Your transformation PODCAST

Creating Synergy Podcast

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Ep. 4 – The power of Individual Coaching – with Fiona McAllister

Intro:

Welcome to Creating Synergy where we explore what it takes to transform, whether you are transforming yourself, your team, your business, or your community. We’ll connect you with insightful and challenging leaders who share their stories of successful transformations to give you practical ideas for your own journey. Join us for another insightful episode of Creating Synergy.

Daniel Franco:

Welcome back to Creating Synergy. Today we have a guest, [Fi 00:00:31] McAllister, who is one of our most senior consultants at Synergy IQ. She describes her job as creating clarity for leaders and refining their leadership identity. But technically, the work that Fi does is executive coaching, marketing, customer experience, and she’s also a facilitation guru.

Daniel Franco:

Since moving from Australia, in Scotland, in 1996 she’s worked in many industries, both in the corporate world and in the public, government organizations, and has been in many, many senior leadership roles. Thank you for joining us Fi, and welcome.

Fiona McAllister:

Thanks for having me.

Daniel Franco:

This is a bit of a different podcast, because Fi and I, as we tend to generally do, just started talking, and luckily, the podcast was recording. We’re going to just introduce you from where we sort of started here. It’s a bit different to what we normally do, but I think-

Fiona McAllister:

It’s authentic.

Daniel Franco:

It’s authentic, so let’s just go with it. Thanks, and enjoy.

Fiona McAllister:

I was coaching a guy for a large telecommunication company in Australia, and it was with the purpose of improving team engagement. He and I worked for quite a bit. He was a bit resistant. He didn’t really believe that the work that I was getting him to do was going to make a difference to how his team were performing, and how they were engaging in the customer experience, which was the other part of the measure of success for this piece of work.

Fiona McAllister:

And I noticed that he spoke a lot about I, instead of the team. At a team meeting he would say, “I’ve done this. I said this.”

Daniel Franco:

[crosstalk 00:02:16]

Fiona McAllister:

“I think what you should do is …” That was probably the most frequent reference, “I think you should …” “I know you need to …”

Fiona McAllister:

And one day we had scheduled a workshop, it was two hours with his team, and I wrote down how many times he said that in 30 minutes. And it was double digits, it was up in the 20s. He was so surprised. He said he was being mindful of not doing that, and yet that was his default.

Daniel Franco:

He still did it, yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

It was only when I was providing him that feedback that he said, “Wow, there’s a number on that, and a time on that, and that’s exactly what happened.” He stopped doing it.

Daniel Franco:

That’s good.

Fiona McAllister:

I don’t know that it really improved his management style, but-

Daniel Franco:

No, but you’re calling him out on it.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, and I think that when you do call somebody out on it, and you can be that candid with somebody, and you need to have a particular type of relationship with somebody to be that candid with them. I wasn’t saying he was stupid like Kim Scott.

Daniel Franco:

No.

Fiona McAllister:

You know, her manager said, “You sound stupid.” I just said, “Are you aware? What do you think the impact is?” And then when we were able to count it, he was really shocked at how frequently he used it. And then that motivated him to change.

Daniel Franco:

Well it’s the old saying, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Fiona McAllister:

No, that’s right. Well, we’ve all got blind spots haven’t we? It’s only when others that see what you do, and they give you that feedback, that you become aware of it. Right? “I’m conscious of it now. What am I going to do with that?” Is it important to me? Maybe not, but if it is, then at least you know you can do something about it.

Daniel Franco:

When someone else notices something about you, you kind of then become conscious about it and you go, “Well, I don’t want anyone else thinking of that.” So you then start to subconsciously work on it I guess.

Fiona McAllister:

Well, you do that when you are motivated by what other people think of you as well.

Daniel Franco:

That’s true.

Fiona McAllister:

Brand image, whatever else and-

Daniel Franco:

We all are to- [crosstalk 00:04:15]

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah. Right? And I’ve got another example, when I worked at the same large telecommunication company but with a different group of people. I was working with a group of coaches, and one of my strengths and values is humour. And you know that right?

Daniel Franco:

Well but you’re not very funny.

Fiona McAllister:

No, I’m not very funny. No, don’t. I know you’re going to ask me for a dad joke later. And I use humor to make everybody feel comfortable. So we’re in a new group of about eight coaches, we all had very different experiences, some were new, some had 10s of years of coaching internationally, and we’re all in this room trying to work out some issues. And I made a very throwaway comment about one of the coaches who was quite new. He was Scottish, and I made a Scottish comment, thinking, “That’s going to land with him, and he’s just going to think that’s a bit funny.” It wasn’t until three days later and I’d come back to Adelaide, we’d been in Perth for this meeting, that he phoned me up and he said, “Fi, I need to let you know that when you said that, that really hurt my feelings. It made me feel like you didn’t believe that I knew that I knew what I was talking about.”

Fiona McAllister:

I can’t even remember what it was that I said, but I know that when you over use things like humour, that it can come across as cynical or dismissive, and that was a really big lesson for me. I would not have had a clue about that, and I would’ve continued to use that kind of humour, assuming that was me making people feel okay, assuming that just because, “Oh he’s Scottish, I’m Scottish, I’ll get away with being able to say something that’s a bit edgy and that it won’t be a problem.” But it was.

Fiona McAllister:

Going back to whether it’s a blind spot or it’s just something you don’t think about, it’s when you get that kind of feedback that articulates the impact that you have on others, especially on others’ feelings, that you can shift it, you can change it.

Daniel Franco:

You mentioned, “I didn’t even know I said that.” Puts emphasis on the power of words, doesn’t it? You think about, I’ve had people come to me, and I’m positive that you would’ve had, and Michelle has had the same thing, Michelle [Holland 00:06:24]. People have come to me and said, “Dan, there was just something that you said to me six months ago, that completely changed my life.” And I don’t even remember the conversation. And so it’s just the power of words. I think every time we speak we need to be conscious about what effect we could potentially be having on the person who’s listening at the other end.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, I don’t know whether you can always be that self-aware. It’s like when you’re, what is that, conscious incompetence stuff?

