The Vowels

OK, so you thought we had finished with The Language of Leadership!

So did I, however, I realised that we had five remaining days of October and coincidentally, there are five important letters to highlight .. our vowels.


When I learnt to speak Japanese, the first lesson was about our pronunciation of our vowels. Almost every word in Japanese ends in a vowel (similar to Italian), so it was extremely important (and still is) to quickly sound like a Japanese person, speaking Japanese!

Japanese For Busy People - 1982 - My first Japanese text book.

Japanese For Busy People - 1982 - My first Japanese text book.

As an Australian, this was a challenge as our twang and pronunciation is strangely different to other English speaking countries; which meant the vowels became more important than the consonants! The vowel was king.

Given the elevation of these five vowels, let’s review these five letters and the words we use to express our leadership.

Today we’ll focus on our first vowel in the queue. A.

Action, Attitude, Assumption and Affirmations were four A words offered at the beginning of the month. Then, other words were offered via social media, including:

·       Assertiveness, opposed to aggressiveness

·       Appreciation and the importance of apologizing

·       Adaptive and being agile.

A’ is a significant letter in our language of leadership. The question is, did we forget any other important ‘A’ words?

Tomorrow we’ll revisit and explore the vowel ‘E’.

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu (Thank you very much.)


Lucy Adams disrupts the world of Human Resources. She offers solutions to turn HR on it’s head to be more about the people opposed to a focus on the policy of people.

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Are you Making Sense?


According to The Institute for the Future, the top skill required for 2020 is Sense-Making. This is defined as the ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.

In Lynne Cazaly’s words, it’s about your thinking, connections, visualising stuff, communicating that and being able to act on it and iterate it where needed.

Too easy! Or is it?

Leaders can choose to add value by doing three things: uncomplicate matters, enable decisions to be made and help make sense of complex issues. In my world, my common client issue is distilling information to communicate to others for decisions to be made. So, it would make sense to build the capability of ‘sense making’ as it’s the entrée to decision making.

Thankfully there is a book to help managers and leaders. And when a book immediately captures your attention, you hope the author keeps flexing this style. I wasn’t disappointed and read it within 3 days. Lynne’s humour made it enjoyable and she knowingly helped us retain the information. My daughter picked up the book wanting to know why I was laughing and asked immediately “why has this book got WTF in it?” Thanks Lynne!

Lynne presents in ‘Making Sense - A Handbook for the Future of Work’ her reasoning and a collection of other ‘Thought Leaders’ of the same subject, why we need to help our people make sense, how to go about it and offer, on a platter, tools to kick-start the sense-making in your leadership capacity.

It’s a leader’s manual which should become dog-eared quickly given the number of gems included. It’s spiced up with some fair dinkum language which we all need given the amount of procrastination and inaction in this territory (that is, in Australia and the field of sense making).

Anyhow, back to the action held within the rows of text and to my delight, the pages of visuals. Yes, my inner desire of ‘please just draw a diagram of what you mean’ has been fulfilled and I get it.

Lynne creates, immediate context for the need to make sense by introducing the cute Aussie sounding acronym VUCA. It’s because of VUCA that we are in a state of panic and feeling overwhelmed.

Volatility – the unknown in an ever changing environment, in particular in organisational systems & structures

Uncertainty – when you freeze or feel you’re in a holding pattern … struck with a personal unknown feeling

Complexity – in the middle of change humans intervene and add their interpretation creating layers of information

Ambiguity – where more questions are asked to answer questions and everything is clouded



And here are some simple yet powerful points:

DON’T do these things …

Use PowerPoint – we know they are not appreciated and people make them too complex and when people ask for a copy (this means they didn’t get it)

Use bullet points – it’s an excuse for leaving out the detail which is need to make sense of what you’re communicating

Remain quiet – there is so much going on that you need to be the toddler and ask “why?” to make sense

And more importantly start doing these things …

Create a new habit– realise that making sense is a capability and a behaviour … so it has potential to become a habit

Evolve – leaders need to keep learning, changing, and taking on different experimental roles

Set standards – don’t allow clichés or wafflers in your meetings

Educate – this is learnable, teach it in schools and develop it with adults

Dots – join the dots for your team and others

Map it – like google maps, draw a route to help people find their way

Move it on – stop the folks who are stuck in the past, help them resolve their issue to enable movement

Use templates – help make it easier to make sense by drawing templates which visually make sense

Share techniques – there are 21 to experiment with, practise and share in your team

Meaningful meetings – make your gatherings and meeting meaningful and purposeful

Making sense made easy.

The crux of the book is a great model: Think, Map, Act – it simplifies what we should be doing to make sense of what’s going on. Thinking encourages visualising, mapping is creating our version of what we think and acting is practising our thought out version. And this is cyclical, it doesn’t stop with one attempt!


This is a must read and reference book for leaders.

This is a must read and reference book for leaders.

I work with teams who are experiencing conflict which is when individuals’ values are being challenged by other people’s behaviour about an issue. In Making Sense, Lynne identifies when we are aiming to make sense, we need to make sense of the wider world (it = market, industry), the outer world (others - organisation, team), and the inner world (you – your mind)

This is another great model, this time helping leaders to depersonalise conflict; using a new language to work through and make sense of what’s going on. Leaders who demonstrate leadership will guide people to minimise their feeling of conflict by making sense of what’s going on. They’ll use this handbook with its: 40 thought starters, 10 thinking tools, 32 templates and 21 techniques for making sense.

Enjoy exploring stuff, thinking about it, talking about it, mapping it and then definitely acting on it.

Don't let this linger any longer. Act on it and get help if you require guidance. Connect now.

