It starts with you. Does the culture in your organisation empower, enhance, enable and engage?

It Starts with you Graphic

I fell into leadership as no-one else was putting their hand up at the time

I was not comfortable because whilst I know everyone admires my courage and the fact that I get stuff done my style does not suit everyone.

I wasn’t crazy about it myself.

So I went on a journey to improve my leadership style

I am the first to admit its progress not perfection

What my journey has taught me is CULTURE in organisations is the must have foundation.

Because I identified some of the best leadership coaches in the business to go on my learning journey with, I have become very good at identifying good leadership in others and organisations that get stuff done because they get the culture right first

I got to experience what that looks like at the highest level in the last month.

Best practice following a meeting is to send a follow up document that outlines from your perspective what all parties agreed to do. Then all parties go on that journey (with any tweaks that you missed). BTW You know you are working with the best when the other party sends the follow up email before you do.

Three weeks ago, I was in a meeting where both parties had the opportunity to get more great stuff done by working with others they had not yet been introduced to.

I had connections for the organisation I was talking to and some-one from the organisation I was talking to had previously worked for a legend whose organisation would be the perfect partner for the schools our organisation works with

And meeting this legend would be for me be like meeting Barack Obama or Bill Gates

The introductions were made and then I saw why this legend and the organisation she founded has achieved so much

It was extraordinary. I sent an email to the legend outlining what our organisation does and highlighted potential synergies from my perspective.

She then did this thing I have never seen in action before.

She connected me with her Executive Assistant, all the key program managers, told me who would be allocated to blind cc and who was accountable for what in one paragraph.

Meetings followed and magic is happening !!!!!!!!!

How does your CEO deal with their Inbox?

How many people and organisations do you talk to who spend more time telling you how busy they than they do getting stuff done.?

'do something today that your future self will thank you for' hand lettering quote on dark background
‘do something today that your future self will thank you for’ hand lettering quote on dark background

Kownledge into action


Rudderless Dairy – makes my heart bleed


Marian McDonald was a gusty woman when she took on the family farm in 2008. She bought a refreshing feistiness to dairy conversations. She is a champion of the grass roots, is not afraid to tackle the tough issues in her blog MilkMaid Marian, she asks the questions that need to be asked of people who should have the answers and she has the courage of her convictions

Today she gives her thoughts on John Mulvaney’s opinion piece in The Weekly Times in her post Disillusioned Dairy  

Mike Logan the former CEO of Dairy Connect also reflected on the state of the Australian Dairy Industry in Nov last year in his opinion piece Australian Dairy has Lost its Rudder.

Mike says

The leadership challenge of the Australian dairy industry has increased to a level that I believe is insurmountable without significant government intervention. I am not a supporter of government intervention.

Unfortunately, the time has come.


The hubris of the board and senior executives of MG ( Murray Goulburn) has left the Victorian dairy industry – and by association, the Australian dairy industry – without a guiding rudder. The Victorians are at sea and going nowhere and are hoping for tides or winds to take them.


Put simply, the end of the era of co-operatives has allowed the processors to control the industry. Presently, there is no unity between the farmers and the processors. Many will blame the supermarkets but the numbers don’t support that view. It is not Colesworth.

The leadership challenge is within the industry itself. Specifically, the leadership challenge is with the farm sector of the dairy industry.


The ship is at sea, rudderless.

It is tawdry to note that the current Chairman of the ADF is also an ex-chairman and I believe a current Director of WCB. Another Director is from Fonterra. Most of the ADF’s budget is channelled through the processors. Clearly, the processors control the farmer’s representative body.

Mike comes from an industry with a highly successful farmer leadership lobby model in Cotton Australia. As a former Chairman of the Board of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation he bought a breath of fresh air, a wealth of experience and drive and like Marian feistiness to the dairy industry.

In his opinion piece Mike proffers the following solutions

What should the ADF do?

The ADF is the focal point of the leadership challenge. The ADF needs to reform itself into a functional & efficient dairy farmer representative body.

What should the Government do?

The government is rightly reluctant to interfere in industry policy and strategy. Governments all hope to be guided by an industry with a unified approach to the challenges of the future. When governments are forced into these positions they usually deliver blunt and inelegant solutions. Often, there are deleterious impacts from the unintended consequences of government interference in industry policy.

The Government is now at a point where it has to assume that role. The government has to free up the relationship between the farmers and the processors by addressing the focal point of the relationship – the contracts.

You can read the full piece here  It makes one hell of a lot of sense

My thoughts on farmer leadership in dairy?