Daniel Franco:

Yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

Where you’re, the first time you’re learning to drive a car, when you’re 16, 17 whatever, and you’re looking at all these other drivers on the road, and there’s cyclists, and your parents to your left-hand side saying, “Clutch, clutch.” If you’re learning on a manual. And you’ve just got this hyper-awareness and the adrenaline’s pumping. I think it’s the same if you’re aware all the time, you would just constantly be pumping that adrenaline. I don’t think you can do that. And I think, obviously there’s research about how your brain gets used to all the content and all the information. I don’t know whether this is totally digressing here, but your brain starts to say, “That’s okay, we’ll manage this in a way for you so you don’t really have to think about it.” And I think that maybe that’s what you do.

Fiona McAllister:

And some people might say it’s complacent, or you just become really expert at trying to be funny and using that as your crutch. But I don’t know, anyway.

Daniel Franco:

Humour does break down barriers, but obviously there’s an element to it that you need to be conscious of.

Fiona McAllister:

If you’re working, or if you’re with people that don’t value that humor, who don’t have that as a strength, then it doesn’t land. For me, it’s about using it as an icebreaker to try and make people feel comfortable. And generally it works, but you’ve got to be really conscious of who you’ve got in the room, and be mindful of, where is this landing.

Fiona McAllister:

And in that moment where you’ve started, if it doesn’t land, then what are you going to do about it? Are you going to adjust? And I think that’s where being aware of how you connect with people and you adapt is a real skill.

Daniel Franco:

So Fi, you’re a facilitation expert, coach, executive coach, how did you get into this world? What was your journey to, obviously the development that you’ve gone through, but the journey to get where you are today, and help leaders through their careers?

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, I had my own leadership journey quite early on. My life started in call centres after I’d finished college in Scotland. And came to Australia, worked in telecommunication companies, but I didn’t ever have the same job for very long. Went from working on phones to team leader, to then doing process re-engineering. When telecommunication company merged, I worked for a wholesale department, which was completely different part of the industry.

Fiona McAllister:

And then I had the opportunity to work for the launch of a communication company, a telecommunication company in 2000, in Australia. And that was amazing, to just be part of something so big. You learn a lot when you’re in a start-up. Everything from the technology, to the new people, to the different departments, to working with consultants. And once we’d launched in Australia, I was able to go and repeat the process in Singapore, so the same company did a launch over in Singapore, and it was about five months. Again, really compressed learning period, leading a large program of work. It was a multimillion dollar program of work, technically.

Fiona McAllister:

And I learned a lot on that about what not to do. When people say, “Throw you in at the deep end.” So I was-

Daniel Franco:

That’s the best way to learn isn’t it?

Fiona McAllister:

Well, it is. But I guess what I learned during that time was that I had been guided towards more of a technical role, as a business analyst firstly, and then as a project and program manager, and I didn’t enjoy that technical aspect. I didn’t enjoy technical writing. I didn’t enjoy the management of large, multimillion dollar budgets and having to manage all those moving parts.

Fiona McAllister:

I came back to Australia and I was asked to work in marketing, which was actually where my degree came from, so my degree’s in marketing. I was product marketing manager for a number of years in this telecommunication company. And during the time, it was a period of growth with content, building a digital experience for people using mobile technology. Effectively introducing things like iPhones and mobile broadband, so everything’s happening really, really quickly, so my team grew really quickly.

Fiona McAllister:

And I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I felt like a bit of a fraud. I was delivering on my outcomes that I’d committed to. We were making money. But I found that I was being really forgetful. I felt frustrated with everybody. I was really quick to react. I didn’t feel like I had anybody supporting me.

Fiona McAllister:

And there was one day where I went out to meet with, it was a content provider. And when I came back from that meeting my director and my IT architect were having a meeting without me, and I felt really disrespected I suppose in some ways, because I had been controlling this entire environment for such a long time. And I turn up, and there’s this meeting happening that I’d said I wasn’t going to be able to attend, so please wait for me.

Fiona McAllister:

And it just threw up a whole lot of emotional stuff for me. And I guess the organization I was working for was a brand where you could be quite yourself. It wasn’t a brand that conforms and was very conservative. But I felt like I had this really explosive moment of frustration. And I walked into the meeting, looked at them and said, “Right, well clearly you are doing okay without me.” Walked out and slammed the door. Oh my gosh. How unprofessional.

Fiona McAllister:

Anyway, my director came out shortly after and … Sorry, I’m probably going into this a wee bit too much to be fair. But I guess that moment, I don’t regret it. It wasn’t the right thing to do, however, it was this time that made me realize that if I didn’t do something different, then this was going to consume me and I wasn’t going to end up in a great space, so I felt really stretched.

Fiona McAllister:

And I don’t think that the people that were working for me in the team were particularly enjoying my style of management or leadership. So my director and I had a conversation. She said, “Look, I don’t feel like I can really take you on the journey you need to go on next. How do you feel about getting some executive coaching?” And at the time I felt, “This is a punishment, this is a performance management, she doesn’t believe I can do my job, that I can grow, so I’m getting this person to come and manage me.” Effectively.

Fiona McAllister:

I did say yes. And I met this lady who had been an executive coach for a number of people in our business. And I think by the second or third meeting, I had just divulged everything. And it wasn’t that I went in with the intent of sharing my life story, or being this super honest person. I wanted to go in and say, “Right, what do I need to do in order to improve. Clearly things are not great. Let’s talk about, what are you going to tell me that I need to do differently?”

Fiona McAllister:

And the interesting thing about coaching is that the coach is there to ask questions and help you identify goals, and remove the stuff that is really interfering with you being able to achieve them. And so the answers weren’t provided to me. I was in tears by that third session, with absolute frustration, but also the realization that this was all about me, and I needed to make some different choices. I really needed to be honest with myself, never mind with other people, to say, “This is the stuff that’s really getting in my way.” And it was a real revelation. I remember it so clearly, just sitting in this meeting room, in the office, thank goodness it was secure, and just bubbling away saying, “I just don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I know I need to do something.” And it is me, and it is me.

Fiona McAllister:

And it is when you get to those moments, where you realize the transformation, the way forward. And the reason that I use the word transformation as well, is because you need to leave stuff behind.

Daniel Franco:

A rebirth almost isn’t it?

