Being True to Yourself Series – Part 3. Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

A/N – I’ m delighted to have Bob McInnis as my very first guest blogger.

Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

While I believe there are some absolutes, I am less certain about a lot of things. I read voraciously, listen attentively, think deeply, reflect and synthesize. The condensed product bears a resemblance to the original ideas and witness to a subtle and supple value set. As a recovering postmodern fundamentalist, I lived for decades with a clear, if not personally interpreted, set of rights and wrongs. In 2000, a shift happened in my belief structure (which is a whole different post) but an idea horizon was created and I can never return to that self-satisfied and self-assured state.

So, on this side of the divide, how do I manage truth, fact, discernment and right or wrong? In unfamiliar situations, I am careful, thoughtful and cautious. My understanding is informed by my current values and available information. I do make decisions quickly but my rigorous defence is less strident. If new information disrupts the value pattern, I rethink and where possible re-enact the choice. In familiar circumstances, I think the process is similar but feels more intuitive; as if I can blink and true is revealed (or not).

Regardless, testing right or wrong should be a habit we adopt in every situation. Is the decision just? For me? For others involved? Is it ecological? Does it conform to confirm the values you espouse and aspire to? Will you celebrate or regret the choice in one day, one week, one year? Are you committed to making the right choice? Even when the wrong one is easier? If yes (or no) are you prepared to accept the consequences?

I have applied a current burden of proof to the idea that we are all both responsible for our actions and complicit in the side effects of our inaction. I believe this is right. I have adopted a principle, which I first saw posted in the San Francisco airport “If you see something, say something.” Even though the poster was from the Department of Homeland security, I have expanded it into a wider vision. If I see anything that is immoral, illegal, hurtful, abusive, unsafe or manipulative I name it loudly. This approach isn’t without consequences. I have lost friends, caused a ruckus and received a black eye for my troubles, but from my wider perspective, it has always been well worth it.

Right-wrong: it is a matter of perspective. Yours. You arrive at the decision point, with the sum total of your knowledge, experience and biases. If you put the choice to a factual burden of proof, as best you can and apply the personal rigor above, you will be blessed with discernment and confidence to choose right from wrong in each situation.

You’ll find  more great reads from Bob MInnis on his blog.

Back at my own desk – finally!

What a whirlwind it’s been the last six weeks. Whizzing back and forth across time zones between Australia and Europe meant no time to get really settled in properly at home.

It’s great to finally be back home this last week with my feet back under my own desk. All my own bits and pieces surround me, including the dogs who take turns coming into the office and curling up on the carpet.

Don’t get me wrong globe-trotting is great; especially with business class upgrades – thanks, Qatar Airways – as it meant arriving back home, after delayed connections, less drained than usual. I’ve been able to hit the ground running rather than staggering in a fuzzy jet-lagged state. Sky beds are wonderful!

Michelle & Yvonne
Yvonne and I at the end of our intense, but fun-filled strategic planning day.

As I’ve been absent for a year, there have been no face to face meetings. Online meetings and agendas are all very well, but sometimes a face to face meeting is essential. Tuesday saw us hold our first Dragon Sisters strategic planning meeting for the new financial year (in Australia the financial year starts on 1 July). Yvonne and I also factored in a ‘Me time’ lunch down at Cornucopia. So lovely and relaxing down by the water.

The end of year review in June allowed me to take a helicopter perspective of operations. It showed just how much is changing; how new developments have been shaping our modus operandi in exciting ways. Being a collaboration of global professionals, we’ve been lucky in that we can almost always react in time, and frankly opportunistic, ways, to meet needs and demands.

I found it very interesting to note how diverse client businesses share marketing commonalities no matter where they are located or what their business is. I was surprised to see the biggest growth areas of our operation is brand and strategic positioning for businesses that have been in existence for over five years as compared with newer businesses. I guess it just goes to show that everyone is conscious of the need for a regular and independent organisational objectivity assessment. Clients must also be impressed with what we are doing with their LinkedIn profiles and social media management as additional requests continue to come our way from the same businesses.

The Dragon Sisters Writing Bureau Service is another area that grows on a daily basis so we’ll be continuing to beef up our team. I’ve personally had the pleasure of tackling a broad range of fascinating subject material.

As a result of the review, we have packaged some services based on most popular requests. As always, there is never a dull moment, but those of you who know me well, know I love to keep challenged. So if you know of another wonderful challenge or a client who might benefit from working with me don’t hesitate to make a referral.

Michelle

A coach or a mentor?

Allan Jagger OBE & Michelle Hanton OAM

I suspect that each of us can fondly remember our best coaches and mentors.

Why? Because they have shaped our lives and influenced the development of our personality.

We may not have recognized that at the time, but with hindsight it is easy to look back and recollect them.

But are coaches and mentors the same thing?

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, mentoring and coaching are two very different experiences.

The result of both coaching and mentoring is success and personal growth. However, each takes a different path towards the ultimate goal.