As some-one who did put their hand up for roles on farmer lobby groups I agree with Marian. We wear out our champions. The majority of us are under-prepared from a governance, negotiation skills and general whole of supply chain knowledge capacity to make the changes required.  I was one of those under-prepared. ADF has some fresh blood and now has funding to build leadership capacity for our farmers. I look forward to them using it wisely. I look forward to our farmers seeking out the successful models, asking the right questions, being prepared to listen and feeling confident they have the skills and the support of their fellow farmers to take the Australian Dairy Industry to the heights it deserves

Added note. Another hugely successful farmer lobby group model is Farmers for Climate Action I know why this model works so well. It would be a very exciting day if  Australian dairy farmers embraced this model. Look out world



Leadership reflections. Be good to yourself. Life is short. Live it with joy.

International Womens Day (IDW) 2005 was a pivotal point in my life journey. When I got the call to tell me I was the inaugural Kiama IWD Electorate Women of the Year, I was thrilled, I was flabbergasted, and I had a huge dose of imposter syndrome. It was the imposter syndrome that weighed heavily so I set the bar high for myself and was determined to live up to award and so the journey began.

This is a post for everyone out there fighting the good fight, spending a lot of time questioning themselves, feeling a bit (very) jaded, and keen to get their mojo back.

I woke up yesterday morning to see this post from Airlie Trescowthick founder of Farm Table . Airlie  started her post Thank you for inspiring me: 14 rural women I want to celebrate this IWD. with this preface

In celebration of International Women’s Day (8th March 2018), I wanted to take the time out to thank some women who have made an impact on me during my Farm Table journey so far.

 Some know me, some do not, but they have all inspired me and given me the confidence to develop, grow and take risks running my own business.

These women are running businesses and building solutions to issues and challenges we share across rural and agricultural industries. Starting up a business can be lonely and scary, particularly when in a rural area. But, with a network of like-minded and supportive women across the country, you are never truly alone.

Thank you, from me, and from all that you inspire.

Of the 14 people Airlie profiled I only know two personally and I look forward to the day I meet the other twelve. Wow

When I read Airlie’s profile on me – it generated a lot of reflection

Farm Table 3.jpg

MMMh the ‘ultimate leader’. What is a leader. One thing I know for sure is what Airlie and her support team have created with Farm Table is nothing short of phenomenal and there is no way in the world I could have pulled it off. Super kudos to them

If leadership is creating a movement and being part of that movement. I can wear that hat. My style is not one that everyone is comfortable with and I have spent the last five years questioning it myself.

I’ve been called a leader for taking initiative, getting things done and standing my ground on big issues. My journey has taught me that results are not everything and leadership is not a solo activity.  It’s something that you do with people, not despite people. To be a successful leader we also need to work on how we engage to get those results. One of the things I’ve been working on is developing my style to build stronger relationships because relationships are everything. We always need to be thinking about how we can improve, how can we learn, and to take every leadership opportunity as a personal growth experience as well as a product delivery outcome.

Last year I signed up for several “leadership” courses. I engaged a leadership coach. I identified all the things I wanted to ‘improve’ about myself and poured my heart and soul into it. Let me tell you – you can have too much self-awareness. What my journey to be a  ‘better version of myself’  has reinforced is the importance of deep, genuine friendships, seeking help and surrounding yourself with people who bring joy into your life.

The most insightful advice I can give every-one out there (and we are all leaders) is be kind to yourself. As Steve Jobs so famously said “if you want to be liked, sell ice-cream”. People can pick and choose whether they want to be part of your movement or not.

And the tall poppy syndrome. Don’t beat yourself up. If some-one singles you out for an award or gives you an accolade, wear it with pride. Sure, there will be plenty of people they could have given it too, but they picked you. It’s what you do with the award, it’s how you leverage it on behalf of your cause that counts.

As Airlie identified there is no shortage of women in agriculture doing diverse and exciting things. There is no shortage of people in agriculture doing exciting things. There is no shortage of people in all our communities doing exciting things. If you want to start a movement or join a movement, find the one that brings joy into your life.

Thanks Airlie.  I look forward to following your journey.  I havent had the opportunity to work with you but my gut tells me you have an inclusive leadership style I have always aspired too

#IDW2018 #strongwomen #strongertogether

Speaking of Leadership Courses. The one that has left the most indelible impression on me is Leading Transformational Change. Its a live-in course at the Melbourne Business School. The course is transformational but its the people I met at the course who helped me put perspective to my life journey. They helped me celebrate the person I am. The good, the bits others think I should change and the bits I would like to change.  What others think no longer occupies large parts of my head space and the bits I would like to change help me appreciate others with those characteristics and aspire to surround myself with them.

