E34 - Stop measuring people's performance! An interview with Stacey Barr, performance measurement specialist

Stacey Barr is the world’s leading expert on strategic performance measurement and evidence-based leadership. She shows organisations and teams how to develop and measure what matters most. She has an international team of professionals who deliver her licensed program, the PuMP methodology, around the globe, including Australia, Africa, Canada, the USA, UK, and Europe.

She is the author of best-selling books, “Practical Performance Measurement” and “Prove It - How to create a high-performance culture and measurable success”.

E33 - Rock your leadership MOJO!

All leaders need a little boost from time to time! In fact, we need to be working on our mojo ALL the time. It is central to our capacity to manage the most difficult aspects of our work. In this episode, which is a little silly (yay!) I share:

  • 3 ways to shift your THINKING to boost your mojo
  • 6 strategies to DO to shift your mojo in to overdrive
  • 3 simple ways to BE more in a better vibes mojo place

E32 - Stephen Scott Johnson Interview - Conscious Transformation of an Organisational Culture

Stephen Scott Johnson, author of Emergent - The Future of Culture: A Practical Guide of Leading

Transformation, shares:

The causes that allow a movement to flourish or die

What you need in an organisation to make a cause sustainable

How change is a creative destructive process that is an invitation to becoming something more

The key differences between old power and new power, and what’s at stake if you get stuck in old


Why silos are NOT the problem

What the pivotal point is for a leader to move from TRANSACTIONAL to TRANSFORMATIONAL

The new style of leadership that is required to navigate disruption

E31 - Don’t live in your inbox! Interview with Dermot Crowley, productivity expert

Dermot Crowley, Australia’s leading productivity expert, and author of best-selling book, Smart Work, shares:

  • How to have good relationship with your email
  • Get your inbox to zero at least once per week
  • Key tips in using the three-part productivity system of Capture, Consider, and Commit
  • How to use email, calendars, and task lists for maximum efficiency and effectiveness
  • Guidelines on when and how often to check emails
  • How to use email like bubblegum
  • The best way to use your task list: the rinsing system of file, schedule and sequence

MemoMailer App

Capture your thoughts via voicemail and have it sent your inbox - free app

Book Recommendations:

Dermot Crowley’s Smart Work  

David Allen’s Getting Things Done 

Michael Bungay Stanier’s Do More Great Work 


Speaker 1:         Welcome to the Zoë Routh leadership podcast, your source of strategies and insights to make you a better leader; influence, improve, inspire.

Zoë Routh:         Hi, this is Zoë Routh and I am super delighted to bring you Dermot Crowley on today’s podcast. Dermot is Australia’s leading productivity expert and he has spent the best part of 20 years working with companies big and small around productivity habits and systems.

Now he says somewhere around 2002 he noticed something, he noticed that technology had really suddenly changed but people’s habits and systems haven’t and was really holding us back. We had not adopted our behaviour to what the tech was allowing us to do. His whole business is around adaptation and being able to do smart work. He is also the author of the bestselling business book; Smart Work and he is really about helping us use tech so we can be seamlessly productive. Welcome Dermot.

Dermot Crowley:               Thanks Zoë, what a lovely introduction that was and that really nailed what I’m about. Thank you.

Zoë Routh:                             Yay I’m glad I got it right, that’s a good thing. Well, the first thing that people are going to notice apart from my funny Canadian accent which I’ve explained many times is your funny accent. Where is your funny accent from and how did you end up in Australia?

Dermot Crowley:               My goodness, some people would take exception to that and go, “Well I don’t have a funny accent I’ve got a nice accent that’s not funny, it’s not like yours,” no, well picked up. I am originally from Dublin, Ireland. I came out here about 25 years ago and to be honest I was a backpacker when I came out to Australia. I was on a year working visa with my mates, having a great time drinking my way around Australia.

Zoë Routh:                             Really?

Dermot Crowley:               Then I went and fell in love with a Sydney woman, settled down and got married. I also fell in love with Australia, I felt that when I came to Australia that I came home. I had that real sense of this is where I belong and that hasn’t left. I still drive over to Sydney Harbour Bridge 25 years later and go, “Oh my God I live in Sydney that’s amazing.”

Zoë Routh:                             It is a beautiful city and I have that experience every time I visit Sydney too it’s like, “Wow this is spectacular.” I have it less so in Canberra, but I think we just become too accustomed to our own surrounds. I think that’s also probably we’ve become too accustomed to our habits also which I think is one of the hallmarks of your work, is talking about habits and productivity so it’s interesting. How did you go from boozing backpacker to productivity expert?

Dermot Crowley:               To boozing productivity expert I didn’t give that up, scaled it down a little bit. Look I kind of fell into what I do, I worked in the retail industry in Ireland and actually worked for a wine company and was very honoured to work for one of the few masters of wine in Ireland. That was my whole background retail.

When I came to Australia I wanted to do something different and I fell into a sales job selling productivity training for a time management company. This was back in the days of paper diary systems so; there was no tech, there was no email, there was no Microsoft Outlook we used to teach people how to use paper diaries.

Again I fell in love with the whole idea of productivity and being organised, I wasn’t naturally an organised person myself and I really love the idea of scheduling and prioritising. I suppose probably after about five years working for that company I had an opportunity to either go find something else to do because I was made redundant or start my own business. I chose to start my own business and start running productivity training myself and I never looked back.

Zoë Routh:                             Wow, that’s really cool and you know what I still meet people who have paper diaries an you believe it?

Dermot Crowley:               I believe it, I know.

Zoë Routh:                          You’ve seen all that stuff I’m sure. I’m gonna ask …

Dermot Crowley:               It is a bit scary when you say it, yes.

Zoë Routh:                             Well they have plenty of reasons rationale why they do it and yet I feel sorry for them. One, because it just adds heaviness to the stuff they have to carry around and two, it’s so inefficient you can’t search anything.

Dermot Crowley:               Yeah, so that’s right and they are normally trying to carry their paper diary and their iPhone at the same time. What they don’t seem to have realised is their iPhone can have; their whole schedule, their to do list, their emails all of that all in it.

 I know there is lots of arguments with people saying, “I don’t want to be connected to my email on my phone.” I think if you’ve got a good attitude towards your inbox on your desktop then you can have a very healthy relationship with email on your phone and it’s only going to make you more productive.

Zoë Routh:                             Healthy attitude towards email and a good relationship with your inbox, it sounds very deeply personal. Tell me a little bit about that, what’s a good attitude to email about?

Dermot Crowley:               Well, I reckon that email is probably the biggest issue that I’m asked to certainly talk about even though it’s not really what productivity is about. In fact email gets in the way of a lot of productivity but at the same time it helps us to do our work, so I don’t want to make email the bad guy.

Most people I’m working with are completely overwhelmed by their inbox. They are often getting a hundred plus emails a day and there is lots of executives that I’m working with who will get three to 400 emails a day and they think that that’s kind of normal.

Zoë Routh:                             Wow.

Dermot Crowley:               There is a lot of information that’s coming at us and while a lot of it is just noise, the fact is we get it every day and it’s overwhelming. In amongst that noise is some signal, some emails that we actually do need to be across, so we need to action or we do need to read.

 I tend to find that people are just struggling to keep on top of that, they are overwhelmed by their inboxes and most people have very bad relationships with their inbox. They tend to use their inbox as a bit of a filing system and a bit of a to do list and it’s actually the worst to do list in the world. It’s just a big pile of stuff and some of it needs action and some of it doesn’t.

 When I talk about having a healthy relationship with your inbox it’s about understanding what your inbox actually is for; it’s to receive emails, it’s a workspace. Just like your desk, if you imagine your desk being completely piled up with paperwork everywhere all of the time it’s kind of stressful to work like that. The same with your inbox, it’s a workspace and if it’s full of emails all the time you are always going to feel like you are behind the eight ball and things are slipping through the cracks.

What I try to do to make people have a healthy relationship with their inbox is to teach them how to get their inbox down to zero on a regular basis. My expectation is at least once a week you should have absolutely nothing in your inbox. I don’t mean just that everything has been read, I mean that you actually do not have any emails in your inbox.

Zoë Routh:                             Whoa and how do we do that?

Dermot Crowley:               I reckon what you need to do is set up good systems around how you manage your work and this is why I’m so excited about what technology can do for us in terms of our productivity. Most of the corporate work place that I would work with would use either Microsoft Outlook which is by far the dominant productivity tool out there. I would say 90% of the workforce is using Outlook and then the other 10% are probably using Gmail or something similar.

 Either way these are not just inboxes, they are not just for managing email they are also designed to help you to manage your workflow. There is a part of each of these tools that’s designed to manage what I would call actions. You’ve got two types of actions; you’ve got meetings and you’ve got tasks.

Most people have made the connection between their inbox and their calendar. Because when you receive a meeting invitation and you press accept I know what will happen is the email will disappear from your inbox, but it will actually put the meeting into your calendar so that you remember that you’ve got a meeting at three o’clock on Thursday.

 Most people are okay with that idea now and that means that they always manage their meetings in their calendar, which is a purpose built tool to help them to remember where they need to be and when they need to be there. When it comes to the other side of your actions, your task workload and your priorities the problem there is most people don’t have one centralised tool to manage all of that, they tend to use fragmented tools.

Some of the things you need to do are in your inbox, some of the things you need to do are in your to do list, some of them are in your meeting notebook, some of them are in the piles of paper that are still on your desk, some of them are on little post it notes on your computer screen and many of them unfortunately are still, they are just being carried round in our head. Because, sorry Zoë go ahead.

Zoë Routh:                             I was …

Dermot Crowley:               I’m I describing you?

Zoë Routh:                             Well, a lot of that was until you hit post it notes I’m like, “Thank God I don’t have that problem.” Then I was like, “Thank God I don’t try and keep anything in my head, it’s already a mess as it is.” I have a few of those other habits.

Dermot Crowley:               Sure.

Zoë Routh:                             I need to fix this.

Dermot Crowley:               I guess what I try to do is I try to help people to centralise their work in one central tool. All of your meeting should be in your calendar and that gives you one place of truth to make sure that you don’t forget to go to a meeting.

 I also believe that all of your tasks should be in one centralised task list, and that’s why I go beyond teaching people how to use the inbox in a tool like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail. We also need to have a look at how do we use our calendar and how do we use the task list in these tools to effectively schedule and manage our priorities.

 One of the really cool things you can do in both of these tools is if you receive an email that you need to action, it might be something that you need to do but you don’t have to do it right now you are usually able to just press a button and turn that email into a task and schedule it into your scheduling system.

 Microsoft and Google have both thought about how do people manage workflow and they build tools around this. The problem is most people don’t do this, they just use their inbox as a very ineffective way of trying to keep on top of what they haven’t done yet.

Zoë Routh:                             This is one of my challenges, I’m wondering if you can help me Dr. Dermot this illness I have.

