Are you playing to your strengths?

The Secret to Success : do more of what you’re good at

If you’re thinking about what you want to do with your life – here’s a suggestion that might just help you to discover the direction that you’re searching for…… PLAY to your strengths!

In other words, find a way to do more of what you’re naturally good at.Play to your strengths

Now some of you reading this might be quite clear about your strengths. However, there will be many others who are unsure. And this uncertainty could stem from different reasons, perhaps for example ….

  1. In the past, you’ve only ever received criticism – and never really been given compliments nor been provided with positive feedback. Thus, you haven’t had any help to assist you in recognising what you’re good at. And of course the effect of persistent and harsh criticism can result in a bruised self-esteem, where you can experience regular inner demons of self-doubt. A nice illustration of this was in the Harry Potter story, when Professor Moody advised Harry to play to his strengths in order to fight a dragon in an inter-school challenge  ….. And Harry’s initial response was to say “I haven’t got any”. If you were  told that you were stupid or useless when you were growing up, then this negativity will probably have left an imprint on the way you see yourself. ……… But don’t worry if this is something that has happened to you, because there are ways you can boost your self-esteem
  2. You haven’t stretched yourself enough. You’ve stayed with the familiar, stayed within your comfort zone and never really pushed yourself to the limits. Consequently you may never discover that you could be quite extraordinary at something.

There is the inspiring story of Marcus Buckingham (told by Marilyn Hood in Success magazine) who as a young boy at school suffered from some serious problems with stammering and stuttering. One day he was asked to stand up and speak at a school assembly – which could have proven to have been a horrendous experience for him, with the potential for him becoming the butt of cruel school-ground humour for a long time.

And yet what Marcus discovered on that particular day turned out to become a watershed moment in his life. Because despite the intense anxiety that he felt as he walked up to the microphone, once he opened his mouth and started speaking , he found that his stutter and stammer disappeared and instead he found an ease and fluency in his communication that he had never experienced before! He was a natural at public speaking!

For Marcus, being the centre of attention and the focus of many sets of eyes brought out the best in him. And this insight became something that he was determined to use as the basis for planning his future – ultimately building a hugely successful career as a speaker and author.

PUSH yourself to experience more

For me, one of the lessons of Marcus’s story is the value of gaining a wider variety of experiences. So try opening yourself up to new challenges. Take a bit of a risk. Shake off any fear of failure. Because you may just discover an inherent capability that had been lying dormant  and sleeping within you.

And the thing about your strengths is this ….. they tend to come easy and natural for you. They are something that don’t seem to take a lot of work – although that’s not to say that they can’t be further improved!

Once you recognise and embrace your natural talents – then the next step is to explore what  opportunities are out there for you to apply and leverage them. Playing to your strengths is the key to your achievement and success in business, life and even relationships. Find a way to do more of what you’re good at – as long as this continues to bring contentment and fulfilment.

Let me begin to close with some words from Donald Clifton, “And if you find yourself actually anticipating with pleasure a particular activity, and thinking to yourself-‘When can I do this again?’- it is usually a pretty good sign that you are enjoying it and that one of your talents is in play.”

Focus on how best to harness your talents

So stop worrying quite so much about your weaknesses and your limitations – and instead start to affirm and focus upon fully harnessing your natural taletalent giftnts.
Unleash the genie in the bottle – and not only will you begin to positively transform your own life,  but chances are that you will also make your corner of the world a better place as well.
Whatever God you honor, or whatever Higher Purpose you seek to follow,  will be well served when you play to your innate strengths.
Related articles that might interest you – Mental Toughness  and Self-motivation tips

About the author

Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a corporate training business in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist with a passion for helping people reach their full potential. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile
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May peace be with you …. And is it?

Findng your inner-peace

May peace be with you – what a beautiful sentiment. The experience of inner peace is something that many of us search for throughout our lives, particularly in a world that seems so chaotic at times.  A sense of tranquillity and calmness – the feeling of trust and faith that all will be well. And that there is no need for struggle – for all will eventually work out in the end.

