E44 - Uniqueness Quotient (UQ) is a key ingredient for safe, trusting cultures - Interview with Heidi Alexandra Pollard
Workplace humanist Heidi Alexandra Pollard shares:
- Why you should be UP yourself
- How to overcome the Confidence Crisis and tall poppy syndrome so we can stand in their strengths
- How to build trust - the golden elixir for leadership - in an organisational culture
- The joys and dangers of being an OPULENT MINIMALIST
- How Heidi stays centered in the challenges of growing her own business
- The adventure of surrender and exploring the Boundless self in a travelling tiny house
Workplace humanist, facilitator and interviewer who helps people and companies discover and amplify their Unique Power. A seven-times published author, her latest book “It all Starts with UQ Power” aims to spread the message that people's unique personal strengths are the key to unlocking their potential. Her popular podcast The Theatre of U has seen her dubbed Australia’s Oprah as her interview skills and unique deck of question cards delve deep into what makes people tick, their passions and their purpose.
Heidi Alexandra believes in the goodness of people. She teaches body language and the power of human to human connection. She’s proven it is possible to transform companies, attract brilliant talent and create sustainable growth by building a great culture. Which is why she’s on a mission to eradicate the term ‘Human Resources’.
She is the cofounder of Human Power, based on the UN sustainable development goals and a Founding Board Member of the Got Your Back Sista Charity. Outside of work she is an avid reader property investor, motorcyclist, vegetarian, lover of style, minimalism and tiny houses and walking in nature with her dogs. She believes the best measure of your success is how you use your unique human power to touch the lives of others.
Announcer: 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. It's Zoë. My guest today is Heidi Alexandra Pollard, very interesting woman. I'm very excited to interview her. She calls herself a workplace humanist facilitator and interviewer who helps people and companies discover and amplify their unique power. She is a seven times author. Seven times, seven books. That's a huge amount. I'm curious about that. Her latest one is called, "It all starts with UQ Power." Her message is to spread the message that people's unique personal strengths are the key to unlocking their potential. The unique bits of you are where your potential fit. She is a podcast interviewer herself, so no pressure on me interviewing a podcast interviewer. Her podcast is called, "The Theatre of U." She's had some great people on that podcast. It's really fun little podcast. She has a unique deck of question cards. We might actually talk about that at some point during the interview today too, which helps us dive in deeply into what makes people tic their passions and their purpose.
She does amazing stuff. She believes in the goodness of people and so do I. I believe people are fundamentally good. She teaches body language and the power of human to human connection. She works to transform companies and cultures to attract brilliant talent, create sustainable growth through building a great culture. She wants to get rid of the term, "Human Resources." I know. What is that? Who thought that up? It's just terrible jargon. She is the co-founder of Human Power. This is based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and a founding board member of the Got Your Back Sista Charity. Outside of work, she is an avid reader, property investor, motorcyclist, vegetarian. Sometime those two things don't seem to go so well together, but I'm curious about that. Lever style, minimalism, and tiny houses and walking in nature with doggies. There you go. She believes that the best measure of your success is how you use your unique human power to touch the lives of others. Welcome, Heidi.
Heidi Pollard: Thank you so much, Zoë. Wow. That feels like my whole life history just got shared.
Zoë Routh: Yeah. That's right.
Heidi Pollard: Thank you.
Zoë Routh: Everybody knows everything about you now. You're a vegetarian, you ride motorbikes, you have dogs and you want to live in a tiny house.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. That's pretty well in a nutshell.
Zoë Routh: What it doesn't say though is, where I've read across your website and elsewhere is the fact that you threw it all in. You threw in the big corporate life to go out and strike a path on your own. You talk about these corporate refugees. I want to hear a little bit about that, a little bit more of your back story about what it is and what happened that made you throw in corporate and strike out on your own and discover this whole passion you have around unique power. Tell us about that.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. Thank you. I was a corporate as I said. I actually quite enjoyed working in corporate. I had a great career in both corporate and in government. Primarily, I started because my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees were in organisational communication. I did a lot in the communication space, organisational development and change and HR and spaces like that. I really loved what I did. I loved building and growing my teams and seeing human potential grow. What I found, I got frustrated with, was despite the fact that maybe I could control or create a positive environment in my own team, I was struggling with, often, the bigger vehemence that I was part of.
