Author Archives: Sonia McDonald

Introducing Sonia McDonald, Director LeadershipHQ

Who is Sonia McDonald?

Sonia McDonald from LeadershipHQ has over 20 years human resource management and organisational development experience. She has held senior roles in organisational development, learning and development, strategic recruitment and talent management fields. She has worked in various industries such as retail, hotels, hospitality, education, construction and engineering, consulting, executive search and the public sector around Australia and around the globe. She is a dynamic, passionate, innovative and collaborative consultant and coach where her focus is on high performance cultures, leadership, teams and individuals!

Sonia’s work at LeadershipHQ is focused on delivering customised programs and interventions to ensure your unique business and people requirements are met. LeadershipHQ is dedicated to delivering exceptional outcomes for their client’s organisations and their people.  She is actively involved and passionate about best practice and innovative tools and strategies around Leadership, Organisational Development, Executive Search and Talent…

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Why Change is Hard!

Is 2012 the year of change? Last year I was in such a rush! A rush to learn, grow, live, work and change. Change many of those imbedded habits of mine and stop the rush. Rush to where, I don’t know but I felt like 2011 was a year of us all chasing something and not stepping back of looking at what is happening and what is really important. Like many of us, I have goals and dreams but I have a block around making changes or reflecting…why?

Last year I talked alot about what I wanted, my goals, changes I wanted to make in my life but I was just talking. Change is Hard! This week I attended my Neuroscience of Leadership workshop on Facilitating Change. Timely given that it has be presented to me in every aspect of my life and I seem to be stagnant on doing anything. As leaders, the ability to change and facilitate and influence change is a powerful process – but why is it so hard.

I have seen and heard it all. Why can’t you just do this? Why can’t you change your mind or life? How are you going to handle that situation you said you would handle months ago? It is easy to what to change others or things around us – but what happens when we want or need to change within ourselves?

Dan Heath, co-author of some great reads such as Made to Stick and Switch describes it like this – Self Control is Exhaustible! And it is – believe me! The brain also loves to conserve energy. In turn, when we use our brains to make changes in our beliefs, habits and behaviours, the brain needs to work a little. How exhausting for the brain…Sometimes we just need a little push, some support, a reward (the brain loves reward) and reinforcement.

Dan Heath wrote (Fast Company June 2010) – youtube link attached

You hear something a lot about change: People won’t change because they’re too lazy. Well, I’m here to stick up for the lazy people. In fact, I want to argue that what looks like laziness is actually exhaustion. The proof comes from a psychology study that is absolutely fascinating.

So picture this: Students come into a lab. It smells amazing—someone has just baked chocolate-chip cookies. On a table in front of them, there are two bowls. One has the fresh-baked cookies. The other has a bunch of radishes. Some of the students are asked to eat some cookies but no radishes. Others are told to eat radishes but no cookies, and while they sit there, nibbling on rabbit food, the researchers leave the room – which is intended to tempt them and is frankly kind of sadistic. But in the study none of the radish-eaters slipped – they showed admirable self-control. And meanwhile, it probably goes without saying that the people gorging on cookies didn’t experience much temptation.

Then, the two groups are asked to do a second, seemingly unrelated task—basically a kind of logic puzzle where they have to trace out a complicated geometric pattern without raising their pencil. Unbeknownst to them, the puzzle can’t be solved. The scientists are curious how long they’ll persist at a difficult task. So the cookie-eaters try again and again, for an average of 19 minutes, before they give up. But the radish-eaters—they only last an average of 8 minutes. What gives?

The answer may surprise you: They ran out of self-control. Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. And I don’t mean self-control only in the sense of turning down cookies or alcohol, I mean a broader sense of self-supervision—any time you’re paying close attention to your actions, like when you’re having a tough conversation or trying to stay focused on a paper you’re writing. This helps to explain why, after a long hard day at the office, we’re more likely to snap at our spouses or have one drink too many—we’ve depleted our self-control.

And here’s why this matters for change: In almost all change situations, you’re substituting new, unfamiliar behaviors for old, comfortable ones, and that burns self-control. Let’s say I present a new morning routine to you that specifies how you’ll shower and brush your teeth. You’ll understand it and you might even agree with my process. But to pull it off, you’ll have to supervise yourself very carefully. Every fiber of your being will want to go back to the old way of doing things. Inevitably, you’ll slip. And if I were uncharitable, I’d see you going back to the old way and I’d say, You’re so lazy. Why can’t you just change?

This brings us back to the point I promised I’d make: That what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Change wears people out—even well-intentioned people will simply run out of fuel.

