It’s the little things – why consistency matters in leadership and relationships
The following articles were authored by melanie

It’s the little things – why consistency matters in leadership and relationships

‘It’s the little things that matter most.’ We have all heard this line before, and many of you will have even shared this wisdom with others. But how tuned in are you to the little things that are part of your practice? And more importantly, can you honestly say, hand on heart, that you do them consistently…not most of the time, or more often that not, but every day?

A terrific 4.5min interview with Simon Sinek has been doing the rounds of late, and we thought we’d share it with you. The concepts apply to relationships of all kinds; those with your significant other, with your children, with your colleagues, and if you are a leader, with those you lead…

Simon says ‘It’s about the little, consistent things we do everyday that makes the difference!’

He talks about there being no single event that makes people trust you, that makes people enjoy working with you, or even that makes people love you…

“There is no single thing you can be told you have to do so your people will trust you. It’s the accumulation of lots and lots of little things, and any one by themselves is innocuous and useless…”  “But, if you do it consistently and in combination with lots and lots of other little things – like saying ‘good morning’ to someone, like ‘looking them in the eye'” – then they begin to trust you, enjoy working with you, or as Simon explains, in certain relationships, even love you!

Putting marbles in the jar

In a recent DiA Discoveries post called ‘innovation and shame’, we shared some thinking inspired by the great work of Brene Brown and her book Daring Greatly. Brene is also known for sharing her story about the ‘marbles in the jar’ concept – which visually represents the same themes explored in Simon’s video.

Trust and relationships are built by the little things; the small acts, moments and gestures that are little deposits or investments in a relationship; or if you will, each moment is like placing a marble in the jar. Lots and lots of these little things repeated consistently over time mean more and more marbles are added to the jar. They are not built by grand gestures that are fleeting and then gone. As leaders our aim is to keep adding ‘marbles’ to our relationships…and to be very, very wary of making any withdrawals.

Watch Simon’s video to hear the great stories that help make this concept even more powerful, then feel free to download our visual of the marbles in the jar concept, as a reminder to help you make consistent ‘deposits’.



The PERMA Theory of Wellbeing

The concept

The PERMA theory of wellbeing, popularised by Martin Seligman in his fabulous book Flourish, suggests that there are 5 primary drivers of wellbeing:

1.Positive emotion – the extent which people feel happy

2.Engagement – the extent to which people are ‘lost’ in the activities they are undertaking

3.Relationships – the extent to which people have positive connections with others

4.Meaning – the extent to which people find meaning and purpose through activities

5.Achievement – the extent to which people feel they are achieving progress or results.

If all these elements are in abundance for individuals, then they are likely to have a sense of wellbeing and said to be ‘flourishing’! We have added an extra element – vitality – around physical health.


Why it’s useful

While this concept applies to a person’s ‘whole life’ it certainly has application to their work life. As a leader it is a useful lens through which to reflect upon the wellbeing of people you lead – the presence of these key drivers will likely be a predictor of work performance.


How/when to apply it

The model could be applied both informally and formally. Informally it could provide a mental model when managing staff performance – helping to understand the barriers to performance. More formally it could be used as the basis for a pulse survey to get a handle on workplace climate or a framework for a facilitated workshop discussion about how to improve things around here.


Want a 2 page summary of this ‘Leadership Bite’?

Click this link to download a printable 2 page summary of this ‘Leadership Bite’


Want more information on this topic?

Click here to access other blogs on wellbeing

Click here to access another blog on the PERMA model


Want to see the other ‘Leadership Bites’?

Click here to see them.

Radical Candour – do you really care for and challenge your teams?

4 themes to explore in one-on-ones

Is it worth it? Questions all leaders should ask themselves

Those of you who have been reading our posts for a while now will know we are very taken with Marshall Goldsmith! We are happy to admit he is a bit like ‘Yoda’ to us; always wise words that we can practically implement.

We came across a recent clip of Marshall sharing some of the concepts he has shared before, but this time some of the most helpful tips are captured in a simple 4 minute video. (See here for previous post and video link on ‘Adding value – an annoying habit of leaders’)


If you have a few minutes, hear what he had to say for yourself…


Marshall says:

  • The best leaders don’t make it about them!
  • Effectiveness of execution is a function of two things – a) the quality of the idea – times – b) the commitment to make it work
  • If you try to improve the quality of an idea by a small amount by offering your idea – you are risking decreasing the ownership and commitment of the person who had the original idea in the first place!
  • As you become more senior, your ‘suggestions’ suddenly turn into ‘orders’ – and people think they need to take them on. It is no longer ‘their idea’


  • So make a habit of stopping, taking a breath and asking yourself – Is it worth it?
  • Does my need to ‘add value’ have unintended consequences?



