Have you ever had one of those weeks where things don’t work out? It’s not much fun is it? You feel like you’ve failed. It can be hard to move forward from failure.

We can face this situation with 3 simple steps.

  • Feel (be disappointed for a short while)
  • Change our frame of mind (put it in perspective) and finally,
  • move forward.

This feeling of failure we have comes from something pretty common. According to a survey conducted by the National Science Foundation in 2014, about 70% of adults in the United States report feeling like they “don’t measure up” in some way.

Tough Week

This week I’ve had a number of big disappointments. I’ve had a few initiatives get ‘put on hold’ – which is the project management equivalent of limbo. I’m also working on the budget for my area for next year, and like many of us in tech – there’s a lot less money around for next year than this year. I’ve also had a really good team member hand in their notice.

I was surprised how upset I was by all of this. Sure – they are all disappointing, but these are all tiny bumps in the road compared to some of things I’ve faced in my family over the last 5 years. Normally I find that a bit of time – normally 24 hours, plus some exercise and talking it out with someone, tend to put me back in a better place. But that didn’t work this time. I was struggling to move forward from failure. I realised that I was so disappointed and upset because I really cared about the initiatives, the team, and the hopes and plans for next year. We know that failure is part of doing new things (see post on caring enough to fail). But this was a bigger than average disappointment. So I let myself be disappointed for a little while longer.

Bigger Picture

Then I started to put it into perspective. I spoke with 2 different people I know outside of work this week who’ve just been laid off. They were both really upset about it. Suddenly, my disappointments didn’t seem so bad. I started to re-frame things. What could I learn from this? What could I do differently next time?

Having re-framed the situation – I was already starting to move forward. I was (mostly) through my funk. As a team we decided what to focus on now that our resources had been freed up, and I started to look for improvements to make in team structure after as I look for a new team member. 

When I reflected on this, I came up with my 3Fs for dealing with failure:


Let yourself feel disappointed or upset when things go wrong. It’s ok to feel like that. Acknowledge and accept them. Give yourself some time and space to process your disappointment. Take a break from the situation that caused it and do something else that you enjoy.


Try to find something positive in the situation, even if it’s small, or look at the big picture. Reframing your disappointment can help you see it in a different light and allow you to move forward from failure.


Look forward and take the next step. Reflect on what caused your disappointment and what you can do differently in the future. Use the experience as a learning opportunity and allow that to power you as you move forward from failure.

If you’re still struggling … there’s a 4th F

Friends and Family

Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist and share your feelings with them. Sometimes talking it out can help you gain perspective and feel better.

Remember that disappointment is a natural part of life and everyone experiences it at some point. Be kind to yourself and take the time you need to heal and move forward.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

Read more

Have you ever struggle with decisions? An important decision? We don’t want to get it wrong. Even worse, we’re afraid of looking bad and being second guessed? That means we’re struggling with indecision, or we’re suffering from decision precision!

Decisions are almost never as important as we think. Life, relationships, projects, or initiatives, rarely succeed or fail because of one decision. Anything of importance requires tens or even hundreds of decisions. No single one of them is very important. The path to the goal is winding. In fact, the only really important decision out of all of them is the first one – the brave one – to get started and pursue something important (tips to help you find your purpose here). Make the decision anyway – that’s what the best leaders – compassionate leaders do. They do the hard things. Especially when it’s not clear.

More is not better

Forbes magazine research found that the best leaders with the highest ratings and the ones who got promoted were also the most decisive leaders. More analysis often doesn’t lead to better decisions. There’s a term psychologists use – confirmation bias  – which leads all of us, even the most sophisticated people, to search for and interpret information that confirms what they already believe. So the more analysis we do, the more we’re reinforcing what we already believe.

For the vast majority of us, these aren’t life or death decisions – we don’t get to make those decisions. They get made for us. Just below life or death decisions are the really, really big decisions. The life changing ones. These really big decisions are often easy. When we need to make them, we are guided by our values and priorities in life. We don’t need to think much, we don’t even need to be brave.

When my wife was in a coma on life support, I had to make decisions – lots of them. For her, for me, for the kids. I didn’t have to think. There was no indecision. It was clear what was right for us. I just left work – for weeks. I cancelled everything else we had planned. I’ve made massive decisions about my life and my family’s life on the back of that. But none of them were very hard to make.

struggle with decisions

We struggle with the less important stuff

Yet we struggle with decisions all the time– recommendations at work, what school to choose for the kids, should I apply for a job, should I ask for a raise, what to prioritise, all the way down to much smaller things like when to stop editing a presentation or email.  They’re much less important than the really big kind of things. But we agonise over them. We struggle with decisions because of FOMO (fear of making mistakes) or not wanting to look bad, or concerns that people will second guess us. We’re being afraid, instead of brave.

