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Go Fast, Turn Left…

The topic for this weekend’s #USBlogs post “What are you afraid of, and (more importantly), what are you doing about it?” was suggested by @donfperkins

Like many, I share a few traditional and customary fears:

  • I have a healthy interest in keeping my feet on the floor (rather than attached to the end of a fully stretched bungee cord or beneath a billowing piece of silk)
  • I am mildly arachnophobic, which I reportedly share with up to 55% of western women and 18% of western men.
  • I prefer not to walk in unlit areas late at night
  • I have to look the other way when being punctured by a hypodermic

But none of those things really interfere with my day to day or professional life.

The number one thing I am afraid of is that when all is said and done, what I have done won’t make a lasting difference.

As a parent, I worry about the impact I have on my kids, and how I can make sure that they become all that they can be. We are all doing it (parenting that is) for the first time, without a backup plan. To counteract my fear, I long ago wrote myself a guideline for the kinds of adults I hope my kids will become : caring, nurturing, intelligent, questioning, hard working etc. It made me realise the values I wanted to instill in my kids and the personality traits I would most admire in them as adults. The minor arguments and challenges over things that don’t really matter; like finishing all the food on their plate, drinking another can of pop or what clothes they wear, now get weighed against how that particular battle will contribute to the kind of adult they will become. Having a goal-plan allows me to focus on the bigger picture and not get drawn into every little scrap. From a professional standpoint, and as leaders, we all need to learn to do the same. Focus on the bigger picture and allow the noise and distractions that happen around us every day to colour our actions only to the extent they have an impact on our future.

The other thing I am afraid of is getting too comfortable and set in my ways.

The more success we achieve professionally, the more vital it is to acknowledge the enormous value of learning and stretching in areas where you are least comfortable. Paradoxically, it is also when we feel most pressure to be infallible. As a Director, VP or even a C-Level executive, you still cannot afford to stop learning and growing from those around you. That said, you do need to maintain a presence with your followers which inspires their confidence and loyal commitment. Over the last few years I have done a few things to ensure that I don’t fall prey to the silencing pressure of my own accomplishments. I have worked with external mentors to candidly explore areas where I could stretch and grow. My mentors have ranged from those I have worked with in the past to those I have actively sought out to purposefully chart unmapped areas of expertise. I have placed myself in relationships of trust to openly discuss where inexperience and hesitancy might be holding me back. The value of a third party perspective to the learning opportunities you might find yourself in enable you to extrapolate to general rules and methods to use again and again.

My Son, skating recently in Toronto

Some of the best learning opportunities come from facing fear and pushing yourself all the way to the point of failure! Only then do you know just how far you can go. That is why many of us put ourselves in extreme situations, to see just how capable we really are. I do this in my life by taking on new skills outside of my professional capacity, to stay grounded to the need to learn and grow. The skill I took on this year was speed-skating. My son took up the sport in 2009 and I decided it was time for mum to stop sitting in the stands and start taking a more active interest. Our club has members from age 6 to 78 and one of our older skaters only started speed skating at age 70 and went on to win a slew of medals! Having barely strapped on a pair of skates before, I took to the ice last September. I cannot profess to be record-breaking fast, but a few months later I am proudly traversing the ice in crouched position with smooth sideways strokes and cross-overs, accomplished only because I learned to let go and push myself to beyond the point of failure (with several bruises to show for it)! Next year I may even quell my fears long enough to enter a race or two!  I find learning new skills where I have to fail in order to succeed a great lesson in humility and a constant reminder to stay fresh in my thinking at work. How can I push past the point of comfort to unveil new methods. What’s my workplace equivalent of Go Fast, Turn Left…?

In her famous book “Feel the fear and do it anyway” Susan Jeffers shared 5 Truths about fear:

  • Truth 1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow
  • Truth 2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
  • Truth 3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out and do it.
  • Truth 4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
  • Truth 5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

I am proud to fear… It inspires me to keep learning. How do your fears push you?

This post is part of the #usblogs: Week 5 Round-Up Topic of the week: “What Are You Afraid Of? More Importantly, What Are You Doing about It?”

Check out these other blogs in the network series:


The End of the Visionary? Leadership in 21st Century

It wasn’t that long ago that being a leader meant being the most assertive, driven, autocratic and demanding person in the room. Exemplary leaders of the last few centuries have been innovators, thought leaders and icons with unshakably confidence in the direction they were leading their business. One can only imagine how intimidating and exhilarating it must have been to have the opportunity for an ‘audience’ with such a Chief. Indeed, who needed Klout, in a time when reportedly the likes of Jack Welch and Steve Jobs could cast their vote on your future success within seconds of meeting you, and watch lists of the Top 40 under 40 either made or broke your career aspirations.

