Suzanne Mercier - Tuesday, February 11, 2014
For mixed reasons, the issue of bullying is top of mind for many of us:
If we weren't out of the country over the Christmas New Year holiday,
we were painfully aware of the plight of young Daniel Christie who died
as a result of a king-hit or as it has been more accurately named 'a
Anti-bullying amendments to the Fair work Act became effective on 1st
January 2014. Individuals can now directly address the Fair Work
Commission with any bullying complaints and the FWC must act on the
complaint within 14 days. Breach of any FWC order may lead to penalties
for individuals and corporations.
In both cases, the solutions being proposed are addressing the symptoms, not the problem itself. Addressing the symptoms or the vehicle that makes it possible does not mean we've addressed the root cause!
Daniel Christie's case, there have been discussions about limiting the
opening hours of pubs, about identifying & banning repeat offenders,
about limiting access to alcohol and dealing with the anger and
violence that comes out under alcohol's influence.
you would know, Daniel's case is not isolated. This has been going on
for far too long. I recently picked up on a petition put forward by www.change.org
in relation to the coward-punch death of 34 year old father of four,
Scott Snodgrass, last year at the hands (and boots) of Russell Packer of
the Newcastle Knights. The petition demanded that Packer – who received
a two-year sentence for the murder - be sacked from the Knights as
being a terrible role model for young children and undermining the
message that senseless acts of violence are not acceptable. After
initially defending Packer, he has now been sacked from the Knights.
Standing up and being counted can work!
The Australian Government's Institute of Criminology has
published a report outlining the problem with alcohol and the impact of
alcohol related violence. Nowhere did I hear the question "Why are they
is just a facilitator. It disrupts normal brain function by altering
the brain chemistry, decreasing the neurotransmitters that inhibit
behaviour, slowing down the processing of information from our senses
and inhibiting the thought processes, making it difficult to think
clearly. In the absence of inhibitions, primal behaviour can emerge.
return to the question of why they are so angry, I consulted my
research as well as Doctor Google and found a particularly useful
website specifically addressing this problem in teens and tweens. In an interview between three psychologists, these points emerged:
a very young age, we are placing expectations on children when their
brain/body is not yet capable of dealing with those expectations. These
expectations include academic and sporting expectations.
results, and it is cumulative, leading to the ongoing release of
cortisol which stands in the way of our brain and body relaxing.
the iceberg analogy, anger is what shows up while all the emotions
leading to it such as loneliness, shame, sadness, fear sit below the
- From an early age, we are taught to suppress our
emotions, that negative emotions are a problem and we should be nice
(particularly girls). We cut off from our true feelings and experience
the frustration that results. We may rationalise that if we get angry,
all those suppressed negative feelings will dissipate. That obviously is
not the case.
- Anger is a valid feeling. Sometimes we need to
get angry in order to be able to say 'no' when we don't want to do
something, or to set boundaries when they're being trampled on. However,
anger does not equate to aggression.
- Our young people may also
have had role models who expressed anger inappropriately and/or who
suppressed their true feelings and/or who self-medicated. These role
models could be parents, teachers, religious instructors, and heroes
such as football players! Learned behaviour, particularly in our very
young people (under 7) can become an automatic tape as we get older.
would add a further point. when we feel that we aren't worthwhile –
which many children and adults do – we adopt self-protective behaviours
to reduce our pain and vulnerability. One of those behaviours is
defensiveness, and attack can sometimes be the best form of defense. As a
result, we may make ourselves feel better for a short while (read
stronger, more masculine, more powerful) when we put others down.
In our workplaces
we continue to suppress our feelings, to disconnect from who we are and
to feel that we aren't worthwhile, we are likely to take the problems
with us into adulthood.
Our work environments are rife with stories of bullying and abuse. Two years ago, I ran a MasterClass on the Imposter Syndrome
and its impact on our work and lives for the Macquarie University Women
in Leadership Conference. I had discovered through some of my coaching
clients that bullying was very real and very present at work. So I asked
the question: "Has anyone here personally experienced or witnessed
first hand, bullying in your work environment?" Almost three-quarters of
the audience put their hand up.
