My new favourite acronym for all leaders

Because you don’t already have enough acronyms in your life, amiright?

This badboy is a good one though, I promise.

It’s simply, WAIT and it stands for Why Am I Talking?

Just seeing this glorious acronym on a page provokes us to be more intentional with when and how we communicate, the byproduct of which is we’re likely to do more listening. It gives other people in the room a chance to contribute and feel heard and works especially well in partnership with EARS.

To hear more check out this short 20min podcast episode.


A few months ago I was chatting with my friend Stacey about different work styles, and she asked me a question I think all leaders should ponder: “Why do you still choose to commute to a shared office when you can work from home?”

I replied: “I come here for what I can’t get at home: banter and human connection.”

And I meant it.

I no longer go to an office expecting to do deep, focused work without distraction because I can do that better at home. I also don’t go to an office to sit on video calls from 8 am to 5 pm because I can do that more comfortably at home.

Instead, I go to an office for conversation, human connection and, yes, banter. I go there to share ideas, think creatively and laugh. Ultimately I go to the office because it makes me a better, more social person. Plus it’s fun to wear proper pants every now and then.

All this has me wondering: where might you make space for banter?

What Humpty Dumpty can teach us about storytelling

A few weeks ago I sat through a lengthy and confusing presentation in a dimly lit conference room struggling to find meaning or purpose in the story being shared. The whole experience reminded me of our good friend Humpty Dumpty and the world’s simplest three act structure to telling better stories:

Act 1: Set the Stage and Spark Curiosity “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.” Straight up you’ve got me intrigued. Why on earth is he up there? What’s he doing? What’s he thinking? What’s going to happen next?

A great story captivates the audience’s attention from the outset, sparking their curiosity and setting the stage for the journey ahead.

Act 2: Build Tension and Engage Empathy: “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.” Oh, HELL NO Humpty. Is he going to be okay? Why wasn’t there a railing for him to hold onto? I’m sure he’ll be fine, this is a nursery rhyme after all, and we love a happy ending.

A compelling story presents a challenge or conflict that captures the audience’s interest and empathy.

Act 3: Deliver a Climax and Resolve the Tension: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” Wait, what?! You mean even the entire King’s army couldn’t help poor old Humpty? What happened to happy endings? Ergh, this story is brutal, I need a drink.

A memorable story concludes with a powerful climax addressing the tension that was built in Act 2. It provides closure and resolution, even if it’s not a happy ending, as in the case of old Hump.

All compelling stories have these three acts in common. So next time you share a story or are giving a presentation consider how you might ‘do a humpty’ and tell it in as few words as possible using this simple three act structure.

Two questions to ask your team

A little Sunday challenge for all you leaders out there working in and/or leading a team.

Take 30min out of your next team meeting and have everyone respond to these two questions:

  1. What’s your superpower?
  2. Where are you stuck right now?

That’s it.

It doesn’t require you to solve anything, provide an update or put together a slide deck (please, don’t put together another slide deck). Instead, it requires you to lean into the real, human skills of humility, vulnerability, empathy, and curiosity, and to do so in service of connection.

My new favourite leadership metaphor from Barack Obama

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to see Barack Obama speak in Melbourne. How’s that for a fun sentence?

For 90min he sat back on a lounge chair riffing, telling stories and sharing wisdom to the 10,000 of us who managed to snaffle a ticket.

Around an hour in he casually mentioned, what is my new favourite leadership metaphor. I’m almost certainly paraphrasing, but here’s how I remember it:

“Leadership is like a relay… you get given the baton having had no control over what’s happened before you, and so all you can do is focus on what’s in front of you. All you can focus on is taking the baton you’ve been given and running your own leg of the race, before passing it on again.”


This strikes me as brilliant for many reasons. At its core I think it speaks to focusing on what we can control as leaders (and not getting stuck on what came before us or what is outside our control), and doing so in a way that we are proud of regardless of all the other runners beside us.

It’s a metaphor I plan on noodling on for weeks and months to come as I consider what metaphorical races I have coming up and how I want to receive the baton and take it forward.

O’s and C’s

Do you loathe giving feedback? Does it make you want to burrow into a hole like a wombat and not come out? Are you constantly looking for the ‘right’ thing to say?

Well, you’re not alone.

But fear not my four-legged, furry, marsupial friend, I’ve got a simple, mini-framework that I think will help. It involves doing just two things: sharing something you observed and asking a curious question. I call it: observations and curiosities, or O’s and C’s (cue The OC soundtrack).

