Strong Opinions… Loosely Held

When you’re feeling your way forward in new territory, it can be challenging to make a decision knowing that you may look back and realise you made a mistake.

What if it feels like the right thing to do today, but in 6 months time someone hangs me out to dry because we’ve realised the wrong thing to do?  Or you have to change your message because what you used to think no longer applies?

It can be a lot of pressure, especially if you’re pushing transformation on your own.  People have high expectations in change – any departure to the familiar had better be “right” because the hurdle to get over changing the way work is so high.

Humans are creatures of habit and we don’t often adequately assess the risk in our status quo – but we’ll definitely pick all the holes in something new.

Well this week I’m encouraging you to be brave, to take that first step and keep moving.  This is stepping into the vulnerability we all feel when we’re transforming business and I promise it’s good for you 🙂

Video Transcript and Relevant Links

Hey so I was talking to a girlfriend this week about some struggle that she’s having in her business, and something she’s really wrestling with and she keeps putting off again and again and again.

When we got down to the root of it, she said “I think the reason I’m putting it off is because I have this fear that if I put my opinion out there, then I’m going to be held to account for it.  Not so much that people will disagree with me, but if somebody comes back to me in three years time, and I’ve changed my mind… I don’t want to be held to what I was thinking three years ago!”

So we were having a bit of a laugh about this whole mind game that goes on.  And it occurred to me that it’s something I see again and again and again when we try and make change in organisations as well – we can sometimes get really scared to make that move, or to make that decision, because we’re worried that we’re gonna be, in some way held to it and attached to it, for the rest of forever.  And that’s not the case.

It reminds me of when I used to work for a wonderful consulting firm over in Melbourne called Thoughtworks, and we used to have this thing we’d say “strong opinions, loosely held”.

And the culture within that organisation was very much about, have an opinion, voice it.  But equally people would be quite willing to change their opinion if they came into contact with information to the contrary, or they found something new – we were quite happy to switch at that point, take on that new idea, and run with it again.

It strikes me that it’s one of those things that’s really critical if we’re starting to talk about building a workplace that embraces positive conflict, and embraces the diversity and the discourse that we need to make better decisions.

And it also reminded me of a great little tool that I’d come across, I don’t remember when, but it was talking about three stages of learning.  How when you first come up with an idea, first start learning a new concept, you’ll often hold onto verbatim what your teachers are talking about – and you need to hold onto those ideas and parrot things back.  There is a line, and we follow the rules, we follow the guidelines, because we’re trying to learn the system, the method.

Then we get a little bit further on in our understanding and at that point we’re able to parrot back the texts from others, we’re less open to absorbing new information and we start to ask others to play by the same rules that we’re playing by, because that’s the new method and we’ve decided that is now the right way to do things, this is now the new way of working.

We get really rigid in just preaching these rules and that replicating of the text book and the parroting back of those rules becomes really quite intrenched.

And then as we move a little further along down the path, what we often find is that people get to a place where they understand the rules, they understand the concepts, but they’re a lot more fluid in the way that they’ll go about interacting with other people.  

It’s ok to have challenge at that point, because you’re anchored in a foundation of understanding the concepts of this particular idea set or this way of working; you’ve digested them to a point that you understand beyond the words on the page, you understand the meaning around them, you’ve had life experiences where these things have played out and you’ve been able to learn on a deeper level those foundational parts of these new ideas.

So that’s become part of you, and who you are, you can ground into that.  And then the challenge comes from various directions, but you welcome the discourse.  Because at that point you’re grounded in knowing what you know, but you’ve also learned that, you probably know very little in the greater scheme of things and you’re ready to open up for those new ideas, for that new thinking to come in and then to grow and evolve from there.

And so if I think back to that girlfriend who’s sitting there going “Ooooo I don’t want to be held on to this for too long, I don’t want to be attached to this forever…” I really love that idea of strong opinions, loosely held.

Go out there, put your opinion out there, try it.  If it doesn’t work, or you learn something new along the way, then we can jump on to that and run with that idea.  But don’t ever lose that passion and that fire, and start backing off because you’re worried you’re going to be held to account to something for years and years to come.  Things change, we know that.

I’m Danelle Jones, please scroll down and leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you, and go out there and smash some goals this week!


Progress without the Work

For so many of us, progress is closely associated with work – hard work.  The visible toil of intellectual, physical, emotionally wrestling with a goal or outcome is a signal that we, or our team are getting somewhere.

So often we think the more we throw at it, the more progress will result – but how many times have you found that more force doesn’t equal more output?  We’ve also read those articles about shifting from five to four day weeks without a drop in productivity.

What’s the secret?​​​​

Well, that’s what this week’s video is all about…  🙂

Video transcript and relevant links

Ok so how many of us equate progress with work? and… hard work?

This is one of those belief patterns that runs deep. I know certainly I was taught growing up – work hard, get results – that respect for a work ethic.  This is something that has gone deep deep deep inside and every now and again we find ourselves in situations where pushing harder doesn’t necessarily result and more progress.

So particularly when you’re working in change.  Particularly when you’re working in changing thinking, often “progress” isn’t visible in this way and yet we have this pattern and this belief system that is caught up with the fact that if I can’t see people visibly toiling – whether it’s frustrated and wrestling with something intellectually or physically digging holes and filling them in –  then I have this sense that people aren’t working hard and therefore we won’t make progress.

I wanted to share a little story today that somebody shared with me a while ago. I think it… to me it’s really really similar to working in change.

