Interview with a HR Manager

A/N our interviewee this week has transitioned from a successful 22 year career in the Royal Airforce to private enterprise….read on to discover how.

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.
I left school at 18 and joined the Royal Air Force a year later, having had a number of part-time jobs, bar work etc. I joined as an Admin Clerk and progressed through the ranks and HR roles for the next 22 years.

I left the RAF 10 years ago and remained in HR. I worked in Edinburgh for the NHS for 9 years then moved to Stafford 2 years ago and now have an HR Manager position in a computer company.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?
I think you need to be compassionate and empathetic where necessary but also be firm and determined when required. Some of the jobs that HR Managers have to do are not always pleasant, such as dismissals and disciplinaries, but employment law is fascinating and the employee support side of HR can be very rewarding. You also have to have exceptional attention to detail!

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?
I operate mostly in employee and business support.

What can be challenging about your profession?
Dealing with people always has its challenges, particularly when dealing with disciplinary matters or when dealing with conflict.

What do you most like about your profession?
I love the challenge of dealing with different people and to be able to see change taking place to benefit employees.

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
It wasn’t embarrassing for me, but it did end up being embarrassing for the officer who took me on! I was 8 months pregnant and had been asked to run a Court-Martial on the base I was on. One officer had the temerity to ask me if I could “cope”…you can imagine my response and he ended up with egg on his face – plus the Court-Martial was very successful!

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?
Going for my first job after leaving the RAF…I hadn’t had a job interview for 22 years…I ended up getting the job and staying in it for a couple of years, despite my nerves at interview.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?
Make sure you know your employment law, if not, then check, check and check again. HR administration takes a lot of time, effort and checking, often people’s careers are at stake. Always remember that you are dealing with real people.

Andrea Fraser
      Andrea Fraser

Andrea Fraser is HR Manager dealing with all aspects of HR, including disciplinary, employment law, policy and process implementation.

Interview with a Keyboard Player/Musician

A/N This weeks interviewee is a guy whose carved out a different kind of career for himself. Read on to learn how he’s managed to make his boyhood dream a reality, and the lessons learnt along the way.

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.

I actually have two careers – in my day job, I am a Sales & Marketing Manager for a professional audio solutions provider called Audiologic which I’ve been doing for just under three years following a number of years as a Business Development Manager for major audio manufacturers like Bose and Sennheiser. My other career (or night job, if you like) which I’ll be talking about is that of a musician.

I had a fairly traditional formal introduction to music at Rishworth School – 10 years of piano, flute and theory lessons along with studies in ‘A’ and ‘O’ Levels (including an ‘O’ Level in History and Appreciation of Music which I took a year earlier.) This was only part of the story though as there were many opportunities to further your musical experience at school including the annual Music Competition and various other activities into which I always threw myself wholeheartedly!

When I left school, I went to live in South Africa with my parents and, owing to my ‘A’ Level grades not quite being what I needed for my chosen University, I decided to start work in a local music shop in Johannesburg called Soundhouse. It was there that I began to meet many of the local musicians and found that keyboard players like me who could read music and understood synthesisers were a relative rarity – everyone wanted to be a guitarist or drummer! So – I joined my first function band called ‘Atlantic’ in 1989 – and was promptly fired from the band three months later for not wanting to rehearse!

Over the next year or so, I ‘paid my dues’ (and in doing so learned some much-needed humility and desire to rehearse) in all sorts of different environments including a production company who used to put bands together for specific events. I would receive a phone call in the morning and, if I was available would have to meet the band of musicians (usually different from the last ‘band’ that was put together) that afternoon – have a brief rehearsal then play for a corporate function that night! The pressure was immense, but the experience of playing different music with different musicians on every occasion certainly did wonders for my versatility as a player.

I spent 1991 to the end of 1993 playing hundreds of gigs for various South African bands including Toys for Girls, Communique, Skippy & Savannah and Dessi B – from tiny little pubs where no-one came to listen, to large clubs with a few thousand people. Throughout all this, I also maintained a day job – first with Soundhouse until 1992 then I went to work for the local distributor of the keyboards that I used as a Technical Product Specialist. The day job was a concession to my parents’ old-school concern for the transitory nature of the music industry, but that also honed my work ethic so there were no complaints!