Fiona McAllister:

Well, maybe it is a bit. I felt that I had to really reflect long and hard on my behaviour, what I’d been doing, the choices I was making, especially at work. And you know when you remember something, especially when you were younger, and you just cringe? You go, “Oh God.” And you say, “I wish I hadn’t done that.” But the reality was, if I hadn’t done all that stuff, I wouldn’t have known better.

Daniel Franco:

100%.

Fiona McAllister:

And some of that stuff, I repeated, and repeated, and repeated, which I think was what caused my frustration more than anything else. I was doing the same thing and expecting a different flipping outcome. And frustration was just, “Ah, when am I going to get this? When am I going to get this?” But I hadn’t given myself the time to reflect and indulge in this coaching experience, to say, “Well, what is it that I’ve been doing?” And then if that was the result I was getting, what am I going to do differently? So-

Daniel Franco:

On that, self-awareness is a critical aspect of what you’re talking about there. How does someone step back and understand where they’re at, and understand that the choices they make are now critical? Or everything that they do is a choice, I guess? There’s a lot of people who are going through life right now, especially now in COVID-19 and the world that we’re living in, who are almost just surviving, getting along, and almost where you were at. It was just pushing the envelope, doing as much as you could. But that’s got a time limit on it. It’s going to-

Fiona McAllister:

People are just trying their best. Aren’t they?

Daniel Franco:

They are. How does one actually step back and go, “Oh hang on, I do need to change me, for the world to change around me.” Is there some signs that they could pick up?

Fiona McAllister:

Gosh, is there just one rule? I don’t know. I think first you’ve got to stop. You’ve got to force yourself to stop and take a breath. Just that one thing. Stop, take a breath, and let yourself be self-aware. Some people do that better than others. Some people really have to build it in as a skill, like a person needs to organize that time, “It’s 9:30 A.M. on a Monday morning, and I’ve got to stop and check in with how I’m feeling.” Or, “I need to stop and go and have a conversation with somebody, and get them to ask me about what I’m doing and how I’m going, or get feedback.”

Daniel Franco:

So is seeking external help, is critical? Is that the next step? Is it reading a book?

Fiona McAllister:

Yup.

Daniel Franco:

From that point on, is it listening to podcasts? What is it? Or all of the above? [crosstalk 00:17:58]

Fiona McAllister:

It’s different for everybody. Don’t you think?

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, it’d have to be.

Fiona McAllister:

I think that, you’re a reader, I’m a reader, but you are a consumer of the written word. Right? I’m a watcher, I’m an observer, I’m a talker as well, clearly. For me, I think having gone on a number of courses, like going out and doing my own executive coaching training with the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership here in Australia, that when I’ve done that, and then as I’ve experienced more coaching interactions, and I’m observing people, I’m learning at the same time, thinking, “Oh, look at how wound up they are.” Or, “What do they need to do? What question do I need to ask them, to help them identify what’s going to work out best for them to self-reflect?” And I’m learning all these things about myself at the same time, so it’s a real win-win.

Fiona McAllister:

For me, it’s when I start to get frustrated and reactive, I stop, and I take a breath. And I was on a call with Michelle Holland yesterday, our colleague. And she was just saying, “Just take a breath.” And we just sat there for a moment and took a breath. And it’s like a reset moment, and it gives you this opportunity to think about what’s important. What are the real priorities? What is it that I’m … How am I showing up right now, and what do I need to do differently? What does my body feel like? Where am I at?

Daniel Franco:

It’s such an important point, that you never really… Self-mastery is a long way off, isn’t it, for all of us? You never, it’s a constant battle.

Fiona McAllister:

It’s continuous growth right? It’s continuous growth, so-

Daniel Franco:

Continuous growth. And it’s very important to note what you said there too, in the sense that everyone’s got their own style of learning. When I first started reading books, I picked up a book and I really, I almost judged myself on how many books I could read in a year. I started off with one every, probably two months. And then I think I read, in the end of that first year, I ended up reading 10 books in that year. And I went, “Oh hang on, I could beat that next year.” And I started having a little mini competition with myself. And the next year I read 24, and I think the next year I read 50.

Daniel Franco:

But now, I’ve grown and evolved to a point where I don’t even read a full book cover to cover anymore. I pick up a book and pick out the piece of information that I need for that moment. You see, I read a lot, yes, but I don’t read cover to cover anymore.

Daniel Franco:

And I think what that tells me is, the evolution of the way I seek knowledge has changed. And it’s constantly adapting. I think that’s what we all need to do is become a little bit more self aware and constantly adapt to where we actually want to be, and want to grow, and set those goals.

Fiona McAllister:

How amazing is that? Right, so you’ve learned on your path of consuming this information, it’s like you said, you’re becoming more self aware of what you need, so you adjust it or adapt as you said.

Daniel Franco:

Well yeah, and you talk about the point of looking back and going, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that.” I’m not saying, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I read 10 books in a year. How crazy is that?” I think that’s where you need to start. I think you need to start reading a book from cover to cover. The more and more you learn from these books … Because everything in the world today has been discovered by someone else, so you pick up a book, or you listen to a podcast, or you watch a YouTube video, or whatever it is, someone else has discovered this piece of information. I’m kind of a cheat. I think reading’s almost like I’m just getting knowledge from someone else, “How good’s this? I’m not going to go and figure it out myself when someone else already has.”

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah.

Daniel Franco:

That’s my attitude. The next point from that is, it really is self-development from there, and understanding, and you can gain clarity from what … I read a book from cover to cover, I learn pearls of wisdom and piece of information. From there I understand, actually I need more precise information, I need more precise information. Because the more and more books you read, the more and more example, you understand that there’s a book of just examples, I need just the point. Now i just need what they’re actually trying to tell people within this book, as opposed to every single example- [crosstalk 00:22:20]

Fiona McAllister:

Get to the point.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, it comes with it.

Fiona McAllister:

Get to the point. I wanted to share a couple of things with you, because I’m really mindful of our conversation and how and I can go around some things. For people listening to this podcast, I want to reinforce that you don’t have to get to a point of frustration, and stumbling in your work, and your performance, or your personal life, to need to reach out for help such as coaching. Or stopping midway and saying, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to transform something.” Because not all of us have those moments.