So if you think about people who work in creative professions – an artist with a gallery opening – what we see visibly is often a whole scramble of work in a very short period of time and then a gallery show or a visible demonstration of output and those shows might last for a week or a month or so but all that’s really visible is that show as a result of the output.

We have a sense that some work has gone on, there’s that wrestling and putting it together at the last minute that happens.  And we don’t often consider that ok so there is a period of time where those paintings or those photographs were taken and developed and worked on leading up to the show.  

But even before that, is this huge piece of work that’s going on but it’s not visible wear ideas are starting to fall into place.  We’re digesting new thoughts, we’re coming up with an understanding about a theme or a particular topic, learning about ourselves and others and what’s going on, that precedes even pulling out a paintbrush and putting that to paper.

And so that creative process is not only the gallery opening that we see at the end and it’s not only the making of that work that we see in that last minutes rush.  But actually, all of that apparently blank space in between, that might be months or years in the making.  

The reality is that that end output, was never going to happen without all of that blank space happening as well.  That blank space is critical for those ideas to come through, for the digestion, for the understanding, for the thinking process to happen so that we can actually make those beautiful works of art.

For me this is exactly like being in a change program.

You’ve got an outcome that you’re striving for.  You have a chunk of very visible work – whether it be changing process, introducing new work methods, new ways of working, the automation of testing if you’re in an IT project, prioritisation of work, you know… all of that change in business process that happens.  To me that’s right at the end as well.  

But what precedes all of that happening, is this blank space.  And in that blank space it’s critical that people have the time to digest these new ideas and to start to process these ways of thinking and working in a new way.  

And so your role as a change agent in planting those seeds can often be incredibly frustrating, because what you’re seeing a lot of is the black space before we get the action.

So it’s a… wonderful way I think of this work in that it helps me to remember that my job is to plant seeds.  My job is not necessarily to get the gallery opening happening. Not straight away anyway.  

Ultimately yes, but my job is to plant the seeds and so even though that progress might not be visible – and certainly I’m one of those people that things are never moving fast enough for me – but during those blank space times, just knowing that people are processing, people are digesting, people are working through and working themselves up to the point where they’re actually going to do that visible, physical, output, workload.  

So yeah, so that for me is something that is critically important when you’re thinking about change programs.  Even though it’s not necessarily visible, even though that work is not necessarily visible, you’re still making a huge amount of progress in that blank space.

As long as you’re consciously sowing those seeds, and continually working through the thinking change that needs to happen.  That means that actually, when the work happens, it’ll be solid, and you’re gonna get the outcome that you want, it’ll be sustainable and it will last well beyond your tenure.


Use This Mind-Hack to Start Thriving in Uncertainty

A while ago now, I was working with a client who was looking to improve her tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.

Together, we came up with this great little mind-hack to keep her sharp, focused, and productive in a complex business transformation.

And today’ I’m sharing it with you so you can start to thrive in uncertain environments – and turn that into your own personal advantage.  The ability to take meaningful action whilst others falter will build trust in your leadership abilities and earn the respect of your team.​​​​

So here it is…

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey so today I wanted to share with you a little mind hack for dealing with uncertainty.

It’s something that we come up against when we start to transition a business away from some of the ways we used to do things and start to explore new ways of working, new insights, new perspective.  

All of a sudden we can be thrown into this world of tumultuous change and we don’t necessarily have all the answers – and sometimes it can be quite a lot to deal with.  

So, the story I have for you today actually comes from one of the clients I used to it work with in Melbourne, who has to be one of the most courageous women I think I ever met, like ruthless at looking for feedback absolutely adamant that she was going to make change in herself for better.

She hit me up one day, and she said to me “…look, I come to the office and I’m really struggling with everything that’s going on.  It’s total chaos everyday.” She said “I go home at the end of the day, I’m exhausted, I’m frazzled I don’t deal well with the constant moving and shifting and changing.  It’s causing me stress, I’m not sleeping well, it’s all getting too much.”

She said “I watch you walk in the door, and you seem to be able to cope with it.  What are you doing differently? What’s going on in your head?” I paused, and I thought about it for a moment and then I started laughing, and she said “This’ll be good”.

I said to her “Well… you might see me walking into the office every day and sort of floating through and fixing things here and there and it looks like this facade of coping with it.  But I said you don’t get to see me outside of the office.  

“So” I said, “if you watched me in my daily routine, the first thing that I do when I head to the office…” – I was living in North Carlton at the time, for those of you that know Melbourne well – and I said “I walk out my door and I get on the number 96 tram which is right outside my door,” and that tram will actually take me pretty much to the door of the office that we were working in at the time.

I said “But I don’t do that.  Every morning is the same. I get on the tram, and I take the tram to the Bourke St, corner of Swanston St and I get off at the Swanston St stop.  At that point, I turn left down Swanston St, I cross over Little Collins, and then between Little Collins and Collins St, I turn right and I jay-walk, I cross Swanston St. 

“I then keep heading down Swanston, make a right turn and cross over Collins at the tram stop at Swanston St there, and head down a little alleyway.  At the end of that alleyway is my favourite coffee shop and every morning I go in there and I get my coffee.” I get my little – it was a soy latte at that time – in my takeaway coffee cup and then leave the coffee shop and I walk down Flinders Lane.

“I turn right to head up, towards Bourke Street, I make a left and I walk down the left-hand side of the road – sorry Collins Street – I walk down the left-hand side of Collins Street all the way until I make it to the office. And then I come in the back door and head up, and there we go.”