Here’s what it might sound like in action:

  • I noticed you were really quiet in that client meeting, and I’m wondering what’s on your mind? or;
  • I heard you say you’re overwhelmed and I’m curious how can I support?
  • It sounds like you’ve really thought through this plan in detail, which makes me wonder: what do you need in order to take action?

That’s it.

So the next time you’re in a feedback conversation, avoid serving up the dreaded sh*t sandwich and instead, try on some O’s and C’s.

Do you compete or collaborate?

I recently went to an annual industry awards night. The kind where 500 people come together to reflect, celebrate, and recognise those who’ve excelled over the last 12 months.

In chatting with the winner of the Business of the Year afterward, I asked what change most helped set them up for success in the last 12 months. His answer made me smile the kind of smile that is reserved for when you hear something you know you can’t un-hear. It was a truth bomb. A mic drop. A real-life noodle scratcher. Something that is so elegant in its simplicity but requires a lot of intentional leadership to execute.

“Our two teams went from competing to collaborating. From not communicating and hiding information from one another to openly sharing and learning from one another.”

This hit me right between the eyes (which is saying something given I’m 6″7′ and all) and now I can’t help but wonder:

What would it look like for you to move from a posture of competing to a posture of collaborating? What would it look like to be a learner and a sharer? Someone who intentionally seeks to rise all boats, rather than only focus on their own?


It turns out my wife might be right: I’m a bit of a faffer.

That is: I spend a decent amount of time being ineffectual.

How do I know this? Because I have a colour coded spreadsheet to prove it (so it must be true).

Having recently read the Peter Drucker classic The Effective Executive I decided to do a ‘time audit’ and track where and how I spend any given work day. It’s an exercise recommended in the book as Drucker asserts “it is amazing how many things busy people are doing that will never be missed.”

Determined to not be one of these people I created a spreadsheet and tracked my time in 30-60min blocks for a couple of weeks. The findings were confronting.

For the most part, when in client meetings, offsites, workshops and coaching sessions my spreadsheet looks good. I show up and I’m effective and present for these. Where things get scary is in the white space in-between these activities. In the gaps in between meetings, offsites, workshops and coachings.

In this subliminal space it seems I shuffle the metaphorical, and actual, papers a LOT. I do things like check my inbox (every 16 seconds), pick my up my phone without realising I’m doing it and set off to refill my drink bottle, only to get distracted on the way to the kitchen and return 13 minutes later with an empty bottle wondering what I set off to do.

In short, I faff.

Of course, Drucker was onto something. Just knowing you’re doing this exercise and have to write in your spreadsheet how you’re spending your time is enough to shift your behaviour. And now that I see a pattern of these pastel yellow Excel cells (the colour of choice for activities that I concluded were ‘faffing’) all through my week, I realise that I’m not being as intentional with my time as I hoped. Moreover, I realise that these are tasks that as Drucker says if I do less, won’t be missed.

So where does that leave me? Well, as James Clear has said “time magnifies whatever you feed it” so I’m on a mission to feed it less faff. To be less aimless in the white spaces on my calendar and instead be more intentional and deliberate.

PS. for more on this topic, checkout this podcast with me and Jen Waldman.

53 great questions to help you navigate difficult conversations

I recently asked a Zoom room full of 20 senior leaders and executives what questions they ask when navigating difficult conversations. In less than 2min this group generated 53 great questions that I’ve included below (unedited, so as to preserve the magic) for you legends to use.

Maybe, just maybe, this list will make your next difficult conversation just a little less ‘difficult’ and a little more generous, empathetic and curious:

  1. How can I support?
  2. What are your thoughts on this?
  3. How does that make you feel?
  4. What’s the biggest challenge here for you?
  5. Firstly ask about how they are…
  6. What are some options you can think of here?
  7. I’d love to hear your perspective and what I might be missing…
  8. What is your greatest struggle at the moment?
  9. What are your blockers and how can I help?
  10. What is keeping you up at night?
  11. How do you think I can best support you ?
  12. If you could change one thing what would it be?
  13. What else might we do…?
  14. What’s your POV on…..?
  15. Can we walk though your position?
  16. What can we do to clear the way for you on this?
  17. What is your biggest challenge?
  18. How do you see this being resolved?
  19. What are 3 other ways forward?
  20. How can I help to navigate through this?
  21. How could the team support you through this?
  22. What’s your idea of success?
  23. Have you resolved situations like this before?
  24. How can we help make this better?
  25. How can I help?
  26. Is there anything we/I could do to help
  27. Interesting you said x, what is it that you mean by x?
  28. What’s your definition of success in this situation?
  29. Can you explain the problem to me?
  30. Do you mind running me through…
  31. What’s the one thing you need right now to help you?
  32. What do you think about that? How can I help?
  33. Let’s focus on what you want to achieve next
  34. How do you feel about this?
  35. What would be your ideal outcome?
  36. Follow up question to what’s keeping you up at night….what else is there?
  37. What is your number one goal/objective
  38. I would what makes it difficult for you to complete this task so that i am able to support you in a way that adds value for you
  39. What is the outcome you are seeking to achieve?
  40. And what else?
  41. How can I help you achieve your goals?
  42. I need your help with something..
  43. What are the things we can control in this situation?
  44. What does success look like for you?
  45. Why do you think that matters?
  46. If I were to help, what would that look like for you?
  47. What is stopping you from being the best version of yourself?
  48. What does success look like to you?
  49. How can I help you achieve your goals? What goals are you hoping I can assist you with?
  50. Can you please help me understand why this is a priority?
  51. Is there anything we have not discussed which you feel we need to?
  52. Is there anything that is going on outside of work/this project which is causing you stress? How can we help you?
  53. What do you think we need to improve?

