Blog - Avril Henry and Associates - Avril Henry and Associates Mon, 17 Dec 2018 10:25:15 +1100 MYOB en-gb What Matters Most Benny, Chief Happiness Officer & Buddy, Head of Security

Many people I know here in Australia and around the world are having a challenging year – ill health, financial difficulties, job insecurity, loss of loved ones and increasing dissatisfaction and disengagement with political leadership around the world. At times it feels as though the world is becoming less tolerant, less generous, less kind, more judgmental, more impatient and more willing to exclude anyone who doesn’t “fit in”, whatever that means. My family and I have not been immune to these challenges, and many times I have felt my patience and resilience tested.

In those circumstances, I ask myself these questions:

  • What’s the lesson here for me?
  • What do I need to change?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How am I showing up? (Thank you, Dr. Adam Fraser for teaching me this as part of The Third Space)


I have reflected a lot lately about what really matters, and whether a problem today will matter a week, a month, a year or a decade from now? And the answer often is that it won’t matter a month, a year and certainly a decade from now!

So, what does matter? In two separate articles, one on social media recently, the other in a book I read many years ago, the answer to this question, asked of both children and adults as they were dying, produced similar answers. For those who haven’t read the articles, this blog will summarise their life’s lessons. I have realised that as I approach a new “decade” in my own life’s journey, these things matter so much more to me every week, month and year than they ever did – to the extent that I am growing increasingly restless to spend more time on what matters and less on what others and society often thinks matters!

mother teresaA South African pediatrician asked terminally ill children (aged as young as four years old) what they enjoyed in life and what makes life worth living.    Their wise answers included:

  • Animals make human life better. One little boy believed that dogs didn’t live as long as humans because they already knew how to be loyal, love unconditionally, have fun and forgive easily. Advice from these kids was “Hug your dog every day.”
  • Kindness matters. People who are kind are nicer to be around. Wayne Dyer wrote that every day you get to choose to be right or to be kind. I choose kind!
  • Spend time with family and friends, the people who love you most. As adults we know which family member and friends are always there for us, so give them your time, not those who just take from you without gratitude
  • Read more books, spend less time online
  • Laugh a lot and tell more jokes. We have become so serious and often politically correct that I wonder if we have lost the art of genuine humour and belly laughs
  • Go to the beach or the bush. Mental health specialists including R U OK? constantly advocate time in nature, and these young children know it instinctively
  • Tell people you love them. My view – every day, because you never know when you will get to tell the again. It costs nothing and makes both giver and receiver feel special and loved!
  • And eat more ice-cream!!!


 A palliative care nurse did the same exercise with elderly people in their dying days. There was no mention of more sex or bungee     jumps. The number one regret of the dying, especially men was:

I wish I hadn’t spent so much time at work!

 This was followed by:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

I wish I’d spent more time with my friends, and not let so many friendships slip away

I wish I’d allowed myself to be happier, laughed more, been silly more often!

Time for each of us to reflect:

What do I wish I could do more often, what do I want to do less, where do I really want to spend my time and with whom? It’s not too late to practice more patience, more kindness, more joy, more gratitude, more generosity. Just go do it! I know I am going to, starting now with more walks, more time for reflection, more time at the beach, more time with my family and friends and more work that brings me purpose and joy, not work and clients that drain me, and do not appreciate what my team and I can bring to the table. Onward, upward and forward, definitely not backward!

]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Tue, 14 Aug 2018 13:45:09 +1000

In its 28th year, the Global Summit of Women was held in Sydney, Australia, with over 1,000 women attending from more than 65 countries. It was three days of sharing, networking, wisdom and fun. I have had the privilege of attending three summits and being a speaker at each of them – Beijing (2010), Paris (2013) and Sydney (2018). At every summit, I have met amazing women from around the world, made new friends and learnt so much from each of them. Every woman attending the conference, every facilitator, moderator and speaker were incredible, smart, generous and often humorous, way too many to mention specifically by name. This month’s newsletter seeks to share a few of the lessons and wisdom from this year’s Summit.


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Why Millennials are critical to 21st Century Economies

Three incredibly talented Millennials (Gen Ys) entrepreneurs shared their insights and experience into the mindset and expectations of their generation, and how they together with technology will change the world of work forever.