And I said “…the reason I’m laughing is because I think what’s actually going on is that my body is clinging to the last vestige of consistency, and habitual activity and the last moment of familiarity, until I hit that office and it’s complete chaos and we spend our day working through.”  We were at this point where we were fighting a lot of fires.  

So I said “Whilst it might appear that I cope well with uncertainty in your eyes, what’s actually going on, is that’ I’ve created all of these little habitual patterns of behaviour outside of the office, which mean that actually we can cope with what’s going on.”

And so then we both started giggling, and I said to her “Ok, so let’s try this.  Where can we find ways for you to build-in habitual patterns and behaviours outside of the office?  If you know that 8 hours a day or 10 hours a day or longer… is going to be really stressful and it’s gonna ask a lot of you in terms of dealing with uncertainty and not knowing all the answers and that’s really uncomfortable…  Then what can we do either side of that to help to build routine and to build-in that sense of certainty for you? Is it your gym routine? Is it your evening meal routine?  

“What’s going to do the trick in terms of building-in some consistency, so that when you get to the office you’ve kind of satiated that need and you’ve got the capacity for the uncertainty and the change.”

That was the first thing we did.  And the second thing we did was we actually went through and said “Right, for these three things that come up, these three types of problems that come up in the office day-to-day.  You are able to go hell-for-leather on your need for certainty. So, the data behind decisions, how are we measuring that, where’s the feedback loop… you’re allowed to dive as deep as you want into needing the certainty around the structure for feedback, the measurement, and data, you GO for it.

“But these other three or four things over here, I need you to really hold back.  And that’s the point where you need to start coping with the fact that you’re incredibly uncomfortable about not knowing the answer, but you’ve gotta let the team do their job and you’ve gotta pull back from that and you’ve gotta keep letting go, and let it run its course.”

And so we went through this for the following few months, and the change was noticeable.  And so, it’s one of those strategies that I’ve employed again with other clients and it was great to work through it with this person, she was ONTO it, and she really stuck to it.

Within the space of a couple of weeks you could see visibly that the stress was starting to sort of, just, drop back a little bit.  She wasn’t quite as agitated and hyper in the office and able to just drop into “ok, that’s outside of my control, but that’s in the category of things that I need to let go of… and these things, we’re going to make sure we’re really certain of.”

So if you’re struggling with uncertainty, by all means, I thought it was a great trick to employ, in terms of just balancing out where you’ve got the consistency and the certainty and the familiarity and then, knowing that you need to step into that space of not knowing as well.  Finding that balance within your day.

Give it a go, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Have a wonderful week!


But Is It Ethical?

You’re working away, day-in, day-out, striving for a better business, a better way of working.  You overcome hurdles, win supporters, you even have a list of people of influence who don’t support you – and you’re working to win them over too.

But is it ethical?

This week we touch on something that I don’t think gets talked about often enough.  Whether it’s the driving force behind a movement to shift your consumption habits, political leanings, or just frankly fronting up to the office every day – what right do we have to change people?  When is enough enough? How do you sleep at night?

Well that’s what this week’s video is all about…


Video transcript and relevant links

Today I want to share a question that came up this week with one of my clients.

This particular client and I are using a tool which I use with a lot of clients and it’s a tool for stakeholder engagement and planning and communications and how we’re gonna get people on board, how we’re going to help to shift them from where they are today to maybe learning something new or bringing on a different perspective.

And so this particular person had asked me, he’d said “…we’ve got this tool and I’ve been working with it for a while now, and I feel like I’ve got this particular individual completely dialled.  I know which buttons to press, I know the type of answer I’m going to get…” and he was really questioning the ethics around doing that, and being able to do that, and I could see he was really wrestling with it.

So I thought it’d be worth sharing here because, I’m really keen to hear your perspective as well.  If you’re in change if you’re in transformation then this comes up. You can’t help but butt-up against this idea of “how far is reasonable?” “Is it our job to change people?” “Is it our job to do something else?” So I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

But I have an opinion on this and so I thought I’d share, there’s a few things for me.  I think the first thing that’s worth talking about is, use your powers for good.  

So when you discover the Jedi Mind Trick and you’re able to help people through unravelling their belief patterns and working through maybe old thinking and old patterns that are no longer useful, and helping to see that different perspective, it really is about using your powers for good.  It’s part of why I always teach a lot of self reflection in the work that I do as well because that is a bit of a safety rail in terms of, if you’re doing that self-reflection work at the same time as you are transforming externally, then it’s about keeping in check, and keeping in balance.

I think the second thing I would say is that any tool can be used for benefit or detriment depending on the hands that are in charge.  

Most of you know by now that I have horses and have loved doing that for a number of years and one of my teachers has this beautiful quote where he talks about the fact that any tool that we use with this animal can be used for good or bad.  Those of you that work with horses will also know that it’s pretty hard to beat a half tonne of horseflesh into doing something they don’t wanna do.

And so there’s this sense that, the tool is the tool.  And what this particular teacher has shown me is that it can be used for betterment or for detriment.  And really, that’s up to you. That’s up to the hands that are guiding the tool, and how that tool is used.

To give you an example out of the office…  KPIs, we’re all familiar with them. Those measurements, those performance indicators they can be used for betterment and for driving conversations about heading in the right direction, are we hitting our goals, are we seeking out the understanding that’s going to take us to the next level?  And equally KPIs can be used to bash people over the head when things are going our way. So it really comes back to the hands that are using the tool.

