An Aha Moment on Winning

Over the last month or so I have been listening to and discussing what the hidden depth of high performance is and what part winning plays in that. A part of me rejects the desire to grade performance and yet another part recognizes the true value in measuring something to give it meaning. This is the ‘aha’ moment for me – that to feel I have performed well, to get that ‘winning well’ kind of feeling, I need to experience a light bulb moment of clarity about why or how I performed well.

It is a topic that intrigues me – I am curious, in a scientific kind of way, about what other elements and machanitions are there that move us into high performance and create that ‘winning’ feeling, especially in this ‘brave new world’ of post-pandemic business-life.

If performance is a measured thing to make it high or low, then it should be simply a matter of putting all the skills and competencies in the right place and letting them distill into high performance. However, we know it is not as simple as this.There is another side to the high performance coin that comes from the energy and commitment. So one side of high performance could be skills and competencies (tools of the trade) and the other side could be the energy and commitment (inner purpose) we are feeling. What I have noticed when working with teams and high performing indiviudals is that they balance these elements around their closely held values. I am still left wondering what else there is in the formula that turns a performance into a feeling of ‘winning well’.

When I reflect on this, what stands out to me is that it is our feelings that inspires us and our feelings that we use to measure how well we have performed. Whether it is a ‘ho-hum’ performance or quite fulfilling, our feelings are the guide! Hence, my curiosiness has lead me to conclude that as high performers we are searching for an immeasurable measure to confirm our high performance, to give us that ‘winning well’ feeling.

As a leadership coach, I have discovered that a feeling of ‘winning well’ is a very individual thing because the ‘well’ part of the phrase comes from the measure of the individual or the team I am working with. It’s not something that can be arbitrarily applied or externally measured to claim the ‘winning well’ title.

On a personal level, I need to experience an ‘aha moment’ to give me the ‘winnng well’ feeling. My ‘aha moment’ is when there is a sudden understanding of what is behind a knarly issue or the different perspective I can take to unlock the next steps for me or my client. So this is my measure of ‘winning well’. No matter what anyone else tells me or explains to me, unless I experience an ‘aha moment’ I feel like an underperformer.

In William B Irvine’s book Aha!: The Moments of Insight that Shape Our World, he explores the many varieties of ‘aha moments’ that have resulted in significant wins for humankind and the world we live in. The ‘aha moment’ could be a moral revelation or a scientific revelation or simply a small trigger that changes the way we approach something. They don’t all have to change the entire world, but they do have to result in new insight and will make an impact on us. Something we easily remember and recall over and over.

My insight or ‘aha moment’ when pondering on ‘winning well’ and high performance, is that a key element of the formula is to discover something and share it. It can be to reveal a truth that hasn’t seemed relevant, or it can be a new perspective on an old issue, or it can be an awareness of why everything worked well and knowing how we can repeat it.

So the fundamental nature of ‘winning well’ for me is in the sharing of the win to make high performance sustainable – it’s in my response to the experience. What is it for you?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

~ Margaret Armitage

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Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Australia: Current Status and Recommendations.

Please see the following link to this just-published report compiled by Curtin University’s Associate Professor Jeremy Galbreath, my Co-founder and Director of Second Squared and WayFinder Capital, Lui Pangiarella, and 3 others.

The report highlights Australia’s entrepreneurial and innovation cultures, and amalgamates research and information from multiple sources to identify key trends relating to:

·       Australian sentiment and appetite for starting up new businesses
·       Funding sources and the economic benefits of start-up funding
·       Types of funders
·       Funding breakdowns by sector, state, etc
·       International comparisons
·       And more.

It may add some context to the overall understanding of the Australian market and our appetite for entrepreneurial endeavour.

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Putting your finger on the pulse in coaching

A short text message from a client opened-up a world of understanding for me on the impact a coaching conversation can have.

In my wonderings with Ak Sabbagh, my coaching colleague at Beckon Business, I often reflect on how much visible evidence clients see from their coaching sessions and how little evidence I see! My perspective is usually on ROI – revenue shifts and increased capacity and behavioral shifts and the like. I base this on “the more time I put in the more benefit the client will see!!” Ak so often asks me “what would you see if you took another perspective that wasn’t time based but impact based? For instance, the client’s well-being may be just as valuable to them as the revenue shift they get and it doesn’t matter how much or how little time you spend, it is still very valuable.” Quoting from Ak – “a short conversation can bring about significant awareness if the client is in that space.” Let me explain…


  • I made a ‘quick’ call to check-in with the client who was finishing up a heavy week during COVID. No agenda on my part other than to check the client’s well-being heading into the weekend.
  • It had been a difficult week with one of the client’s staff causing a lot of friction in the team when everyone was busy. The processes in a tightly-managed, highly-geared business were being overlooked by this particular staff member.
  • My client felt highly frustrated, which was demonstrated by being short-tempered and angry in front of the team. Not only that this client was going through some health issues, which added to the stress and feelings of overwhelm, etc.