The path to success is winding and often messy. It is uncertain, unpredictable. We will have to make so many decisions along the way. We’ll have so many chances to course correct. There is normally a plan B, and a plan C and so on. The only thing we know for sure is that if we don’t start, we’ll never get there. That’s why we need to be brave. We’ll face our fear of messing up along the way. That’s ok – that’s how we learn and grow.

James Stockdale, a POW during the Korean war said that no matter what happens:

“I control the end of the story”

That means we get to choose what we do next, and we choose how to accept what has already happened.

7 tips for the struggle with decisions

  • Make the smallest possible decisions – try to avoid the all or nothing decisions. Test things out before going all in.
  • Use data where possible (near enough is normally good enough – when we’re wrong, it is often by 500%, not 3%).
  • Otherwise, go with your opinion (you can ask a real expert for help if you have one handy) but it’s your life, you own the outcomes, you are going to do the learning
  • Work out what your plan B is if it doesn’t work – normally it is as simple as trying again with something else if you’ve made it small enough
  • Focus on plan A – think about how awesome it will be when it does work
  • Be Brave – Get on with it and start learning
  • Celebrate it – you’re being brave, you’ve made the decision, you’re moving forward, you’re learning – you deserve a pat on the back or a victory dance

Nobody gets it all right. To be honest, nobody even knows if it’s right most of the time – life isn’t like school. There are no grades. You can’t top the class in life. There isn’t a lot of certainty in this – it is just opinion. Remember – It’s your life – you get to live it. Don’t worry about what others think. Fear underestimates what you’re capable of – you’ve made it this far – you’ve got this.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

Read more

Have you ever felt that your Father’s Days aren’t quite perfect like the ones on tv or Instagram?

Celebrating your father or being a father isn’t about just one day – its about every day that we’ve had and will have with our dads and our kids – even if they’re not there.

Back in the early 2000’s I used to manage the Landline Telephony business at Optus (before most of us got rid of our home phones). Apart from Christmas, the biggest day of the year for long distance calls wasn’t Mother’s Day, it was Father’s Day. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Surely your Mum deserves a call on Mother’s Day? It turns out she deserves more. The reason Father’s Day was bigger for long distance calls was because more people would go to visit their Mum on Mother’s Day, whereas a phone call was good enough for Dad.

Ever since I became a Dad, I’ve looked forward to Father’s Day. It’s a special day, not like every other day. Hand-made presents delivered in bed by beamingly proud children. As they got older, hand delivered cups of tea or coffee arrived and then even breakfast in bed. There was normally a special lunch or dinner later on in the day as well. Having experienced this side of Father’s Day made me a lot more appreciative of my own father, and having lived overseas for many years, I made a much bigger effort to spend time with him once I was back. The first Father’s Day after he passed away in 2017 was pretty tough.

But I hadn’t realised just how much of this I was taking for granted until the year after. My wife had almost died in August 2018 when she had a heart attack while out running. She survived, but she suffered significant brain damage from lack of oxygen during the resuscitation. That changed absolutely everything in our lives.

Father’s Day came along while she was still in hospital. It snuck up on all of us. I didn’t put much thought into it during the week with everything else going on. We didn’t do anything special on that day. It was just like every other day back then. It was just like the Sunday the week before and the week after. Though it did help me realise very quickly who was behind my normally wonderful Father’s Days.

Rationally, I didn’t expect it to be like a normal Father’s Day, but somewhere deep inside, I had expectations. It was the expectations that got me. I had a crap day. My mood rubbed off on everyone else. The kids were only 8, 10 and 13 and their mum was in hospital. Their world had been turned upside down less than a month before. She was very different – they were dealing with that. It was hard to expect them to fill in for their mum. There was no special lunch or dinner. I didn’t get any special treatment. The day after that was no different, but my expectations were back to normal, so I was completely fine. It’s funny how different 2 identical days can feel. I call it the tyranny of expectations.

It took me a long time to find peace with our new life. Only when I reset my expectations was I able to move forward. It wasn’t a simple process to get there. That kind of journey doesn’t come with any sort of instruction manual. I was making it up as I went along. I journaled during the process and have recently put my thoughts and learnings together in a book – Everyday Bravery.

