This time last year (i.e. December 2020), inspired by the work of my favourite Word Nerd and Communication Guru, Holly Cardamone, I posted my first ever Annual Wrap-Up.

And whilst I can’t actually believe that it is already the end of another year, it’s now time to hit post on a wrap up of this year’s Best Of, both personally and professionally.

Personal highlights

  1. Making the most of life between lockdowns 

This year (much like last year when I come to think about it), my life was pretty much defined by whether we were in lockdown or not. What a revolving door that was!

But if there is one thing being locked down has taught me, it is the value of seizing opportunities to live my best life when I can.

So earlier in the year, I managed to squeeze in 6 flights to 3 different locations for small holidays. 

This included spending Easter at My Favourite Place in the World (our family shack on East Coast Tassie), complete with unseasonably warm weather for April – I was swimming! In April! I often don’t swim when we are there in January, so this was truly a shock.

You can see both how beautiful the weather was, and how blissed out I was, in this photo I shared across the socials at the time.

I was also lucky enough to spend 4 days celebrating The Husband and my Silver Wedding Anniversary on Hamilton Island in March, which blew away my expectations. 

Then in May, I made sure I got to spend time with both of my kids on Mothers Day by arranging a family sojourn to Sydney. Not only did I hang out all weekend with these two, generally pretty awesome, young adults that I gave birth to,  but we also went to see the musical Hamilton. Which is undoubtedly the best musical I’ve ever seen. And Yes, I’m still singing along to the soundtrack on a regular basis 8 months later and YES, I’ve booked in to see it again in Melbs next year.

  1. Working on my other passion – writing

I’ve always loved to read and write. As a child, I was the one writing stories and either turning them into plays I then conned others into acting out with me; or I was endlessly journaling.

Adulting got in the way of this passion of mine for many years; that whole combination of working parent to young kids can be grueling, can’t it?!?

But in 2020 that same wonderful person aforementioned – Ms Holly Cardomone – and I  discovered that we both had first drafts of first novels sitting on our shelves, and so we resolved to work on them together. Que monthly (remote) writing days and a few writing retreats on the magnificent Bass Coast and voila – in April this year I finally finished the fifth and final edit of my first ever novel (complete with sending -it-to-beta readers step. Which was, quite frankly, terrifying).

No, I haven’t yet sent it to any publishers to try my luck, but I have struck a deal with my oldest brother that I will do so by a certain deadline early in 2022. And as you don’t back down on handshakes made with the oldest of five brothers…watch this space to see what happens next

After finishing the final edit on the first novel, this year I also (eventually) started working on novel #2. Lockdown depleted my creativity to the point of non-existence, but as soon as we were freed, I took myself back down to the Bass Coast for a solo writing retreat. Over three days I knocked off 28000 words and 23 chapters. I’ve still got a way to go to finish this book’s first draft (not to mention subsequent edits), but I am loving the process and the fact that my writing has improved since the first draft of novel #1.

Sometimes I will sit down to re-read an earlier chapter, and I am genuinely shocked at what I wrote in the previous chapter; other times, ideas for the storyline just pop into my head from seemingly out of nowhere. It is an incredible feeling, and I love that my business allows me the flexibility to work on this other passion of mine.

  1. Looking after my own mental well-being

The importance of leaders looking after their own mental well-being is something that I am very passionate about. I’ve blogged, vlogged and written articles about it several times previously. This year during lockdown number 50 million (or whatever number it was that saw us become officially the longest locked down city in the world), I realised Ground Hog day was well and truly getting to me. 

I knew I needed to do something about it, and so one of the things that I did was to take a social media break for 5 weeks. Both from professional and personal accounts. It was honestly the best thing for me, and I have to say I haven’t really re-engaged with the socials to the level I was before the break. 

Here’s the picture from a little video I posted when I announced I was back. 

Double-click to watch the full 3:44 mins. I’m back video.

Professional highlights

A. Seeing the change

This year I had the opportunity to work closely with a small business owner, not just to conduct a Cultural Health Check (CHC), but following the CHC, to work with the business to implement recommendations arising out of the review.

Often I work with larger businesses, and after I have delivered my report and recommendations, HR and the Executive work to implement any changes.

Working with a small business of less than 20 staff and with no HR presence, gave me the opportunity to really get stuck into helping the team navigate the changes.

This included developing and facilitating workshops for the business owner and his small leadership team; implementing a feedback/ performance management system and working alongside the owner through the initial formal goal setting conversations; as well as running a series of team workshops. 

Workshop topics included helping the team establish team values and behaviors, which all team members will be required to demonstrate going forward.

I have absolutely loved having the opportunity to work with this business through all these steps.

In the recent formal 1:1 goal setting meetings that I sat in on, consistent feedback from the team has been along the lines of how much things have improved since I conducted the audit – especially, that the team is working much better together,  and there is significantly less friction.

It feels pretty darn good to actually see and hear the difference I’ve made!

B. Light rather than dark

The vast majority of Workology Co’s work is with clients who are experiencing issues, often where the shiz has hit the fan; and the leaders of these organisations inherently know that the issues are a sign of bigger, underlying problems with their culture.

Given my background of over 20 years practising the ‘dark arts’ of reactive workplace relations and HR, it’s a natural fit for me to do this kind of work.

However this year I also had the opportunity to play in the light for a change. This time, a client engaged me to help them discover the positive features of their current culture.

They are part of a global business that had recently acquired businesses in America and South Africa. External consultants brought in by the parent company identified the Australian arm of the business had ostensibly the ‘best’ culture: I worked with the Aussie arm to discover exactly what it is about their current culture that makes it ‘good’, as well as how that could be replicated in the new acquisitions.

How did I do this? Well, the starting point was Workology Co’s Six Key Ingredients of Exceptional Workplace Culture. What do they do well in relation to each ingredient?

Oh and it wasn’t just me answering this question. Staff were involved in the process, both by way of 1:1 interviews with detailed questions and focus groups.

Here is an example of what the staff identified was good about their culture.

3. Facilitating Conversations for members of my business club

Throughout 2021 I have been a member of CUB – Club of United Business. I have enjoyed getting to know business leaders and entrepreneurs from many, many different industries – often in a social setting over meals and wine. 

I also had the opportunity to host two digital conversations, aka zoom workshops, open to all members. One session was all about giving and receiving feedback; whilst the other concentrated on the most common current challenges to workplace culture.

I was pretty stoked when one of the attendees shared this on her Linked In page, as it’s always nice to hear your work has hit the right note with participants.

Or, to garner feedback on your feedback training, if you prefer.

Boom. See what I did there?!!

Audrey commented: Their webinar around #feedback101 was extremely insightful, and I will be applying what I learned to help me overcome challenges that I regularly face in my role at Selectpay

Want to know more about the key ingredients and how to implement them in your workplace? Double click for link here. 

Over and Out

Finishing on a high is always to be preferred, and so I’m going to take a bow right about now, and bid you adieu until 2022. (Side note: apparently I’m on a rhyming kick today).

Thanks for being on the Workology Co and all things workplace culture journey again with me this year; and I wish you and your loved ones all the best for this festive season.

Workology Co is officially shut for business from 5.00pm Tuesday 21 December until bright and early on Monday 10 January 2022, and I can’t wait to spend my holidays relaxing with family and friends in my old home state of Tas.

See you on the flip side!

Ali.