Monday, 16 February 2015

Tuning into your inner coach

In November 2011, I wrote this post about the voices in my head. I'd been thinking about the critic who often shows up just when I really need the supportive voice of my coach. I went back to this post after a coaching experience I had last week.

Just last week I was working with a client who had a very loud critic screaming in her head. In fact, her critic was so loud, the critic's voice often came out of her own mouth. This client could not sit comfortably in silence and the critic would happily fill the space with negativity.

The client could not hear her coach at all. I think her coach had gone to sleep because the fight was just too hard.  She was also skeptical about the impact of the critic's voice.

Once I stopped the critic from speaking out loud through my client, I noticed the critic speaking non-verbally - the client would pull faces, roll her eyes, shrug her shoulders and fidget instead. The critic was still sending a very clear message.

I asked if I could try something. I asked her to write down three of the most prominent phrases that she could hear her critic saying and give me the paper. I then asked her to complete the speaking task she was working on while I sat beside her and repeated the critic's phrases in her ear.

The impact was profound: my client could barely speak and certainly could not complete the simple task with any level of competence.

On reflection, my client agreed that it was very hard to think.

I asked her to write down three phrases that would help her if she heard a coach say them to her.

This time, I asked her to complete the speaking task while I said the coach's phrases in her other ear.

Remarkably, she not only completed the task, but had more energy, focus and confidence as she completed the task.

It became clear to me that the concept of the coach and critic voices was too abstract for this client to grasp. (She probably had the critic rubbishing the idea while I explained it!) By giving actual voice to the coach and critic, this client was able to understand the impact her critical voice was having on her. It also gave her the tools to breathe life back into her coach's voice.

These moments are life changing for the client, and profound for me as the coach as I see their potential for success and confidence grow. It's always good to check in and see which station your voices are switched to. I choose "coach" every time!

What are you tuned to at the moment? How have you silenced your critic?

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Postcards from the city

Today's city is Sydney. If I was to send postcards today, here's what I would write on them. Maybe I should just tweet, but thought I'd write my thoughts in one place today.


Why is the toilet paper's placement in relation to the toilet only functional for members of Cirque du Soleil?


Gee whiz, the shower caps are shrinking! Or maybe my hair is getting bigger.


I wish I knew how those unmarked mixer taps in the shower worked. All I know, is that one direction is boiled chicken and the other is goosebumps. It's always too late when I work it out.


Walking through the park back to the hotel today, everyone was lying around and kissing each other. Not the homeless people though. They weren't kissing each other.


There's a messaging function on the television in my hotel room. I'm scared the TV will start messaging me. Hang says "massaging". What...?


I pull the curtains back and gaze through the filthy windows. I am on the sixth floor. Over the road, five storeys up, a small Asian man is tethered to an unseen point inside the building. He is wearing tennis shoes and carrying a window. He hunches forward as he passes a column which leaves him with mere inches of space on the awning. He clutches the window. It is taller and wider than he is. I wait for him to fall. He doesn't. 


At a busy intersection, my chances of hailing a cab should be good. After ten minutes I reassess. After fifteen minutes I start seeing things. I open the rear passenger door after I've seen the driver nod and the car stops. A startled Japanese woman squeals and recoils at the dangerous beast breaking into her cab. The light was red.


An empty cab arrives. The driver is displeased. He complains. About traffic. About driving a taxi. About the weather. About me. About turning right. I insist. He complains when I pay him. Poor man. He no longer knows what is good.


After walking through the park, I took these pictures of important Latin American men:

© 2015 divacultura

© 2015 divacultura

© 2015 divacultura

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Stuff is getting smarter and people are getting dumber

Just say you got into a taxi. What's the first thing you're going to say, after "hello" if you're feeling friendly? It's going to be the name of the destination. Surely taxi drivers are aware of this?

After a bumpy flight, the transit through the terminal to the baggage carousel, out to the cab rank, on my big yellow square marked with the number "12" and into a taxi done in under 10 minutes, I thought the vibe would continue.

"Hello. I need to go to the Such and Such hotel on George Street please."

"Where do you want to go please?"

Good grief! Is it any wonder they've made Smart Televisions that take dictation and then send a transcript to ASIO. What I wouldn't give for one of them to be driving my taxi right now, I thought! I'd put my own bag in the boot too.

"The Such and Such hotel on George Street please."


"It's in Haymarket. Hang on, I'll get the street number for you."

"Could you give me the street number please?"

After a sigh that blew the windscreen out, I told him.

"Oh. It's in the Haymarket!"