Dermot Crowley:               My pleasure.

Zoë Routh:                             Is that when I try to do this thing like you are talking about, putting the tasks into the calendar what I’ve noticed is that I greatly over estimate what I think I can do in the time allocated. Then I get to the end of the day and half those tasks haven’t been done and I neglect to drag them forward into the next possible spot to do them. I reckon there is a couple of illnesses in there what do you reckon, what’s the fix for that challenge?

Dermot Crowley:               Look it’s a very common issue, so again it comes back to understanding the difference between a meeting and a task. For me meetings are a type of work that I would call fixed, so a meeting is an activity that needs to happen at a very fixed time and will usually have a duration. Because it involves other people what we need to do is choose an agreed time and lock that activity into that time in our account so that it’s in all our accounts at the same time. That’s what I call fixed work and a calendar is the perfect tool to manage that type of work.

 Your tasks and your priorities are a little bit different, they are what I call flexible work. You see tasks are generally things that you need to do, but you are often doing them by yourself so they don’t involve other people and they don’t have to be done at any specific time. They might have a deadline that they need to be done by, but you don’t have to do that task at ten o’clock or at three o’clock or at 2:15. You just need to make sure you do it before the workshop on Friday.

 Tasks need a different system to manage them effectively, they need a more flexible system. Putting everything into your calendar the down side is this, yes sure you were scheduling time to do your work, that’s great but things change and you were ... Like it’s human nature, we always over estimate how much time we’ve got available and how much we could possibly get done.

The things that you don’t get done in your calendar you physically have to remember to reallocate a time to them. Whereas if you started to use a tool like the task list in Microsoft Outlook or in Gmail whichever you are using, it manages this for you. Often these systems will make sure that if you don’t do a task on a particular day it will automatically roll forward to the next day so you don’t forget to do it. Using a task system to manage your priorities also has the benefit of being able to mark things complete.

 A common friend of ours, Dr. Jason Fox in his book The Game Changer he talks about the idea that we’ve lost a lot of our motivation in today’s modern workplace because we tend to work out of our inbox. Every time we deal with an email 10 more are arriving on top of it so you get no sense of progress. Whereas if you are used to managing your priorities in a well-structured task list you’ve got the ability to mark things complete and you actually get a sense of motivation as you work through your day.

That’s missing when you put things into your calendar because there is no tick box to say, “Yeah that’s been done.” There are some very compelling reasons to actually use a proper task system to manage your priorities I reckon.

Zoë Routh:                             Thank you, well that makes me feel better already because that was just pain. I thought I was like, “I’m trying to do it right but it’s not working,” so that’s good.

Dermot Crowley:               Exactly.

Zoë Routh:                             Having a really, so really useful well organised task list system is the critical point here. You are right, like I get such a sense of satisfaction that little dopamine hit as you go tick and you had that line go through the item so that’s really good. Do you recommend booking times in your calendar that are task? Like you could just put general topic of complete tasks or task on task list as opposed to itemising them?

Dermot Crowley:               Yeah look I guess it depends on how compressed your schedule is. If I’m working with someone who doesn’t have a very heavy meeting workload they might have a couple of meetings a day or a few meetings in a week. Then they don’t have a lot of compression on their schedule, so they probably don’t need to block time out to do tasks.

When I’m working with an executive who tends to spend most days in meetings all day, one of the first issues I often need to deal with and this happens very often at the senior management level. We give too much of our time away to meetings and we don’t protect time for doing task workload. What then happens is, they are in meetings from 8:30 in the morning until 6 at night …

Zoë Routh:                             Oh my God.

Dermot Crowley:               … with no room for dong any priorities. Then they end up working from 6 at night until ten o’clock at night trying to catch up on their other work. They end up working longer work hours and they have a real problem with work life balance and all of those things.

What I try to do in that situation is to get them to protect a certain amount of their week for getting important stuff done that is not meeting driven. I’ll often recommend to an executive to protect maybe 30% of their core working hours for doing tasks. In that case they would block out general time to say, “Okay I’m going to block out two hours here two hours there and I’m going to protect that for doing task,” so that’s one strategy.

 Second strategy I would suggest is if you put every task into your calendar it becomes too inflexible as you’ve found, but you can put some tasks into your calendar and it serves you. My rule of thumb is anything that’s going to take me an hour or more of my time I’ll probably block it out on my calendar and what I call I’ll hard schedule it into my system, rather than just soft schedule it in my task list.

That helps me to number one, protect the time for that piece of work, but it also reduces the chances of me procrastinating over that piece of work. Because it’s when it is in my calendar it’s going to pop up an alert to say, “Okay it’s three o’clock you need to put everything else away and do that piece of work.” When you use it in certain situations it works well I reckon.

Zoë Routh:                             Okay cool that is very helpful for me thank you, hopefully other people too this is not just for me but I am grateful.

Dermot Crowley:               This is such a selfish thing you do, yes.

Zoë Routh:                             Absolutely, so I want to talk a little bit more about productivity system that you expand on in your book. The three components are; capture, consider and commit. What are the biggest, if you could explain what those mean actually and what you find are the biggest objections or problems people have in those areas.

Dermot Crowley:               Sure, so when I’m especially around managing actions I think that what we need to do is to get really clear and make visible what needs our time and attention. That means that we need to have good capturing systems.

 David Allen who is an American productivity expert, he wrote a book called Getting Things Done. He talks a lot about this idea of capturing everything that you need to do and making it visible in a central place so that you’ve got real clarity over what needs my attention.

Work comes at us in different ways, so yes you do receive emails but you also probably receive; phone calls, voicemail messages, interruptions, meeting actions and what I call minds clutter where you are constantly thinking of things that you need to do. For me the first step is get really good at capturing stuff and having a place to put it.

 Every time I think of something I need to do what I’ll do is I’ll, if I’m at my desk if it’s something urgent I might do it straight away but if it’s something that could wait till later or tomorrow or next week I’ll put it straight into my task list. I don’t let it bounce around in my head, I capture it in my task list and that way I can let go of it from my head.

 If I’m out of the office and I think of something, I’ve actually designed an app for this on the iPhone and on Android devices called task, sorry excuse me I don’t even know the name of my own app called Memo Mailer. It is cool, it’s a free app so any of your listeners could go to the App Store and either or for either of those and download it. It’s a simple voice memo recorder that allows you to very quickly capture a thought or an idea or something you need to do.

The cool thing about it is it automatically emails that voice memo straight into your inbox. You don’t need to do anything expect press a button on your phone to capture the voice memo, the minute you let go of the button on the screen it will email that sound thought straight into your inbox. That for me is a really good way of capturing stuff, getting it out of my head and making sure that it’s in somewhere. A place that I trust if you like.

Zoë Routh:                             Yeah I think that’s really great and I’ve heard people who use Memo Mailer and they take their phone with them when they go walking. That’s often when your creative ideas come out and it’s like, “Damn it, I’ve got nothing to write this down with,” and they go, “Memo mailer hello,” and there you go.

Dermot Crowley:               Exactly, yeah so that would be the first thing that I would think about.

Zoë Routh:                             Okay let me just mention the show notes because I’ll put a link in the show notes to the app so people can go and have a look at it. The show notes are going to be at Zoërouth.com/podcast/smartwork. There will be links to David Allen’s book, to Dermot’s book, to Memo Mailer app. Okay so that was your first recommendation, what’s your second one?

Dermot Crowley:               Yeah, so that’s the kind of capture piece. When it consider and that really is, it’s about prioritisation. Once we’ve captured the stuff that we have decided is a good use of our time, either in our calendar so meetings or in our task list as priorities. Then we need to work out okay what comes first and what do I need to do now and what could be done later. I’m very much a big fan of having a dated task list, so I don’t just have one big list of things I need to do.

In my system in Microsoft Outlook I’m able to schedule task for today or tomorrow or Thursday or next week or next month or whenever I want it to appear in my schedule. That’s actually a prioritisation technique in itself.

I believe that the three common ways that we prioritise work are by; filtering, scheduling and sequencing. I tend to filter as work is coming into me, so when I check my email I will filter out the low value stuff, stuff that is not of good use to my time so I’ll delete stuff or I’ll file stuff or I’ll delegate stuff to other people. Then I get rid of those emails from my inbox, but I filter in the stuff that is a good use of my time.

The things that I decide, “Yes I need to do something with that,” I’ll either do them straight away if they are urgent or they are quick or I’ll schedule them into my system so they either get scheduled into my calendar or into my task list. By filtering my work at point of entry then I’m ensuring that only the stuff that is a good use of my time ends up in my system, so that’s the first type of prioritisation.

Then what I do is I actually schedule work. If I make a decision that I need to do something today and I put it on my task list for today, that’s me prioritising that piece of work. If I made a decision that no that could actually wait until Wednesday when I’m in the office, I’m also prioritising it. I really see your schedule as a way of making decisions about what should be done upfront and what could wait until later. That’s a second type of prioritisation.

A third type of prioritisation is what I call sequencing where my task list for the day, what I’ll do is as a part of my daily planning I’ll actually sequence my task list from most important to least important. I’m able to drag my tasks up down the list and that’s my way of getting really clear about my day and getting really clear about what are my top priorities.

 How that helps me is, because I’ve done that little bit of thinking to say, “Okay that’s my number one priority, that’s my number two and that’s my number three.” When I’m not in meetings I’m really focused about what I need to do next. If I’ve got half an hour between meetings what most people do in that situation is they’ll go, “Don’t really have enough time to do anything meaningful, so I’m just going to do a few emails.”

 Whereas if I’ve got half an hour between meetings I’ll go straight to my plan for the day and go right what’s my top priority. I need to send that email, okay let’s get that done. It drives my day with a lot more intent than if I didn’t bother prioritising my list to begin with.

Zoë Routh:                             Yeah that’s lovely, that’s awesome. What’s the commit piece about?

Dermot Crowley:               The commit for me is about fighting for your priorities. It’s you know you said it yourself that sometimes it’s easy to schedule things into your calendar but you don’t actually do them. I know I don’t want to pick on you Zoë, I know that you are a very productive person thus and it does happen.

We often let the urgency of the day take over and we procrastinate about the more important things that we need to do. Probably the biggest frustration that I have when I work in organisations is the fact that there is often a very reactive culture in place where people lead everything until the last minute and they only do things when they become urgent enough that they can’t put them off anymore.

That means that they are also delegating work to other people at the last minute, putting pressure on them. People then get into this cycle of just purely reacting to everything that’s going on and I believe that we need to work a lot more proactively.

For me the commit piece is put a plan in place on a daily basis, you should have a daily plan which is about focusing yourself. On a weekly basis you should take time out to plan your week and get yourself organised for the week. Even on a monthly basis I think that we need to take some time out to step back and get some prospective and get some clarity around what are my top priorities for the month ahead.

Those three personal planning pieces for me are all about getting clear about what’s important. Making sure that the right actions are scheduled in our system and then committing to them and fighting for them and not just letting the urgency of the day push them aside.

