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Have you ever said no to a big opportunity?

Alexandria Joy - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Have you ever said no to a big opportunity?

No I don’t want that new job and pay increase.

No I don’t want to go on that secondment to the other department.

No I don’t want to make a presentation to the Board.

I said no to a big opportunity last week, one that I’ve had on my vision board since January, and it was a tough call to make.

As a workplace futurist and someone who helps organisations plan and strategise their culture and brand for the future I am constantly scanning the environment, travelling throughout Australia and around the world, visiting companies that are on the forefront of modern work practices to bring those ideas back to leaders and organisations we work with.

I spend a lot of my waking hours thinking about the future. So you can imagine how excited I was to have been invited in March to speak at the World Futures Conference in Washington this past weekend. My topic – How to make work work in the future. Awesome and so right up my alley.

I had been planning the trip for some time, I’d already bought a conference ticket, accommodation was sorted and I’d been making connections on LinkedIn with peers that would be at the conference.

And then last week, life got a bit crazy, things weren’t lining up at work or at home and I came up against some pretty deep stuff – like feeling like a fraud and off course.

So I said no to speaking at the conference. I said no to a big break. To the crème de la crème of the futurists gathering. I said no to showing up regardless.

Instead I said yes. Yes to staying home. Yes to me.

For once I was totally and utterly honest with myself. I checked in and no it wasn’t fear making me back away, in speaking is one of my favourite things to do. It was just that the pull to say yes to being true to me was stronger.

I felt bad for letting the conference organisers down, but the truth was I was on day 2, not the headline, plenary speaker, a bit of reshuffling and the conference agenda would work fine. It was more a blow to my ego than an inconvenience to anyone else. Funny how the universe has a way of delivering harsh lessons at the most inopportune times.

I’d been having some hints and intuition that a change was necessary but a total transformation? Hadn’t seen that coming – some futurist I am ha ha!

I wrote a blog last week as this all unfolded and I was sick in bed with a stomach virus purging and transitioning. Some would warn against such a potentially career limiting article, however the feedback about the raw and real honesty has been a surprise to me.  

How did I get here? When did I forget the things that I love doing the most?

I love my work, I love helping people and companies unleash their uniqueness so they can show up authentically and love their work every day. It’s bloody awesome work. But somewhere along the way I had lost my own way and forgotten to heed my own advice.

I started asking some big questions about life, my business and how I want to work and who with. Magically new clients turned up immediately, precisely the kind I like to work with as if to say – here, do more of this!

Awesome nudges. Perfect clues. Thank you universe.

Luckily the conference organisers were very understanding and agreed that I could donate my conference ticket I had already purchased to a scholarship student who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend – awesome #generosityeconomy in action.

I was so relieved once it was done and of course a little disappointed.

But as with any decision, once made, energy has began to flow in the new direction and clarity has returned. I’ve begun making changes in my business, a new website, a new podcast, a documentary, a charitable collaboration and a new theatre style event are all now in the pipeline. Some of these will be launched in the very near future, some a little further off, but already synchronicities are beginning to happen.

So it’s possible to say no to a big opportunity and still find a silver lining!

This week I’m focused on getting even clearer about how I want to live and work, where and with whom so I can put it into action.

Making the decision to say no was the hardest part, once it was done it was done and I could move on again and regain my flow.

Are you finding yourself at a crossroads unable to say yes or no and feeling stuck and frustrated? Don’t worry pushing through the resistance is just part of the process, it’s a sign that you’re on your way.

If you need help and you want to know how to get clear on the future path for your career, business or brand visit www.uqpower.com.au and check out our services and offerings.  

Our videos, articles and resources are a great way to start the forward momentum yourself – whether it’s to grow your team, increase your income or profits or create the most memorable brand in your market.

Start saying no and releasing more energy and space to say yes to you and your dreams. You know you’re unique and you’re awesome and the world needs you!

Leaders. Get your head in the clouds

Alexandria Joy - Sunday, April 17, 2016

The big picture doesn't cut it any more. It's the friggin HUGE picture that matters now.

Remember that famous analogy of the rocks, pebbles and sand that Dr Stephen Covey made famous? (If you've been living under a rock - pun intended - thencheck out this video from FranklinCovey). Well in the 90's and early 2000's that was a great way to plan, execute and manage your time.