I might have a team of 70. We could create safety in a great culture in that team, but if we were in a larger organisation, and I've been in organisations with nine-and-a-half thousand stuff, for example, and in government where there's political agendas and ministers and people at the top, I found it really frustrating that, often, we were being set up for failure and that the cultures could get quite toxic and controlling. Likely, we're talking or you mentioned before, human resources. Seeing people as widgets and numbers on a time sheet to get an objective. Not necessarily seeing people as the humans that they are and as people, and that each person has unique strengths and abilities and ways that they learn and grow and can contribute. After getting quite frustrated with that, I ended up hiring a coach for myself because I thought, "Oh, maybe someone can help me get a different perspective on this or I can grow through that as a leader. Within about two sessions, I was hooked and went, "How can I do what you're doing? I really like what you're doing on the other side of the table."
I explored a bit of coaching. I went and interviewed a whole heap of coaches to find out how did they get to be what they were doing, was that a sustainable career, how did they debrief, did they get burnt out, were they part of a franchise, did they start on their own. I did quite a bit of investigation, shall we say, because I was in a really good position in corporate and had an excellent remuneration and a big team and lots of responsibility. More and more, I found it was a bit Groundhog Day-ish and I wanted to have a bigger impact. I knew that I could only ever go to the edges or the boundaries of the teams that I was in. After a while, I decided to get some coach training. I went and did my study to become a coach. It took me three times, actually. I had three attempts before I actually left corporate. I think that was a number of things. It was leaving security, obviously. It was a bit scary.
Leaving my team was a big thing. I felt like I was going to leave them high and dry if I left. I so nurtured and developed my team. They felt like my little understudies and are amazing people in their own right, but I felt this sense of responsibility for them. We were in an organisation that was going through quite some challenges, so much so, they were having ICAC investigation. I felt responsible and trying to control and keep these people safe that I loved and cared for, but also leaving a known brand and leaving a big company where I found I could get meetings with anyone anyway because of my title and being a director in a large firm that that open doors. I thought, "Well, when I'm just me and just Heidi, will anyone pick up the phone and answer me? Will anyone open their door?" That was a little bit scary.
I was fortunate that I'd been a property investor since my early 20s. I had enough financial security that I knew leaving a salary, I'd have to make that up pretty quickly, but also, that if I really got in dire straits I had backup. It was a whole range of things, but I just knew it was time. As I said, it took me three times and I actually had to get my coach to help me get over the getting out of there. I ended up writing my resignation letter. I wrote a speech to give to my staff. I did all of my filing and everything so that everything was setup so that I really couldn't back out in the end. That's when I eventually left. Yeah.
Zoë Routh: Wow. When you tried to leave three times, does that mean that you resigned and then went back or you are about to resign and then you pulled away?
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. I had the conversation with my CEO three times.
Zoë Routh: Oh my God.
Heidi Pollard: The last time I left. The first time, they we're like, "You can't. We're in the middle of this big change thing." They offered me a bigger project and some more influence so I stayed. About three or four months later I was like, "No. I really think ..." They offered me something else and some more money. I stayed and felt responsible. Oh, sorry. Hang on. Do you mind if I just get them out of the door?
Zoë Routh: Yeah. That's fine. We saw we might have some dog interaction. I was just telling Heidi before the interview that I've got chickens outside as well. We might have a whole farmyard action happening. The dog is typical-
Heidi Pollard: That's called live action. My apologies. I think the mailman just delivered something to the office door.
Zoë Routh: No. There you go.
Heidi Pollard: There you go. Yeah. I did, actually, essentially resign three times. We had the conversation. Yeah.
Zoë Routh: Oh, that's so painful. I love your story, in fact, that you did all your research. You had all this financial backing. You did all the things that a good person does, a sensible person does, and exactly what I did not do for myself. I went through the whole same process of striking out on my own. I had no financial backing, didn't do any research and just had a go.
Heidi Pollard: Wow.
Zoë Routh: It was a longer road. That's for sure. I can assure you. What I love about your story is, basically, you're living your own message. This whole idea that I need to be self expressed, I need to go out and stand on my own in my own strength and encourage that that takes three attempts to get out the door is quite remarkable. This whole idea of UQ, tell me a little bit about that. What does your book talk about and what are you hoping the readers will get from it?
Heidi Pollard: Oh, cool. Yeah. Thanks for asking. UQ stands for your uniqueness quotient. It's a bit like in life, we often hear about IQ and EQ and that they are very important things, I guess, for career and life success. I've heard some interesting research recently that says, "As your IQ goes up, your EQ usually goes down," and that you have to then learn and develop those skills. Often, you'll find super smart professors and people that are not so good at the human interpersonal skills, but UQ is this other component to that. That's what makes you unique and what is your unique strengths and innate power. Those things, those ingredients are the things that, really, are what's going to give you flow. Often, we get caught in fight or flight. What I want people to do whether that's in business, in their career, or in their life is find flow. Flow is where our strengths are. Flow is where things come naturally where I love what I'm doing, where I'd do it even if I didn't get paid, and where I feel totally comfortable.
