Can we calculate a $value on employee engagement? Yes, I can. Allow me to introduce my new product - CQESS

Employee engagement assessments over the last 5 or so years were the latest greatest tool for business leaders and yet due to so much inconsistency in approach, the propensity for them to be influenced and the cherry picking over results; the whole exercise has been fast losing it's value for everyone involved. 

Yet the whole reason for them existing in the first place, has not gone away. We still inherently know that satisfied, engaged, and well supported employees, pour more energy into their work and into the bottom line of their employer than those who are not.

In most surveys we measure "engagement" and "alignment" which most people take to mean 'am I happy enough to stay here" and "do I agree with the strategy and objectives of the business?" This is useful to understand, but it only tells half the story.  

Let me explain; Employees may really want chocolate biscuits every Wednesday and that will make them happy, but will their being happy translate to more innovation, IP and energy ?

And what about values alignment as opposed to strategy alignment?  As an employee; I might be content, I might even be aligned to the company strategy but I won't give you an ounce more of my energy on any given day than I absolutely have to. Why?  because overall I may not think this firm walks the talk on it's values, but pays well and I have a big mortgage. So I will do my job... generally to an above satisfactory standard (to guarantee my bonus) and I will collect my pay every month; until something better comes along or the time is right for me to move. 

Do you see it now? 

As a business owner, ask yourself how much of my income is at risk by these results? 

As an individual, would you rather work where your commitment is half-assed and disengaged just to meet some basic needs or be somewhere where your basic needs are being met AND you are bouncing around every day brimming with energy and enthusiasm? 

This is how the future workers are thinking, and the future isn't that far off. 

It makes sense to check in with either yourself and / or your people on a regular basis (not once a year), and it makes sense to plan around their needs as well as those of the firm.

It is time to apply some different thinking to what we are measuring here. 

At the end of the day, employees are growing and producing your product, selling it, delivering it and defending it, so it is in an organisations interest to get the best energy value out of them and vice versa. So let's do some critical thinking about the process, exercise some smart decision making and create something useful. 

I have been researching this problem for a while looking for scale-able methods of measuring in hard $Value, the impact of employee satisfaction ( in the positive) or dissatisfaction ( in the negative) in terms of manual labour. Academically this is referred to as “Emotional Labour” (NB - This concept itself is not new, there have been studies on this - mostly in nursing) and using this as a base, came up with a handy, easy, back of the envelope tool anyone can use to start measuring this in their everyday. 

Introducing the 'CriticalQ Employee Satisfaction Scale' CQESS

To solve for this for both individuals and businesses I have been hard at work creating a process and calculation;  as an easy to understand theory for profit minded and cost-centric businesses and individuals in a simple methodology to collect the data, assess the data and value the result.  The result being that they can understand what the real cost is to them of a happy, supported productive employee vs a disengaged, pissed off one or for an individual highlight the gaps in your current day and assess future opportunities for better results. 

Contact me today - to find out more about CQESS or visit the product page on my website. 

It's Halloween, so lets get a little dark.

This entrepreneur life is like a labyrinth. You just never know what you are going to find when you turn a corner. Sometimes I find a long open stretch of path, other times I find a gap in the wall so I can squeeze through. Sometimes it is easy, often it is hard, frequently it is messy! 

Over the last few weeks I have found more dead ends than I anticipated. This has been fantastic, because it means that I have to stop and really THINK about what I am doing rather than blindly forging ahead. It got me thinking about how often we get caught up in speed and efficiency and goals, and the desire to achieve outcomes someone else has set for us ALL THE TIME. Often without understanding if those goals were actually well thought through and determined through a clear process of critical thinking. 

I have come to realise now that most likely not. The thinking and the debate and the analysis is so controlled that it becomes void of original purpose. Why?

Because everything we plan and do in our work is so often based on 'aspirational motivators'. We are very focussed on a mindset of positive goals "where we are going, what we want to achieve and how we will get there". You know things like " a great share price, happy shareholders, profits, a good bonus, a happy boss etc"

So we look ahead all the time and we are motivated by the end result. The aspirational goal. The "good for my career goal". 

I figure by now you are wondering why this is a problem?? 

The problem is, that we fail to recognise and acknowledge the dark underside of motivation. We need to look at what "fears" motivate our decision making, as much as we look to "aspirational values". These "fears" become very real influencers in the process of planning and decision making, and often key cracks in your shiny new product are missed, because no one wanted to offend or upset someone, or put themselves into a potentially unfavourable position. Look at Enron, Weinstein and countless others, where blind eyes failed to see the "fear motivations". 