But today in 2016 it's simply not going to cut it.

As suggested by Gary Vaynerchuk, today you need to act more like a futurist and have your head in the clouds and far ahead on the horizon as well as still keep your feet in the sand (Gary says the dirt but I prefer the beach) at the granular level.

Today the companies and leaders who succeed have learned to reach up high and tap down low, to think 30 years ahead and to execute and innovate in the now. Think like Apple and Tesla.  

Think about your own industry for a moment. Where do you see it heading in 30 years time? Will it still exist? Will it have been replaced by robots and artificial intelligence? What technology will be needed to support the people driving change?

And what can you do about that now? How can you begin to be more like sand in the surf, being flexible and nimble, light and able to shift and move with the current. Or are you still focused on the rocks, stuck, stagnant and unable to adapt and adopt? Is there a massive ship about to crash into your rock and because you weren't checking the view from the lighthouse in the clouds, and now you're unable to adjust course and move your business left or right, up or down?

VISION is worthless without EXECUTION

and 

EXECUTION is pointless without VISION.

You not only have to know your craft intimately (your sand) but also understand where your business and industry is heading (your clouds). If you stick with the rocks you'll be average and get average results. You have to start reaching up and tapping down rather than spreading out. Gone are the industrial age days of growth for growth sake. Bigger larger plant sizes, more staff, bigger contracts, even when the margins were getting smaller and smaller and profits less and less we saw big companies still aiming for lateral growth, taking up space, wasting energy on their middle aged spread.

Tomorrow's successful businesses will be vastly different they'll be grounded, long, lean and wiry, reaching, reaching, reaching for the clouds. They'l be architects and masons. Grounded yet unsettled. Think Uber, Air BNB and Alibaba.

Those companies stuck in the middle bland land will get lost in the sea of sameness, stuck with massive overheads, large volumes of wasted stock, with buildings, land and machinery of little worth. They'll have large footprints that take up a lot of space and have massive environmental impacts. They'll play it safe when safe is no longer a valid strategy.

If you're thinking 1-3 years in the future, you're leaving yourself and your company vulnerable and exposed. If you're spending three days at a leadership retreat planning your three year strategic plan and then reporting blindly for the next three years against that plan then you're essentially dead in the water. 

You need to forget the big picture and aim for the HUGE picture. You need to think where do we need to be in 2050 not in 2017. All the best leaders and companies now are bringing in futurists to consider 10, 20, 30 years into the future and then executing in three day, three week and three monthly cycles. 

Remember just five short years ago Netflix weren't streaming movies, and Snapchat and Instagram didn't exist. Where did they come from? The clouds.

You can't go for incremental improvement any more, you need to evolve. Start losing yourself in the clouds and then getting gritty in the sand. That way you're more likely to create something remarkable, something epic that will change the game.

Leaders you have to be the brains but you have to get your hands dirty too. Stop stressing so much about the dumb little sh*% and start playing the bigger game. Most of our daily grind is just a result of not having clarity about the huge picture 30 years out. Once you have that kind of huge clarity, everything falls into perspective.

Build an epic vision and a huge why, solve a future global problem, then build and create all the time listening to the market as you course correct, adjust and improvise every day. Oh yeah and remember to keep your eye on the clouds!

If you want to read more about this topic see my recent presentation for the April meetings of Higher Power Leaders Network here on Slideshare.


Three secrets to sticking to your new year goals

Alexandria Joy - Sunday, January 17, 2016

What kind of life do you want to live in 2016? 

Have you set a goal? An intention? Or chosen a keyword to guide you?

The concept of setting New Year's Resolutions is not that new. In fact it has been around since the Babylonians pledged to return borrowed objects and repay their debts at the start of each year, and the Romans started each new year by making a vow to the god Janus.

Each year for the past 12 years I have written a gratitude letter that maps out all the things I'd like to have happen each year. Each year I get better at sticking to those plans and manifesting many of the things I desire to have happen. 

Most people however say that their resolutions only last about 7 days, so why is it that sticking to something that matters to you so hard to achieve?

What is it that separates the resolute minority who stick to them from the majority of fallen masses? 