The book talks all about how to get to that point, how to find your unique strengths, how to find flow, what are some of the ways that you can influence that and you can, I guess, boost your power. The latest books that I'm writing at the moment is actually a bit tongue in cheek. It's called, "UP Yourself." It's all about your unique power, UP, but it's really about this need to be UP ourselves. I don't know about you-
Zoë Routh: I'm sorry. I love that expression. It cracks me up a lot. For my non-Australian listeners, UP Yourself means ... Australian translation means, "Arrogant." I love you're just playing around with that unique power of yourself.
Heidi Pollard: If you UP Yourself that that's a difficult term, that you're full of yourself, you think you're great. In actual fact, I think we should be UP ourselves. We should go, "I know exactly what my unique powers and strengths are. I'm really comfortable with developing those and I can contribute better when I'm in that space. When I partner with other people and their unique powers, that's where we create greatness." Too often, I see in corporates and organisations that we try and pigeonhole people or push them into a mold. We're trying to make people well-rounded when, in fact, we should be allowing them to be a superstar and keep the pointy tips of their star. Teams should be well-rounded. That's where we should be going, "Okay, you're a star at this and you're a star at that and let's bring those stars together and form a well-rounded team, but we shouldn't be blunting off the ends of our children, of our employees, of our friends." We should be going, "You know what, you radiate when you're talking about this or when you're doing that." Let's do that because that's the stuff that juices us up and that's what gives us energy.
I think we should be really UP ourselves a hell of a lot more. I don't know about other viewers and people you have, but here in Australia in particular, we have quite an epidemic. We have a confidence crisis. We just have so much tall poppy syndrome that as soon as someone stands in their power and starts to go and grow, other people start going, "Hang on a minute, back in your box, who do you think you are." I just think we should start going, "Hell yeah, high five to you." What makes you unique is different to me. Isn't that fantastic? That's our humanity. That's our humanness. I'm all about, really, UP-ing yourself and getting in that space.
Zoë Routh: Heidi, I think you're channelling your inter-Canadian. That's what that's all about. Well, Canadians would say, "That's your inter-American," because Americans are probably the poster children for being UP themselves and that's like "Woo-hoo, I can do it. I'm the best." I think the Americans actually model this well culturally is that the celebration of the individual is pretty much significant cultural mean, which is the fabric of everything that they do. Now, some of it is good and some of it ain't so good. I think it's interesting that there's an Australian pull to bring out some of that. I agree with you about the confidence crisis and the tall poppy syndrome. In fact, I was talking about this last week on my podcast how that is certainly a challenge for folks, especially if they need to speak up for themselves. I'm curious about this now. We have this as a block, as boundaries and border for us as a culture in Australia about don't stick up for yourself, don't speak up, don't be a rising star, don't be a shining light. How do you encourage people to get over that?
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. Great question. I think that's a challenge, right, where their common binocular in the actual culture of a country is that we're working class people. I think it actually goes back to our roots. I'm not talking about our native Australian aboriginals. I'm talking about when western culture came here and British settled is, a lot of people that came here were convicts, essentially. I know I'm the descendant of someone that stole a loaf bread. It's often why we end up here. People still got their tin cup and thinking, "I'm working class and that's where we come from and not to forget our roots." You're right, the Americans are quite post to children and I've been involved in a number of international masterminds that saw me traveling to the US a lot.
Seeing the different cultures together, I love that about the Americans that they're pretty confident. They were like, "I've got a business ID and it's this and I'm going for it." Whereas, here in Australia, it would be like "Oh, I'm not so sure. Maybe I should or maybe I shouldn't. Everyone is telling me this." That self confidence and self belief is something that's not typically here. I actually think it's time that we start changing the conversation. Yes, I agree, I think that's difficult and you need to start thinking about who is around me. I'm a firm believer in the good Jim Rohan quote of, "The five people you spend the most time with is who you'll become the sum total of." I often say to people, "Well, can you find your fabulous five?" I call them your fab five. Who are five people that you can have surrounding you? Maybe one that's really good for your health and well-being. One that's good that boosts your growth and makes you be a better person.
Another one that maybe is just a good person and a listening ear. People who are your cheering squad who want to see you rise. The more we do that for ourselves, and that's why I call it UP Yourself. No one else can do it for you, but the more we can seek out that support group and find our tribe and the people who believe in us, the water level rises for all of us. Sometimes it's who you're hanging out with. Sometimes it is the culture of the workplace, but you've got to start going, "How do I start leaning into this?" It's not about being arrogant. It's not about putting it over someone else. It's just about coming back to having some confidence in yourself.
