Home  Personal Development

The Power of Learning By Doing

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Are you wondering what a blue flag has got to do with learning methodology?

Well, the Naval ‘Blue Peter’ flag (above) carries many excellent parallels to leadership and life.

This flag is displayed anytime a Naval ship leaves the safety of harbour and heads into the unknowns of the wide ocean. A bit like a young person heading into the unknown of a big, wide world. How well will they cope with the unknown? So it was chosen as the symbol of a global, personal development program called “Outward Bound”, building resilience for young adults.

Outward Bound, is designed around these “learning by doing” principles.

Adult Learning that Sticks

Adult learning is at its best when it is hands-on, real and relevant. That is one of the many reasons I include it in the design of team and leadership programs with my clients.

Good leaders know the value of ‘learning by doing’. Isn’t life just one big classroom anyway?!

In my past life I was an instructor and program manager for Outward Bound Australia. “Learning by Doing” was the motto for the Outward Bound school. It is powerful as you learn what leadership works, and what doesn’t, in real time.

Are your people hungry and lost?

When you are hungry and lost, its amazing how quickly people want to then learn how to use their map and compass!! People’s natural strengths and weaknesses are exposed quickly.

This, combined with high quality feedback around leadership style and effectiveness, makes for a high quality, relevant learning experience such as Bridgeworks’ Leadership NOW program.

I have always believed that if you can make the learning practical, fun and relevant, people remember the experience for many years. Isn’t that what learning should be like any way?

Any barriers or ‘push back’ give way to greater openness, a safer emotional environment and increased personal learning.

How to Maximise Leadership Learning

So, how do we achieve the best results from our learning? Ensure the following:

  1. The learning environment is outdoors, practical & hands on
  2. Critical measures around leadership & behaviours are foundational to the process
  3. Create a ‘place apart’ from the usual business environment setting; a challenging yet safe space such as our next Leadership NOW program at the wild Cape Liptrap (29-31 August)

Finally, when assessing your next training or leadership program, ask yourself:

  • Will the learning be lasting?
  • Does the process bring to life the realities of leading others – beyond techniques and theories?
  • Will it fully engage participants in the learning?

If you are after a powerful, long lasting leadership process, check out our Leadership NOW program. Limited places are still available on our August program (29th-31st).

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How about the Heart talking to the Brain?

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I often reflect on why leadership is more about the heart and gut. Less about ‘head stuff’.

Now I am beginning to know why and science is backing me up.

Like me, I’m sure you believe it is the brain is the key controller of emotions.

Not so.

According to Dr Rollin McCraty in “Heart-Brain Neurodynamics: The Making of Emotions“,
“The heart is a key component of the emotional system, thus providing a physiological basis for the long-acknowledged link between the heart and our emotional life”

This has a huge impact on leaders and the key reason at Bridgeworks that we measure the impact we have on the people we work with and lead.

Recently a client mentioned that it was the “How Others See me” feedback shared at a past program that completely turned her career around. It was clear that previously she was an arrogant manager that built fear into her team and dictating the terms. Now team members openly express how they are more creative and engaged because of her new style of proactive leading and more engaging

Namely, do people see us as ‘reactive managers’ or ‘proactive leaders’?

Another reason I am excited to have Victor Perton present “The Case for Optimism” at our next breakfast.

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Building a Growth Mindset

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Kurt Hahn was a German educator and a key figure in the development of experiential education.

In 1934 he founded the famous Gordonstoun school in Scotland. Additionally, he founded the Outward Bound movement and Duke of Edinburgh Award.

To this day his philosophies have far-reaching international influence that has stood the test of time.

Bridgeworks is strongly influenced by the philosophy held by Hahn:  building courageous and compassionate leaders.

Hahn believed that students could only really understand life by experiencing it in many exciting and challenging ways. By testing themselves, students would be able to develop their courage, generosity, imagination, principles and resolution.

Ultimately they would develop the skills and abilities to become the guardians and leaders of the future. Kurt Hahn’s philosophies also founded Outward Bound and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Bridgeworks programs are 50% delivered in the outdoors.

Challenging scenarios are smartly designed to challenge mindsets, encourage courageous conversations and build effective leaders and teams.

When did you or your team last do that?

Return email or call Wayne to find out more.

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If You Want To Be Rich And Happy, Don’t Go To School

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This was the title of a provocative book written by Robert Kiyosaki who authored another popular book called “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”.