Is it that you've set yourself unrealistic goals - maybe you're a size 16 and you've set a goal to be a size six in 3 months, can you really make that happen? Your goals need to be achievable in the time given. 

Is it just a matter of willpower or are other magical, mystical powers at work? 

Or could just be that you're not working with your own psychology and are setting yourself up for failure from the beginning?

Perhaps it's a combination of all of the above. Here's three ways to work with your mindset and stick to your new year goals.

1 - Who you are being is more important than doing. 
Achieving your goals begins with who you are being. Unfortunately most people start the process with want they want to have, then what they have to do to get it, when really they should begin with who they are being. And while strategy (what you will do) and results (what you will have) are of value, you'll get no where without the right Mindset (who you are being).

2 - What you think about you bring about


Of the 60,000 thoughts we have each day researchers have found that 80 percent of the thoughts were the same thoughts we had yesterday so if you want to achieve new goals and become someone new you have to become aware of the thoughts you are having. In particular you can become aware of the thoughts you have about yourself. What is your internal dialogue saying to you?  How many times during the day do you beat yourself up?  We tend to think this random chatter in our head is just that, random.  We also pass it off as insignificant, however each time you bash yourself internally it creates an emotion within you.  Thoughts have energy.  Scientists can measure a thought. It has weight. It has vibration and it has an electrical current.  As does emotion.  So, when your mind feeds your spirit these negative thoughts it ignites emotions, whether it be sadness, despair, fear, or even joy, it creates an energy. This vibration also radiates outward and creates your experience with others.

The best way to combat the negative dialogue is with positive affirmations.  Affirmations are one to the most effective tools in your self care arsenal. This is the daily affirmation I have on my mirror at home "I am loveable, valuable and unique." - you are welcome to borrow it or make your own!


3 - Whatever is familiar becomes your success thermostat's set point.
If you’ve read any of the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky, you already know about the “Happiness Set Point” but, if you haven’t, take note. About 40 per cent of anyone’s happiness is governed by the “happiness set point” which involves intentional activity—what we do for ourselves. The real problem is that most of us aren’t focusing on either the right things or approaches that might make us happier. So as you set your new year's goals this year consider where your success thermostat is for each goal. If you're not conscious, your thermostat will naturally return to it's former set point. So if you want to achieve more you have to raise the temperature on your thermostat and then make that feel familiar, it needs to become your new and permanent set point, doing so will help your new formed habits stick and help you achieve more. 

What one thing will you do differently this year to make your new year's goals a success? Share your thoughts in the comments below, I'd love to know. 

How Our Workplaces Are Making Us Sick

Alexandria Joy - Friday, December 26, 2014
It was during working on a campaign while I was Director at WorkCover that I had an epiphany that would stay with me into all my future work and businesses.

We ran a marketing campaign called “Homecomings” with the help of creative agency Shannon’s Way – it was all about the need for workers to come home safe from work every day to their family, friends and loved ones. The taglines for the campaign included:
“Your reason for workplace safety is not at work at all.”
“Work safe. Home safe.”


These taglines really struck a chord with our market research test audiences as well as our staff before we even launched the campaign. What really hit home for me how much we entrust the lives of our loved ones into the hands of their employers every day they go to work. The campaign footage showed a young boy waiting for his father to come home, two teenagers who barely acknowledge their dad but their dog getting excited to see him and other various 'coming home' scenes.

My powerful epiphany was how every worker in every workplace is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father, brother, sister, husband or wife, partner or best friend. Here in Western society we all believe that it’s our fundamental right to work in a safe and healthy workplace and that each day we should be able to go home from work as healthy – both physically and psychologically - as we did when we left in the morning.

Which means the leaders of every company and team are trusted to act like a pseudo parent in their employees extended work family. I believe it is imperative that leaders come from a place of love and genuine care about the wellbeing of the precious lives under their care and supervision, and not just because of some legislation. Those who take up this duty and choose to serve their workers as an extended family, not hired labour or resources to be used, will create stable innovative, high performing, loyal teams over the long term. Sadly few managers and leaders take it this seriously, or have really considered the entrusted role they hold.