I recently had the pleasure of sponsoring an event with Amy Cuddy who is the power posing woman from Columbia and Harvard University. That's what that was all about. Withstanding in your power and having some presence and helping your body trick your mind into believing that I'm okay. I think the more we can create safety in workplace cultures, and by safety, I don't mean workplace safety, I mean psychologically safe. That, you know what, it's okay to own your strengths. It's okay to encourage each other. The more we can have strength based learning in schools, the more our population will start to go, "It's okay to own what you're good at." Again, to quote an analogy, the idea of a candle light, the more brightly we shine, the more light we share on others, and that a candle, when it lights in other person, it doesn't diminish itself at all. Yet, too often, we see people snubbing each other out and putting out each other's lights. That doesn't help anyone. It just puts more darkness in the world.
I think social media, selfies, Facebook, all of those things can really make that difficult for people because we do comparison shopping. We look at other people's profiles and we do comparison. The more we're comfortable in who we are, our history, our values, our purpose, more comfortable we are with that, the less likely we are to even try and compare or worry about what other people are doing. Not for it to be a selfish thing, but it's actually a self full thing. I don't want people to be selfish. I want them to be self full. When our cup is full, we can share that with others. We're abundant. We can flow over. People who tend to have more unique power, they tend to actually be great leaders. They tend to be people who encourage others to do the same. I think we need to get to a tipping point and flick the human power switch and start going. They're not human resources, they're actually people. Their power comes when their strengths is switched on.
For me, if you're a leader or an owner of a company or an organisation or maybe a teacher or just a family member, start asking questions. Find out what your people strengths are, ask them. The more we explore that and then give them space and places to use those strengths, the better we all can have a fulfilled happy life.
Zoë Routh: I'm curious about one part of your conversation. I love that you talk about self full. I think we must be channelling a similar brain because I wrote about that this week as well about being self full.
Heidi Pollard: Oh, wow. Oh, that's because you're all about connection. There's connectivity there.
Zoë Routh: Yeah. Right. We are channelling the universe and talking about the self full principle. It's one thing that I've followed and believed in ever since I became a coach. Even our stories are similar. I hired a coach and I had this exact same experience. It's like "I want what they're having. I want to do what they are doing because I've had such fundamental shifts myself. I want to offer that to the world too."
Heidi Pollard: Wow.
Zoë Routh: In any case, that wasn't the question. The question I have is, back to safety in the workplace, psychological safety in the workplace. You've talked a little bit about that, encouraging people to find their unique strengths and work that and that helps people find their power. What else do you think needs to be in place to develop psychological safety in the workplace? What would you suggest that clients talking to them about that?
Heidi Pollard: Great question. What I find in organisations is, when we can start being above the line, that is ... It's actually a beautiful, I guess, model that was developed by a guy by the name of Brad Sugars. He is an Australian that now lives in Las Vegas. He is serving people above the line. They have an OWA and they're rowing their own boat. All stands for ownership, accountability, and responsibility. If they're not playing victim, then they have a bed and they lie in it. That's blame, excuses, denial. What happens is, when we have a culture where there's a lot of blame going on, where either staff or leaders feel the need to make excuses, where we're denying the truth and where, often, not having conversations. I'm a firm believer and courageous conversations. I do believe that a culture is really just an extension of the conversations that go on. You can always tell a culture by listening to their conversations.
If the conversations are all around, "I didn't do that. No one told me. I didn't get the email about that. That wasn't my fault. I didn't know the budget." When they're in that excuses or "It was IT's fault. That schedule didn't work." When we're in that blame, excuses, and denial, then the culture is unsafe. People don't feel safe to speak up. They didn't feel safe to take a day off. They're concerned that they might get replaced. They're worried about their job. They think, "Is someone going to stab me in the back?" I'll work with cultures and say "Oh, we've got great trust here." I'm like "Really? It's interesting I've noticed several emails where people are copying in 20 or 30 people." Why do they do that? Did those people actually need to know that information? No, because their covering their bum. I go, "Well, why do they need to cover their bum?" Because obviously, it's not safe. They don't feel trusted. You might espouse that and have the values on your wall but you're not living and breathing that.
In a similar way, I had my own experience when I had a team and I kept saying to people ... At one point, I kept thinking, "Why do they keep ordering pizza at night?" I've shared this before with other people I've spoken to, but I really was curious and I ended up going out to them one day and saying, "Why do you keep eating pizza? Is there any pizza place in town? Is there some fad?" They were like "Well, no, it's light and we're hungry." I realized, "Oh, it's light and they're hungry, which means it's dinner time and actually, they should be at home." I said, "Well, why are you all here?" They were like "Oh, because there's a lot to get done," but then on, I really thought about it. I went back to my office. I went, "They're here because I'm here." I'd never painted the expectation that I expected them to work silly hours, but for me, I was working those hours. I was modelling that behaviour for them.