Fiona McAllister:

I think that it’s really important to just introduce some self-awareness, as small as that can be for you. Is it the last thing at night before you switch your phone off, or turn on your alarm for the morning, or switch your light off, whatever it is? And you just check in with yourself and you say, “Hey, how am I doing?” Right? And just giving yourself that moment of reflection, or doing that first thing in the morning. But make time for that.

Fiona McAllister:

And what that gives you the opportunity to do, is to identify where you need to grow, so you can have a path of continuous growth. For you, you’ve just told us your story around reading, and how that’s adapted, so that’s growth for you, and you’ve been mindful of that as you’ve followed that path, or whatever motivated that for you. But sometimes, some of us do get to that critical point, like I did in 2004, where I just needed to get off the goddamn treadmill and have a word with myself.

Fiona McAllister:

Like my younger sister would say, “Take yourself into the corner and give yourself a good shake Fiona.” And give yourself a timeout. Not all of us need to get to that.

Fiona McAllister:

And I think that engaging a coach, or engaging specialists who talk about leadership development, transformation, and personal improvement, professional or personal improvement, is really important to incorporate into your life, so that you can have that continuous growth, so you don’t have to have those fall-down moments. Although I think you probably do still need to have those fall-down moments to work out what works and what doesn’t.

Daniel Franco:

Life is a rollercoaster. You’re going to get those moments regardless.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, [inaudible 00:24:42] you know? And you learn how to pick yourself up, and dust yourself off, and do something different as well. But sometimes you pick yourself up, and dust yourself off, and do the same thing again. And that’s what I was doing. Right? I mean, idiot. It’s just why? Why do you do that? Because it’s what you know.

Daniel Franco:

It’s comfortable.

Fiona McAllister:

Introducing somebody else to help you sort of work through, “Why am I doing that?” Gives you the opportunity to then map out what it is that you want to do to change that. And that could be really small, or it could be really big, or somewhere in between.

Fiona McAllister:

I just want to reinforce, you don’t have to have those crises to need to engage somebody to help you grow. You can just self reflect and go, “Whoa, okay, where am I going with this? I think this might be an opportunity for me to have a chat to Fi, or to Dan-“

Daniel Franco:

To someone.

Fiona McAllister:

“Or to somebody to help work this stuff out.”

Daniel Franco:

I would say categorically, having someone to speak to, or having a coach in the background, is what’s … I could read as many books as I can. But then it’s still Daniel isn’t it? Really, it’s still Daniel doing it. And I am learning and I am growing, but categorically it’s having someone to bounce those ideas off, has changed my life. And I’ve got a few mentors that I turn to quite a bit. I’ve had coaches in the past. What would you say is the difference between a mentor? Seeking help externally, regardless whether it’s a mentor or a coach, is fantastic, so go ahead and do that. But what is the fundamental difference between a coach and a mentor do you think?

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, well sometimes you can get a bit of both.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

Suzy Skinner, who was the lady who coached me in 2004, she has become a bit more of a mentor to me than a coach over last 10-plus years. But a mentor essentially is somebody that you’re learning from, through their experience. You’re connecting with them, you’re asking for their advice, you’re saying, “What would you do if you were in this situation? What’s your experience around this? What can you tell me about X, Y, Z?” Or they’re simply offering advice to you, and sharing their experience. That’s really mentorship. You’re learning from somebody else’s experience, and they’re holding your hand, supporting you through your own journey.

Fiona McAllister:

The difference between that and coaching as a profession is, the coach is not there to answer your problems. The coach is there to use their highly tuned skills of asking questions, engaging you in a conversation, and holding you accountable to what you’re saying, for you to identify your own pathway. And the reason I believe that is so important is because this is about you, and it’s you that owns it.

Fiona McAllister:

I think that if somebody says, “You know what you should do? You should read that book.” Or, “You know what you should do? You should go out and do that training course, or use this in your language.” And I think that is really useful, so please don’t get me wrong.

Daniel Franco:

No, I think accountability is fundamental to the coach. Mentors, let’s use fitness as an example, losing weight all right. And I’m …

Fiona McAllister:

Oh what I time we have. We are 24/7 next to our fridge and our pantry-

Daniel Franco:

Correct.

Fiona McAllister:

When we’re working from home.

Daniel Franco:

100%.

Fiona McAllister:

And we’re not out doing the things we’re doing.

Daniel Franco:

And then the camera puts on 70 pounds.

Fiona McAllister:

Oh that’s right, that’s right.

Daniel Franco:

Not really. If you ask someone for some fitness advice, and they give you advice, and “What did you do here? And how many weights did you lift?” And whatever it might be, “How many runs did you go on before you lost 10 kilos?” Whatever that might be. They can tell you, and you can use that information like, “Okay, cool.” And then you continue on with your normal life.

Daniel Franco:

If you get a personal trainer, they are then going to make sure you’re there at 3:00 P.M. or whenever you have your session. They are then going to make sure that you are lifting that extra rep. They are going to make sure that you’re spending that extra five minutes on the treadmill.

Daniel Franco:

I use that for the coaching analogy, in accountability. The coach is there to make sure that you follow through with what you promised yourself. Is that?

Fiona McAllister:

I get what you’re saying, absolutely. Accountability belongs with the individual not with the coach. The coach is there to articulate it in a way that engages you to take accountability-

Daniel Franco:

Got you, yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

And follow through. Now, an example of that would be really listening to what somebody is saying. If a client is saying that they wanted to lose weight, just to use that as an example, “Oh yeah, I kind of want to lose weight. I want to get down a dress size, or a shirt size.” Or, “I’ve got this function to go to.”

Fiona McAllister:

“That sounds great, sounds like you’ve got lots of reasons to do it, but why do you really want to do it? Let’s get to the real heart of why this weight loss is important, and what’s motivating you to have this conversation. What’s a little bit deeper than that? What are you not telling me? You’re avoiding me telling me something. What is that?”

Fiona McAllister:

And it starts to create a tension in the conversation that does not exist in normal conversation. It starts to get a little deeper, into your soul I suppose. It’s not counselling, just to be clear. But it’s really trying to unpick, “What is the conversation about? And do you even care really about losing weight? Why would you? Tell me what would happen if you don’t. What’s going to happen?”