Zoë Routh:                             Cool.

Dermot Crowley:               Does that make sense?

Zoë Routh:                             Yeah, that’s perfect and I feel very happy with that. It’s outlined really well on your book too that whole piece about daily, weekly, monthly and horizon planning. That’s a strategy I’ve used for a number of years now is to reverse engineer my life, so starting with bigger horizon 10, 20 years boiling it down to yearly plans then to quarterly then to monthly to weekly to daily.

Dermot Crowley:               You’re not the complete basket case.

Zoë Routh:                             No, just the partial one. I have two questions to ask you about some more familiar recommendations around email and time management. There has been lots said in various forums about how to manage email, do you just like only check email once a day, twice a day. What are your guidelines around email checking processing?

Dermot Crowley:               Look, I think most productivity books or courses will talk about the idea of number one, turning off your email alerts. It’s such common sense that it pains me to have to say it yet most people don’t do it until you say it to them. You shouldn’t be getting email alerts, you don’t need to get a bing or a bang or a sliding pane across the screen to tell you every time an email comes in especially if you are getting a 100 plus emails a day. It’s just a distraction so turn them off.

Then set up a proactive routine around how often you check your email. Now, there are some philosophies that would say check your email twice a day and that’s it. I find that probably a bit too limiting for most people, although lots of senior executives I work with they probably don’t get near their inbox more than twice a day anyway so that works fine for them.

What I try to do is just give people a more practical solution which is this, I will check my emails thoroughly twice a day. Once in the morning I probably spend 30, 45 minutes on my email and then once in the afternoon I probably spend another 30 minutes on my email. They are my main two processing zones and that’s when I’m doing the heavy lifting with my email; I’m making decisions, I’m clearing out my inbox, I’m turning emails into tasks, scheduling time on my calendar for certain things.

Then outside of those two times I probably check my email but this time it’s just a quick five minute check to see if there is anything urgent that I need to be across. Often it’s on my phone and I might go in and; delete a couple of things, file a couple of things, deal with a couple of things but then I put the email away and I get back focused on my daily plan. I find that’s a reasonable rhythm with your email and most people find they can do their jobs perfectly well with that sort of healthy rhythm.

Zoë Routh:                             Okay, so it’s not really just strictly thing it’s sort of like do intense and then periodically check which I think that works well for me. I do a lot of process work through my emails and I get messages and so on, so the twice a day thing would never work for me in terms of if that was the only time I got to do it.

Dermot Crowley:               That’s right and if I’ve got a task in my task list and the task is to email a set of dates to one of my clients, so I’ll have to go into my inbox and send an email. I’m going to close to close my eyes so I don’t see any emails that are in my inbox that would be kind of crazy. You’ve got to be loose and relaxed about this and be light about it.

 I guess what we are always trying to do is to get people to get their head out of their inbox and not living there, so I often find that the inbox is the main screen the people have open all day long. If you think about it if your main screen in Outlook or Gmail is your inbox, then what you are looking at most of the time is an organising system for everyone else’s priorities because that’s all your inbox is; it’s an organising system for other people’s priorities.

What I do is I make my daily plan in my calendar, my main screen in Microsoft Outlook so that’s what I look at most of the time. That’s an organising system for my priorities, very different focus and intent.

Zoë Routh:                             That’s awesome, great tip. I have a couple of questions that I got through Facebook so I put it out to my Facebook group about talking to Dermot productivity expert, what should I ask him. I have a couple of question from people from Facebook and one of them is around versions of the Pomodoro Technique.

This particular person wanted to know the recommendations are, work for 25 minutes take a five minute break or only work for 90 minutes and then take a break. Do you have any guidelines around; focused work, deep work and break times? Is there an ideal routine?

Dermot Crowley:               Look, I’m a big fun of that type of work. Again, I’m not hard and fast around the number of minutes, I’m not going to say 23 minutes is the optimal time that we can concentrate. I think everyone is different and I think you need to find your own balance for the amount of time that you can concentrate in deep work at one time.

Whether it’s 25 minutes or whether it’s 90 minutes I am a big fan of the idea of; focus intensely on what you are doing, turn off distractions for those deep tasks but then give yourself a bit of a break. Whether that break is you get up and go for a walk, you go and get a coffee or you check your email.

That’s one of the reasons why I like to kind of check my email once an hour because for me email is bubble gum. It’s life, it’s relatively easy so I like to just chew some bubble gum once an hour and give myself five minutes to go, “Okay, this is happening and I don’t have to think too hard about this.” Once I’ve done my email for a few minutes I then go, “All right let’s focus again.”

Zoë Routh:                             Yeah, that’s great, I love that analogy email is bubble gums like yeah, pop on a bubble gum chew get some dopamine and then get out again, that’s wonderful.

Dermot Crowley:               Yeah, not a lot of nutrition but it’s kind of nice.

Zoë Routh:                             Yeah, all right here is a bigger picture one from one of the people on Facebook. He says, “The fusion of AI and robotics is going to progressively replace all the jobs according to your different perspectives but there is a general consensus that AI and robotics will take up a lot of jobs in the pursuit of productivity.”

 He asks, “What does it mean for a human being to be more productive? Do we need more productivity in a world awash with stuff material and digital.” I think he’s speaking to the bigger picture of what are you actually trying to do when we’re becoming more productive and is this going against what we really need to be doing as humans. What’s your perspective on that Dermot?

Dermot Crowley:               Yeah, very good question. Look, there is no doubt that AI is here and it is going to have a dramatic effect on how we work. I reckon that AI can, in the short term anyway as far as I can see to the horizon; I reckon it’s going to help us to be more efficient but it’s not necessarily ready to help us to be more effective.

 What I mean by that is, robots are going to take the manual task the drudgery work away from us and hopefully free humans up to focus more on the creative work or the decision making or the strategic work that computer is going to find it very hard to do. In the foreseeable future there will be a time when computers can do that as well, but for the moment I think that that’s the opportunity for us to spend more time doing that.

 I think if you go right back to Henry Ford and his Model T motor car, one of the things that he did when he created the production line was he enormously enhanced the efficiency of how we made a motor car. Because you had a bunch of people who would make motor cars all together, they would all stand around the chassis of the car and they would all do their stuff and it was a very slow laborious process.

When he actually went out into the wider industry and he saw that really people making cars there was nothing innovative out there, they were all doing the same thing.

He knew if he wanted to find a better way of making cars he needed to look outside of the motor industry and he actually came up with the idea for the conveyor belt or the production line from a meat processing plant. Where they would put carcasses onto a hook and then they’d pass them down a line of butchers so each had a specialised job to do.

 It was far more efficient and they could deal with a lot more carcasses and he realised that if he did the same with a motor car, then he could increase the output enormously. I think he reduced the time it took to make a Model T Ford from somewhere around 11 hours down to one hour 45 minutes, massive increase in efficiency.

  Effectiveness is different because effectiveness for me talks to not just about how much work you can churn out, it’s about the quality of the work that you do. When I work with people around their inboxes and that yeah I’m trying to make them more efficient.

Really the whole point of me helping someone get their inbox down to zero is not so they can do more emails, it’s so they can get their head out of their inbox and they can focus on the really important creative strategic things that are going to have an impact. I think that’s what AI is going to do for us, it’s going to actually allow us to do the work that really has an impact and I think we need to see that as an opportunity and not a threat.

Zoë Routh:                             I like that perspective; I think that’s … It’s a very proactive abundant way of looking at what’s coming potentially. It’s like whenever I talk about this future of robots and AI there is always two different world views, there is the one where it’s the job apocalypse and we are all going to hell and the other version which is pioneered by Peter Diamandis which is the world of abundance.

 Where all of this AI and robotics will actually free up as you’ve mentioned capacity for creative thinking, so we can actually tackle the bigger picture issues that we’ve got on our plate. I think that’s sort of what perhaps my Facebook reader was talking about is like, so just doing more stuff and it’s good to know that no it’s not about doing more stuff it’s about doing better stuff so we can progress as he narrates.

Dermot Crowley:               There is a great book by a guy called Michael Bungay Stanier and I’m mispronouncing his name, I know. He wrote a book called Do More Great Work and he talks about the idea of in all of our roles we’ve got bad work, we’ve got good work and we’ve got great work. What we need to do is to try and eradicate the bad work, the stuff that really is not a good use of our time and I reckon AI can help us to do that.

 The good work is business as usual stuff, it’s core to our role so we all need to maintain doing that. We need to make more time for the great work because the great work is the stuff that will actually have a real impact.

When I’m working with people I’m always trying to find a bit more time in their schedule to do the great work, because that is the stuff that’s going to leave a legacy and that is usually the stuff that really has an impact in five years’ time not just today or tomorrow. I think there is a nice overlap there as well.

Zoë Routh:                             Great, thanks. I have one last question for you speaking of zooming back to the immediacy stuff, what are your favourite animation apps, software that kind of stuff?

Dermot Crowley:               Sure, well first of all the stuff that’s already at our figure tips. If you are using Microsoft Outlook that is by far my favourite productivity tool that has ever been invented. There is lots of productivity tools out there, but it’s the one that’s been built from the ground up as a true productivity and workflow system. The problem is most people don’t use it the way it was designed to be used, they only partially use it and we’ve talked all about that.

The first thing I would say is if you are using Microsoft Outlook or indeed if you are using Gmail as your email client, learn to use the full system rather than just using bits and pieces of it, so that’s number one.

Number two there is a lot of new tools coming online now because we are all working in the cloud and if you are not in the cloud yet, you’ve got to get yourself into the cloud. Because what the cloud allows you to do is make sure that you can work anywhere on any device and have access to your information. There is lots of cloud based productivity tools that have emerged over the last couple of years, especially around project management.

Things like Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Slack they are all different variations on being able to collaborate on more complex work with other people. I think that there is very exciting space where if people learned how to use these tools effectively at a team level, then their productivity would also increase. I won’t say any one of those tools is better than the other, they are all really cool. What I would say is choose one and use it well, don’t try and use them all because they just compete with each other.

Another favourite of mine is from a contextual point of view is a tool from Microsoft called OneNote or if you are not in a Microsoft environment Evernote would probably be the equivalent.

Zoë Routh:                             You can do OneNote on a Mac, on an iPad and stuff like that it is compatible.

Dermot Crowley:               That’s exactly right yeah but it’s still a Microsoft product.

Zoë Routh:                             Okay.

Dermot Crowley:               What people in corporate would probably find if they are using Microsoft Office they’ll already have OneNote and it’s free. If you are working in a Gmail organisation they are not going to have Office because they are using Google Docs and that, so they might use Evernote. Either way I see a tool like Microsoft Outlook as being a chronological tool, it helps you to manage your time and to manage activities within the time that you have available.

Whereas a tool like OneNote or Evernote, they are contextual tools. They help you to manage the information within the context of a project or a meeting or a discussion or a relationship.