Often, it's unspoken, unwritten ground rules. I was setting an unspoken ground rule. From that day, I will always leave by 6:00. I didn't say that publicly, I just did that myself. If I needed to do emails, I do them at home or in my commute, and then I would save them and I wouldn't send them until the next day. You know what, the pizza stopped because people went "You know what, now, we've got permission to go home." Even though I had no expectation of that, there was an unspoken ground rule. That's an area of safety. We need to lean into where are those areas where people don't feel safe to behave or to speak up or to be a certain way? To do that, is ownership accountability or responsibility? I had to own that I was creating part of that problem. I took responsibility and went, "What else can I do?" That's what I mean when say psychological safe.
When people feel really safe that I can disagree with my boss, I can say in a meeting that I don't think this is a good way to go and here's why. They feel like I'll be heard and listened to and not put down for that or I'm not going to be blamed if something goes wrong, that's when you get safety. Your organisation can absolutely thrive because people will come to work and delivery their whole self. We need to be doing more of that. It's hard. It's hard work everyday because we all want to avoid the difficult conversations. Anything that brings up some discomfort, we often are naturalist to run away from it. We've got to start learning to push those boundaries.
Zoë Routh: It takes awareness, first of all. I think it was interesting that you tell the story of a moment of awakening and awareness, everyday the pizza. It's like "What is the pizza thing?" You had made the link between pizza and expectations and standards and unspoken rules. That's what we need to cultivate in our leaders; that curiosity, that awareness, that power of observation that helps leaders read what's going on. Otherwise, you would just become immune to it. Once you become aware of the water that you're swimming in as a fish, then you can go, "Oh, it's a little bit cloudy. I didn't realize you're actually in water." There's a way to have it be more clear as an example.
Heidi Pollard: Great. Great point. Curiosity, I agree. I think the best way to go to curiosity is to ask questions. Questions are the answer because our brain can't help but answer a question. We don't like the gap between a question being asked and the silence. We always want to answer. If we observe and see something even if we don't quite have awareness of what is causing that, asking questions and inquiring is what starts to lead us to the answer. The challenge is that without us feeling safe unlike we have a bit of a circle of safety, we're not going to ask the questions because we're afraid to. We need to build trust first. Once we have trust, then we can go from there.
Zoë Routh: People talk a lot about building trust. When you're having discussions with teams about building trust, where do you start with them? Let's say, you've got a dysfunctional team, there is no trust, people are scared to speak up, what's the first step in building trust?
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. Great. I'm sorry I can hear my neighbour’s dog barking now.
Zoë Routh: It's a whole saliva of dogs.
Heidi Pollard: I can't lock him away. I'm sorry. With a team that's dysfunctional or got some challenges, and I know I've worked with many of them, and you can, usually, as an outsider can walk in when we're going to do a coach order and you can pick up the vibe in a few minutes and can start to go, "There's something going on here." To start building trust, again, it comes back to conversations and it comes back to humanness. I actually think, and it's actually why we developed the cards for uniqueness and why I have that box of question cards is to start people just going. Well, where did you come from or what number child were you in your family? What was an experience you had in your teens that has shaped who you are now? What are some of your aspirations for the future? What did you want to be when you grew up?
It could be as simple as, I remember a team I had once that were quite dysfunctional and so I just started with questions around, "What's your favourite flavour of ice cream?" Simple things like that that you think sound like nothing but they can be the launchpad of conversations where people get to know each other deeper. Starting with conversations and just, actually, getting to know who is the human that's sitting here in the room with me as opposed to, "That's Bill from accounts." Actually, starting to appreciate where they're coming from and then you start to go, "Maybe that's why they were such a control freak," because you can start to hear that in the history. Because really, our unique power is the sum of three different things. It's the sum of our history. It includes our values and what's important to us and what are the things that we want compromise on. It involves our purpose and why we believe we're here or what we're here to contribute.
The more we can conversations to tease out people's history and their values and their purpose, the more we can actually start to connect with them. That's what builds trust. Trust is not build in one act. Trust is built in the tiny little things over a long period of time. I love hearing Brené Brown speak about this ones and she said she remembered a leader or a manager she was working with that was struggling with a difficult team that weren't connected. One of the staff member's husbands had passed away. He actually went to the funeral. I think Brené, maybe, had been the encourager for him to do that. He went into this woman's husband's funeral and from that moment started to be able to build trust because she and the staff saw that as, "I see you as a human and that you have this life outside of work and I'm going to show my respect." That's what started to build the trust. I think that's what it is. It's being vulnerable at showing up. It's being human. It's being real. That's how we start to chip away into those cultures that are experiencing toxic. Because what brings us together is, there is always more than what sets us apart but we often focus on those gaps or the challenges, or the dysfunction. We don't go, "Okay, little human, I'm a little human too. What do we have in common?"
