Why so serious? 


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When was the last time you felt giddy with excitement at attending a business meeting or presentation?

a. All the time

b. Sometimes

c. Never

If you chose c) you are in the majority. Somewhere along the road, business has become burdened with a gravitas that borders on funereal. To paraphrase bestselling Irish author Marian Keyes, or rather her wonderful character Maggie Walsh: “That’s why it’s called work; otherwise it would be called deep-tissue massage.” Taking ourselves too seriously is a modern workplace pandemic. So, it’s time for some tough love: we are all contributing to making work… boring.

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Gormless in the city


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A few weeks ago I was standing on a busy, windy street corner in Melbourne: no handbag, arms akimbo and no phone to keep me busy. No, I haven’t taken up busking (god forbid!), nor was I lost. I was simply waiting for a video shoot. As the shoot was being set up, I had nothing to do. So there I was on the street corner, observing people, the traffic and the city landscape. It was surprisingly peaceful and I felt very present.

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What’s love got to do with it?


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Talking about love in business might make us uncomfortable. Isn’t business all about head, not heart? When we talk of love at work, we don’t mean romantic love. It is love for what we do (passion), love for the people we do it with (teammates) and love for the people we do it for (customers).

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Have you put your garbage out?


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A few minutes before I was to go on stage recently, the MC who was introducing me glanced at the printed sheet in front of her, looked up and said: “You look so much younger in the photo here.”

OUCH!

I made a joke in response and then stepped on to the stage. Shaken but not stirred, as Mr Bond would say. Later I sent a text to my mentor about the MC’s quip. My mentor sent the most beautiful text back and concluded with a quote “Your better self showed up”. I joked and texted back: “Sometimes my better self goes on unexplained absences!”

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Start with fire


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When selling fire extinguishers, start with fire, advises an old adage. Yet I often see charismatic leaders who the minute they have to present morph into boring ole’ Clark Kent instead of Superman!

One way to channel Superman mode when presenting is to start strong. Why is this so important? Your audience is tough on bad starts: Sixty six percent of people said that they are unwilling to give someone who made a bad first impression a second chance, according to a recent Roy Morgan survey.  You get one shot at it. So start with fire, not kryptonite. There I blended both metaphors!

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Getting your a**e kicked – the dark side of leadership


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Within the first 18 months of setting up our business, we had an article published in The Age newspaper. It made massive waves, and our phones and inboxes began to overflow with great feedback.

The very next day, however, a vicious attack on the article from another consultant appeared in The Age, while online a ‘storytelling expert’ went ballistic with personal criticism that just kept snowballing. It was traumatic and humiliating. At the moment of our lowest ebb, the phone rang. It was a CEO we had recently worked with. He had never personally rung us before, but did now to say, ‘First of all well done for standing up for what you believe in.’ Then he added, ‘Every time you stick your neck out, there will always be someone who will try to kick it in.’ The CEO was empathetic, reminding us what the stakes are when you enter the arena.

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Do you have any lighter fuel?


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‘Do you have any lighter fuel?’ the interviewer asked Chris Darwin, Charles Darwin’s great-great grandson.

Once upon a time, Chris had a job where he had to wear a suit. Having tried it though, he decided that it wasn’t for him. It just wasn’t the right fit – and fit, he resolved, was going to be one of his priorities from now on.

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Be still my analogue heart!


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My godmother was in hospital a few years ago having her right knee reconstructed. On operation day, the surgeon came in and carefully marked her leg with a black texta before she was wheeled into the theatre. He wanted to ensure there was no mistake about which knee was due for operation! Isn’t it funny? Despite all our advancements in technology and medicine, this simple step with the most basic of tools is still crucial to preventing error.

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Social norms: your waiter says more than you think


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During a recent commute between meetings, I found myself tuned into an interview with a psychology researcher. The discussion focused on how restaurant-goers tend to order more when served by heavy waiting staff.

Diners ordered significantly more items when served by heavy waiting staff with high body mass indexes, compared with waiting staff with low body mass indexes,’according to research fromCornell University and the University of Jena, ‘The impact was the same regardless of the diner’s own BMI.’

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What is the opposite of courage?


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When Paul McCartney was in school, he was told he should give up music and get a ‘safe job’ in Liverpool’s then-thriving shipping or manufacturing sectors, just like everyone else. Thank god he didn’t follow that advice! The rest, of course, is history: he launched himself to stardom in the world’s most iconic band.

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