Fiona McAllister:

“I’ll just be a dress size bigger. I’ll still go to the function. I’ll still be able to X, Y and Z.”

Fiona McAllister:

“Okay, well that’s interesting. Tell me a bit more about, why this is … Is this really a goal? What’s the real goal behind this?”

Fiona McAllister:

“Well actually it’s my health, it’s my future health.”

Fiona McAllister:

“Talk to me about that.”

Fiona McAllister:

“Mom died of a …”

Fiona McAllister:

“Ah, right. Let’s talk more about that. Where’s that going to go for you? Why is that important?”

Fiona McAllister:

“My daughter’s six. It’s …” So you start to … This person starts to really dig a little deeper into the picture of what’s motivating them to do something about their weight loss. It’s not about the function, it’s not about the dress size, it’s not about that. It’s-

Daniel Franco:

It’s just surface stuff isn’t it? [crosstalk 00:31:11]

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, right. And that’s fine. Now, that creates tension in a conversation. When you start to ask questions, and hold somebody accountable in the conversation about what they’re saying or what they are not saying, it will create discomfort.

Daniel Franco:

It will.

Fiona McAllister:

You’re going to see somebody shift in their seat and possibly say, “Well, I don’t want to talk about that.” And letting them sit in that moment, again, creates tension, for them to take the lead on where this conversation needs to go.

Daniel Franco:

It’s almost a light-bulb moment isn’t it? In some instances?

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, sometimes it can be. Sometimes it’s just letting them sit in that discomfort for a moment, as you’re moving around in your seat-

Daniel Franco:

[crosstalk 00:31:54]

Fiona McAllister:

And going, “Oh, no. What’s happening?”

Daniel Franco:

Are you talking about me here? [crosstalk 00:31:58]

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah. But to really get underneath the motivation. Because then, when you understand when something is so important to you, you understand how you’re going to hold yourself accountable to that.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

So the coach, at the end of the day-

Daniel Franco:

It’s kind co-creative isn’t it, really?

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, so at the end of the day, that person, be it Dan, Fi or whoever else, is saying, “My goal isn’t about losing a dress size in six weeks to go to a function.” It becomes, “I need to stop drinking. My parent was an alcoholic.” And those kinds of real revel … And sometimes you’ve got to say those words out loud for you to be able to then do something about it. You’ve shared that.

Fiona McAllister:

Now, I know that in this conversation we’re talking about things that might not necessarily sit in a leadership world, but I guess it just gives you an example.

Daniel Franco:

We’re all human.

Fiona McAllister:

We are all human. And let’s say that the things that happen in our lives do not exist separately, they coexist with our lives. And oh my gosh, how much do they coexist in our lives now, given that we’re working and living at home? But just to close that accountability piece off Dan.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

The coach is really then, the person that enables the conversation, for that person to say, “I went four days without having a drink, and I feel better about that. I’m still not ready to talk to my partner about it, but it’s making me think about how I’m going to plan this out.” “Okay, talk to me about that. What goal do you want to set around that?”

Fiona McAllister:

The accountability doesn’t exist because the coach is saying, “What have you done? When are you doing dah, dah, dah, dah?” That’s part of it. But it’s really about helping that person along their journey, to hold that self accountability.

Daniel Franco:

I love it.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah.

Daniel Franco:

Right now, you’re working with some global companies, and you alluded to this to right now, as in, I’m assuming you mean COVID-19. You’re working with some global, in particular, a global company and its leadership team. You’re doing some work with their leadership team. Understanding all the confidentialities and everything that sort of surrounds, and I don’t want to get into detail, but what would be some of the key frustrations that you’re seeing leaders have in today’s environment?

Fiona McAllister:

Well, I think the first thing is that everybody has reacted or responded very quickly, to moving from a typical day in an office, or traveling to go off site for certain industries, people have adapted particularly quickly and well to using technology. They’ve had support from their organizations beautifully, around how they need to get their technology set up. How their ergonomics need to be situated for safety. Make sure you get up from your seat every 30 minutes or an hour. Take frequent breaks. Get fresh air. All these, and all the things that is great advice.

Fiona McAllister:

Also, communication, over-communicate, make sure you’re checking in every day. If you’re leading a team, these are the things that you need to be doing. Here’s a system, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think that has all been done beautifully, especially by larger global organizations who have the people in place to help hold hands of large workforces.

Fiona McAllister:

But as we’ve started to get into the fourth, the fifth, the sixth week of working from home, and especially when a lot of people have had children at home from school, whether that’s been elective, or over Easter, or whatever the situation has been, we start to see this blend of work life and personal life starting to seep into each other. And it starts to get gray. I wouldn’t underestimate the challenges that we face by not having that, “It’s 8:00, my bus is in 10 minutes, so I’m ready, I’m getting out the door, I say goodbye, and I’ll see you at 6:00 tonight.”

Fiona McAllister:

And then when I go to this office space, this environment, I’m walking up and down stairs and getting some incidental exercise, I can get a coffee at 11:00 from my local coffee shop. I can speak to people in the kitchen at lunchtime. How I’m conducting myself on a regular day in the office, becomes really blended with, “Oh, I’m just going to get out of my little office space and I’m going to go to the kitchen and stick some coffee on. And I’m going to have a chat to the kids. And then they want me to play with them.” Or, “My partner’s also working, but they’re working at the dining room table, because we’ve only got space for one office space. They need to do a teleconference at 11:00, but I’ve got something I want to work on as well. I don’t want to move my office space. How are we going to work that out?” So conversations-

Daniel Franco:

Who’s more important?

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, right? Right?

Daniel Franco:

[crosstalk 00:37:05]

Fiona McAllister:

This comparative importance stuff starts to rear its head. You asked me about, what are some of the things that are coming up for the leaders for this particular group that I’m working with at the moment? And one of the things is, how do we make working from home, work for everybody? Because this ain’t working. “And there’s nobody in HR, or OD, or work health and safety that’s going to fix this one for me because it’s about my husband.” Or, “It’s about my wife.” Or, “It’s about my kids.” So it all comes into the personal relationships, through shared space, because the environment that I’m in, trying to do my work, is so different.

