Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the public face

As part of my current job, I am required to keep the paper supplied with press releases about various goings-on about town, and I also have a full page each month for my organisation.

Sometimes it can be a challenge to find something that is ''newsworthy'' enough for the paper to pick up.  There's a fine line between advertorial and a story.  I'm very lucky in that the Editor is most obliging and rarely changes the copy I send it, but this is also on the understanding that what I provide is of a certain calibre and style.  And as a result of doing this regularly, I have developed my own ''voice'', which means everything I write is fairly easily identified as mine (much like this blog...)

Recently I was interviewed on video for a project being completed about the top 100 places around our region.   As a result of that interview I was then approached about being profiled in the regional newspaper. It was great - I got a photo shoot (a good excuse to buy some new clothes) and the article went in to the Saturday paper where I was shown in full technicolour along side my interview.  The fun really began when my friends and colleagues opened the paper and saw me - the phone started at 8 am and I'm still getting copies in my letter box 5 days later.  The thrill of being famous for a day - just as Andy Warhol described!

But here's the interesting I read through my article, my first thought was Wow! she sounds fabulous:).  It actually took a few minutes to reconcile that it was about me!  Which made me think about how easy it is to portray one thing to the world and so easily be another in private.

I value the idea of being ''the same to everyone''.  It's that integrity thing I often speak of.  And I'd like to think that in my writing style this personality - and the values that sit within that - are reflected and consistent.

So here's the question for you to ponder this week:

Do you have  a 'voice'' that reflects the real you?  Do you have a public persona? Does it match who you are in private?  Why or why not?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

viva la cliche!: if you do what you've always done....

It occurred to me as I considered the topic for todays blog, that much of what I write about is the frustrations of daily life - that is, the same actions, the same activities, the same outcomes.

And even though my work as a coach is about pushing encouraging people to think and act in different ways, in order to get better results, the majority of us plod through life largely doing the same thing, day in day out, and often getting frustrated at the way things are turning out.

So the cliche ''if you do what you've always done you'll get what you've always got'' has never rung more true.  The reality of life is that we ARE in routine and we ARE creatures of habit.  It's really easy to get cross about that - to feel bored, or irritated or impatient with those routines.

But what if?  What if you applied some fresh perspective to those same routines and outcomes?  Like...

- the same morning routine means at the very least you get to work on time
- having a basic repertoire of recipes means you can whip up a great meal at a moments notice
- using the same route to get to and from work each days means you know where the roadblocks, traffic jams and stop signs are
- wearing a tried and true style of clothing means you can leave the house always feeling confident about how you look
- shopping in the same supermarket/butchery/bookshop means not only knowing your way around (saving time and stress) but an opportunity to support a particular business and get to know it's owners (thus growing better goodwill all round).

Sure there are times when stepping out of such comfort zones is indeed a good thing, and there are times when change is imperative - for example when your health requires it - but don't be too hard on routine either.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

i know you can hear me but are you listening?

As per a previous blog, I spoke of my daughter who can chronic sleeplessness.
It's been making all of us grumpy, and stressed, and frustrated.

This week she had a ''bit of a cough''.  Becuase she is prone to expanding her reality I was unsure if this was simply a tickle in her throat or the start of something more, so I carefully indulged with backrubs and so on, but tried to make light of it.

Anyway, as Murphy's law so often applies, it turned into a temperature and start of an infection.  She also had what appeared to be a minor asthma attack in the night - scary but managed by a friends inhaler.

I rang the Doctors surgery and was unable to see the regular Doctor but was offered an appointment with another, whom I have seen occasionally but don't know terribly well.  By the time the appointment rolled around she seemed a little better but I figured I would go anyway, and went in with a list of ailments and challenges for him.  I was fully prepared fro the ''there there'' approach as has happened so often before.

Anyway, imagine my amazement, when as I listed off my concerns, I was met with ''yes i can sort that'' for every single one of them.

The Doctor seemed in no hurry to push me out of the surgery, in fact, went far and beyond the 10 minutes usually allotted and beseeched me to return in a month if I was still not happy.