Be good to  yourself. Life is short. Live it with joy

Talking leadership

Tomorrow I am going to the doctor. What’s so unusual about that is that I am actually going

I am extremely disappointed (devastated might be a better word) that I am not free to attend the Australian Farm Institute’s launch of their research report tomorrow in Canberra

Opportunities to improve the effectiveness of Australian farmers advocacy groups – a comparative approach’

Are advocacy groups necessary? (the rationale for collective advocacy); Getting inspired: International and national case studies of advocacy groups; What do Australian farmers really think of agricultural advocacy groups?;

Workshop: Developing a preferred model for agricultural advocacy in Australia

So what’s all this got to do with going to the doctor? A lot actually

There has been a lot of talk about leadership (or lack of) in agriculture for as long as I can remember.

Whether leaders are born or made?

Is the advocacy model flawed?

The Smartest person in the room

Lots and lots of talk and I haven’t seen much change over the last 20 years. So when I was asked last year to be on the NSW Farmers Dairy Committee I was very reticent. I was reticent because I don’t necessarily believe leaders are born and I didn’t feel I had the required skills sets

I was eventually convinced that it wouldn’t involve any more time and that it might help fast track some of the initiatives that I was trying to achieve.

I also felt a bit guilty and that I had a responsibility to give it a go and maybe, just maybe with the right team around me (all those people who had the skill sets I didn’t) I could really help make a difference.

More time. You are joking. 24/7 just took on a whole new meaning.

Face to face meetings are twice a year. The first meeting is taken up with identifying the priorities of your industry, your committee members’ area of expertise and where each person can be most effective and then developing the action plan.

Then putting it all into action seriously becomes 365 days plus

This is because you find most of the priority issues have been around for a long time and if your committee is going to be the one to get action you have to do a lot of backgrounding to understand the politics, the barriers, the personalities (and trust me its normally the personalities) as to why your committee may just have what it takes to surmount what all the committees before you couldn’t

State level representation often means federal representation and that means you are dealing with people all over the country and Australia is a big place. So that of course means teleconferences. Endless teleconferences. Urgent teleconferences. Workshops, summits, industry briefings, industry breakfasts, briefing notes and yes cancelled doctor’s appointments.

So I have found in the majority of cases there are lot of well-meaning people who put their hands up to take on these roles who just like me are floundering around in the dark, frustrated they are putting in all this time getting no-where and putting the rest of their life on hold

Leaders may be born, so might doctors but they don’t give you a license to operate until you have knowledge and the skill sets and the mentors and the support networks in place so you can be the very best doctor you can be physically and emotionally

The world is complex, agriculture is complex and leadership requires many things and we have to do a lot more than talk about it

As always no matter how good the concept it’s the people who make it work

Lets not forget the world is run by those who turn up. How do we make sure the right people are in the room. The people with all the skills sets required to make an effective team

For me we don’t have near enough people talking about how we can best help and support our people who put their hands up.

I look forward to reading the Australian Farm Institute’s report. I look forward to talking to some of the people I know who are going

Mick Keogh and his team are definitely world class leaders in their space. Let’s hope we take on board the learnings and the insights and so we can get on with the doing

Courage does not always roar

Courage under pressure

The end of 2013 is nigh and its time for reflection. This year I put my hand up to officially enter the world of agri-politics and as 2014 fast approaches I am seriously asking myself is this the best use of my time, energy and expertise? Very importantly is it the right thing for my emotional well-being?. As I listen and learn and process  I am constantly being reminded of the Edmund Burke quote 

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men and women do nothing.


I am also constantly buoyed by the great men and women I meet and last Monday saw me in Brisbane at the invitation of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) at their Climate Adaptation Producer Workshop. I was quite excited to be attending this workshop because MLA has a collaborative mindset and producers from a number of industries were attending and I love these cross industry think tanks.

I also saw it as a great opportunity to grow my Bring a Friend campaign and take the dynamo that is Target 100’s Beef Young Farming Champion Bronwyn Roberts with me

The group was tasked with answering the following questions (considering all elements of the enterprise – animals, plants, people and the overall system)

1. What are the key research needs for climate for our farming systems?

2. What are the human skills and capacity needs for climate for our farming systems?

3. What do we already know about climate, and is that information (& decision support tools) sufficiently available to livestock producers?

4. What would an ideal farming system look like for your business in 2030? What resources or tools would you require to be more profitable in the future?

Now anybody who has spent even the smallest amount of time with me will know that to me agriculture in this country won’t have a viable future until we start genuinely investing in our people. See previous post here

To me it is imperative that we identify, engage, nurture and support our young people in an environment that allows each individual to build and enhance existing knowledge and skills and pivotally provides ongoing training and development to help them become more effective, and take on bigger and more significant challenges. This also requires us to establish conditions that will allow individuals to engage in the process of learning and adapting to change.

So it goes without saying that I would firmly ensconce myself at the table that was focusing on question 2.

