Four Keys to Personal Mastery & Change

If we were able to peer long enough through the fog surrounding leadership, or listen hard enough above the cacophony of noise – at its core – leadership is about change. And at the very heart of leadership is creating and leading meaningful change.

Adaptive Challenges Will Trip You Up

Most of us know from experience however that leading change effectively is rarely a straight-forward undertaking as we navigate the complexity and sometimes murky waters of adaptive challenges. Ron Heifetz at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government first wrote about adaptive challenges nearly three decades ago. He drew the distinction between adaptive challenges – those that keep on keeping on – versus technical challenges where we know how to solve the problem. Examples of adaptive challenges are climate change, recidivism (are we ever not going to need prisons?) and changing the culture of an organisation.

They are the challenges that sometimes create confusion, frustration and sometimes conflict within us. For example, a High Court judge once told me about the dilemma in balancing the needs of the perpetrator, the victim and the community. And how personally tormenting it was looking in to the eyes of the mother of the victim who was pleading for justice – and then looking in to the eyes of the mother of the accused who was pleading for mercy.

…how personally tormenting it was looking in to the eyes of the mother of the victim who was pleading for justice – and then looking in to the eyes of the mother of the accused who was pleading for mercy.

These challenges are non-linear in nature in that our approach often doesn’t create the intended changes. It sometimes feels like we’re riding a wild river, where you attempt to make a correction but it takes you off in a different and unexpected direction! Our measure of success therefore may not be resolution, but just making progress. (For those interested in learning more, I wrote a book entitled Leadership Without Silver Bullets in 2009 (updated last year) which features many adaptive leadership principles, then I wrote about an immersive experience at Harvard in 2010). So adaptive challenges are more about the heart (values, loyalties, priorities) than the head (logical, well-known strategies), but both are important and shouldn’t be neglected.

A Simple Way to Kill a Dinner Party Conversation

I have found from experience that if you want to kill a dinner party conversation, simply mention the words ‘personal mastery’. Most people – sometimes even those who work in organisational development – either (a) don’t know what it is; (b) don’t care or (c) think it all sounds a bit weird.

Most people attribute the term ‘personal mastery’ to Peter Senge, who wrote about it in his 1990 book, The Fifth Discipline. While a little elusive to grasp as a principle, Senge described it as “the discipline of personal growth and learning” , but added that it’s more than just growth and learning. It starts by clarifying what really matters most to us. It’s about creating a desired future and moving toward it.

Introducing the 4C’s of Personal Mastery and Change

In my consulting, coaching and facilitation career, I have worked across almost every imaginable industry at all levels up and down and across organisations. I have worked with leaders who were ‘walking egos’; others who knew no other way to behave except in aggressive or passive defensive ways; and others who were introverted and trying to find their voice in the world. I have also been privileged to have worked with many, many extraordinary leaders who want to make a difference in the lives of people and their communities.

Regardless of which type of leader I have worked with, many continue to struggle to be effective in the core responsibility of their roles – leading change. I need to draw the distinction between what Dean Williams calls ‘counterfeit leadership’ and real leadership, with the former – counterfeit leadership – looking like we’re leading but we really aren’t. Instead, we overlay a technical solution (one we know how to do because it’s usually our default) over an adaptive challenge. There is enormous pressure to deliver in organisations today, so it is no surprise that we sometimes take the easy road rather than the messier, zig-zag road of adaptive leadership.

The 4Cs of Personal Mastery are not meant to be a panacea, but rather seeks to highlight four key areas that can help create meaningful, deep change. It helps create the type of change that brings people along rather than alienates them. It aims to balance the logical with the emotional. It can also help create the type of change that is enduring rather than wallpapering a technical solution over a much deeper problem. It requires a ‘go slow to go fast’ approach, where there are no simple answers. For most challenges, if they were simple to fix someone would have done it a long time ago. These are the types of challenges that will benefit from the approach (see model below).

A Deeper Dive

In theory, you can start anywhere in the model. For example, you may decide that you need to be courageous to highlight a significant issue in your organisation, or you might decide that you need to be compassionate to really understand an individual, team or indeed the challenges and pain-points in an organisation. For the purpose of this article, we’ll start at Connection.

