Struggle for Authenticity

Struggle for Authenticity

Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked for your opinion on something, however in order to be viewed in a certain way, you either amended or hid your true feelings? I think we have all done this to some degree whether subconsciously or otherwise.

Why do we do this? The answer is more complicated than you might initially think. On one hand you are you, a unique individual ready to make a mark on the world. On the other hand, you are human and take other people’s feeling and thoughts into consideration when you communicate with them. These two things are seemingly at odds with each other and between these two “hands” you are struggling to find your own authenticity – to be seen as the real you.

Maya Angelou was quoted as saying “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you will be” and this is so true for all of us. You need to uncover our authentic self and share it with the world so you can realise our own potential without limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs can, however, be difficult to overcome. What exactly is a limiting belief? Have you ever heard that little voice in your head that gives you the negative view or tells you that you are unable to do something? Meet Mr Limiting Belief himself! He can manifest himself in a variety of ways including harsh judgements, shame, a sense of worthlessness and more.

By being able to live authentically you are able to make deeper and more fulfilling connections with everyone you encounter. We all have the capacity to do so, neurologically speaking. But sometimes if we sense rejection or disapproval, similar to that of a jungle animal, our survival instincts kick in and do the work for us.
If you have at some point lived authentically or experienced an authentic moment, you may have seen that everything in your life was working in harmony. No stress. No worry. No fear. Like attracts like and you will see a seemingly endless amount of positive opportunities when you are operating on an authentic level.

I will let you in on a little secret; those limiting beliefs never entirely go away. It really is a case of embracing the fear and doing it anyway. Authenticity involves being honest with yourself and creating a level of self-awareness that you might have shied away from on previous occasions. Great leadership involves taking the risk and doing it anyway, not just for your own sake, but for the wellbeing of your team.
So the next time someone asks for your opinion, give it honestly, openly and with care. You may just discover some likeminded souls who are struggling to discover their own authenticity.

Inspirational Female Leaders: Karen Marie Simmons, Transformation and Change Advisor

Inspirational Female Leaders: Karen Marie Simmons, Transformation and Change Advisor

Welcome to our new series in which we introduce you to some of our top female leaders.

One of the areas in which most women struggle is self-promotion.  We are a bunch of quiet achievers. While it’s lovely that we don’t want to boast about our successes, it also makes it hard for up and coming leaders to find a role model.

This series will introduce you to some well-known and less well-known women who have proven themselves to be exceptional leaders.  We hope they inspire you towards the same level of success.

Today we introduce you to Karen Marie Simmons. For twenty years she has been managing teams, developing systems, and transforming businesses in a variety of ways. She is gifted with a keen and analytical brain which helps her spot opportunities that others miss.

Let me introduce you to Karen.

  1. What are some of the highlights in your careers?

My key highlights revolve around the area of trust and respect.  It still gives me a thrill now to know that I was trusted at the age of 21 to go over to New York to open up a new office! I was also trusted with my first company car.

At 25 I was given responsibility for a $40m revenue business and was able to successfully transform its operations.

I always think back to those times and think, how did I have the energy and resilience!!

  1. What have been some of your key challenges?

Without having a degree or any fancy letters after my name, I had to battle my way to the top based on my results and performance alone. Being taken seriously was a challenge I was only able to overcome through proving my value to the business and tangible results.  Looking back, this is probably what made me work so hard to reach my goals.

  1. What or who made a difference in your career?

My mother was unexpectedly widowed at the age of 34 with three kids to bring up alone.  She taught me to be independent and to work for what I wanted. She taught me to always be grateful for the fact I have ‘choice’ in my life.

I was fortunate to have had a great work leader and mentor in the 1980s who believed and trusted in me.  She taught me about respect and self-respect by giving me way too much responsibility for someone at a young age (and with no degree!)  She believed in me and constantly reminded me to ensure I remained true and honest to who I am.  Never try to be someone you are not. It’s a short term game that never works.

  1. How did you overcome any barriers?

There are no barriers, only opportunities.  I have never seen a barrier.  They simply don’t exist; they are someone else’s reality.

  1. What are some key learnings about working with men and overcoming any unconscious biases?

I find working with men way easier than working with women! Men are open books; easy to read and straight down the line. I find that keeping my communication honest, humorous and straight wins the day. Complex emotional arguments are fruitless and serve no one well.  Keep it real.

Be respectful and always keep egos intact.