At the end of 1993, I joined a rock theatre show called Stage Fright as Assistant Musical Director which happened after the producer of the show saw me play at a Benefit Concert for one of the local musicians who had been in a road accident – he liked my rather ‘energetic’ playing style (I was not really one for just sitting behind the keyboards – I had been known to break keys and send keyboards flying off their stands in my enthusiasm:)) so a year of playing in theatres began. During this year, the Miss World pageant was held at Sun City in Bophutatswana and the band from Stage Fright had the honour of playing for the Coronation Ball – certainly the largest gig of my career to-date, seen by quite a few people on TV.

I returned to England at the end of 1995 and didn’t play for a while following falling down some stairs in April 1996 and breaking my right wrist in three places. I spent some 18 months getting my hand and wrist put back together and the operation (a Brunnelli Procedure) actually featured in a book by the surgeon as it was a relatively complex rehabilitation.

In 2004, whilst working for Harman Pro, I discovered that many of my colleagues were musicians – including a singer who I knew from my time in South Africa. We had a brief discussion about playing music, went to a random band name generator on the internet and ‘5 Consultants And Their Fish’ was born… We were all mid-30’s professionals by this time with no desire to go back to playing in the pubs and clubs for next to no money, so targetted the high-end wedding industry as a ‘music solution’.

We attended our first Wedding Fair in October 2004 with (I’m slightly ashamed to admit:) pictures on the walls of the exhibition stand (which were actually stock photos off the internet) ‘signed’ by famous people thanking us for our services at their weddings!! Despite the little exaggeration (we hadn’t actually played a gig together by this stage) we left that fair with £11,000’s worth of deposit cheques!

In 2008, 5CATFish (as we became to be known) were voted ‘Entertainment Supplier of the Year to the Wedding Industry’ in the Wrapit Awards held at Claridges. The band continued through to 2011 when I took a break to study my MBA at Warwick Business School.

Coming right up to date, in March of this year I was approached to stand-in with ‘The Meatloaf Story’ for the last 9 nights of a national theatre tour after they had lost two other keys players to accidents… I had one night to learn the full two hour show and, after the first night, which was – well – a little unprepared, shall we say, the remainder of the tour went well, culminating in me being asked to join the other show which this company produces – ‘Vampires Rock’. We are currently in rehearsals and the 40-night national theatre tour starts on October 2nd.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?
A mixture of reliability, flexibility and ensuring that, in amongst doing something that you love in return for money (which is not the case with every career) you treat playing music as just another career and deal with it as professionally as any other job. Also, it’s important to be able to get-on with people…

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?
In terms of musical style, most of my experience has been in rock, soul and pop.

What can be challenging about your profession?
Owing to my preference of maintaining two careers, the main challenge is logistics, especially with the looming tour with Vampires Rock. Learning time for new material can be a real drain on what would normally be my spare time too, so I am lucky to have an understanding and supportive wife!

What do you most like about your profession?
I get to do what I dreamed of as a child every time I go on stage! I’m lucky to be in a position where I am able to be a little more choosy about the musical jobs I do these days and so have the honour of playing with some incredible musicians which just drives me to improve. Also, music is something that you never stop learning – I’ve been playing for almost 40 years and I’ve just started seeing someone for lessons in composition.

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
The first night of the recent Meatloaf Story gigs is right up there! Meatloaf tends to be all about the piano in some of the tunes and there are some especially prominent piano-based introductions to songs in the show. With only one day to learn the set, I was hopelessly unprepared and when the follow-spot light shone on me for the intro to ‘For Crying Out Loud’ I basically froze and the ensuing 30 seconds or so were akin to the great Les Dawson! Traumatizing in front of 600-700 ardent Meatloaf fans, but I think they forgave me…

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?
There have been a few, but playing the fanfare for the entry of Miss World to the Coronation Ball in 1994 was certainly one of them. Also, my favourite band is an American rock band called Toto and I played in a tribute band to them a few years ago. We rehearsed for about 7 months as some of their music is really quite challenging to play as they have two keyboard players and I was trying to cover both keys parts on my own. We booked a venue called ‘The Robin 2’ in Wolverhampton for our first gig and I had to go on stage to play an instrumental to open the show in front of a few hundred hardened Toto fans – for some reason, one of my most terrifying musical moments.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?
Be on time, be professional, be flexible, be friendly… (OK – that’s four pieces, but they’re all so important!)

