten minutes genuinely repairing things with that person regardless of who was at fault. I guarantee you both come away feeling better, you will build trust with the team and you may even see improvements in areas such as performance and productivity.

Mitchell Burney – Member of The Eighth Mile Community

 

References

Pinsof, W. M., Zinbarg, R. E., Lebow, J. L., Knobloch-Fedders, L. M.,

Durbin, E., Chambers, A., Latta, T., Karam, E., Goldsmith, J., & Friedman,

  1. (2009). Laying the foundation for progress research in family, couple,

and individual therapy: The development and psychometric features of

the initial systemic therapy inventory of change. Psychotherapy Research,

19(2), 143-156.

 

Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the childs tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 350-371

In this workshop, we discuss the difference between empathy and sympathy. 

As a leader, our key responsibility is our people. Therefore, we must learn and develop the skills required to provide the right environment for our people, as well as the coaching conversations that develop the people we are responsible for at an individual level.

We cover in detail the 4 steps to leading with empathy 

  1. Promote a growth mindset, with a focus on the learnings, rather than the failures in execution.
  2. Acknowledge fallibility, observing that even in achieving an objective successfully, there may have been components that we missed, and room for improvement exists.
  3. Encourage curiosity over a conclusion.
  4. Exhibit empathy by way of a combination of active listening and observation of the feelings people are displaying.

The Impact of Empathy in the Workplace

Leadership Training that develops empathy is fundamental to creating a culture of high performance within your organisation. 

What does the culture look like at present within your company? Is there a lack of connection?  Are people stuck because they are feeling defined by setbacks? Is there a habit of shame and blame that leads to fear of ridicule? The Eighth Mile Consulting can help you build a resilient and innovative team who are willing to embrace change and support each other against external challenges as a cohesive unit. 

For more helpful videos to help you grow your people and your organisation subscribe to our YouTube channel.

What are your thoughts or learnings when it comes to developing the skill set of empathy within your workplace? Are you actively fostering a psychologically safe environment for your people to reach their highest potential?

Let us know in the comments below!

In 1998 a movie called Blade was released staring Wesley Snipes. The movie explains a world existing with both humans and vampires. The movie details how humans continue to go about their lives not knowing about the dark underbelly culture of vampires existing in the shadows. Within the movie the vampires have created clans, alliances, professional networks, financial independence and structure. Their community is well resourced, run and powerful.

Since leaving the military I have observed the corporate world through a number of different lenses:

  • Veteran lens
  • Family lens
  • Charity/Non-for-Profit lens
  • Business Owner lens

My observations are leading me towards a unique observation; ‘good people’ are similar in so many ways to the vampire community in Blade, except their intent is entirely different.

I continually see positive and passionate individuals attracting other amazing individuals. They are conceiving, planning and delivering amazing initiatives behind the scenes of so many others who are worried only about themselves. These amazing people are:

  • Having backdoor discussions to find ways to resource positive projects that will help others.
  • Linking positive people with other powerful networks
  • Finding ways around red tape and bureaucracy in order to get positive and rewarding ideas up and moving
  • Negating the effects of negativity and toxic work cultures by providing each other with support networks and frameworks which allow them to maintain their resilience and momentum when the odds are against them
  • The list goes on…

I feel truly honoured that positive people would include me and my team in this exclusive sub-culture. It is something I prize and take very seriously but entry is not free. It requires demonstration of certain behaviours and values in order to be considered for entry. These characteristics and behaviours are evidently not for everyone:

  • Our projects and ideas must serve others. This might be the environment, the community, professional and personal development. It is okay to make money. No one should say otherwise, but the higher purpose must be there!
  • People are willing to ‘put skin in the game’. This might mean having to receive a temporary revenue hit because you choose not to support a negative organisation, project or individual. It might mean, donating time to things that don’t make money but significantly help others. It might also equate to working after or before hours in order to support something you might never see the benefits of, but you know will help people.
  • We are always loyal to other positive people! Your actions speak louder than words. When one of the team is knocked down, we all bond together and fight the negativity away. No excuses. I am not going to suggest that this is always easy. Because it is not. It also requires making hard decisions at times. But it is a necessary feature of the community and it is a criterion for claiming to be a ‘good person’.

We founded The Eighth Mile Consulting on a mantra of ‘Good People, Helping Good People’. In doing so we accept that this means there is a level of exclusivity in what we do. We also accept that in some ways it will affect our revenue and growth. I don’t care.

Good people attract good people and that’s enough for me. Of note though, being a good person is rightfully great for business.