Is there a sense of peacefulness within you? ……. Or does there seem to be discord, discontent, anxiety or conflict within, that distances you from feeling any peace with your world?  Are you able to accept who you are and where you are – whilst also accepting the people around you for who they are?

Let’s strip away from this question any potential religious inferences and instead reflect upon what peace means to you in your life ……. And consider how you might be able to experience a more pervasive and deeper feeling of peace – to the benefit of yourself, your family and your community.

When do you feel peaceful?

Perhaps you may be like me …. There are occasions when I feel relaxed and care-free. There are times when I catch a glimpse of what it means to have peace within. These tend to be those times when I’ve stopped rushing and instead have been able to really be “in the moment”, in the here-and-now.

For example, sometimes I’ll go for a brisk walk at a local park, walk around the lake there – and then just go home, because I’ve had my exercise. While I’m walking, my mind will sometimes wander and I find myself thinking about work and the various tasks that I still need to complete and phone calls I still need to make. Or I might think about a recent argument that I’ve had with my wife or one of our teenage kids – telling myself how unfair they have been to me.  Or my mind might even wander to some of the outstandinThink peaceful thoughtsg bills we’ve got lying around on the kitchen table that we still need to pay. ……… I walk around engrossed  in my own world, seemingly totally oblivious to the wonders around me.

Any yet there have been other times when I have walked around that same park …… but I have heard the birds cheerfully singing …… I have smelled the fresh fragrance of the trees and flowers around me. I have stopped and admired the sunshine skimming on the waters of the lake, sparkling like diamonds.

There have been evenings in that same park when I have sat on the park-bench absolutely entranced by the beauty and soft colours of a sunset. I’ve looked out at the calmness of that same lake, taken a deep breath and realised how petty and trivial were some of the troubles that I’d been carrying around with me…….. it seemed then, that my worries would just melt away.

And as I let go of these worries and release these inner burdens  , that’s when I will quite often re-connect with that sense of inner peace and serenity  – and my spirit becomes refreshed.

But here’s the point I’m wanting to make …… The park, the lake, the birds, the trees, the flowers …….. they are always there when I walk. And yet there are times when I seem more able to appreciate this beauty – and other times when I am totally ignorant and oblivious to it.

Peace by controlling chatter of the mind 

So the lesson I’m gradually learning is how to recognise and control some of the internal chatter of the mind. I’m starting with greater awareness during my regular walks in the park – and aiming to transfer this mindfulness to wider parts of my life ……

In doing so, I am slowly becoming more capable of being “in the moment” when I walk – neither worrying nor stressing about the future, nor regretting what I may hapeace withinve done in the past. Ceasing the need to strive for something better – and being satisfied at that moment with where I am and what I have.

Not letting my thoughts wander to times where I believe that others have “wronged me” …… for such feelings of anger can become toxic and will simply pull me further away from any hope of experiencing serenity within

What inspires you and brings you peace?

Once you identify these “bringers” of peace and contentment for yourself, then you can start to allocate more time and space in your life for these precious moments.

Are there particular quotes, poems, prayers or stories that ease the tension  in your mind and uplift your spirit? ……. Are there certain people in your world that make you smile and bring with them a happiness and joyfulness into your day? …..  What are the things in your life for which you feel especially grateful … …….  Perhaps there are particular songs or music that bring peacefulness, offer inspiration and help to soothe your soul? …….

It’s not just you who will benefit

As you begin to feel a deeper sense of peacefulness in your life, so too will come a faith that you have a purpose. Without even trying, you will set an example and provide inspiration to others around you. You will radiate a calmness, an optimism and a natural faith that will help bring out the best in the people that come into contact with you.  Your energy will help wash away some of the despair, doubt and anxiety that many people carry around so closely with them.

They worry about the future and are unsettled by a lack of fulfillment in their lives. Whether this be in peace be with youyour workplace, in your community or in your home – all of your relationships will gradually become a reflection of the peace, contentment and harmony that you are finding within your own life.

And so, in closing let me sincerely say ……… may peace be with you, my friend

About the author ….

Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a corporate training company in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist and an experienced  coach with a passion for helping people develop their full capabilities. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile

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So you made a mistake – don’t beat yourself up

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re probably not trying anything new”

Whether we’re talking about business, or about relationships, or about life in general – there are going to be times when we get things wrong. That’s only human …. But it is how we recover and whether we  keep moving forward that becomes a measure of our character. It is about having the humility to step back, take a deep breath and ADMIT WE WERE WRONG …… Then, if necessary, apologise and make restitution to any other people who may have been affected by our mistake.

yoda - inspiration

But how can we expect to learn, grow and improve without being willing to make some mistakes and occasionally stiff-up along the way? Sure, we can spend our life walking each day down the same trodden path that we have always  walked….. familiar and safe

 But, then what? Do we see new sights, smell new fragrances, enjoy new and uplifting scenes by walking down the same comfortable path as always?

Do we get to meet new people  who will challenge us, who will teach us and maybe inspire us to become more than who we are today? When we open ourselves up to new experiences, there will always be some risk. And that means the chance of making a mistake and things not working out the way we might have planned.

  • Have no fear of making a mistake!

But if we live our life based upon a fear of making a mistake – then chances are that today will be like yesterday, and that day will have been like the one before. The only way that we can live to reach our true potential is to be willing to go out and try new things.  We can learn, grow and become wiser from any mistake that we make –  as long as we can swallow our pride and recognise that what we’ve been doing just isn’t working.

  • Persevere

Let us become more child-like. Children have great perseverance. Have you seen a young child learning to walk? …. They stumble and fall over – then what do they do? ….. Do they say, “Oh, I made a mistake – that’s terrible. I’d better not try that again because I’ll never be able to get that right”?

Nope – they keep at it. No fear of making a mistake paralyses them from trying again Each time they try, they learn something new about balance. You had perseverance and the courage to be less than perfect when you were a child – so why not try to re-connect with those innate qualities again. inspire mistakes

Have no fear of making a mistake …… just try not to make the same one twice!  Remember, growth and self-discovery begin at the end of your comfort zone.

And when you do make a mistake – congratulate yourself if you have been bold enough to have at least tried something new and different.

inspire mistakes3

About the author

Brian Carroll is the founder of a corporate training business called Performance Development, and delivers leadership training in Melbourne.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced management coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people in their personal development and self-improvement journey’s. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile


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Thinking about starting your own business?

Ever thought about starting up your own business? Or maybe you’ve wondered whether you’re suited to being self-employed and running a business?

Well, what do you think it takes to be successful with your own small business – and why would you want to anyway? If these are questions that you’ve been considering, then read on and let’s explore these issues together ….

Starting your own small business

Potential benefits and rewards

As you do when making any major decision in life, you weigh up what you stand to gain against what you might risk losing – or in other words, the pros versus the cons.

Let me declare my bias on this issue – I’ve been running my own consulting business for over 20 tears and personally couldn’t envisage returning to a job where I must answer to someone else. Although, having said that – in a way I must answer regularly to my customers.

So from my own experience, and having dealt with other small business owners, benefits can include things like ……

  1. Independence and freedom to do what you think is right. Being your own boss means you get to make the big decisions yourself
  2. After the hard-slog of having established the business, there can be a degree of flexibility in your working hours
  3. The satisfaction of building something that is yours and may even become a legacy
  4. The considerable challenge of building and running a business – applying your skills and abilities to overcome difficulties and problems that will arise
  5. If you’ve gotten things right – in terms of the planning, the marketing, the finances and the customer service – then you can enjoy potentially greater financial rewards when working for yourself, instead of being paid by by an employer

business inspiration

The risks and stresses

  1. Being self-employed carries some uncertainty – sometimes demand for your product or services can be variable, so you’ve got to be able to ride this out the quieter times without getting overly-anxious
  2. If you’re running a business that carries high overhead costs then this can carry the pressure of feeling the need to generate sufficient sales to at the very least break-even. In other words for example, you’re not quite so anxious if you’re running a home based service business as opposed to running a store where you have a lease and must pay monthly rent.
  3. Just because you’ve got good technical skills – such as being a great plumber, hairdresser, chef or mechanic – doesn’t mean that you’ll be good at running a business. Why? ……. Because business skills are different. You’ve got to be very organised, you need to be able to sell, you need some basic financial management skill in keeping financial records and making sure that you’re generating a profit.
  4. The first 12 months comprises typically long hours – you will usually end up working much harder than when you were employed by someone else. This is because there’s a lot more to do – things like making calls to customers and booking appointments and sending out invoices and sometimes chasing up unpaid accounts and paying your own business bills ……. There will be tasks that may have been performed by someone else when you were working for a company – but now, it’s all done by you. Probably you won’t be employing anyone to do the accounts, sales or administration for a while – until you see some stability in your cash flow and you start feeling confidence in the viability of your business.

