Would you agree that the human need to be heard and valued trumps almost everything else?

When my dose of Red Tractor Designs arrived in my inbox this morning  the picture reminded me of a great little book I read recently called Life and Death Listening by Dan Oblinger 

Dan invites us all to become better listeners by building more  CAMPFIRES

Sometimes we need an anchoring image in our mind to focus our intention. The best image for the sort of listening that I’m talking about is that of a roaring campfire.

Inside the circle of the light, it’s safe to tell your story for all to hear.

Almost any topic can be discussed in this atmosphere of friendship and trust.

Outside the circle, there is darkness, fear, and confusion. Leaders and lovers should put considerable time and energy into creating a campfire atmosphere at work or in the home!

Stoke the coals, throw on a new log, and invite the story-telling to commence.

What should motivate all of us to become the best listener we can is this truth.

We should listen to people because of what they are, not who they are.

We listen to people because as a human being they possess a dignity that is invaluable.

They are one of us!

Every human being wants to be understood and loved.

Everyone has a story to tell and desires for an audience, even an audience of one.

The human need to be heard and valued trumps most everything else.

Dan is right. Listening is the most important communication skill.

We hesitate to share our fears, dreams, and aspirations with each other.

When we do, it is often raw, unfiltered, and incomplete.

In the modern hustle of business and life in general, our society lowers the bar for listening.

Our shared human desire for connection is what makes the fine art of “listening well” so compelling. It is the secret to unlocking the universe of people. It is foundational for both leadership and friendship. Source Life and Death Listening by Dan Oblinger 

In 2021 I am looking forward to mastering my listening skills and giving the emerging leaders I work with access to experts from all over the world like Charlie Arnot, Roxi Beck, Kwame Christian and maybe even Dan  to help them “unlock the universe of people” and get the best outcomes for farmers, consumers and the planet

Speaking of great listeners how awesome is the work of Oscar Trimboli who recently shared this on LinkedIn

If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom. The challenge – scaling what works

Intellectual humility—knowing what we don’t know.

Recognizing our shortcomings opens the door to doubt. As we question our current understanding, we become curious about what information we’re missing. That search leads us to new discoveries, which in turn maintain our humility by reinforcing how much we still have to learn. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom. Quoted from Adam Grant  in Think Again

I am feeling so blessed to be part of something that has this much impact

I have the wisdom to know that the program’s success is underpinned by the relationships and partnerships we build ( and the Power of the Koala)

Monitoring and evaluating (M&E) should be a key component of everything we do in business and life. Asking people to actively participate in the M&E process requires them to be as passionate about the outcomes you are trying to achieve as you are. It also requires you to provide them with clarity around what the outcomes are.

This week I was reminded of the high level expertise I have been introduced to on my journey and in this post I would like to do a shout out to Larraine Larri who was our program evaluator for seven years.

Best practice behaviour change programs are underpinned by program logic.   Success requires a deep appreciation of the Theory Of Change. Putting it all on paper requires a whizz – our whizz in this space was Larri

You might be saying its one thing for young people to say they are changing their behaviours can we show they are they walking the talk? Its gives me great joy to share with you they are. Report the #CKreative Koalas Kids Changemakers Community Action Reports here  

What we gleaned from our exit survey

96% of young people reported experiencing a change in knowledge, attitude, or behaviour (a little or a lot/ either in school, outside of school or both) because of participating in Kreative Koalas

In an open response question we asked them to tell us what these changes looked like.

The top seven participant generated responses ( Note participants could give two responses) out of a wide range of responses were:

  • 20% reported personal growth. This included increased communication skills and confidence to talk to others about sustainability, better collaboration skills and caring for others, and an increased ability to advocate for positive actions that impact the environment
  • 20%  engaged in behaviours to reduce electricity use and energy consumption and increased understanding of the importance of switching to renewable energy
  • 17% reported increased awareness about the impact of their actions on the environment and commitment to action for improving environmental outcomes
  • 15% reported they reduced their food and water waste in general
  • 15% started growing vegetable gardens or other plants at home.
  • 14% reported greater awareness of the importance of wildlife conservation.
  • 10%  reported engaging in recycling at home and school

The Kreative Koalas teachers also had multiple opportunities throughout 2020 to attend our  Train the Trainer workshops.