Some interesting facts include:

  • Generation Y (the Millennials) are the largest generation alive presently, and make up 27% of global population
  • Each generation is living longer than the previous generation, and the life expectancy of Gen Ys is 103!
  • Most Gen Ys think most large businesses are unethical
  • 43% of Gen Ys will leave their current job within the next two years
  • 36% of Gen Ys think that their current employer is not preparing them for jobs in the future, and want “soft skills” training which cannot be replicated by Artificial Intelligence.

Only 14% of CEOs globally believe that their organisations are “future ready” and will be able to harness Industry 4.0. One of the key challenges is that 50% of future jobs will require STEM-based skills.

The three key priorities for Gen Ys at work are:

  • Trust in business, and profit with purpose
  • Diversity and inclusion, with an increased focus on flexibility and what it means to them
  • Training and development for the “Day after tomorrow”!

Technology & Artificial Intelligence

The most disturbing thing I learnt about technology and the pace of change is that technology is now outstripping business in terms of progress and change, and while in the past a business built their IT around their business strategy, the future will require businesses to build their strategy around technology. I also learnt that:

  • 30% of customer service jobs will be handled by AI in the future
  • 45% of current jobs will be replaced by machines in the next decade or two
  • 90% of coding in AI is done by men! What are we doing to encourage more girls to do coding and take up STEM subjects?
  • AI is the fastest growing sector in IT, and is growing at a rate of 5 times compounded year-on-year.

 Women, Leadership & Quotas

The debate continued to rage about whether quotas were a good thing or a bad thing. As a qualified accountant, and after 40 years as an advocate for gender equality and pay equity, I now believe “What gets measured, gets done – so bring on quotas!” I found it fascinating that even Malaysia and the Maldives have introduced quotas for women on boards in the private sector, 30% for Malaysia and 40% for the Maldives, whereas Australia still talks about targets. Having boards and senior leadership teams that are 50%/50% male/female should become the norm, rather than be something exceptional or special.

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Iceland has recently introduced legislation making it illegal to pay men and women different wages for doing the same job – pay equity at the stroke of a pen.

Both men and women with caring responsibilities need flexibility to make the balancing of professional and personal responsibilities doable. Flexibility needs to be the STARTING POINT, not the outcome. Leaders need to step up and make all jobs flexible first, then prove (if appropriate) that it may not work. If you assume flexibility in the first place, know that it will be hard, but it will be worth it and lead to greater capability building in organisations. We need to stop talking about work/life balance, something I have been advocating for a decade. Our focus and language should be around work/life integration, as life is never perfectly balanced.

Organisation’s from sport to motor vehicle manufacturers need to re-imagine women as customers, given that 85% of current advertisements for goods and services do not reflect women. This is even though more than 80% of all household expenditure decisions are made by women, including when to buy a new car and how much to spend! Brands need to serve their ultimate customer, not who they perceive the customer to be!

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Advice to young women from experienced female leaders

I believe this advice is equally applicable to young men, in fact any generation of men and women who aspire to lead others:

  • Be your authentic self
  • There’s a lot of things in life that you will worry about that’s not important
  • Speak from your heart
  • Believe in yourself
  • Live in gratitude, it’s better for your health on every level
  • Look after your reputation – it’s your most valuable asset.

One of the highlights of the conference was the award for global leadership given to The Honorable Dame Quentin Bryce, who as always, was so gracious in delivering her acceptance speech. She reminded everyone that we all achieve through and with other women. She named many legendary female leaders and their contributions, thanking them for leading the way. On behalf of the men and women of Australia, I would like to thank Dame Quentin Bryce for her leadership and example to all leaders around the world for over five decades.

And finally, the most memorable quote for me from the Global Summit of Women which I am choosing to embrace as another of my life’s philosophies is:

“I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I can no longer accept.”

I challenge men and women in Australia to join me in challenging the status quo.


]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Wed, 02 May 2018 16:04:08 +1000
What's The Lesson What's The Lesson

Building on my January mantra of:“Find the joy in every day and situation, no matter the circumstances,” my mantra for February has been “What’s the Lesson?” I had decided that following some demanding situations at the end of 2017 that I would find the joy in every situation, and was delighted to find that there is always joy in every situation and every day. This got me thinking that if we were asking ourselves to find the joy, and the circumstances were challenging, then we should also ask ourselves “What’s the lesson?”

At the start of February, I started asking what’s the lesson regardless of whether it was a small or a major adverse event. A significant learning event for me was my ongoing shoulder injury, given that the accident had taken place at the end of November, the ongoing pain, discomfort and lack of mobility of my left shoulder and arm. I truly believe the major lesson from this for me was to slow down! How has this played out throughout February?