Is there anything else you would like to share?
There are a few professional musicians who I am delighted to call my friends and they all share my views (or I share theirs, whichever way you view it) of working just as hard at music as you do at any other job in order to succeed.
You might not get to be in the Charts with a Number 1 album, but you can still make a good living from having more than one string to your musical bow – one of my favourite drummers plays, tours, teaches, writes, plays clinics for equipment manufacturers and makes sure he brings his best to everything he does.

Living the boyhood dream.
Andy Lewis – living the boyhood dream.

Andy Lewis is a professional keyboard Player/Musician.

You can follow Andy on Facebook

Company: 5CATFish

Contact Details: andy@5catfish.com 

Interview with a Mediator & Conciliator

A/N – I first met our inspirational interviewee when I took on the role of CEO at Lifeline Top End. 

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.
I had a good education in the UK and a mother who believed her daughters were entitled to be educated as well as her son. I did an honours maths degree Imperial College, London and went straight into secondary school maths teaching in 1957.

Sex without marriage in those days was a dicey option so I married in 1958 and between 1963 and 1967 had three children. Five years home as a full time mother drove me nuts so I was fortunate to be able to return to teaching part-time at an exclusive girls boarding school with a crêche!

My husband successfully applied for a job in Darwin in 1970 and migrated in September. The children and I followed in December (I had to give a term’s notice) and actually arrived on 1/1/71. Over the 18 1/2 years from July 1962 to December 1980 I was out of full-time work but involved in many things, including occasional teaching and studying for a Diploma in Secondary Education.

I spent 3 years with AMP discovering that I was better at teaching than at selling (but saving myself from 24 hours a day immersed in teenagers!) then returned to teaching.

By the end of 1982 my husband and I had separated and he subsequently re-married. I spent 1984 to mid-1989 in secondary schools, always teaching maths, of course! I was then fortunate to be accepted to the staff of the maths section of ITAFE, under the umbrella of the then NTU (now CDU) in mid-1989 and I remained there until January 2005.

From 1993 to 1996 I had completed a Master of Science (Science Education) [really maths education, but there was no separate category!] by thesis through Curtin University of Technology. During my last semester as a maths lecturer in 2004 I commenced studying law, continuing as a full-time student through 2005 until the end of 2007. I also undertook the LEADR Mediation Training Course in 2006 and during 2007 completed all the theory involved in the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice as well as the last 5 units in the law course.

Once I had completed the placement component of the GDLP, I was admitted as a Barrister & Solicitor at the Supreme Court of the NT in February 2008. I practiced as a lawyer, mainly in the criminal law area, until the end of June 2012 and retained my practising certificate until the end of June 2015 so that I could continue to provide occasional free legal advice at the sessions conducted by the Darwin Community Legal Service. Since 2012 I have been engaged in conducting occasional mediations through the Community Justice Centre and in August 2015 I completed a Conciliator Masterclass for the Anti-Discrimination Commission, again conducted by LEADR.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?
My upbringing and the nature of the education which I was privileged to have (all free in those days!) left me with an unwritten obligation to put back into society. I was brought up as a Christian and have no problem accepting the ethical standards, it expects, but have too much of the scientist in my nature to accept blind faith. So I am an ethical agnostic and, as the Dalai Lama says, recognise that I am here to help others – as well as enjoying my own life!

I realise that I have had privileges not shared by all and have skills which I can use to help others. My motivation to study law – which built up over a 30 year period! – was driven by the many examples I encountered of people whose lives were damaged or destroyed because they could not afford legal advice.

Mediation requires the facilitation of a discussion between two parties in dispute in the hope of their arriving at a solution they can both live with. Mediations conducted through the Community Justice Centre (CJC) are free so the parties do not incur costs and can avoid the adversarial approach taken by lawyers.

Win-win beats win-lose hands down! Whether I am good in my chosen field is for others to say. I know I try to do my best to help others when possible.

