EyesUp Rolling #7 – who ate all the pies?

Food.  It’s constantly on the mind of anyone who is cycling a lot.  One of the unexpected positive side effects of riding 200kms per week has been that you can basically eat and drink what you like, providing you get into bed before 10pm most nights.

So you’d think I would have been prepared last night when, following our pre-Tour 200 get together, we headed off for a well earned beverage and some finger food – sadly I stopped to chat by the door for less than 10 minutes and in that time, as if by magic, the pies and pizza slices had all disappeared behind a horde of hungry cyclists.  I was forced to compensate with a couple (ish) glasses of the finest Pinot Grigio.  Fortunately, there was a suitably large plate of curry waiting for me when I got home.

It is impossible to understate the importance of food to me during the past 12 weeks of training.  When combining early morning rides with a busy day of meetings, one slice of toast too few could result in an inability to operate basic Microsoft Office applications.  On long weekend rides which have run over time I came up with the genius method of texting ahead to my husband to prepare a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs.  These can be gobbled down as soon as I walk through the door.  Trying this with the teenagers in the house was a disaster though….they never got the messages despite still languishing in bed when I returned ravenous  – turned out their attention was on maintaining 10+ snapchat streaks rather than on feeding me.  Thank goodness for the large pile of emergency Bounce protein balls in the cupboard.

I’m eternally grateful this year that hot cross buns made their usual unseasonal appearance in January.  I tend to hold off from eating these until Easter week, but I reckon I’ve been averaging a packet or so a week on my own. Working out exactly what works best as fuel before, during and after riding has been what we call in technology a “test and learn” process.  As a result I’ve learnt to restrict my intake of Thai takeaway the night before a ride, but landed firmly in favour of scrambled eggs before or afterwards.  Test results on hot cross buns are mixed.  And of course a cold Corona definitely has nutritional value after a long, hot slog around Akuna Bay.  Even if it is still 11am…

So the actual 3 days of the Tour 200 is upon us.  Looking back at EyesUp Rolling #1 I am happy to report that I have reached a level where I feel I can call myself a road cyclist, based on the following criteria:

  •  My Tour 200 gear is COVERED in sponsor logos;
  • I now own more than 5 pairs of various coloured cycling socks, and 4 sets of very comfortable cycling knicks ;
  • The pony tail ready helmet still rocks my world but not as much as chamois cream;
  • I am on first name terms with most of the staff at Jet Cycles and I have even purchased a refill for my chain cleaner;
  • I finally cracked it and got a Garmin, complete with cadence sensor.

There are 2 choices post Tour – stop eating or keep cycling.  Hopefully I can find a balance somewhere between the two……

Massive shout out to everyone for reading my blog and giving feedback.  Bigger shout out to all those who have sponsored me, to my gorgeous family for supporting me, and to my 2 dogs for putting up with a lot less walks.

EyesUp will be on air wherever possible relaying how the Tour 200 experience unfolds…. can’t wait!

 

 

 

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EyesUp Rolling #2 – a pinch is not a hill, even though it feels like one

When you travel around Sydney on a bicycle, you suddenly start to realise that very few roads are actually flat at all.  However light your fancy road bike, suddenly every rise and fall in the route is amplified.  Travelling up hill remains my biggest challenge both physically and mentally.

Over a few weeks of training I’ve gained some confidence in my ability to make it, however slowly, to the top of most hills – clip in shoes are a definite help here despite being a serious barrier to my previous hill climbing strategy of just getting off and walking.

On my first proper group ride I was consistently confused by the call of “pinch coming up”, followed by a rise in the terrain and the associated dropping down through the gears and shortening of breath.  I relaxed a little when no one behind me actually used an old fashioned finger pinch to encourage me up the hill faster, but given I couldn’t speak after the climb I kept forgetting to ask for an explanation.  On reviewing my Strava feed later, I could see numerous sections labelled as “Pinch” – I was intrigued. (For those not familiar with Strava, it’s social media for cyclists, perhaps a subject of a future blog!).

I eventually summoned up the courage to ask a riding buddy what a pinch was.  The explanation was simple – it’s the psychological trick cyclists use of not referring to a hill as such unless it is truly worthy of the label.  A Pinch is something you must simply power up and absolutely not complain about.

Armed with this knowledge and approach, I recently completed my first ride of over 100kms.  As I reflected on this achievement, I took some time to ponder some of the reasons I’ve undertaken this Westpac Tour 200 challenge.  Starting with the funerals I wish I had never been to.

The mother of my son’s friend at childcare who lost her battle with breast cancer in her 30s. The father of a family with boys the same ages as mine who died from melanoma in his early 40s.  The amazing woman who would have been my sister-in-law now if she hadn’t been taken at the age of 39 by ovarian cancer.  The friend who undertook radical surgery and treatment to survive many years longer than predicted to just see his son reach 17 years old.