Connection – it is important to be able to connect with ourselves and other people. We need to know what is important both personally and professionally. These questions can help to clarify your thinking:

  1. What is important (to me, my team / business unit, the organisation, etc.)?
  2. How strong are my relationships? How trustworthy am I in the eyes of others?
  3. What is my purpose as a leader / contributor?
  4. How self-aware am I? When was the last time I asked a broad cross-section of stakeholders for feedback?
  5. How much personal reflection do I do?
  6. What do I want for myself? My team? My business unit, etc.?

Commitment – A clear commitment usually starts with a clear intention. A clear intent helps pave the way forward for committed action. One feeds of the other. However, we shouldn’t have blind commitment to achieve the goal however as this doesn’t represent the flexible approach needed to lead change effectively. Yes, we must have tenacity and resilience, but not at the expense of everything else. To understand commitment, reflect on the following:

  1. What is my intention? Why is this important?
  2. How committed am I to this course of action?
  3. How open and committed am I to learning from the experience?
  4. What are my core values and do I have a sense of conviction about them?

Courage – Courage is acting despite our fears and (perceived) threats. It means understanding how the team or organisational system is working and challenging the status quo. Perhaps Winston Churchill said it well when he said:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Reflect on the following questions:

  1. What do I fear will happen if I do ‘x’? What is my evidence to support that belief?
  2. How much is wanting to be liked getting in the way?
  3. How might I build my confidence to confront this challenge?
  4. How vulnerable am I being? Why? Why not?
  5. Who might I be able to partner with?
  6. Who can I confide in and use as a sounding board?
  7. What professional help (e.g. a coach) do I need?

Compassion – Compassion has been variably defined, but the version I connect with the best is Brenee Brown’s where she says, “Compassion is the feeling of wanting to ease the suffering of others. Self-compassion is the feeling and desire that we, ourselves, not suffer.” While the word suffering may sound a little dramatic, it can feel like that in organisations. You may connect better with thinking about alleviating pain or pressure points. Compassion is taking empathy to the next level. In empathy, I can feel what another feels, whereas compassion is feeling it and wanting to do something about it. That’s my interpretation anyway. And in terms of self-compassion, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that most people are their own harshest critics. We all need to practice a little more self-compassion.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What am I feeling in this situation? Why?
  2. How are other people feeling? Why?
  3. What will enable me to sit with the pain and discomfort long enough to truly understand it?
  4. How might I give myself a break?
  5. What boundaries do I need to communicate so I can be of service to others in this situation? Where have I allowed my boundaries to be weakened?

And So the Cycle Continues…

Once we have demonstrated compassion, we will connect more deeply with those around us, which then enables us to more fully commit to the right course of action. Our levels of courage demonstrated and compassion towards others may need to be amplified as our leadership work ‘levels up’ exponentially. As a result, it is reasonable to expect that as we follow the cycle in an upward motion, we will create more insight, influence and ultimately positive impact.

And one final comment if I may, don’t forget to demonstrate a healthy dose of self-compassion as you navigate the murky and rocky waters of change and experiment with different ways to bring the 4C’s to life.

View more articles like this:
The five keys to creating conscious change and restoring wellbeing

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Executive Coaching: Understanding the Coachability Index

image executive coaching

Understanding the Coachability Index

As an executive coach, a standard practice in assessing a fit between the coach and coachee is what is commonly called a ‘chemistry check’. As the name indicates, it allows a coach and coaching client to work out if there is a fit regarding trust, rapport and coaching expertise and experience.

Just as the coachee should be sizing up the coach, a good coach should be following a similar process – that is, making an authentic and congruent decision regarding ‘fit’. Even though the client is the customer and purchaser of a service (coaching), a coach will also be assessing whether they are the right coach for the prospective client. Where a fit isn’t obvious, a coach acting with integrity will be prepared to forfeit the coaching fee to make the right decision and introduce another coach.