My wife Susan recently shared a similar thought-provoking YouTube by Gautam Khetrapal “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education”

Today, it seems more important than ever to rely less on your University degree and more on your self-learning, initiative and ‘can-do attitude’.

Your ability to grow and develop your EQ (Emotional Intelligence) seems to override your technical ability or IQ.

Leaders, like Darren and Trisca in the previous story, regularly challenge themselves and look in the leadership mirror. This is a significant part of growing your emotional intelligence and success in business and life. 

Leaders are:

  • Passionate about developing others
  • Clear about their vision and 
  • Communicate that vision in a way that excites and engages their people – They draw others towards that journey.

These are all traits that require a high degree of emotional intelligence, any other “Higher Degree” is not necessarily required!

Here is the powerful YouTube from by Gautam Khetrapal: 

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my eduction”

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Why wander around the desert for 4 days?

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Somehow Darren McClenagan saw value for him in developing as a leader.

Back in 2001, I ran a ‘Desert Leadership’ program in Lake Mungo, outback NSW. At the time Darren McClenagan was a key figure about to merge 2 major call centres into one. Jobs would be lost and people’s careers changed forever.

Today he reflects on the times he had the courage to look in the leadership mirror. Many years later that courage, including the learning in the desert, helped him and his Noosa Heads RACV resort team win the 2017 QLD People’s Choice Award and Gold Award for self-contained accommodation at the 2017 QLD Tourism Awards.

Having the good fortune to be working with outstanding leaders for over 20 years, I see clear patterns emerging. Those leaders prepared to work on their emotional intelligence produce outstanding results and engaged workplaces. Darren made a habit of that over his years leading high performing teams.

Like Darren, Trisca was another young determined manager. Combined with feedback from Bridgeworks leadership journey many years ago, Trisca learned she was a quality manager but struggling as a leader. Like Darren, she was prepared to change. Change takes courage with a bit of humility thrown in.

Recently she was awarded The CEO Magazine  2017 Marketing Executive of the Year.

Recognising that culture trumps process, Trisca shared with The CEO Magazine that she leads her marketing division according to this mantra: ‘Be Brilliant, Engaged, Human’.

Trisca who has been a long-term fan of Bridgeworks is joining me on walking the Kokoda track in April 2018.


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Going Outward Bound – Building Leadership & Resilience

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Hearing about suicides in young people scares the daylight out of me.

Some of you may know that Outward Bound is in my DNA, having worked in both Australia and the USA as a facilitator and program manager for 7 years.

For most people, especially for school children from protective families, the first few days were hell on earth for them.

  • “What do you mean I have to go to the loo in a hole?”
  • “Do you mean at some stage I have to cook for 20 others?”
  • “What! This sheet of plastic is what I am camping under for the next 10 days??”

The origins of Outward Bound go back to World War 2. Too many young, fit British sailors were perishing after the Germans bombed their ship. However the overweight, unfit, older sailors were surviving.

Dr Kurt Hahn, a noted educationalist of the time recognized that, unlike the older, experienced sailors, the young sailors needed to experience more tough life experiences.  

Hahn found that people who were put in challenging, adventurous outdoor situations gained confidence, redefined their own perceptions of their personal possibilities, demonstrated compassion, and developed a spirit of camaraderie with their peers.

Outward Bound was a naval term describing a ship heading out of the safe harbour into the unknowns of the ocean.

The results spoke for themselves with the young Outward Bound graduates having a greater rate of survival for the remainder of WW2.

I enjoy injecting a dash of ‘Outward Bound” into my programs as I see the long lasting benefit of challenging manager’s character, not just their ability to get the job done.

Hahn’s belief that character development was just as important as academic achievement is still very true to this day. 

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We Can Do That! (The Payoff When Collaboration Becomes the Priority)

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We often hear the joke about council workers ‘leaning on their shovels’.

You could not get further from the truth with an inner suburban Council’s Works Depot team.

Nearly 10 years ago I received a call from their manager who wanted to take action to improve the collaboration of his crew of around 30. The team regularly partners with Bridgeworks to build this ‘working together’ attitude.

It’s amazing what happens when you invite the ‘brains from out of the car park’ and into the workplace.

Their commitment to learning, including getting along with others and building trust amongst their team has led to stellar results including:

  • Saving council over $1,000,000 in the first 15 months alone by making and installing signs in-house.
  • Saving over $200 per tonne treating drainage waste in-house at their own purpose built facility.
  • Scoring a perfect 100% twice in their CMP road management plan audits, thus reducing council’s insurance premiums… to name a few wins

All these ideas generated by team members (not leaning on their shovels!)