Click here for more posts on ‘bad habits’ of leaders


Perfectionists…it is time to start being kinder to yourself!

I’ll confess it now. I am a perfectionist!

I expect so much of myself, set often ridiculous expectations and standards of performance, and I get cross with myself when I don’t get everything right – all of the time. This tendency does mess with my confidence sometimes and it also sometimes messes with my stress levels. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Fortunately as an adult, I have slowly learned the art of perspective (well, most of the time anyway)!

I make use of the tools I have shared with you in previous posts – I pay attention to different wellbeing strategies, I actively aim to use my strengths and cultivate positive emotions, I keep organised and (try) to set realistic plans, and when the ‘imposter’ feeling pays a visit, I actively work on rebuilding my confidence.

Now don’t get me wrong, perfectionism isn’t all bad. It has helped me to be successful so far and it does help me to continue to strive to be my best. But it can also come with some unhelpful tendencies – and now that we are parents, we can also see that it can be passed on with our DNA!


Paul recently came across a great video with Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen and shared it with me. We wondered if it would be useful to share with other members of our family. Since watching it, I have found myself thinking about from my own perspective too, and have found myself more regularly thinking or saying the simple phrase used in the video more often. ‘Oh, well’! I am doing this partly for others – to help role model a way to help combat the unhelpful elements of perfectionism and know that it is ok to be an imperfect human, but also for me – that I can also be an imperfect human – we perfectionists need to be kinder to ourselves!

We thought others in our network might find this 13 minute video useful too! It starts by sharing some information for women in business and for organisations to be more inclusive and manage diversity, particularly talking about the behaviours that have got you ‘here’ are not those that will necessarily help to get you ‘there’. Sally shares some behaviours that may hold people back from progressing – 12 that essentially stem from either a person’s feeling that they need to be perfect (and that if you are not it is a disaster, or you are disgraced or have let people down) or a deep need to please…and then Sally and Marshall share a powerful (and amusing) personal story. If you are pressed for time, this starts at approximately 3 minutes. It is worth hearing – it will make you giggle and stick with you!




Questions for Post-Project Retros

There is a lot to be said for learning on the job – and by not just having experiences but also paying attention to them, we can embed this learning quickly and improve our self awareness and insight at the same time. Putting time aside for simple, ‘just-in-time’ reflective practice, like our ‘simple daily 5 minute mindfulness activity’ can help facilitate practical learning, can help us to form new good habits and break less helpful ones, and positively impact our wellbeing.

There are also times when an even greater block of time needs to be set aside to take stock of a big piece of work – be it individual or collective. We need to create space that has the purpose of not only measuring success but also for the even more important purpose of longer term learning.

Last year we came across a post by Michael Bungay Stanier with 5 simple but very powerful questions that individuals and teams could use as a basic framework. I’ve made a visual that you can print out and use to guide conversation.


What I like about these questions is the very open exploration they will encourage.

  1. What were we trying to do? Always connecting back to the ‘WHY’ – the purpose.
  2. What happened? An open sense of curiosity helps people to capture some data and a range of perspectives before moving to deeper level understanding of results and meaning (ie the ‘so what’?).
  3. What can we learn from this? This questions encourages people to make sense of the data / the detail that has been shared. When that happens, what is it like? How does it feel? What is the impact / result? And what does that mean for us? for the customer? for our process?
  4. What should we do differently next time? A deliberate frame of learning can be enhanced with sub-questions like
    • What can we keep doing?
    • What should we start doing?
    • What should we stop doing?
  5. What next? What do we commit to? Who will do what and when?

Next time you see an opportunity for a learning-driven retrospective or project debrief, why not give these 5 questions a go!

How to give better feedback with 19 words

“Can I give you some feedback?”

6 of the most scary words in the English language!! Instantly we feel nervous; our stress hormones start rising – even if these words come from someone we love and know cares for us deeply. Somehow, we feel threatened.


In his March 2018 PinkCast video, Dan Pink shares 19 words that have been shown to have a positive effect in feedback conversations.

Quoting from a study shared in a book called ‘The Culture Code’ by Daniel Coyle, it was found that 19 words used in feedback conversations had a ‘dramatic effect in boosting performance and effort.’


Pink shares simple reasons why these words have had such a positive impact:

  • they build trust
  • it signals belonging
  • it combines high standards with a belief that people can reach those standards

Researchers call this WISE FEEDBACK!

Click here to watch Dan’s video and see links to the work by Daniel Coyle.


Click here to see other posts on providing effective feedback.


Are your team members using their strengths every day?

If you are a leader of others, I want you to stop what you are doing for a moment, and reflect on this question. And I want you to be honest!

At work, is every member of you team able to use their personal strengths every day?

How did you answer that question?

