Graduate Theory

Mel Kettle | On Avoiding Career Traps and Burnout

April 05, 2022 James Fricker Episode 24
Graduate Theory
Mel Kettle | On Avoiding Career Traps and Burnout
Show Notes Transcript

Mel Kettle is a communications expert with more than two decades of
experience in strategic communication and leadership.
 
Graduate Theory
www.graduatetheory.com/24-Mel-Kettle

All Links
https://linktr.ee/graduatetheory

Mel Kettle
https://www.melkettle.com/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/melkettle/

Content
00:00 Intro
00:57 Mel before she became a leadership expert
07:16 How did moving cities impact Mel
13:21 Does Mel have certain things that she likes in cities?
15:32 How do you escape 70 hour weeks?
18:15 The Feather, The Brick and the Truck
26:51 Ranking Decisions
32:02 How does someone become a communications expert
41:23 Mel's book, Fully Connected
43:33 What stuck out to Mel while she was researching the book
49:41 Mel's Advice for Graduates
51:24 Where to contact Mel
52:18 Outro

Mel:

I went to the doctor's one day and, um, he said to me, took my blood pressure and he said, I don't know how you're walking around. You've got blood pressure that I've never seen that so high in someone who's as young as you are, if you don't make some major changes in your life, you'll have a stroke before you turn 30

James:

hello, And welcome to graduate theory. My guest today is a communications expert with more than two decades of experience in strategic communication. and leadership. She was recently recognized in the leaders of hum 2022 power list of the top 200 biggest voices in leadership. She also has her own podcast titled this connected life. Please, welcome to the show today. Mel

Mel:

Thanks so much, James. It is an absolute pleasure to be here today.

James:

That's fantastic to have you on the show today, Mel, and I'm excited to dive into your career and the things that you've done, the things that you teach now as well. Um, but I want to start off talking about your experience. Before you almost became what you are now. Now you're a leadership communications but I want to talk, you know, what was your career like before you got into

Mel:

Uh, I was, um, it took me a while to get my career going. I. Didn't really know what I wanted to do. I started out studying economics at university and got two and a half away, two and a half years through a three-year degree and went, no, I don't really like this dropped out, went, traveling, came back, did a degree in tourism management, loved it, finished that kind of went traveling. What else do you do with a degree in tourism? Um, came back to Australia in my mid twenties and I came back because I was offered a job. In a small business organizing conferences and that's something that I'd always been really interested in. And so I took that job. I moved to Sydney and I absolutely loved it. I worked for this small business for three years and I really credit the owner of that business with helping me start my career in a way that would get me to where I am today. And every time I tell her that she's highly embarrassed, but it's, it's, it's how I believe she supported me. Um, she really believed in me, even when I didn't and took a chance on me when I had zero professional work experience, all my jobs had been, you know, involving, um, money in some capacity. So, you know, in a shop or in a department store or, um, as a waitress, so. She gave me this great opportunity. And because we were a small business, we all did everything in the business. So when it came to running conferences, we all had to run the lab, do the logistics and look at the operational side of it. But we also had to do all of the client meetings and some of our clients where, you know, the senior leaders of Australia. So one of our co one of our conferences we ran was for the ASX. And, um, I don't think there was anybody in the room. Who was lower than a vice president of one of the ASX, top 200 country companies in Australia at the time. So really influential, powerful people. Um, she just had confidence that we would all be able to have conversations with these people. The other thing we had to do with all of the events was get bums on seats. And so this was in the nineties. So social media didn't exist. The internet was just starting out. And which I know you probably find really hard to believe given that you're quite a bit younger than I am. But there was a time when the internet didn't exist. And so when we were marketing our events, we had to create brochures in hard copy and then post them. So at an international conference, we would be starting to work on two years before. And if we didn't get that initial brochure out a year before the event, people wouldn't have time to. Make arrangements to come to Australia for that conference. So I just, I learned so much in that job and I absolutely loved it, but after three years I wanted more and there was nowhere else for me to go in that organization because there were only four staff. So I was headhunted. Um, to another, to a global marketing agency to run all of the events for one of their major clients who, um, was a major player in the tech industry in Australia and globally. And that was a really interesting experience for me. Um, I won that job over a lot of people that had a lot more experience than I did when it came to running conferences, but I got it because I had this all around experience that I'd earned working in my previous role. One of the things that I wasn't prepared for was how exhausting it is to run a 300 events in one year, um, with the team of six. And we basically had an event every day, like every Monday to Friday, every day, Monday to Friday for the year. And it was just, it was full on the demand. Uh, I can't even explain how full on it was. Um, my team and I did an incredible job. Like they I'm so proud of the young men and women I worked with. I was the oldest, I was 29 and all of my staff were younger than me. Half of them were backpackers who wanted, you know, a cushy part time job, which they certainly didn't get in this organization or with this

James:

Well,

Mel:

But it was, I learned a lot, but at the same time, I didn't look after myself. So I was at the Beck and call of my client. I was at the Beck and call of my agency that I worked with. I, I reckon I worked an average of 70 hours a week. Um, I traveled a lot. And I was just exhausted all the time. And so I got partway through the year and I just started feeling a little bit unwell and then that sense of unwell. Um, I was eating the wrong foods. I was drinking too much alcohol. I was almost mainlining caffeine, which I knew didn't agree with me, but I had really dodgy stomach. I had chest pains all the time. Um, And I was just completely stressed to the max and I went to the doctor's one day and, um, he said to me, took my blood pressure and he said, I don't know how you're walking around. You've got blood pressure that I've never seen that so high in someone who's as young as you are, if you don't make some major changes in your life, you'll have a stroke before you turn 30. And my 30th birthday was, um, about three months. And so it was a wake-up call that I needed to start looking after myself a little bit more.

James:

Yeah. Wow. phenomenal. But yeah, there's a lot of things I want to unpack

Mel:

I just did a big Blit. Sorry about that.

James:

Yeah. no, that's okay. But so much that, that, there's a few things actually that I want to, I want to touch on. So the first of those and I'd love to like, continue your story from that because

Mel:

continue

James:

we have to get to. the bottom. There's a few things I want to get to we continue down that path. First thing you said that you, uh, you moved to Sydney to start role. And like, I've done that myself and

Mel:

twice

James:

twice now Like moving to someplace to live for a somewhat You know how. do you, how did that. Impact you that, is that like the move itself has really beneficial. or do you the role cause You mentioned the role at that time as well. It was really great And that you got to sort of do a lot of different things. I mean, do you credit that the physical moves when you location, having new friends. know, having to sort of recreate yourself in some way.

Mel:

Um, I found living in Sydney really difficult. I've lived in a lot of places. Um, I moved to Sydney from Vancouver. I'd moved to Vancouver the before that. Um, when I was a child, we moved around a lot when I was a very small child before we settled in the house where I did a lot of my, um, primary school and high school years. And then. I traveled and moved around a lot in my early twenties. And so I don't think I fully, um, Expect I don't. I think I underestimated how hard moving to Sydney would be. I'd gone to high school in Sydney. So I knew a few people there, but I just found Sydney really difficult to become, to meet a friendship circle of people who I genuinely enjoyed the company of. Um, and that also, you know, I worked for a small business and I worked 70 hours a week. So when I wasn't working all I wanted to do with sleep. And I also wasn't earning very much money, so I didn't actually have a lot of money to do things that a lot of the people I met could afford to do. Um, so the four years I was in Sydney, I, I was pretty miserable and I didn't fully appreciate how unhappy I was and, you know, life in general until I left. And I loved my job and I love the people I met through that, but they weren't people that I was becoming friends with for a lot of reasons, mostly because they were a lot older than I was. And we professional relationship. Um, When I left one of the things that I decided when my doctor said to me, if you don't make some major life changes, you'll have a stroke. I, that was just the catalyst for me to realize that not only did I hate my job, I hated living in Sydney. And so. I turned it back up at work after Christmas that year. And my boss said to me, or how was your break? And before I even knew what I was saying, I said to him, it was great. I quit. And he said to me, what, what are you sure? I must've, I didn't think I'd say those words because that's the furthest thing. From my conscious mind. Um, but the words came out. So yes, I stand by that. Um, and so I gave about six weeks notice, um, because I didn't know what I was going to do. And in, within about a week of resigning, I decided that I'd leave Sydney and moved to Brisbane and moving to Brisbane was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I remember driving across the border of Queensland and new south Wales and thinking I have come home and I had barely ever even been to So it was just such an unexpected sense of calm. Amongst all of the chaos that my life had been for the previous sort of 12 to 18 months. And I loved it. Like I loved living in Brisbane. I met amazing people who became friends within the first week or two of moving there. And I moved to Brisbane 22 years ago. And there's three friends that I made who I would still consider to be three of my closest friends who I met in that first week. I made, I would have, I had one really close friend who I met in Sydney. Um, but we met in the last year that I was there. And I couldn't even tell you the names of anybody that I met in my first few years in Sydney, because I just found it really diff it was just such a different environment. Brisbane was so friendly and welcoming and supportive and people. And I think it's because a lot of people had either moved to Brisbane or move. Or move back to Brisbane, having grown up here and left and come back that there were so many more people who understood was like to move to a place where you might not know anyone. And so I just felt the welcome mat was really rolled out. Hmm.

James:

Yeah. Great. Oh, That's that's good. And certainly, yeah, that's so hard when you move to a new place. Like social is so important,

Mel:

said that I reckon today it's easier than it was because I moved to Sydney in 2000. So again, internet was just starting, but there was no social media. There was no MySpace. There was no chat. There was some chat rooms, but I didn't really understand what that was at the time. Now you've got social media, so you can get on your social media platform of choice and say, Hey, I'm moving to wherever. I'd love to meet some people who's there. Where should I live? What suburbs should I look at? Um, where, what schools could I send my kids to? What cafes are great. If I don't want to work from home or in my office, where should I go? Um, who were the sporting teams? there's so many things you can create really strong friendships now on social media before you moved to a place. So you've at least got some context and, and some friendly faces when you arrive, if you don't know anybody, you know, in the real world.