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?
Over time I have been involved in a voluntary/honorary capacity in many organisations. Since coming to Australia I have been in various roles and representative capacities with the boards and committees of the Parap Pre-School Association, the NT Pre-School Association, the Inaugural Council of the Family Planning Association of the NT (including its Education Sub-Committee), The Housing Commission, the Mathematics Teachers Association of the NT, the CDU Law Students Society, Undergraduate Member of the CDU Council, Life Education NT, Lifeline Top End, Darwin Community Legal Service and the Environmental Defenders Office.

I am currently on the Human Research Ethics Committee of CDU and, some years ago represented the School of Technology on one of the NTU Ethics Committees. I guess all that adds up to feeling that I want to be involved and help with important decision making without necessarily having to carry the entire weight of an organisation on my own shoulders!

What can be challenging about your profession?
It is hard to now define my profession! I still take a strong interest in maths education and am appalled by the fact that the desperate need for maths teachers in 1957 shows no sign (in 2015) of having been in any way ameliorated by subsequent actions.

I personally feel that education needs a complete overhaul and teachers should not be regarded as surrogate parents! Parents need to learn how to socialise their own children (and I know from experience that is more easily said than done!) Bureaucrats with no recent classroom experience are not in a position to tell teachers how to do their jobs.

As far as the law is concerned, I am far happier with alternative dispute resolution methods. Law and justice are too often poles apart and enforced solutions are less palatable than ones reached from some degree of consensus.

More so today than at any time in my life, I want to change the world. Governments are making life harder not better for the majority of the population and the gap between the privileged and the desperate has become massive. Through Facebook and Twitter I am discovering how vast is the apathy of an alarmingly large proportion of the population who seem locked into the consumerism and ‘I’m all right” modus operandi. I will not despair, but it is a challenge!

What do you most like about your profession?
I think the most satisfying thing in my life these days are having the parties to a mediation shake hands, smile at each other and walk out putting their dispute behind them!

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
I had a matter before the Master in the Supreme Court. Because those at the bench have a microphone which enables recording of all that they say for the benefit of the transcript, I suspect they do not appreciate that they often do not speak loudly enough to be heard in the body of the Court. On this particular occasion, as I could not hear what the Master had said I asked him to repeat it. I got a curt “Are you deaf Ms Jacob?” to which I probably replied “yes” since it would have been inappropriate to suggest the fault was not mine.

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?
My most embarrassing experience was when – as a very inexperienced lawyer – I took on a matter that had previously been handled by a lawyer in a different practice who was not free to continue with the client. I did not know enough about Court procedure and the complications which arose left me with nightmares. I knew I had not helped the client and was entirely mortified.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?
Train and practice as a mediator BEFORE you study law. You do not need to be a lawyer in order to mediate but the skills you develop as a mediator can be invaluable to a lawyer. The adversarial nature of the Court (and politics) is destructive and learning to help people talk to each other is more rewarding than fighting counsel for the other party! Incidentally – mediation has an approximately 80% success rate!

Is there anything else you would like to share? I think we all have a great many different personalities and which one we exhibit depends on the company and the circumstances. You may bring out the best in someone whereas I might bring out the worst. (I think our recently deposed PM brought out the worst in me and we have not even met!).

I am deeply concerned about the damage that extremism in religion is doing to the world. In my opinion, power corrupts and this can be seen in both religion and politics. Religion should help everyone to live as nearly as possible in harmony – accepting that some people’s brains are not appropriately wired for this goal – and if it causes wars and worse, how can you believe it is the right way to think?

For me, if I am remembered for a short while by a few people after I die, then I will have a life after death. It may not be for eternity, yet if my ashes return to the ground, then even eternity might be an option!

Rosemary Jacob & Michelle Hanton
Michelle Hanton and Rosemary Jacob

Rosemary Jacob (nee Melville) is today a practising Mediator and Conciliator available in Darwin, NT, Australia, through the Community Justice Centre, to undertake mediation and conciliation.

Interview with a Head of International Development – Retail

A/N  This week my interview subject is a fellow Old Rishworthian alumni. I hope you’ll enjoy reading her journey and the advice shared.

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.