Invitation: Would you like to talk about it?

  • Unload – In a few, short sentences my client unloaded all the frustration, disappointment and anxiety burdening the week. Much of the disappointment was about ‘going back to where we were a year ago’ and the sudden awareness that the disappointment felt was with their reactive behaviour.
  • Slow-down – Slowing down, pausing and questioning helped this client see they were not back where they were a year ago and significant shifts had been made in the overall team’s growth. It was this one staff member that hadn’t shifted.
  • The self-judgement in my client had been high at the beginning of the conversation and shifted to a considered responsible action at the end of our 30 minute conversation. I finished it there.

Revelation: A few minutes after hanging up I received a text message with screen shots:

  “[My Blood Pressure and Pulse] this morning when I arrived at work”


“and [my Blood Pressure and Pulse] after talking to you.”


“…..Thank you for your care, knowledge and support.”

The shifts in Blood Pressure and Pulse rate were significant for my client. I have heard Lyra Puspa, neuroscientist and leadership coach speak about the impact a coaching conversation can have on a person’s heart rate and blood pressure, but never considered it as ROI in my coaching.

In short, what I have learnt is that there can be much value in short conversations. Quality not quantity always wins the day!

Margaret Armitage

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Ted Talk that made me think…

Good morning!

Thought I’d share a Ted Talk that my daughter forwarded to me today to discuss over dinner tonight. It brings to the surface some very interesting thoughts and perspective around age and ageing.  I found it well messaged in the main.  Be interested in your thoughts.  Mine are below.

What I like is that the presenter has brought to the surface many blind spots that we have within our social system around the topic of age and ageing.  She counters them with really good arguments that allow us to ponder upon our own judgements and beliefs, and perhaps even help us to change just one of them.  That is a good thing.  I love her line about “I am getting old because my left knee hurts – but your right knee doesn’t and it’s the same age!” What a great paradigm breaker!

I disagree with some of her argument and constructs.  Whilst arguing  the need to break down the old beliefs, patterns  and judgements, she uses judgement and beliefs of her own to “make wrong” constructs like capitalism, ‘big business’ and ‘big pharma’ (and a lot more)  in the same breath.  What I think she is trying to do but doesn’t quite get there is to argue that ageism – or any ism is a part of the whole system.  That any “ism” needs to be brought to light – not in judgement but in acknowledging that it exists (even if just in our minds). .

Blaming one part of the system for the ails of another part of that system is flawed logic, a circular argument, and uncreative.  For example, I don’t personally believe that big pharma is out to conspire to make us feel old/sick/bad/wrong – (that’s marketing’s role if we choose to listen to it – and we unconsciously do).  While blaming them for being the bad guys, she fails to recognise that big pharma is still a part of our overall system.  And we cannot change the system from within it (to paraphrase Einstein).  By observing the whole system in context, we can address the beliefs and behaviours we need to address within ourselves (and that helps change the whole system).   My belief is that, on balance, big pharma scientists go to work ‘on purpose,’ perhaps thinking how they could make all lives better by reducing pain, eliminating suffering etc. What we have done, as part of the same system, is to wrap it all in judgement, blame and an unconscious belief that we must ‘make them wrong’ to ‘make us right.’  After all, “those big companies rob us of our money by making us feel bad about ourselves and then sell us stuff to make us feel better.”  No.  If I feel bad about myself – that’s me doing that. That’s me buying into a marketing campaign.  I can change that belief pretty quickly really.

I just need to take full responsibility and ownership for all my stuff – not outsource the issue to ‘the bad guys’ (which I believe to be another mental construct!).

I am reminded by words that my late mother used to speak around being delighted in ageing and gaining white in her hair – a privilege to be able to do so compared to the many that never get to experience it.  She also said once when I asked if she would retire at 80 “Why? I get up and my hip hurts, my foot hurts and it takes a bit longer to get to the bus, but why would I want to not go to work? Why would I not want to be with people half my age, active, alive, aware, thinking, challenging? My hip will still hurt at work, but my mind will be on other more important things.”  Purpose-full.

For me the message is – keep surfing!


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Is there a way to fail better? (6PR Interview – Ak Sabbagh)

Are we a nation that fears failure? Leadership expert Ak Sabbagh thinks so, and he thinks it needs to stop if we want to move forward.

See Aks recent podcast with 6PR Chris Ilsley  here:

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Successful succession: An eight-step approach to passing the business baton (Ak Sabbagh) Smart Company Article

The average age of a mid-size company owner in Australia is between 57–75 years old, and yet more than 75% of them don’t have any form of planned succession.