I have been using an informal scale for some time now to help assess fit. I have mentioned my use of the scale to colleagues and clients, and several have said, “Love it. You should write about it.”

So here it is.

Introducing the Coachability Index (CI)

In our coaching practice, we use an informal (and might I say – highly subjective) tool to help assess fit. Rather than being an evidence-based tool, it provides a frame of reference for us to think about where we believe the coachee is ‘at’ regarding their changeability. While it’s not the job of a coach to change people, it is our job to help enable the client to change in the areas that matter most to them. These areas often cross into their personal life as well as their professional life. It is also the job of a coach to expand people’s awareness of how they see themselves in relationship to the world (colleagues, customers, family, etc.) which then often re-focuses them on the needed areas.

What is the CI?

The CI is essentially a continuum from 0 to 10 (see below) to help assess where an individual might be in relation to their openness to change and therefore what approach might work best.

Dysfunctional (< 2): Starting on the left-hand side, a score of zero (0) indicates the individual is in a highly bounded or restricted state. They are ‘frozen in time’ in terms of the way they see themselves and how they interact with the world around them. This ‘bounded’ reality manifests itself as dysfunctional behaviour in either a passive or aggressive way. In simplistic terms, the individual has created a range of responses they think are necessary to get by and keep them safe. At senior levels, this usually manifests itself in aggressive-defensive behaviours such as a command and control management style or micromanagement. Their choice repertoire is limited, and therefore they tend to deploy the same approach style, regardless of the scenario. People in this zone can be plain ‘hard work’ for a coach. This is where the client contact (e.g. HR Director) might say ‘good luck’ with a pained smile on their face after providing a briefing about the individual.

This is where the client contact (e.g. HR Director) might say ‘good luck’ with a pained smile on their face after providing a briefing about the individual.

Fixed (2-4): While individuals in this zone exhibit similar behavioural tendencies as those in the ‘Dysfunctional’ zone, they are not as extreme. However, they do burn a lot of their time and ‘headspace’ defending their sense of self (ego) by guarding the perception of their competence and self-worth like a watch-dog. They have developed some unhelpful strategies to maintain their reputation. What people i

n the Fixed zone don’t realise of course, is that most people see straight through it. They are often seen as dogmatic, combative, difficult to influence and hard to work with.

Transition (4-6): In the Transition zone, people are more ready for change. While they have moderate levels of self-awareness, they are still somewhat stuck. This is where we see ‘false choices’, meaning that while the person appears to have a broad range of responses, they are still somewhat bounded by a narrow runway of possibilities. This is because they still see the world as a place where they need to defend themselves against various threats such as their sense of identity, status, or competence. People in this zone have the potential to make transformational changes through increased awareness and building skills in those areas. For example, I coached one such individual several years ago who was touted as CEO material. However, his leadership style was creating significant challenges, including a poor performing business. He had a ‘breakthrough’ moment through the coaching process and changed his approach almost overnight. He and his business unit thrived.

Growth (7-9): Those in the Growth zone have a mindset of learning, experimentation, and growth. They are motivated to improve themselves in a broad range of areas. While they sometimes second-guess themselves or the process, they usually get on board quickly and are willing to learn. They are ‘unfreezing’ or becoming less rigid about their beliefs, realising that sometimes multiple truths can exist concurrently. Their mindset is more ‘and’ than ‘either-or’. They are more able to deal with complexity and ambiguity.

Fast-Track (10): A ‘10′ indicates an individual who is completely open to possibility. They are curious, embrace learning, and are generally savvy about what they will take on and what might not be right for them. They are in a position where they tend to focus on other people’s development as much (if not more) than their own. They are givers, not takers. They have the potential to fast-track their progress – and almost without exception – do just that. They are generally already very successful and see becoming a better leader and colleague as a lifelong journey. They also know that leadership is an ‘inside-out’ job, meaning that our interior reality (mindset) drives our exterior reality (behaviours and impact).

Here’s the really fun part

A big part of why the CI was born came came from my ‘live’ experience of prospective coachees during the chemistry check meeting. Perhaps predictably, I met a full range of people from those who were wholly frozen or bounded, through to those who were completely open and ready to go. I sometimes fumbled to find the right language that would provide the coachee an understanding of my experience of them in that moment.