I put it to you that if you are surprisingly absent from these positive people and these backdoor discussions. Then you might not have been invited in yet. Not to worry. You now know the rules of the game and the expectations associated with entry.

I hope in time we might cross paths and be involved in the same positive projects and initiatives. Until then, safe travels.

I left school at 18 years of age and joined the Australian Army where I undertook 4 years of tertiary and leadership training with the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College Duntroon. Most of what I learnt in that time was structured academic education about leadership, management and tactics. I then graduated into the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and was posted to a Battalion in Darwin with a couple of my good mates.

After a very short time out of the College, I was informed that I would be deploying to Afghanistan in a combat capacity as part of Mentoring Task Force II. It meant that I would be responsible for a Platoon of soldiers (24 in total) for the duration of a 10-month deployment. The deployment would prove to be a crash course in leadership and growing up. Basic mistakes would result in death or injury and would likely have implications on an overall strategic campaign that influenced nearly 50 countries.

I thought I would take the opportunity to compile a list of lessons I learnt from the experience now that I am blessed with the benefit of hindsight. Hopefully, it helps someone out there.

Lesson 1 – Leading is not about you

When I left the Military College, I was incredibly self-focused and concerned, as I think most of the newly graduating officers were. My pursuit for excellence was largely overshadowed by a need to win, have a strong career and be accepted by my peers.

Afghanistan taught me very quickly about the importance of servant leadership. People were not interested in a leader that was career-focused. They needed a leader that:

  1. Could voice their concerns in forums where they were not represented.
  2. Could listen to different points of view and find patterns or links which could be formed into a robust plan in a short time.
  3. Was genuinely interested in their safety and getting them back home to their families and friends.
  4. Took an interest in them as individuals and not just an employee.

As my career progressed, I learnt that the more I protected my staff, peers and supervisors and represented their interests, the more plans started to work, and less time was needed to coordinate them. I was also able to work around red tape by leveraging off enduring relationships and loyalties.

Most importantly, I learned that a leader has to find their own style quickly. Copying other leaders doesn’t work, it wastes time, and presents as disingenuous. Furthermore, the world doesn’t revolve around you or your preconceptions of the world. It’s going to tick along if you are there or not, so go and make a positive legacy.

Lesson 2 – Don’t assume you know a person

I left the Military College as an easily influenced, right-wing, caucasian with very limited life experience. In a very short time, my platoon and I was dragged from the protective environment of Australia and spat into one of the most dangerous valleys in the world.

In doing so, this is what I learnt:

1. People are not their behaviour

Some Afghani’s and Pakistani’s that I met in my journey would educate me, by explaining that some of them were not fighting due to hate, ideology, or cultural difference but instead were fighting due to economic pressure, an attempt to save their family, or in order to protect what little resources they had left. I had falsely assumed that they were all out to kill me, and if given the first chance would undoubtedly enact a vicious plan against us. My preconceptions were proven wrong one night when I was in desperate need of help removing bodies from a drowned vehicle and a large number of Afghani ‘fighting age males’ offered me help when I needed it the most, and I was at my most vulnerable. Lesson learnt.

2. The most unsuspecting people are often the most impressive

I had soldiers that were far more educated and intelligent than myself and it took me a long time to find out how we could utilise it. In one such example, I had made a decision that had resulted in the drowning of a Bushmaster Vehicle because of a botched water crossing. This was acceptable tactically at the time as we had risk mitigated against some of the implications but unfortunately had resulted in my team being stuck on the wrong side of a very large water obstacle. Luckily for the team, I had a low ranked private soldier who knew about engines due to his background as a country farmhand. I made the deliberate choice of giving him hands-on control of the operation to recover the vehicle, and then subsequently coordinate the river crossing back to the safe side of the river. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say confidently that he handled the situation better than I could have, and the trust I placed in him to manage the issue was well invested.

Lesson 3 – Risk Management matters, but so does finding opportunities 

I left the college under the false belief that I was fit, fast and unstoppable. My analysis of risk was always skewed towards the capture of opportunity instead of risk mitigation. My approach to tactics was generally aggressive, opportunistic and decisive in nature. I have subsequently learnt that significant changes occur to people’s bodies in their early 20’s which significantly affect their brain. In short, the chemicals that were pumping throughout my body were the same ones that would subtly influence my decision making throughout the tour. They encouraged me to take chances where otherwise I would not have.

In recent years, I have fathered two beautiful children with my lovely wife and the thought of me accepting risks like the ones I undertook in Afghanistan seem laughable. Simply put, I have more to lose now, and hold responsibilities to others.