Fiona McAllister:

And if, again, this conversation I had with Michelle yesterday, if we were just picking up and saying, “Yeah, everybody’s going to work from home remotely through choice.” Then everybody sets themselves up, and that’s what they do. But your partner’s still going out to work, or dropping the kids off, or doing whatever they do with their lives.

Fiona McAllister:

The reality is that we are in this co-shared space, and we are in this co-shared space for not just a couple of days, but for months. We need to sort that out. We need to get real with ourselves and say, “Our relationships will suffer, and are suffering.” Unless we stock take and say, “What is it that we are doing that is working, and what is not working? And what are we going to do about that?”

Fiona McAllister:

Because I’ve heard from people saying, “I’m telling my partner that I’m the one that makes more money, therefore I get that front room. I get to spend more time during the day doing my work, compared to you, because it’s okay if you only work part-time.” Or, “I’ve got more things to do, I need to use the data more than you do.”

Fiona McAllister:

And that erodes value in relationships. I feel devalued because you’ve said that. How do I tell you that?

Daniel Franco:

[crosstalk 00:39:20]

Fiona McAllister:

This isn’t something that we have on a fact sheet as part of COVID-19 program to say-

Daniel Franco:

No.

Fiona McAllister:

“You may experience this with your life partner.” You know?

Daniel Franco:

Because when you’re in the workplace, you wouldn’t necessarily go about making the other person feel like their contribution isn’t valuable.

Fiona McAllister:

No.

Daniel Franco:

It’s when you start saying, “I make more, therefore I’m more important.” You would never say that an in an office environment.

Fiona McAllister:

Right. And this is really interesting as well. I know that a few of my girlfriends have been putting comments on Facebook saying, “Oh my God, I didn’t realize I’m that guy that says, ‘Can we circle back to that?'” You know?

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

There’s a persona almost.

Daniel Franco:

Just to clarify, I’m that.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah. Or, “I didn’t realize he was that efficient. I wish he could be that efficient at home.” Sorry, I’m saying he, because I’m talking about a group of girl friends that I’ve been speaking to. We’re learning all these things about our other halves, or in our families, our children possibly, that are still at home and working. And we’re trying to reconcile that, “Why is he laughing on the phone with people that he’s working on a project with, but he’s not laughing with me?”

Fiona McAllister:

There’s lots of things that are bubbling up as this work-life blend starts to happen. And for those who can’t see me, I’m wiggling my fingers and pulling them together, because it really is starting to get a little bit blurry for some people.

Daniel Franco:

Well, the interesting thing is, when you are working from home, so you talk about, “Why is he laughing with his colleagues and not with me?” Or, “She’s laughing with her colleagues and not with me?” Is it about, when you’re with your colleagues, you have a work relationship? Yeah, you might have a real trusting relationship, but you do your work, you deliver your product, you deliver what you need to do as a service or whatever it might be, and then you say, “Goodnight.” And you go home.

Daniel Franco:

When you’re with your partner, or your wife, your husband, you have the emotional attachment to them as well, in the sense of, “We’ve got bills to pay. We’ve got financial struggles.” Example, “We’ve got children that are running around that need to be educated. We need to put food on the table. What’s for dinner?” You know? There comes a whole host of other reasons for the lack of laughter, I guess.

Daniel Franco:

And so it does, they’re saying that COVID’s going to be the divorce … Divorce rates are going to go up through COVID-19. I guess where I’m going with this is, what do you believe is a way to get this balance right? How do we understand this? Number one, that what we’re going through, sit back and now try to aim to get the balance right, whether it’s with family, coworkers, kids, self-care, whatever it might be, how do we get this balance right?

Fiona McAllister:

Right. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all for this. But I think there are some things that we need to be mindful of doing. We probably have a few more boundaries and role clarity when we’re in our workplace, which is what I’m hearing from you. You go into work, you achieve a particular thing and you go home. In theory, you go home-

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, yeah true.

Fiona McAllister:

When you leave your office chair.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, that’s right.

Fiona McAllister:

It’s clear, and this makes us comfortable. We’re adding value. We can see that we’re making a difference. It’s tangible for us often, when we’re during our workday, we’re influencing others in a really positive way. And that’s leadership at the end of it.

Fiona McAllister:

Then we open up that study door, and as you’ve indicated, this blur or blend of responsibilities and things to do are in place. But when have we stopped to put some boundaries around that? And if I’m dedicating so much energy in the direction of my workplace at the moment, have I got any energy left to deal with my relationships? Because if my cup is only half full because of the distractions and the challenges that I’m experiencing within and outside of work at the moment, which is very blended, and I’m directing all the energy I have that’s in that cup, towards my work colleagues because it’s clear what I need to do there, when I shut down that laptop, or I walk away from that seat, or whatever the situation is, I have nothing left to give. And I have nothing left to give myself. And I’ve got nothing left to give my family.

Daniel Franco:

[crosstalk 00:44:15]

Fiona McAllister:

And if my cup is empty for me, I can’t work on that. I’m in negative space. I think to answer your question, one of the first things you have to do is say, “How do I fill my cup?” Or if you’ve got kids at school, young kids at school, how do you fill your bucket with kindness? How do you do that?

Fiona McAllister:

Is it, “I’m giving myself 15 minutes to take the dog for a walk.”? Or, “I am going to give myself some time to read, but I’m going to be really clear with my family about the thing that I need, to manage their expectations, so that they know that’s what I’m doing so I can be there for them.” The first thing I would say is self care.

Fiona McAllister:

You’ve got to find out what are the kinds of things that you can introduce, that works for your own self care. That could be spirituality. It could be doing yoga. It could be mindfulness. That could be one sort of segment of people.

Fiona McAllister:

For others, it may be exercise, getting out in the environment. And for others, it could be connecting socially with others. Getting on FaceTime, or Skype, or whatever it is, to just download.

Fiona McAllister:

For some, it may be reaching out to a coach, or reaching out to a counselor, or somebody else in a professional capacity to say, “I’ve just got to download. Let me download.”

Daniel Franco:

That’s good, yeah. Unravel my mind.