I knew it – I wasn’t lazy! But self control is hard. Really hard. What can you do to practice self control? Reflection and being conscious of it is a great start. Taking the step of consciously making changes is a harder step – but we can all do it. I have myself taken some positive steps and actions! Changing my mind is changing my brain.

My work as a change facilitator is so rewarding especially when I can see, hear and feel the difference I am making in my client’s  lives whether it is with work, their growth as a leader or in their roles. Hence my performance coach is supporting me in my change process – and empowering me to take risks, stop being in a rush and make changes! I am on my way to achieving my goals and dreams and I am very excited. We all need a little push on occasion…Bring on the Change!


Neuroscience of leadership

Understanding the brain in terms of leadership effectiveness has been one of the most powerful learnings I have encountered in my work, role and with my teams.

The focus of the workshop was on learning and memory, how the brain responds to change, lifting employee engagement and creativity, collaboration and finally a favourite of mine Mindfulness.

Since starting my diploma of Neuroscience of leadership, I have not only been so much more aware of my own thoughts, mindfulness and emotions, but taking on the work as a leader myself in coaching and developing leaders around me. This become a powerful tool and skill. The research and findings around the brain has been in recent years extraordinary through the use of MRIs and we as leaders now how the opportunity to understand how this amazing organ truly works and functions.

It is proven that meditation, mindfulness and being present in the moment are strategies that are incredibly paramount for keeping our brain healthy. By improving our thinking and emotions, we become more centered and open to innovation and creativity. More aware and available for those insights and a-ha moments. Have you ever asked yourself, what am I feeling right now? What am I doing right now? What is most compelling to my awareness right now? Try it? Close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself those questions?

A-ha moments! We all have them….Where is the best place for your a-ha moments? Running, walking, driving…mine are in the shower! When my mind is clear and I don’t have a million thoughts running through my head or when I am not distracted by a million things at once. By using this same process in the aspects of our lives when we feel over whelmed, stressed or we need to take a minute to think, close your eyes for just a minute and take a deep breath, and clear the mind…my favorite metaphor, which I have learnt through my diploma is the mind is like a stage. Take this actors of the stage and clear the mind…your are the director and you are in control of the stage, your brain!

The whole concept of neuroplasticity really intrigues me. The way as even as adults we can change our thinking and learning and in turn beliefs. Rewiring the brain and changing how we think and feel about so many things. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “a mind stretched by a new idea, never regains it’s original dimensions.”

Imagine by truly understanding and appreciating our brain, one of the most important organs in our bodies…how effective and insightful we can be in terms of all aspects of our lives. For me this has been the greatest insight. I am a leader who is dedicated to growing, developing and advising many leaders. This knowledge and learning has made them shift in their own thinking around managing distractions, creative decision making, collaboration, change and their own emotions and mindfulness. Compelling stuff!

If you would love to know more, I would recommend any books this area by David Rock, Jeffery Schwartz or Daniel Goldman. Ronald D. Siegel has a great book – The Mindfulness Soluton.

Contact me if you would like to find out more about the Diploma in Brisbane or Melbourne and SCOD – Strategy, Change and Organisational Development. We are holding another SCOD workshop later this year in Brisbane.

Positive thoughts always, Sonia


Strengths…

I have just completed my Extraordinary Coach program by Zenger Folkman and it was fantastic and quite enlightning. Why? I have been working as an executive coach for a a number of years and I love working with clients and leaders who are willing to take on their role and focus on making a difference on themselves, their teams and the organisation.

When we become part of a journey of working with a coach which in itself is such an amazing and powerful experience; we become part of the process looking into a mirror at ourselves and this can be quite confronting. The clients and leaders I work with immediately want to know their weaknesses – what do I need to fix?  We all have weaknesses, but we also have some profound strengths. And aren’t our strengths more fun to work with – I mean they are strengths for a reason. When we start to focus on our strengths, other companion competencies also tend to become more effective and our weaknesses become a little obsolete…

There are a number of tools I use to determine my leader’s strengths – and one of my favourite is not only the 360 Extraordinary Leader Assessment but also Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0.

If you want to know about leadership and focusing on strengths, please read this article by Zenger Folkman, “Leadership under the Microscope”.

Leadership Under the Microscope

Ask yourself – what are your strengths and how are you capitalising and working on them everyday?

Strengths Finder 2.0 Book Link 


Organisational Development Competencies…

Recently a colleague and I were discussing the competencies, traits and key skills that Organisational Development Practitioners need in today’s world…Big question!