It is clear Changeologist Guru Les Robinson empowered the teachers to support the students on their journey to #BeTheChange

Les ethos reminds me of the work of  BJ Fogg

Behaviour = Motivation + Ability + Prompt

See Les’ Comfy Zone Diagnostic Tool here 

As the word spreads about the high level impact our programs are having I am more and more finding myself invited to consult to other organisations on how they too can achieve this type of impact. I am more than happy to share my knowledge and have conversations that reinforce you don’t always have to have scale to have influence. We can all be #RoleModels


I am curious – if honesty is the most valued leadership trait why did 75 million Americans vote for Trump?

It seemed easy to just brush past accountability in a world where, according to the ongoing tally by the Washington Post, Trump made more than 30,000 misleading claims in four years. Source 

Why would you want to follow someone if you suspected that they were lying or trying to trick you?

According to the Leadership Challenge Gurus if you want to: 

  1. Become the kind of leader people want to follow.
  2. Get other people, by free will and free choice, to move forward together in pursuit of a common vision.
  3. Mobilize others to want to struggle for shared aspirations. 

Then the majority of people want a leader who they believe is:

  •  Honest  
  • Competent  
  • Inspiring  
  • Forward-looking

Then I am very curious as to why we keep enabling our politicians to lie to us. 

If you google trump lies  the list is frightening

The truth hurts, but lies kill. The past 12 months have demonstrated that with a terrifying clarity. Lies about Covid, insisting that it was a hoax cooked up by the deep state, led millions of people to drop their guard and get infected. And one big lie about the US election – claiming that Donald Trump had won, when he’d lost – led to the storming of the US Capitol and an eruption of violence that left five dead. Source

and its not just American politicians 


Thirty five years of research by the leadership gurus have shown them, of all the qualities that people look for and admire in a leader, honesty is by far the most personal. People want their leaders to be honest because a leader’s honesty is also a reflection upon their own honesty.

They make this very poignant statement 

It’s the quality that can most enhance or most damage personal reputations. If you follow someone who is universally viewed as having impeccable character and strong integrity, then you’re likely to be viewed the same. If you willingly follow someone who is considered dishonest and unethical, your own image is tarnished. In addition, there is perhaps another, subtler, reason why honesty is at the top. When people follow someone, they believe to be dishonest, they come to realize that they have compromised their own integrity. Over time, they not only lose respect for the leader, they lose respect for themselves.

Honesty is strongly tied to values and ethics. Once upon a time people appreciated leaders who took a stand on important principles. They resolutely refused to follow those who lack confidence in their own beliefs. 

In reality you really are only as good as your word in the eyes of those you aspire to lead.

Why would you want to follow someone if you suspected that they were lying or trying to trick you?

Not knowing our leaders beliefs is contributing to conflict, indecision, and political rivalry.

People simply don’t trust leaders who can’t or won’t disclose or live by a clear set of values, ethics, and standards.

Honesty is the basis of trust and you have to believe that what the leader speaks or knows is true.

I am constantly seeking out role models who walk the talk. 

People who turn  

  •  values into actions,
  • visions into realities,
  • obstacles into innovations,
  • separateness into solidarity

People who make a positive difference and create a climate in which people turn challenging opportunities into remarkable successes.

A leading example in this country in Cathy McGowan and she share her inspiring story with our leadership team this week

I am excited 



Invitation for agriculture to refocus – what are we fighting for

When we tell our farmers their worth is measured by how much they contribute to the GDP we are setting ourselves up to fail  

As I watched Landline last Sunday this image of David Burkus came to mind 

Agriculture in this country seems to have lost its way. All the leadership books I have read and all the leadership courses I have attended tell me the importance of having a purpose and values we can all align with. 

Those same books and leadership courses also tell me this is NOT a vision that will inspire Australian farmers to get out of bed everyday 

Why are some people and teams more motivated, more innovative, and more successful than others?

Why do some teams of talented and seemingly compatible people fall short against lesser teams with less suitable members? Why do some leaders cast bold inspiring visions that fail to materialize, while other, seemingly inconsequential leaders rally their teams to victory? More often than not, it’s actually quite simple:

They picked a fight. David Burkus

Young Farming Champion Dione Howard took a deep dive into David Burkus work when she interviewed world renowned leadership coach  Dave Stachowiak

I firmly believe one of the biggest threats to agriculture in this country is how undervalued farmers feel and Landline on 14th Nov was a strong reminder of that.