One time I was meeting with an executive who was experienced and reasonably successful, yet there was an arrogance that I knew would hold him back from getting the full value from coaching. So without giving it much thought at all, I said, “I wanted to mention that I use what I call a Coachability Index, where I rate people from 0 to 10 based on how ‘coachable’ I think they are.” After a long pause, he said, “I’m guessing you wouldn’t give me a 10.” Curious, I asked him why he thought that. He then proceeded to tell me that he knew he could come across as aloof and closed off. Bingo! Then the real coaching conversation began. He had moved beyond the push and pull of trying to prove to me how good he was and instead became more real, more vulnerable. He then shared that his relationships were suffering as a result of his approach – including in his personal life. It was a breakthrough moment.

I was sold on the idea and potential power of the Coachability Index.

Who Do I Prefer to Coach – a ‘0′ or a ‘10′?

You might think that I would say a ‘0′ because of the challenge. Or perhaps because you think they need coaching more than people further ‘up the scale’. Or perhaps you are thinking that the benefits of shifting a ‘0′ to a ‘5′ or higher would have a positive ripple effect on those in that person’s life. All of these thought bubbles might be true.

However, coaching a ‘0′ is not my first choice. In two decades of coaching people across multiple industries and sectors, I have coached maybe five people who I would assess as a true zero. There’s no getting around it – they are hard work. Really hard. Despite irrefutable evidence that their approach and style are destructive, they defend their reality like their life depended on it. And maybe that’s the problem. They are so invested in managing the world’s perception of them or are so stuck that they can’t even see a need to change. In their minds, any promised future rewards don’t justify the pain and effort they would have to endure today.

In their minds, any promised future rewards don’t justify the pain and effort they would have to endure today.

A Message for Any ‘Zeros’ Reading This

I have an enormous amount of empathy for all the zeros out there – let’s face it, it’s not a great place to be living. However, I respectfully invite a future conversation with you when the self-induced speed humps become intolerable. When in your heart you know that there must be a different, more fulfilling way to lead, love, and live. I promise that the rewards are extraordinary. And I think you deserve it and those who are in your life deserve a better version of you.

And Finally…

In the meantime, whether you are a coach, manger or member of a team, the CI can be a useful tool to use – even if you don’t actually share the score with the other person. However, it is the conversation that provides the richness and power. Finally, the best place to start is with ourselves and own assessment of where we think we are. And a cheeky little tip if I may, if you rate yourself a ’10’, then you almost certainly are not. Good luck.

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Ten Features of World Class Development Programs

The times are changing but…

While our world is changing rapidly, it could be argued that our management practices have not kept pace with these changes. In fact, I think we’re trailing badly.

In reality not much has changed in 100 years. The training and development industry largely rehashes old theory and practices and makes the same mistakes. At the most fundamental level however, our overall quality of management and leadership is poor and is based on archaic notions based on the industrial age.

“We should stop trying to make people happy and instead make them better equipped to deal with the challenges of today’s organisations.”

While more than 75% of learners report high levels of satisfaction with learning programs, in our heart of hearts we know that there is no correlation between ‘happy sheets’ and the successful application of program learning and subsequent performance. We should stop trying to make people happy and instead make them better equipped to deal with the challenges of today’s organisations.

We think we’re driving a Ferrari but we’re really driving a vehicle from the 1900’s

Our Top 10 Features / Practices

Our research and practice in learning and development over two decades has allowed us to assemble a ‘top 10’ list that all development programs should at least consider integrating. I’m not suggesting that programs should have all ten, although that goal is certainly achievable (see Actionable Conversations for example). Programs that manage to incorporate many of the practices are more likely to be effective, sustainable and cost-effective.

So here are our top 10….

1. Solid context

Ensure that programs are framed and positioned in a strong context that includes an assessment of the market / external environment, strategy, the customer and the organisation’s vision for the future. Only then can an organisation determine the type of leader it needs and therefore the type of program it should invest in. We should dispense with generic competency based models and generic programs that are not targeted.