It is exciting to see Organisational Development taking up its vital role within the organisation and system, but does the CEO or Human Resources for that matter know what OD is really about?

So I decided to put the answer out there to my network. I would have to say, an interesting topic and one will simliar answers.

  • Persistence
  • Enthusiasm
  • Patience
  • Consistency
  • Integrity/Honesty
  • Good listener/communicator
  • Strong leadership/coaching skills

Yes agree with another colleague of mine in relation to the above – similar to leadership qualities? A must have is Integrity – but I think this is an innate quality.

Then we have;

  • Organisational Awareness & understanding of own organisation
  • Marketing OD
  • Change Management
  • Project Management
  • Consulting Skills
  • Managing Service Level Agreements
  • Analysing & evaluating metrics & data
  • Advanced Facilitation Skills
  • Interpersonal skills
I for one love my role in the OD space, I am always learning and improving my strengths, competencies and skills in this arena, but how do we truly take up our role in organisational development – and ultimately partner with the CEO and Human Resources? One colleague mentioned that we need to be holistic in our role as well as have an understanding of our stakeholders and their capability. I agree.
If you are interested in more information in this area – I have attached a great piece of information on this subjection a word document.

I would welcome and love your insight on this area.

Enjoy! Sonia


Shine…

What does it take to Shine – is it all in the attitude, doing what you love or feeling connected? I wanted to share with you about this wonderful new book that has been released called Shine. Now below is a summary from Amazon, yes I copied and pasted it onto my blog. Why reinvent the wheel I say!

I am currently reading about 5 books at once on Brain Science, lets just say reading about the pre-frontal cortex and amygdala is really fascinating but boy it is a lot to take in. I should have taken more notice in science at school. But learning about how the brain works from an organisational effectiveness point of view – really interesting!

This book is a different and I like how he tells a story – with some great examples and tools. There are some great insights, ideas and lessons…And you can implement them! Fantastic I say! But why read a book on this stuff if you can’t take the lessons and ideas and use them to make changes, a difference or even change your own thinking. Let’s face it we all like to Shine…okay maybe I am projecting there because I certainly do!

Book overview

“Your job as a manager is getting harder all the time. But your most critical responsibility—especially in today’s world of intensifying competition—is how to help your people shine their brightest.

How do you inspire solid contributors to strive for more? What should you do if a star player falls off their game?

In Shine, bestselling author, psychiatrist, and ADD expert Edward Hallowell draws on brain science, performance research, and his own experience helping people maximize their potential to present a proven process for getting the best from your people:

-Select—put the right people in the right job, and give them responsibilities that “light up” their brain.
-Connect—strengthen interpersonal bonds among team members.
-Play—help people unleash their imaginations at work.
-Grapple and Grow—when the pressure’s on, enable employees to achieve mastery of their work.
-Shine—use the right rewards to promote loyalty and stoke your people’s desire to excel.

Brimming with Hallowell’s trademark candor and warmth, Shine is a vital new resource for all managers seeking to inspire excellence in their teams.”

About the Author

Edward M. Hallowell M.D. is a psychiatrist, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, which serves individuals with emotional and learning problems. He was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for 20 years. He has written two popular Harvard Business Review articles and authored 13 books, including the national bestseller Driven to Distraction.

Click here to access book on Amazon


What’s up with the market…talent market that is…!

Have I ever told you how much I love my job! I am sure I have at one stage but at present I am feeling overwhelmed, excited, energised and a little bewildered? Overwhelmed and excited that I am working with great talent; talent that are so open to their own leadership effectiveness and also the effectiveness of their teams! I am getting through…yippie!

But…there is a but. I am bewildered. Did you notice I wrote that word in the second sentence? I have so many leaders asking me for advice on how to find talent as well as assisting them in finding talent. I am more than happy to help as I love helping my clients find great talent – and in turn I love talent finding fantastic new opportunities! Yes it is still a talent war but yes another but how do I get through to my clients; leaders in the industry that it is not only about finding them, but keeping them warm and engaged throughout the process.  I hear from so many candidates who are disillusioned by the recruitment process. I would have to say, I can’t blame them! Not only is it about being creative and strategic in your sourcing channels, but being present and active in your candidate care.