After looking after my wife at home for a number of years, even with the help of lots of carers, we eventually had to move her into a care home. I’m now a single Dad of 3 high school aged boys. Sure, it’s a lot of work every day, but that doesn’t matter, because it is the most meaningful thing in my life – every day is Father’s Day. The official ‘Father’s Days’ are different now. It’s not about the presents or the breakfast in bed. It’s more an opportunity to reflect on all days we’ve I’ve had with my own father and what that meant, plus all the days we’ve had as fathers, and then all the days that come. Regardless of whether our Dad is still around, or whether we have kids or not.

I still miss my Dad. Sometimes I talk to him sometimes (no … I don’t actually see him or think he’s in the room with me). But I appreciate him a lot and I love to think of that unbroken chain from my grandfather to him and then to me, that continues to my children and hopefully one day to theirs. I’m doing my bit to keep that going. Everyday. I’ll give my brother a call to wish him a happy Father’s Day and to chat a bit about Dad.

On Sunday I’ll still have a chat with my Dad, and I look forward to spending time with my 3 boys – even if I’m the one who has to organise the lunch out. I’ll do my bit to avoid the tyranny of expectations and just enjoy this day, like every other day, grateful that I am a father and that I had (and still have) a father, and that I get to spend the day with my kids which not all fathers will get to do.

Being a Dad isn’t about the presents or the breakfast. It something we do every day. Happy Father’s Day to everyone – to the Dads and those who have (or had) a Dad. Enjoy that today and enjoy it every day.

As always, whatever you do, do it with heart.

Read more

Have you ever found yourself avoiding the hard stuff, or not being authentic, in order to avoid a problem? If you have, you’re not alone. But although we’ve avoided the problem, we haven’t solved it, and we know it will surface again.

Courage enables us to face the unknown and the difficult. Courage isn’t just for heroes. It’s available to all of us. If we want to be courageous, we can start by being authentic. After that, the rest is easy.

Psychology Today reports that 85% of people suffer from low self-esteem.  That’s 5 people in 6! That issue with low self-esteem lies at the heart of the challenge with courage.

I was brought up to worry about what other people thought of me. We were all pretty conflict and risk averse in my family. So I tried to please everyone else, and in that vacuum of not knowing or communicating what I wanted, quite often ended up doing things that other people wanted me to do. I wasn’t being my authentic self and having the courage to speak from my heart about challenges or priorities. That resulted in the classic ‘too many priorities’ problem, and the inevitable need to work way too hard and still having to let people down at work and home.

Deep down inside I knew I was not being my authentic self. I didn’t feel like I was bringing everything I had.  I wasn’t really pursuing my purpose or bringing my skills to bear on what was most important. But then … I didn’t really know anyone else who was either.

No one really talked about any of this. In fact, everyone seemed pretty happy with me. Bosses, senior stakeholders, colleagues, friends, family too. I was moving along quite comfortably. Pretty successful but not setting the world on fire. My lack of authenticity did nag away at me on the inside, but it didn’t seem to create any massive problems.

Breaking through

Then everything changed in an instant. As a result of a family tragedy, I ended up effectively a single parent of 3 school-aged children and a carer for my beautiful fit 46 year-old wife who had suffered brain damage as a result of a heart attack that left her on life support for 10 days and in hospital for 10 weeks. In those first few days no one knew if she would even survive. It was only the machines that were keeping her alive. All the safety and security that I thought my life was built upon was ripped away in an instant. All of a sudden, I was trying to navigate the greatest uncertainty I’d ever faced with no control over the outcome whatsoever. The most important thing to ever happen to my family and I, and I had no influence … none at all. How was I going to get her through this? How could I help the kids through this, let alone myself?

This was the worst thing I’ve ever had to face. But it wasn’t 100% bad. Some good has come from it. That extreme situation completely blasted away any worries I had about looking bad, or making mistakes or even living up to other peoples’ expectations. I had to learn to ask for help, and say no to just about everything. I had to let go of expectations about the present, the future and people who were dear to me. Put simply, I had no time or ability to be anything other than authentic.

Benefits of being authentic

As I became more authentic, I changed the way I behaved at work, and the way I lead my team. I was authentic at work as well. I had discovered purpose and compassion.