This caught the eye of their new CEO who was invited to attend the morning session:

“The depot is really leading the way in this as a department, and you and your coordinators deserve to be commended for the culture you inspire in your team.

Well done to you all – it was a delightful, inspiring, thoughtful and fun morning – thank you for inviting me!” 

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Engineering is Logical, People are Not

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I’m not saying engineers can’t lead people, but the bottom line is engineering is logical, people are not. Management is also more about logic, i.e. budgets, resources, ROI, where leadership is more about emotions, trust and respect – you don’t think trust, you feel trust.

So what do YOU need to do to be more successful as a leader not just a manager?

Consider the following:

  • You might be your team’s manager, but would your team vote for you as their leader? Titles mean nothing when it comes to leadership.
  • When was the last time you looked in your leadership mirror? Do you really know the impact you are having on your team?

Note: At the risk of over generalising and offending a whole group of engineers, I will point out before I start that these observations are not meant as judgements and are based on all the wonderful engineers and asset management professionals I’ve worked with over the past 20 years.

Engineers and Asset Management professionals are generally very process oriented, data driven and logical. They are usually confident of their decisions because they are backed up by quality data. While these are all great characteristics, they’re not necessarily characteristics that develop good relationships.

I often see highly technically proficient people being singled out for their excellent work and suddenly given a team to manage. The organisation will say, “Actually, you’re very competent at this process, so therefore we are promoting you to be the team leader.” Immediately the skillset required changes completely.

Those highly technical skills honed over many years have to be shifted towards people skills – understanding a group of people who each have different motivations, personalities and egos.

  • The real challenge is that people no longer want to be ‘managed’
  • People want good leadership.  Do you know the difference between ‘managing’ & ‘leading’?
  • You might be your team’s manager, but would they vote for you as their leader?

Here are four questions that will dictate your personal, leadership and team effectiveness:

1. Why does your leadership style work with some people but not with others?

  • When was the last time you looked in your leadership mirror?
  • Do you understand the impact you have on your team members and colleagues.?
  • Are you a bridge ‘burner’ or a bridge ‘builder’? This is where the name of our organisation, Bridgeworks, originated. Exploring how well you build bridges with people.

It takes courage to look in the leadership mirror, but then again leadership is about courage. Those that need to look in the mirror the most, resist the most.

One process we use is called ‘How Others See Me’. It’s not like the classic 360 feedback tool, which measures what you do.  How Others See Me measures more who you are – your behaviour, your attitudes, how you build trust and your interpersonal effectiveness.

2. Have you thought about what motivates you, compared to what motivates your staff, family, others?

  • Do you understand that you can only motivate yourself, but you can influence others – positively or negatively?
  • We are not talking about ‘rah-rah’ extrinsic motivation more intrinsic motivation – what gets you out of bed in the morning.
  • What drives you, what drives your team, what drives your teenage kids!

Dr William Marston back in the 1920s wrote a book called Emotions of Normal People. He was fascinated at how people behave differently, and in particular how the Greeks 2,000 years ago went about classifying behaviour. If you were a direct, confident, strong-willed person, you were called ‘choleric’, whereas if you were someone that’s more laid-back and ‘She’ll be right mate’ you were seen as more ‘phlegmatic’.

In the 1960s Dr John Geier, developed the ‘DISC profile’ based on Dr Marston’s principles. Since then over 50 million people globally have used DISC to help them understand why people do what they do. We will be exploring this tool during my session at Mainstream Conference.

3. Do you understand the real difference between management and leadership?

You manage ‘things’ but you lead ‘people’. Both are important – a job or project has to be done, but people need to be engaged in the process.

How well do you engage others?

As mentioned earlier management is more about logic, where as leadership is more about emotions. In your past have you worked in what you considered was a good job but with a poor leader? Their technical skills and process was excellent but people skills lacking. I’m sure this environment didn’t get the best out of you.

4. Do you understand why being trustworthy does not always build trust?

Do understand that people build trust differently? What are your strengths and weaknesses in building trust?

Many people in senior management roles assume their role makes them a leader.

Leadership has nothing to do with your management title, the size of your office or even your MBA.

IQ does not correlate with emotional intelligence (EQ).  Leadership is an EQ skill and it should be seen as a ‘special gift’ from your ‘followers’ based on trust and respect, not position power or formal appointments.