From setting up shop with my cash register as a little girl I knew I wanted to be in retail. Somehow over the years I now am still in retailing, and now have the privilege of travelling all over the world looking for new retail opportunities with a great brand. How cool is that?! I always think I have been lucky, but my friends remind me that it is me who has found and made the opportunities.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?

Opportunity driven, understanding both your customer and client, loving your brand, long hours and sheer determination! Listen more than you speak. Consultation, persuasion and selling skills are critical.

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?

International Retail Development and Franchising.

What can be challenging about your profession?

Long hours and flexibility to be available 24/7, this is retailing. Jet lag and chronic tiredness. Demanding customers, clients and bosses. Life never stands still so you need to be flexible and on the ball.

What do you most like about your profession?

The buzz of making things happen. Easy measurements for success. Seeing results. Every day is different.

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
Announcing the wrong speaker at a huge conference I had organised. I wanted the floor to open up. I don’t think it bothered anyone else but I hated making a mistake!

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?

Negotiating and landing a big contract.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?

Believe in yourself at all times.You can make anything happen if you have the will and determination.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Build up as many contacts and connections as you can. If you find someone interesting who makes you rethink things see if they will mentor you.
Read articles, chat, listen and learn.
Don’t forget your family and friends.. You can’t bring back time..

Helen Barnish, Hamleys of London
Helen Barnish, Hamleys of London

Helen Barnish is Head of International Development – Retail, Hamleys of London. Researching new markets to expand to, and contracting new Partners

An Interview with a Head of Marketing

A/N  I remember our current interviewee as a young girl at Rishworth School. It’s wonderful to hear about her career journey.

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.

I am currently the Head of Marketing at our family business Lanes Group Plc. It’s a company providing blockage clearance services for drains and pipes. There are currently 1260 staff at 25 operating centres located around the UK.
I started working directly from school with very few formal qualifications.

The first family business that we had, Neolith Limited, hired out high-pressure water equipment to people and companies for a variety of cleaning and descaling tasks. Initially, I ran the hire desk. It was a very pressurised role that required a lot of customer contact and organisation to keep the customer happy and deliver what they expected. I gained vast experience in dealing with customers and understanding their expectations.
For a short while, I left the business and went to live in the Canary Islands where I secured a job in Tenerife narrating fashion shows and selling fur coats to tourists. I was very pressurised selling with long hours. But I survived. When I returned to the UK, I secured a job managing a ladies fashion shop in Halifax. That job was great fun. However, I do remember losing sleep when I had to deal with my first shoplifting issue.

After a couple of years away from the family business I returned to Neolith and then started working with the sales team, providing support and creative ideas to ensure that our customers fully understood what services we provided. It is here where I found my passion and creative skills for sales and marketing. It’s hard selling engineering equipment of any description; people normally only look for this type of equipment when they have a need. You don’t create the need for the customer.

In the early 90’s that business was sold. Initially, my brother and I stayed with the company, but we were then both made redundant 5 years to the day that the sale went through!. Business can be very harsh at times because we both thoroughly enjoyed our roles.

My father, a true Entrepreneur, had in the meantime bought a new business Lanes for Drains. It was still in the very early stages of growth and couldn’t sustain two more salaries immediately. I was also 3 months pregnant when I was made redundant and back in the 90’s employers didn’t readily take on women who were pregnant. I was fortunate because some of the customers who I had worked with for years at Neolith Limited approached me directly to help them build their fledgling businesses and do a sales and marketing role with them.

I duly started my own consultancy business Ringland Associates. I had five different customers who I worked for one day per week. The companies were varied – one was an insurance company, two others building contractors, one a retail organisation and finally one day per week was spent working for Lanes for Drains. It was an interesting time in my life. Juggling a brand new baby, plus a three year old, running a home and five demanding clients was hard work. I hadn’t actually finished work for any maternity leave when my son Matthew decided to make an appearance 3 weeks early.

Eventually, after 3 years of doing consultancy work Lanes as a company was developing fast and my father persuaded me to close down the consultancy practice and join Lanes for Drains, that was 19 years ago. Sales and marketing and dealing with customers directly have always been a passion and so working with the sales team here at Lanes is where I have dedicated most of my working life.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?
Understanding your customer is critical to ensuring that we provide the services that they need. Thinking outside the box is also fundamental to being creative, and marketing our business in a different way to our competitors has also been high on my agenda.