I have travelled less, so I have enjoyed more time at home which I have loved; going to the gym and running has not been possible, so I have done a lot more walking. I have discovered beautiful local gardens, filled with roses, tropical jasmine and frangipani trees, filling the air with natural perfumes. I have discovered the favourite tree on the Bay Run for rainbow lorikeets to gather. I look forward to seeing them on my walks, something I did not notice before when I was running. I have been reminded of how simple, yet stunning and therapeutic nature is and that it is right on my doorstep. When we are too busy “doing” we forget how to be human beings! bayrun

Another lesson has been greater awareness of others and their needs. I have been more aware and mindful of people with mobility issues, and this has increased my patience and empathy. I have come to experience the frustration of feeling physically challenged, and I am yet to have surgery in March which will make me even more physically challenged for 2 – 3 months. That has spun off another lesson in terms of being better prepared. I have researched what I will and will not be able to do following surgery, such as not being able to drive for 6 weeks, no strenuous exercise for 2 – 3 months, and not being able to use my left shoulder and arm for 6-8 weeks. I have been cooking and freezing meals for when I must operate with one arm only. This is to ensure I minimise expectations of others having to do things for me. Planning for the next three months is an act of self-preservation and consideration – for myself and others!

This got me thinking that the lessons learnt should not only be about challenges and problems, they should also be about good, inspiring and motivating lessons. I think it is easier to ask what’s the lesson when we are challenged, afraid, taking a risk, or have made a mistake. Asking the same question when life is good and circumstances are favourable, is an opportunity for reflection, gratitude and generosity.

water dropsI have realised that lessons need not be only about mistakes, it is also about recognising the fortunate lives most of us experience daily. I am so grateful that I have not injured my right shoulder, given I am right-handed. We have clean, running water whereas more than 50% of the world’s population do not; and Cape Town, a city the size of Sydney may run out of water in the next 3 months. Despite our high energy prices, we have electricity, when more than 50% of the population do not. Frustratingly, I know (and experience) that technology, the internet and NBN aren’t 100% reliable, yet more than 3 billion people in the world do not have access to any technology. The simple things in daily life are lessons in themselves, clean water, electricity, three meals per day and personal safety, at a time of great global instability.   

Lessons from adversity teach us to reflect on what went wrong, why and to ask what would I do differently next time? Lessons from finding the joy teach us gratitude, the opportunity to be of service to others and to remember we are so much more fortunate in Australia than more than half the world’s population. Remember, whether things are going well, or things are going wrong, do not become complacent or despair for too long, as:

“This too shall pass.”




]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Tue, 06 Mar 2018 11:45:33 +1100

As part of reflecting on the year that was 2017, I decided that in 2018, I would create and adopt a mantra for each month, then reflect on its effectiveness at the end of each month. I thought I would share with you how that has worked in the first month of 2018.

January’s mantra:

Find the joy in every day and situation, no matter the circumstances. 


I set this as my mantra as I knew there would be challenges travelling overseas to the USA in January with a very painful shoulder injury following a car accident. There would be luggage to move around with only one “working” arm and shoulder, freezing weather and a busy schedule. It would require patience and perseverance on my part, given that patience is not one of my virtues, however fortunately perseverance is one of my key strengths. I wanted this trip to be special and memorable, as it was a mother/daughter trip and a birthday gift to my daughter. We knew this would possibly not occur again any time soon. I wanted to create memories of a lifetime for both of us.


The first challenge as soon as we arrived in the USA was that part of our luggage was lost, or rather was still in Australia, but it took three hours to determine that, and then another 40 hours to deliver it. Where was the joy in that? First, I got to sleep in after a long flight, and second I got to explore the local area for a day, with beautiful homes, gardens and lovely cafes, waiting for the luggage to be delivered as opposed to visiting packed tourist spots in Los Angeles. It is rare that we get to at least see how others live in other countries. I found joy and beauty in walking around and observing my unfamiliar environment.

35519339 sIn New York we found that art exhibitions we had hoped to see were closed for renovations, so we visited the Museum of Natural History for the first time; the joy was recognizing so many scenes from movies my children and I had enjoyed over the years. We were like two excited school kids on an excursion. We got to have a new experience together while enjoying memories of happy times in the past. So too at work and at home, we need to stop on a regular basis and reflect on the moment, be present, enjoy the memories of the past and create new ones for ourselves, our team members and our loved ones.