2. Just-in-time & strategic

If point #1 is true (above), it also holds true that training should be more agile, responsive and ‘just-in-time’ to meet the specific development needs now and in the short-term. Too often organisations get caught in the trap of looking too far in to the future to try to determine leadership needs. A more pertinent question is to ask ‘What do we need right now and in the coming 12 months?’

3. Leader-led / expert-driven

Developing people should be led internally – harvesting every opportunity, everyday. This should be a blend of informal in-the-moment; semi-structured (e.g. monthly leader-led conversations around a mission critical theme); or more formal training provided by outside experts who can bring a perspective and skills sometimes not present internally.

“Developing people should be led internally – harvesting every opportunity, everyday.”

4. Real-world & practical

Please don’t read ‘real-world’ and practical as just being focused on skill building or superficial training that doesn’t challenge people around their mindsets and behaviours. The most effective development programs invite people to play at their edge. The best programs are transformational, where participants can never view themselves or the world in the same way again (the ANZ Breakout program was a good example of this where I was the head of program delivery between 2001 and 2007).

5. Transfer of learning is primary

Learning can suffer three fatal flaws: (1) it occurs in a vacuum; (2) is not linked to a learner’s role or business unit objectives or (3) learning remains in the classroom. Research tells us that the most important factor in program participants being able to apply their learning back in the workplace is their manager.

6. Supports both leader and learner

We tell our program participants that their 1-up manager should almost feel like they’re going through the program, such should be the level of communication, sharing and support that happens in that relationship. Unfortunately this is more aspirational than fact. Secondly, programs that are leader-led have the added benefit of developing both the team member as well as the leader running the session.

7. Mechanisms to support accountability

I like to call this the ‘scaffolding’ that helps support learners. Examples include regular development meetings with their manager; scheduling time for reflection on behaviours and approach; formal or informal coaching / mentoring; and perhaps most importantly, developing habits and practices (see # 9).

8. Doesn’t break the bank

This perhaps goes without saying, however if programs are going to be rolled out in large volume then they need to be cost-effective and provide a measurable return-on-investment.

9. Focuses on the pathway to get there

One observation I have made repeatedly is that we over-invest in goal setting and under-invest in the pathways to get there. In other words, you can set all the goals you want, but if you don’t have a plan to get there, the goals are useless. And the pathway to get there is through developing habits and practices that move you toward the goal everyday. Read my post on LinkedIn on Habits and Practices.

10. Reinforced & Rewarded

Accountability is an over-used word in organisations, however if you want people to do something different, there has to be accountability built in to development programs. Also, we are all human. In a world that is quick to criticize or cut-down, the basic human need of support and acceptance is enduring. Reward the right behaviours – and oh, don’t forget to reward the right intention and effort.

By at least considering all ten features in this list and how they might be incorporated in your development programs, you stand a very good chance of delivering what you set out to do in the first place, develop people in a way that makes a difference to them and to the organisation.

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We All Need A Tribe

my tribeLike you, I am a part of many groups, teams, membership bodies and communities of practice. They all offer something different. For some, I receive more than I give, while for others, the opposite is true.

One of my ‘tribes’ (see our happy group photo from yesterday’s Christmas lunch) stands out however as being pretty special, despite it operating in counter-intuitive ways that go against convention. This tribe is going strong heading in to its fourth year – thanks to (clockwise) Gerard Penna, Me/Author, Michelle Sales, Kathy McKenzie, Linley Watson and Dave Lourdes.

What Makes this Group Special

As we rocket towards the end of another year (and yesterday was our last get-together), it caused me to reflect on what makes this group work so well:

The name says it all – Our group is called ‘In Your Corner‘ which should give you a strong indication of what the group is about. We are there for each other during the good, bad and ugly times.

We share a common purpose – Every member of the IYC tribe cares deeply about being the best practitioner we can be for our clients. We want to learn, grow and expand our knowledge, skills and depth of practice.

It’s a ‘judgment free zone’ – Judgment is the killer of vulnerability – and a lack of vulnerability is the killer of human growth and potential. Group members feel safe.

