7 ways getting hit by a taxi has made me a better leader

2015 has been the hardest year of my life. If you don’t know the back story it’s here but basically, I was walking along a footpath in central Sydney and I got hit by a crashing taxi. I thought I was going to end up in a wheelchair and be disabled for the rest of my life but thanks to modern medicine and modern prayer, I can now walk again and my life is settling in to what will be, my new normal. There is an old Israeli saying that the shepherd sometimes breaks the leg of the sheep so he can carry it and that is in essence what I learned - I learned how to be carried

So how does being carried make you a better leader?

1. Let it go
I have no idea how much the rent is on my house. I have no idea when the cleaner comes, how much internet data we have or how the toilet rolls make it into the bathroom. My housemate travels a lot for work and he manages everything to do with running our apartment- I pay a set monthly amount to him and everything just happens. The more I have surrendered knowing everything, the more he carries the weight of responsibility and I can focus on other things. Women especially are not very good at surrendering control to others and get preoccupied with the hand wash in the company bathrooms, the tidiness of the company lunch room and having sign off on every document that exists in the company. In 2016, try to let it go and focus on the big things. 

2. Care for the carers
One time before an operation I asked for a Chaplain to come and pray with me. At the end, I asked her if she needed prayer and she was completely blown away. She was working in the palliative care part of the hospital which basically means that she sits with people at the end of their life and she told me there had been a few people pass that morning and she was feeling emotionally drained. The prayer had strengthened her to go back for the afternoon. Care for the carers. 

3. There is no such thing as ‘self-made’
I sat down last week to write Christmas thank you cards for all the people who had helped me in 2015. The list ran from police, to paramedics, nurses, plastic surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, physios,  and psychiatrists without even starting in to friends and family, whoever called the ambulance?, pastors and even my fellow patients in the ward. A huge team of people carried me through an accident that was no fault of my own. As a member of the ‘Twittering classes’ it can be very easy for us to intellectualise everything and not bend down and help people in practical ways where they are. People took me to the toilet and showered me and made hospital meals for me and I had to let go of ‘self’ and receive from others. 

4. Specialists talk to other specialists
I overheard a conversation between my orthopaedic surgeon and plastic surgeon as they were standing in front of my x-ray: “you don’t want to get an infection in to one of those- nasty -chop the leg off material”. My plastic surgeon immediately ordered tests for infection and changed my wound dressing regiment. Although my leg was healing up fine, the specialists knew the real risks and took responsibility for making sure nothing went wrong. Both are respected surgeons in Sydney and they valued each other’s judgement and knowledge. Always listen to specialists and don’t be reckless with other people’s wellbeing. 

5. The most valuable tool you have as a leader is empathy

I remember grumbling to God one evening in the hospital about why this had happened to me and saying ‘I didn’t ask for this’. He replied ‘nobody does’. I looked around the hospital ward and instantly realised that nobody wants to be in hospital or sick or dependent on others. Nobody asks for suffering. For all sorts of reasons, people can end up injured, down on their luck, divorced, unhappy in their job -that’s life and empathy equips you with mercy to help people up where they are at and get them going again. Your job as a leader is never to judge or strategise some intellectual breakdown of how that person got in that situation- your job is to get them up and get them going again. 

6. Hurry up and wait
You spend a lot of time in the healthcare system waiting. Waiting for skin grafts to take, waiting for doctor’s rounds, waiting for the waiting room to open so you can wait. I’ve got very good at waiting in 2015 and it has made me a lot happier. If I have to wait for something, I just sit….and wait.  Stillness is a skill you have to learn and when you can be still, you’ll be a lot happier and interact better with others. 

7. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to trust them
When I had my first outpatient physio appointment I could see that they were a bit concerned about my injury. They had never dealt with something so serious and wanted to make sure they could treat me effectively. I was a little nervous but I was too physically and emotionally exhausted to go shopping around for physios. So I trusted them. The physio rang the surgeons and read lots of medical articles on my injury. He used me as a university teaching case study and trained the other physios in the practice. One morning he came in and proudly declared “congratulations, you aren’t our worst patient anymore!”. Because I had taken a chance on them, they now have other motor vehicle accident patients and their business is growing. I saw their eagerness to learn and genuine care for me and we both benefited from choosing to trust. 