Important qualities

You don’t have to be a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs to run your own business. But here’s some of the qualities that I have found can be helpful….

i)            Self-belief – a sense of confidence that you’ve got what it takes. Although realistically, I don’t think this means being completely free of self-doubt

ii)           Persistence, drive and stamina to get through the challenging times. But it’s easier to persevere with something when you feel passionate about it.

iii)         Be open-minded, possessing a desire to learn and improve. Seek advice from people who are successful in running a business; learn as much as you can from the experience of others.

iv)         People skills –you’ve got to be able to build relationships with customers and get along with different people

v)          Accepts responsibility and avoids making excuses – the buck stops with you when it’s your business. If things go wrong, then it’s up to you to fix it

So, is running your own business right for you? Only you can be the judge of that. There is definitely increased responsibility – but whether this will prove to be an exciting challenge or a stressful burden depends upon how you perceive it all.

If you’re still unsure, then possibly see if there’s a way that you can start out small to minimise the risk – try it out to see if it all “fits you”. Maybe you can trial it part time before making the big break away from being an employee to becoming self-employed. In closing, I’m reminded of some advice given to me many years ago …..“You don’t want to die wondering” ……. Whatever you choose to do, I hope it gives you the fulfilment that you deserve.

By the way, a great resource site is Australia Small Business, which features interviews with many successful small business owners – and they offer plenty of great tips and advice on starting and growing your own business.

04fbd-brianphotoAbout the author
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a corporate training company in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced interview coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people develop their full capabilities. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile

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Can we change who we are?

It’s a pretty provocative question, isn’t it? And maybe an even more thought provoking question might be, do you want to change who you are?

  • Inherited or learned?

Perhaps the answer is connected to the issue of how much of our “personality” is determined by nature versus nurture. Whether the way that we behave is influenced more by our genetic make-up, or by the way in which we have been raised and the early environment that we’ve been exposed to.

It seems that scientist’s now-days acknowledge that both hereditary and environmental factors combine to shape who we are. There are certain innate traits that we have inherited – and other qualities and characteristics that we have learned. Well, we can’t change our genetic imprint – but we can do something about much of our behaviour that has been shaped from our experience. In other words, behaviours that have been learned can, under the right conditions, be unlearned. Additionally, we are capable of learning and adopting new behaviours.

  • Changing a bad habit

You know, instead of thinking about changing your personality – which can be quite an overwhelming thought – maybe it’s easier to think in terms of simply changing some “bad habits”. The term suggests a pattern of behaviour that is repeated frequently – and usually without conscious thought. A habit is something we just “do” – it often seems that it hasn’t been a deliberate choice. When we make a judgement that a particular habit is a “bad” one, this implies we feel it has been doing us more harm than good.

There are many people who would say that the key ingredients for changing a bad habit include …

i)   Self-awareness of what exactly needs to change and why

ii)  Desire and motivation to change

iii) Persistence and stamina, to cope with occasional lapses

iv)  Encouragement from others and recognition of signs of progress during the change process

But here’s something that many people overlook when they seek to change a habit – whether they might be hoping to stop smoking, or stop eating junk food at lunchtime, or stop interrupting other people when they are speaking, or stop fidgeting when they are delivering a speech……..If you are wanting to stop a particular behaviour, then it needs to be replaced with an alternative behaviour. You can’t just leave a void – it needs to be filled with something else. It’s not enough to think to yourself that you want to stop doing something – you must decide what you will start doing instead.