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On Saturday in New York we found that all the roads around our hotel and the places we wanted to visit were going to be hard to access due to the Women’s March. What a joy to be part of the memorable walk – they expected 400,000 people and over one million people marched for women’s rights – not just women and girls, but men and boys who love the women in their lives! We met fascinating people from across the USA and the globe, and were part of an important moment in history.

I have realized at a very practical level that there is joy in every day, but we have to be aware, fully present and willing to quietly reflect on the joy – recognize it, be grateful and share. I know from my involvement in R U OK and research, that being grateful, and by deduction, finding joy in every day is critical to our mental well-being and resilience. We must however, practice the art of slowing down long enough to ask ourselves regularly: “Where or what is the joy in this moment?” There is joy in completing tasks at work, achieving goals, exercising, well-being, teamwork, collaboration, inclusion, the list is endless, so find the joy.

You will be surprised, you will be grateful, you will be joyous and feel better for it. Try it for a day, then a week, then a month! I’m making my monthly mantras cumulative, so I’m taking “finding joy” into the rest of the year with me. Choose to find the joy every day.

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
F.D. Rooseveldt






]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Thu, 01 Feb 2018 10:20:04 +1100
Do You Respect Differences? Do You Respect Differences?

Time for reflection is very important for our mental, physical and emotional well-being, and our ability to engage in self-care. I think it is indicative of our “busyness” that the number one workers compensation claims today are stress related, rather than physical injuries. Stress is also the most significant contributor to ill health. And yet we work harder and harder, much of which is driven by fear of loss of security through loss of employment. Yes, things are challenging economically in Australia and around the world, however, I believe there is too much fear-mongering and negativity, which simply compounds many irrational fears.

Why are we so afraid of so many things? We have become a society which fears anything and anyone who are different. We have become more close-minded, yet many are challenging why we are thinking and behaving this way, and so we should.

Some of our irrational fears at present include the following:

  • Allowing more women into senior leadership roles will positively discriminate against men, or as described by Tony Abbott last week is “anti-men”! Really?
  • The continued resistance to quotas for women on private sector boards, argued against by one of our most respected non-executive directors and chairmen, David Gonski
  • Increasing female participation in male-dominated industries, e.g. construction, firefighting will diminish the skill level and competence of the industry
  • The hysteria surrounding pay equity, especially in sport because women’s sport is not as important, or as good as men’s sport! Really? The Australian women’s soccer team is ranked 8th in the world, while the men’s team is ranked 50th in the world. And yet women’s sport gets less than a third of the financial sponsorship and media attention mens’ sport gets!
  • Boat people and refugees will take our jobs and don’t need our help. Why are we so loath to recognise the amazing achievements of so many Australian migrants? Why do we focus only on our own negative perceptions?
  • Marriage equality will cause the demise of traditional marriage and a break down in society’s values. No one person has the right to impose their religious or moral beliefs on another. What happened to simple human rights and the right to love freely?
  • Victims of domestic violence shouldn’t speak about it publically, because it isn’t “nice”, and it’s a private matter. Thank you to the Army and the current Chief of Army, Lt. General Angus Campbell for the courage to speak openly and publicly about domestic violence and its scary impact on others, and developing educational tools to assist affected people
  • Young people are not as committed and hard working as older generations
  • Old people no longer have value to add, and can be disrespected and manipulated by unscrupulous people. Take note of the current case of abuse of the elderly - financially by Aveo/Freedom Retirement Centres! Absolutely appalling and the government stands by and chooses to do nothing
  • Charity starts at home, therefore we need to cut foreign aid to third world countries
  • Freedom of speech is dangerous, and those with dissenting views should be silenced or punished.
Politicians and elements of the press promote comments and stories that are designed to increase fear, leading to greater intolerance, scepticism, lack of trust and respect for those who are different. When did we become this politically-correct, scared and distrusting society?

I have long believed that with conformity all we get is more of the same, and doing the same things over and over again will simply deliver the same results. If you change nothing, then nothing changes.
Too many leaders in public roles, religious institutions, the private and public sectors, are leading through fear, command and control, when what we need are courageous leaders, who are authentic, act with integrity for the greater good of the people, and communicate open and honestly with transparency. Courage is doing the right things, not the popular things. Leadership is also about embracing diversity, rather than seeing diversity as “threatening”.