These days I think I have a reasonably well-balanced view of risk vs opportunity. I understand the importance of identifying and acknowledging risks and opportunities early and determining how palatable a risk appetite is for an organisation. For example, some industries like Software as a Service (SaaS) have incredibly high-risk profiles, as compared to aged care which is quite low. Knowing this helps shape plans, approaches and strategies that suit the context of that organisation.

Lesson 4 – Find the positives in everything

Sometimes it can be really hard to find positive outcomes in the grind of daily activities, but they are there. It is the leader’s job to find them when no one else can see them.

On 02 February 2011, we lost a very close friend of ours called Corporal Richard Atkinson. Richard was a Combat Engineer whose specialisation was finding explosive traps that were regularly buried in the ground by the Taliban. Unfortunately, on this particular day, one of the explosives detonated and killed Richard and injured another engineer. I had listened to the event occur over the radio some 20km away and was with my team a short time after. Not surprisingly the event had crushed the team’s morale and my own. I knew deep down that we were half the way through a long tour, and we had to get back on to our A-game very quickly, or else might lose another person.

My Sergeant and I developed a unified approach. We would focus on the positives we could find. In this case, we hadn’t lost more members of the team despite a strong chance of it occurring – we used this as a means of motivation to undermine the effectiveness of the Taliban attack. Secondly, we decided to refocus our team’s energy towards coming up with the plan for our next attack on the Taliban, which we did. Our next patrol would be one of the most effective of the tour as it was reinforced by an unwavering commitment to deliver harm to the people that had cost us so much. This refocus ultimately kept my team safe and alert for the remainder of the trip.

Summary

My afghan experience taught me a great deal about life and leadership. I am hoping that by documenting some of these lessons, others might not have to re-learn them.

I like to think that I have taken many of these lessons into my current role as an owner of The Eighth Mile Consulting. These lessons continue to be transferable to the business world.

Our experiences over the last decade and specifically, transitioning from the military into the corporate world has given David Neal and I some perspectives on characterising leadership.

  1. It is not easy and requires constant development
  2. It is lonely and the results rest on you
  3. It is not about you
  4. Be accountable

It Is Not Easy And Requires Constant Development

Leadership is not a nine to five ‘job.’ It requires constant evolution to remain relevant. The leader you were when you began the journey is not the leader you should be today. The lessons learnt, from failure and successes, will shape your leadership style and effectiveness. When you shift roles, projects and teams, the dynamic changes and the personalities change. Therefore, your approach must change. You cannot succeed if you do not continually develop. You will lack the tools to be adaptable in changing environments.

It Is Lonely And The Results Rest On You 

Poor leadership sees a need to lay blame upon others for failure, inability to gain results, poor performance or unmotivated teams. Subject matter experts may be involved in planning and preparation, tech experts may execute the practical and technical delivery but you own the outcome. A leader needs to maintain relevance in teams, actively fight to accept responsibility, and provide a means to buffer other members of the team from unnecessary business friction and white noise.  

It Is Not About You

Your co-workers are more important than you. This might seem confronting to some. If you genuinely care about your people, open yourself up to professional feedback on your performance from them. Your staff and peers will influence your projects when you are not present. By building rapport and loyalty, your team will protect your interests and the interests of the team. Many managers have been compromised by their employees applying ‘malicious compliance’. Meaning, they will abide by the literal directions provided by a manager knowing it will cause issues later.

Strong leaders fight for raises for their staff, not themselves. The outputs of the team will determine whether a leader is deserving of progression. Never forget the team that achieved the delivery. Especially those that surged, stayed late, put their own and their family’s needs aside to deliver an output that would ultimately reflect favourably on you. 

If you are unable to lead you have three options:

  1. Get out of the way and find a better leader 
  2. Become a better leader
  3. Create/Mentor a better leader

A useful explanation can be found in this article, “It’s All About The Humans: Effecting Change Management” by David Neal.

Be Accountable

Team decisions are your decisions. Own them and deliver the outcomes. Team decisions are your responsibility. If something fails, it is your failure (not your team’s failure). If you fail, learn from it and evolve. If it succeeds, it is your team’s success and make sure they are recognised for it. In the long-term, you may benefit from the team’s success but your personal recognition must not be your primary focus. 

Summary

These are our observations and in no way are they a sequenced road map to succeeding. That is your responsibility as a leader to find, and shape. David and I are passionate about leadership and investing in teams. We believe that people make a team, and teams make an organisation. 

A good leader can lead anyone. A good leader also knows how to be led.

We welcome any feedback on our ideas. We are continually evolving our leadership styles as well. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.