What we need therefore, is to build more organisations that prioritise the physical, social, emotional and psychological wellbeing of their workers so we can build happy and healthy families and communities.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to become Expander Leaders, advancing our organisations to create more leaders who in turn grow, flourish and are more likely to serve and become Expander Leaders themselves.

Sadly, during the past few years of downturn and financial crisis and economic instability, a container management style has become more prevalent and it has brought cultures of fear, isolation, blame, threats and stress. As people contract, retract and retreat, they also resort to bullying, harassment, backstabbing and competition, rather than collaboration and cooperation.

Figures from WorkCover NSW between 2000 and 2014 show a marked increase in the number of bullying and harassment workers compensation cases. In 2012/13 the majority of occupational disease claims in NSW alone were mental health diseases accounting for 2235 claims. These mental diseases included such things as clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Although “stress” itself is not a compensable condition, it is one of the many possible factors that may contribute to the contraction or aggravation o a compensable psychological condition. These mental health claims account for 34 per cent of al occupational disease claims and the total gross incurred cost was $49 million with an average cost of around $22,000 per claim. Plus the total time lost as a result of mental disease claims was 39,609 weeks with an average of 18 weeks per claim.

Anxiety/ stress disorder and anxiety/depression claims accounted for 59% of all claims. Industries where mental disease claims accounted for more than 50% of their occupational disease claims were education and training, public administration and safety, accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance – all industries that should be focused on care, love and service! Occupations which accounted for these claims included protective service workers, education professionals, carers and aides, human resources and marketing professionals, health professionals and health and welfare support workers.

This data is from just one state in Australia over the period of one year only! Our workplaces are indeed making us sick and our leaders must take their responsibility to create a positive, healthy culture seriously.

What are we doing wrong?

The raw truth is that an organisations’ success is based on leadership excellence not management acumen. Many organisations give lip service to the concept of their people being their most important resource. What is needed are more Expander Leaders who truly see their people for the unique individuals they are and truly care about those entrusted to their care.

When we become the architects of our company cultures rather than passive participants, we can create workplaces where people are grateful for the opportunity to volunteer their best work every day. To create this takes a series of small, incremental changes and conscious moves, not a single pill.

I believe that when we consciously, deliberately and intentionally choose to design our workplace cultures using the principles of Expander Leadership, love and recognising the UQ (unique strengths) in every individual we unleash human potential. I invite you to join the movement and #startwithU.

If you're ready to #startwithU and want more information on how to lead during a downturn, watch my videohttp://www.uqpower.com.au/_blog/uqtv/post/four-steps-to-leading-during-a-downturn/

How Poor Leaders Are Killing Us

Alexandria Joy - Friday, November 28, 2014
"Our jobs are killing us and the people who are responsible are our leaders."


I recently heard Simon Sinek say this in a YouTube video and it really struck a chord. How did you feel when you read that? Harsh reality? Don't believe me? Or perhaps you have had an experience yourself or heard someone say "my boss is busting my balls" or "my manager is killing me!"

These might be throw away comments around the water cooler but sadly they are a reflection of reality. 
In my view and experience leadership is not a rank or position – it is a choice. It is a choice to be of service and support others. Since first reading Robert Greenleaf's powerful book The Servant Leader when writing my thesis paper for my master's degree in my late 20's, to working for the General Manager of a large teaching hospital with 3,000 staff who clearly cared about his staff and how they cared for their patients, I began the journey of studying servant leaders.

Some of the most powerful lessons I learnt came from working in toxic environments where there was a clear container manager culture of restrictive, measured and fear based decisions that created a dog eat dog, dobber mentality amongst staff. Here I saw how even one container manager at the top could have a negative impact on people's self-esteem, health, wellbeing and relationships both at work and at home.

Almost as bad as the container manager was the disinterested manager where I witnessed people shrivel and lose their spark as they became undervalued and invisible.

And the research proves working for these poor leaders is a problem for individual employees as well as for the organisation. Studies from Europe and the US are showing that when people say “my boss is killing me”, quite literally this could be the case - around 25% of people who have worked for a poor manager for a short period of time and 38% of the people who have worked for a poor manager for a longer period of time are more likely to have a stroke or heart disease later in life as a product of working with them.