In fact, many tomes still espouse the ideal scenario of the leader who sets a clear vision for the future and then works with his/her team to steer all efforts in that singular direction. Many discussions on change management continue to perpetuate the myth that all it takes to motivate people is to paint such a compelling and aspirational image of the future that people are eager to jump on board and do whatever it takes to get there.

Then Jim Collins set a ball rolling with the epic “Good to Great” suggestion that charismatic, celebrity leaders may not provide the greatest return on investment for their organizations. The humbler, more humanistic level 5 leader become an interesting dichotomy for those who aspired to the corner office enough to read Collin’s book. People started to question if unwavering (some might call dogmatic) determination to set a strategic direction and then continue to pursue the vision come hell or high water was the most appropriate model for business success.

Along with the shift introduced by Collins, has come a not-to-be-ignored groundswell of people looking for more purpose in their work.  Gen Y’s demands to be heard, the Linchpin’s drum beat of contribution, the Free-Agent and Drive nation stating that if their leaders wont recognize their talents they will up sticks and move elsewhere. All have crescendoed into the emergence of a new type of leader – The Leader as Facilitator.

The current batch of leaders to inspire a generation are clearly still assertive and confident in their own intellect and creativity. But there is space in their hearts and their egos for the contributions of others. They collaborate. They recognize and admit the areas where they are not strong and seek openly to complement their absence of strengths by working with others. They seek input, take direction and listen and support the ideas of others, sometimes in preference to their own. When they have a clear idea of what they’d like to do – they share it. When they are missing pieces of information, they state clearly what they know and where the gaps are and they ASK for help.

So, are you a 21st Century Leader?

  • When you are working with others, do you openly admit what you don’t know and seek help?
  • Do you appreciate and value the contributions of others, even when their views and approaches may be diametrically opposed to your own.
  • Do you welcome diversity of thinking and behaviour and see it as an opportunity to learn a new perspective?
  • Do you take accountability for your actions, and the impact you have on others around you? (intended or otherwise)
  • Do you promote and encourage others to think for themselves, try new things, experiment and even fail – without stepping in and trying to ‘correct’ them?
  • If people try, and stumble, do you support the learning they have accomplished?
  • Are you open to learning from those who are younger, less experienced or less educated than you are?
  • Are you willing to show your vulnerability, and your lack of knowledge, in order to open the door for new possibilities?

I know which kind of leader I aspire to be. And like the best role models I have had the pleasure to work with, I admit… I am a work in progress.  Long may I continue to learn and collaborate!

p.s. THANKS #UsGuys for the #UsBlogs challenge which inspires this post!  I look forward to reading the other posts & attaching their links as an update.

(Updated with the extended Roundup, Thanks Tom!)

I see dead people…

If you’re a fan of M.Night Shayamalan then you’ll recognize this memorable line from the Movie The Sixth Sense.  This is the moment when Haley Joel Osment provides Bruce Willis with a huge insight into what might be going on. He goes on to share that they are… “Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.”

At the time, Bruce’s character Malcolm puts this odd comment down to a young boy’s morbid imagination. It takes several more scenes for Bruce’s character Malcolm Crowe, and the audience watching, to realise what Cole really meant with these words.  The power of the movie comes from this slow realisation that a change in mindset and perspective is needed to truly see what is happening all around them.

I sometimes wonder if that’s what’s going on in the corporate world today. In amongst the change agents and innovators, the doers and decision makers, are a large number of ‘ghosts’ not realising that the conversations they are having and work they are doing are part of an old reality. People clinging to a sense of what used to work, the way things have always been done, and the comfortable tried and true… But the world of work has changed. As people are shouting from the rooftops all around us – lead, rise up, make a difference, bring value, build business based on trust, give away knowledge, attract followers, stop interrupting people, give people a reason to invest in you or your business (by providing deep value…)

Don’t wait for the splashes of red to learn you’re one of the dead people…

Time to add some inspiration…

Like many, I am an eclectic consumer of all kinds of information sources… taking inspiration from books, music, places and people. Like the namesake of my company, Alfred Russel Wallace and his explorer contemporaries, I actively seek out new ideas and new ‘species’ every day. Granted, many of the sources I read regularly have been found before (New York Times Bestsellers, renowned gurus and recognisable names like Seth, Guy, Mitch, Pam). Others are intentionally a little more off the beaten track. For your enjoyment this Friday, I thought I’d share a little slice of extra inspiration from just some of the blogs I follow…

To all mentioned here – thanks for all that you do.