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?
Direct mail was and still is the backbone of our business. Creating ‘prompted recall’ so that when the need arising for someone to call a drainage company they know or have heard about Lanes. Over the past 10 years the move to electronic communicate with our clients has been embraced wholeheartedly. I love the speed in which social media and the web can generate interest and enquiries.

Exhibitions are something that I used to love attending, but I really do feel that the exhibitions are dated and stale. I would love someone to develop an idea that brought people together in an effective manner. I do miss the face to face contact that used to come with customers attending exhibitions.

What can be challenging about your profession?
As the company has grown the changing responsibilities of the company to our staff and customers. It’s no longer acceptable to just provide a service. Now we have to provide that service in a responsible manner for both our staff and customers, ensuring that we align ourselves with their business objectives.

What do you most like about your profession?
I love the contact that we have with customers directly. All of the senior management team at Lanes have to sponsor specific accounts so that they interact with our customers. If you stop dealing with customers on a day to day basis, I firmly believe you quickly lose sight of what they expect and need from us as a company.

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
That’s easy. Last year, I attended a tender meeting at a large utility company. The contract was worth several million pounds a year, so it was an important event.

There was only a hand full of ladies in the meeting, and so you do stick out in a sea of suits. After the meeting, as a group, we were all walking back to the car park that was quite away from where the meeting had been held. I was walking back with a group of people who had been at the meeting, chatting away, when I went flat on my face on the pavement.

The men with me were so gracious and kind. But I died of embarrassment – the contents of my handbag were strewn over the road, black opaque tights ruined, and my dignity on the pavement too. One gentleman offered to go and get his car to drive me back to the car park, but I insisted that I was OK. I was so embarrassed I could have died. I think that was the longest drive home I have ever had.

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?
I have them frequently, so there isn’t one that stands out. I wouldn’t change that because I believe it helps mould the individual and ensure that it keeps you on your toes. If you don’t experience nerve-wracking moments whatever they are, then how do you learn?

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?
Michelle Ringland - Head of Marketing Lanes GroupDon’t be afraid to ask for people’s opinions and reflect on them. You learn by listening.

Michelle Ringland is the Head of Marketing, Lanes Group Plc
www.lanesfordrains.co.uk

DECISION MAKING

We make decisions every day of our life from the moment we wake up each morning. Some are small ones; I’ll just lay here for another 5 minutes, one cup of coffee or two, a piece of toast or cereal? Simple, easy decision we make without much thought at all. We make all these decisions based on what we feel like at that given moment in time.

When it comes to making bigger decisions, we often tend to face a huge dilemma. We become decidedly more indecisive, although perhaps a better word to use here would be cautious. We often spend ages considering and weighing up all the facts. We might make lots of columns with pros and cons. Go through a myriad of for and against arguments before we feel in a position to be able to actually make a decision.

Why is this? Why don’t we make a snap decision in the same way we decided to lay in bed an extra five minutes?
The answer is because we don’t always trust ourselves even if we know what we really should be deciding. We fear making a decision. Yet, after we’ve gone through this whole process of whatever systems we are using to help us decide, we often find that our final decision is not at all what the logical sequence of working out has determined as the best course of action.

Nope, it’s something else. Something that defies all the logical, well balanced and structured analysis, we’ve just spent ages going through.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why?
Well, life is not logical. We need to recognise that there are no wrong decisions. Each decision is made for a reason that comes from deep inside of us. Maybe it’s because there is a life lesson to learn, maybe it’s because we’ve developed our awareness to such a level that we know to trust our gut feeling.
Gut feelings are impossible to explain but are very real. Decisions have been made in this way since time immortal. We just know that something is not right. We may not know exactly what is wrong; we can’t quite put our finger on it, there’s a little niggling voice in our ear, or a feeling in our bones, all highly illogical. We often cannot explain it, but we just KNOW.