It would not be a discussion without leadership or rather lack of rearing its ugly head and this brings me to the reason why I am finding myself emotionally drained at the end of 2013

In my role as a national dairy industry councillor I attended a number of dairy industry events last month. The hot topic behind the scenes was how was Dairy Australia taking the Horizon 2020 project forward?. No matter how you look at it this is a brilliant document – Horizon 2020

This project explored possible future scenarios for the Australian dairy industry in 2020 and described a desirable outcome.

In the words of the working group it was about ‘looking long and thinking differently’ and creating

  • the necessary farm business “fitness”
  • a positive and proactive culture;
  • (dairy) industry leadership to succeed in achieving a desired future in 2020.

The working group said

These imperatives will require industry to do a number of fundamentally new things and to address existing agendas differently compared to today.

Excitingly Horizon 2020 was to be the start of a process to

stimulate the Australian dairy industry to focus on the future – the opportunities that this future presents and what it will demand of our industry.

There were a number of young farmers on this working group who got the opportunity of a lifetime to travel the world and meet the first movers and the innovators and the champions in dairy right across the supply chain from the US to Europe

Fundamentally for these young farmers leadership growth they were promised by Dairy Australia that

“this process should create an ongoing process of insights and thought leadership to guide industry decision-making in future,

and they would be part of the team

‘to monitor progress on follow-up to this initiative”.

Now we all know there is nothing more motivating that being part of success story

Sadly for this group of young farmers the promise from the powers that be that they would continue to be part of the journey were hollow. I can tell you having been there done that  a ‘thank you very much don’t call us we will call you (and don’t hold your breath)’ outcome is pretty demoralising and I was devastated speaking to some of the young farmers and hearing their disappointment .  

Now these young farmers do have choices and they can challenge the process and I know a few very passionate people are already in their court ready to stand beside them to help them do it. I am telling this story because I want more great men and women in dairy to join this team to fight the good fight     

I am reminded of the Theodore Roosevelt quote

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,

The man who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings;

The man who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.

So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Yes Agriculture is full of timid souls but I can assure you it is also full of leaders. Leaders who need more than token a ‘leadership alumni” they need support, ongoing training, access to bright minds and people with blue sky visions who discuss the big ideas. Sometimes they even need their hands held.

I know it can be done Art4Agriculture’s Young Farming Champions prove this to me everyday and they inspire  me to keep going and excitingly they have inspired the corporate sector to invest in them.

I will give it a couple of weeks to see if I have the strength to help drive change at Dairy Australia. I am not alone in this endeavour but more farmers need to put their hands up. I look forward to them stepping up to the challenge. Its time to look long and think differently and that starts with challenging the process   


Taking the leap

It’s almost 10 years since I stood up and said I want to be part of the team that drives change for agriculture and I must admit I have been overwhelmed by the people who have nurtured and inspired me as part of my journey.

fishbowl (1)

It’s never too late to be who you could have been. – It’s a matter of switching gears, never looking back, and BECOMING the person today that you always knew you were capable of being. Entertain every thought, say every word, and make every decision from their point of view.

What’s even better is the people who were determined to drag me down form part of a small group who just don’t matter anymore.

Now it’s my chance to give back and support the next generation of people who want to engage as agents of change in their world and make a difference and it’s quite exciting the number of pathways and programs available in agriculture to help nurture them or provide a vehicle to give them the profile to attract and learn from likeminded spirits.

we each have the potentail to make a difference

Closing shortly are applications for the Australian Rural Leadership program and the NAB Agribusiness Rising Beef Champion Initiative

The Australian Rural Leadership program is a personal and professional growth training and development program of which part of the process is often called “transformative learning”, which is changing the way that you look at things, including yourself. It also has a reputation (and please correct me if I am wrong) of increasing the divorce rate as participants become aware that successful people have partners who either support them or share their vision or are divorced.

The program is viewed as the elite amongst rural leadership programs and many of the alumni are often almost evangelistic in encouraging others to join their journey.

For me the Kimberley experience and the trip to India are my excuse for not applying but I certainly admire and am extremely happy to support applications from young people that are gutsy enough to take them both on Leadership

The Rising Beef Champion Initiative commenced in 2010. The aim of the initiative is to inspire, empower and support young people, who are passionate about the Australian beef industry and to provide them with an opportunity to be directly involved. 2011 Young Farming Champion Alison McIntosh was the inaugural winner  

There is no doubt that if agriculture is going to attract forward and future thinking young people who have the potential to grasp the issues, complexities and range of perspectives across the supply chain as well as understand the importance of the big picture and its broader ramifications and implications we must identify those people, engage them, invest in and nurture them

Critically (and sadly where we too often fall down) is agriculture needs to be proactive in determining the pathways and support structures required to retain these young fabulous people