Others I have asked have responded with answers such as ‘I think they do, well most of the time…’ or ‘You know, I haven’t really thought about that before. I’d have to think about that some more.’

In answering this question honestly, you need to be able to more fully answer these more detailed questions:

  • What are the strengths of each of the members of my team?
  • Have I recognised these strengths as strengths?
  • Do they recognise these strengths as strengths?
  • What situations are part of their day that give them an opportunity for them utilise them?
  • Are they getting the chance to do what they do best every day?

These are tough questions to answer – but as a leader, you do have a responsibility to find the answers. Creating an environment where our teams can be their best is one of the most fundamental things leaders need to do!

What do I mean by strengths?

As shared in a Huff Post blog by Susan Peppercorn, ‘we intuitively understand that strengths are something we’re good at, something that takes less effort than things in which we don’t excel. Strengths, however, are more than what we do well. Strengths also energize us. Did you ever notice yourself involved in something where you lost track of time because you were so engaged? That’s an indication that you were using one or more of your strengths. Strengths that are energising align with your values.’ So…strengths are things we are good at and actually enjoy doing!

Some of the ViA Character strengths include creativity, curiosity, perserverance, a love of learning, teamwork and hope. Some of the ‘At my best’ strength examples are dependable, sincere, fair, detailed and passionate. Those in your team may be good collaborators, able to pull disparate ideas together, are able to keep going when they hit a setback, are able to identify possible risks. The strength might be a talent, a part of their character, something or someone they know or something they can do, and ideally, something have an interest in! Everyone has things they are good at!

Why can focusing on strengths be challenging

Unfortunately many people don’t have an active awareness of what their strengths actually are! And even more don’t realise what can happen when you truly harness them. The ‘Australian tall poppy’ concept can actually backfire on us – humility is a virtue but not at the expense of misunderstanding excellence!

On top of that, many of us have a strong ‘negativity bias’. We focus more on what is not working rather than what is. And as some of our DiA participants reflect when receiving feedback about their leadership behaviours, some of us only see constructive feedback as useful feedback. Hearing about what we do well can make us feel uncomfortable, or worse, many don’t see it as valuable.

Why focusing on strengths matters

Studies have shown that people who get to use their strengths often feel more confident, motivated, energised, and satisfied with work. They are more engaged, innovative, creative and accountable. And people who get to use their strengths often are more resilient, healthier and experience lower levels of stress.

Gallup’s studies have shown that those that have the opportunity to focus on their strengths everyday are:

  • six times as likely to be more engaged in their jobs,
  • 7.8% more productive in their role, and
  • three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life

And after studying 20,000 people around the world, the Corporate Leadership Council (2005) found that conversations between managers and staff that focused on staff strengths (the things they enjoyed and were good at) led to an average improvement in performances of 36% for a period of time after the conversations. However, if the managers had performance conversations that focused on their staff’s weaknesses (the things that needed fixing) people’s performance actually declined by 27%.

And in a study published in HBR in 2018 exploring employee retention at Facebook, people didn’t just quit their ‘boss’ – as is often the saying, ‘they left when their job wasn’t enjoyable, their strengths weren’t being used, and they weren’t growing in their careers’.

So focusing on strengths helps to bring the best out of your team members, and helps ensure you keep your best people!

What I can do as a leader?

Gallup’s studies show that a strength based approach to managing is the single best method for improving the employee-manager relationship. (Source :

Start by helping others discover their strengths

Many people don’t have an active awareness of their strengths. Leaders taking the time to notice and recognising the strengths of each team member is one of the first things to do.

Make the time to talk about strengths with each team member.

  • Ask them to recall a couple of times at work in recent months when they had hit their ‘sweet spot’; a time when they were effortlessly absorbed in what they were doing, when they felt effective, inspired, satisfied and fulfilled
  • Help them to deconstruct what was happening in those experiences, help them to understand what energised them so positively and what specific talents they were drawing on
  • Help them to recognise some more strengths by sharing some of your recent observations
  • Suggest they seek some feedback from others who they often work with. What strengths do they see?
  • You may also encourage them to take a strengths audit – using one of the great ViA (free) or CliftonStrengths strengths tools.

Then find ways for your team member to use them more often

  • Talk with your team member and collectively explore ideas about more opportunities where your team member could use their strengths more often. Even if it is for 15 more minutes per day! Studies show even a short increase in time using strengths has huge benefits!
  • Coach your team member with conversations that help them focus on their strengths. Look for the coachable moment – and touch base often. ‘Employees are seven times more likely to be engaged when they report that their managers are aware of the tasks and projects that they are working on‘. This is likely to be even higher when team members are working on things that they really care about and enjoy!

And role model a strengths-focus within your team.