Fiona McAllister:

That’s right. If I do that, it gives me the ability to fill up some of that energy that I can dedicate not only to myself, but to my relationships, so that’s one thing.

Fiona McAllister:

The other thing is that I mentioned boundaries. And Brene Brown talks a lot about boundary setting. Everybody out there, do yourself a favour, go and watch whatever you can. And it doesn’t have to be difficult. And I’m not going to quote Brene Brown here. Boundaries for me are about setting a clear understanding about what’s okay and what isn’t. You have to have that conversation with the people that you’re sharing your environment with.

Fiona McAllister:

“It’s not okay for you to come to bed at midnight when I go to bed at 10:30 at night because I’ve got to get up in the morning, and you’re disturbing my sleep.” That’s what it feels like, “But it is okay for you to come to bed if you can be really quiet and maybe just not use our en suite.” And that might sound really trivial to some, but it could be the most important thing to you in how you’re showing up for that person the next day.

Fiona McAllister:

It’s okay for you to, “I really understand that you’re going to work from 10:00 until 2:00 so that you can do school drop off and school pick up. But it’s not okay for you to then continue to work through the night to make up your hours.” It’s okay for us to talk about how you want to set up your hours and how we can be flexible about that. It’s okay for us to work out, how do we communicate that effectively? How do we articulate that? Now, this sounds very organized doesn’t it?

Daniel Franco:

Well it’s, I think, to Brene Brown, I’ll quote her, “Clear is kind.” Isn’t it really?

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah.

Daniel Franco:

If you can get your communication out in a way that works with your partner, that you can both come to a mutual win-win, and there’s a Seven Habits sort of thing here, Stephen Covey stuff. Create a win-win situation, “What works for you? What works for me? Okay, and let’s come to a compromise. Let’s come up with some ideas on how we can move forward from this.”

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah.

Daniel Franco:

It is critical, but emotions do get in play. And people are picking their work partners or colleagues before family. Do you think it’s because of the unconditional love sort of thing? “My wife will always be there for me.” “My husband will always be there for me, therefore they should just know that I need to put work forward. They should just know.”

Fiona McAllister:

I’ve been thinking about this since you and I spoke about it recently. We have more of a rhythm with our life partners or our families, than we do necessarily with work. We’re more mindful of how we show up at work. I don’t want to use the words, we take advantage of our home situations, but we’re more-

Daniel Franco:

We do.

Fiona McAllister:

We do. Well, we’re more comfortable. We’re more, maybe it’s complacency. And this isn’t going to be a blanket for everybody again. Some people are more mindful in their families than others. But it’s easy to assume that, “They’ll always just be there for me anyway, so I can get away with X, Y and Z because I had a really tough meeting, and now I’ve come off that tough meeting, I’m going straight to the pantry, I’m going to eat two chocolate biscuits, I’m going to smash down a coffee even though it’s 7:00 at night. And I’m just going to say, ‘Well, you’re never going to believe what just happened to me and dah, dah, dah, dah.'” While your life partner’s standing there and saying, “Hey, you promised you were going to read stories tonight.”

Fiona McAllister:

And this conflict starts to appear, this trade off, “Yeah, but you don’t understand. I’ve just had this call.” Right? “You don’t understand what I’m going through.” This comparative importance, this comparative, “My experience is worse than yours.” Kind of idea, and we’re just trying to keep this ship afloat.

Fiona McAllister:

Look, I think it’s going to be different for different people and different relationships. And bearing in mind that you’ve got parents living with older children as well, that are going to have to have these conversations too, “While you’re under my roof …” Right? I can imagine those conversations going on just now, “I need to access the internet. You can’t just-“

Daniel Franco:

No Netflix, no PlayStation.

Fiona McAllister:

“Why?” Okay, or they could be working.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, or they’re- [inaudible 00:50:07]

Fiona McAllister:

“What do you mean you want me to drop you off again?” There are a lot of factors that we are not used to dealing with when we’re in this closed, or more closed environment, it’s giving us a lot more to think about in how we manage our relationships.

Daniel Franco:

Not only individually, but leaders, I guess, need to think about what their people are doing as well.

Fiona McAllister:

Oh yeah.

Daniel Franco:

In the same situation. It’s not just about … Yeah, we need to understand. And that’s I guess now, when we talk about flexible working hours, now more than ever, you talk about 10:00 to 2:00 and then working late at night, is that acceptable?

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah.

Daniel Franco:

Is that allowed? Do we want our people working until 9:00, 10:00 at night? Is that okay? Where do you draw the line? Because you know it is essentially digging into their family life. Is that what we want for our people?

Fiona McAllister:

Right.

Daniel Franco:

So- [crosstalk 00:51:03]

Fiona McAllister:

And this is, it’s an important conversation-

Daniel Franco:

It is.

Fiona McAllister:

To have with your people. And Kim Scott talks about care personally, challenge directly. She talks about Radical Candor, which is a book that I would definitely recommend everybody read as well.

Daniel Franco:

So is that Kim Scott, Radical Candor?

Fiona McAllister:

Kim Scott, Radical Candor. And the reason that I’m thinking about that is because I’m thinking about this leadership group that I’m working with at the moment. You need to care personally about the people that you’re leading. And you need to understand what’s happening with them, in order for them to deliver on what you expect. So-

Daniel Franco:

Again, it comes down to clear communication.

Fiona McAllister:

Clear communication, right. It’s also about-

Daniel Franco:

Radical candor.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah, well it’s also about being really curious and asking the right questions.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, true.

Fiona McAllister:

What is going to work for you Dan-

Daniel Franco:

[crosstalk 00:51:54] those relationships.

Fiona McAllister:

Knowing that you’ve got two kids at home, you’ve got a wife that’s working four days in her job.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

It means that she has to be out of home, so how is that going to work for you to get your work done in a way that we can best support you? And how do I make myself available to you, that’s mutually agreeable, at a time, in a place, or however the link is, to make sure that we get the outcomes that we’re looking for?

Fiona McAllister:

Do I have the flexibility in my team? I’m thinking about this really big leadership group, who have a mammoth program of work to deliver on this year. We’re talking about multi, multimillions.