The benefits of having a mentor

Sharing is something we are usually taught as children, to share our toys, and our sweets are often our first lessons in sharing. Research suggests that most people are not selfish when it comes to the proliferation of knowledge, we are genuinely happy to share.

A mentor is someone who shares and often has a personal, emotional stake in the outcome of a certain situation, being biased in your favour. Mentoring does not usually produce short-term results, rather it lays the groundwork and plants the seeds of growth.

Allan Jagger OBE & Michelle Hanton OAM
Allan Jagger OBE – a wonderful mentor – and myself

It’s no secret that humans use emotional tags to process information and develop behaviour.

Mentoring is a lasting arrangement that shapes much more than a career. It validates you as a person because a mentor’s job is to nurture and help you discover and develop yourself.

You can draw strength from a mentoring relationship, and many of us have a wide range of formal and informal mentors in our lifetimes.

A mentor’s influence will always depend on the strength of your relationship.

Given that human interactions and emotions are unpredictable, the volatility of this arrangement is a double-edged sword. A disagreement between the two parties can destroy your professional gains, given that the entire structure is built on admiration.

Mentoring can be done at a conscious or unconscious level. It is often a profound, long-lasting experience that is mutually beneficial for both parties.

The benefits of having a coach

On the flip side of the coin, we have coaches. Of course, each person’s approach is different, yet there are certain commonalities.

In contrast to the warm, nurturing, mentor, a coach is someone that is expected to be there doing a job, just like a sports coach, to bring out the result you desire.

Coaches must be pragmatic, performance-driven and logical. They must shun the broader, long-term approach of mentoring.

You could say coaches represent the boot camp of life: you may not like it, but they can teach you skills that can turn your life around fairly quickly. If you are in such a position, affection and respect are optional.

Coaching is a business relationship, where money changes hands, and a result is expected.

Coaching is usually a formula approach to self-improvement, with more predictable, consistent results. If you are going through one of the life’s rough patches and you want to resolve your issues as soon as possible, a coach is what you need.

A coach is a person to call if you need a performance boost, short-term results or some tough love. A mentor is more of a life guide, with a genuine interest in each person they choose to mentor as there is normally no financial exchange taking place. There are definite benefits for both parties, but these are generally personal satisfaction and at the pay it forward level of making the world a better place.

In my opinion, you can be a coach without caring (although good coaches always care!), but you can never be a mentor unless you do care.

In addition, the results of mentoring are less consistent than when working with a dedicated coach. That said, mentoring relationships tend to be more fulfilling and often turn into lasting friendships even when the mentoring days are long finished.

As always, I’m happy to answer inbox queries and love to see your comments here.

Michelle


Being True to Yourself – Part 2 – Responsibility

Responsibility. The word is loaded with connotations. There are so many ways that we can view them, and there are so many different types of responsibility. Sometimes people look at responsibilities as a burden. I choose to take a different perspective. I look at them as a gift.

You might well be saying to yourself, she’s an idiot! Perhaps I am.
I’m an optimist by nature and believe that, whatever we are given, we have the ability to handle. Maybe not all by ourselves, sometimes we need a little help from others. Whom we turn to for help usually depends on the nature of the help required. Seeking help is a sign of strength.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there seems to be a proliferation of individuals and companies professing to offer solutions to any problems that we face in our lives. There is also a myriad of life coaches, professional development experts and solution sellers, going under a gazillion different titles. Some use a fancy spin, some use a high-pressure sales techniques, while others take a more strategic approach using a formula.

I’ve been involved with coaching and mentoring, in one form or another, for many years now. Why? I like helping people. I always have. It’s my strength and also my weakness, but I genuinely enjoy what I do, even if there are sometimes challenges that throw me a curve ball.

There is no doubt that the personal development market and life coach business is a booming industry. I want to be very clear and say that there are some truly excellent people out there doing wonderful work, and I’m fortunate to count many of them amongst my associates. However, what I do find very worrying is that there is also a slew of offerings, from some very slick marketing operators, but they do not have the life experience to back up their claims. They fail to understand the responsibility that comes with working with individuals.

By responsibility, I mean things like the need to understand that we are dealing with human emotions. There may be deep-rooted issues, which are blocking personal success, that bubble to the surface. As a mentor or coach, it is vital to recognise this and deal with it appropriately. This includes being responsible enough to recognise when you need to admit that you are not actually the right person who can help. Often, you can facilitate an introduction to another professional you know and trust.

Not so long ago a newly trained coach, who had very little life experience, came to ask me to help with client referrals. I asked my usual due diligence questions and was appalled when she confidently told me that she had no backup supports in place, for any issues that might unpack beyond her experience. Her reasoning was she had all the skills necessary and was so confident she would never need support. Whoever had trained her had certainly done a great job to confidence build and I applaud that. However, this raised a big red flag for me as there was no sense of responsibility. Woah! It is just not possible, for anyone to know everything. Even highly qualified and vastly experienced coaches, mentors and psychologists that I have worked with over the last 20 years all have their professional support structures.