Adult bullying is on the rise and Australia is reported to have the worst bullying rates in the world according to Safe Work Australia.
SWA's Workplace Barometer found that of the >5,000 people
interviewed, nearly 42% of males reported being sworn or yelled at in
the workplace; more than 20% of workers were humiliated in front of
others; almost 20% experienced discomfort due to sexual humour; 6.9% of
women experienced unwanted sexual advances; and 14.8% of women
experienced unfair treatment due to gender.
What's surprising – at least to me – is that adult FEMALE bullying is increasing. In an article published in the UK Psychologies Magazine,
a study of more than 5000 workers revealed that 45% of the bullies were
women and that in 71% of the situations, they bully other women. Their
tactics are very different to those of a male bully. As an example, the
article recounts an episode of Seinfeld where George and Jerry were
discussing a tyrannical gym teacher who used to give the boys wedgies
and encourage them to beat each other up. Jerry asks Elaine whether
girls do that too? Elaine's response is "Oh no, we just tease each other
until one of us develops an eating disorder". The statement highlights
the covert, subtle and manipulative way women can bully. Because women
are considered the fairer sex, reporting female bullying – especially
for a man – is challenging.
are being strongly encouraged to step up their game in relation to
bullying; to put into place systems and processes to identify and
address bullying situations as quickly as possible. In the guidelines,
a very small amount of attention is paid to the benefit of training
managers and leaders in appropriate 'leadership' skills as a
preventative measure for bullying.
organisations already know that they have bully in their midst. They
have received complaint after complaint and done nothing, commonly
because the individual or individuals concerned are contributing
something the organisation wants and values above the wellbeing of the
individual employee. The ability to report directly to Work Cover may
root out some of these dinosaurs.
people who bully may simply be unaware of the impact of their behaviour
and/or have an impoverished skill set for handling difficult situations
in a more resourceful way. I believe that if we give people more
resources to help them expand their perception of how to live as a
healthy functioning individual in society and in our workplaces, we
would certainly diminish the 'careless bullies'.
What do you think?
If you have a high performing employee who actively disengages staff, contact us for a conversation about how we can help him or her become an inspiring manager and leader.
Suzanne Mercier - Wednesday, January 29, 2014
knowledge by itself may create a shift in behaviour. After all,
according to Oliver Wendell Holmes “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new
idea, never regains its original dimensions.” However, it is more likely
that people attending workshops, regardless of how well designed and
delivered they are, only retain around 10% of their insights when they
return to the workplace.
get me wrong, training provides a great foundation and framework for
embedding new ideas and contextualising them into existing work
situations. In fact, in my experience, coaching without the framework
provided by training can take much longer to achieve the desired
however, is the secret to shifting performance. Here are some key features and benefits of
It's personalised to your needs. Each of us has a
very different world view, influenced by our upbringing, education,
religious exposure, culture, socio-economic environment and the
decisions or beliefs we have arrived at, as a result of those
experiences. The more generalised approach of a training programme may
provide basic understanding of the concepts involved. However, there may
not be the opportunity for you to cross-contextualise that
basic understanding back into your particular work environment.
Coaching deals with real world situations rather than theory. Even when you have the skills and tools to resolve workplace challenges, it's
not always possible to accurately assess the situation
because you're too close to it and because you are experiencing it from your own world view, not a broader perspective.
Coaching is collaboration resulting in a much higher level of ownership
of solutions. It focusses on your development and is
dependent upon a relationship of rapport and mutual respect. Coaching
guides you to identify what you want and need to achieve in your performance, provides constructive feedback in a palatable manner,
assists you to develop possible solutions to existing challenges,
helps you surface and eliminate limitations that may hold you back.
The coach also helps you to recognise and develop their talents and
capabilities, to increasingly see and accept yourself as perfect in your imperfection and to move
towards showing up authentically in whatever business or personal environments you engage in. It's a journey that both parties undertake and both
parties benefit significantly from the relationship and learnings that
arise along the way.
4. Coaching definitely increases performance and contributes to bottom line of your organisation or your business. A study by Manchester Inc. of 100 Executives
primarily from Fortune 100 companies outlined benefits to both
organisations and the coaching client from the coaching relationship.
