Standing up to the daily trolls

Taking a stand is a daily opportunity

I love utilising sport stories in my programs. It is a transparent industry with great public access with direct correlations to our own workplaces. The story lines are easy to follow and usually an intensified version of what we are going through. Cameron Schwab, the former AFL Club CEO, and founder of Design CEO speaks of business being very similar to sport. Cameron states in his blog (what business can learn from football) that professional football clubs need to plot themselves into one of two phases:

Phase 1: We are good enough to win now

Phase 2: We are on track to build a team good enough to win in the future.

In business terms, Cameron recommends business leaders to ask themselves the following questions:

1. What does winning look like?

2. What do we need to be good at?

3. What are we going to do?

4. How will we know?

Cameron Schwab, a leading figure in CEO Professional Development. Cameron utilises the learnings from footy to drive business leadership insights.

Cameron Schwab, a leading figure in CEO Professional Development. Cameron utilises the learnings from footy to drive business leadership insights.

In Australia, AFL Football is king. It gets the most media coverage and has the most storylines to follow. Over the past week or two the biggest football news stories have had nothing to do with football and everything to do with people’s behaviours.

Online trolls have dominated the sports news cycle. First there was the Tayla Harris photo. The AFLW Carlton player was photographed kicking a great goal, and online trolls went into misogynistic overdrive causing all sorts of reactions described in this ABC News Report.

Then there was the Richmond Fan banned for two years from footy due to their online racist comments towards West Coast Eagles player Liam Ryan (Inside Sport Report). In both cases the governing body and industry leaders rightly stepped in and created a positive response and narrative. There was an eventual hard line consensus on the behaviour standard required by everyone.

The West Coast Eagles used education and unity to drive their point in the face of out-date racism experienced by their players.

The West Coast Eagles used education and unity to drive their point in the face of out-date racism experienced by their players.

Click to watch the video

The highlight in this case is the video produced and distributed by the West Coast Eagles. This is a public message using education and emotion to drive a point. To hold others accountable. To call out a standard of behaviour. It has proved to be very powerful.

It could have been ridiculed as ingenuous and manipulative, or cynically seen as a publicity stunt. But it hit the right note and gained plaudits throughout. This action has gained momentum quickly and ignited a debate in an industry with a long wrap sheet of past racial incidents. 

To stand up to injustices in our workplaces takes audacity. We assume there are invisible rules that say a boss can bully. Or a client can be irrational. Or a bloke can get preference. These opportunities to Stand Up occur daily. By taking them, we can have a impact on the culture of our workplace, our workflow rhythm, and the outcomes we achieve.

A few ways to start integrating this into our own behaviour:

1.       Start by calling things out privately in one-on-one

2.       Do it as soon as possible

3.       Frame your comment as a question. Such as “One sec, I don’t quite understand that… can you explain it to me?”

4.       Take a note of the toxic behaviours you have seen in the last week or two. By writing them down, you’ll know what to look for.

5.       Self -reflect on your own behaviours. Where did you get it wrong? Where did you get it right? Do less of the former, do more of the latter.


Leadership doesn’t require a title. It requires behaviours that set a standard. Standing up to injustice, inequity, and inconsideration is a tough gig, but who else is going to do it if you don’t?

The moment a jarring behaviour is seen or heard is the moment of opportunity to Stand Up. Bringing Audacity into our skill set is a powerful peer-to-peer activity to drive team performance.


An invitation to lead

Seeing something out of place is all we need to be a leader

This week I had a confrontational conversation with a group of students regarding their end of year exhibition – the one opportunity they have to display two years of work in the hope of making a mark on industry leaders. I felt their standard of prep-work to date was well below standard. It was a robust conversation and it cut deep. A part of the conversation turned to holding each other to standard. That they were a team, and if others were to slack off, it would negatively affect them and could even halt the exhibition from going ahead.

The students that felt they were doing the right thing didn’t like this.

“We can’t take responsibility for other students. We are not their babysitter!”, one student claimed.

And, this student was correct. They are not babysitters. So, when we see poor behaviour from our peers, the questions is – what do we do? It is a common occurrence in a lot work places where peer behaviour is sub-standard bringing down the quality of everyone else’s work.

I feel it starts with an invitation to lead. Just because we don’t have Manager in our title doesn’t mean we can’t lead. Just because you don’t have a team of people reporting to us doesn’t mean we can’t lead either – there are clients, suppliers, partners, and all sorts of stakeholders to lead. We can lead by seeing something out of place and doing something about it.

Hugh Mackay AO, the Australian Psychologist, sociologist, and social researcher writes in his latest book, Australia Reimagined that ‘Attitudes don’t change behaviours, it is behaviours that change attitudes’. Mackay writes about what citizens can do to stop the increase in fragmentation being experienced in Australian society. I feel this very much applies to our workplaces too.