Critical thinking allows space for this review to occur. It opens the door for every idea to be considered and it requires everyone present to look at the problem from all sides of the prism, even the sides that are not going to mean the best for each individually. This is healthy, this is where thinking leads to better decision making and where culture can really begin to become something special. 

I am grateful for the opportunities that have led me into the maze, and continuingly grateful to all the amazing people, businesses and organisations that I am coming across now who are so open to thinking from all sides, even when it is confronting their dark side. 

Happy Halloween - it really is the perfect time to be digging into the deep stuff. 


The value of "reach"

Photography by Trish Nicklin

Photography by Trish Nicklin

I am nearing the three month mark of my journey into entrepreneurship. Yes indeed - time has flown; and that in itself is ironic because part of my purpose with jumping off the hamster wheel in the first place was for it to slow down! I hasten to add though, that the speed has become irrelevant, and I have learned it is all down to the energy!!! I thought it worthwhile sharing with you some of my learnings, (many of them unexpected surprises) and how my future planning is so very different to what it would have been as a result. So here we go - in no particular order the three big things I learned in three months !

1) Ride with the waves  

I didn't wake up in week 1 with a bounce in my step, but I did wake up with a pressing purpose. I had programs to write, a marketing plan to put together, people to meet with and a website to build. I had ideas ( a ton of them) and I had a deep seated drive to DO WHAT I WANT. So I did, I went at my usual breakneck speed for 5 weeks. I also slept in, worked from home, picked my kids up from school, volunteered, cleaned out cupboards, painted interiors and went to the gym (sporadically).  By week 6 - I was jumping into looking for contract work to supplement things whilst I worked on the business, running myself in rings to work out what that meant and looked like and by week 8 I stopped. I looked around and finally sat in the back yard in the sunshine and just let my mind wander. FINALLY. I rested, rested my heart and my mind and let myself see what came to me when I did. 

The lesson learned

Slowing down properly takes weeks. Mentally slowing down takes longer than you imagined. Grab the bull by horns by all means but allow yourself some time on your journey to do nothing, in nothing you can find amazing things and opportunities you never dreamed of before. It also allows you to think, and as a thinker who teaches thinking that was pretty important to me. 

2 ) Personally redefine Networking

We are often told to get yourself out there and join organisations and go to their events. The problem is that this can cost money and for a start up cash-flow is in the negative in the early days. Plus how can you get anything meaningful out of a five minute chat nursing a cup of tea and a scone in one hand and your handbag in the other. (you can - more on that later). Also let's not get into how hard it is to walk into a room not knowing anyone, for the third time that week. It is exhausting. I had to find a way to do this that worked for me. I found most people would give you 30 - 60 mins of their time, (even some i had never met before) and were so generous with their ideas and advice about my programs in a one to one coffee ( maybe I had a few drinks in there too! ). I made new friends, reconnected with old friends, found new mentors and gathered so much value by just asking. Yes there were a few who didn't respond and that is absolutely fine. Moving on! 

The lesson learned

Don't over-saturate your network or yourself. A few quality connections each week is enough, and really think about what you are going to contribute to the conversation. Keep an open mind at all times and listen to every insight. You don't have to adopt everything, just what makes sense. Always ask if there is someone they know who you should connect with and if they can introduce you, and always reciprocate. Its a big enough world for all of us to share. 

3) Boundaries are all in your mind. 

When I was working, I stayed in my lane. I went to conferences and events that made sense to my job or my prospects. I had to fill out forms and nail bite my way through process to see if I was "allowed". Usually that made perfect sense, these things cost time and money, and these are both limited. However all of a sudden the goal posts changed. I am in charge. My rationale can be whatever I want it to be. There are $limits ( of course) but time is mine. I have so far attended;-a fear of Failure Forum, an open day for a Transformation program at the ANU,  an incredible workshop on Mastering Money Consciousness, an Agile Leaders Forum, contributed to a Podcast on Leadership, and had my mind blown at The National Fintech Cyber Security Summit. At every event I found extraordinary people and had wonderful conversations. 

The lesson learned

Curiosity is a good enough reason to attend. 

Looking forward to sharing more insights as this continues! 

Be brave

Trish :)


Critical Thinking - let's do this!

photo credit - Trish Nicklin photography

photo credit - Trish Nicklin photography

Critical thinking at some point got lost, probably in 1980's during the boom of "Corporate lifestyle" becoming a defined "thing' and definitely in the 1990's and 2000's rush for results over process. It never really recovered from there.