It’s no wonder that we regularly see business transitions occur with frantic, unplanned haste and no real value for current owners.

But it doesn’t need to be that way if you plan out your process.

Below are eight considerations to get you and your business ready to pass the baton onto the next owner.

1. Are you really ready?

First, decide whether you are really ready to sell your business. Ask yourself what is motivating you to sell.

If the business is underperforming, while you may want to exit now, it might not be a good time.

If you have a major life event (divorce, death, illness) in your personal life then it might not be a good time either.

If it’s just ‘time to sell’ and you have planned for it, then you have many options. You could sell to some of your key staff (or help them acquire into the business), to a competitor, or to some form of financial investor (like private equity).

2. Are you running to or from?

Secondly, ask yourself if you are moving towards something important to you, or running away from something you don’t want anymore.

Your answer will change how you exit and who you engage with.

In particular, the answer to that question gives an indication of how quickly you want to exit and why.

If your driving motivation is to simply get out, and speed is the most important factor, then you want to engage with as many people as possible and have a clear understanding of the minimum price you will expect.

3. The buyer’s mindset

Third, be in the buyer’s mindset, not the seller’s.

Will you hand over the business to just ‘anyone’?

Are there any persona non grata? Are there organisations you would hate to see own your business?

What should the new owner be like, since they can’t be a replica of you?

What is your ideal person or company as a buyer and why?

Identifying your ideal buyer means you’ll know them when you see them. Otherwise, anyone looks good.

4. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s

Once you’ve figured out your plan, the fourth step is to get your house in order.

If you have no formal contracts, no formal documentation, a shoebox full of receipts, do you really have anything to sell?

It’s time to ensure you have invested in the right structure, systems, processes, people, and documentation so that the business is ready for sale.

5. What’s it worth?

The fifth step is to understand what your business is really worth to someone else.

Don’t confuse what you want for the business, or need for future life, with what the business is worth.

The first step is to do your own research. Find businesses that are similar to yours that have sold recently and go and speak directly to the past owners about it, not only what they got but also what the process was like.

But don’t just take one person’s word for it; consult widely.

6. The sales process

Step six is to understand all your options and make a choice.

To understand your options, don’t just ring your accountant or broker. Your sale process should be tailored specifically to the answers above.

Engage a professional who will help you find the right buyer who meets your criteria and can pay what the business is worth.

That buyer could be an employee, a customer, competitors or supplier.

7. Get flexible

Next, think beyond price. What someone is willing to pay will be different depending on when and how they have to pay.

Vendor terms, deferred components and conditional components are normal for reasonable sized businesses.

Flexibility may get you more, so if you want to maximise the price, expect to offer vendor finance and/or get a deferred payment.

8. Passing the baton

Step eight is to remember the business is yours until you pass the baton, but not a minute longer.

Be sure to plan for the distraction of the sale process, but you must continue to drive the business until you’ve sold it.

When you’ve finally got past the sale, you will have changed your identity overnight.

You are no longer a business owner. So, what are you?

The real work starts now. Plan for what you will be doing and how you will be talking about yourself.

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Food for Thought

Like many of us, I have an interest in good food and good business.  In recent days I have been following the George Calombaris story in the press and it’s brought up a few key principles in business that are worthwhile remembering.

But before the sharpened knives of the “blame game” come out to cut down this tall poppy, let’s acknowledge that entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted.  Calombaris, together with his business partners took risks.  It is the nature of entrepreneurship to take risks, lead with passion, grow and build brands, put personal reputations on the table, hire, fire, serve clients etc.

As his tale unfolds, the course that Calombaris is currently being served poses lessons that all of us in business can learn from.  The following thoughts are a taster…

As Entrée: it takes courage to put yourself out there as the brand and as a person. It means that when things are going well, you remain humble. And when it’s not going that well, fails or falters, it’s going to be tough on you personally.

Key ingredients: How I show up (especially in the tough times) determines how I will be regarded respected and remembered.

Matched with: the question – As a leader, how do I show up? In different situations – whether under stress or otherwise. Who am I being? Am I aware enough of my own beliefs, behaviours and attitudes, and how these ‘rub off’ on those around me?

As Main Course: with the sizzling pace of fast growth that Calombaris experienced comes the need to efficiently fill the capability needed to build sustainability.  Late last year we witnessed his issues with payroll.  No doubt other aspects of his enterprise probably lacked the depth of skills needed to keep his plates spinning.

When we start our businesses, they are generally small enough for us to do pretty much most things that that business needs to keep going. Chief cook and bottlewasher.

But as it grows, we need to remind ourselves that we are good at some things and not others – that there are people passionate about the things that we are not.  Calombaris’s story reminds me of the need to put the right skills in the right areas of the business. Being one of the most creative chefs in the country doesn’t mean that you’re a good business manager, payroll specialist, etc.