I called my friend JC (no, not the Messiah). It was essential I do this to preserve the well-being of the driver. Our conversations are exactly like Crabb and Sales on their podcast, except no one else is listening to us. We've been friends since before music theatre summer school and can't understand why we're not stars of breakfast radio or variety television. Anyway, I was so entertained by our conversation about writing, satire, reality TV and Twitter, that I forgot to notice where the driver was going. After the extended instructions I'd given and his epiphanic confirmation at the end, I was confident we'd get there.

Something JC said bored me for a moment and I looked out the window. I was coming from the other side of town. Then I looked at the taxi metre.

"Um, the hotel is over there! Not over here!"

"Oh, you want to go to the Such and Such hotel?" he asked as if I had never mentioned where I wanted to go.

I paid the grossly inflated fare and walked to the hotel.

The carpet was the first thing that hit me when I opened the door to my room. It's like one of those 3D pictures that you stare at for ages and then either see something or faint from dizziness. The carpet is having the latter effect.

I went straight for the airconditioner and was suddenly nervous. It has a PLASMA screen and three pages of instructions on how to use it. I'm sure it doubles as surveillance - that's not a screen, it's a two-way mirror. It might be a smart airconditioner, but it's still too hot in here and it's one of those rooms that is hermetically sealed.

Meanwhile, everything is so minimally designed, I can't find the bed. Or the mini bar.

Can you see the hidden picture?
© 2014 divacultura

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Human rights, death sentencing, freedom of the press - it's all linked.

I am unequivocally opposed to capital punishment. I don't care what the crime is or what the situation is. State sanctioned murder diminishes the humanity of us all.

The two Australian men currently on death row in Indonesia, part of the so-called Bali Nine, will apparently be murdered before the end of the month. The state will take a series of steps which amount to premeditation and will result in Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran being shot by a firing squad.

I also believe that crime is bad and criminals should be punished. They should also be rehabilitated. In the event that their sentence will see them re-entering society, I want them to have the best chance to have options other than crime for their survival outside prison.

I want to be assured that inmates are treated as human beings while they are imprisoned. Poor treatment, institutionalisation and dehumanisation does not help criminals develop empathy for their victims or reduce the risk of recidivism.

This is my moral philosophy and I'm happy to declare it.

Last night's episode of 4 Corners took us inside the campaign to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. It struck me that these two men are getting on with their lives and are valuable members of their community within the prison. It's clear that they view their own actions of almost ten years ago as wrong and mistaken and that they are reformed. Their families and wider community outside prison have rallied around and would hold them accountable for future behaviour.

We saw inside Kerobokan Prison last night. We heard that even the head of the prison had pleaded for mercy on behalf of the two men. They're not asking to be released, just to be allowed to live.

I started to think about the Australian Government's representations and what support they may be offering to these men and their families. I wondered about the credibility of a Government arguing against the death penalty when they are running concentration camps, where they incarcerate innocent asylum seekers indefinitely.

Then it struck me that we have seen more of the "notorious" Kerobokan Prison than we have of our own immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. As critical as we can be of a country that carries out the death penalty, Indonesia seems to at least be committed to the concept of freedom of speech and the role of the media as the fourth estate.

I don't understand how the Abbott Government seems to have no central moral philosophy. On one hand they can advocate for a free press in the case of the unjust imprisonment in Egypt of journalist Peter Greste. At the same time, they can be denying the media access to immigration detention centres. UN investigators aren't likely to gain access either. This is all happening against a backdrop of the royal commission investigating institutional abuse where the themes of transparency and independent advocacy to ensure accountability are being shouted daily. They can plead for mercy from the imposition of the death penalty, yet can rob all hope from asylum seekers and leave them in ignorant despair. The stealing of hope is also a kind of death sentence.

It's all so complicated, yet it's also really clear. We either advocate for human rights and all the mechanisms that ensure they are upheld, or we don't. It's not something we can pick and choose about.

I really hope that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran are spared. They seem like they have turned into excellent young men and learned from the stupid, serious mistakes of youth.


What do you think?

Monday, 9 February 2015

Tangles and angles - 50 shades of white

Today was one of those days where I spent the day in bed. I had a shower, got dressed and left the house with no nod towards hair and makeup. When I arrived at work I stripped and donned the gown of no dignity. (Luckily I had a clean out of my underwear drawer yesterday and can vouch for the decency of all my undies.) At the mention of a set of nasal prongs, a sling and a strap on IV, people start to give me funny looks. No, I wasn't filming the sequel to "50 Shades of Grey". I was working as a simulated patient for physiotherapy students today.

I love working with students who are still relatively inexperienced in their profession. It's so interesting to see the problems they encounter and be in a position to give really useful, practical feedback.