  • Start instead of stop

So for example, to help you stop fidgeting, you decide to gently clasp your hands together in front of you. To help you stop smoking, you decide you will instead go for a walk. To help you stop eating junk food, you bring salad sandwiches for lunch.

Su making successful changes to aspects of your behaviour is less about stopping something that you’ve done for a long time in the past – and more about what you want to start doing as you move towards the future.

  • Who we are in our relationships

There are other patterns of behaviour that can impact on our relationships with those around us. Whether we are open, trusting, communicative, optimistic, assertive, affectionate …… these are qualities and behaviours that some would argue are much harder to change.

Perhaps that is true. But hard doesn’t mean impossible. It does suggest that more effort will be required. And quite often before a change can be made to our interpersonal behaviour – there will need to be a shift in the way we are looking at a situation. We need to change what we are thinking about a situation and how we are viewing it, before we might be able to alter how we have always responded to it.

So for example, it’s pretty unlikely that I am going to be capable of being open and trusting of my partner if I fear that they are going to cheat me. If my frame of mind is suspicious, then this clouds and impacts upon the way I deal with others.

  • Change the inside to enable change on the outside

A change in outlook is required and an internal shift in my belief system that guides my behaviour. A change on the outside needs to be accompanied by a change on the inside

What I think influences what I do – and what I do will influence what I get out of a relationship, or out of a situation.

You may know of some people who practice the use of affirmations. They are attempting to cultivate a positive belief and sub-conscious thought process that will enable them to more readily acquire a new behaviour. For example, maybe some unassertive adults were taught to have self-doubt and be self-effacing because of an early upbringing where an authority figure would say to them “Be quiet, what would you know!!”

In order to change this early wiring, the person starts regularly mentally repeating and affirming to themselves throughout the day a statement such as ”I am a confident and assertive individual, respecting myself and the people around me”. As this new belief system is gradually embedded – and an assertive self-image is cultivated, then assertive behaviour may become more “natural” for someone who has not been so assertive in the past.

When this new belief is combined with some actual skills training in assertive communication and some on-going mentoring from an experienced and wise advisor, then the change process is being built upon a strong foundation.

For more ideas on this theme of how to change, you might like to take a look at a very inspiring video clip featuring Jim Rohn, titled “The day your life turns around

  • In closing

So, can you change who you are? ….. As someone who has worked for more than 25 years in the fields of personal development and performance coaching – I would say yes. Simply reflect on who you are now compared to who you were 10 or 20 tears ago – wouldn’t you say that you’ve changed?  Experience has probably taught you certain lessons that have changed your outlook – which in turn influence the decisions you have made. So why wait another 10 years – start deciding right now, who do you want to be?

And one last thing – make sure any change you decide upon is really for you – and not just to please someone else.

About the author

Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a leadership training company in Melbourne Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced management coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people develop their full capabilities. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile

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Don’t be ruled by a “fear of failure”

Have you ever felt like the fear of failure holds you back from trying new things, or putting yourself out there?

Well if so, you’re not alone. There are many people both in the workplace, as well as people in their personal lives, who suffer from a fear of failure and consequently find themselves forever trodding down the same familiar path they have always walked along……. Playing it ultra-safe ….. As much as they desperately want to give something different a go, they become constrained through a self-imposed inhibition that the fear of failure imposes.

  • A common problem, with different effects

The fear of failure and fear of making a mistake afflicts people in different ways…… In the workplace for example, there are some who are deeply unhappy in the work they are doing – and yet are reluctant to try something different.  There are others who feel they are ready for a promotion, but are reluctant to apply when the opportunity arises.

There are single people in their personal lives who regret that when they meet someone they really like – they have been unable to even ask the person out for a coffee…….The fear of failure in this instance is closely accompanied by a fear of rejection – and can paralyse some people from taking any type of risk.

Sometimes this can be because these people set such high standards for themselves that they define failure  as any result that is less than perfect….. If they don’t think they can achieve something to their self-imposed high standards, then they simply won’t have a go at it.

  • So, what is the solution?