Hugh Mackay’s fascinating insights into what Aussies can do to lower segregation in our community.

Hugh Mackay’s fascinating insights into what Aussies can do to lower segregation in our community.

By behaving as a standard bearer, which includes calling out rubbish behaviours we are behaving as leaders. We are showing that we care about the project we are involved in. It is a powerful signal that an official manager needs to work doubly hard to achieve.

The alternative is to stay silent. Do nothing. Say nothing. A clear signal that whatever the offending behaviour was is ok.

It’s like having a mum that doesn’t yell at you for getting your new school uniform bloodied and dirty from playing footy at lunch time. It would mean that mum didn’t care about how I looked and how I treated my clothes. It would send the signal that my belongings don’t matter, and they don’t need to be cared for. At the time, I didn’t like what mum had to say, but she was spot on. And I thank her (and dad!) for teaching me these lessons that I now hold as a standard in adult life.

By seeing something out-of-place, we have the explicit invitation to lead. To maintain the standard. This not only keeps standards high, but it also builds trust and respect through the use of truth.


Find out more about Leadership Behaviours, Communication, and Thinking Programs Paul runs.

Fear of mentoring a thing of the past

The future of Mentoring is genderless

For some bizarre reason, most of my workplaces have been female dominated. From my time in the Natural Therapies Industry, to cosmetics, to salon, to education, I have always found myself in the company of women. Even when playing Grade Cricket in Adelaide our B-Grade wicket keeper was a female State Representative – an initiative way before it’s time.

When reflecting on the senior managers I have worked under, most of were women. And, most younger colleagues I’ve supported and mentored were women. Now as an Educator the stats of my Mentees and Participants are skewed towards the fairer sex.

It’s been a great experience!

I look back on all of these experiences with fondness. More recently, I have been working with the wonderfully gritty and caring business owner of Crème De La Cakes, Ashlee Hunter. Ashlee heads up an all-girl team creating the most stunning wedding, birthday, and celebration cakes you have ever seen. Ashlee is one of many young female business leaders that have gone through my Road Mapping Mentoring Program mentoring program over the last four to five years.  We have had a great time working through the program, making progress with every session.


With the talented and inspirational business owner of Creme De La Cakes - one of my Small Business Mentee’s.

With the talented and inspirational business owner of Creme De La Cakes - one of my Small Business Mentee’s.

So, it was with shock that I watched the latest episode of Q&A where the Liberal Minister Karen Andrews declared “I would discourage a male in the current environment for taking on one-on-one mentoring.” She said, “I think that there is a general concern from a lot of men… about how do they protect themselves from an accusation about their behaviour and their conduct. I think that is actually something men should be very conscious of.”

This was in response to the question of “How do we encourage men to take up mentoring young women in the wake of the #metoo movement?”

When Ashlee and I caught up this week, we discussed the topic. She mentioned how much she really enjoyed mentoring from blokes and that she “responded well to them”. As for me, I guess I may be immune to gender as a factor in a mentor-mentee relationship. Earlier this week I was working with the barnstormingly brilliant Sue Anderson of Co Squared where I was the mentee. To paraphrase Ashlee’s words “I respond well too!”

I can see where Andrews in coming from. In June last year a report released by the online mentoring platform, Art of Mentoring, showed that the proportion of Australian men who were uncomfortable about working alone with a woman had increased to 15% from just 7% as a result of #MeToo.

Discouraging men from mentoring young women only amplifies this problematic trend. Andrew’s view is dominated by fear. A fear that will see us regress as a society. A fear that will erode gender equality in the workplace and halt any progress we have seen in recent years.

@Brayster was a Q&A viewer that had their text displayed live during the discussion:

“Oh please. Decent men have nothing to worry about as a genuine mentor”

And neither do decent women. With such a huge wave of optimism off the back of International Women’s Day, there is a momentum we can uphold by stepping forward and doing the job at hand – developing the next generation of leaders through strong respectful relationships.

More info on Small Business Mentoring here.

The Pro vs The Professional

Pro's make a difference, professionals* just act like they do...

In 2002, I got my first professional contract to play cricket in the UK. As the one and only “Overseas Pro” in the team there was expectation and local notoriety (everyone wanted to see you fail). It wasn’t a game changer financially, but it was a great vehicle to travel and experience the life of playing sport as a vocation.