Aside from the $100 on fees and medications (inhaler, antibiotics, a footstrap for a recurring injury, referral to a specialist, pamol, melatonin tablets, some practical suggestions), this was probably the best experience of my week,

A professional who gave me more than the time of day, who really listened to my concerns (and hers) and acted on them.   I felt that this time I had truly been LISTENED to, rather than simply filling air with noise and response.  He engaged with me, he validated our concerns and he ACTED on them.

The reaction of my daughter was incredible.  She too felt relaxed and calm as we left, and as owner of an inhaler and footstrap, also empowered to deal with some of this herself.

What a difference a truly listening ear makes.

p.s. she was asleep in 5 minutes after lights out for the first time in 9 years....

Sunday, May 20, 2012

winding down

A departure today, from my usual rantings of life.

I am the proud parent of a tween.  She is full of life - irrepressible, energetic and vivacious.  More is more for this kid, whether it's bling on her clothes, the volume of her stereo, or the number of lollies she thinks she can sneak when I'm not looking.

There's a slight downside to this hurricane of amazingness that is my daughter.  And that is that she can't get to sleep easily.  Every night, like the plot of a bad sitcom, we go through the same routine.  I set the deadline, we have hugs, kisses, prayers, ''çhat'', ''girl time'', quiet reading time, you name it, and it takes her at least an hour, and usually more to settle.

No amount of begging, pleading, cajoling or threatening makes the slightest bit of difference.  From time to time she will despair that she is unable to go to sleep, claiming that she wants to but her eyes/brain/body won't let her.  And, it must be said, by 9.30 or more at night, my patience begins to wear extremely thin, especially night after night after night.

Her diet, routine, evening activity and so on, do not seem to have an effect either way on her ability to relax.  Once asleep she usually is out to it for around 10 or 11 hours, so I know that she is not a child who simply needs less sleep than most.

 And so, today, a plea for help.  Has anyone else had this challenge?  You will know if you've been a reader of this blog for a while that sleeplessness runs in the family, so that is an added hurdle, but i could really use some fresh ideas here.

Your thoughts?

listen to the book...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

product review: Mr Muscle Shower Clean

When I did my renovations earlier this year, I had a shower installed in the bathroom - having only had a tired and relatively ineffective over-bath one for 4 years this has been a revelation.  I bought an expensive one (over $1000) with easily removable curved doors designed for easy cleaning.

I HATE cleaning a shower.  It never seems to look quite perfect and being in the unit with the smell of cleaner is vile. Nothing ever works as well as it promises does it?  So when I discovered this product I was sceptical.  Never scrub again? Really?

Anyway, as per the instructions I cleaned the shower top to bottom and now dutifully spray this on the wet walls after every shower.  And I really cant believe it but it actually works.

I've been using it for a month now and the shower still looks like new.  No streaks, no soapy residue on the walls or glass.  It smells ok and doesn't make me lightheaded with fumes.  According to the back of the bottle, this one will last me about 4 weeks.  I spray once a day and I'm not even half way through it, so at $4 for 750ml its a bargain too.

I have tried other brands with less success, and whilst I agree it's early days, I'm quietly confident.

Finally, a cleaning product I would actually recommend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

reflections on leadership vs management

yesterday I had the priviledge of attending a full day of discussion on leadership, hosted by the Waikato Management School.

The University has a real focus within the management school on ''leadership'' as the star quality required for business success.  We heard from Jenny Shipley (a compelling speaker who gave some really practical takeaways), Ray Avery (NZer of the year, what a guy!), and Graham Henry (who spoke of the 'team'' aspect of leadership

I spent much of the day furiously writing notes, and trying to absorb all they had to say.  Here's some of the key points I came away with

- sometimes we need to hit rock bottom to have an ''aha'' moment and be galvanised into taking the lead on a project
- when someone says IT CANT BE DONE, the response should be: OK so how do we do it then
- the importance of a supportive partner/wife/husband cannot be underestimated. Great leaders need this.
- leaders are the ones who say ''i can make this happen'' rather than ''someone should do something about that''
- a good leader empowers their team - every person in the team is a leader in some way and needs to be supported in to being the best they can
- leadership evolves and sometimes admitting mistakes, or becoming more flexible is better than having a specific style
- leader have commitment, courage,  and curiosity (I'll vlog on this bit another time).
- leaders are the ones who create the vision that allows other people to manage the outcomes