Leadership is about listening first, before speaking, and being open to differences of opinion, exploring the best solutions to the problems we face. The problems of the future cannot be solved at the same level of thinking as yesterday. Most importantly, leadership is the about the “Power of One”, yes that means it starts with each one of us first, then through leading others. What assumptions, stereotypes, thinking and behaviours do you need to change for a more productive, inclusive and collaborative future?

Change is a choice you make!


]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Wed, 28 Jun 2017 10:34:58 +1000
What Today’s Leaders Can Learn From The ANZACs What Today’s Leaders Can Learn From The ANZACs

As a nation, this month we will unite for the celebration and remembrance of Anzac Day and those who have died for the freedom of this great country in which we live.  A past federal Treasurer speaking on Anzac Day a few years ago said Australian ideals had been both tested and proved at Gallipoli.  Further, he said: “What emerged was a moral value that rapidly established itself as our supreme national virtue: a combination of bravery, resilience, the ability to improvise, and the duty to stick together in hard times and protect your friends.” 

As someone who has lived my adult life in Australia, and who regards herself as a very patriotic Australian, these words resonated with me about what it means to be Australian – brave, resilient, adaptable, sticking together, looking after your mates, persevering , courageous and reaching out to our community!

When I think about the ANZACS, what made them unique for me are the following qualities:

  • They were unsung heroes from all walks of life, who did what needed to be done by keeping it simple and real
  • They were driven by a higher purpose
  • They did what needed to be done with no expectation of personal gain
  • They depended on people they had not known for very long, and each other, but were connected by a common goal and a belief in a “shared” end result.

So why are we not seeing these qualities in our leaders in business and governments at present?  Every time we open a newspaper or watch a news report, it is all “gloom and doom”.  Constant news items about further job cuts, redundancies, corporate collapses, budgets being slashed in fundamental areas such as training and development, management and leadership training, health and aged care services, education; all those areas which are the foundation of growing our economy and developing the next generation of workers and leaders.  There is no “duty" to stick together in hard times and protect friends, or opportunity “to remain hopeful” when job cuts, slashing and burning anything that does not generate revenue, has become the order of the day.

It takes courage for a leader to do something different, and that’s exactly what we need now – leaders who are willing to be courageous and recognise that the current economic and global environment is DIFFERENT to any other before, and that life as we know it will NEVER be the same again.  Courage means not cutting headcount, but cutting executive salaries and directors’ fees instead to save jobs of employees.

Leaders need to be encouraging everyone in the organisation to improvise, innovate and truly empower employees to be part of solving this crisis, not revert back to command-and-control and micromanagement.  Every petty action taken, like cancelling newspapers and refreshment supplies sends a message to employees that “You are not valued and taking care of you is costing money!”  Employee engagement is at its lowest levels ever, and organisations are being managed by leaders who are driven by fear of failure, and employees who fear trying something new or innovative in case they lose their jobs.  Engaged employees lead to greater productivity, demonstrating a willingness to “go the extra mile”. This leads to improved business performance and greater profitability in the private sector, and better cost management in the public sector. 

Resilience is about seeking collaborative, rather than competitive, ways of working together, leaders and followers, managers and employees, to get through this together. “It is OUR joint problem, so let’s solve this together” should be the message of leaders. I believe that collaboration is the way of the future, transformational leadership rather than transactional leadership and work environments where diversity rather than uniformity is valued and respected.  What the current financial situation has revealed is that what leaders have done in the past has not worked, and certainly will not work in the present and the future. Now is the time for change and doing things differently, for if we don’t we will simply create a dying yesterday. 

What people will remember most is not what you said or did, but how you made them feel.  People need to feel valued, hopeful of a better future, that what they do makes a difference and that their leaders believe in them.  This is true for all leaders, whether you lead 5, 50 or 50,000 people, or simply lead yourself!

Do you believe in yourself as a leader?  What drives you as a leader?  Are you willing to inspire others and enable them to change their lives, without expecting any personal gain?  Do you pass the leadership mirror test: “Would I want to be led by me?”  If you don’t believe in yourself or would not follow yourself as a leader, what needs to change, and are you courageous enough, and willing to change? 

Be inspired by the spirit of the Anzacs and take the first brave step to re-inventing yourself as a leader for a better future for yourself and others!