Daniel Franco:

It’s in the billions. Yeah.

Fiona McAllister:

It’s crazy. Although money’s not the only factor, it’s really about utilizing a lot-

Daniel Franco:

It’s all the complexities. It’s-

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah. It’s the complexity, it’s the different people with different levels of expertise, how they come together, what they need to collaborate on, what they need to just be doing on their own, how they look after themselves, how they achieve the outcomes as individuals, and then as groups, how that continues to grow, and grown, and grow.

Fiona McAllister:

Do I need everybody, at the same time, every day? Possibly not. Do I need to be talking to everybody as a group every day? Possibly not. Can I have, and I’m just going to use random names here, not people on the group I’m working with, but can I have Jill and Sasha doing that two parts of a day, because that’s going to work for them? Because they work full-time, but they do have children and they want to spend time in the morning and the early evening with them. While I’ve got Ted, Dave and Graham, all working from 6:00 until 3:00, because they’re larks, they perform better when they’re in the morning. And then I’ve got Tom and Jerry working at the backend of the day, and Tom works until 10:00 at night because that best suits them.

Fiona McAllister:

But I have an open-door policy, that I’ve been clear about, to say, “These are the times when you access me. And if you see that I have a green light on in my technology, or whatever technology platform I use, you know that you can give me a call and you can reach out to me.”

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, that’s good.

Fiona McAllister:

“And I will make times with you.” So yes, it is clear is kind, it is communication. It also about ensuring that, because you’ve elected to work during those times, in those ways, that it is not impeding your performance. And if it is, then having a very honest, robust conversation about what needs to happened differently and what will enable that. And maybe it means that Tom needs to stop working at 10:00 at night, because that is not working for him or for the collective group. The conversation needs to happen.

Fiona McAllister:

I think we’re going to learn a lot as we go through this time as well, that there’s no guidebook that gives us the instructions. A bit like when you have your first child, where you go, “I know a lot, but I don’t know what’s going to happen here.” And so we’re really working it out as we go along.

Fiona McAllister:

And if we’re mindful of working out how it’s going as we go along with work and life, then we can reflect on it, and we can spend that time to talk to people and see what’s working, what isn’t working, and how do we have that continuous growth.

Fiona McAllister:

And isn’t it an amazing time, that we have this opportunity to experience this? And as much as I am-

Daniel Franco:

Well, you often hear, people are going to be talking, this is what we’ll be telling our grandchildren about really.

Fiona McAllister:

And we will. And I’m so sympathetic to people who have lost work, and who have been so strongly impacted by the nature of this virus, especially those who have lost their lives. And I just believe that it is also giving us a global opportunity to really look at ourselves and consider the way that we’re behaving and the choices that we’re making, including how we’re leading, leading ourselves and we’re leading our teams.

Daniel Franco:

Spot on. Perfect, well on that note, we’ll start to, we’ll wrap up. We do have what we call rapid fire questions.

Fiona McAllister:

Go for it.

Daniel Franco:

These are rapid fire, however-

Fiona McAllister:

Rapid response?

Daniel Franco:

These end up going for another half an hour themselves, but we’ll try to keep them quite short. I always get told off by Gabrielle, she’s giving me the eye over there. Rapid fire questions, favorite book and why?

Fiona McAllister:

I don’t have a favourite book. I am currently reading Some Kind of Girl, by Clare Bowditch, who is an Australian singer, and writer, and extraordinary woman, and I have identified so strongly with her as a young girl, it is just beautiful. And yeah, I’m loving it. I’m loving the story.

Daniel Franco:

The name of the book again?

Fiona McAllister:

Some Kind of Girl.

Daniel Franco:

Some Kind of Girl, by?

Fiona McAllister:

Clare Bowditch.

Daniel Franco:

Clare Bowditch. All right, if you had one song that could represent your life, what would it be?

Fiona McAllister:

I’ve got to break free.

Daniel Franco:

Bit of Queen?

Fiona McAllister:

That was the one that came into my head. Queen, Freddie Mercury.

Daniel Franco:

Brilliant. Favourite place in the world?

Fiona McAllister:

I don’t know whether there is a location that’s a favourite place. I love being in bed with daughter and partner, just reading Enid Blyton stories. I don’t know what that says about me. That’s my favourite place at the moment.

Daniel Franco:

Excellent. Sounds nice and warm. And my favourite part of this whole podcast, what’s your best dad joke?

Fiona McAllister:

Best dad joke? Why was the maths book sad?

Daniel Franco:

Why?

Fiona McAllister:

Because it had so many problems.

Daniel Franco:

Yeah, that’s horrible.

Fiona McAllister:

It’s a terrible joke.

Daniel Franco:

It’s that horrible that it’s good. It’s got so many problems.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah.

Daniel Franco:

I do like a bit of math.

Fiona McAllister:

Yeah.

Daniel Franco:

Excellent, thank you very much Fi for your time.

Fiona McAllister:

Thanks for having me.

Daniel Franco:

It was a bit of a different start to our podcast today. We just began talking and ran with it.

Fiona McAllister:

I don’t know. Well, I hope-

Daniel Franco:

It was good.

Fiona McAllister:

I hope whoever’s listening gets something out of it. And we’re here to help.

Daniel Franco:

Brilliant.

Fiona McAllister:

When you need it, reach out, have a chat.

Daniel Franco:

Phone is always on. Fi’s profile is up on our Synergy IQ website if you want to get in touch with her, feel free to do so at info@synergyiq.com.au. Thank you very much. We will-

Fiona McAllister:

Thank you.

Daniel Franco:

Get in contact with you soon. Cheers, bye-bye.

Outro:

Thank you once again for joining us here at Creating Synergy. It’s been great spending this time with you. Please jump onto the SynergyIQ Facebook page where the discussion continues after the show. Join our mailing list so you’ll know what’s happening next at synergyiq.com.au. And of course, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast and if you really enjoyed it, please share it with your friends.

Meet our Host

Daniel Franco

Daniel Franco

Daniel has a passion to help people shift their lives and businesses to another level, regardless of their current success. His pure enthusiasm and joy for creating long lasting relationships is paramount to the success of our Clients and SynergyIQ.

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