It was all about tangles and angles today. My left arm was in a sling after a (simulated) shoulder reconstruction. My right arm had the IV line for my PCA (patient controlled anaesthesia). That was simulated too. No drugs were flowing. Suddenly, a simple action like sitting on the side of the bed becomes a manoeuvre requiring a project manager and a crane booking. Adding to the drama is a very short gown, an educator sitting at the foot of the bed, and sheets that slip and slide and stick to the gown of no dignity. 

"Just swing yourself over and sit on the side of the bed." I hear the instruction and know that even with a simulated post-operative site, I'm not going to ":just swing" myself anywhere. They give detailed instructions about bending my knees, pushing down with my heels and using my right hand to lift and shift towards the edge of the bed. Bending the knees involves giving the educator full view of my nether regions. Lifting and shifting involves all the bed clothes shifting with me. The hospital gown seems intent on moving in the opposite direction to me and soon I am marooned on the very edge of the bed, gasping for air as my windpipe is almost severed by the demon hospital gown. (Who called them "gowns"? They are the least gown like garment I can think of. When I think of a gown, I'm thinking Christian Dior and red carpets, not this white apron masquerading as a functional garment.)

Compounding this is the fact that I'm wearing a sling. I'm then offered another "gown" to cover my back because "we're" going to try walking. They're very focused on the walking, even though it's my shoulder that's had the operation. Obviously, my briefing left out the information that I work as a circus acrobat where I'm regularly walking on my hands. The second gown is tied on the back "like a Superman cape", but of course, is as much like a Superman cape as the first gown is red carpet worthy.

There's a realisation that I've gone one way and my IV and nasal prongs are coming from the other side of the bed. They're also attached to me. We go through a further set of complex movements to reduce the risk that I will be mistaken for a chicken trussed and ready for the oven.

The students were terrific today. They're still at the stage where their thinking processes are slow and deliberate and nothing is really instinctive. I was often left in an unsustainable position while they discussed what needed to happen next.

The one thing I can't simulate is blood pressure and oxygen saturation - it's actually mine they're measuring. My sats were a bit low today - probably because I was holding my breath as I was precariously balanced on the edge of the bed. On the other hand, my blood pressure was a bit higher than usual - again probably because I was being choked by the hospital gown.

© 2015 divacultura

Angles and tangles seems like an apt description of life as a physiotherapy student.

What did you do today?

Thursday, 5 February 2015

My workplace bully met me today.

Today I encountered a woman who had bullied me at work. I did something I would not have imagined a few years ago. I said hello to her.

The first thing I noticed was that my heart didn't race and I didn't feel like I was having a panic attack. I would experience these things whenever I had to deal with her at work, so this was significant. I was feeling secure and successful and I was looking fabulous. (I'd had a free afternoon after finishing work with a client, so I'd walked into a hair salon and had my hair blow waved.)

It felt wonderful to stand in front of her and deliver the message that I had survived and thrived, in spite of her best efforts to pull me to pieces. 

When talking about my best and worst leaders in leadership development, this woman is the person who springs to mind as the example of my worst leader. I led a team in the area she oversaw. The team was geographically dispersed and she regularly convened telephone conferences, preceded by an overload of detailed email requests. 

I specifically remember one incident when my team was confused by an email request she had sent. They asked me for guidance. I didn't know what it meant either, so agreed to raise it during the telephone conference. 

She discussed all the items on her agenda and then asked if anyone had anything else to discuss. I posed the question about what her email meant on behalf of the team. She responded by asking me if I had read the email and then stated that she assumed that I could in fact read. 

I have never felt so small. I couldn't speak. I felt as though I was being attacked. My team gaped at me. None of us spoke up. I think we were paralysed with fear. The telephone conference ended, none of us knew what she was asking of us and I spent my time avoiding my boss as much as possible. 

Not only did this woman give me my "worst leader" example, but she also gave me a character to develop. Over the last two days, I've been playing a senior doctor who is a bully and who spends her time belittling and humiliating her registrar. I often pose the question about reading capability when I'm playing this role.

During today's encounter, I noticed that this woman did not use my name once, yet I greeted her by using both her first name and surname. She asked me what I was doing now and I was very happy to speak about my success. She didn't congratulate me. She terminated the conversation very quickly. I wonder if she felt nervous meeting me again. Perhaps she has reflected on her behaviour and treatment of me and now regrets it. Whether she regrets it or not, I'm so pleased I took the chance to display my survival and success. Today, I took her power away.

Have you ever met your bully again? How did you feel? What did the bully do?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Whose job are you doing?

One of the things I like about working as an actor is that everyone has a defined role - actors and crew. This is true of most creative ventures. Everyone has a defined role and generally the team allows everyone to perform their defined role without interference. The Director doesn't try to do the work of the actors, the actors don't interfere with the lighting rig, the stage manager doesn't take over from the producer.