I met a Human Resources Leader about recruitment last week who is looking for people for a major project in central Queensland, like most of my clients. And how refreshing that she said, I promise to get back to you and I am available for you to call anytime for feedback or next steps.  Yes I nearly fell over with excitement! Do you know how many of my clients who I work for in trying to help them find this most valuable resource for them and they don’t even return my calls? Hey I know we are busy, but if you are not getting back to your partner in recruitment, will you give them same treatment to my candidates? Hey I am no angel and I am first to admit that I also need to treat my candidates better…and I am really busy at times as well. And if I think about what I preach around emotional intelligence, I do forget that I have been in their shoes where I have applied for roles and even through the interview stage and I have been treated poorly. I do apologise to those candidates now who might be reading my blog. I am truly sorry for not getting back to you – or not keeping you in the loop in a timely manner.

And hey we all do it! But why? Let’s be more aware and proactive about it. And accountable…I really like this recent article about GlaxoSmithKline – a leader in the recruitment candidate care ethos. Some great insight how others are doing it – and doing it well. And holding everyone involved in the recruitment process accountable.

I am now going to challenge myself and get back to all my candidates. Or at least give them some form of communication. Will you take on the challenge! I know you want to…

GlaxoSmithKline Article from HRManagement US


Holistic Leadership eArticle – Now Live on Alchemy Road

If you are looking for a great resource on for strategy, change and OD – check out the eNnewsletter (and of course my latest article – see link below) at Alchemy Road  (click to subscribe!)

Also join their fantastic group on Linked In – Strategy, Change and Organisational Development – SCOD

Holistic Leadership – click to read!

Enjoy! Thanks Sonia


Groups on Linkedin

Okay, okay, I am a huge fan of Linkedin and some would say a bit of a super user. I even train professionals nationally on how to get the best out of Linkedin.

If you want some tips – check out my blog on 20 ways to use Linkedin. I have attached a great little tips link.

One of the most powerful applications on Linkedin are the GROUPS. Now being in the leadership and talent management space, I make it my business to be part of groups in these areas! Not only do I learn from these groups, I am connecting and part of a network of amazing people, knowledge and intelligence. You can ask questions, answer questions, become known as a thought leader and connect with people all over the world! Just think of your growth, learning, journey and opportunities! I should work for Linkedin, I am such a fan..,(by the way, I don’t get paid for my excitement and passion for Linkedin in any way, so this blog is just me sharing my experiences – if you were wondering!).

One of my favourite groups is Harvard Business Review and they have some fantastic posts, people, information…and links to blogs, books and the latest and greatest in leadership, change, talent and innovation.

Check out this new blog on:

The words many managers are afraid of..click here to read!

Check out my profile and have a look at my favourite groups – and you can start your own! I have 2 groups!

Now leaders and talent professionals – go forth and get yourself on Linkedin Groups!


Soul of Leadership

I read the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra a number of years ago and I was instantly a huge fan! When I saw that he had just launched a new book on leadership, I couldn’t wait to get my hands onto it. Well, I like to get my hands on most leadership books if you haven’t figured that one out, but this book In knew would be different and it doesn’t disappoint.

Leadership is the most crucial choice one can make—it is the decision to step out of darkness into the light!

His focus in this book is for us to become the kind of leader most needed today: a leader with vision who can make that vision real. Chopra has been teaching leadership to CEOs and other top executives for eight years, and the path outlined in The Soul of Leadership applies to any business, but the same principles are relevant in every community and area of life, from family and home to school, place of worship, and neighborhood. “At the deepest level,” Chopra writes, “a leader is the symbolic soul of a group.”

I really like the  practical steps as you are led through the crucial skills outlined in the acronym L-E-A-D-E-R-S:
L = Look and Listen
E = Emotional Bonding
A = Awareness
D = Doing
E = Empowerment
R = Responsibility
S = Synchronicity

I found the book not only informative, insightful and meaningful but also it created feelings of true awareness for myself and the work I do with other leaders. After identifying your own soul profile and the core values you want to develop, you can use these seven skills to allow your potential for greatness to emerge. Only from the level of the soul, Chopra contends, are great leaders created. Once that connection is made, you have unlimited access to the most vital qualities a leader can possess: creativity, intelligence, organizing power, and love.

The book has some powerful exercises and questions which really transform your level of your awareness. The Soul of Leadership aims to fill the most critical void in contemporary life, the void of enlightened leaders. “You can be such a leader,” Chopra promises. “The path is open to you. The only requirement is that you learn to listen to your inner guide.” In this unique handbook you are shown how to do just that, in words as practical as they are uplifting. The future is unfolding at this very minute, and the choice to lead it lies with each of us, here and now.

We can all be great leaders…leading from the soul means expanding your awareness in order to meet the needs of others. As you become more aware, invisible powers begin to support your vision.

http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Leadership-Unlocking-Potential-Greatness/dp/030740806X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297808282&sr=8-1