Thanks to all of my online and offline friends for your support in 2015. 2016 will be the best year yet -I’m believing that for me and I’m believing it for you to. 

A conversation with Sir John Kirwan on mental wellness

On Saturday I went along to ‘a conversation with Sir John Kirwan' which combined his book launch with World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW14 

"doing those TV ads was the scariest thing I've ever done", Sir John Kirwan in stylish tan boots w pink/purple sock combo

If you don’t know who John Kirwan is, he is always high on the most trusted person in New Zealand list and that’s a little bit because he was an All Black and a lot because he is the front man for a series of mental health TV ads that are amazing and basically changed the whole conversation around mental health in this country. He’s also the current coach of the Auckland Blues rugby team.

Draft FCB- Mental Health Foundation TV ads smashed the mental health services

Thankfully, the MC person cut off all the yawn-fest rugby chatter and went straight into the topics he normally speaks on: depression as an illness not a weakness and how to care for self and others.  John told his story of ‘having it all’ and being a shaking, anxiety-ridden mess unable to communicate his fears and the very real physical symptoms that made his life hell. 

I think that was the main thing that made me stop and think. We spend a lot of time looking at the causes and trigger events for anxiety, depression, panic attacks and the like, yet if someone has heart disease or cancer we get them straight into specialist care for diagnosis and treatment.  Truth is, we probably don’t have a lot of the services that we should have for mental health and it’s going to take a while before our services catch up as we have only just started talking about it and acknowledging depression as a real thing.  I know some people are a little critical in the ‘it’s alright for him because he’s an All Black and he has money and can pay for private treatment and therapy'  sense and he openly talked about that. People in the audience shared their stories both positive and negative of their experiences of trying to get help for themselves and others. I think the fact that 150 people could sit in a room and freely talk about their personal challenges with empathy and a desire to see things improved is a huge step forward in one generation.  Thanks for the TV ads John. 

"Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, you’re of no use to anyone else if your mental health isn’t right"

me + JK

I was especially happy to hear him talk about ‘everyday wellness’ and slowing down to appreciate the little things as I think, in business especially, we associate rest with holidays and taking time off which has never made any sense to me. I don’t necessarily want time off or annual leave, but I do want to be able to contribute in a way that’s sustainable so I don’t lose my mind and get unhealthy and frustrated and have to keep working against myself all the time. We focus on the two weeks off and not doing the other 50 weeks in a more human way which hopefully will start to change as people start to realise that you can enjoy your work and not have to hold out for holidays your whole life. 

John went over the importance of getting fear out in the open and talked about it in the context of getting his current, dream job as the coach of the Auckland Blues. 

 “You’re either the coach that’s just been sacked or the one waiting to get sacked”

"can you Photoshop the side on one- I'm a fat b*stard at the moment" -I tried a tasteful crop John...

Leadership and coaching is serving and giving unconditionally to your team and not expecting anything in return. The grind can be draining and the anxiety of ‘what if it doesn’t work out’ can screw with your chances of getting on with the job and making good decisions. Admitting that you’re not bulletproof and that you need to prioritise, small everyday things like cooking a meal, going for a walk or reading a book can keep you anchored as the inevitable waves of challenges like media criticism, team blow outs and losing/failure occur. 

His book focuses on raising teen boys and the need to educate young people about stress, fear and symptoms of depression so that people won’t have to go through “the six or seven years of medication and therapy” like he had to. John also wants to drive change for adding mental wellness and stress management as part of the high school curriculum which I think is a winner. I think perhaps the other JK (Prime Minister John Key) might be getting a phone call. 

“Put it on your knee. Don’t put it in the cupboard”

Talk to your fear and anxiety. Get it out in the open and become self aware about what you’re experiencing.  It was a long walk out for John and he still works on it everyday and I think that’s an important message too. 