How to overcome this obstacle is a challenge for many who are seeking self-improvement and personal development.inspire222

Basically the simple answer is that we’ve got to change our attitude towards failure. Instead of associating failure with feelings of “worthlessness” – we need to instead recognise that it has taken courage to try something outside of our comfort zone. We need to congratulate ourselves for having a go – and recognise that not everything will always work out the way we plan.

If we can take something positive from the experience and learn a lesson from any mistake, then this will help us to improve for next time. We become wiser and more capable. Also, although things may not have worked out – we will not have to suffer from any nagging feelings of regret, wondering “What might have been?”

With this change in perspective, and through treating ourselves with a little more kindness, then the fear of failure will no longer wield such power and control over us. We will experience a greater sense of freedom in being able to give new things a go.

We will no longer engage in harsh or punishing self-judgement if we make some mistakes, or if things don’t quite work out. This new attitude of patience will provide us with a much firmer foundation for building a quiet self-confidence, accepting that some mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.

“Change the way you look at things – and the things you look at can change” 

  • Assessing the risk versus potential gain

I am definitely not advocating here that you become reckless. Clearly, there are many times when caution is warranted. It is foolish to close your eyes to danger. However, what we are talking about here is no longer being controlled by fear and ruled by self-doubt or unrealistic self-expectation …… and instead learning to exercise sound judgement.

Consider the cost of the opportunity that may be missed by playing safe . What could be lost by not having a go. Weigh up the potential gains, versus the risks associated with trying out this new experience. ……. The main thing here is that you will be making a calm and measured assessment – and not allow yourself to be ruled by fear.

If you would like more resources, insights and ideas on personal development, then check out our website page on self-improvement 

In closing. I hope these ideas might help you in some small way to bring out the very best in yourself….. In turn, you will serve as an example to others and inspire them to be the best they can be. And the possibilities that you may have only dreamed of for yourself in the past, can become a reality.

(Copyright 2012. Brian Carroll – founder, Performance Development)

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Sharpen the Saw : Refresh your leadership

One of the top-selling self-improvement books of the past twenty-five years has been Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.  One of the success habits that he describes is termed “Sharpen the saw”, which refers to the need to find ways of regularly rejuvenating yourself.

For those of you in any type of management or leadership role, you will know that having responsibility for managing and motivating other people can be a rewarding experience – and yet there are times it can be an incredibly frustrating one as well.

Particularly during periods of organisation change and uncertainty, the performance of some staff can become inconsistent. If you are a manager or leader, you need to be able to step in and provide guidance and direction to these people. You are supporting your staff to cope with the change, listening with patience to their grievances and encouraging them to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. This all takes considerable energy – and yet you must continue to ensure that your team is delivering good quality outcomes for your customers.

There are many different types of demands placed upon you when you are in a leadership position. You are required to set a positive example, and you cannot afford a moment of irritability when you might snap at an employee. People are more forgiving of their work-mates than they are their leader

So it becomes even more crucial that you have developed routines and strategies for keeping yourself positive, motivated, resilient and refreshed. leadership

For example …..

  1. Active lifestyle – Ensure you regularly get some physical exercise – be it through walking, jogging, swimming, tennis, dancing or gym. Exercise not only builds physical stamina and fitness, but helps with mental clarity and concentration.
  2. Support network – Don’t become an island …. it’s all too easy during times of stress to end up isolating yourself from other people. You may be in a leadership position in the workplace, but you still need support and encouragement as much as anyone else …..  Don’t be afraid to confide in the people you trust and ask for advice from the people you respect
  3. Learning and development – Keep yourself fresh by learning new skills or polishing existing skills ….Whether its reading a book or an article on leadership, attending professional development seminars or participating in leadership skills training courses – don’t alow yourself to become stale and complacent.  By the way, a great site for tips and resources on self-improvement is Personal Development

If you’re based in Melbourne, Australia and looking for a short, practical management skills course to polish your skills in delegation, motivation, decision-making, performance management and team building – then have a look at Management Courses Melbourne

In summary, to provide effective leadership you will need stamina. Therefore it is important that you keep your own well-being on your radar and allocate adequate time on a regular basis for self-renewal. In doing so, you will ensure that you possess the sustainable reserves of energy needed to support and guide your people during times of challenge and uncertainty.

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