Again, well I’m so frustrated when I go into organisations and I say, “Who uses OneNote,” and I might get one in 10 would put up their hand and say, “I use it,” and yet it’s on the desktop. It’s a tool that they’ve got access to but people haven’t made the mental leap to putting away their paper note pad and harnessing the power of digital, because it’s far more powerful than your paper notebook.

Zoë Routh:                             I agree with that and I love that you pick up on these tools, so I’m like, “Yes tick I’m doing my things …” Well, I use Trello and Slack and Wunderlist which is, those are the three cloud based apps that we use as a team.They are just so good it just makes life so much easier to be able to collaborate that’s for sure.

Dermot Crowley:               That’s right yeah.

Zoë Routh:                             I have about half a dozen other questions for you on productivity and cultures, but I think what we might do is stop and save that for a different interview if that’s all right. Because I suspect …

Dermot Crowley:               We could yeah, because I think there is a whole lot in there we could talk about it in a different one.

Zoë Routh:                             Yeah, and I think we’ve got heaps of great tips and insight from what we’ve covered already today. I just want to say thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your infinite wisdom. Your funny little Irish larrikin accent.

Dermot Crowley:               I’m going red now Zoë.

Zoë Routh:                             Well you already mentioned that.

Dermot Crowley:               My pleasure.

Zoë Routh:                             There you go, your book is fabulous and it is a bestselling business book that Wiley put out, was it just last year 2016?

Dermot Crowley:               It was the 1st of January 2016 yeah.

Zoë Routh:                             Yeah and it’s fabulous so I’ll put a link to that in the show notes which are Zoërouth.com/podcast/smartwork so thanks again Dermot.

Dermot Crowley:               My pleasure bye, bye everyone.

E30 - How to build your influence

Ever wonder why some people are more successful than others? What is the secret sauce that some are missing? In this episode, Zoë shares:

•   It’s not about being an extrovert or introvert

•   Simple tweaks to your focus that will shift your energy dramatically

•   How to prepare for meetings so that you are instantly more credible and influential

•   Simple practical tips for becoming instantly more charismatic without changing who you are


Half Day Workshop: Leadership Skills for Industry Association Executives - July 20th

Details here 

Janine Garner’s new book, It’s Who You Know: How a network of 12 Key people can fast track your success


  • Butt-Kickers - keep you on track and accountable
  • Teachers - show you new skills
  • Pit Crew - care about you and make sure you look after yourself
  • Promoters - advocate for you an actively connect you with others

E29 - Sarah Riegelhuth Interview

 Sarah Riegelhuth - Finance expert, entrepreneur, and author of “Get Rich Slow”

Sarah Riegelhuth - Finance expert, entrepreneur, and author of “Get Rich Slow”

Finance expert, entrepreneur, and author of “Get Rich Slow”, Sarah Riegelhuth shares:

  • Why instant gratification is the biggest challenge for wealth creation
  • How she leads a digital nomad’s life running a prosperous business with a global team
  • The four factors that make wealth creation easy and fulfilling for her Gen Y clients
  • Why the criticisms of Gen Y are wrong, and what they have to offer
  • Tips on how to engage Gen Y
  • Why her staff call themselves ‘Gladiators’ - this is gold!

Sarah’s book, “Get Rich Slow” is available here.  

Connect with Sarah via Linked In.

Sarah’s full bio on Wealth Enhancers

Visit the Gen Y wealth creation membership community, Wealth Enhancers.

Read Wait But Why article, “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy”. 

Simon Sinek’s interview on Milennials in the Workplace.


BONUS:  Two awesome books that talk about how to motivate your self and others:


Zoë:                          Hi, this is Zoe Routh and I'm really thrilled to have Sarah Riegelhuth on the show today. Sarah is a finance expert, entrepreneur and author of Get Rich Slow. Reading about Sarah and reading about her wonderful business, I can tell she is obsessed with showing Gen Y, how to live financially savvy. And she runs a unique business globally called Wealth Enhancers and we're going to dive a little bit into how Wealth Enhancers works and Sarah's amazing story and how she runs her world.

                                    She is a roaming global nomad with a huge list of accolades and awards. Looking at her bio on her site, she's got award after award, after award, including IFA Excellence Awards Industry Thought Leader, AIM Excellence Awards for Owner Manager, AFA Female Excellence in Advice Awards, you name it, she's got it. And I think she must have thought "Oh, that's a big enough list" because you got a few years missing now, you're probably figured, "Ah, just carry on and do amazing things in the world" So, first of all, welcome Sarah. 

Sarah :                    Thank you. Thank you for having me, I'm excited.

Zoë:                          Now also Sarah is up at 6:00 a.m. from the Philippines to talk to us. So, full credit to her to being keen to talk about money and how to live an amazing life ... Thanks also for showing up.  It's a very challenging hour of the day.

Sarah :                    Not at all. If you hear any roosters in the background, you'll now have context.  Literally though, I can hear roosters here.  My get up time in the Philippines. 

Zoë:                          Yeah, yeah. So a little bit of history in trying to line up this podcast interview, I have been chasing Sarah around the globe, she's been in the US and now she's ended up in the Philippines and we're just having a chat before we started the recording about, how she runs her world and she is originally Australian and hasn't spent that much time there. Sarah can tell us a little bit about, how you run your life right now with your business?

Sarah :                    Yeah, I guess I'm a bit of a nomad or a gypsy, as my family like to call me. I do like to be able to work from anywhere. In the first few years in my business that wasn't possible or I probably didn't think it was possible, so I didn't set it up that way. But about three or four years ago, I decided that it was possible and I started changing the business to be more flexible and more remote which was great for both me and my team. They really liked the flexibility, they liked being able to work from home and it allowed us to then start hiring people from all over the world versus just in Australia which has been really fun and exciting to just experience the amazing talent and diversity that exists in the world.

                                    Bringing people into the business from different cultures is really fun as well. And it has challenges but we kind of have a good time around that as a team. So yeah, successfully transitioned to a fully flexible, fully remote team and that allowed me the freedom to get back into living a lifestyle of kind of moving around and spending time in different parts of the world which is what I've always loved doing since I left high school basically. 

Zoë:                          It does sound like the dream life. I think there is, I have been reading about digital nomads being a major trend in employment arrangements. So, it sounds like you are leading the charge on that. Tell me a little bit about how you actually started your business, Wealth Enhancers.

Sarah :                    Yeah, the first business I ever started was actually a private wealth management firm. It's a very traditional high net worth portfolio management for older Australians, who're mainly 55 plus, either in retirement or planning retirement and managing large portfolios two million dollars plus and helping them plan for their retirement and feel comfortable and all of that ...

                                    At the time I guess I was 27 and people started asking us, like people from my social circle sort of started asking us "Well can we get advice, like what should we be doing with our money" and I started looking around and I felt "Wow there's literally no one that is talking to us, to Gen Y" and at the same time I was having conversations with these incredible older, wealthier people and sort of saying to them, "Well how did you get ... Like it's one thing for me to manage your wealth now but how did you get to this point? How did you get to the point where you have this financial freedom and you're able to retire and you didn't just start yesterday?" and they were like, all said "Yeah, we started really young, we had advice through our whole lives, we've been just working on this for 30 years"

                                    And I was like "Okay, that's something that is important to know" and I think that a lot of people don't really think about, when it comes to wealth. They imagine that it's just going to happen one day or if they work hard somehow they'll get wealthy and really that's not the case, it doesn't matter, how much you earn and I mean it's pretty easy to spend it all, doesn't matter how big that amount is, you can blow it. You read about these, especially in the US, you read about earning millions of dollars a year, in a sporting career or something like that or in entertainment and ended up broke, it's not what you earn, it's what you do with it. And these people really showed me that.

                                    Finn, my husband and I, we started the private client firm. We started thinking well, what if we could provide an offer for younger people. After about two years in the private client business we launched, this sort of trial that we launched this offering to younger people, to Gen Y and it was just really well received and I could just see what an impact it would have. We were dealing people who where right at the start of their wealth creation journey and just had all this possibility ahead of them and it was just something that I felt incredibly passionate about and motivated by and so yeah, we went down that path and we ended up selling the private client business about two years ago so that we could focus completely on Wealth Enhancers which has been amazing.

Zoë:                          And you run it as a community, so that's really quite different from the usual financial advisor model.

Sarah :                    Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Zoë:                          How does that actually work? If I'm a Gen Y, I'm not, I'm Gen Z, no wait, I'm Gen X! Gen Z - wishful thinking.

Sarah :                    Gen X.

Zoë:                          I'm much older and grayer and so if I'm a Gen Y candidate or Gen Z, I guess they're moving into the market too now, the early guys. How does it work if I want to join your community and what do I get and what's the experience like?

Sarah :                    Yes, so firstly we specifically deal with Gen Y. Our intention isn't to go into the Gen Z market. Our intention is to move with Gen Y as they get older because we know and understand this segment of the market because we are them. All of our team members including and probably most importantly their leadership team are Gen Y and we know and understand the challenges and how we think and how we feel and how we want to live our lives more than anyone ever could if you weren't from our generation I guess. Just to kind of be clear on that because a lot of people do confuse that we give advice for young people and that they would need to then find another advisor when they get older but we're very specific to our generation. And then in relation to the community, so what we kind of realised were some pretty key factors to success and we really look at not just you making money because if you're miserable and you hate your job or you hate your family or whatever but you're rich, I mean that's not success to me.

                                    Like success is being financially free to give you the life and having then, which will give you the life you want but it's also being happy and fulfilled in your relationships, being happy and fulfilled in your career or business. Being healthy and fit and all of those things really contribute to success, so we're a very holistic, we take a very holistic approach and what we realised was these sort of four things that will contribute to your success. One is receive really good financial advice and investment advice, two is get that stuff done, so the administration and implementation side which is a part of what we do as well, three is coaching and accountability, so actually coaching you toward your goals, keeping you on track, keeping you accountable on an ongoing basis and those are not just financial goals but other areas of your life and the final piece is community which you asked about.

                                    It's that whole, you are the sum of your, the five people around you, your five closest friends or whatever it is. Because we deal with high performers, high achievers, particularly in Australia they tend to be the people that ... You know, you receive a lot of criticism, a lot of, it's hard sometimes for other people in your life to understand you when you're someone who's out there really pushing to be the best you can be, so what we want to do is create a community of those types of people and bring them together to support each other, connect with each other and just be a part of each other's lives because we know that there's such a power in surrounding yourself with similar people who are wanting to be better from a financial perspective but also in their careers, in their professions, in their spiritual lives, in their health, like everything really you just want to constantly improve yourself. 

Zoë:                          It's a fabulous platform and I think "Wow I wish I'd had something like that when I was 15 years younger and starting my professional career" I mean, I remember when I first came to Australia worked at Out3ward Bound and they had the sense, the HR people had sense to bring in a financial planner to talk to us which is hilarious because Outward Bounders did not make much money. 