Reported benefits for the company, increases in productivity (53% of
executives)), quality of work (48%), customer service (39%), executive
retention (32%) and bottom line profitability (22%), with decreases in
customer complaints (34%) and costs (23%) were among the benefits. For
the individuals themselves, improved working relationships with direct
reports (77%) and supervisors (71%), improved teamwork (67%), job
satisfaction (61%), reduction in conflict (52%), commitment to their
organisation (44%) and improved working relationships with their clients
(37%) were nominated by the executives. The conclusion reached was that
executive coaching yields a return of almost six times its cost.
Coaching enhances 'non-measurable' capabilities. It increases awareness of behaviours and their impact; it helps you increase genuine confidence (versus bravado). Coaching can help you make better quality decisions.
It can provide tools to reduce stress and provide greater clarity around desired goals / strategies. These benefits
also contribute to the way you shows up in the work
environment which, of course, impacts those with whom they work.
Coaching helps you significantly or incrementally improve performance. Coaching can be considered a solution when performance isn't up to par. However, top performers benefit from coaching as much, if not more,
than underperformers. They are like elite athletes who need to be
coached to see how they can make improvements in their mental resilience
and skills that may change the outcome of their engagement. Whatever your situation, coaching can improve your results.
7. The leadership model of command and
control based on competence is broken. (Forbes Article)
The leadership style where competence is balanced with warmth (the
personal and interpersonal capabilities that are so important in
effective leadership) is emerging and proving very successful. (HBR Article)
Qualities that are now supported and enhanced through coaching – such
as honest evaluation, support instead of blame, self-motivation,
transparency, effective communication, influence instead of abuse of
authority power – are being recognised as critical to the morale and
engagement of staff, as well as to the overall performance of the
you want to perform to your highest level, invest in
coaching to recognise your potential, your strengths and
successes, so you can experience the meaning and fulfillment that come
from making your unique contribution.
For our offering around
coaching, please click here. We would be happy to have an obligation free conversation about your outcomes and whether we can help you achieve them.
What are your thoughts on the value of coaching?
Suzanne Mercier - Thursday, June 27, 2013
Recently I spoke at an industry event interstate. As part of my presentation, I talked about the influence nature and nurture have on our tendency to experience the Imposter Syndrome.
Up until the age of 7, our minds have no capability to gauge whether messages we receive about ourselves are true so we take them on board as if they are. Sadly, yet understandably, most of the messages we receive as young children are negative, even if designed to keep us safe. Messages such as "don't do this / don't touch that / you're the pretty one, not the clever one / be careful" slip into our minds and become cornerstones in defining who we are and what we're capable of.
As adults, if we experience the feeling of not being good enough, of believing that perfection is the only acceptable standard, of feeling like a fake and fraud, of denying our talents and capabilities as though they're not exactly rocket science, and denying our successes while focussing on our weaknesses, we will pass that fear on to our children.
When we're at the effect of the Imposter Syndrome, we have what Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset. In her book entitled "Mindset. The New Psychology of Success", her research identified the following beliefs and descriptors that relate to the fixed mindset.
- Intelligence is finite
- Mistakes detract from our intelligence
- If I fail, my efforts are to repair the damage from failure, not the cause
- Effort indicates a lower intelligence – success should come naturally
- Failure can create paralysis
- Test scores define me
- Failure is not my fault - it's the responsibility of others - teachers, co-workers, bosses
- My learning strategies are inferior
- I am likely to be more susceptible to the influence of stereotypes and labels
- I like to be in control and can be resistant to change, feed back and other factors critical for improved performance
- I may judge others instead of viewing them as potential allies.
At the other end of the continuum is a growth mindset. This equates to having handled the imposter syndrome and to having a healthy self-view.
- Intelligence is just what I start with.
- My effort and experience increase my intelligence
- I thrive on challenge and being stretched
- My test scores are simply information
- While I don't like failing, I learn from it and move on
- I'm willing to keep going back to a problem until I have it resolved; I'm persistent when the outcome is important to me
- I'm open to feedback and to improving my performance as a result
When you consider both ends of the spectrum, it becomes clear that having a fixed mindset is likely to lead to limitations and sabotage while the growth mindset is more likely to lead to higher performance and success. Which legacy would you prefer to leave your children with?
