Everyone, including you, is worthy of compassion.

What is self-compassion?

Take a moment and reflect on the following two questions.

  1. Think about those times when you’ve had a close friend who is struggling and/or suffering in some way.
  2. How do you typically respond to your friend?
  3. What do you say?
  4. What time do you devote?
  5. How were your posture and non-verbal gestures?

Write down some of the things you discovered.

  1. Now think about various times when youwere struggling and/or suffering in some way.
  2. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations?
  3. What do you say?
  4. What time do you devote?
  5. How were your posture and non-verbal gestures?

Write down some of the things you discovered.

Compare the two lists.

Self-compassion means being a good friend to yourself as well as others.  Simply put, self-compassion is treating ourselves with the same kindness as we would treat a friend in trouble.

Compassion is a state of mind that is open, abundant and inclusive.  Compassion manifests as the offering of kindness to ourselves and others.

The Buddha said that if we truly loved ourselves we would never harm another, because if we harm another it is in some way diminishing who we are; it is taking away from, rather than adding to, our lives. (Sharon Salzberg: The Kindness Handbook)

Dr Kristen Neff describes self-compassion as having three main components:

  • self-kindness versus self-judgment,
  • a sense of common humanity versus isolation, and
  • mindfulness versus over-identification.

She writes:

Self-kindness versus self-judgment. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.  Self-compassionate people tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.

Common humanity versus isolation.  Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation—as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes.  All humans suffer.  Therefore, self-compassion involves recognising that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of something we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.

Mindfulness versus over-identification. Self-compassion also requires the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness.  Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive state of mind in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.  We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.

The development of greater self-compassion, through the cultivation of mindful awareness and loving kindness, is the way we can come up against life’s inevitable frustrations, mistakes and disappointments, love ourselves anyway, and keep moving toward growth and change.


Sometimes we just need to do the best we can!

Talent is Overrated

The belief has always been that top-performers in any endeavour are born with a gift called ‘talent’; you either have it or you don’t.  What’s more, people with talent often believe that their talent, their skills, are immutable, written in their genes just like their appearance and, without too much effort, success is their destiny.

Not true, according to a growing body of scientific research.  It turns out really excellent performance is based on what researchers term “deliberate practice” – a well-defined set of activities that world-class performers pursue diligently.  The more deliberately they practise, the better they perform (Colvin 2008).

Success is 99 per cent persistence. It’s time to recognise that high achievement is NOT reserved for those few who are ‘genetically invigorated’.  Success is available to each and every one of us who are willing to pay the price of constant and deliberate action.

That said, talent of any description is a great start but it’s only as good as the effort that assists it to grow.  People with passion rise up in the face of challenges, thriving on the opportunity to grow and learn.  Passion allows people to love what they’re doing—and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties.  Finding success in accomplishment, in learning and improving is exactly what you find top-performers doing.

The bottom line is, passion and persistencecan empower you to outperform people with more talent than you. Successful people refine old skills and acquire new ones through persistence and application.  As individuals, if we learn how to harness the principles of deliberate practice more fully, we can become much better at everything we do (Colvin 2008).

Unfortunately, people with great talent often fall prey to believing they ‘know it all’; they are very reluctant students and are, therefore, unteachable.  They are more concerned with how they’ll be judged, needing to validate intelligence rather than cultivate talent through effort, ultimately restricting growth.  To them, being found wanting and not all-knowing is tantamount to disaster.

Teachability expands your talent.  The desire to listen, learn and apply makes all the difference.

A Brand Old Leadership Model

Who amongst us has not cheated?  Larry says, ‘not me’; but I’ve played golf with Larry, and there’s always a “preferred lie”!

Make no mistake – we are in a leadership crisis.  I know that sounds dramatic, pessimistic, fatalist even; I don’t want it to be but there it is.

Our toxic leaders are casting a broad shadow.  We say we loathe their behaviour and yet there they are, and here we are, still.

Why do we follow corrosive bosses and tolerate dishonest politicians?  Why do so many destructive and greedy business leaders gain and hold so much power?  What sort of culture do we have that promotes dishonest behaviour?

Who’s advising our leaders of the fact they are alienating all but those who are in their image?  Who of us will risk standing away from the group to do the right thing early and with compassion?

Who of us is brave enough to provide honest feedback to temper contemptuous behaviour, set boundaries on the loud, overbearing colleague?  …I don’t mean after a critical incident where our own self-righteousness becomes the devil incarnate or on social media where shaming is safely hidden at arm’s length – that’s the coward’s way.