I position myself as a bespoke business strategist and sometimes this includes a level of coaching and mentoring, but I certainly do not have all the answers. Blowing my own trumpet, I know I satisfy my clients because they tell me so. They tell me I’m really in tune with their needs. I feel it is more accurate to say I’m actually in tune with myself. I take my responsibility very seriously, with my family, my students and my clients. This means knowing when I am struggling, asking for help and turning away or terminating client relationships when I know I am not the right person for them.

Family photo
Definitely out of my comfort zone with the snake, but a family photo was required.

Being responsible, also entails responsibility for self: consciously making time in your schedule, for a holistic balance in all life areas. Time to nurture relationships, time for family and time for friendships. Earlier this week, I took the day off to go with my adult family to the Wildlife Park, we had a great day connecting with each other and with nature. Moments like this are priceless as time is the one commodity that cannot be recaptured. If we cannot exercise self-responsibility, then how can we, as coaches and mentors, effectively guide others in life areas?

If you’re a coach, or looking into coaching in some capacity, and would like to know more about support structures, etc., I’m happy to answer any queries to my inbox – michelle@dragonsisters.com.au

Michelle

My next steps

In Australia, July 1st marks the start of a new financial year. For most businesses, regardless of size, the precursor to this is a period of frenzied activity. Wrapping up the old financial year and preparing for the new: creating new strategies, setting and taking new directions, evaluating the past year’s performance success factors and deciding where to focus energies and resources next. It’s a part of the year-end process that I enjoy because it is a wonderful period of reflection where the results are normally visible and measurable. I derive great enjoyment from my involvement with my clients and personal students, both as a business woman, a teacher and as a bespoke coach.

En route with my niece
Singapore stopover with my niece

This year, the 1st of July also marked the date I arrived back in Australia after almost a year spent working in Europe. Instead of travelling solo, as I so often do, I was accompanied by my 13-year-old niece, who I was bringing on her very first visit to Australia. My son, who’s been spending the last couple of months in Europe was also accompanying me. We took time out to make a short stopover in Singapore and introduce Alexa to a little part of this island that hold so many memories for all the Van Buerle family.

My very long journey back also allowed me plenty of thinking time. Time to reflect on what direction to pursue next in life. Teaching, guiding and coaching is such a rewarding, enriching, privilege on so many different levels, not least of which, is the sense of making a significant contribution to both the personal and business growth of clients and students alike. The wonderful thing about introducing new experiences, concepts, thoughts and ideas is that I can help people develop and grow so that they can achieve their goals regardless of whether on a personal or business level. Alexa’s experiences on this trip to Australia will be with her for the rest of her life. She will be able to use them as building blocks for her future. It is not too dissimilar to the experiences I offer my clients in the sense that it is building capacity for growth.

There is a misconception that a coach/mentor is a guru-like figure who spends their time telling lesser mortals what they should be doing when, in fact, nothing is further from the truth. It is about greater understanding, empathy, trust, respect, confidentiality, mutual liking and being on the same wavelength. It’s an egalitarian relationship of strong integrity and authenticity. I often develop a special relationship with those I work with and in some cases it even becomes an ongoing friendship.

My role as a coach/mentor has developed from working with diverse cultures and organizations. People began to consult me on matters that they were ‘stuck on’, life and business areas that they wanted better results from, identifying ways to move forward, strategies to move in new directions. My business achievements, life experience, cultural range and above all, my passion for progressive, empowering growth, seemed to resonate with individuals from widely varying backgrounds, age groups and levels of experience. They all have had the common objective of wanting to effect positive, meaningful change.

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

You could say that this kind of work crept up on me. I’ve found that there is nothing more fulfilling than working, either as a coach, mentor or teacher, to facilitate the achievement of powerful outcomes. With the wonders of technology, it does not seem to matter where I am geographically. My only real limitation of being able to help more people is time. Whilst working full-time I was only able take on a very small number of personal clients which was why the year in Europe was so wonderful, as it opened up considerably more free time in my work diary.

On my long journey from Barcelona to Darwin, I had time to think carefully and decide that I am making the time. I do not want to be bogged down in a corporate job. Sure a high salary is nice, but at the end of the day it is not fulfilling for me. Instead, I have decided that I am making the time to do what I really enjoy and that is being able to take on a few more personal clients through our Dragon Sisters global network. I am very happy with this decision and excited to think about the new goals, the new solutions and the new individuals that I’ll be able to work with over the next twelve months.

So, to all those who’ve been asking whether I will be available this year, the answer is yes. If you or someone you know is struggling to find solutions to achieve business ambitions or just generally wants to get life on track, I’d be happy to have a confidential, exploratory ‘chat’ about how I may be able to help.

Michelle

P.S. You can contact me via michelle@dragonsisters.com.au

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