For insanely practical marketing ideas for the smaller business

For always fascinating insight to the next big thing/s

Hugh rocks my world. Outspoken, irreverent and totally on the money!

Recently discovered, Liz Strauss is a gift!

Great content around branding and positioning thanks to John Gatrell of Pragmatic Marketing

Rosa Say of the wonderful Managing with Aloha and the Talking Story Blog

Great podcasts, insights and provocations from Anna Farmery of

Enjoy! Happy FF

Things that make you go “mmmmm…?”

This morning’s post is inspired by Liz Strauss (via chuckfrey). 20 Questions to Kickstart New Thoughts

Although written in 2007, the questions Liz poses to inspire new ideas are still very valid. The one that made me go mmmmm this morning was #6 of the second 10 “Do you know the most important thing you’ve learned?”

While I have learned many things and I hope to continue learning every day of my life, the most impactful lesson I learned came from a cherished mentor who gave me the courage to trust my instincts.

For me – my instinct kicks in whenever there is a tough choice to be made. It fires up and shows me which way to shoot. And I can tell the difference between instinct and lizard brain because more often that not the instinct brain is telling me to do something which is neither easy or simply – just right. Whenever I steer away from what my gut is telling me, or ignore the inner voice that is trying so hard to guide my actions, it feels false – like I’m trying too hard to do what others think I should.

I try every day to live my authentic and instinctive self, which isn’t easy. Trusting your instincts is about following through with something that feels right – even when it feels risky and against the flow (ESPECIALLY when it feels risky and against the flow). Its the moments that make you uniquely you, and not an automaton. Trusting your instincts can also be about listening to others, taking onboard different perspectives and then being clear with the decisions you are making and why. Its okay to have your instincts either reinforced or guided by others but fundamentally the core must be your own.

So – to continue with Liz’s provocation – Do YOU know the most important thing you have learned?

In response to Hugh…

If you define Art as a process or activity that purposefully seeks to affect the senses or emotions, I challenge you to remain un-inspired by the provocative Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void. Hugh’s eloquence with the jagged line and cutting commentary is pure artistry.  Clearly – his gift to the world is to make us think and have fun at the same time.

Therefore, when he recently laid down the challenge to show him something back; to write 500 words or less to interest and excite him to a cause that he could care enough about to draw one of his infamous cube grenades, I had to throw my hat in the ring!

Now I have to say – I’m not one of those who will try to outwit, outlast and outplay the thousands of other ‘applicants’ that will surely lay claim to this generous offer.  That would mean simply shouting at the top of my voice “Pick Me… Pick Me… I’m the best…” without really adding any value to the process.

See, I figure that Hugh has the mind of an artist. Just as he seeks to inspire and provoke us to a new perspective, he’s pleading with us (his audience) to provide the same gift back…  He wants to feel inspired and compelled to align with the cause and commit to its advocacy.  And perhaps, just maybe, there’s a little bit of soul searching to see if anyone ‘gets’ what he’s doing. Yeah, we all love the cartoons and many of us subscribe to the newsletter to have a social object to circulate. But is that enough??? Are we making the world a different place because we enjoy Hugh’s work?

The Wallace Effect is an entrepreneurial venture still in its humble infancy, but the seeds have been germinating for some time.  With optimal growth conditions, my goal is to provoke new thinking, develop new approaches and inspire full potential in people and their organizations.   Named after Alfred Russell Wallace, who provoked Charles Darwin to go beyond his religious sensitivities and think bigger with his theories, The Wallace Effect is first and foremost an agent for cultural change.  For businesses that are looking to evolve and align their strategies, embed change in their culture and energise their results, they must first consider what prevents them from reaching their full growth potential today and what will help them adapt to their competitive environment more successfully in the future.

In my own way, with the directness of my questions, the candour of my observations, and the practicality of my solutions, I aim to do for my clients what Hugh is trying to do for all of us in his gallery – inspire change.

So Hugh, if you’re reading this – Thank you for making a difference. I would love it if you could help me do the same by expressing “The Wallace Effect” in visual form.