Questions, I think, is the beginning. Understanding each other's work style and what makes you tic and what you think and behave in certain ways. Are you a big picture person? Are you detailed? Do you enjoy lots of chatter and banter in the office? Do you like silence? Are you methodical, applauder that likes to have their day mapped out? Are you a person who likes excitement? Understanding some of that about each other can help us build a more cohesive culture. Because it's always the way that the person that likes complete silence and has their earbuds in, gets plunked next to sitting next to someone who is a meerkat who is a chatterbox who wants to involve themselves in everyone's conversation. Suddenly, we've got a bullying and harassment case on our hands or something like that. It's just that there's not an awareness to have the appreciation of different styles. That's a conversation. It all comes back to having a conversation. Yeah.
Zoë Routh: Tell me about your conversation cards. Do you sell these cards? Tell me about the question cards that you've got.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. We do sell them in our shop and we use them ourselves in workshops that we use. They're just 52 cards. We say there are cards for uniqueness against the ordinary. They range from deep questions. What's your why or your purpose in the world to light how the question is like you are morning and afternoon or an evening person or what's a meal you like to cook from scratch. They all varied and that's to make them non-threatening. There's 52 because there's 52 weeks in the year. We figure teams who want to draw a card each week. They've got a whole year's worth of team meeting further there. You could simply just start one team meeting by pulling a card and asking that question of everyone in the room. The answers reveal so much about who they are and what's important to them. We get to know each other.
Zoë Routh: Where can people get these cards? What's the URL for them?
Heidi Pollard: Oh, sure. They can buy them on our website which is www.uqpower.com.au/cards.
Zoë Routh: Okay.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah, uqpower.com.au/cards.
Zoë Routh: Great.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. There are lots of fun. Yeah.
Zoë Routh: That's awesome. I also have that as a resource on my podcast page which is Zoërouth.com/podcast/heidi.
Heidi Pollard: Awesome.
Zoë Routh: If you're listening, you can go to my page or Heidi's page, otherwise, whichever way you'll get access to the card, which is awesome.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah.
Zoë Routh: This idea of being unique, I think this is a tension that we have. Let's stand up and be unique and yet, let's be part of the tribe. How do you help people balance that? Is there a point where you're too much unique and then you can't fit into the tribe and you have to leave? Tell me some of your experiences around fitting in and standing out.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. Great question. I think that comes back to our EQ and our ability to read others in the room and be present and aware. I know there has been times where my uniqueness has actually played against me and I'm remembering one board meeting in particular where I met a new board of directors for a company and it was Melbourne Cup Day, which is a big horse racing day here in Australia and they say it's the race that stops the nation. Unfortunately, it didn't stop this board and they still held their board meeting on the day. I wore a big beautiful race day hat to the meeting because I love accessories. Part of my unique-
Zoë Routh: Are you a Melbourne girl?
Heidi Pollard: Sorry?
Zoë Routh: Are you a Melbourne girl?
Heidi Pollard: No.
Zoë Routh: Oh, you know you can be based in Melbourne where the horse race is.
Heidi Pollard: No, but we have events on all around the country, the honour. One of my things is all about accessories and opulents. I call myself an opulent minimalist. I might only have a few things now, but they're all very nice things. I had an opulent hat on. It literally stopped the meeting. The gentlemen around the table just couldn't get to the agenda and were distracted and then started talking about horse racing and just like throughout 40 minutes of the meeting. I ended up having to take it off and put it on the floor under the table because it was such a distraction, clearly, and I needed to present a business case at that board meeting. It wasn't until, maybe, a month later, I was at a function one night and one of those board members saw me. I went over and said hello to him. He was like "Oh, you're the hat lady." I went, "Oh, damn. Right." He remembered nothing, probably, of my professional expertise and what I presented. He just remembered I was the hat lady. I realized, at that point, that my uniqueness probably hadn't supported it so well.