When I think of these people I find both inspiration in their approach to their situations and frustration that an answer could not be found – I want to feel that I can do something, however small, to prevent this happening to someone else.

 

 

The work of Tour De Cure and similar organisations is vital in funding initiatives and research to support cancer patients, their loved ones and work towards better treatments and research, as well as raising awareness in the community of how getting fit and staying healthy can help prevent many cancers.  I have an opportunity to make a difference, simply by putting some time aside to train, enduring some physical pain and fundraising through my network of friends, family and business contacts.

Those fighting cancer have hills and mountains to climb step by step every day.  I have a small, insignificant pinch of 300kms to power up which can make a difference.

I’m looking for 100 people with $100 each to support me as I ride – thank you to those who’ve helped me get 20% of the way there with 7 weeks to go!  I’m sure there are at least 80 more of you out there, so please donate what you can to my fundraising page here and follow this blog to track my progress.

Ride safe everyone and keep those EyesUp!

 

Eyes Up #12 – For things to change, first I must change

broccoli

Recent discussion on the numbers of women in leadership has returned to the idea of quotas – including this article:

Quotas will put women of merit in top jobs

I have often pondered why quotas are seen to be evil.  Collectively, I think we believe that we are better than that given we all understand that women are equally as talented and educated as men in Australia today.  Indeed several senior executives I have spoken too would acknowledge that women are frequently more competent and knowledgeable than men at the comparable level in their chosen fields.

My view is that we all like to believe change can happen organically as part of a natural progression, once we all recognise and acknowledge the obvious benefits.  I don’t wish to feel constrained or dictated to by artificial quotas, targets or policies – I want the freedom to run my teams and businesses in the way I think is best – right person, right role, regardless of their gender, culture or lifestyle choices.  So quotas – which are more carrot than stick – are in my view a motivation that can work.  Much as I will tell my children they must eat 2 bites of broccoli before they have dessert.  But the “broccoli quota” doesn’t actually make them like or appreciate broccoli, they just grit their teeth and get through it, or worse hide the green stuff in their pockets, with the ice cream at the end the reward.

I think any public discussion of these topics helps, but I draw the most inspiration where we seek to put responsibility for change in the hands of the individual.  Recent references include Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant’s article:

Speaking While Female

So I ask myself – what actions am I taking to be a catalyst for change?  For a start I’m writing this blog, which is part of my commitment in 2014 to facilitate open discussion on the issue of women in leadership.  I believe real, sustainable change will only happen when we all recognise the need for personal, individual responsibility, including calling out inappropriate behaviour when we see it.  I am a fan of the sometimes controversial Male Champions of Change initiative, because it is leveraging the status of the current male dominated ranks of CEOs in corporate Australia to model behaviour and act as catalysts to initiate change – but as individuals taking responsibility upon themselves.  So I will continue this year to create talking points wherever possible and progress my own career.

But I also recommend we keep an eye on the future and question the way we present ourselves to future generations.  We all have the ability to act as role models day in, day out to not only our own kids but others we interact with, in both the ways we act and the things we say.

I was very proud of my teenage son when he announced last year he didn’t want me to buy Tim Tams anymore because he knew eating 2 packs a week was not healthy for him.  He had taken responsibility for change himself.  I was equally proud when he noted with horror that he had just realised how many mothers of his school mates didn’t work – but told me he thought it perfectly normal that I did.  In fact he thought it was better for everyone!  That moment melted away a decade of working parent guilt.

We should never underestimate the power of the individual – and neither should we abdicate responsibility for change to a system of quotas, targets or endorsement by senior leaders.  We should all just walk the talk ourselves in whatever way we can, and remember that doing nothing is akin to endorsing the status quo.

 

Eyes Up #11 – Courage can be a quiet thing

9-roaring-tiger-981I saw a quote today on Facebook.

“Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes Courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow'”.

We are constantly told to be courageous these days – to speak up, to be different, to innovate.  This quote actually brought tears to my eyes as I considered it, because so many different takes on courage suddenly flooded my mind and challenged me to consider what the word means for me.

I’ve bungy jumped, sky dived, taken off on my surfboard far to late on waves too big for me, driven my car too fast, trekked in Nepal and even been on the Funnel Web at Jamberoo.  All required a form of courage but honestly, mostly the motivation is to be one of the group I was with, or to prove something, rather than to show genuine individual courage.

My true moments of courage came almost 4 years ago when I felt my life was in ruins, and I had decided the world was better off without me.  I had to find the courage to accept help, and rebuild myself piece by piece – sometimes hour by hour.  This was a slow and steady process, but it became a solid foundation which has changed my perspective on life and altered the benchmark for what is really the worst thing that can happen – my aspiration is that I can take this foundation forward and ensure I make the most of the potential I have to make a difference in some small piece of the world.