You may believe that you are ‘trustworthy’, but why is it that some may NOT trust you?

To simplify ‘How to build trust’ we will be working through a powerful model – ‘The 4 Elements of Trust’. T

his provides a logical system in understanding how best to build trust with others. Elements include; straightforwardness, openness, reliability and acceptance. We all have a preference for certain elements.

Ask yourself these simple 4 questions above. Quality leaders continually do this. They are prepared to learn, be more open to change and be able to build a climate of trust and respect with their teams. Their leadership harnesses the best from their teams and stakeholders.

Isn’t that what we all want?



You can hear more from Wayne Dyson at Mainstream Conference in March 2017 (in Melbourne and Perth). Join him for a 2 hour interactive workshop ““Engineering is Logical, People Are Illogical” – People Skills for Engineering Managers” to discover a logical, practical, easy to use system to understand yourself and others you work with. 

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Do Accountants Make Good Leaders?

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Not usually when it comes to motivating or inspiring people – but there are exceptions. I know some great leaders who have finance background.

You would think accountants and finance professionals have an edge over other professions when it comes to leadership in business.

The language of business matters now. If you can’t speak finance, it’s very hard for you to be a CEO or senior leader. The catch is accountants and finance professionals might have to unlearn some of the things that made them experts in the first place to make successful transitions to leaders.

In fact, my experience is that unless they have a high level of emotional intelligence, they can be ‘interpersonally inflexible’ and too controlling or tendency to micromanage.

As an accountant you are not meant to make mistakes, take risks and always focus on detail. Good leaders tend to make more mistakes, take several risks and see the big picture rather than the micro detail.

According to research from Dr Byron Hanson from Curtin Graduate School of Business in Perth there are 5 critical changes or transitions that will accelerate the journey to successful leadership:

  • 1. Moving from being the expert to leveraging expertise - Accountants pride their expertise, but despite what some people think you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be a good leader.
  • 2. Moving from the apprenticeship model to a coaching model - its good to help hone a learners technical skills – a leader is more a coach, less doing, more motivating and influencing
  • 3. Moving from being a reporter to a translator - providing the numbers is no longer how they add value – leaders need to ‘create meaning’
  • 4. From having the right answer to navigating multiple answers - Finance professionals are taught to see problems as complicated but having a correct answer – they need to unleash their thinking a bit!
  • 5. Moving from being a value protector to a value creator - learn how to create wealth, rather than to think in terms of being risk-averse and a protector of wealth

I have worked with many very powerful leaders with finance backgrounds. Not only do they have the critical financial insights but a high level of knowing when to lead, when to manage. All of this comes back to their ability to stop and look in their leadership mirror.

(Some references made from Tony Malkovic’s article in Acuity “Five changes that will make you an exceptional leader”)

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Are you getting your Vitamin “F”? (F=Friends)

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This great message was passed onto me by one of my “Iceberger” friends and I thought it had a powerful message:

At a recent meeting of a club I am part of, a member spoke briefly on the subject of friends. This gentleman is in his mid eighties and his eloquence is not surprising given he is a retired QC.

I was so taken by his brief but powerful message that I thought I’d share it with you. It is a reminder to us all that in this world we have nothing if we don’t have friends.

He said: “Real Age doctors tell us that friends are good for our health. I call them Vitamin F (the F is for friends). I count the benefits of friends as essential to my well-being.

Research shows that people in strong social circles have less risk of depression and terminal strokes. If you enjoy Vitamin F constantly, you can be up to 30 years younger than your real age. The warmth of a friendship stops stress and, even in your most intense moments, it decreases the chance of cardiac arrest or stroke by up to 50%. 

We should try to see the funny side of things and laugh together and pray for each other at the tough moments. Some of my friends are online. I know I am part of their lives because their names often appear on my computer screen and I feel blessed that they care as much for me as I care for them. The most beautiful thing about friendship is that we can grow separately without growing apart

Each of my friends helps to bring out a different part of me. With one of them, I am polite. With another, I joke. With another, I can be a bit naughty and I can sit down and talk about serious matters with others. With another I laugh a lot and with yet another, I listen to his problems. Some even listen to my problems.

My friends are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When completed, they form a treasure box – a treasure box of friends. My friends often understand me better than I understand myself. They are friends who support me through good days and bad. 

I’m so happy that I have a stock of Vitamin F. In summary, we should value our friends and keep in touch with them. I hope you also had some Vitamin F today.”

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did and that it reinforced the importance of friends in all our lives.

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