It's a great example to consider for teams in other settings who may struggle with a leader who likes to "get their hands dirty" or the control freak who tells other people what to do. Working in these settings also provides a great lesson trust: trust that everyone else will do their job effectively.

This week I've been working on a project with a mix of actors and nurses. The nurses are "playing the role" of nurses. I've noticed that they are mistrustful that others are doing their jobs. I'm used to waiting where I'm told by whoever is in charge of the production and then moving when they tell me to. One of the nurses was consistently telling me where I was supposed to be. I later noticed that she was also perpetually worried about where people were and who was in charge of one of the sound effects. The sound effect had malfunctioned a couple of times during the day. My response is to make sure I know what my alternative queue is if the sound effect fails. This particular nurse's response was to round people up and question what was happening with the sound effect as we were walking out to start the scene. Upon suggestion that she just needed to focus on her job, she became very tense and responded that she just needed to be sure that there was someone doing it and that they would do their job properly.

I found this fascinating. While she was focusing on other roles, it meant that she wasn't paying attention to her own.

This kind of behaviour could be a cancer in a team and, as with many behaviours, it's often created by the leader. I've noticed that when a leader has been promoted from their area of technical expertise into their leadership role they often drift back to the comfort zone of their expertise. This is often described to me as a virtue - they're prepared to "muck in" with their team and work alongside them. There's nothing wrong with that if it's a conscious choice and the consequences of this choice are understood.

My next question is usually "When you're "mucking in" who's doing your job?"

Leadership is a role within a team or organisation. If the leader is busy on operational matters, then they aren't leading. This choice, like every choice a leader makes, creates behaviour within the team. Is it useful behaviour or is it unhelpful?

Back on set with the nurse I suggested that she relax and just focus on her assigned role and let everyone else do the same. She looked at me like I was crazy.

Do you trust others to do their job? Are you focused on your job or are you worried about everyone else?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Telephone talk - childrens' perspectives

Just as I was getting ready to go out on Saturday night, my phone rang. It was the 4 year old niece and 6 year old nephew ringing. They were calling to let me know they had finally decided what to buy with a gift card I had given them for Christmas. (I had run out of time and inspiration, especially when added to the need to post everything.)

When I answered the phone, a boy's voice said, "It's your nephew speaking."

The formality was endearing.

A second after I said hello, Mr Nephew launched into a detailed description of Ninjas. They were in book form, they were in Lego form. He had read the book. He had built the Lego. However, it was noted very specifically that the Ninjas in video form had flaming swords. Mr Nephew was very firm on the point that the Lego Ninja's sword was only yellow in colour and that there was no fire involved.

I said I was very pleased to hear he had been able to choose something he liked with the money I had given.

"Yes," he said. "It cost around $100, but not quite."

I choked on my drink. I had given him $25. I heard my sister in the background say that it hadn't cost that much at all.

Mr Nephew corrected himself and said it cost less than $100. I predict a big future as a used car salesman or negotiator.

Suddenly I was speaking to my niece. (The same one I wrote about here.) She rattled something off about what she had bought. I thought Peppa Pig was mentioned, but it was impossible to tell. She was in a very chatty mood and her consonants had fallen by the wayside. (While checking how to spell Peppa Pig, I discovered that Peppa Pig has her (?) own website!)

When I could get a word in, I asked how she had been spending her day.

There was a big sigh.

"Working." The voice was world weary.

"Working? Where have you been working?"

Again, the world-weary tone: "Around the house."

I pictured child slavery along the lines of Oliver Twist. What had she been doing? Cleaning the oven?

"What about tomorrow then? What are you doing tomorrow?" I asked.

"I'm going to a party." This statement was again accompanied by a very put-upon-sigh and sounded like the word "party" had changed meaning to refer to hard labour building a railway in the desert.

Upon enquiring about who was hosting this joyous occasion, my niece advised it was Emily. I could hear her eyes rolling as she told me.

"Do you like Emily?" I asked.

"She hides and then after she's been hiding she treads on my toes. She's always hiding. I'm giving her a packet of jewellery and I'm getting a packet as well," she declared.

Ah the days of innocence - when jewellery came in packets!

Upon further enquiry I discovered that Emily and my niece are in fact best friends!

After this encounter, I was talking to a friend and her youngest son started to talk in the background. My friend explained to whom she was speaking and asked her son if he would like to say hello. Soon I heard "hello". I responded with "hello" and then there was deathly silence. After a little while, I said, "Bye bye!". He echoed me happily and handed the phone back to his mother.

I do love these conversations. Sometimes the hardest thing is not to burst out laughing. These children have the best element of the comic "straight man" - they're naive about the fact that they're hilarious.