At the end of my presentation, a very senior executive came to talk with me. He certainly wanted to address his feelings of not being good enough in spite of a clearly successful career. His primary motivation, though, was to ensure he gave his very young children the best possible chance to recognise and live up to their potential.
Without children, he may have been sufficiently motivated to handle the Imposter Syndrome for himself. However, recognising the unconscious and negative influence he had on his children tipped him into a decision to seek guidance to move beyond the totally distorted self-view that is the Imposter Syndrome.
Suzanne Mercier - Sunday, July 11, 2010
Yesterday, I blogged about the implications for organisations in the higher demand for tacit skills and knowledge in the 2020 workplace, according to authors Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd. Today, I continue looking at organisations and the predictions for what a 2020 workplace will look like.
The authors put forward a crystal ball prediction for the 2020 workplace including 5 principles that will resonate strongly in the workplace (tomorrow's blog) and 20 predictions of what the workplace will look like. As I went through the 20 predictions, I recognised all of them as qualities that define the way a solopreneur or small business owner already operates. Here are just 3 of them:
1. You will be hired and promoted based upon your reputation capital.
That is certainly a major part of any small business securing work. Firstly, "can you do the work?" and secondly, "do I respect you and want to work with you?"
2. Job requirements for CEO's will include blogging.
Those of us who recognise that offering value, sharing information and positioning our expertise is a critical success factor in business are already doing that.
3. Lifelong learning will be a business requirement.
As solopreneurs or owners of small business, we know that if we aren't at the leading edge of knowledge in our area of expertise, we are diminishing our own value; Plus we also know that we need to grow as human beings, because we are our product or service.
Working on your own, or in a small business is not the same experience as working in the corporate environment. Solopreneurs and small-business owners have greater freedom about the way we operate, the hours we work, how we structure what we do; we set our fees and we decide what we're going to offer the world. However, there is a price to pay for that freedom. We experience fear and uncertainty because the buck stops with us. We are the Visionary, the strategist, the business development person, the person who creates or sources our products and services, the person who delivers them, the customer service person, the financial controller and the accounts clerk. If we lose traction for any reason, we can go under. Working for yourself without the structure, resources and protection of a corporation around you, is the greatest personal development programme you will ever participate in.
Any environment that creates uncertainty has the potential to trigger peoples' feelings of imposterhood. Solopreneurship and small business ownership does that for many of us already. If the original research by Clance & Imes holds true, 70% of people on the line inside the corporate environment will have experienced the imposter syndrome too. With the prediction of a 2020 workplace, it's going to create uncertainty across the board and dealing with the imposter syndrome may become an even more obvious Critical Success Factor.
The opportunity for organisations to prepare for this brave new corporate environment is to recognise that personal development is the key to business performance.
What do you think? I'd love to hear.
All the very best
Suzanne Mercier - Saturday, July 10, 2010
As a result of reading "The 2020 Workplace" (Jeanne C. Meister & Karie Willyerd, 2010), I have been thinking about workplaces today and in the future. According to the authors, the 2020 workplace will be a whole new game driven by 5 generations in the workplace together, mobile technology, individuation of work conditions and incentives, acceptance of lifetime learning and corporate social responsibility. The concept of the knowledge economy will shift and the more technical work will demand what the authors call "conceptual tacit skills".
Tacit knowledge and skills are personal skills that are hard to transfer to others. The individual may not naturally recognise and appreciate these skills as valuable or unique. Examples of tacit skills and knowledge include habits and culture that form the backbone of the way we interact with the world around us, or riding a bicycle, or a child learning a language. The authors define the key tacit skills in an organisational context as problem solving, judgement, listening, data analysis, relationship
building, collaborating and communicating with
Where the tacit knowledge and skills are considered valuable by an organisation, there is considerable motivation to transform those tacit skills into explicit skills which can then be transferred to others. And this is where the Imposter Syndrome comes in.