I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!



I’m a fan of the Netflix production, Suits. A key character, Louis Litt, doesn’t do many things right, however, in an episode, he prepares a tea ceremony and presents a thoughtful meaningful gift to a potential Japanese client.

I think Patti McCarthy, a Melbourne-based cultural adviser would be impressed with Louis’ planning.

Look out for this new great book for leaders and teams who need to be more culturally aware.

In her book, Cultural Chemistry, Patti has captured more than I was expecting to read – it’s a feast to devour (10 chapter courses) – everything you need to do, say and how to behave, no matter which culture you want to digest. Whether it’s about food, feet placement, doing business with the French and Finnish or is flatulence acceptable; every aspect of cultural understanding is expressed in a delicious format to make these global lessons stick.

We’re introduced to smart phrases which you will recall when discussing cultural matters with your team. For example:

Cultural Cruise control – turning the control off is essential if you wish to maximise the opportunity to absorb the new culture. What works for one culture can be detrimental to another. In Australia, we casually invite people to use our Christian names whereas in Malaysia this is taboo if you’re in senior management.

Be a Sherlock - investigating every aspect of the culture to ensure there is no embarrassment, ‘loss of face’ and importantly, no loss of business.

Cultural Wavelength – deepen your relationships by tuning into ‘their’ wavelength. We know in leadership that we better engage others when we adapt to be the leader that the others need us to be.

There are many simple yet useful reminders including communication differences. ESL, English as a Second Language took me back to my five years of studying Japanese and then attempting to act as a translator. There is a politely unspoken difficulty experienced by so many when English is their Second Language; – consider the acronyms and colloquialisms we Australians populate our narrative during meetings.


The ability to listen is fundamental in many Asian cultures.

I really enjoyed learning more about the system of identifying global societies as either Individualist or collective. Consider this: are you one who thinks about yourself e.g. has a phone conversation on speaker on the train for all passengers to hear or do you consider creating harmony as being more important e.g. not singling out one person who’s caused a problem rather asks the team to fix it. Knowing which system you’re fitting into might enable you to quicken the relocation process.

We’re introduced to a model, the Four R’s to create a circuit breaker – enabling a cultural awareness change of personal habits as you embark into relationship building projects no matter where you find yourself in our global economy.


Here’s the four R’s model:

Rewards – what’s driving you to learn about this culture – what’s the benefit of increasing your understanding – what will happen if you don’t engage with the culture?

Research – at one level you can learn about the dos & don’t and at another level you can make sense of culture by learning about what is value in these countries.

Reflect – how do you feel about this new cultural information; how different is it to your beliefs, values, and your own culture; and how will you use and adapt this new intelligence to your habits and behaviours?

Reach out – how will you adapt do be able to connect with others in what can be an entirely different culture. What’s your strategy?

Patti, in a virtual capacity, coaches you at the conclusion of each chapter, asking you the 4R model questions enabling you to have a meaningful conversation with your team members, if you use this tool to be a proactive global learning team.

We know that we learn through story-telling and Cultural Chemistry has the concoction measured well with succinct stories occupying most pages – heightening your awareness of how important this information is by identifying the differences and similarities of customs, rituals, beliefs, motivations and values.

Reading Cultural Chemistry will enable you to quickly answer these questions:

Q: Which nationality expect you to have a Plan B in addition to Plan A?
Q: Where are you if you’re expected to put on plastic shoes to visit the lavatory in someone’s home?
Q: Which nationality don’t appreciate receiving clocks for introductory gifts?
Q: Which month is a bad month for Filipinos to make a decision?
Q: Which cultures (in addition to Australia) would you classify as individualistic?
Q: Where is it frowned upon to reheat leftovers and eat lunch at your desk rather than eat lunch with the team in the canteen?

Whilst we might have some idea of the etiquette, protocols and even rituals of other cultures, it’s not enough if we are serious about respectfully, ethically and indeed successfully leading and achieving the goal associated with having a new cultural relationship.

I always think of leadership as setting up staff for success; not failure. Providing guidance, coaching and the opportunity to discuss and explore solutions. This is a delightful delicacy of a read; a recipe for cultural success and a must for your leadership library.


I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning, and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!

Stress: Do you cause it or change it?

We all suffer periods of stress and some people experience continuous stress. Some will admit this, some ignore it (denial) and some don't even know it - it's become the norm feeling and behaviour in their life.

As I sip on my chamomile tea, I try and determine if I'm feeling stressed. It's school holidays, the kids are still in bed and I need to pack to venture off for a couple of days. No! I'm in control - at the moment.

What I am more intrigued about is the impact I have on others - do I cause them stress?  Is it a positive amount of stress e.g. Embarking on a new project or a negative quantity of stress e.g. Continuously not meeting project deadlines (which would not happen!)

Do you cause stress in others' lives? Is your behaviour causing anxiety?  

I believe we can be great leaders by creating a work environment which is mindful of peoples' lives and what's important to them. Whilst the workplace isn't the number one cause of stress (it's #6) according to the Australian Psychological Society's 2014 Australian Wellbeing Survey - if we know what causes stress we can educate, discuss and act on preventing the negative stress.

The greatest lesson I've learnt about stress is that it's all about 'change'. If we're experiencing stress - something has to change. If others are feeling anxious - something has changed to create that feeling which requires an intervention of understanding the change and having more control of the change.

Don't be guilty of causing stress: get planning, get talking and minimise the stress. And this isn't restricted to the workplace. Women stress most about money according to the survey (more than family) so let's alleviate this by creating opportunities for money to be better understood, access to financial education etc. If we can influence the stress factors, people will perform better in their roles.