Until now.

I certainly never took a class in critical thinking or even thought about what is was until I had to provide Critical Analysis in University, a duty I undertook with my first foray into academic life, and then promptly disposed of under a near avalanche of corporate training programs and well meaning management telling me about the use of "models" instead.

In fact now I think about it (pun intended) it was pretty much replaced by a heap of workplace models easily pulled from a shelf (textbook, manual) and forced over the employee masses much like a well meaning parent might squeeze a knitted hat onto a child's head to please a visiting relative who had spent hours creating the garment. In the end, whilst the head (model) might be warm (relatable) in parts, it also doesn't fit (un-relatable) in others, is probably itchy (useless) and ultimately after the obligatory five minutes will never be worn again. What a waste.

Despite the world progressing at speeds we have never faced before (thankyou technology); we find people and employees now need slowing down (mindfullness) to cope.

Looking back at Critical Thinking and applying it when we are looking at decision making in the first place suddenly ( or not so to those who are natural critical thinkers) makes a whole lot more sense with all this in mind.

Spend a bit more time on the front end of a thought and the result is a nicer rear end !

So we know why it is a good idea, but what is it and is there a process to follow to do it?

Like everything else there are loads of theories, for what it is worth I have diluted the concept into the following steps, easily adaptable for all.

1) It. It all starts with a thought, concept, idea or a desired outcome. Write it into a sentence or a paragraph. Gather your colleagues ( or if you are alone -your wits) to discuss.

2) Be self aware - know your natural + find your unnatural bias. Be alert to them. Kick them out the door. Open your mind. 

3) Prism review - every angle people. Look at it from every angle, inside out, upside down, backwards etc Objectivity is the aim. 

4) Isolate - Slice away ALL your wants, desires and needs. Remove them from the process. If it scares you to say it, then you are on the right track. Be courageous. 

5) Machine - become the engineer. Know every part, how it is tooled, what it is for, where it connects. TAKE IT APART. Put it back together as something else.Do this many times. What do you see? How can it change? What are the perceptions of it under different lights? Who is impacted by each version? How are they affected? What does it feel like in this configuration? Does it still work?

6) Release Values. Yes that is right, build a nice strong fence and take Trust, Integrity, Respect, Honesty and all their friends off leash. Just for a bit. See what they do.

7) Space. By now you have a mind map which looks like anything from a Tarantino film to a Monet Garden. Record it and leave it for at least a day if not two.

8) Re-write it.

If you are interested in learning HOW to do the above, contact me -

And so it begins

Have you ever sat in a meeting and wondered "why"?

Yes! Great - then take a seat, put your feet up and grab some snacks. You have made it home. 

CriticalQ is the place for everyone who has ever questioned the status quo.

Let me be clear though, this is not because you think you know better, or have better ideas, or think you can do it better. 

CriticalQ is the place for those of us who just want to know WHY.  Who want to understand the theory and the process behind the decision, process, instruction etc.  The "I know you are important and powerful, but my values are important and powerful too; and it is REALLY imperative that I understand what it is we are doing here; what the point of it is, and why I should sign up, because I really want to contribute in a meaningful way to it's success" conversation. Yes that one, it's the one so often sidelined to the kitchen. 

So over here in the super special comfortable couch, with the fully stocked bar and the cheese board; is the place for those who have ever been courageous enough to cross that barrier and openly ask the magic question out loud in the meeting - Why?  We also welcome the curious, the disenfranchised and all square pegs. 

I personally wear some scars from this practice, it has been my Achilles Heel since primary school, through high school and into over two decades of corporate life. That, plus just not really fitting the mould. I never wore the right clothes, had the right hair or said the right things either. Going back to university in my 40's made me realise that critical analysis has a valid place in our working lives and what's more;  can create better decision making and better business results. It also taught me about acceptance, values and compassion. Critical thinking and theory when applied and backed by research enables us to work on a whole different plane.  Ditto to good relationships and an added layer of Leadership comprehension and practice. 

This is not about being on or off any buses. This is not about disrespecting anyone or slowing down innovation,  NO - let us be very clear that this is quite the opposite. This is all about inspiring followership, aligning leadership to values and prosperity, creating real relationships and sparking innovation for better and more sustainable results. 

So, with apologies to myself for taking so long to heed the call, I look forward to sharing the journey with you all. 

Warmest regards 


July 2017

Ruffle some feathers

Ruffle some feathers