Biologically working with a manager who makes us feel paranoid and anxious and unsafe creates too much cortisol in our body which compromises our immune system, will make us self-interested and stressed, and makes us less empathic and considerate of others.

In addition, being ignored by a manager results in a 4 in 10 chance you’ll be actively disengaged in your job on a daily basis. If your manager tells you what you’re doing wrong – there’s a 2 in 10 chance you’ll be actively disengaged at work.

On the other hand if you are fortunate to work for an expander leader who focuses primarily on your strengths – there’s only a slim 1 in 10 chance that you’ll be disengaged at work.

So what is it that expander leaders do differently to poor leaders or container manager? Expander or servant leaders:
  • create more leaders – they are of service
  • see possibility in every individual employee and seek to find the Uniqueness (I call it the UQ) in every single person
  • are more likely to sacrifice self for the good of the many and the organisation
  • take care to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.
  • focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.
  • give control, not take control.
Of the company's I've studied over the past two decades, those with an expander leader driven culture experience:
  • less staff turnover
  • less OHS issues, disputes and claims
  • increased productivity
  • increased profit
  • increased stakeholder and employee engagement.
Creating a positive, productive and mentally healthy workplace culture is one of the important issues businesses face today. A recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report identified that ignoring it costs Australian businesses around $10.9 billion a year in lost productivity. And with stress, anxiety and poor mental health likely to affect one in five employees, by taking action the benefits can be profound.

The benefits are clear. Business leaders need to make a long-term commitment to a creating positive, mentally healthy workplace, not killing their people. By taking the initiative, you'll not only make your company a better place to work where people feel respected as unique individuals, you can help make it more productive and profitable. And that's just good business.

Want to change the world? Become an Expander Leader and #StartwithU
If you're sick and tired of working for a container manager and are at your wit's end you might like to watch my video "How to tell your boss they suck".

Lessons in Vision from MLK

Alexandria Joy - Monday, January 20, 2014

This week is a celebration of MLK Day, a day to reflect upon the great work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who had a huge vision which he dedicated his life to and who challenged the rest of us to do the same. Not only did he champion equal rights but also equal access to economic opportunity for all Americans. A lesson we can all learn from MLK is the power of a clear and compelling vision, for our lives, our companies and our communities.

In in today's fast paced world of instant communication and gratification, it seems long term strategic plans and vision statements may have lost some relevance and have been overtaken by short term goals and agendas.

Yes it is absolutely important to have goals and ways to measure progress but there is something beyond goals that all successful people, businesses and communities have, and that’s a compelling vision. A vision for the future where they see things as they are and then they make sure they also see things better than they are. Research proves over and over again that the companies, communities and even governments that have greater sustainability and lasting success are those with a sense of deep mission and meaning in what they do.

What is a compelling vision?

One that you can visualise in your mind's eye, one that you can almost touch, taste and feel what it will feel like to achieve that vision. Luminaries past and present such as MLK have an ability to step into their vision and future self and communicate and work from that place with absolute clarity. Our UQ Powerhouse framework for all we teach at UQ Power has vision as the first of its four quadrants. We believe that vision underpins everything you do and you can’t move forward with a sense of urgency and purpose without it.

Employees today want more than just a pay check, they want more meaning in the workplace and that can come from being part of a team contributing to a compelling vision. At medical product company Medtronic when new employees join the company they go to a "Mission and Medallion" ceremony where they meet the CEO and hear about how the company has changed the lives of patients and employees. Each employee is given a medallion with a depiction of a sick person rising and are asked to accept the mission of Medtronic which is "to restore people to full life and health".

In his inspiring book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl quotes Nietzsche saying "He who has a WHY can bear with almost any HOW." What's your why? Is it so clear you can almost touch it and feel it? Do those that need to be on board have clarity and ownership of their part of moving towards the vision?

Don't have a vision? Try this exercise with your team. Each person writes down in their own words what their own personal vision for the organisation, group or relationship is. They then pass their version to the person on their right. That person underlines the words that resonate with them and then passes the paper onto the next person until everyone has reviewed each others. At the end the most highly endorsed (underlined) common words can be written on a white board and discussed by the group writing them into a sentence that represent the groups’ view of a single shared vision.

Share your thoughts below on vision statements or having a vision. What's worked for you in the past?

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