It didn’t mean I blurted out everything all the time. I was still respectful. But above all I was authentic. I was honest about what I could and couldn’t do.  I didn’t over-commit anymore. Purpose was at the fore of everything I did, and also, what we did as a team. I was playing full out and really throwing myself into whatever I was doing.

Taking risks became possible. In fact, they became more important. If we were going to innovate and improve, we had no other choice. I’ll be honest, with everything else in my life, I was working fewer hours at work than before. But the irony was, I was getting more done. Especially the important stuff. My team were performing amazingly. I shared what was going on in my life with them. They stepped up. They supported me. I was doing things I’d never done before, and so were they.

My 1:1 conversations with colleagues and friends went to a new level of honesty and importance. I didn’t hold back if there was an issue that needed to be dealt with. But I did it with compassion – from a genuine desire to help. Then they started sharing too. I was able to help them too. So many of them have grown so much since then. They’re much more authentic, courageous, and successful as a result. I’m so proud to know them.

It took me a while to realise it, but that authenticity that we had made us all more courageous than before. Most importantly, the courage to be ourselves.  The scary stuff wasn’t always as scary as before. But even when it was still scary, we supported each other through it. We were able to operate outside of our comfort zones a lot more often than before. We had created psychological safety for ourselves.

But the main benefit of being authentic is for ourselves. Acting in congruence with our beliefs is extremely fulfilling. In fact, it is liberating. I was able to be myself, and I didn’t have to hide or suppress what I believed. I was being congruent with my values.

When I reflect on all of this, I wonder why hadn’t anyone told me about this before? Surely other people had stumbled on this? I mean, this was awesome, life-changing stuff. I had spent 46 years worrying about stuff that wasn’t even real!

What is authenticity?

The expert in authenticity and courage, Brene Brown, describes it as:

the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

While we’re at it, let’s look at Brene’s definition of courage:

“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” 

This is about heart – acting with honesty and integrity.

Your team can smell it a mile off when you’re not acting authentically. The easy stuff is easy. This is about the hard stuff. As a leader, you need to face into the uncomfortable and awkward situations. That’s what the team needs from you. The growth lies there. That’s where you earn their trust and loyalty. Do that, and they’ll follow you anywhere.

Once you’ve got your authenticity sorted out, courage will follow shortly after. After all, courage comes from the heart. Literally. It is based on the latin word ‘cor’ for heart, which then became ‘couer’ in French, and hence courage in both French and English.

These days this is rarely the Braveheart kind of courage where we charge into battle in the face of seemingly impossible odds. This is more like being the first person to speak up or being prepared to challenge the view of the team or the boss’ recommendation. Or it could be giving people the development feedback that you know will be tough to hear. Then there’s the one that people fear more than death … public speaking.  

How to be authentic and courageous

Can you learn to be courageous? Absolutely.

How? We learn it the same way we learn everything else. First we learn the theory and a few tools. Then we need to practice them. A lot. Until we’re good at them. This involves not being very good at it for a while. The trick is to keep going. If we want to progress more quickly, we’ll probably need some help from a coach or mentor. The big thing that separates people is whether they’re prepared to face down their fear of doing what it takes for long enough to get good at it.

I have a simple 3 step model for how to learn authenticity and courage – 3 C’s:

  1. Care – Find something that means enough to you to be prepared to be yourself to pursue. Your glorious, flawed self. Something you care enough about to fail at it.  
  2. Continue – Then release your hand brake and pursue it. We succeed through temporary incompetence, not through magic.
  3. Compassion – Be compassionate to yourself and others – create the safety for yourself to try, fail and try again

Start with number 1 and go from there. Start nice and small and then build it up.

Being authentic and courageous won’t happen overnight. It is something we build up over time. The more we do it, the better we get. There’s magic in there for us along the way. Just making the first attempt is amazing. It is petrifying too, but once we’ve done it, the sense of pride (and relief) is something we just don’t forget. And it is something we will want to do again … and again.

If you’d like some help with authenticity, courage or just progressing faster, reach out to me here.

Remember, whatever you do, do it with heart!

Read more

Does your team struggle to take enough risks to really innovate? If so, you’re not alone.

I have found that as a compassionate leader, the crucial ingredient to innovating as a team is that we have a purpose that is greater than we are.

Google’s project Aristotle back in 2012 set out to identify what made teams effective. They reviewed 100s of teams using psychologists, engineers, researchers and statisticians. They looked at everything – academic results, employee performance ratings, team structure, whether they ate and socialised together and a whole lot more. What they discovered came as a big surprise.