More information Mental Health Foundation

Seven leadership tips from Queen Liz

While the whole notion of blue-blooded humans really doesn't sit well with my egalitarian sensibilities, I have grown to admire Queen Elizabeth II as a leader.

I watched an excellent documentary the other night 'Ten days that made the Queen' . Here are a seven points on leadership I took from it.

1. Leadership and experience are two different things

Young Liz was only 25 when she was crowned Queen. She always took her role as a servant of the people very seriously and immediately asserted herself on affairs of State and as leader of the Church of England. While she may not have had the experience, she has always possessed the wisdom and sureness of self to stand alone and not be puppeted by the old hands. Quite extraordinary in a post-war kingdom that was more powerful than the USA, USSR or China.  

2. Don't forget the power of your rank

In 1957, the Queen appointed Harold Macmillan, Chancellor of the Exchequer, as successor to Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden. The Queen's endorsement sent a very clear message to the people of England that the aristocratic classes were still only giving jobs to those in their polo clubs and that Parliament was not entirely democratic.

The subsequent Suez Crisis (under a  Eden/Macmillan leadership) is credited with triggering the
fall of the British Empire and the rise of the USA as a superpower. The invasion was a disaster and the Queen's trust of reliable yet incompetent leaders took her empire down on the world stage. The people of England weren't happy and the monarchy was threatened. Post-Suez, the Queen vowed to never get involved in 'king-making' parliamentary or commonwealth leadership.

3. Sometimes, it pays to keep your opinions to yourself

The Queen won't comment on any of the portraits that are painted of her. She won't publicly comment on the governance of Commonwealth states or the British parliament. What did she think of Kate Middleton's dress? Who knows?

She knows that her opinion holds a lot more weight than the average Joe and she uses her powers for diplomatic good.

4. You have to be superhuman and human all at the same time

The only time the Queen was seen crying publicly was when the royal yacht was decommissioned. She didn't cry when Lady Diana died. The Queen's handling of Diana's death received a brutal backlash and showed a monarchy completely out of touch with its people.

The Queen prides herself on high standards of morality but the lack of emotion and empathy when simulcast against streets of wailing housewives and children with bunches of flowers showed an evil mother-in-law who didn't seem to understand that her grandchildren had lost their mother. 

The subsequent, Tony Blair prompted, Diana tribute video shows the achilles of the Queen who has been trained her whole life to maintain a stiff upper lip. It looks like a terrible hostage video and, in some ways, the public outcry really did put a gun to her head.

5. It's the quiet ones you have to watch

The Queen is surrounded by lots of deferential, curtseying, gift-giving types that want to be in her favour. Some of her most trusted advisors openly disagree with her and refuse to get mesmerised by her sparkly crown. Conversely, she is famous for ignoring the advice of her many pandering minions. I've yet to meet a good leader that doesn't encourage healthy debate and Liz is known away from the cameras as "talking strategy like a machine-gun."

6. Take it on the chin and learn from your mistakes

"1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis" Queen Elizabeth II 24 November 1992.
(The "sympathetic correspondent" was later revealed to be her former assistant private secretary, Sir Edward Ford).

In one year, the Queen had three of her children in divorce court, an uninsured fire at Windsor castle, a scandalous tell-all book from Diana and a British public that was sick of paying for the circus.

No point in candy-coating it when you have a shocker.

7. Anyone can get knocked off their perch

As my mother always says "one day the ass that you kick will be the ass you have to kiss."

We've seen the recent falls of Mubarak, Hussein, Gaddafi and Bin Laden. Steve Jobs got bumped out of Apple for a bit and who can keep up with who is at the helm of Yahoo? JFK was assassinated and Lady Diana was killed in a car crash. Nelson Mandela was eventually President of South Africa, Iceland melted and now, everybody wants their economy to be like China's.

Any seat of power worth having will always attract leadership challenges. Whether it's Charles or William or Harry or someone from China that eventually sits on the throne, I think we can safely say that the new democracy we're experiencing won't afford a monarchy in its current form for too much longer.

Queen Elizabeth II is an impeccable leader with a wisdom and perspective on world history and people that we can all learn from in the get rich quick iPhone app business world.