What design thinking can teach us about communicating effectively

Have you ever found yourself in a meeting and on the receiving end of a long diatribe or winding story that has absolutely nothing to do with you, the purpose of the meeting, or the project at hand? It’s a kind of ineffectual communication that almost never influences change, other than the change of “I need to get out of this situation asap”.

Cue design thinking.

Design thinking encourages us to be more intentional and experimental about the way we approach problem-solving, product development, and design. It’s also a process that can also allow us to dramatically improve the effectiveness of our communication and avoid being that person in those meetings.

In order for us to better ‘land’ a message, idea, or piece of feedback, we can pause to consider these four elements that are common parlance (great word) in design thinking circles:

  1. The needs and emotions of those we’re communicating with
    • Ask yourself: who’s it for? Who is on the other end of this communication? What are they motivated by? What are their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and incentives? What are their fears and doubts?
  2. The specific challenge at hand and what success looks like
    • Ask yourself: What’s it for? What’s the change you’re seeking to make? How are you hoping you’ll make them feel?
  3. All of the possible ways to solve this problem
    • Brainstorm 13 different ways to communicate this problem/challenge. What stories, metaphors, and analogies do you have to articulate and communicate this change that will resonate with the identified audience? What facts and figures might you leverage?
  4. Decide and experiment
    • Ask yourself: from the brainstorm which 1-2 of these stories, metaphors, and analogies is most likely to address your answers to steps #1 and #2? Pick one and go.

The goal of really effective communication isn’t to share every single thing you know about any given topic. The goal is to shift the energy in the room. To open a door and turn on a light. We do this through human stories, metaphors, and analogies that match the needs and emotions of those we’re communicating with.

It’s all quite meta really. You probably wouldn’t have made it to this sentence had you not resonated with something from the first paragraph of this post.

A framework for difficult conversations

For all you leaders out there navigating difficult conversations and don’t have enough acronyms in your life (iykyk lol fyi):

EEmpathise by seeking to understand what might be going on for the other person. What are their dreams, hopes, fears, doubts, goals and insecurities that they’ll be bringing to this conversation?

AAsk questions that enable you to better understand where the other person is coming from and how they hope to move forward. Questions like: What’s difficult about this for you? What does success look like for you moving forward? How would you like to be supported?

R – Reflect back what you have heard the other person say using their words.

S – State what moving forward might look like based on what you know and everything that has been said (remember: concise is nice).

Most people fear difficult conversations because they’re afraid of what the other person might say. So afraid, in fact, that they avoid even having the conversation.

When in doubt: acknowledge that the conversation you’re about to have is difficult and then use your EARS (see what I did there?)


A strategy for growing your business/career

A friend recently shared she was hired to run a full-day workshop by a CEO she’d never met. There was no direct marketing campaign, exhaustive pitch or 67-page proposal document.

The CEO contacted her because:

a) she’d heard good things from another CEO who had been “delighted” by their work together and;

b) she listened to some episodes of my friend’s podcast (from 2 years ago) and loved them

I share this story because it highlights two of the most impactful questions I’ve come across when seeking to grow one’s business/career:

  1. Who are you delighting? and;
  2. What habits are you practising that will benefit your future self?

It’s easy to think you need to post more on Instagram, change your LinkedIn profile photo or design a new pitch document, but it might be far more impactful to focus on delighting your current clients and timelessly adding value.

Action creates information

A few weeks ago my wife asked me to decide where we should go for dinner for an upcoming weekend. Naturally, I proceeded to research 17 options doing a deep dive on their websites, Instagram accounts, Google reviews, Uber Eats offering and any news articles written about them.