Why do we place into leadership roles people who are not yet ready to apply the wisdom of cause and effect, not yet able to understand that improving the performance of their mind is now what counts most?  Why do we then abandon the poor souls – when they make the error even Blind Freddy could have seen coming – to solitude and shame?  We ask for nothing more than mediocrity and when it’s delivered with a powerful sting we feel offended.

The challenges we have in 2018 are growing in importance and urgency.   How will we choose to define ourselves?  Will we choose to be a nation intent on growing our minds, opening our hearts and doors, showing forgiveness?

Will we have the courage so desperately needed to drop our craving for significance, wealth and fame and help shape our future leaders, and ourselves, in the noble arts of focused discipline, ethical achievement, generosity of spirit, kindness and gratitude?

We need to reach out with compassion.  We need to get off our high horses and be the better standard ourselves; stop cheating ‘at golf’, at life, and then castigating others with impunity.

These ‘boys’ have done no more or less than what we’ve allowed in this country.  Was this really sport’s darkest day?

Part Two: Surviving the Passive Aggressive Organisation

My last article on the passive-aggressive boss finished with the sobering thought that some organisations are breeding-grounds for passive-aggressive behaviours.

If your place of work is built on the precepts of indecision, compromise and conformity where people lack the authority or means to speak up, the passive-aggressive resistance will emerge.

Healthy organisations are easy to spot:  managers and staff alike have access to the necessary information to make authoritative decisions; inclusion is encouraged across the board; time is precious and productive; and power-struggles between employees are replaced with cooperation.  People are more concerned with focusing on goals and positive relationships than subscribing to selfish agendas and petty bickering.

Healthy organisations are extremely resilient:  they respond quickly to challenges and recuperate rapidly from those they cannot escape.

Unfortunately, according to Booz Allen Hamilton who conducted a global online survey of 30,000 individuals, most organisations are not resilient. Less than 1 in 5 individuals surveyed described their organisation as resilient.  Passive-aggressive (that quiet but tenacious resistance) received the largest number (almost 30%) of descriptions as being the way their organisations performed.

Of the passive-aggressive, bureaucracies and institutions tended to top the list and are typically the least efficient organisations.  Frustrated aspirations are the curse of large bureaucracies.  People seem unable to accomplish enough to be fully recognised, and drive and ambition are too often replaced by systemic organisational inertia.

Those with initiative wait endlessly for decisions to be made and any action finally taken to progress that great idea/project (sometimes out of frustration) is accompanied by attacks of nervous anxiety for the moment the work is ‘now’ deemed unnecessary and dies a sluggish and miserable death.

Passive-aggressive behaviour in the workplace is a serious problem.  But not all is lost:  there are viable strategies for dealing with passive-aggressive bosses and work environments.

Create a Culture of Honesty

In and of itself, an honest culture will not ‘convert’ the passive-aggressive leader nor halt the passive-aggressive organisation, but it will make it more difficult for them to act dishonestly and manipulate others. Manipulation, lies and ambiguity are harder to get away with if the organisation is one of honesty, trust and good intent.

Call the Sin of Omission

Don’t allow a non-response.  Deliberately withholding information that could otherwise empower better decision-making is wrong. Expect contribution and active assertion of ideas.  An introvert must learn to speak more and an extravert must learn to embrace the art of brevity.

Set Boundaries

Very few people set boundaries in life, let alone the workplace.  Loose boundaries are so easily exploited by the passive-aggressive boss. Verbalise and internalise your boundaries so as to be strong in the moment of challenge.  The more you hold firm on what’s reasonable for you and the team, the more you take back and own your personal power.

Make a List:  Stay or Go

Write down all the positives and negatives of your workplace situation:  what you like/don’t like, your strengths, your contributions to the broader team, the work situation on a daily basis.  Be on the lookout for self-insight and discovery.  Put it away and do it again in a couple of months to see if you feel the same way.

You may just discover it’s time to move on to get away from the passive-aggressive boss and/or organisation.  If all possibilities for dealing with the situation have been exhausted, sum up your circumstances and actively pursue other work or career options.

The list making will prove very beneficial in making the decision to the engage in the next career advancement.

Avoid Secrecy and Promote Open Decision-making

Secrecy is very different from privacy.  All information relevant to the task at hand should be disclosed.  Don’t participate in or perpetuate an environment of secrecy.  Speak up and expect the same from others.  Don’t allow hiding behind the veil of ‘confidentiality’ or ‘privacy legislation’; these are overused to excuse secrecy.

Encourage all levels of management to be consistently and constantly inclusive in decision-making and information sharing.  Silence is not your friend – it’s a sign there’s fear of reprisal.