And I think finally, it’s worth talking a little bit about consent or contracting as I would call it.  So I’m fortunate enough that in most of engagements that I have, either working one-on-one with a leader or working with a leader and their team, in both cases we’re able to have that conversation upfront about knowing that they are signing up for change.  Knowingly, willingly, signing up for a change in perspective, a change in the way that we work and the methods that we use. Willingly stepping into “…actually, I’ve got some barriers and I’ve got some things that are outside my blinkers and I can’t see them, and I’m seeking the help and the support to get through those, and to maybe shift my box, and to reframe.”  

And so there’s a very direct conversation about contracting one-on-one with that person as to where the role sits in terms of transformation and helping them get from where they are today to another place.  And that’s all very direct.

So I guess that’s the final point that I wanted to leave you with, the final thought around, you know, making sure you’re having the conversations with people as well.

This isn’t about surreptitious, underhanded, off to one side, ninja stuff.  This is about open conversation, it’s about being transparent with your audience, it’s about willingly signing up.

And yeah, I think if you’re doing all of that you’re probably along the right track.

But I would love to hear your thoughts.  Let me know what you think. Super interested if you’ve had sticky situations or things that you’ve learnt from.  Drop me a comment below!

And in case you’re curious… here’s the homework I set him: Escaping NXIVM


How To Beat The Travel Blues!

Three planes in three days – it’s turning into a week.  I can assure you I do not feel as glamorous as George Clooney or Vera Farmiga right now.

But despite the seven litres of water I’ve consumed over a “coffee” date with a girlfriend today… I’m in fairly good knick.  That’s thanks to 3 simple habits I’ve developed that mean I can walk off the plane with my head held high rather than feeling twice my age in achy bones and a raspy voice that’s only good for singing Betty Davis Eyes.

So this week we’re switching tack.  This week I’m sharing with you my secrets for staying pepp’d after plane rides.

And there’s a worksheet at the bottom of the page for you – below where I usually post the video transcript and relevant links.  You’ll want to take a look at that one for some exercises to keep you on your game on the long haul.

If you’re travelling this week, take care of yourself.  Heck, take care of yourself even if you’re not travelling.


Video transcript and relevant links

This week I’m switching tack a little bit.  I am 2 days into 3 days of everyday being on a plane and it’s driving me slightly mental.

It’s not something I do so much at the moment, but I have, in the past flown a lot for work and I’m sure many of you out there can empathize with getting on and off planes and living in and out of hotel rooms.

Today I thought what I would do is actually share some of my strategies for coping with all of that.  I find it just wrecks my body getting on and off planes and sitting down all the time.

So on a slightly different note, I thought today what I would do is share with you some of the stretches that I use, and the techniques that I use to keep my body feeling good when I’m going through all of this travel.

There’s a couple of things that I always do before I fly and the days following.  The first up is make sure I’m really hydrated so lots and lots and lots of water. You’ve heard it before, everyone will keep telling you this.  Keep drinking.

So making sure I’m really hydrated before I get on the plane.  I also really like to up my dose of fruit and veggies right before a flight and afterwards.  My favourite way to do this is like a really massive fruit smoothie where I can just chow-down on a whole bunch of fruit in one go.

Not only for the Vitamin C, but all of those micronutrients in your berries, in your sweet fruits… I find again, it’s another great way to get a lot of water and fibre into your body which is really helpful to try and counter some of the effects of flying.

And I actually like to start “pre-loading” – I’ll do that before I fly and I’ll do it the day that I fly and the day after as well, so I’m getting a double-dose of fruit.

Stretching’s the third thing.  So for me, I have an old lower back injury.  I get lower back pain if I don’t look after my body and flying just seems to be one of those things that really sets it off.

It’s being crammed in a small space, it’s not being able to move freely, it absolutely ruins me if I’m not careful.  So I have been known to actually stretch at the airport before getting on a flight. And I will take the quirky looks because I know that it’s going to mean that I feel so much better when I get off the plane at the other end.

But if you’ve already got on the plane and you’re off the other end, what I thought I’d do is down the bottom and where I usually post the transcript, I’ll post some links through and some pictures of the stretches that I use to help keep my body feeling really good.

For me it’s about keeping that lower back safe, so rather than compressing down into, and all of that downward force that happens when I’m sitting for a long period of time, I need to just stretch back out again and give myself some space after a long flight.

The other place that I feel it is in my hamstrings – they tighten up incredibly.  (They also do it when you’re sitting at the desk everyday). So hamstrings is another big area for me.

And hips.  The outside of my hips will often tighten up and that’s one that I actually don’t feel, so it can be hard to ascertain what’s going on.  But once my hips tighten up, it actually throws out everything else that’s going on in my core and sort of that hip, pelvic region, and that can mean that I end up just hanging off my lower back again and it’s a real pain point for me.

So, I’ve got a few stretches for each!

First up, lower back, I’m going to show you a seated stretch.  Super simple: Sitting cross-legged, reaching up and over and making sure that you’re giving yourself some space as you stretch out to either side.  That one’s really lovely. So we’ll just do a really simple seated stretch.

The other stretch that I’m going to give you is one that will also help for your hips (and sciatica!).  It’s called “butterfly pose” in yoga.  And it’s a stretch, again, seated on the floor, picture your feet sort of cross-legged and then laying back down onto a cushion or a bolster so that your back’s supported.  

And actually I like to hold this pose for as long as I can, so I’ll often do 10-20 minutes lying on my back, in butterfly pose.  It’s a great way to stretch out that back really really gently, give yourself some space, and it also allows you to open the hips.  You want to make sure that you’re really well supported under your knees when you do that stretch – but I’ll pop all of that in the notes.