The #1 characteristic of the most effective teams?

It turned out that the #1 characteristic of the most effective teams was psychological safety.

Psychological safety means that you feel safe in the team environment to take risks and fail. Innovation by definition requires that we take risks and many of them will ‘fail’. We just need to know that it ok – that someone’s got our back. Yet the most common fear that people have is the fear of personal or possible failure (Anxiety & Depression Association of America). So how do we create a psychologically safe environment? (I’ll get to that below)

I grew up worrying about what others thought of me. I was risk averse and I wanted people to think I was good. And I didn’t like looking bad, or failing. I avoided risk and played things pretty safe. All that changed about 4 years ago. My beautiful, fit, 46 year-old wife went out for a run one morning, suffered a heart attack, and almost died. She was on life support, and in a coma for 10 days. When she awoke, we found out she had suffered significant brain injury during resuscitation. She was going to need a lot of help.

In that instant everything in my world changed. My future, my hopes and my dreams. I was effectively a single parent of 3 children plus a carer for my disabled wife. My future was suddenly unclear. Everything had changed. I had to change. I had to stop worrying about what others thought and get really clear about what was meaningful and focus on that.

Finding a purpose greater than you

For the first time, I had found a purpose in life that was greater me (I’ve since found more than one of them). I had also learnt firsthand about compassion. Everything I did from then on was guided by purpose and compassion. Sure, I made heaps of mistakes along the way, but that didn’t matter. I was pursuing things that mattered.

I became a compassionate leader. I still did the hard things, but I did them with heart.

That changed the way I did things at work too. Together with my team, we started innovating more, failing small and fast, and delivering better results. Without thinking about it too much, I had helped the team buy into the purpose of what we were doing, and since I’d stopped worrying about what others thought, I was able to help them feel safe taking the risks we needed to take in order to fulfil that purpose.

Create an environment of psychological safety

As compassionate leaders, we need to let our purpose guide and motivate us to do the hard stuff required to create an environment of psychological safety. But how do we create that environment of psychological safety?

CREATE is the model I use for how, as compassionate leaders, we need to lead:


“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” This is about heart – acting with honesty and integrity and being authentic. This is about the hard stuff. As leaders, we need to face into the uncomfortable and awkward situations. That’s what the team needs from us. That’s where we earn their trust and loyalty. Do that, and they’ll follow anywhere.


As leaders, we need to be crystal clear on the mission or purpose of the team. We need to communicate it in a way that engages. We need to understand what provides purpose and meaning for each of the team members and be able to link the 2 together.


This is about acting as one human to another and connecting with team members. Breaking down the hierarchical barriers and enabling honest 2-way communication. If we want to have a long-term working relationship, we need to accept there will be ups and downs. On both sides. Remembering that people want a role that enhances their life experience, it needs to support their life. This is about respect, flexibility and understanding.


We live in an uncertain and ambiguous world. As leaders we help the team navigate that. Firstly, through honest communication – admit we don’t have all the answers and being transparent about what we know and don’t know. Secondly, we can reduce ambiguity by making decisions. Mostly these are around priorities – what are we going to focus on, and what are we NOT going to focus on. That is the single best way to reduce ambiguity for the team.


Positivity is infectious. Nothing succeeds like success. The team loves to see progress and growth. This is about the team making progress towards our goals, and growing and developing as a team. This is also about the team members growing and developing in pursuit of their own goals. There will always be bumps in the road and setbacks. A resilient team expects these, learns from them, adapts and continues in pursuit of their purpose. We’re all hard-wired for negativity, so as leaders and as team members, we support each other in creating a positive, growth oriented environment.


Leader ego causes more problems than anything else. Nothing poisons the well for the team more quickly than a leader who takes all the glory or makes everything about them. When a deal doesn’t get done, or poor decisions are made, it is often because ego gets in the way. Then blame gets thrown around. People stop listening. Sharing decreases. It’s all about protection. We’re in survival mode. We’re stressed, afraid, and we’re not innovating. These are the kind of leaders people leave. Remember – people join a company, and leave a manager.

Compassionate leadership is the future of leadership. As compassionate leaders we create an environment that supports innovation and outstanding performance because it guided by a purpose shared by the team, where everyone feels safe to bring their best and be their best. Because we care enough to fail, we’ll succeed in the end.

If you’d like to learn more about innovation, shared purpose, psychological safety or to explore becoming a compassionate leader, get in touch with me at [email protected] or explore my coaching.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

Read more