In the business world this week I came across an interesting example of courage which I have admired: the retirement of the CEO at the organisation I work – the subsequent appointment of her successor, and the associated internal candidate who came second in that race.  The courage of the retiring CEO is out there for all to see – roar and all!  But for the 2 candidates for succession, this has been a long hard road chasing a goal that only one could attain.  Both internally and externally, we treat these contenders as public property – we all have an opinion, we de-humanise them, we may even mock them.  But they’ve both shown ongoing tenacity, dedication and passion.

So today I want to highlight the respect I have for the courage those guys showed to put themselves out there, knowing one would fail… sure, they earn the big bucks, but they’ve both had the courage to move forward with a goal in mind each day; and in the process, they have provided me with inspiration to aim high, despite the possibility of failure.

I hope they can both sit down quietly after a turbulent week, reflect, and try again tomorrow.

Eyes Up @ Darden #4 – Other people’s shoes can be uncomfortable

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We all expect to cover topics such as political correctness, negotiation, influencing and coaching on a leadership program.  What I didn’t expect was that my biggest learning from this final part to the Women’s Leadership Program was that sometimes – no matter how uncomfortable – we need to learn to stand in other people’s shoes before we can even begin to lead effectively.

Yesterday we considered political correctness, led by the charismatic Dr Martin Davidson (www.leveragingdifference.com).  I’ve loved all the presenters this week, but Professor Davidson was definitely my favourite – for his energising effect on the class, his obvious intellect and above all good humour.  The concept of the different layers or dimensions to diversity was new to me and has changed my thinking – whilst I am a woman, and therefore less dominant in some situations such as the boardroom of a financial institution, I am also a white anglo saxon – which in different circumstances of cultural mix,  has the potential to make me more dominant.  If we perceive discrimination against us on the basis of one dimension, we need to question ourselves carefully about what the other party is thinking, seeing and feeling before we label that behaviour .   In most cases, especially with working mothers, there are other issues at play that have nothing to do with being female and everything to do with parenting and work/life balance.  I can’t fully express here how much impact this session had, maybe after I’ve read Prof. Davidson’s book I can be more enlightening…so watch this space.

We had heaps of fun practicing negotiation skills, which provided some very useful tips for the next shoe or handbag sale I attend as well as for the workplace!  Then we moved to the auditorium to practise our leadership presence on the stage – using some very liberating voice and body exercises.  The point to this was firstly, to relax, and secondly, to gain more understanding of the mix of visual and vocal tools we can use to more fully engage an audience of any size and better convey our message.  Again this has left me wanting to study more in this area as I am starting to believe it’s something I can become really good at if I practice.

On the final morning, we got to deliver our own response to the question “How’s Business?” – to leverage these leadership presence tips in a 2 minute soundbite of our choice.  At the last minute I decided to correct something which has bothered me since the 24th June when I was awarded the Women in Banking an Finance (WiBF) Turkslegal Scholarship to come to Darden.  On that particular day, I had been told I would be named at the WiBF lunch where 500 people were waiting to hear from David Gonski, a well regarded Australian public figure.  On arrival, I was informed I would be presented with my award on stage, but would not be required to say anything – which I found quite a relief!  But of course, on receiving the award I was asked if I would like to say a few words – and promptly flushed, shook my head and exited the stage.  I’m sure there were a few people who admired my humility, but as I walked away all I could think of what what an idiot I had been to miss an opportunity to say something even slightly memorable in front of 500 well connected and important people.   I had failed to grab the mike when offered.  Unforgivable.

If I walked in the shoes of the audience that day, even though they were really waiting the hear from David Gonski, I would have felt disappointed that the award recipient didn’t even speak.  So today I re-enacted that moment properly.  OK, so there were only 12 people in the room – but the feedback was great.  I will  keep practicing.

As our final closing today we all chose to write a word on the blackboard (yes they still have those here!) saying what this week meant to us – as this is the last Eyes Up @ Darden,  I’ll leave you with some of them to ponder – and perhaps LuluLemon might like to re-do their bags with them!  I know I’ll keep coming back to these as reminders of this week – as I put myself in others’ shoes and see where my potential can take me.  Eyes Up will be back soon… stay tuned.

Pay it forward – practice – believe – recharged – authentic – mission focus – encouraged – energised – acceptance – blessed – inspired – courage – prepared – meaningful – change – eye opening – network – calm – unfinished – connections – chemistry – inspire

Eyes Up @ Darden #3 – Bankrupt, but still Mission Focused and Paddling Hard…..