I do think there are times and places for it. There are ways to subtly be in your own strengths and be yourself. I do think, why fit in when you were born to stand out. I do believe that, but not everyone has, perhaps, the confidence, courage or the positional power they feel to always do that, but there's always a way to bring about and thread your uniqueness through. If you're creative, there's creative ways of looking at planning. There's creative ways of running a meeting. You can bring that little piece of your uniqueness into, perhaps, the way you do something that fits in with the norm still. I do think, what makes us unique makes us standout. That's what makes us money. It's what makes us memorable. It's what makes those that are meant to be in our tribe get drawn to us. The more we sit in bland land, the more we're all just sitting in this sea of sameness. That makes life pretty ordinary rather than having the excitement and maybe, the disappointments as well, but that's a life well lived to me, that you have light and shade. We've all got dark sides and darkness and we've all got brightness.
For me, I'm one of those people that wants to when I'm 120 and I die, I want them to be able to say "She used up all her Gs. It was all gone." I don't want to have been the safe old lady that just eased on down the road. That's my personal choice, but I do think there's ways for people to weave their uniqueness into what they do, whether that's their pocket square hanky that they always have, whether that's I always wear my grandma's pearls, whether that's I eat certain food or I talk about certain things. It's still who we are.
Zoë Routh: Yeah. I love that because I think there's a balance. On one end, you have bland, and on the other end you have flamboyant. I think all shy people are going, "I am so not going to flamboyant," yet, what you're talking about is that there is gradient of that and you can probably be between bland and flamboyant and be unique. You don't need to be flashy. You could actually show up as you are with all of your strengths blooming without being a show phony.
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. I know I've got some friends who are totally unique, but they're, by no means, extrovert, out there people. It's the subtle conversations they have. It's the kind words that, maybe, they do. I've got a friend who does handmade cards and there's this soft, nice gesture. It's the fact that she is very much a touchy-feely person. She functions in society just fine. You would meet her and think she's lovely, but when you get something like that from her you go, "Aww." You feel her compassionate heart. That's just weaves through her life. It doesn't mean that you've got to be out there being the brightest, boldest. It's about just being real and being you.
Zoë Routh: Thank you. I think that's a good hope for most people listening to this about shining bright but in your own way. I've got two questions about you as a business operator. Both of us run our own practices and have the joys and challenges of that. How do you stay centered through running your own business and standing on your own? Because we talked about this at the beginning about leaving the comfort of a big organisation, its own brand, its own kudos and shouting out with brand Heidi and being on your own. How do you work being centered through all of that?
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. Cool. In the beginning, not well, I have to say. I ran around like a magic with my head cut off in the beginning. I went from having a large six biggest salary to, I think, in my first year of business making only about $30,000. It was quite confronting and made me feel like a failure. I did a lot of running and a lot of busyness that actually wasn't really stuff that was going to make things happen. It was just a lot of busyness, a lot of running. It's taking me a while. It's been a path. Certainly, there have been a lot of really great books along the way.
I write myself a letter every year. I've been doing it for about 12 or 13 years now. I write an annual gratitude letter. It's as if my year has already happened. I write it as if it's the 31st of the end of that year. I reflect on what I have achieved or what I'm grateful for in that year. That helps keep me centered because whenever I'm a bit, "Well, where am I going? What am I doing?" I come back and read that letter. That really helps me because in that has my values, my purpose, my history, and what's important to me.
I also play with my dogs and everyone heard them earlier. Thank you for this daring role. They certainly are unique. I love walking in nature with them. I am fortunate to live in an area where there is lots of bushland, there's also a lake and there's also beaches and ocean. I, everyday, take them somewhere different and we go and be in nature. I love yoga and breathing for its groundedness. When I did leave corporate, I was quite in a burnt out space and didn't quite realize how it had affected me, but I had adrenal fatigue, no female hormones, really had burnt myself out. I've still been working on that for years on getting back to that wholeness. I run some days and I find running actually quite mind expanding and I listen to podcast or sometimes just silence, but I love the breathing and the yoga to bring me back home to self. I always thought I couldn't meditate because of my busy mind until I discovered that a busy mind is actually one of the best meditation tools you can have and that it's about focus, not about emptying.
I run a meditation circle at my place every Sunday and have a beautiful circle of women and children and people that just come and go as suits them. Every Sunday, I do that and just open my doors and whoever comes comes. I find that such a beautiful way to set me up for the week ahead. If you look at any of the native cultures around our world, indigenous cultures, they always had women circles or some circles or around the camp fire or whatever that was. The energy that you get from that and we simply just do a meditation together and then we have a cup of tea, talk about our goals for the week or whatever and go home, but that really fills up my cup. I've been doing that nonstop for about two years now. I think only a couple of times where I've been overseas, I've made sure the keys are left out and they still come and do their meditation.
Zoë Routh: Oh, lovely.
Heidi Pollard: That, I really find beautiful. That's having that circle of people around you who want nothing better than for you to be happy and whole. Yeah.
Zoë Routh: That's beautiful. I love that. Walking in nature is one of my key tenets as well and yoga also and running and meditation. I swear to God you're my soul sister.