  1. How do you manage work life balance?

I don’t do it well all the time, but in general I protect my mornings – 1 hour of ‘me’ time plus another 1hr of husband time before work.  I don’t mind working late but I’m not good at compromising my mornings.  it’s a trade-off.

  1. Any advice for future female leaders?

Don’t be afraid to be who you are, not what you think others expect you to be! You’re a woman; be one. It’s not possible to wear a ‘persona’ at work for the long term. People respond to ‘realness.’ Trying too hard just comes across as disingenuous. Be congruent in your actions and your words.

Food for thought.

You can find Karen at


Inspirational Female Leaders: Ali Sherry

Inspirational Female Leaders: Ali Sherry

Today’s inspirational and exceptional leader featured in our “Inspirational Female Leaders” series is Ali Sherry.  Ali works in HR and is passionate about gender diversity.  She has over 20 years’ experience in the human resource field across a range of industries including mining and energy. Ali is known for striving to improve HR processes to benefit organisations and their people.  Her vision of leadership sees a balance between male and female perspectives, and that is one of the goals she is working towards. Ali is also a mentor for the Executive Women Australia’s Matching Mentor Program.

  1. What are some of the highlights in your careers?

There have been many highlights over the years, however most recently, a highlight was securing federal funding to run a joint Indigenous Pre-Vocational program.  Seeing the successful results of disadvantaged indigenous participants securing apprenticeship places is very satisfying and worthwhile.

Other highlights include:

  • Working as HR Director with Currie & Brown Australia in preparation for an IPO or takeover; this was a great challenge over a 2½ year period.
  • The fun days of recruitment/HR consulting managing an amazing and successful team at Hamilton James & Bruce – they had great team synergy and culture.
  • And of course, my first Board of Director’s appointment, which is to RSPCA Qld.
  1. What have been some of your key challenges?

I have the constant juggle that any working mother understands – that of balancing a household, a husband, 2 children (now independent young women) and 2 dogs.  One of the biggest challenges for me was the volume of school holidays vs. working annual leave; thank goodness for supportive grandparents!

Flexibility is the key to successful working arrangements. Sadly, however I am currently finding in this tighter market that flexibility is disappearing which results in the loss of great women from our organisations.

  1. What or who made a difference in your career?

I am very fortunate to have 2 great influences personally – my mother and oldest sister. My mother completed secondary school and university in the 1950s to study Pharmacy when there were only 2 other women in the course.  Mum always taught us the value and importance of professional and financial independence.  My sister Ann is an extremely successful CEO who always makes time to help her family and friends; “ask a busy person” as the saying goes.   She has always given me great advice, emotional support and guidance on my professional journey.

I am very lucky and acknowledge my supportive husband, who is happy to do his 50% at home and listen, guide and provide a balanced perspective.

  1. How did you overcome any barriers?

Positivity, persistence and perseverance – no barrier is impenetrable.  You just have to work out why it is there in the first place and work out a way around it.

  1. What are some key learnings about working with men and overcoming any unconscious biases?

Actually, I quite enjoy working with men and if required, assisting them to realise the commercial benefits of removing their unconscious/conscious gender bias.  I also believe insightful leaders are equally successful whether male or female.

I often see organisations espousing support of gender diversity and then behaviours that are completely opposite or passive. The key is keeping the conversation open and being vigilant in identifying and eliminating lazy stereotypes if you want to counter gender bias and take advantage of your full talent pool. This has to be leader led.

Serious organisations need to invest in training so their teams can recognise unconscious bias.  This is what will help start the change process.

  1. How do you manage work life balance?

2 words – take-away!  Crunch time is always when I have been running late and the dinner pressure is on.

I also try and take 2 two annual leave blocks a year (a break each 6 months) to spend with family.  This keeps you refreshed.

  1. Any advice for future female leaders?

Find a great female and male mentor; this helps keeps perspective and balance.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Be passionate, brave and take some risks.  And always keep your sense of humour and enjoy the ride.


3 Steps to Motivating Your Organisation’s Key Employees with Blue Ocean Leadership

3 Steps to Motivating Your Organisation’s Key Employees with Blue Ocean Leadership

One of the top challenges of leading change in your organisation as you leave the “bloody waters” of direct competition to create new markets and demand in the open spaces of “blue oceans”, is getting your people to “opt in” and “buy” your leadership. Motivating your employees to reach their full potential and give their best efforts is a significant challenge. After all, when most of us are given the choice, we tend to prefer sticking to the status quo in the mistaken belief that it promotes stability for ourselves and our company. Change is scary business.