Of course, we need to ensure that we make a balanced decision. This means we must always do our homework when making a decision, but at the end of the day we need to be sure that it is both from our heart and from our minds. It means examining the options and looking at the implications. Twisting, thinking, sometimes tossing and turning in our beds at night as we allow all the varying scenarios to run rampant in our minds. Finally, we make a decision.

Is it the most logical one?
On some occasions, yes it is. But not always, in fact, it’s often illogical. Sometimes, it’s seemingly completely the ‘wrong’ decision, defying all logic – but, hey, it’s all good because this is a learning process.

While we mustn’t be ruled by our hearts in a business setting, we shouldn’t simply discard our feelings and base an important decision purely on logic. Emotions are what make us human. Feelings are what give us compassion and make us who we are. Feelings are what many a successful business person has based their greatest decisions on.

Speaking from a personal perspective, I often base my decisions on what my gut instinct has told me, even when everything and sometimes everyone, screamed I was mad. In the end, it’s turned out I made the right decision, and there have been lots of great win/win situations occur as a result.

It’s not all smooth sailing and sometimes we experience pain as a result of our feelings. It can be a physical pain that affects us in a material sense or on an emotional level. However, when we learn to control and examine how and why we feel a certain way, we are on track to being able to make the right decisions for ourselves. Each of us has to live with our own decisions. I have found that it gives me great conviction, and commitment, to my decisions, when I follow my instincts. It gives me the courage to ‘own’ each decision and, when the going gets though, to have the courage to see it through. Empowered decision-making is a great tool in life and business.

Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear your feedback on how you make decisions. If you would like some tips from the Empowered Decision Making tool that I use, just inbox me, I am happy to share.

Michelle
P.S. It’s always better to make a decision than not to!

My European interlude is coming to a close

Whilst I have enjoyed every moment of being in Europe and have loved teaching, mentoring and coaching, it is time to return to Australia – at least for a while.

I have cherished being in my little apartment and not having to worry about anything except myself and meeting a few deadlines. Well, OK, more than a few! I’ll admit that I haven’t entirely squirreled myself away in beautiful Ecija; I have kept up with clients and projects and taken on new ventures further afield thanks to modern communications, but I have made the most of my idyll here and been very present to the charms of a different culture and life experience, including the cold winter! I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those here who have been part of this wonderful sojourn for me. As usual, it is the people who make the experience special.

San Juan, EcijaI’ve needed these months alone to renew. To focus on what is important to me. The past 3 years have passed in a blur where I hardly had a moment to myself so it has been a real luxury to just be able to run my own timetable. I thoroughly enjoyed coming home to a quiet apartment, to spending weekends exploring local sites, or sometimes venturing further afield to Seville, Granada, Cordoba or Malaga. I had no one to worry about except myself. It might sound selfish, but actually it’s been more of a lifesaver than anything else and once again, it has given me an additional opportunity to develop and grow as an individual which provides additional experiential tools that I am able to bring to my work.

Sasha's graduation day - Batchelor of Journalism
Sasha’s graduation day – Batchelor of Journalism from Bond University

During this time in Europe I have been able to consider what it is that I really need in life to feel content. When my husband of 30 years decided to leave, and I bought him out of the house, it was a massive struggle to stay afloat financially, but I’ve managed. I only bought the house so my kids had a home base. I had a 5 year plan, of which the largest part was to see Sasha (who was then 16) successfully finish school and then university. Once Sasha graduated, I was in a position to pursue the next stage of my plan, which was to base myself in Europe for a year.

Whilst here, living a simple Spanish lifestyle, without the trappings that go with having a family home, I’ve come to the conclusion that, on a personal level, I actually need very little to live on. I can be happy in the moment as long as I know that my family is cared for and safe. It’ll be five years this August since Steve and I split up. It’s been tough for me, but at the same time liberating and life affirming as I know we (Wayne, Sasha and I) can manage on our own. Together we look after the house, each other and our dogs. We’ve become a closer family unit even if it meant a bit of a struggle at times. I feel that the kids and I have bonded more closely, and it’s also been a defining moment for both of them as they have stepped up to take more responsibilities. We have jointly made decisions about our future directions and I am extremely proud of the two beautiful people that they are.

It is now time to sit down and decide what the next step will be. What do I really want to do?
Michelle