I look forward to the day agriculture in this country acknowledges people are its great resource and invest in their wellbeing and that starts with a purpose and shared values we can all align with 

From battlefields to boardrooms and everywhere in between, leaders who frame their mission as a fight to be won against a threat that must be removed have been able to bring together even the most divided teams and push them to the highest levels of performance. They’ve tapped into something more inspiring—and more visceral—than casting a visionary strategy or struggling to get buy-in on a mission statement. They’re fighting to remove an injustice. They’re fighting to make their customer’s lives better. Sometimes, they’re even just fighting to survive. But, surprisingly, they’re rarely framing their fight as a battle for market share against the competition.

Those who pick the right fight don’t have to manipulate their people; they inspire them. And the people who follow don’t do it because they have to; they follow because they choose to fight alongside.

People don’t want to join a company; they want to join a crusade.  Source 

It is such a joy when the movement you started spreads its wings

Starting and sustaining a movement is both rewarding and exhausting. I have spent the last 15 years searching for organisations to work with that:

  • understand why agriculture is so conservative
  • acknowledge the barriers to innovation and change and
  • want to work with others to help our farmers turn perceived problems into opportunities.

I am at that point where I believe we have those partners and I can move on to the next chapter in my life

One of the greatest joys from my journey has been watching the emerging leaders we identity and train to be confident communicators who are curious about the world beyond the farmgate becoming changemakers and influencers in the agriculture sector.

They are innovators and life long learners and active in their communities and they are making things happen

This year’s innovation highlight has been the Leadership is Language series where they have identified thought leaders from across the globe to be part of this webcast series where they can share what they are learning with everyone.

The two most recent interviews are a must watch for everyone in the agriculture sector and every in business 

This is a heart wrenching interview What if you don’t come home? between Young Farming Champion Dione Howard and Austral CEO David Carter who shares how we can all learn from worker, health and safety mistakes

And our most recent interview with two extraordinarily courageous women in agriculture who exemplify anticipatory leadership discussing the Icky and the Ouchys of Social Licence

Catherine Marriot reminds us 

“Just because people don’t like hearing it, doesn’t actually make it any less true. And so the risks are still coming at us. I guess we can choose to address those risks and be proactive rather than reactive.” 

and Alison Penfold invites us to 

 “ get on the front foot and collectively work together so that we are in control of managing the risk.  Ensure we are not actually divesting it or delegating it to others, including government, to manage on our behalf. So I think anticipatory leadership is, for me, absolutely critical in any leadership job” says Alison Penfold  

“I think with anticipatory leadership, you need an extra special level of courage and clarity of communication skills, because you’re bringing up things that are pretty Icky and pretty Ouchy. And in order to put those across in a way that enables change, you need good communication skills” say Catherine Marriott

Mega proud of our team who are not only learning to lead themselves and lead others they are sharing what they learn with the world and multiplying their impact 

Happy National Ag Day everyone 

#AgDayAU #YouthinAg




Anticipatory Leadership – training yourself to see problems as opportunities

“The difference between a good leader and a great leader is one who
learns to anticipate rather than react.” —Craig Groeschel

There is no shortage of extraordinary women in the agriculture sector who have courage. 

It was exciting to bring two of our most courageous communicators Catherine Marriott and Alison Penfold together for this interview for the Leadership is Language series.

A must listen. Two authentic women. So real, so gusty discussing the Icky and the Ouchy

They offer agriculture a new way of doing what matter most – communicating to create shared value for everyone who produces and everyone who consumes

“New challenges always equal new opportunities. When you see a
problem, train yourself to think ‘opportunity.’” —Craig Groeschel

You are The Way You Value and Devalue

As I start to put the finishing touches on handing over the reins of Picture to You in Agriculture to the younger generation I am looking forward to focusing on my legacy project. 

It has been clear to me since returning to agriculture 20 years ago the biggest threat to innovation and change in the sector is how undervalued farmers feel. Compounding this is the silo mentality of organisations within the sector. 

What is super exciting is not everyone feels and operates this way. My legacy project will bring together the organisations who believe in collective action for collective impact to deliver shared value projects for the good of the whole  

I have seen a lot of ugliness in the last 20 years, I have seen a lot of thoughtlessness 

The impulse to devalue others always signals a diminished sense of self, as you must be in a devalued state to devalue. That’s why it’s so hard to put someone down when you feel really good (your value investment is high) and equally hard to build yourself up when you feel resentful. Source 

What is inspiring is I have met a lot of visionaries. 

At this point in time I am looking forward to seeing if agriculture is open to embracing the values based advocacy model Cathy McGowan and her team have created in Indi for values based politics 

Watch this space 




Have we lost our moral compass?

Do you think we have lost our moral compass?

From destroying the habitat of Koalas to horses participating in a race for life or death to electing politicians who are not role models for anything but how best to incite everything that is ugly in the world.