An inspiring day, which left me wondering, if leadership is where it's at, why is the WMS not called the Waikato Leadership School....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a trouble shared

Isn't it great to have friends to tell ''stuff'' to?  To be able to share a worry (or a triumph) with someone can be the difference between a bad day and a good day.

People tell me stuff.  And most of the time I am absolutely stoked to be able to listen, and when asked, offer an opinion.  But sometimes it's simply not a good time.  And I find myself becoming bogged down by the sadness or troubles of others.  And I'm guilty of doing it the other way too - I am the first to admit that there have been times that I have unloaded MY stuff on to a friend without really considering if it was good timing, or appropriate.

Of course the true friend will almost always be a willing listener, advocate or cheerleader.  That's what being a friend is.  But isn't it easy to forget that they might have their own stuff going on that is just as important, or worrying?  And the other consideration is that sometimes in sharing your trouble, you might just be doubling it - by confessing something that's really big, it might make you feel better, but you might just also be then adding that burden to someone elses worry pile.

So here's a challenge for you - next time you've got something you just have to get off your chest, or a problem that just needs a second opinion ask your confessor if it's ok to spill first.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

150 awesome reasons to shop pre-loved

In desperate need of some smart clothes for work, but not really in a financial position to go for a big shopping spree, I again this week decided to hit the op shops and ''recycled/preloved boutiques'' in my neighbourhood, as well as trawl trade me and the chain stores for a bargain or two.

I spent an afternoon going through my existing wardrobe and managed to fill one of those massive red and white stripey bags with things that no longer fitted or I didn't care for any more (and yes, the odd ill-thought-out impulse buy).  This reduced my wardrobe by about half - I don't have a huge amount of stuff anyway.

Then I made a bit of an inventory and a wishlist for what I needed - I knew I needed some pants for work, at least one or two skirts and a few tops for under winter jackets.  This making-a-list stage is a bit onerous but knowing I would be getting a whole new wardrobe for not much more than most people spend on one or two items has convinced me this is time well spent.

I set aside a morning to ''do the shops''.  Added a few things I wanted to my TradeMe wishlist.  Had a second whizz around the shops a few days later.   And I'm done.  That's about as much as my brain, and feet,  can handle anyway.  

A quick add-up shows I've spent all up about $150, plus splashing out $25 on a new pair of shoes - only expected to last a season and dress up only. (One thing I do usually spend good money on is shoes).
So in my wardrobe I now have added
- 1 pair of dress trousers
- 5 skirts - 3 wool for winter (all Max), one dressy, one unusual embroidered casual cotton
- 3 jackets - 1 very smart for work, 2 casual
- 2 scarves and 1 wrap
- 3 upmarket long sleeve tops
- 2 short sleeve tops and 2 sleeveless ones - save these for summer!
- 2 shirts suitable for work and 2 vintage ones just for fun
- 2 evening dresses
- 1 boiled wool hoodie
- 1 almost new red leather bag

..and a handful of  other things that have made it in there too...

Nearly everything was either new or almost new, and most had good quality brands/labels - many from overseas.  

Yes it takes some time to find things that are the right size or style.  But it really is amazing what is available if you look - and often there are designer labels, new season,  or never worn clothing at a fraction of retail price.  I'm choosy - unless something fits perfectly I don't buy it, and unless the style is exactly right for me, it stays on the rack for someone else to enjoy.    I also don't buy things that I consider others might need seasonally - warm coats, rain jackets etc.  And I never ever ever buy preloved shoes, nightwear or underwear.  

I do like to collect unusual vintage clothing but am very picky about this - I apply similar rules as below regarding styles, fit,  colours and price and have got some amazing things in my collection now.  I'll share this in another post.