However, if we want to be innovative and find our way to less competitive, open market spaces and maximize both our profit potential and the utility that we offer our customers, we must not only accept change, we must lead it.

It’s absolutely imperative that as leaders we find a way to sell our leadership to the key influencers within our business. We need these key players “on our side” so that they can help to “tip the scale” and help to motivate all employees to get on board and commit to being fully focused team members. Blue Ocean leaders lead change and engage employees so that they “opt in”. These fully engaged team members take ownership and engage our customers who in turn engage with our non-customers and bring them on board. In this way companies can grow both rapidly and at a lower cost.

The following 3 steps, inspired by ‘Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant’, can help you to get your employees to “opt in” to your leadership and fully engage with your customers.

  • Place Emphasis on the Acts and Activities of Your Leaders
    Leaders can boost the motivation and results of their team by providing regular, constructive feedback on their team members? acts and actions. This practice should be implemented at each level of leadership so that each level focuses less on the personalities, values or abilities of individuals but rather coaches them on what concrete steps they need to take to improve their performance. By giving guidance and direction, any employee and any leader, can improve their performance over time. This will motivate employees and leaders at all levels to constantly seek to improve their performance and give their best efforts.
  • Ask Your Employees to Help You Help Them
    Ask your direct reports and other team members what they need from you to be able to perform their job the best. After all, who knows the most about what is needed to accomplish a task or reach a goal than the one who must perform it? Sometimes, despite their best intentions, some managers hold their employees back and prevent them from reaching their full potential by not giving them what they need, when they need it, in the amount that they need. Your own people are your best resource for what it takes to serve your customers, cut costs, or innovate operations. So, give them a stake in the results by seeking their direct input.
  • Empower Your People at Every Level
    Micromanagement kills innovation and it can lead to resentment, pettiness and even laziness among employees. Many of us have had the misfortune of either working for such a company or being one of its customers. For example, as a customer, perhaps there was a problem with your order, and when you contacted the company to try to fix it, no one could help you, or it was a big hassle. As an employee, you could see where improvements could be made to lower your employer?s costs or improve service to customers, but the organisation had no structure for you to make your suggestions heard or you had no power to effect change. Eventually you stopped shopping there or you stopped putting forth your best effort and you just started putting your time in so you could collect your pay cheque. This is a common scenario at many companies, especially larger ones, and in time many of these companies will ultimately fail.

You can motivate your employees to put forth their best efforts and claim ownership by empowering them at all levels of management. Your front line managers should be serving your customers, not their bosses. They should be empowered to make decisions that meet the customers? needs and solve their problems. The middle managers in your organisation should be there to coach rather than dominate and control your front line and senior management should be focused on the larger goals and mission of your company rather than micromanaging day to day business operations.

By following these three steps, your employees will take ownership of your company and their actions. They will become focused on seeking ways to improve and innovate the day to day operations of your company, which will help your company to grow rapidly while decreasing costs and increasing service to your customers.

How can you use Blue Ocean Leadership to help your organisation sail into new market space? If the idea seems too big to contemplate, talk to us about our Leadership Coaching programs and how we can help you navigate ahead.

Building a Female Eco-System in Leadership

Building a Female Eco-System in Leadership

To have the best shot at lasting success, it is important that women in business don’t remain on the surface of the business world. Business women need to weave themselves into an eco-system where they can offer and receive professional support. The ‘boys club’ might not seem as exclusive as it once was, but the playing field is still far from equal, and there are definite benefits for women in business to network and collaborate with one another.

There are a lot of existing networking opportunities, from groups for small business owners to come together and discuss their issues, to CEO roundtable discussions for the heads of companies to discuss theirs. There are opportunities for brainstorming, troubleshooting, training, networking and even access to capital through leadership communities who understand that a viable business can be fronted by a person of any age, colour or gender.

Many of these groups can be accessed online, which is perfect for those women leaders who are already challenged by time constraints. A web search yields many results, and locally based groups are often a good option. Australia-wide groups include Women’s Network Australia, Business Chicks and She Business. These groups offer online sign-up and content, opportunities to participate in discussions as well as information about live events.

Each group will have its own pros and cons, and each will suit different individuals. There is no harm in trying a few to find the best fit. What they all have in common is the platform for networking and collaboration.

By building a female eco-system we will support women now and into the future. It’s what we do well. Once the system is formed, women will be able to find support for whatever steps they want to take as leaders.

When women work together, put aside competition and focus on building each other up, greatness is practically guaranteed. There is still truth in the adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Who can you meet to further your leadership goals?