The other stretch that I like to do for my hips is one called “gomukasana”.  Which will probably kill most of you, it kills me every time I do it. It’s another seated stretch where you actually sort of cross your legs over in front and then fold forward.  It gets right into the outer hip. That’s pretty full on. There’s another way you can do it, and I’m going to give you a couple of twists to do.

So.  Lying on your back and folding the knees over to one side, and then over the other.  Just really gentle. Whether it’s wind-shield-wipering your legs back and forth, so that you’ve got a little bit of movement, or actually allowing the knees to fall to one side and to hold that pose for a little bit longer.  That’s another good way to get into some of the same areas that that gomukasana stretch will do, but it’s not quite as intense.

So I’ve got a couple of twists where you can be laying down on your back, and just folding the knees side to side, we’ll pop those in there for you.

One word of caution, if you’re… so for me I actually really like twisting, that’s one of the things that’s one of the things that helps to loosen up my back.  But if you are sitting and twisting, as I know a lot of us in our chairs will often do “this”. You just need to be really careful because if you are not actively lifting as you twist, what happens is that you’re actually putting all of that weight into your spine and then crunching through – that can actually make your back pain worse, rather than better.  

So I always like to lay on my back if I’m doing a twist, because that way, I’m not putting that compression into my spine, I’ve got the ability to stretch and lengthen and can sort of wriggle your way through and get a bit more length in there as you need to.

The last two stretches that I’ve got for you are for your hammies.  So runners stretch, which you can do at any point in the day, I actually find this one gets into my lower back as well if I get it just right, so that’s great.

And the final stretch for your hammies that I’ve got is a little exercise that yogis will be familiar with called “legs up the wall”.  Again, this is one of those poses that you can hold for 10, 20, 30 minutes even. It’s pretty simple. It’s laying on your back, with your butt up against a wall and stick your feet up in the air, so that your heels are laying back on the wall as well.  So you’re at a 90 degree angle.  

And to be honest, as long as you can do in that pose is excellent for you.  It’s great for returning blood flow, and the circulation – for those of you that swell up on planes as I do periodically – and it’ll also help to get into just lengthening through those legs and through those hamstrings.  Again you’ve got the pressure off your back, you’ve got that space that you can move and wriggle and lengthen.

So!  I’m gonna drop some photos and some pictures and some imagery and some notes down below.  I might even do that in a little word document if it ends up becoming a tome. But, I hope you enjoy.  

I hope for those of you that are flying this week that you are taking care of yourselves when you do it.  Keep hydrated, keep the fruits up, make sure that you’re stretching at either end, just to get out all of those gnarly kinks after sitting down for so long.

Have a wonderful week!

Download your beat-the-travel-blues safety card here


The One Transformation Tool to Rule them ALL

There’s a Rosetta Stone for building a responsive organisation, and that’s a deep, intimate understanding of your customers – their hopes and fears, their challenges, and what lights them up inside.

All too often we rely on reports or surveys or some other abstracted method of trying to make sense of what’s really important.  The reality is, if you’re not at the coal-face, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity.

In this video, I’ll share with you an activity that will get you out there, listening and learning, and growing your knowledge of what your customers expect of you and your company.

It’s a stepping stone towards a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves and a real life, practical tool that I use everyday in client transformations.  This technique has proven over and over again ​​​​that there is no substitute for hearing it for ourselves rather than being locked away in an office.

And you’ve got some homework… so get cracking!

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey everyone!

Today what I thought I would do is give you a little activity.  We’ve had some pretty heavy stuff over the last couple of weeks and a lot of philosophising and I can tend to get too caught up in that!  

So I have an activity today that’s gonna be super super fun.  It’s the one tool, if I could give you one thing that was going to change your life this tool would be it!  

You will need a journal or a notebook, and a pen.  And what I’m going to do it send you out your frontline to start to understand customer demand.  So have any of you seen Undercover Boss?  Great TV show kinda like that.  We’re gonna send you out to the place where your customers interact with your team.

Call centres are a great spot to do this, frontline desk service where you’ve got customers walking up to say reception desk – anywhere that you can get to the real interaction between customers and your company, that first touchpoint.

Once you get out there to the frontline, what we’re gonna do is you’re going to listen in on what customers are asking for.  So it’s a really really simple technique but I think what you’ll find is the power that comes from this deeper understanding of getting out there at the coalface is huge.  

So what I want you to do, is whilst you’re  and shoot so whatever you to do is whilst you’re… set yourself up,  get yourself into a place where you can sit and observe, and then whilst you’re settled you want to listen for what customers are asking for when they come into contact with your team member.

Let’s say you’re in a call centre, you’ve got a headset on you’re listening to the calls as they come through.  I want you to write down VERBATIM, in the customers words what they asked for, first up. So that initial interaction the call through to the call centre, the first thing that comes out of their mouth… write that down!

And it needs to be verbatim.  You only get one chance at a clean data set.  So I don’t want to see what you think you heard or your interpretation of what they asked for.  Write down verbatim, in the customers’ words what they asked for.  

And then follow up the rest of the call, keep an ear out for the things that really matter to your customers – so what’s actually important to them about what they want, when they might want it, and how they want it delivered.  Keep that sort of running tally. And I want you to sit and try and do at least 50 demands.

This might take you a few days and that’s ok.  But! Once you start to build a data set and you start to listen to a whole bunch of these demands, you’ll start to notice the patterns that emerge.