The Imposter Syndrome hits talented and successful people. However, people who are in the grip of feeling like a fake or fraud do not value their strengths or accomplishments. At a core level, they don't think they're good enough; that don't measure up. They often believe that if they can do something, it's not exactly rocket science. And the less tangible something is, the more likely they are to be uncertain about whether it is of value and whether they measure up.
If organisations are going to successfully tap into the tacit knowledge and skills of their talented employees, they need to help people understand the value of who they are as well as what they know. That means they will need to help us value ourselves as human beings so we can actively contribute to organisational performance. While many are doing this already with concepts like "talent management", most organisations are not and may get left behind well before 2020!
What do you think? I'd love to know.
All the very best
Suzanne Mercier - Thursday, May 27, 2010
Questions that come up at the end of a presentation help me understand how I can support people to understand better what they may be experiencing or to address some of the arguments that come up in their minds. One of the ones that comes up regularly relates to the old catchphrase of 'fake it til you make it' which means to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces
success, it will generate real confidence. People want to know whether faking it til you make it gets in the way of authenticity.
To me, faking it til you make it certainly
produces a more positive result than retreating - in the short term. However, it involves
denying how I feel - sweeping those feelings under the rug and patting
it down. In other words, hiding the lack of confidence I feel which
comes from fear and the feeling of being 'not good enough' as we are. That
feeling is real, the thinking behind it is not. If we could see who we really are, we would
never doubt that we are good enough again.
Cary Grant was probably the most famous
proponent of fake it til you
make it. He openly admitted that he created the Cary Grant
"character" and said he knew
the kind of man he wanted to be - and after years of
pretending he finally became
that man. Cary Grant had a very troubled childhood - his mother
disappeared when he was 9 years old - so no doubt he had a mask or two
in place. Perhaps faking it was the best he could do with his
understanding and resources at the time.
I do realise there are many ways to the centre of town and that my way is just one of those. I just don't think that glossing over such disapproval of ourselves is the answer. It brings to mind the biblical analogy that building your house on the sand means it has poor foundations that won't withstand any tests Putting masks on over a feeling of not good enough doesn't help us recognise the truth of who we are which is pure possibility.
Fake it til you make it might seem like a great solution - it most likely would help you achieve desired results in the short-term. Longer-term, though, it is far better to be authentic - to truly see ourselves, accept our strengths and successes, accept that we have weaknesses and that everyone does. To journey towards an increased understanding of who we truly are, we need to accept that we create the whole of our reality through our habitual thoughts and beliefs and that as creators, we can change those patterns (which is a similar principle to 'fake it til you make it').
The difference between 'fake it til you make it' and peeling back the masks to see who we truly are underneath is that the first approach comes from the space that we are not inherently good enough and therefore need to change who we are while the second approach comes from the space of accepting that who we truly are - beneath the layers of self-protection and the masks we hide behind - is absolutely perfect. One approach is denial and the other is acceptance.
What do you think? I'd love to hear.
All the very best
Suzanne Mercier - Wednesday, May 26, 2010
When I talked about imposterhood in the early days, I was so excited
that I'd discovered the reason I had sabotaged myself for so many years
that I thought everyone else would be as excited as me. I was wrong. In more
than one situation, I offended members of my audience who misunderstood
me - for which I am responsible - and thought I was accusing them of
being an imposter. These people became quite defensive and verbally
attacked me in the middle of my presentation. I quickly recognised that
others might not be as excited as I was about discovering their
self-sabotage patterns. I became sensitive to the language of
feeling versus reality - of feeling like a fake and fraud, of feeling
not good enough.
Many of us confuse our identity with our behaviour and while the Imposter Syndrome refers to a faulty self-belief - which does relate to how we see ourselves - we are actually talking about feeling not good enough and the behaviour we engage in so we can protect ourselves from discovery and exposure.
It always felt as though I was walking on the glass of other peoples' sensitivities, so the problem has been sitting in the back of my mind for quite a while. In conversation with a colleague a few days ago, the solution emerged. When someone is triggered by uncertain circumstances into feeling vulnerable and is exhibiting the symptoms of the Imposter Syndrome, that person is "imposturing". They are engaged in the process of feeling like an imposter and engaging in the protective behaviours to avoid others seeing them that way.