Sarah :                    Yeah, I have a friend that used to work with Outward Bound.

Zoë:                          Oh really. Oh, really you have to tell me who that is ... So with financial advice what can we do with the two pennies that we earn? And the thing is, we actually earned quite a lot because we have a everything provided for us. We had our housing provided, we had our gear, and our food provided, so everything we earned was actually disposable income and ever since my first initial awareness of the power of money and the opportunity to do something with it as a young person and the guy who came in, really laid it out. It's like, if you start doing just a little bit now, the magic of compound interest will set you up and I think it's really hard to, at that age or I found or you may find it different with your generation, to really put that, to envision yourself at 50 or 60 when you're only 20 something because ...

Sarah :                    Oh it's really hard. It's really hard and I think the whole compound interest thing it actually is incredible and amazing but there's actually scientific evidence and I can't remember where I read it or can't cite anything for you, but there's scientific evidence that I can stand up and present you the chart on compound interest and you can sit there and go "Wow that's amazing, I must do that" but our brains actually can't hold on to it, because we live in the now and so we go back out into the world and our desire to spend that money now on our lifestyle overrides what we actually know to be true because we saw the chart and we saw the graph and we understood it and it's like our brains kind of can't hold on to compound interest, the concept of it, which is really quite interesting and challenging to finance people.

Zoë:                          And I think I've read similar article about this on the Wait But Why blog, which talks about this complex-, like he describes it as the monkey mind of the mammoth's brain, it's fabulous ...

Sarah :                    Yes, yes.

Zoë:                          I'll put a link to that in the show notes and the show notes for the podcast will be zoerouth.com/podcast/we and we'll have a link there to Wealth Enhancers website and Sarah's profile as well as the Wait But Why site. And what he talks about is, what you just mentioned which is that we live in the now, we have this urgent need to just embrace the experience now. It's kind of like an innate compulsion and this concept of delayed gratification, which is one of the major principles of compound interest and not spending everything that you earn, is quite a difficult skill and practice to develop.

                                    As you were talking, I'm also curious about the criticism that Gen Y has received from a number of different areas and I love you to speak to this and one of the areas and Wait But Why has a poignant article in what's the problem with Gen Ys and Simon Sinek recently got interviewed about this and he's been speaking about Gen Y and basically both of them are saying Gen Y was brought up spoiled, they were taught they can be, do or have anything that they're stars in their own right and that they can just, they can have whatever they want now. And it's all unicorns and rainbows.

                                    And Simon Sinek's advice and I actually went to see him in Sydney and a Gen-Y person came up and asked a question and she got a little bit slammed by Simon because his advice was " Stop being in such a rush, slow down, don't just leave your company at the first sign of distress, you have to put in your time, you have to be patient.

                                    So, I'm curious about your perspective on Gen Y, are these criticisms valid or is there something else going on that the world needs to hear about your generation. 

Sarah :                    I think that there is no right or wrong way to live. So saying that the way that we've grown up and the way, excuse me, that we approach life is wrong is not right. Because I could also just say, why would you stay in a job that you hate and a marriage that you hate? I'm just you know speculating or something that you hate because society just says that you should. And I feel like that's potentially what was more prevalent in previous generations. There was a lot of what you should be doing and there was a lot of sticking it out and toughing it out. Whether that was relationships or career or anything really. And so, my counter to it is, is it really so bad that we actually push for what we want and what makes us more happy and more fulfilled and more purpose driven. I, a hundred percent agree that we've been raised in a very blessed time. I think to say that we're all spoiled is not fair and not correct.

                                    But I think we've been, by a large raised in a very blessed time if you particularly, obviously if you've been born in Australia or America or a like that. And people still have adversity and personal adversity and all of those kinds of things but if you're born in Australia after 1980, I mean things have been pretty rosy. We've had fairly good economic growth, employment opportunities. Like we haven't really been at war, obviously there have been wars in the world but not the way that they have in the past, we haven't had famine, we haven't had to worry about basic things like how are we going to get food on the table and all of that. I definitely agree that we've been born in a blessed time but with that comes it's own challenges. We probably are asking these of ourselves, these more deep existential questions at a much younger age and really challenging like what are we here on this planet to do, because we're not worrying about just feeding a family or just getting by. 

                                    We do live in a more abundant time than previously and we kind of know, we did grow up with the beliefs that we can do and be anything we want, which I don't think is a bad thing to think.  And I understand the frustration of trying to work with people who kind of have this, as other generations I think to would see this like a sense of entitlement or whatever but I don't actually think that's what it is. I think what we're really seeking is a sense of purpose. And if you from an employment perspective, if you can engage Gen-Y with a sense of purpose, like why are we doing what we're doing every day? Why are we coming here every day? What's the bigger picture? What are we working on? How are we making the world a better place? How we doing good?

                                    People will stay, that's what they want. Same in their relationships, in everything. Like if something is not good for them as Gen Y, I think we're much more willing to walk away from it and look for something that is good for us and you know there are areas of our life where that is challenging and I think we with finance were we were talking about instant gratification best of life gratification. There is a real challenge for our generation to balance the now with the future because especially with easy access to credit, so we can get credit so easily, credit cards, personal loans, financing for everything you could possibly want to buy. 

                                    And so there's a real ease of just like living this lifestyle that's probably, is a little beyond our means or well definitely is I should say actually. Like definitely living a lifestyle beyond our means financially has been made really easy for us. So, I think that's challenging. But going back to that sense of purpose and passion, if that's what we're really seeking and I don't think that's bad, that we want to make out time on this earth, mean something.

Zoë:                          I think that's a beautiful message and I see that a lot with the Gen Ys that I've come across too, is that they are much more socially minded, globally conscious than previous generations because of what they've grown up with. You know, the internet, global access to ideas and information and understanding the world, that it's quite different than any other generation that's come before. So the global consciousness piece is huge, the other thing ...

Sarah :                    Yeah, I think ...

Zoë:                          Sorry go on.

Sarah :                    Sorry, well I just think that we do, we know so much more about what's going on and because of that belief that we can kind of do anything and be anything, we take action. We don't just stand by and let things happen, we voice their opinion and we do things about it. 

Zoë:                          Absolutely and I've been seeing this happen in many different organisations were the Gen Ys after a couple years are like I'm ready, I'm ready for more, give me some room. And the Gen Xes and olders are kind of like "Bide your time" and this is Simon Sinek’s message, he's like "Bide your time, you've got to get some experience" And the Gen Ys are like "Yeah, and I'm ready to get that, give that experience now, like give me a go. And what I see is ...

Sarah :                    Well, I think …

Zoë:                          I was just going to say, the thing that I'm saying is that Gen Ys are giving up on organisations that are holding them back and start going out on their own, just as you have done. 

Sarah :                    Totally and obviously I'm excited about this topic, so I keep jumping in, so sorry. Yeah, I mean I think the whole experience thing, I mean what I've achieved, one of the experience I should say rather than achieved ... What I've been able to experience in my life through going on my own, starting my own company all that, is potentially much greater than what I would have achieved or experienced by working in a corporation potentially had I worked somewhere where they wouldn't get the opportunity.

                                    Because I've just been able to take the reins and do it myself, so I've ended up with all of this experience under my belt. I mean it's actually by opening up those options and experiences that you're going to help someone grow and develop and I do think that, like you said we've had so much more access to information particularly, I'm at the older end of Gen Y, I just turned 36 but particularly the younger ones, they've lived with their whole entire life almost now with internet and access all this information like, they actually do know more than you at 22 than you did when you were 22 not you but old people, older, like they actually do know more because they've read more, they've learned more, they've seen more, it's just a fact.

                                    So maybe give them a little bit more credit and a little bit more challenge and it doesn't mean handing over the keys but how can you give them incremental challenge, incremental progression like that's something that I think Gen Y really seek out is a feeling of progression. We kind of have this need to want to get better and know that we're doing better, know that we're pushing which again I don't think is a bad thing. Well, I do agree, like experience something and there are so many things that I didn't know five years ago and 10 years ago and 15 years ago that I know now, they'll be many more things in the next five and 10 years that I don't know now that I'm going to learn. But I mean, I think it's different. Like they say that a five year old has or something has the same has received the same information that a 70 year old has or something these days.

Zoë:                          Come on - that's crazy!

Sarah :                    Just in terms what they actually absorb doesn't mean they're smart or wise or have knowledge but the amount of media that we can consume now is just so different. 

Zoë:                          You're absolutely right. And then it just kind of raises the question is, are our brains developing differently with this inundation of information and how can we more quickly change that into wisdom? Because, I think one of our key tenets is that wisdom comes with experience and age which is sort of what Gen Xers and the boomers have hung on to and sort of what like what they carry as a flag. It's like experience is the golden elixir and that's why Gen Ys and younger need to just hang on a little bit.

                                    And I'm wondering if that's not necessarily the case anymore because our context has changed so differently and that maybe our brains and our world views are changing in a lot different way than it has previously with different generations. So I'm a leadership developmental specialist and one of the key tenets of that is that our worldviews tend to change and shift over time with experience, so I'm wondering if our context is, it's accelerating that development. So I think that's maybe ... Go on I'd love to hear perspective on that.

Sarah :                    I think it's a combination, I think we all hopefully feel wiser as we get older and have gone through more things because I think one thing is knowing things and having all of these information. The other thing is actually having lived through things and that self-awareness space. On the self-awareness which I think drives a lot of this wisdom because it's this reflective kind of attitude in looking at what's happening, I do feel like Gen Y potentially sometimes can reach self awareness maybe a little faster as well because of the fact that we haven't had to worry about all these other things, we do ask bigger questions of our selves potentially. I don't really know or like I'm certainly no expert on this but I know for myself I've been asking questions since I was quite young, because I didn't have certain stresses or things to worry about if that makes sense. 

Zoë:                          I'm not sure it makes sense. If you're not worried about how to eat, you can wonder about the purpose of existence.

Sarah :                    Yeah.

Zoë:                          It kind of goes to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs a little bit, so all those needs are taken care of ...

Sarah :                    Exactly.

Zoë:                          We can now work on self actualisation a lot earlier in our lives. 

Sarah :                    Yeah, so maybe that means, we gained some level of wisdom earlier, maybe not, I don't know.

Zoë:                          Okay.

Sarah :                    I definitely still think we should respect the wisdom and the experience of older people a hundred percent. I feel like though more often what's happening is that the older people are not respecting what the younger people may be able to bring and not necessarily always the other way around, if that makes sense.

Zoë:                          Yeah, I think you're right. I think it needs to be a mutual, a relationship based on mutual respect and the value that each brings to the table. So I'm curious because you spoke earlier about purpose as being central to Gen Ys and I noticed that you are heavily involved with Project Futures which I know a little bit about and B corporation. Can you tell us about your involvement with Project Futures and what it is and why you picked that particular foundation to support. 