And once you start to see the patterns you’re gonna get some really deep insight into what’s important for your customers, what they expect of you and your company and how you can better serve them.

Super simple tool, incredibly powerful.  

Off the back end of this tool we build massive organisational transformation and process change, and it’s incredible once you start to get that focus on what’s really important.

The other bonus, is that you now have customer words that you can start to bring into all of your presentations with your colleagues and other executives that maybe haven’t got that close to the work, and the power of being able to use customer language and the words of your customer is incredible.

So.  Go out and have fun with it.  Love to hear comments below and the insights that you get as a result of getting close to your customers!

Want to know more?  Here’s some great places to get started:

Check out more about systems thinking and the Vanguard Method here: – this team taught me everything I know

And John Seddon’s Book “Freedom From Command and Control” is an excellent read


Today, I’m wrestling with community

It’s been a tough week here in Queenstown.  We’re wrestling with frustration, confusion and our love for living in this place.

This week’s events got me thinking about what it is to move beyond a network to true community – it’s messy, we don’t always seem to make progress and everyone’s got a different opinion on what’s right.

But that’s also the point – where I can choose to present a face to my network that’s cleansed, prep’d and well groomed​​​​… community is about all the raw bits and the vulnerability and the not-so-goods that you can’t hide.

In this week’s video I’m trying to tease out this process, and what’s gonna get us through.​​

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey! So this week I wanted to talk about the difference between community and network.  This is about my fifth time trying to record this video today and for some reason it’s become really really hard.

It’s feeling inauthentic it’s feeling like we’re just scratching a surface.  What triggered me to want to record this video this week, is that here in Queenstown we’re in the middle of our summer tourism period, we’re also in the middle of fire season and we’ve had a really really tough week.

We’ve had a number of car accidents on the road, some of which have been fatal, and the whole community is just reeling.  This group of people who live here are just devastated by what’s going on. They’re incredibly frustrated at the lack.. The unnecessary nature of what’s happening.  It’s stirred up a lot of stuff that is not nice, and pointing the finger, and all those things and part of why I wanted to talk about this topic today is that we’re right in the middle of this really messy aspect of the community.

So when I was in Melbourne and part of the project management communities over there, I used to attend regular networking events, we’d have chances to meet up and learn and share with other people who did a similar job to us, you know, you’re always meeting people through your job, and it was very much a network.

It was something that at the end of the day you’d go home and you’d put it to one side and and you get off the rest of your life.  These people, beautiful, wonderful as they were, and you know we shared connections about passion for what we’re doing… and yet, it wasn’t… it didn’t have the same depth as some of the connections that I’ve found here, in a small town, volunteering as a member of the local fire brigade.

So as a member of the fire brigade we will get called out to accidents, same as an ambulance officer.  There’s about 10-15 in our local brigade. And these are people, some of whom I see very very rarely, we maybe pass on the street, in a small town.  Others of whom are good friends and colleagues and we see a lot of each other and all of whom are very very diverse. Very different people, different communication styles, different upbringings, different backgrounds, different values.

I think what’s really struck me, is seeing some of the things you do, and going through some of the things that you do, this team becomes like family.  They are there for you 24/7. You have a connection that goes beyond simply the face that you choose to present to the world, and gets into the messy, gritty, “this is me under pressure”, “this is me at my worst”, “this is me when I’m breaking down”  AND “this is me, when I’m on form, performing at my best, nailing it”.

I guess it’s been really interesting to contrast and compare the two.  Because I think in business a lot of the time we focus on building the network.  Because it’s safe, because we can do it a way where we show up and present a face to the world – and that gives us a little bit of safety too.

But the benefit of aspiring towards community, as something that is greater than simply a network, it’s a leap of faith.  It requires you to get down and dirty and messy.

We have a local Facebook group here in Queenstown, which has been bombarded with photos and commentary and some of it has been pretty horrific over the last couple of weeks.

To see today, a slight change in some of the way that the comments are coming through, people being vulnerable and saying “I’m really struggling with this”.  And “I’m trying to do something that I think is good, but it’s coming off as bad” – that messy toing and froing, and that grey matter, and that not knowing what’s right, it’s not black and white anymore.

All of that messiness, all of that raw vulnerability is something that you have to traverse if you’re to get from simply a network, to true community.

And I think the other thing that’s really struck me within the brigade, is watching this very diverse group of people come together and part of… probably one of the biggest factors in why we have such a strong sense of community in that group – is that we are all so driven by a purpose.

All of us show up for different reasons, but we all share this belief around service to community.  We’re here because we want to create a better world for our neighbours, our friends, our colleagues, people we meet on the street, people visiting here, and that core purpose is something that binds us together as a group and helps get us through the really messy stuff.

So I’m going to continue wrestling with this today and I guess I’m really keen to hear your comments back as well.  Where do you see the show up in your environment? Work environment, home environment?

And let’s start to tease out some of the subtlety around this.  Because the benefit of getting to that place where you’ve got a group of people that are truly knitted together and have shared the best of times and the worst of times… the benefit that comes from that, and the deeper sense of security as a group.. It’s just incredible to witness and to be a part of.

I’m Danelle Jones, tribe Leadership Retreats, thank you so much for your time.  I’d love to hear your comments in the comments section below.


Quit the tokenism, build congruence

How do you feel about a company that has a wellbeing program yet perpetuates a culture of over-work?

Most of us find this type of tokenism leaves us hollow, cynical, disappointed.​​  And worse, these gestures without the depth of change to back them up keep us distracted from the real cause of the toxicity in our corporate environments.