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It’s been a couple of days between entries as I’ve been busy with my learning team-mates bankrupting a company.  Yesterday we began a team assignment to run a business manufacturing power inverters over several years – the objective being to maximise the stock price.  Fortunately for us, the exercise was not about winning, or about the intricacies of manufacturing, but about team dynamics.  No secrets in the team room – the first few sessions were recorded for our coaches to provide feedback to us!  What did we learn? You don’t need the pen in your hand to have power – but it helps!  Our team dynamic was great and everyone was encouraging – doing the exercise over an extended period allowed different behaviours to surface, and we all got to know each other better.  It was particularly good to see that the skills and leadership qualities we all have are transferable to areas where we are not experts, so none of us need to hide behind our particular specialist areas – we’re well equipped to lead anywhere.

At the start of yesterday, we all presented our Best Self Portrait which I mentioned in my Darden #1 update.  This was a sometimes emotional journey but very insightful – it is amazing how often something you thought people didn’t notice had a big impact, even several years on.  In my case, I was struck by the way that stories from family and friends were reflected in comments from work colleagues – us women are in the main very harsh judges of ourselves, and we can gain a lot from asking others what we do well on a regular basis.

One of the things I have noticed about the environment here is that it sits somewhere between the formal corporate world and the free spirited learning environment of my undergraduate days.  There is something about Darden that pays homage to the underlying history of the University of Virginia but makes me feel like I am somehow experiencing a very modern learning experience.  This afternoon we had one of our most compelling sessions yet.  Somewhat surprising, given the timeslot in the “dead” zone of early afternoon.  Our debrief on Donna Dubinsky’s experience at Apple, again early in a very successful life story, uncovered truths on how to deal with conflict – and the need for a “mission focused” rather than a “self-focused” mind set.  I have the feeling I will refer back to the notes from this session over and over again as reminders to keep the “stupid” switch, which flips when we get self centred, angry and frustrated, firmly OFF…  by trying to look at situations without emotion, and above all remember in all our interactions that people are human, not objects.

So I’ve adapted my main leadership learning of the day from this session, to compare leadership to surfing….  It doesn’t matter how beautiful the wave is, or how great the equipment, if you don’t paddle hard enough before the wave comes, you will never ride that wave.

No matter whether you succeed or fail, great leadership is not about the actual moment you make a decision, it’s how you set up to make that decision.

Still learning to paddle hard here!!

Eyes Up @ Darden #2 – Strategy, Self Awareness and 27 women – 27 opinions!

I’m writing another entry again today as I fear tomorrow night the pressure of the business simulation may take over!  What a day we had today…. it is so long (23 years to be exact) since I sat in a purely academic environment and just soaked it up without being under a particular company banner.  Even though the subject matter is directly related to my day to day life, it feels slightly liberating and a little bit self indulgent at the same time.  But more later about female guilt and inferiority complexes…

When you put 27 diverse women in a room even for an hour, you’re always going to have some interesting times… and we’re certainly on a voyage of discovery.  There are people here from industry, government agencies, the military, hospitality and of course finance – to name a few – and they come from legal, accounting, marketing, operations and many other disciplines.  Add to this they have come from the UK, various parts of the USA, Nigeria, Turkey, Dubai and of course Australia, and you can see that despite the gender similarities, there are many differences.

The day started with a 2.5 mile power walk in the dark – it was about 7 degrees out so we needed to walk fast….. the keener exercisers ran or swam even earlier.  Then straight into a day of strategy and leadership case studies covering Taren Swam (Nickolodeon), Christine Day (Starbucks/LuluLemon) and finally words of wisdom from Sheryl Sandberg.  The learning style at Darden is interactive – there is nowhere to hide in the room.  Each Professor teaching showed accomplished presentation skills and challenged us to respond and comment on the written material and further questioning.  It was amazing how many different views there were on each of these well known leaders – particularly when we were asked if we would like to work with these people ourselves, or what the message/story was that was being told.  There were some very strong views and considerable emotion in the room on several points.

With 27 women in the room, sometimes it felt like there were 27 opinions… I was left wondering how the discussion would have been with an equal representation of men in the room.  It seemed as if every point made could be applied equally to men in certain circumstances, and some members of the group alluded to this being  the case in their areas of expertise where men frequently take a back seat.  But I think we’ve all felt the female imposter syndrome at some point plus a healthy dose of parent guilt for those of us who have been working mothers.

My main takeaway was that we need to be very careful how we judge, as without self awareness of our own natural and often unconscious bias, we may be too quick to interpret words, actions and appearances, and our emotions may take over our ability to walk in the other person’s shoes and see their point of view.

In case I don’t post again for a couple of days, I thoroughly recommend this TED talk to you all – especially if you’re a parent.  It’s about creating a growth mindset to encourage learning and change awareness, and is beautifully presented by Eduardo Brinceno: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN34FNbOKXc

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote of the day from the Professor who presented to us on Strategy:

“Strategy is the MSG of the Business world” – nicely put!!