Sarah :                    Yeah, the reason that I picked Projects Futures, I guess it's very much Gen Y kind of driven organisation, the community around Project Futures is Gen Y, so I think I got introduced to it just through, sort of people I knew and that kind of thing. But once I understood what they did which is raising funds and awareness to end human trafficking. They're a fund raiser and they pass the funds on to service providers, sort of on the ground providers of service for people who are escaping slavery basically, human slavery, whether it's sex slavery or the other forms of slavery. And I think it was, it's actually back to some of the conversation we've been having, I have so much freedom, I'm so blessed and sometimes I sit around, you know, getting anxiety and stress about like, all these stupid little things because my life is so blessed and then to think that there are still people in the world that have no choice and no freedom and they are slaves, it just blows my mind and so for me it really aligns well for Wealth Enhancers. 

                                    The fact that it's Gen Y and the fact that we are all about being the best version of ourselves and helping people create all this freedom that we could give back and help people in the world that really have no freedom at all. So, mainly they work with organisations in Cambodia but they also have projects in Nepal and even in Australia because we do have slavery in Australia ...

Zoë:                          No!

Sarah :                    So I was, yeah we do, we do. And so I was on the board for a couple of years but since I kind of the last year I've been spending more time in America, I've stepped up the board but we still support them through the business and the CEO Stephanie Lorenzo who was the founder has recently stepped down but I mentored her, the last year as well. So I still very much stayed involved but essentially we, for all of our members who refer another member we donate 250 dollars to Project Futures, so it's part of growing our community and through that growth our communities contributing to this cause.

Zoë:                          That's awesome. It's one of the things I believe in terms of successful businesses is that contribution is got to be a foundational principle built into the fabric of the business and I love how you built that in. It's not just "We're going to do a one off fundraiser, it's like no, every sort of mechanical process of our business contributes to supporting this cause and so it becomes, it becomes like a life blood, kind of sustaining thing" I think that's wonderful.

Sarah :                    Yeah, exactly. And we used to do, before we found a cause that we really felt passionate about we used to do fundraisers for things that we cared about at the time but it's been really nice to find something that we can all rally around on an ongoing basis.

Zoë:                          Okay, so I have like, I have many, many questions. I'm trying to cherry pick the ones I really want an answer to ...

Sarah :                    And I've got to go too. But well ...

Zoë:                          It's been fabulous. Slavery in Australia, so this kind of shocks me. Tell me about that. 

Sarah :                    So there is sex slavery happening in Australia, there is labour slavery, so people who are trafficked into the country and working in illegal brothels and even service provision like some beauty parlours and things like that. There are also instances of people working in these kind of places that are not being paid to be there and do not have any freedom or ability to get out. That's happening in Australia. 

Zoë:                          Wow, okay. You know what, I will also include a link to Project Futures on the show notes page for people, if they want to check out and get involved with trying to end slavery ... You raised my awareness about something that's happening in my own doorstep, so thank you, thank you for that. One last fun question is, I see on your website, you've listed your staff as gladiators.  You know, I'm obsessed with like Spartacus and that whole Roman era and the gladiator experience. Can you tell me about, why you call your staff gladiators? What's that about? 

Sarah :                    You know, it's kind of funny. So, there's a US TV series called Scandal ...

Zoë:                          Yes.

Sarah :                    And it's really popular, it's got Kerry Washington is the lead and she plays this fixer called Olivia Pope. So, she's in Washington and she's fixing all the problems of the White House, all these big scandals, she's going to make them go away. And they take their job very seriously and in the first episode, they're kind of recruiting someone new for the firm and there's a saying were the guy who's recruiting the girl goes in and he was like "You got to be a gladiator, you've got to go over a cliff for Olivia, you eat, sleep, breathe Olivia. This is your life, if you do this there is nothing else" And we all love that show, we all laugh because and related to it because we really feel like that about what we do. So the team actually started calling themselves gladiators, they are like "Yeah we're going over a cliff for our members" like they just love it and the way that we run the company is a very like open culture, everyone knows the numbers, everyone knows everything, we have a profit share arrangement that's equally split between all staff members.

                                    All of the decisions that I make as CEO, I have to run by the whole team because if it's money that I'm going to be spending, it's going to affect the whole entire business. And the way that we feel about the work that we do, because you know it is challenging trying to convince young people to get financial advice at this age, they all kind of think, "No, I want to do it later" and sometimes it feels like we're fighting the fight because we've got to get them on board so that they understand how important this is.

                                    And we've recently had a big insurance claim of a member who didn't want to take insurance but we convinced them and thank God, they're just so grateful that we did. We've recently had a member go bankrupt due to unforeseen circumstances on their behalf to do with their business and we've been able to walk them through that whole entire thing. And there's another one that we're working on as well. It's just really big life changing things and for the team, those are the things that, that's why we come to work.

                                    I mean it's amazing to be able to help people plan and grow and reach their dreams and goals, that's the primary thing. But also when stuff goes sideways, that's when our work really shines because without us they would have been in a much worse situation than they are when they've been working with us. So yeah, it was very passionate and so they all just said "We're gladiators" and now they wanted to put that on the website and I put it on their email signatures and they're fighting the fight every day.

Zoë:                          That's fabulous, that's wonderful. Thank you for sharing that story. I think any CEO can take a lot from the culture and approach that you take to inspiring your staff around the purpose of the business. Sarah, thank you so much for making this happen. We've had a couple goes at setting it all up. Thank you for getting up at a very early hour with the roosters to speak to me. I really appreciate hearing your story and keep on doing the amazing work that you're doing. 

Sarah :                    Thank you so much. Thank you for having me, it's been fun.



E28 - Gabrielle Dolan Interview

Storytelling expert and author of four books on storytelling, Gabrielle ‘Ral’ Dolan shares:

  • Why storytelling is a key leadership competency
  • How to use and influence the organisation’s natural grapevine for influence
  • What NOT to do when it comes to sharing personal stories
  • Where to get your stories from
  • How to create a bank of stories ready for use
  • Key tips on handling nerves when it comes to storytelling
  • Three mistakes to avoid when it comes to storytelling


Get her latest book, Stories for Work - The Essential guide to business storytelling and check out her workshops at www.gabrielledolan.com

Join the revolution (and watch the hilarious videos here) #jargonfreefridays (jargonfreefridays.com).


Welcome to the Zoë Routh leadership podcast. Your source of strategies and insights to make you a better leader. Influence, improve, inspire.

Zoë Routh:           I am so excited to bring you author and wonder woman Gabrielle Dolan on today's podcast interview. She has worked previously at the National Australia Bank in corporate land, in change management and organisational change. She has co-founded One Thousand and One, which is one of Australia's leading storytelling companies, before launching her own practice in 2013. She's also one of the partners at Thought Leaders Global, which if you've been around me, I constantly rave about for any coach consultant or trainer who wants to up level their game and make a bigger difference. She's a partner there where she works with people like me, to gain a competitive edge with their thought leadership.

She was also nominated in 2015 as Telstra's businesswoman of the year. Very good. She has published four books. Ignite, Story Telling For Job Interviews, Hooked, and Stories For Work, which is what we're going talk about today. The other thing that you need to be aware of is her fabulous revolution, called Jargon Free Fridays. You can find her hilarious videos on jargonfreefridays.com, I will put a link in the show notes. The show notes for this episode will be at zoerouth.com/podcast/ral, R-A-L, and we're calling it Ral, because that's actually how Gabrielle prefers to be called. She is called Ral. Of course the first story we're going ask her about is, why Ral, Ral?

Ral Dolan:            What a fabulous introduction, I don't know whether I was excited more about calling me wonder woman or author of four books. I'll take those. Yeah, Ral, I have been called Ral my entire life. My youngest sister and one of her children and my younger sister could never pronounce my name. She'd always sorta say Gayrel or something like that, so I've been called Ral my entire life, so my preference is Gabrielle or Ral. If anyone calls me Gabby, I'd have to kill them!

Zoë Routh:           That's hilarious. Something similar happened to my husband Rob. One of the little kids couldn't say Robert or Rob, so they called him Roro. He is now Roro in the family, so we're Zozo and Roro, isn't that cute?

Ral Dolan:            Excellent.

Zoë Routh:           Okay, well we're here to talk about stories. The first stories I'm curious about is how did you go from change management in a bank to being a storytelling professional?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, I worked for the National Australia Bank for over 17 years and progressed up through the ranks. One of my, sort of one of the final roles I was doing was a change manager. I distinctly remember, I was one this major project and I was working with this woman called Marin. Previously she had told me a story about how she used to fly, she used to live in the UK and would fly to Dublin every Sunday for work, to spend the week in working. She shared with me that she caught the same flight every Sunday. The hostess would be going through the safety instructions and she wasn't listening, she'd be reading a paper or falling asleep but certainly not listening.

                                    On this one particular flight, due to really bad weather they had to abort the landing, and they circled around again, and for a second time they had to abort the landing, and the weather was getting progressively worse. On the third attempt, the captain came on and said we will make one final attempt to land, but before we do, we'll go through the safety instructions one more time. Marin said, it was full attention, people were asking questions and counting the rows and actually seriously looking for the life jackets.

                                    We fast forwarded a few months later, I was rolling out major transformation across the National Australia Bank, and Marin was the project manager and I was the change manager. It was going to impact every HR professional. It was going be a long project. When we pulled everyone together, I said to Marin, what's the one key message you want to get across to them? She said, "I want them to understand that they're going receive a lot of information, and it may not be always relevant to them, but they need to be paying attention, because when it is, it's going impact them, and it's going impact them personally." I suggested to Marin to share the story about flying into Dublin, and at first she was a little bit reluctant, going "What has that got to do with anything?" I said, "Yeah, it's our message."

                                    So she did share the story with HR professionals, and it was probably the first time in my life that I sat back and observed the power of someone sharing a personal story to get a business message across. Not only the impact that had immediately on the people in the room, but six months, 12 months later, people were still referring to that story. I just from that moment, I guess it was a bit of a sliding doors moment for me, because I just realised that there was power in sharing personal stories in a business context. The more I got onto this, I looked around and all the inspiring presenters, all the inspiring leaders were all sharing personal stories. That was the sliding door moment, and that was over about 12 years ago, and I left the bank to literally start teaching people how to share personal stories to get their business message across.

Zoë Routh:           That is an amazing story, and I could just visualise that, you know. Circling around again, and we're going try to land again. You better pay attention, everybody's like, holy cow, this is important.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah. I think it also highlights that's it's just a little day to day personal story. That can really get your message across, not the big, dramatic moments in your life.

Zoë Routh:           That one's pretty dramatic, but yeah. Maybe you're right, there's other little, clearly you work with people about how to surface those day to day little stories. That happen ...

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, absolutely.