Top 10 tips for buying preloved
- know what suits you (colour, style) and spend less time trawling.  
- even though things will appear incredibly cheap, still have a budget and price limit
- don't buy cheap brand clothes unless it's a must have - often they are priced similarly on sale in the actual store
- have a shopping list (avoid impulse buys) and when you've got all you want, stop looking! (unless this is your hobby, then that's different;)). 
- look carefully for damage and avoid where possible but if you're the creative type do consider how something great could be remade, re-buttoned or hems changed
- never EVER buy something unless its fits you properly - leave it for someone else
- apply the one in/one out rule to your wardrobe so you don't over do it and end up with even more things you'll never wear
- follow your own rules and package up your own unwanted things for the stores you buy from.  Apply the same courtesies and wash/mend things before you donate them.  Don't send in rubbish!
- wear easy to get in to/ out of clothes and shoes to shop in and neutral, conservative underwear. A lot of these shops have very small (and loose curtained!) change spaces.  The simpler your clothes, and the fewer number of layers you have the better. 
- get your kids into this.  My daughter thinks it's awesome to be able to spend $5 and get a whole new outfit.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

boring is as boring does

That's up there with 'stupid is as stupid does'' really, isn't it?

I've been involved in an interesting thread discussion on facebook today about boredom.  Why do people get bored? what are they doing about it?

There's been lots of helpful comments about how BUSY everyone is, and how many couldn't comprehend boredom.

Certainly there are times in life when we have to do things that are boring.  For example, we might say we're bored with housework.  Or a book is boring.  Or our job is boring.  But I think stating a particular task as boring is different to being bored.   

I think its possible to be really busy, and still be bored.  I think it's possibly to have ones brain working hard, but still be bored.  And I think it's possible to be enjoying a task, but still be bored.    I even would go so far as to say its possibly to have a really full and seemingly challenging life and still feel ''bored''.  Because my argument is that the word bored is actually used by a lot of people as a broad term to cover a whole lot of other emotions/feelings, many of which we wouldn't really want to say out loud.

So is it possible to drill down into boredom and see what is really going on?  I think so.  In my business coaching life I use the ''5whys'' to get people thinking about planning and strategy. It's a great way to get thinking about an issue and really get to the heart of it.
for example
I'm bored at work
Because the job is not challenging
because i know it inside out
because I've been there so long....
because i don't think I can get another job......

I go through plenty of phases of feeling ''bored''.   I usually try to ''fix'' it by adding in more stuff to do.   And I already have a pretty busy life.  Which is how I realised that boredom couldn't be fixed with staying busy.  So maybe when I say ''I'm bored'' actually what I'm saying is
- I'm feeling unfulfilled
- I'm not content
- I'm disillusioned
- I'm tired
- I'm lonely

What I learned, is that for me, bored means that my emotional tank is a bit on the low side.  In other words,  I'm probably not bored at all.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


 I have previously blogged about a fantastic television series called The Monastery and the subsequent book 'Finding Sanctuary''.  You can read more about this at

This week my discussion group started on working through this book, with a combination of quiet reflection, journalling and conversation.

We began by talking about thankfulness and this weeks leader of the group asked us to read Psalm 139 and then write down (in our shiny new journals), our reflections, or our list of things we were thankful for.

It was just amazing to discover than in fact, not one of us made a list of things at all.  We all had very different views on what we were thankful for, and most had to do with feelings rather than things, or experiences (well, we are all women after all...).

For me, I got stuck.  I think I already go on too much about all the good things in my life - to the extent that perhaps I sound like I protest too much!  But I wrote down ''thankfullness'' at the top of the page and stared at it blankly for a few minutes.  And there it was:  my untended spelling mistake was my moment of clarity.  Perhaps being thank-full means being content with what you have, and considering that ''á quiver full'' rather than listing everything individually (hence highlighting what we DONT have).  Perhaps being thank-full, or thank-filled, means just being, not doing, saying, acting.  Just being.

What would you say you are thankful for?  To whom?  Are you satisfied with what you have, or are you always looking for the next thing to add to the list?