It was during this period I gained a better understanding of what it took to be a Pro. But it was the environment at my grade cricket club at East Torrens in South Australia that showed me what it was truly like to be a Pro. Things like never missing training, being at training early, or staying late were regarded highly. . Effort was rated. And, helping others to get better was of deep importance. To explain this better, I will paraphrase the brilliant words of Scott Pressfield from his book The War of Art. He says, we are all born Pros already - we just need to do the following ten things:

1. Show up every day. Whatever the motivation, you get your ass to work.
2. Show up no matter what. Sick, problems at home, feeling anxious… no matter – get to it.
3. Stay on the job. Never leave until the whistle has blown.
4. Be committed for the long haul. Not always to one brand or project, but keep going until the body or mind gives up.
5. Acknowledge the stakes are high and real. Knowing there are consequences for our families, communities and colleagues – survival on many levels is at stake.
6. Accept remuneration. We get paid so do the work and do it well.
7. Don’t over-identify with our jobs. The Pro works hard but recognises they are not their job.
8. Master Technique.
9. Laugh at ourselves.
10. Receive praise and blame freely.

It is a serious list that aims to separate the Pro from the Amateur. But, I would add that Professionals* don’t do these things either. In the corporate environment, I saw it often that people would hide behind “being professional”. In Kim Scott’s Radical Candour, being Professional is at the heart of becoming a robot at work and sliding down the scale of “giving a damn” as a leader and colleague.

Kim Scott - give a damn.JPG

Kim Scott presenting her Radical Candour work

For me, the Pro is present and able to give attention to what matters - they do the work (and more) assiduously. The Pro is proactive to avoid hiccups and problems causing jarring setbacks. And the Pro "Eats Last" to borrow from Simon Sinek. All of these attributes send strong signals to one’s team and customers – I am trusted, thorough, and care deeply for you. I am devoted to moving the project forward. I have summed this up below:

Models - Pro v Professional Contrast.png

The Professional* is the equivalent of plastic flowers. They may last, but they give zero sensory value, end up looking cheap, and eventually pollute the environment.

Being a Pro forms the cornerstone of leadership Role Modelling. When the person is passionate about their work being The Pro is easy to learn and apply.  Role Modelling is fundamental to what I call Captaining as these behaviours cause immediate elevation in team members. The team's performance continually improves as these habits become contagious.    

Tell 'em their dreamin!

Making the unrealistic manageable

The most predictable thing in business is that people, teams, and organisations are going to be stretched. It can feel like this is unique to us, but it has been happening since the Industrial Revolution (and probably for a long time before that). The narrative tends to be ‘do more with less’. Often as leaders, we are the ones charged with the responsibility of passing this message onto the workers to execute the strategy.

Eddie Izzard.jpg

Recently, I saw Eddie Izzard, the British Comedian, who brilliantly discussed his 27 marathons in 27 days (amongst a billion other things). He hilariously tells of the experience, "the first one is hard, the second, third, and fourth are the hardest, and then after that “your brain thinks it’s in bed dreaming about the pain you are in". But, think about it – Izzard is in his 50’s, hasn’t an athletic bone in his body, yet he achieved something most of us would consider impossible.

Finding this inspiring is easy. Taking a lesson from it and implementing habitual action to take on the seemingly impossible ourselves is very different.


When faced with tough budgets, stretch KPI’s, or ridiculous deadlines we can allow ourselves a moment to say “tell him he’s dreaming” (a famous Aussie quote from the movie The Castle) or some kind of expletive.



Then once the angst has been let out, it is time to get a game face on and prepare to get the job done. In an age when 'failing often' is all the rage, we need to acknowledge that failing to meet objectives will not be tolerated for long, and the higher up the chain, the less wiggle room there is.


What I have found helpful includes:

  1. Audit yourself

Do you know all of the technical elements of your role, your team’s roles, and those that relate to your client? Close the gaps through training, research, and key on-the-job experience.

  2. Tracking the right stuff?

 Just because average sale, conversion rate, and run rates are what everyone has been tracking since forever, doesn’t mean you have to. Question what will ‘shift the dial’ when executing the strategy. Track what will make impact, not what someone ten years ago thought was important.


3. Seize the moments

 In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper’s character takes a pill that opens up big chunks of his brain none of us can access. Suddenly colours are brighter, he is attuned to all kinds of details, and he feels awake in a way he has never felt before (kind of like a beautifully strong coffee in the morning 1000x). ‘Pre-pill’ is how I view most managers and executives out there. Working hard, with so much on their desk they can’t even see the 20 or 30 moments presented to them every day where productivity and effectiveness lies in their teams. The moments that create, initiate, and nudge people closer to being brilliant at their jobs and align everyone's purpose.

 The first two fixes listed above are the easiest to execute, and that is why most tend towards them first, and rightly so. Without these in place, the small moments cannot be understood or capitalised upon. The third takes courage to own up to and to develop. As Dr Brene Brown says, “we can choose comfort, or we can choose courage”. Having the courage to develop the leadership interpersonal skills, and then to practice them daily in the workplace takes courage.

 The payoff? This is where true transformation happens. Where business results are meaningfully impacted. Where unrealistic targets become achievable.  


Play Beyond Targets is the series of one-day Masterclasses helping successful people build rhythm into their teams. Create immediate uplift in traceable performance.