]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Wed, 12 Apr 2017 14:24:06 +1000
Be Bold For Change Be Bold For Change

Six key tips to be bold for gender equality change without fear of losing your job

If women are not willing to be bold, nothing will change. Given the glacial pace of change for women in the workplace, including politics, at the current rate of change it will be over 100 years before we have gender equality in leadership roles, and it is projected that it will be over 300 years before we have pay equity! A working woman will earn $1 Million less than her male peers, and will retire with over 50% less in superannuation than men. Women need to be bold, fearless, and above all relinquish the desire to be all things to all people, in order to change things for themselves and other women!

How can women speak up and be bold for change without fear of losing their jobs?

  1. Believe in yourself and be comfortable with who you are
    Being comfortable with who you are, is the essence of self-leadership and authenticity. Not everyone will like women speaking up about gender inequality or lack of pay equity, whether for the broader group, or simply themselves. Women need to actively promote their achievements, experience, and ask for fair remuneration for the work they do. Men are often unhappy with their pay increases and bonuses and will not only question it, they will ask for more. Women on the other hand rarely question the numbers and often appear grateful to be given what they have, even if less than what they probably rightfully deserve. You need strong self-belief; surround yourself with good people at work and at home, and have a sounding board you can trust to practice before speaking out.

  2. Ask for advice and opinions from a diverse group
    It is important that you seek advice from people across the organisation and in your wider social circle, when you are planning career changes or working on new or high profile projects. Different people with different perspectives will see things you don’t see, and most people are both flattered and honoured to be asked for advice and assistance. Asking for advice is a sign of strength, not weakness; it is also a great learning and development opportunity. This is a skill that women have in bucket loads compare to men – do not be afraid to ask for advice – or direction! See this as an opportunity to create your own board of experts.

  3. Actively listen
    In order to learn from others, you need to be present, pay attention and actively listen to your people, advisors, mentors, clients or stakeholders. There is no point asking for advice or the opinions of others and ignoring it. People will soon realise it is just window dressing for doing what you want to do anyway. If you don’t agree or understand, ask questions until you do understand or come to an agreement about the outcome. Listening does not come naturally to most people, but listening saves time and is as important as speaking.  I have discovered that you learn a lot more by listening than you ever learn by speaking.

  4. Be open to change and challenging the status quo
    Often organisations have traditions, policies, processes and a culture dating back decades, and making change is met with “That’s the way we’ve always done things around here.” This makes introducing change very challenging. Be aware that anything that involves gender equality at work including addressing bullying, harassment and sex discrimination, is something that men have never, or rarely, experienced, and therefore find it difficult to understand. Women have to be bold in sharing their own stories of discrimination and harassment, to enable men to open their minds (and hearts) to the necessity for change. Once men do this, they become advocates for change and genuine champions for women and their progress.

  5. Be courageous, knowing not everyone will like what you do
    It takes courage to challenge everything from the existing values, traditions and behaviours, to even the language being used in communications and conversations. Over the past five years, I have had the privilege of reviewing and editing non-classified documents in the Australian Army for use of language, working with a team of army people across all ranks to create language to describe their Contract with the Nation and Values, in modern, meaningful language, understood and accepted by all. It takes courage to challenge “how we’ve always done things” and bring in a civilian with no military experience who questions what is said and done in relation to workplace behaviour and language.

  6. Women need to stop taking full responsibility for domestic and caring tasks
    This is why we need to introduce quotas for men – domestic and caring quotas! When men and women equally share the domestic and caring responsibilities, we will have gender equality in society and therefore the workplace. This will take both bold men and women. This frees women to focus more time on their career, if that is their choice; equally it frees men to be active, hands-on fathers without fear of retribution and exclusion by other men.
And finally women should never forget to send the ladder back down for other women climbing the career ladder. We need to support, encourage, leverage and embrace other women, in the same way men support and encourage other men. And it does not have to be on a golf course or at the rugby. It can be over champagne in an elegant wine bar! Trust me – I know!
]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Thu, 09 Mar 2017 16:47:28 +1100

I have just returned from a 4-day visit to Hong Kong where yet again I was starkly reminded of how technology is controlling a significant part of our daily lives, both professionally and personally.

As we sat at dinner in a Michelin star Chinese restaurant, with beautiful surroundings, classical music, exceptional service and delicious food, I noticed with frustration and sadness that at every table, except the one occupied by myself and my two friends,  people were on their mobile phones, either texting or on social media.

This was not confined to age or gender, as I watched a family of four, all on iPhones, a young couple on a date (perhaps) – both on their iPhones, a table of business people with several people sending text messages or answering emails, while supposedly engaging with others at the table! Everyone was looking down, no one was making eye contact! 