Key ingredients: For my own business that means I need to trust others to do the stuff that they are good at, and passionate about. And frankly, it’s a reminder that I’m crap at doing many things in my own business (and that is “OK”).

Matched with: Knowing that – to avoid too many cooks in my kitchen, I need to be clear about roles and responsibilities, delegate to skilled and reliable people. Trust that – as a team we are going to cook up a feast!

To Finish: in leadership I must be courageous in every step I take. Business is not for the faint hearted and the risks I take and the decisions I make have consequences that effect more than just me. Regardless of the outcome, I must own it, fully.

Matched with: Surround myself with “A-Players.”  Find the right people to grow my business with me.  Be OK with the fact that the right players today may not be up for the journey.  Know that at times I need to change my ingredients – and hence my menu to ensure a winning team in an ever changing environment.

Bon appetite.

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The value of time

Making our business relationships work can be just as complex as making our personal relationships work (sometimes).

We at Beckon Business, in our day-to-day Business Coaching find that the focus on both internal relationships and external relationships is increasing.  Most businesses see the return on investment in relationships shows up on the bottom-line.

We often hear from our clients of the benefits that come from developing successful business relationships – and this is what they focus on in-order to build more relationships. However, whilst focussing on the benefits, we can overlook the barriers that might be holding the relationship back from growing.

Of the barriers (we have identified five) the one that personally impacts on me when considering who I will develop a business relationship with is TIME – and time is frequently the barrier we most overlook!

It has the most impact on me because it is the hardest commodity for me to find and therefore the one, I hold most closely!

I work as part of a two-person team and this relationship would never work if my team partner didn’t place the same value on time as I do and respect my time in the same way as I respect his. It is a conversation we had in the very early stages of our partnership and one in which we both had to be clear about expectations on our time inside the business.

Time can be a sticking-point, because interestingly it depends on how you measure it, in the sense that you measure the either the time or the value that comes from the time. In our team, time is measured on value not hours put in. In other words, return on investment for the time used. This works for us and the majority of businesses we work with too.

So, when developing relationships, to overcome the barrier of TIME, measure it by the value you get from the relationship not the hours you spend on it.


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Getting coffee when all you want is tea – the importance of effective communication in the workplace.

assortment of tea and coffee on a table

You ask for a cup of tea and all you seem to get is coffee!

We’ve all been there. No matter how many times you think you’re being clear and spell out – “T. E. A.” – you keep getting the stuff you don’t want.

You’ve been clear. You’ve been direct. Right? Well, maybe not!

Sometimes communicating is just a little more challenging than expected.

Today I was with the owners of a thriving business in Perth, chewing the fat over a cup of tea (yes, I got tea!), when the subject of employees came up. One of the owners rolled her eyes and shared the challenge of communicating with one employee in particular.

“He never seems to be able to follow instructions. You spell it out – steps 1 through 7- in detail, and he misses out step 4. And then when we get the outcome, he’s missed step 4 and argues that I never went through it with him”.

When we communicate in the workplace – or anywhere for that matter, we make assumptions along the way. We assume we are communicating clearly (I understood what I was saying), we assume the message has “landed,” has been heard, and interpreted correctly, in the way we intended.

Lots of assumptions, lots of filters for the communication to go through along the way. Coffee instead of tea.

So how do we ensure we are communicating effectively?

Step 1 – Awareness: Become aware of your differing style and language when communicating. Some people prefer to give and receive the Detail (“I spelt out steps 1-7…”), and expect others to hear it and process it literally, when in fact the recipient may not ‘process’ the world in the same way.

Others may give and receive their communication in a more Interpretive style – using more visual or illustrative language to deliver their message. You’ll typically hear these people tell stories or ‘walk through’ a scenario as an experience rather than as a list of steps to follow.

And others prefer a more concise way of communicating. They want the Gist. They don’t need/want the detail, assuming the recipient doesn’t either, and expect the other party to fill in the blanks. They tend to get that ‘eyes glazed over’ look a few short minutes into a conversation. They’re onto the next topic already!

We all have and use each of the above ‘styles’ to differing levels, tending to prefer one over the other in different situations.

Are you aware of how this is playing out in your workplace? Build awareness at work by having this conversation with your work mates. How do they prefer to give and receive their communication?

Step 2 – Choice: Once we are aware of how we communicate, we can make choices. We can choose to change how we deliver a message, depending on the varying styles of those receiving it. If we know how other people receive and process a communication, we can choose to tailor the message accordingly.

We can also choose to receive communication, ‘open’ to the style it is being delivered in.

Step 3 – Action: Manage the moment. Ask for feedback there and then. Did the other party receive the communication as intended? How did they hear it? Ask them to feed it back to you.

Does it come back as tea or coffee?

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