Zoë Routh:           Even on your website, on your bio page, you don't do the usual bio thing, you actually tell a story first.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah! One of the pressures have been, you know, teaching people story telling, is that you absolutely have to role model storytelling, but so yeah, I've tried to put a story in the About Me page. There's a growing trend of people to change their about us page on websites to our story. I get in and look and nine times out of 10, there's no story at all. Just calling something a story doesn't make it a story.

Zoë Routh:           Yeah, it's more like, and this is what we did anyway over the last 12 years.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah. Absolutely. It's a timeline, it's not a story.

Zoë Routh:           Right, so obviously you've built a very successful business based on the premise of teaching organisations and leaders how to tell stories. Is it becoming more of a thing? Like what's your sense around story telling as a professional tool these days?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, look, it absolutely is becoming a thing. When I started 12 years ago, selling storytelling into CEO's and senior execs and corporate Australia was a pretty hard gig. I would often get met with storytelling, you know, once upon a time, and we've got a very serious job and we can't possibly use storytelling, so it was a bit of a hard sell. Although interesting, my first major clients were the likes of National Australia Bank and Ericsson, who were full of engineers, and Accenture, who, professional services. So now it is, I guess, rightly seen as a key leadership competency and a communication and influencing tool.

                                    I think us leaders more and more realise that just relying on logic and data and facts and figures is not an effective way to communicate, and it's certainly not an inspiring way to lead.

Zoë Routh:           It's amazing how some of your first clients were those whose careers or professional focus is around statistics and facts and figures and, I guess, they were told pretty early on that they needed something more jazzy to get their message across.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just facts and figures and statistics don't inspire or engage anyone. They need a way to bring those messages alive. Yeah, it's absolutely, it feels like it's the big scene at the moment in corporate Australia, to the point where people are saying, oh is it just a fed, and I don't think it's a fed. I mean, story telling, it's actually ridiculous these days. Storytelling to fed, it's been around for tens of thousands of years since how humans communicated. It's the way humans communicate best, it's just business try to knock those natural things out of us by pretending to be all professional and not use it.

Zoë Routh:           Yeah, that's true. I'm curious then, you described it as a leadership competency, and one of the things you just mentioned is using stories to inspire and engage. How else would you use stories as a competency?

Ral Dolan:            Storytelling has so many applications, so once I've found that once people learn the skill, and it is a skill. Even though we as human, we're hardwired to tell stories and we share stories all the time, you know, private life. There's a real skill in doing it effectively in business. What I find, once you learn the skill, you just realise how many different places you can use it. In presentations, that's one of the most obvious places to use a story. I often, when I work with leaders, to say if you're doing a presentation, start with a story. Maybe start with a personal story that actually shows your passion around what you're about to talk about.

                                    How you can use stories in presentations. But it's just everyday. Whether it's in team meetings, whether it's in sales meetings, whether it's in those one on one performance management conversations. In corridor chats, it works brilliantly in the written format as well, with a lot more leader writing their own newsletters and blogs. Once people know the power of it and know how to do it properly, they find so many different ways to share their stories.

Zoë Routh:           How do they know their being effective with their storytelling?

Ral Dolan:            Look, it's a good question. Sometimes when you share a story, you actually don't know if it worked. What you will often do is some people go, oh yeah, I never thought about it that way. They will often just come up and say, I loved your story. But sometimes that doesn't happen and you can find out years later. You can literally, you can meet someone three or four or five years later and they go, "I still remember that story you shared." You're thinking, wow, I didn't know that had the impact it did. You can sort of tell by people's body language and you know, the nodding and the way you feel you've got through. But sometimes you don't necessarily know if it's worked or not.

Zoë Routh:           So it's a bit more of an intuitive thing from the outset I guess.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, it's a bit more intuitive. Unless people are actually telling you that that story really worked.

Zoë Routh:           Unless they actually come up to you.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah. Look, and a lot of times when you work with CEO and senior execs, they don't hear that. But perhaps their corporate affairs people or their executive managers hear the feedback about, really loved their story, really humanised them. Sometimes, if the story is retold, so that's the real power, when you know it's effective, when it's actually been retold and you are hearing other people share the story. That that's the real power of stories.

Zoë Routh:           So that links a little bit to my question about the grapevine. I've seen this in some of your work, but the grapevine in organisations, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, look, I think what the grapevine, we all, you know, the term the grapevine, I heard it on the grapevine. You just heard it and sometimes you don't even know who you heard it from, but you just heard it on the grapevine. Organisations have grapevines too. It's one of, often when I say the organisations, it's the most powerful communication medium you have. Every single employee is a part of it every single day. But we spend so much time focusing on the formal communication channels, like the website and the newsletters. We ignore this powerful, informal communication channel. While you can't control the grapevine, you can certainly influence it, and you can influence it by the stories you put into it. It's really helping leaders understand that they can proactively put stories into the grapevine, that then start to get shared.

                                    That they can proactively do things that generate stories. Storytelling in the grapevine, it's not just about the stories you share, but it's about what you do that generates stories. It's almost like a push pull approach with your storytelling.

Zoë Routh:           What kinds of things would you proactively do to pop stories into, or that would generate stories in a grapevine?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, look, to give an example, I've worked with, well, I do a lot of work with the National Australia Bank, they've been an ongoing client of mine. But recently, two years ago, they launched their values and new strategy and new purpose and new vision and new values. The way they did that is they trained their top 250 leaders on storytelling. I worked with the CEO and the senior exec when they had their first day to launch the values. One of the values, one of the messages that Andrew Thoburn, the CEO wanted to get across to his leaders, what's the importance of role modelling, that you should not ask your people to do anything that you are not prepared to do yourself. He said that message, which is, you know, you're saying it, a very logical message.

                                    But he backed it up by sharing a really simple story about taking his son on a driving lesson. His son, when the indicator change lines and put on the indicator and immediately changed lanes. He said to his son, son, when you change lanes, you're meant to put the indicator on and leave it on for a few seconds to indicate to people around you, that you're changing lanes. You just don't put it on and change lanes immediately. His son turned to him and said, but dad, you don't do that. Andrew shared that story to say he had failed his son at that time. He was asking his son to do something that he didn't do.

                                    Over the next few months I trained the top 250 leaders in the organisation, and I would say that almost all of them had shared that story with their teams. The ripple effect it had through the organisation, that one simple story about Andrew taking his son on a driving lesson. It only filtered the grapevine within the NAB, but it actually moved beyond the NAB. It was probably six months later, I was in a sales meeting with another company and I used this example, as the ripple effect stories can happen in the grapevine. I got halfway through the story and they said, yeah, I've heard that story. So this is a completely different organisation, and again, it highlighted beautifully the power of stories, that it can even jump organisations.

Zoë Routh:           Yeah, I love it. I love the fact that the son called his dad on that issue, and the fact that he confessed it and everybody else went, oh yeah, I gotta tell the line too to walk my talk.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, absolutely. Also the fact that Andrew shared that story. He's, to be a really good storyteller you got to embrace vulnerability. So even that, saying that he wasn't doing the right thing by his son, is showing vulnerability, that he's not perfect. Just because you're a CEO and a senior exec, you're not perfect, and you know, obviously your listeners know that. But the more vulnerable you can be, the more senior you become, it can be really powerful in leadership.

Zoë Routh:           I've got a question about that actually, the vulnerability piece. Can people go too far with it? Can you overshare? Sometimes I hear that as a concern from people.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, look. Well, the reality is, you can, you can overshare, and I hear it as a concern too, where people go, oh, I sort of get this storytelling business, but you don't want to be oversharing. No, you don't want to be oversharing, but I think we are such a long way from oversharing. We are such a long way from showing too much vulnerability, that it's just not a concern. I think you just gotta go easy, and you know, as the storyteller you decide what stories you share and with whom. If anything feels too vulnerable, then my advice would be not to share it. I've worked with senior execs before, where they're being encouraged by, you know, perhaps their corporate affairs team to share a story.

                                    And when I work with them, I just, my advice is, this feels too raw for you at the moment. My advice is don't share it. Perhaps when there's been a bit more healing going on, then you're in a better position to share.

Zoë Routh:           I think that's a key distinction actually and that's a good guideline, because people are like, "Should I overshare?" I think you're right. If people are still working through their own trauma and emotion. If they share that, then it can be manipulative on the audience. I think if you're going share something deep and profound, you actually need to have processed it properly, in order to be able to take away the lesson, instead of just causing emotional response in your audience. Is that where you come from with that one?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, absolutely, Zoë. What I sort of say to people is you need to heal before you reveal. You need to have healed from the experience, you need to have processed it. Even though it could be emotional, you need to get to the point where you've got a learning from it. You can talk about it freely. I'm not saying, you know, you can still talk about it and get emotional, but you certainly don't want to be talking about it and breaking down and coming across all bitter and resentful. Because it just won't serve your purpose.

                                    People will just either end up feeling sorry for you or thinking, you know, move on, get over it. I'm sure that's not the purpose of your story, so you absolutely, if you're sharing something really vulnerable, you've got to, yeah, like you said, we have worked through the process, so you're in a better position to share it.

Zoë Routh:           That's a really useful one for some of my leadership programs too. Because when we go, we do intensive experience with programs and usually part of the program is for people to tell their stories.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah.

Zoë Routh:           On some courses that I have been involved with, there has been a strong push from this [inaudible 00:19:31] to bear everything, bear your soul and it's ... I've heard from participants that have been in those programs is that it's traumatising for them. They instantly regret telling it afterwards, because they've revealed more than they were ready for. Then they felt vulnerable from the, they're going hold it against me kind of point of view.

Ral Dolan:            Yes, absolutely. Absolutely, because. Yeah, look, I agree. I think some people just push people too far to get the highly emotional story, and think unless everyone's crying, it's not successful. I sort of go the opposite. I know that's a bit of a concern for some people when I run my workshops, to say this isn't about that. It's not about sharing your deepest, darkest secrets, fears or fantasy. It's really about the day to day stories that can be so much more powerful than the highly emotive ones.

Zoë Routh:           Here's the other thing just on that too, in the story sharing circle, where you're getting to know each other. I've had the experience where some people had some really horrendous, horrific stories. You get to somebody who hasn't had a life of challenges like those, and they feel inadequate. That's just a bad tone as well.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, exactly. People sort of go, I don't have any stories, I'm just normal, and I go the normal sotries, the normal day to day stories of taking your kids to soccer practice on the weekend and something happened, or just something when you were a kid. They are the most powerful ones.

Zoë Routh:           One of the recommendations you have in your latest book, which I love by the way, I thought it was brilliant.

Ral Dolan:            Thank you.