But what’s the alternative?  Have you seen it done well?

Well that’s what this week’s video is all about – and we have a cameo!

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey everyone!  Today we’re out in the paddock because I wanted to introduce you to this ol’ fella.  

This is Chief, we’ve been friends for a long, long time now and the reason I wanted to introduce you to him was because I got a question this week from Alex about… her question was, how do you feel about companies that have a wellbeing program in place, maybe there’s a yoga and mindfulness program and yet there is still this expectation, whether formalised or not – sometimes it’s just one of those informal things – that the culture expects that you’re there working 10 plus hours a day and pushing yourself and pushing yourself and that conversation about resilience being “how can you do more”.

That’s pretty much my feelings too.  So, horses are masters of non-verbal communication and to quote one of my good friends Andrew Froggatt, horses don’t care if you’re the CEO or the Janitor, they’re going to treat you the same way.  

And so a lot of people, when they first come into contact with horses, it can be pretty terrifying probably.  They’re big animals right? Chiefy here is probably 4-500 kilos worth of muscle and they’re unpredictable! So understandably, people are really nervous.

And if you’ve been fortunate enough to come on one of my retreats then you may have met this old fella.  One of the pieces that I love to do is teach people that first contact with horses as part of understanding your non-verbal communication.

Because the trick with horses is, they’re not worried if you’re scared.  What they’re worried about is when you don’t own your fear.

So all of this non-verbal communication that’s going on when you work with an animal like this, it is also a lot about how you show up and how you own your feelings and how you take ownership for what’s going on… within all of this.

And so then to get back to Alex’s question, you know, I struggle with companies who are putting in place well-being programs and yet at the same time perpetuating a culture of non-healthfulness.  Perpetuating a culture where there is an expectation to keep moving and keep working and… driving essentially a system that is not healthy.

To me workplaces should be healthy.  They should be healing places.

For those of you who’ve read Simon Sinek’s new book – and if you haven’t check it out, The Infinite Game – he talks about for as long as we keep perpetuating this idea that we can heal over things with a yoga session or a mindfulness course or a once a week well-being catch up.  For as long as we perpetuate the idea that we can do those things to solve the problems and the toxicity that we’re seeing in our corporate environments today… For as long as we continue to kid ourselves, then it just takes us longer to get to those things that are actually going to make a difference.

And for me, much as Simon says, it’s about the leadership change that needs to happen.  So it’s not about visibly seeing a couple of token gestures towards “we care about health”.  It’s about how YOU show up as an individual and as a leader and how much congruency you have demonstrating the behaviour yourself and opening up space to actually have a healthful environment for your employees, and that’s more than simply yoga and mindfulness.

That’s about building a culture and building an organisation that is responsive and adaptive and allows all of people’s unique talents to come in to play.

So, Chief and I are going to  go for a walk. It’s about 30 plus degrees today here in Queenstown, we’ve had a week of it.  I reckon we’re going to go for a swim, but if you’ve got any questions or comments I would love to hear from you so drop me a link below, thanks!


Are you simply on the take?

When we’re in the middle of making change, it can be easy to slip into this notion that the old ways are “bad” and the air of arrogance around being “better” starts to creep in.

But the old ways came about for good reason.  There was a valid problem at the core of why we work the way we do today.  If you don’t understand that then how can you be sure that your new way of working is any better than simply patching over something else?

This week’s video is all about how we make change, without throwing it all out, but instead maintaining respect for the old as we grow into the new…

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey so today I’m right in the middle of the launch of one of my new products which is going to be coming out, which I’m calling Transformation Templates.

I’m super excited about it so I’m about to share all of the templates that I use, whenever I go into a business transformation.  All of the tools, all of the spreadsheets, the way I collect information, we’re putting that all into one tool set and putting it into a spot where you’ll all have access to it!  So, really really exciting and I wanted to just pick up on something that one of the templates specifically addresses.

There’s this tendency when we get into change programs to say, right, I’ve been put in place here to make a change and it’s about getting from where I am today to something that significantly different to what we’re doing.  Often we come up against resistance, and you know people like the familiar, we talk about people not wanting to change you know getting through all that motivation stuff. Sometimes it can be quite easy to get caught up in our own journey, and our own story and so we start pushing through these changes and we can get to the point where we actually start to say no to a lot of things.  

It becomes what I would describe as disrespectful of the current way of working or the current operations because we can see through it, we can see a better path.  So why would you continue doing what you’re doing if you could see this Utopia in the future? And so it can be easy to slip into that space of I guess, playing down what we’ve got that’s existing.

And I wanted to pick up on that and highlight that in any change program, we must come at this from a place of respect for the old.

These ways of working came about, because we were trying to solve a problem.  Somebody probably put them in for a really good reason. That strange process, where we double-triple-quadruple check something was probably put in place for a good reason at some point.  

So when we then go to start unpicking and undoing this and we start impacting the lives of colleagues and our team members, it’s really important that we come to it from a place of respect.  So understanding that, these things may have been put in place for a very very good reason, but actually we’re going to move to something that’s going to be a whole heap better.

One of the tools I use over and over again is this idea of a “give and take planner”.  So whilst we’re taking away something we’re changing the current way of working, what’s the give back?

This became really apparent to me with an executive coming onto a floor of 200 engineers that were in the middle of a large agile program.  So this team built software, they’d moved from wanting to build big projects that lasted 3-4 years and we’d flipped it to fortnightly ways of working and trying to get software out the door much more quickly and this idea of feedback loops and responsiveness and in that process we had dropped a lot of the traditional project management tools including schedules.