I pointed this out to my two guests who both responded with: “I think it’s rude.” I agreed, but it is so much more than rude.

It made me think of a holiday my partner and I had at a resort in Malaysia just three years earlier, where we watched a family of four with two children under 10, all on their iPads at breakfast; and a group of six young Generation Y’s all at dinner on their iPhones, no one speaking to each other! 

Upon reflection, I asked myself, is technology destroying the following things: 

  • Our ability to listen to others; the most sought-after characteristic of today’s leaders by Generations X and Z is to be heard. They believe their bosses don’t listen to them or their ideas
  • Our ability to actively listen to our partners, our children, our friends, our colleagues. How many ‘warning signs’ have we missed of depression, suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, bullying? I know I have and it was devastating to realise that I missed the non-verbal clue simply because I wasn’t listening actively and paying attention
  • Our ability to read body language including those non-verbal cues because we are looking down – at a screen – rather than at someone’s expressions or into their eyes
  • Our willingness to be truly present, giving someone our undivided attention, because we think we may miss out on something on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Pokémon Go!!!
  • Our willingness to truly engage with others, showing genuine interest in them and their stories, issues, goals and dreams
  • Our ability to empathise with someone who is having a difficult time, simply because we hadn’t noticed.

Rates of depression and youth suicide have escalated, mental illness is increasing, domestic violence and random violence has increased. And still we are disengaging more and more asa society, spending more and more time using technology. There are now over 1 billion users on Facebook, something which did not exist 10 years ago.

Have we lost the desire to talk to each other, to listen to each other’s stories, to truly engage with each other? Why is technology more important than a conversation? Why is work more important than our personal relationships? Why are other people’s lives (on Facebook) so much more interesting and important than our own and of those we love and confess to care for deeply.

So put down that damn iPhone, iPad and turn off that laptop. Look into the eyes of those you love at home, your colleagues and subordinates at work, and ask: “How are you, what’s happening in your life and R U OK?”  Then actively listen without interrupting, be 100% truly present, and engage with that person. Listen with your ears, eyes, mind and heart. Feel the conversation, because technology can NEVER replace the human touch! It will make someone’s day, and may even save a life! 

Time for leaders to remember high tech can never replace high touch!

]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Mon, 01 Aug 2016 14:30:25 +1000

I asked a number of Gen Y female entrepreneurs on social media the following two questions:

  1. What are your top 3 issues for the election?

  2. Are you engaged, disengaged or disillusioned with the current election campaign? Why?

Please note that I did not purposely exclude men, I simply had the opportunity to ask women who were part of a female businesswomen and entrepreneurs’ special interest group, and I was specifically interested in what young people thought, so I seized the opportunity.

Respondents included single and married women, young mothers, single mothers, Aboriginal women, from Sydney and Melbourne, and others who did not identify their geographic location. They were aged 24 – 35, for those who included their age.

Top election issues in order of importance included:

  • Refugee & Immigration policies, including asylum seekers and re-settlement

  • Marriage Equality and the LGBT Bill being passed

  • Infrastructure, including access to high-speed Internet via NBN for everyone

  • Affordability and accessibility of education for all Australians, both university and VET education costs

  • Health care (Medicare, Bulk Billing)

  • Climate Change

  • Corporate tax dodgers

A selection of the comments made in relation to the election and current political leaders:

  • Disengaged! And I used to work in policy. I feel like after the past few years we have been in a non stop federal election, and I'm over it. I want one leader (happy with Malcolm and I used to be an ALP voter) to be in the role long enough to see policy through. The public and politicians seem to have forgotten with the 24hr news cycle and polls that it takes years to plan and implement good policy. We are talking about governing a country not an SME. I must say one thing I am engaged with is the slightly different tones in this campaign. I'm happy that the Libs are using mature adult like rhetoric, and SO OVER THE ALPs messaging being focused on negativity rather than policy and outcomes.

  • I am so severely disenchanted by both major parties election campaigns. Neither leaders seem to have the balls to actually confront the cultural and generational issues we are becoming so exhausted by. The mining boom is fading, and I have no idea how any party is hoping to regenerate budget prosperity for the next generation. The weakest election I've ever known.

  • Mostly concerned with better refugee policies (I am anti offshore processing) and LGBT rights need to be passed. On Q&A last week the way they answered that guy sums up why I am disillusioned and feel politicians are completely out of touch with real people's issues.