I got the list down to 3 options which I proudly shared with her, along with the question: “which would you like to go to?”

Her response was swift and fair: “whichever one you decide.”

Ouch. Here I was poked right in the metaphorical eye. You see the task wasn’t to spend as much time as possible shortlisting options only to defer the decision to her. The task was simply to make a decision. ANY decision.

This has me pondering where else deferring and lack of decisiveness is showing up in my life. Consider: where am I hiding in inaction? In telling myself story that I need to “collect more info”? Or “just be patient”?

What if instead, I took action? What might I learn? What might I gain? What’s the worst that can happen?

For the record, I picked the Italian option (obviously) and it was an absolute winner.

Creativity and pancakes

My friend Jen compares creativity to making pancakes. Both are processes that require a bunch of attempts, imperfections, and patience.

Think about it. No one ever nails the first pancake. You pour the mixture out onto the frying pan and it resembles a Pacman. Or a crescent moon. Or maybe it looks so warped that you wonder if it’s Jesus looking back at you so you take a photo and post it on eBay for $25k ala this guy.

All this before you embark on the treacherous act of flipping the damn thing.

When it comes to pancake numbers three and four now you’re starting to find your groove, maybe even showing off a little with a bit of a flip-it-as-high-as-you-can situation.

This process mirrors the creative one. No-one confidentially writes a final draft or shoots a final video edit first go. Instead, we try something new, see that it’s not that great, and then have an opportunity to work on making it better. And as we do we build momentum and confidence.

So, what are you waiting for?

For more Jen wisdom on pancakes, check out last week’s episode of The Long and The Short Of It.

My biggest aha of 2022

Last year my wife and I traveled through Italy. We swam off the rocks of Riomaggiore, drank wine in the vineyards of Val d’Orcia, and walked our way around the streets of Rome.

We also discovered something that ended up being one of my biggest aha moments of 2022.

That is: pasta can be the first course. ‘Primi’ as it’s known over there.

Now, it’s entirely possible this is obvious to everyone reading this and I’m the only one that missed the memo, but in my mind, at least down under, pasta is a straight-up main meal. The kind that is served in a huge bowl and leaves you walking (or rolling) out of a restaurant struggling to breathe and tapping your stomach gently as if to say “I know, I know, I’m sorry.”

Knowing that it’s possible to have a small, lighter serving of pasta before embarking on a main meal completely reframed something I had forever assumed to be a norm.

Naturally, I’ve used this as a metaphor to noodle on the following question:

What other rules or norms am I following that I might challenge?

E.g. Do I really need 60min for my next meeting? Is it necessary to have Slack notifications on? Does work need to feel ‘hard’ for it to be worthwhile?

Why goal setting is more important than goal achieving

Jen Waldman recently reminded me that goal setting and goal achieving are two different things.

The former is all about creating a strategy.
The latter is a binary measurement of whether you did something.

The former can create habits that last beyond the goal itself.
The latter does not.

The former is within your control.
The latter is often not.

Wondering what a good goal-setting process looks like? Think of it as an exercise in probabilistic thinking (hello maths nerds) and ask yourself questions like:

  • What am I hoping to achieve?
  • How might I increase my chances of achieving this thing?
  • Who do I know that can help me?
  • What habits do I need to develop and/or drop in order for this goal to be achieved?

Your answers to the last three questions are more important than your answer to the first. These are the questions that will lead you down pathways you can’t currently see where you’ll discover opportunities you don’t realise exist.

The questions I’m asking myself for 2023

This morning I told my wife I was determined to finish my 2022 reflection and 2023 planning today. Her response: “Haven’t you spent the last 3 days doing that?”

Nothing like some direct and honest feedback from a loved one to sort you out.

I since realised I was overcomplicating and overthinking it (who me? Never) and have now come back to these simple questions:

  • What do I want to do more of this year?
  • What do I want to do less of this year?
  • Where do I want to be 12 months from now? What do I want to have happened?
  • Who will help me get there?

Happy New Year, legends. Here’s to a noodly one.

PS. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a classic existential question for good measure: How is it 2023? Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago when everyone was playing Angry Birds and Paper Toss on their newly purchased iPhones?

The disconnection problem

Earlier this month I ran a leadership workshop for a group of high performing leaders at one of Australia’s largest organisations.

At the end of the session I asked: “What was the most helpful part of this workshop for you?” and one of the responses floored me.

“I learned my colleagues names.”

After hours of learning, thinking, stretching, laughing, question asking and conversations the most important thing for this leader was the simplest form of human connection.

It made me wonder about the state of your workplace culture at the moment and left me noodling on this question: How might we create more opportunities for human connection at work?