Find Your Voice

Assertiveness is the key to changing the passive-aggressive workplace:  not passivity or aggression, and definitely not passive-aggressive behaviour.  Learn to speak up in an honest and direct way.  Do not surround the contributions you make with soft pillows (being too ‘nice’) so as to be seen as ‘not upsetting someone’.  Your message is valid and you need to own its delivery.  Learn how to ‘speak’ it with confidence in neutral and calm tones with checked and certified facts and managed emotions.

Stand up for yourself.  Self-respect grows from honest and assertive responses to poor behaviour.  Build networks of positive, supportive people, both laterally and vertically.  You are fighting back, and being silenced is no longer an option – having reassuring and compassionate allies is a must.


Transforming the passive-aggressive organisation is impossible without the recognition and engagement of senior leadership teams.  That said, all levels of management can, and do, make a difference.

Becoming assertive verbally and non-verbally enables you to maintain respect and defend your rights without succumbing to the manipulative and controlling behaviours used by the passive-aggressive.

Test your assertiveness

Being Effective and Loved at the Same Time

Leadership and Social Skills

You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.  Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one.

Dale Carnegie

Two renowned leadership scholars, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, offer the following research conclusion:

Researchers looked at a number of factors that could account for a manager’s success.

They found only one factor significantly differentiated the top managers from the bottom managers: high scores on affection – both expressed and wanted.

The highest performing managers show more warmth and fondness toward others than do the bottom 25 percent.  They get closer to people, and they are significantly more open to sharing thoughts and feelings than their low performing counter-parts.

All things being equal, we will work harder and more effectively for people we like.  And we like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel!

James  Kouzes & Barry Posner,  Encouraging the Heart:  A Leaders Guide to Recognising and Rewarding Others,  2003

How to be liked and effective:  it’s a leadership thing!

Scientific research now has evidence that practising kindness is not only good for the recipient but also good for the giver.  Being kind, even when it’s unpleasant, being generous and willing to share especially when you expect nothing in return, genuinely makes people happy.

Happiness = Engagement = Success

Just do two of these (all five if you really get the picture) and see the difference:

  • Show people that you value them
  • Pursue mutual understanding and information sharing
  • Be upfront and straightforward, avoiding games and office politics
  • Approach conflict constructively, staying aware of others’ feelings
  • Bring disagreements into the open and help de-escalate them


Try the Kindness Challenge:

Give yourself a goal of performing Five Acts of Kindness on any single day, once a week.

Aim for actions that really make a difference and come at some cost to you.  Be both creative and thoughtful.

Take stock at the end of the day.  Notice the good feelings that come with your increasing kindness:  the positive connection to the person you helped; the sense of pride you get from making a contribution.

Try it for a few months and see the difference it makes.

Are You a Career Activist or a Passive Participant?

For most of us, just thinking about finding a new job is intimidating but changing careers can be even tougher.

Unfortunately, career pathways are no longer clear, defined and predictable; we lack security in our work.  Even the ‘traditionally secure’ jobs aren’t the safe harbours they used to be.

The key is to think very differently about our careers and our futures.  We need to adapt to a brand new world because the skills we developed yesterday may not be enough for what lies just around the corner.

Read More

Six Recognisable Characteristics of the Passive Aggressive Boss

Beware the boss who describes him or herself as a nice person who doesn’t like conflict.

Of all the possible personality types, passive-aggressive behaviour is the most difficult to pin-down; it’s awkward to read and extremely tough to manage.  Why?  The passive-aggressive is never at fault, always puts responsibility elsewhere through blame or excuse making and does it all with considerable panache!

Read More

The Three Fears Motivating Our Behaviour at Work

Fear goes to our very core.  It is triggered when we experience any kind of pain or discomfort; our limbic brain is inherently wired to be on alert for any kind of danger.  Safety is fundamental to our survival.

We’ll do anything to avoid feeling fear; it’s deeply uncomfortable – physically and emotionally.  However, what we may not realise is the extent to which fear (and the ‘avoidance’ of the feeling of fear) influences our daily lives:  it often motivates how we behave, how we react, how we dress, stand and talk; fear often drives our ambition, fuels our opinions and underpins our anger.  And yet we are often completely oblivious to fear’s powerful influence!

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Leadership and Likeability

Contrary to conventional wisdom, likeability is high on the scale of importance for successful leaders.

Likeability is a genuine kindness and compassion for others that comes wholly from within and extends indiscriminately without.  It is generous in its offering and profoundly felt when received.

Leadership needs positive intent.  It is more than people merely getting along with one another, being pleasant and ‘nice’ and avoiding conflict.  Every interaction and conversation had by a direct supervisor or manager is an opportunity to stretch beyond the basics. 

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