  • I find the whole system disenchanting. Pollies spout out promises that they don't keep once elected. They back stab each other, and in parliament they behave like high school boys being rude and disrespectful of each other. Pollies don't give direct answers to questions posed of them, and in my book if you don't have an answer to a question it's because you have something to hide.

  • If only we could adopt Barack Obama and have his steady leadership.

  • Feeling a bit disengaged this year, because there are so many awful things going on around the world, not just in our country. So even access to high-speed Internet seems to be silly, even though it's important to me. With all the terrorism going on, Australian politics seems... irrelevant.

So we must now ask the questions:

  • Are political leaders listening to the public?

  • Are they listening to young Gen Ys who make up approximately 31% of the workforce?

  • Are they listening to women who make up 52% of the 

  • population, 46% of the full-time workforce, and Gen Y women now comprise 60% of all university graduates?

Based on what we are hearing and witnessing on the election campaigns of both leaders of the two major political parties, and comparing it to the top election issues for Gen Y women, I would say No, No and again No to the three questions posed.

So why should we vote for either Mr Shorten or Mr Turnbull if what matters to thepublic is not of relevance and importance to either leader or major party? Just asking? And clearly there are many asking the same question.

Time to listen leaders!




]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Fri, 27 May 2016 17:01:04 +1000
Do You Really Listen or Simply Hear? Do You Really Listen or Simply Hear?

“It is better to remain quiet and be thought of a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt”


Most of us don’t actually listen, we simply hear. This means that we comprehend less than 50% of every verbal conversation we have, so much of the message is either forgotten or lost. Many of us practice the art of “half an ear” or “stunned mullet” listening. We are so busy these days that I believe our capacity and willingness to truly listen has diminished significantly in the last two decades. I truly believe that the greatest gift you can give anyone – your team members, peers, clients, partners, children and friends is to actively listen with intent, and to be truly 100% present.

I was blessed with an amazing maternal grandmother, who in hindsight, lived a hundred years ahead of her time. As a young girl with an inquisitive mind, and always asking her questions, she introduced me to the poem the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, when I became Head Prefect at my high school. I’ve always remembered the first verse of the poem:

“Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”

She taught me that listening is as powerful as speech, that listening saves time, and as the poem the Desiderata teaches us, listening to others is important and worthwhile, regardless of their background or possibly differing views.

We all find it incredibly hard to listen because we believe there are many valid reasons not to, such as:

  • We think we have something better to say ourselves
  • We are given no reason to listen (based on our own assumptions and stereotyping)
  • We think we know what they will say
  • There are too many distractions
  • We are busy listening to our own thoughts
  • Our minds are closed
  • We mentally criticise the message or speaker
  • We would rather be talking so we feel more involved and in control.

So what can we do to listen better?

  • Develop patience. Listen even if you don’t want to or don’t feel like listening
  • Practice paying attention to the person speaking to you. One strategy is to quietly repeat in your head every word the other person is saying, as this would prevent you from listening to your own thoughts. This is a proven tactic for listening better
  • Listen to what the person is really saying
  • Listen to, not against, other points of view. It is human nature to stop listening when we think someone is not agreeing with us, as we want to defend our own point of view
  • Observe body language. Hear what is not said, which is often as important as what is said, especially in other non-Western cultures
  • Listen with your eyes, mind, heart, and ears. This is what I call listening with your entire being
  • Restate what the speaker has said to ensure your understanding of what has been said, rather than being critical of how they have said it. It is your responsibility to ensure your listening and interpretation have been accurate
  • Sometimes if you match your tempo and tone in your responses you will get greater engagement and listening by the other person.

When I changed careers from working in finance to working in human resources, my then very wise boss, Ann Sherry, sent me on a listening course – there was a message in that wasn’t there? She said to be effective in a role that was all about dealing with people and often sensitive issues, listening was an important skill that I needed to develop further. And so I went off to learn to listen. The most profound thing I learnt on that course was burned into my brain (never to be forgotten) when my young daughter caught me not listening to her one night. I apologised for not listening and asked her to tell me again, as her little eyes filled with tears, she said: “Mummy if you didn’t think it was important the first time, you won’t think it’s important now.” She then left the room. I felt as though I had been stabbed in the heart.

The lesson I learned which will remain with me forever, and which was brought home to me on the course a few days later was this:

“You never get a second chance to hear something for the first time.”

So are you really listening or simply hearing? What are you missing by not listening?


]]> (Avril Henry) Blog Tue, 12 Apr 2016 12:38:14 +1000