There is no agenda – There is no agenda, no preparation, no meeting notes and no objectives set. What!? Yes, you read right. We get together for half a day every two months never knowing what we’re going to talk about – and this creates enormous value. There is space to breath; space to reflect; and space to go to the places we don’t normally allocate enough attention or time towards.

Challenge with humility – If you’re thinking that our meetings are hand-holding ‘love-ins’, then you have the wrong idea. The heat is turned up through group coaching, peer consultation processes and letting ‘the silence do the heavy lifting’ (thanks for the quote Susan Scott). As you might imagine, it’s a pretty interesting dynamic having six coaches/facilitators working as one! No shrinking violets here.

There are no ‘no-go-zones’Nothing is off the table unless an individual says it is, so our topics of conversations are broad and varied. Conversations include things like: support around difficult client engagements; being purposeful; sustaining our energy for the work; fees; marketing; understanding best practice and global trends in learning and development; and collaborating on specific projects – just to name a few.

Gratitude and ego – There is plenty of the first and not much of the second. The group goes about it’s business in a way which is not about points scoring or demonstrating how much we know or how good we are. While I consider tribe members to be among some of the best practitioners in Australia and abroad, people don’t feel the need to prove it. There is a richness in being able to give and receive the gifts of knowledge, feedback and wisdom.

How Are Your Tribes Working?

The word ‘tribe’ can be interpreted in many ways. However for me, a tribe is a collection of people that you are a part of – either voluntarily or by default – such as a membership group or organisational team. If there is no common purpose then it is unlikely to be a tribe in form, function or benefits received.

Your Five Questions:

The only ‘call to action’ I have for you is that I invite you to reflect on the following five questions:

  1. How are your tribes working for you?
  2. What tribes do you need to leave/create?
  3. Where do you need to adjust the way your tribes are working?
  4. How might you take an active step to bring one or more of the seven points (above) to your tribe?
  5. How do you need to ‘show up’ differently to help create your ideal tribe?

I would love to hear your thoughts on what makes your tribes great (or not)!

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Becoming a ‘Choice Architect’

image choice

The desire to do – and be – our best is an innate driver for most people. While I say ‘most people’, I actually believe it is important to all human beings.

Different People, Different Pathways

shoppping photo

However, life’s journey takes us down many different paths. Some of those paths nurture our desire and ability to be our best, while other pathways fight against our capacity to be a better version of ourselves. This isn’t anybody’s fault. Some people just haven’t discovered the choices that are available to them and/or given the tools to get there yet.

The Organisational ‘Stage’

When we come together as a collective in an organisational context, such as in teams, there is a kaleidascope of history, personality types, development levels, focus, goals and oh yes, egos. When our goal is to influence others either individually or collectively, then we need to understand human behaviour and how it is shaped. To better understand how this plays out, we can draw from many fields such as psychology, philosophy and behavioural economics.

Nudge Theory

Nudge Theory comes from the field of behaviour economics and has been popularised and developed by Richard Thaler, an economist from the University of Chicago who was recently announced as this year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics.

The central idea behind Prof Thaler’s work is that we are not the rational beings more traditional economic theory would have us believe. In fact, given two options, we are likely to pick the wrong one even if that means making ourselves less well off. Lack of thinking time, habit and poor decision making mean that even when presented with a factual analysis (for example on healthy eating) we are still likely to pick burger and chips.

to nudge: alert, remind or mildly warn

Nudge Theory takes account of this, based as it is on the simple premise that

people will often choose what is easiest over what is wisest.

As a case-in-point, tests have shown that putting healthier foods on a higher shelf increases sales. The food is more likely to be in someone’s eye line and therefore “nudge” that person towards the purchase – whether they had any idea about the obesity argument or not.

Becoming a ‘Choice Architect’

One of the most fundamental, yet challenging areas for managers, is to influence people in service of a goal. However, managers often go about influencing in all the wrong ways. By failing to understand how people make choices at work and in their own lives, we set ourselves up to experience roadblocks, re-work, pain and frustration. And ultimately, costly failures in our projects and initiatives.