Share what you see as your strengths – and seek some feedback on them from your team members. Share how you try to use them each day.

Use strengths language in your daily dealings, and encourage team members to do the same. Encourage them to provide positive feedback about the strengths they see their team members using at work. Cultivate a strengths culture. This might help a team member realise an unconscious talent!


We all have good days – and bad days at work, and the moods that follow influence our engagement levels…How much effort do I want to put in to this task?

Whether the motivator is achievement, purpose, mastery, recognition or something else – giving your people more opportunities to use their strengths every day facilitates moments of self validation and satisfaction which are such powerful ways to help get the best from your people!


Want to know more?

If you’d like some help exploring strengths, for yourself or your team, please contact or We can help with team discussions about strengths, and we also provide one-on-one coaching services.

Simple daily 5 minute mindfulness activity

There are close relationships between learning, forming new habits and wellbeing, and whenever I come across something that explores these themes I often find myself curious to know more! I recently came across a post entitled ‘A 5 minute mindfulness exercise that’s ideal for skeptics and grumps’! (Melody Wilding) and it caught my eye! Not because I think of myself as a skeptic – or a grump (well – not every day anyway!) – but because I have a tendency towards practicality; i.e. yes, that is interesting, but what could I do with this information that is of value?

The post explored some of the positive psychology findings, exploring

  • the importance of noticing and savouring positive emotions – gratitude in particular,
  • not being a ‘Pollyanna’ about negative emotions – learning to cope with and learn from them rather than to ignore them, and
  • the need to recognise personal achievements or those of others – here described as the ‘hero’ moment.


It prompted me to pull together an information visual that reflects 4 themes of reflection that I find of value:


a) Today’s High – What went well?

In the spirit of the gratitude concept, the ‘What went well?’ question encourages you to savour something good about the day. Our lives can be so busy that we regularly don’t stop to notice things; we quickly move on to the next item on the ‘to do list’. Studies have shown that doing this, ideally finding and savouring 3 things that have gone well – can have an extremely positive impact on your wellbeing. (See a previous post called : The power of noticing good things at work).  It helps you to recognise your strengths, and prompts you to find ways to use more of your strengths each day. It can also help you to activate the thinking – learning – part of the brain.

Tied in to the 3:1 ratio for positive:negative emotions shared by Professor Barbara Fredrickson, humans need a ratio of at least 3 positive emotions to every negative one if they are to ‘flourish’. Sometimes called the Losada ratio, studies have shown a ratio of less than 3 positive emotions to every negative one decreases one’s resilience. Notice the ratio is not 3:0 – it is ok to have negative emotions. Hence the next question…

b) Today’s Low – What didn’t go so well? What will I do differently next time?

Humans are wired to have a negativity bias. Our kids are living proof. Rather than focusing on the 99% they get right, they obsess about the 1% they get wrong! Humans attach more weight to the negative feelings. But it is naïve to try to ignore them – in fact negative feelings are necessary. By asking ‘What didn’t go so well?’ we can trigger learning that inspires us to find better ways.

c) Today’s Smile – Who or what made me smile today? or What made me feel proud today?

The ‘What / who made me smile today?’ question is a bit similar to the ‘Today’s High’ question, but it offers an opportunity to explore one of the other building blocks of wellbeingPERMA – P – positive emotion, E – engagement, R – relationships, M – meaning, A – achievement (Martin Seligman).

It might trigger a moment of recognition of being lost in what you were doing (engagement), the help a team member gave you (relationships), the steps forward you made on a project (progress towards achievement) or the idea you shared that contributed to making a customer satisfied (meaning). And if you can’t think of an answer to the first – try the second – ‘What made me feel proud today?’ It might be what your team did, or something as simple as someone giving up their seat for someone else on the train – it does not have to be a work thing.

d) About Tomorrow – What am I looking forward to?

And the final question ‘What am I looking forward to?’ triggers feelings of inspiration, curiosity and / or hope. Another contribution to your 3:1…these are positive emotions too!

Form a new habit that is good for you!

Reflecting on these 4 themes at the end of the day need only take you 5 minutes. You may think about the questions and answers before you leave for the day, or sometime before you head to bed. You may even think about writing the answers down – and re-read them on another day when you need a bit of a ‘pick me up’.

As we’ve written about before, forming new habits, even those with the best of intention, can be tricky. So try hitching (associating) them to something else you already do – like turning off your laptop at the end of the day, or your last coffee.

Reflecting on these 4 themes of questions – for 5 minutes each day – is, as Melody writes, a “balanced way to take stock of the okay, the great, and the to-be-improved.”

Other blogs that may interest you:

The power of noticing good things at work

So Mindfulness is good for me…but how can I make it part of my day?

Ideas to help fuel positive emotions

Word tag – Wellbeing