Farmer and very wise man Peter Mailler has written a very important OP-ED on the Changing Face of Democracy and invites us all to have some serious conversations

An extract

A functional and robust democracy can only exist if the electorate is well informed. We must be able to trust the government for democracy to truly work and to trust the government, it must be trustworthy.

Many politicians, parties and lobbyists are deliberately dishonest about what they have done, what they will do and what their opponents have done to influence voters.

In such a corrupted environment, there is little hope that the electorate is well enough informed for democracy to function properly. The dishonesty undermines trust in the government and breeds discontent in the electorate.

Governments develop and enforce laws that ensure business people and companies can’t engage in false or misleading behaviour for commercial gain. So why is that standard different for people, parties or interest groups engaging in false or misleading behaviour for political gain?

It is past time for truth in advertising laws that hold political actors – politicians and/or influencers – to the same advertising standard as the business world.

It should be an unambiguous, punishable and punished offence to deliberately mislead the electorate for political gain.

Beyond the lying, democracy is in crisis as election outcomes are increasingly influenced by the resources available to the contestants, as opposed to any genuine contest of ideas and issues within an electorate.

Vested interests are channeling significant resources into major parties that are likely to form government, or hold the balance of power to effectively ‘buy’ influence.

This picking of winners by vested interests reinforces the structural bias of the electoral system to larger and better-resourced parties.

It is anti-competitive in its nature.

Read the full article here

If you are like me and don’t like the way we are all being manipulated by the people with the power ( power we gave them) are using it how do we come together to design and deliver a system with integrity?

When we know we are heading in the right direction and you are looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labour

Everyone wants to be proud of the industry they work in. Yesterday I found myself embarrassed to be a farmer.

I was sad that people could feel so undervalued they would share a meme that attempts to add value to themselves by undervaluing others. 

I was sad that at leadership level we apparently aren’t having conversations about what is clearly a much bigger issue.

We are better than this.  I need help. I want to understand how we can reframe our messaging in agriculture from being locked in the Dreaded Drama Triangle to embracing The Empowerment Dynamic

I am looking forward to growing a tribe of people I can have these discussions with. I am looking forward to every agricultural organisation seeing people as its greatest resource and telling them that.

Change starts with us – lets make our People Pillar our first pillar

Before I go – how can agriculture do messaging differently. We could ask Dorie Clark  

Getting off the toxic negativity train

I am currently reading Seth Godin’s book “Marketing You Cant Be Seen until you learn to See”

He gives very wise advice to people with a cause. That all important reminder that involves metaphors around starting small and growing your tribe and letting your tribe be advocates for the cause. You know the ones about not being able to boil the ocean. In his case its the difference between putting purple colouring ( Seth likes purple) in the ocean or in a swimming pool

Today I jumped in the ocean and invited everyone on LinkedIn to join the cause to fight toxic negativity in agriculture. Lets not stop at agriculture. Far too many other sectors use memes like below (sans my addition of yellow text) to feed their feeling undervalued base

When this meme ( sans my addition of yellow text) arrived by “Messenger” from some-one who was asking for advice on how to call it out, I wanted to scream. How do farmers get to a point where they feel so undervalued that we think its okay to bring the rest of the world down with us. When will we address the underlying cause that stops people realising how counterproductive this type of messaging is.

The impulse to devalue others always signals a diminished sense of self, as you must be in a devalued state to devalue. That’s why it’s so hard to put someone down when you feel really good (your value investment is high) and equally hard to build yourself up when you feel resentful. Source 

Why did I ignore Seth’s advice today. Because  I need a bigger tribe that believes in the cause. A tribe that wants everyone to thrive. Our farmers (and every sector who thinks like this) need help. They need communication skills help. We so need to learn how to frame our messaging. We so need leadership.

Some great advice in this article from Harvard Business Review. How to Thrive When Everything Feels Terrible  

Seek out positive relationships — inside and outside of work.  Research has found that de-energizing relationships — in which one person possesses an enduring, recurring set of negative judgments, feelings, and intentions toward another person — have four to seven times greater impact on an employee’s sense of thriving than energizing, positive relationships. To offset these effects, surround yourself and spend more time with energizers — the people in your life who make you smile and laugh, and lift your spirits.

You may not be able to stop the flow of negativity in your life, especially right now, but you can resist its toxic effects by making smart choices about who and what you surround yourself with, the mindset you adapt, and the information you consume. Not only will you be better off because of these choices — those around you will too.