By developing the knowledge and skills necessary to become a more effective choice architect,

we can nudge people towards the choices we want or need them to make.

While this may sound manipulative, it must always be in service of a higher purpose, as opposed to servicing the needs of one individual’s agenda. In a community context, we might hide cigarettes from view to reduce the uptake of smoking in young people. In an organisational context, if a team wanted to become more strategic, we might ensure that only strategic topics are listed on the agenda (as simple as this may be, it can make a big difference).

Developing Requisite Skills

To build stronger managers and leaders, we must do three things. Firstly, there must be insight created (a greater awareness of self, other and the context in which we operate); secondly, influence (the ability to guide and shape another person’s thinking and actions); and finally impact (making a difference to our colleagues, our organisations and our society).

I would argue that it is the role of everyone, including parents, friends, siblings, colleagues and managers, to guide and support people along their chosen path. Sometimes however, we need to create the context where we nudge people to make what we see as the right choices, or at least better choices. The difference between nudge theory and coercive influencing strategies is that in its purest form, in Nudge Theory, choices that are seen as sub-optimal are always available and ultimately left up to the individual to exercise their freedom to choose. In this way, we avoid the trap of assuming an overly-paternalistic (rigid) approach and perhaps even occasionally, a misguided pathway ourselves.


Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about Nudge Theory and other leading strategies to influence people, please join us for one of our one-day masterclasses.

Find out more here:


masterclass workshop dates

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Influencing Without Authority – Masterclass

Learn how to influence key people
to achieve your goals

To be successful at your job, you must be able to:

(1) “sell” an idea or project,

(2) persuade coworkers or peers to provide support and/or resources, or

(3) get people to do something that they may not necessarily want or need to do.

However, in our experience, influencing others effectively remains a key challenge for many managers and leaders.

We are pleased to release places for our one day workshops that will provide you with a tried and tested approach that works.

Workshops are to be held in:

Melbourne – Wed, 24th Nov 2017
Sydney – Thur, 7th Dec 2017
Brisbane – Tue, 28th Nov 2017
Adelaide – Fri, 1st Dec 2017
Auckland – Mon, 4th Dec 2017

Click on the link to find out more – Influencing Without Authority Masterclass



Book Now! for early bird special:
(Pay before 9th Oct)
AU$1,295 (plus GST)

  • Influencing Assessment Profile
  • 1-on-1 personal debrief
  • One-day workshop
  • All materials
  • Follow-Up

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How Professional Negotiation Skills Can Help You

One of the key indicators of long-term success is the way a business engages with its external and internal stakeholders. Winning a new major client, making a strategic acquisition, managing teams for performance, or spending less while managing risk: negotiation is everywhere.

A 2012 study estimated that UK private-sector businesses lose around £17 billion every year as a result of poor negotiation practices. For the average company, that equated to a 7-per-cent loss of profits. There is no reason to suspect that the findings would have been much different in Australia.

In business and in life, you don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate. Chester L. Karrass

Negotiation happens at all levels of business, from the big set-piece negotiation with clients and suppliers to the daily negotiations between business units, managers and staff, and contractors. How much value would be added to businesses if all of those negotiations were just 5 per cent more efficient: fewer escalations of conflicts to senior staff, more value secured from suppliers, clients retained through effective grievance handling, improved margins on sales, and improved internal communication.

Overcoming Common Challenges

Negotiation is rarely taught as part of our education and almost never with the chance to practise and learn from your mistakes. As a consequence there are several key challenges that need to overcome in order to be successful negotiators and build effective negotiating teams:

  1. Understand negotiation – Negotiation is not something that just happens. There is an underlying process to every negotiation—business and private. Negotiation is creating additional value by skilful trading, securing agreement on issues that are of higher value in return for yielding on issues that are lower cost or lower value. Trading is about realising opportunities and building relationships, but requires flexibility, discipline, and giving as well as taking.
  2. Don’t settle for win–win – The concept is worthy, but aiming for a ‘win–win deal’ makes for a poor negotiation objective. This is because win–win says nothing about the overall quality of the deal. Skilled negotiators aim beyond win–win to create additional value from the relationship for both sides.
  3. Avoid compromises – Haggling over an issue and compromising to meet somewhere ‘in the middle’ may resolve the issue, but typically leaves both sides unhappy. Another downside of repeated compromise is the precedent it sets. If one side is prone to compromise, sharp negotiators will happily invite them to ‘meet halfway’ again and again, and across wider and wider ranges.
  4. Give your team a clear mandate – How often do negotiations get bogged down because one or both sides are unclear about where they can be flexible and how far they can go? The result is a costly standstill because neither side is empowered to actually do a better deal. Without a clear mandate, negotiators won’t know what they can trade to turn an acceptable deal into a great deal.
  5. Demand excellence – The alchemy of negotiation lies in trading what is low cost or low value in exchange for elements of higher value. That’s easy to write but much harder to deliver across a tense negotiation table. Demand negotiating excellence, discipline, and accountability for results—from your team as well as from yourself.

Getting Results – Introducing Negotiation Partners

Negotiation Partners’ passion is to help executives and businesses raise their game. In 2016, over 98% of their alumni delivered substantial business outcomes within three months and reported long-term improvement in their negotiation skill (more than 300% ROI). In 2016, 29% of their alumni had already earned-back their training investment within 10 days after the course. Some even reporting gains of up to several $100,000 extra value in their deals whilst simultaneously improving their supplier relationships, rather than just squeezing them and generating bad will (their pre-course approach).

Their clients entrust us to help them with vital negotiations, to resolve conflict and to deliver results. The practice-focused training programs developed are unique: they combine intensive coaching by professional negotiators with insightful proprietary diagnostics and long-term coaching follow-up. They are confident that their negotiation programs are their best sales tool.

A Program You Should Consider

I am excited enough about the value of their programs that I’m going to attend as a participant myself.
– Phillip Ralph

So Negotiation Partners want to invite you to a special “try before you buy” offer on their public two day + 3 hours online course offering.

The unique guarantee…

While their programs aren’t cheap, to their clients they are effectively free. As professionals, Negotiation Partners believe that your training investment should generate a solid and tangible return on investment. That’s why their 2½-day and 3-day corporate programs include a 300% Return On Investment Guarantee.

If your team does not report at least 3 times our fee in added value within 3 months, they will happily refund up to 100% of the program fee. Their corporate clients enjoy this guarantee as part of their standard commercial terms.

So far, they have never been asked to honour our guarantee.

How can a standard two or three-day training program deliver such an impact? It can’t.

That’s why their programs are not standard programs. They start weeks before the face-to-face training and continue for three months or more after the core content has been delivered.

Price is what you pay, Value is what you get.
– Warren Buffet

A typical program includes:

  1. Pre-meeting(s) with the course sponsor(s) to identify business objectives, individual training needs, and any other factors relevant to the performance of participants;
  2. Pre-course needs analysis and NCRS™ negotiation diagnostic for each participant;
  3. Appropriate course tailoring to ensure maximum focus on key development areas;
  4. Three-day intensive program (about 27 working hours) for six to twelve participants, delivered by two experienced negotiation professionals (no ‘trainers’ or academics!);
  5. Individual skills report with the coaches’ feedback and recommendations for each participant.
  6. Post-course surveys after 10 days and 90 days to evaluate impact and effectiveness.
  7. Regular follow-up contact with skill tips and tailored advice.
  8. Coaching follow-up and unlimited access to our 1300 negotiation ‘helpline’ for ad-hoc feedback and coaching on any negotiation, business transaction or conflict setting (business or private); and
  9. Detailed sponsor’s reporting, including formal three-month post-course ROI report.


Get in touch to find out more:


There is no disclaimer.

I am not receiving any financial or other incentive to promote this program. I just believe it is an awesome program which will benefit just about any manager or leader, which is why I’m attending! I hope to see you there (Melbourne).

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The Office

Phillip Ralph
Level 2, GPO Building
350 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Office: 8:30am - 5:30pm
Ph: 1300 100 857