Heidi Pollard: I'd love to see your bookshelf because books are my other big thing. I wish we probably got a whole here.
Zoë Routh: Probably the same. We've read a lot of the same stuff, I'm sure. That would be a really cool thing to do, actually. Can you do that? Can you take a snapshot of your bookshelf and I'll take a picture of mine and we'll swap them?
Heidi Pollard: I will. I will. I have five. That's one of my things is in my downsizing. I haven't, yet, done the books but I am going to do a giveaway thing to my community.
Zoë Routh: Yeah. Cool. That's great.
Heidi Pollard: That's yet to come.
Zoë Routh: All right. One final question. In my work around boundless leadership, which is about leadership beyond borders. Looking at the things that constrain us like you do, but there's lack of confidence and not stepping into your own self. I'm interested in exploring how people stay censored, which we've just spoken about and also exploring their growth edge. I think it's important to be centered before you explore what's next and what's in the future and what's possible. Where are you up to? Where is your growth edge and what are you growing towards and into?
Heidi Pollard: Oh, I love that. That might be for my next deck of cards, "What is your growth edge?" I probably had quite a controlled upbringing in earlier years of my life. I had some really challenging life experiences that could've spun me out of control but actually saw me get probably more rigid and need to control what was going on. I guess, now, in my life I'm finding surrender is actually my growth edge and learning to let go and to truly just allow and let good. As I said, I write my gratitude letter every year. I always read one book right before I write that to set me in the right mindset. I just randomly select that book. I recently, also, for the last year's one, I read The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. That book is all about a man who lived his life just surrendering to the universe and going, "Okay, show me whatever else comes up." He just lived that way. He build a cabin in the woods and just surrendered to what came up.
I've been pushing into that edge. I've been leaning into the edge of not needing to know all the answers and not needing to control. My fascination now as an opulent minimalist is, I'm stretching myself from having ... I'm a property investor because I love property, but instead of having a fixed address myself and a home, I'm looking at, "Well, what if home was just me? What if I have everything I need and it's not about the stuff?" I'm progressing at the moment to moving and building a tiny house on wheels so that I can actually move around. What I'm hoping to do is spend a year or so just traveling. Wherever I end up, I'll park and stay for a whole and get a feel for that community. I just want to see, "Can I live and can I function and what growth will I get, personally, out of letting go of my attachment to stuff and living in a home that's two-and-a-half meters by five meters and that's everything I have."
Because I do really believe that we use our power to touch lives of others and that our life is all about what's inside that counts. For me, that's an expression of that. It's leaning into the discomfort of not coming home to the same home everyday and the same streets and knowing my community. My parents who are just beautiful souls also have very controlled contained lives. I've observed as they have gotten quite old. They're in their late 70s, but they're getting quite elderly. Their circle of friends has shrunk as people have passed away and those things. Their view of the world and their self expression has shrunk with it. I'm curious about, "Can I push my boundaries? Can I expand myself? Can I become more limitless if, actually, I remove the boundaries of a home, of a town, of a place that I associate my identity with?" Yeah, that's my growth edge. I have no idea what it'll be like. I'm sure there'll be challenges and I'm sure there'll also be amazing opportunities to make people and try new things. Yeah.
Zoë Routh: That's very cool. Have you got a lunch date on this?
Heidi Pollard: My builder and I have been working together. He's actually been doing some renovations at my fixed abode, my actual house, so that I can rent it and leave it. We've done plans for the tiny house. It'll take, probably, five or six months to build. I'm hoping by the new year, I'll be in it and ready to leave.
Zoë Routh: Wow. That is so exciting. That makes me nervous and excited all at the same time.
Heidi Pollard: Oh, yeah. A little bit of vomit comes up in your throat.
Zoë Routh: Yeah.
Heidi Pollard: That's how you know you're at the edge ...
Zoë Routh: That's awesome.
Heidi Pollard: ... but exciting.
Zoë Routh: The vomit test. I love that.
Heidi Pollard: That's it.
Zoë Routh: I'll include that in what I'm talking about the edge is, have you got a bit of spew?
Heidi Pollard: Yeah. That's when you know you're there.
Zoë Routh: Well, on that note of vomit, Heidi, thank you so much. It's been delight. You were absolutely a miracle and fabulous in the interview that you show up with. I am deeply grateful for having you on this show. Thank you.
Heidi Pollard: Thank you so much, Zoë. Thank you for your thoughtful questions, which I have jotted a couple of them down and know that if you say them show up in one of my future question cards that they were inspired by you, but thank you for valuing my input and to valuing our time together today.
Zoë Routh: Pleasure.