And so this executive arrived on the floor, and we walked him around  and I remember him saying to me “But how the hell do I know what’s going on when I don’t have a schedule? How do I.. how do I get..  This is all great. I see people collaborating, I see a lot of energy, fantastic. But I’ve got no idea where we’re at?”.  

It was this moment for me where I realised that just because we didn’t produce a gantt chart anymore – and we as a team had got to this place of “gantt charts are bad, we don’t do them” –  that didn’t take away from the fact that somebody still needed to understand where we were up to. Help me understand progress. Am I heading in the right direction? Is it meaningful? When are we going to be done?

These questions didn’t go away and it was a real joy to be able to take this person to one of our big visual workboards, where we had a whole bunch of post-it notes and coloured cards and things up on the wall displaying I guess like a dashboard, a physical dashboard of where the team was at.  And I talked him through the tool we were using instead of a gantt chart, which was called a burnup chart.

I took him through and taught him how to read these particular tools and explained the trend line and where “finished” happened and those sorts of things.  By the end of it he was really comfortable that he could come back into that space and get the answers he was looking for.

But that example really crystallized for me.  Here’s someone who has a problem to solve, they’ve asked this team to go away and carry out some work, and then in  the process of changing our work method… all of a sudden he’s lost all of those tools that he was expecting to be able to understand whether to or not he was making meaningful progress.

And so turning around to him and saying “well that’s not the way we do things anymore” was actually the same behaviour we were trying to get away from.

So instead, having respect for the old, we understand that just because we don’t use that tool anymore, doesn’t take away from the fact that you still have a problem, or an insight that you’re looking for, and actually, here’s the give-back.

Here’s the way that you get that information in the new way of working.  Here’s how you understand what you’re looking for, and potentially in a much better way than the previous tool.  We hope. That’s why we’re changing right?

So I’ll leave that one with you.  I’m going to go back to some video recording and getting these templates up online, but I hope you have a wonderful day and we’ll see you again next week.


The top 3 reasons that change programs fail

None of us get it all right all the time.  But there’s three critical reasons I’ve noticed that change programs fail.  That’s what I’m talking about in this week’s video – and a couple of those reasons might surprise you!

So if you’re curious about building a learning organisation…. View on!​​

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey Danelle Jones here from tribe Leadership Retreats and today I wanted to talk to you about the three reasons that change programs fail.

First off, the beginning and the end.  Change programs, transformation… it’s not a project.  And I’ll have all the project manager jump up in a minute and say but we need to know where we’re starting from and where we’re getting too so that we can manage ourselves through the process.  Not so much in transformation.

What we’re aiming for in transformation is not to start at point A and end up at point B, and then once we reach B decide that we’re done and that’s it and it’s over, we’re transformed.  That’s not what it’s about. Transformation is this ongoing process about building a learning culture in an organisation, and it’s about continuing to push yourself into that space of change and reinvention and yeah it can be pretty uncomfortable.  So just when you think you’re getting settled, that’s when you know it’s time to keep moving and to do the next piece.

So that’s the first reason change programs fail, because we start out thinking we’ve got to get to a point and then we’ll be done.  That’s not the case at all.

Second reason they fail is because we often set these programs, these pieces of work up to solve a problem that we see.

Maybe we see that the business isn’t as agile as you would like, we are unable to respond to market conditions and so we set up this just project to say “right” we’re going to improve business agility.  But the real trick is, are you solving the problems that your stakeholders see? And so the reason that large change programs fail is because all too often we are talking about problems that we see. We’re not solving the problems that they see.  

Now remember anyone who’s going to judge your competence will judge your competence based on your ability to solve the problems that THEY see.  We get this again and again and again in IT right, so we’ll get a large piece of IT work that’s going on and the IT team will be down in the weeds of this particular technology that we’re going to use because Google is using it and therefore if we’re using it that means that we’re a more competent IT team.  

But the reality is that often the business unit that has asked for a particular piece of work to be done, they’re not interested at all in what technology you’re using. They’re interested in whether or not you solve their problem.

So the second reason big change programs fail, is because we solve the problem we see, not the problem THEY see.

The third reason big change programs fail? This one’s a doozey.  It’s because we make it a program.

When you make it a program, when you make it a big thing, then people have something to push back against.  And they’ll push back on it and they’ll reject it, because it’s a big thing. And when we make big programs it also encourages this personality cult around leaders.  It encourages this hero mentality of somebody who’s able to lead from point A to point B and to deliver an outcome.  

The piece that you’re missing, which is absolutely critical,  is that when we’re in that mode of big personality, solve a particular problem, get to point B, delivery… you miss the thinking change that goes along the way.  And so the minute that person leaves the organisation the whole thing falls behind them, because it was always dependent on that person.

And so if we make change programs a thing…  They’re always bound to fail, because we’re putting somebody in a situation where they have to deliver, the minute that person who is super super passionate about it walks out the door… everybody goes back the way they used to do things.  You’re not focused on the right change, which is the change in thinking that’s required across everybody in the organisation to move to that culture of continuous improvement, continuous learning and ongoing change.

So that’s it.  That’s the top 3 reasons why big change programs fail.  Love to hear your comments. Let me know if you’ve fallen into one of those traps before.  Maybe you’re in the middle of one of those traps now and I’d love to hear how you think you’re going to get yourself out of it.

Have a wonderful day and we’ll see you next week!