I think it's a solution ... and I may well be kidding myself. This is, after all, a confrontational subject.
What do you think? I'd love to hear.
All the very best
Suzanne Mercier - Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I have been so passionate about Purpose and the power it has to lift us up beyond our fears and foibles, that I was absolutely delighted to have a friend point me in the direction of Dan Buettner's TED presentation on the optimal formula for longevity. Dan Buettner is a National Geographic Explorer and Writer. He was involved in a project called Blue Zone which was dedicated to identifying areas in the world where people lived longer lives and to exploring the reasons for their longevity.
The areas the Blue Zone Team visited were Okinawa, Japan, the Highlands of Sardinia and Loma Linda, California. The video is well worth viewing
Buettner arrives at 7 key tenets for longevity as a result of extensively studying these cultures. Finding and living our Purpose (or iki gi as the Japanese call it) was one of the principles and the Blue Zone team claim that Purpose can add up to 7 years to our lives.
My experience of Purpose goes back around 20 years when a friend, Jelena, asked me what my Purpose was. I totally surprised myself because out of my mouth came "To bring heart and soul into the corporate environment". That Purpose has guided my path in the intervening time and I have lived it to the best of my ability along the way.
When we live from Purpose, we step into possibility. We step beyond the fear and our self-imposed limitations and into being of service in some way. We think way beyond ourselves to the broader community. We give in the best way we can and while we don't do it for a return, we experience a feeling of fulfillment as a result of being of service.
I realise now that behind my Purpose is the recognition that so many of our workplaces are driven by fear which manifests in competition, winners and losers, in abuse and neglect, in manipulation and in scarcity. These conditions don't breed engaged employees making their contribution to the success of the organisation.
Taking this further, I realise that my purpose is about activating behavioural change through a mindset shift so our workplaces are more about kindness, opportunity, recognition, appreciation, support, growth, connection and community. Those are pretty big shoes and I trust I'm growing into them.
What's your Purpose? I'd love to hear.
All the very best
Suzanne Mercier - Monday, May 24, 2010
Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to work with a number of people who would probably classify themselves as Type A personalities. According to Wikipedia, Type A's can be described as high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, drive
themselves with deadlines, and are unhappy about delays. Because of
these characteristics, Type A individuals are often described as stress
I think it would be fair to say that type A personalities are driven to achieve results. They are not driven to go on a journey with no marked path; a journey of indeterminate length and with an unknown destination or outcome.
I believe their need for outcomes and instant results makes it more challenging for them to undertake the life-long journey of rediscovering who we are and how we can be of service to the broader community, which will bring meaning and fulfillment to their lives.
What do you think? I'd love to hear.
All the very best
Suzanne Mercier - Wednesday, May 19, 2010
A friend of mine, Diego Villaveces (aka The Crazy Columbian) kindly invited me to a wonderful function on Thursday 3rd June. "Haven't you heard of 'Wake up Sydney'?" No, I hadn't. And I have now because I immediately checked it out.
Jono Fisher, the founder has a really inspirational story of life's
amazing twists and turns. Having dropped out of corporate life, Jono
took up a new career as a male nanny during which his life opened up in
ways he couldn't have imagined. In his words, "I threw myself into a
world of simplicity, children, nature
and discovering what was really important to me." After some wonderful insights
on life, it turns out what was important to him was to create a
catalyst for Sydneysiders to come together in dialogue and inspiration.
"Wake Up Sydney" was born. Take a look at their trailer for an
idea of what they're doing.
Wake Up Sydney is part of a global movement with millions of members - a huge community committed to making a difference in this world we live in for now.
What I love about the work Jono is doing, now supported by many who love
his passion and purpose, is that it is generous and authentic. A true
journey to make a difference in the world. He leaves us with this
thought: Now is the time for the tribes of Sydney to gather,
collaborate, be entertained and accelerate this revolution toward a more
kind, conscious and sustainable world.
I think that's an admirable Purpose, don't you? If you want to experience Wake Up Sydney, I believe there are still tickets left for the event on Thursday 3rd June. I'd love to see you there.
What do you think about the power and passion of living on Purpose? I'd love to know.
All the very best