Zoë Routh:           Is that leaders should have a key set of stories in their toolbox or back pocket. What are these and what do you mean by that, that we should have at the ready, some key stories?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah look, obviously you're not just going have the one story. You don't ever want to get to the point where you've only got one story and people are going, oh my god, if I hear that story one more time, I'm going kill them. As leaders, I guess it depends on your role, I would say as a CEO and senior exec for example. If you're working for a company, at a minimum you're going have company values. I would suggest that you need a personal story for every single one of those company values. You know, you maybe ask what it means to you, or you may just take the opportunity to share what the company value means to you. I do a lot of work with organisations, sort of how they bring their company values alive by the leader sharing personal stories.

                                    They're the ones, I would definitely say you need. It could be around, you know, if you're going through significant change, you should have a story around change. Again, personal stories around this. If you find you're coming up against the same problem over and over again, and you feel like you're hitting your head against a brick wall, then have a story for that. As your messages evolve, you need to keep building on your stories. You need a variety of stories. Not just, you know, some might be really personal, some might just be day to day, some might be a little bit longer, some might be really quick and short. Just try and build up the suite of stories that you can use. That you got ready and when you get asked the question or you find yourself in that situation, you can go, actually that reminds me of a time, and you go into your story.

Zoë Routh:           How do you do that? How do you get people to think about their experience, and think of them as like, oh, this is applicable to my organisation?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah.

Zoë Routh:           How do you make that link from living your life, day to day, and going, that's a useful piece.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah. Look, one of the things I suggest people do is, as a bit of a homework after my storytelling training, is to get a blank piece of paper and literally, I suggest give yourself a good 30 minutes for this. Don't rush this process. I always find this is best on over a glass of wine. But you know, each to their own. A cup of tea would be good. Literally, just with a blank piece of paper in front of you, from your earliest memories, just write down everything that comes to your mind. Don't analyse it, thinking, oh, why have I thought of that? Just put it down. It's like a brain dump of your life. You'll have some significant things in there, you know, like, moving country or getting married or giving birth or deaths in your family.

                                    But it'll be other things that have just come into your mind. Like falling off your bike when you were eight and breaking your leg. Or getting in trouble for fighting with your best friend in grade two. It's just all these random things will come, and the idea is you just put them down. They become a brain dump, so in a week's time, or a month's time or a year's time, you need to find a story on what agile thinking means to you, for example, or teamwork. You look at the list, and I can almost guarantee you, you will find a story you need.

                                    That's one way to do like a brain dump of your life to now. Then what I know for absolute chore is after people have done my training and experienced the power of these personal stories, they just start to spot them in their day to day life. Things will happen and you'll just go, I could use that. I'm not sure when I'm going use it at the moment, but I know I could use that. You just start filing them away.

Zoë Routh:           Literally filing them in like an Evernote file or a journal or something.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, either, and I do suggest that. File away in your head, but they'll be easily forgotten. I actually just write them down in the back of my notebook. I'm not writing down the whole story. I'm just writing down one or two words or a sentence, that I know will remind me of the story. Although I do, when I work with leaders and give them the skill, I do encourage them to write out their stories as part of the skilling process first.

Zoë Routh:           Yeah, right, okay. So developing the flow and sequence and the nuance of the storytelling?

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, yeah. Because they practice, they can say that was too long, or that bit really wasn't relevant to the purpose so I should take it out, and I can really get the, just really get it really succinct, because they gotta be succinct. When you're sharing stories in a business setting, my guideline is one to two minutes. Any longer than two minutes in a business setting, people will be either thinking or sometimes even saying, "Get to the point." There's gotta be a real discipline when you share stories in business.

Zoë Routh:           I'm curious, because you've done this training with lots and lots of leaders. When I'm speaking to leaders who are nervous about public speaking and even just sharing in meetings. Then we suggest that they need to tell stories. I would imagine, and this may or may not be your experience as well, that they get even more troubled by that. It's like, oh, now I have to be a storytelling professional as well as actually speak up. How do you help people overcome that fear?

Ral Dolan:            There's sort of two ways people can go, and they can actually go the same ways at the same time. Sometimes sharing, when you're about to share a personal story, you can actually feel quite anxious about it. Because you think you need to just give, you're sharing something of yourself, which takes a little bit of courage, even though it might not be a big, major thing. So there can't be a little bit of anxiousness about that. But what I also find is when people are doing presentations. When they get to the point where they're sharing their story, they just come alive and they're, you know, because when you tell a story, you're just not retelling it, you're reliving it. So you relieve all the emotion.

                                    I can see some presenters and speakers, that I guess you would sort, you don't want to say they're boring, but they're probably a little bit bland, and matter of fact and very logical. Then they share their story and they just come alive when they share their story. It can be a little bit anxious, but once they've experienced the power of it, I feel they get over that anxiousness really quickly.

Zoë Routh:           That's a good one. It's kind of like a speaking hack, actually. That you get involved with the story and you don't have to worry about micromanaging your presentation skills, because you'll just be automated by reliving the experience.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, absolutely. Then you know, you might go on and do your content and your data and the facts and figures, and then you got another story that not only brings you to life, but it totally reengages the audience again.

Zoë Routh:           Yeah. Fabulous. All right, one last question. We talked about one way people can get started with their storytelling, and that's doing a brain dump of everything that's happened to them. What might be two other things people can do to get started with their storytelling skills?

Ral Dolan:            Probably one thing, a big mistake people make is when they start their stories, they start by saying, I want to tell you a story. Never start your stories with I want to tell you a story, or I want to tell you a true story, which is even worse, because what do you normally tell me? Do you want to tell me lies? Simply start your story with time and place. So, what I mean by that is, three years ago I went on a holiday to Vietnam. Or this morning at gym, or when I was a kid, I grew up on a farm. What time and place does, it indicates to your audience that you're about to tell them a story.

                                    As humans, we're not only hardwired to tell stories, but we're hardwired to listen to stories. I'm automatically listening to you quite differently now, that you've started with that. That's one way. Just start your story really succinctly, with time and place. It can be generic, as when I was a kid, I grew up on a farm. Or you know, three weeks ago I went out for dinner. Start with time and place, and then probably if we skip to the end, the biggest mistake people make at the end is be really directive. You want your end to be quite inviting. You want to get your message across and you want to link to the message. But you don't want to be ending by saying, the moral of the story is, you need to be showing more integrity. Or you need to be showing more passion for customers. You want your ending to be, I invite you to consider, or what I learned from that. Or imagine what we could achieve. Make sure your ending's inviting, not directive.

Zoë Routh:           Oh, that's a good one.

Ral Dolan:            Very conscious, I said that in a very directive way.

Zoë Routh:           Yeah, it still worked.

Ral Dolan:            It still worked, yeah.

Zoë Routh:           I want to share an experience with you, and I'd like your insight of this, because it bothered me ever since I had it. Is I was at a big event, as an audience member, two and a half thousand people on this event. One of the presenters started his piece with telling this great story about this soldier who is a leader, like a captain or something. In charge of a crew of military personnel and going out to face death in the battlefield. Like, there was a whole lot of tension and so on, and he describes the story of the captain, telling all these inspirational stories and galvanising the troops, and then sent them all off into danger and they all came back. Then he said at the end, that captain was me, and this is the first time I've ever told this story. And I thought ...

Ral Dolan:            Right.

Zoë Routh:           Why would you do that? A, I thought that's total bull crap, who would tell it for the first time in front of two and a half thousand people, that's the first time they've told that story. Second of all, why would you put it in third person, then confess at the end? It just sounded lame. What's your opinion on that?

Ral Dolan:            It does sound lame. First of all, I talk about what you don't want to be, is you don't want your stories to feel like they're bragging. With that, hearing the story, it sounds like he's bragging about all the great things he's done. You'd like, especially when he told a story about how great this captain was, and then he says, by the way that was me. I would imagine that's a bragging feel. Then when you tell a, I mean, one of the ways you can get away from bragging is to share how vulnerable you felt, how scared you were, you know, all this stuff.

                                    If he told it in first person, he would be able to bring all that stuff in, which he obviously didn't. It sort of, I think what you feel, then all of a sudden it feels like you've been a little bit manipulated, as opposed to somewhat sharing a genuine story. That would be my thing. Probably they key thing is when you're sharing stories in business, they have to be absolutely authentic. On two levels, they've got to be true. You can't, don't spin stories so much that they're not true. But the intent in why you're sharing it has to be authentic and genuine. It sort of sounds that, the fact that you had the reaction you did, it wasn't effective, was it?

Zoë Routh:           It wasn't for me, that's for sure.

Ral Dolan:            Unless you were the only person in the two and a half thousand that felt that way, but I would be guaranteed you wouldn't be.

Zoë Routh:           No, I suspect not, yeah. He was disappointing as a presenter immediately after that. I suspect that his opening story had such a negative impact on me, that I was not open to the rest of his content, which is ...

Ral Dolan:            I mean if your reaction is, that doesn't seem authentic, then yeah, you're not. I mean, one of the reasons I say to share a story when you present, is to build passion and credibility with the audience. If your story disconnects them, then you've lost them for the entire presentation.

Zoë Routh:           Okay, well that's awesome. Thank you for debriefing that with me, I feel much more au fait with what happened now.

Ral Dolan:            It's not you, it's him.

Zoë Routh:           Good summary. Ral, thank you so much for your insight and being with me today, I really appreciate it. You wrote a book, Stories For Work, the essential guide to business storytelling. Where can people go and grab a copy of that?

Ral Dolan:            On my website or the major bookstores around the country, but it's also available on all the online stores. You know, Amazon and all the other online stores, so that's probably the best place to get one.

Zoë Routh:           If people want to come and check out your corporate workshops on storytelling, they can go to gabrielledolan.com, is that right?

Ral Dolan:            Yup. All the information on the workshops are there, I'm happy to obviously have a chat if the people just want to have a chat to find out what their needs are and if I can add value, that would be brilliant.

Zoë Routh:           I'll post those links on the show notes at zoerouth.com/podcast/ral, R-A-L.

Ral Dolan:            I love the /ral, yup.

Zoë Routh:           Thank Ral, have a great day.

Ral Dolan:            Yeah, you too, thanks Zoë.


E27 - Peter Munday: Success is being able to give back

Peter Munday, Dealer Principal at Lennock Volkswagen is an extraordinary man who leads with compassion and generosity as his key values. He has raised nearly $3 million for charity over the last 8 years. In this presentation recorded at a Menslink event, one of the charities he supports, he shares his own personal story: a life of challenges, vulnerabilities, and the spirit of caring. Be prepared to be inspired and moved by this big-hearted man.

Peter Munday, Zoë Routh, and Martin Fisk at the Edge of Leadership Un-Conference - http://www.lennockvolkswagen.com.au/

E26 - How good is your strategic plan? Avoid these mistakes

It’s budget time. That generally also means strategic planning. But so many people do it backwards, or don’t do it at all. We look at key mistakes to avoid, and what to do better, as well 7 key ways to move from linear thinker to systems thinker, and rock your strategy.


Stacey Barr’s book, Prove It

Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why

Robert Cialdini’s book, Pre-Suasion

Gabrielle Dolan’s Jargon Free Fridays