James:

Yeah, definitely.

Mel:

Sign

James:

So many of those types of things you're available, now, like you said with the internet, like being able to connect with with new people is, is a lot easier. I'm wondering for yourself. you said that you, when you drove across the border, the Queensland. Uh, you know, you you kind of realized okay, our home, this is the place for me. Like, especially once we actually arrived there, you certainly had that feeling, like, what you, do you have some kind of a, checklist or things that you like case this in Sydney was not very good, and this is why it's better. Brisbane, right? There's certain things for you that I really. like. This is what I want in a place. Uh,

Mel:

Um, all I've wondered in a place was anything that wasn't. I was not discerning in any other I wanted something that wasn't Sydney. And I think at the time, my frustrations in Sydney with Sydney were that, um, everything was so expensive. I couldn't afford, I wanted to buy a house and I couldn't even afford to buy the crappiest little studio apartment in Sydney. I wanted to meet somebody and, you know, fall in love and have a relationship. And I worked every minute of the day. I've either worked or slept every minute of the day in Sydney. So I didn't have time that. Um, and the other thing I found really frustrating in Sydney is it just took so long to get anywhere. So I lived in Cammeray and I worked at Bondi junction and there was one particular day. It took me 90 minutes to get to work, to drive, to work. And it was 11 kilometers. And that was the day that I really thought life's too short to stuck in traffic for this much of. And it, it just, all, I could just all sort of collapse in on me at once thinking I just don't want to be here. And I also really didn't feel that I had anyone. I didn't feel like I had a lot of support in Sydney, which. My family were in Gosford, so they weren't that far away. And my brother was living in Sydney, so I had some support, but I think I just was so deeply unhappy and borderline depressed that I couldn't the only option that I could see to get rid of everything was to move away from Sydney and start again and kind of reinvent myself again. And that.

James:

Yeah. Well, yeah, that's great. Yeah, certainly it's, it's, You're working so much, you know, young, fairly burnt out, I guess, at that stage everything kind fell over. You know, what steps do you take now? And what did you learn from that experience when you were.

Mel:

working?

James:

Working and trying to avoid.

Mel:

That

James:

that feeling right when you're working 70, 80 plus hours a week, like you're not exercising. you know? And then that means that you going to have takeout more often. And then you're going to do other things John healthy more often. It just kind of always this downward spiral. What did you learn from

Mel:

I've learned. I really need to put myself first and I need to listen to my gut. And if my gut instinct is saying. Or screaming, this is wrong. Do something about it. And it might even be like, it might just be sitting back and thinking, why am I feeling this? Um, and is it something that's long-term systemic problem or is it a short-term problem? That's going to go away. Um, in my previous job, yes, we ran a lot of conferences and events, but we took a six week break at Christmas and in the new job, but there was no Christmas break. We ran events up until Christmas Eve or until the 20th of December. And then we started again on about the 10th of January. So it was just. It was constant and it was unrelated. The other thing I've learned, um, like I wasn't sleeping very well at this time in my life. And I was, I would wake up every night in the middle the night thinking, oh, I haven't done. And I'd write down a whole list of things I had to do. Cause I just was waking up panicked about everything that I hadn't done. So I put, after that I put a really firm rule in place. If I had three consecutive sleepless nights worrying about work, it was time to quit that job and get something. 'cause that for me, you know, we all have sleepless nights on occasion about when we have, you know, small stressors or big stressors that keep us awake at night. But if, for me, if it was more than if it was three or more nights in a row, then that's a really big warning sign for me that something's not right in my life. And, and I still have that. Um, And R I've I've used that three night rule with, with boyfriends, with jobs, with clients. And I just think it's such, it's your body's way of saying to you things aren't right. And you need to listen.

James:

Yeah,

Mel:

that's

James:

And certainly for people listening, it's uh, it's, it's great to be able to take those things. And apply them.

Mel:

I read this story recently. We tried as love and it talks about, um, you know, the universe gives you signs and at first it will send you a feather and then it will send you a brick and then it will send you a truck. And so for me, with my stress and with my burnout, the feather, for me words, um, Not sleeping was drinking too much. Wine was having my local Thai takeaway on speed dial and calling them three nights a week, um, was just constantly feeling really anxious and then getting chest pains. The brick was when my doctor said to me, if you don't make a major change in life, you'll have a stroke, you know, pretty soon. And I didn't have the truck, but if I'd had a stroke that would have been the truck because. I think, you know, think about what is it that's happening in your world and what are the signs that you're being sent. And, you know, I'm not a woo woo person. highly practical, highly pragmatic, and have a very scientific, methodical brain. But I really believe that there's signs that come to us when things need to be different. And you need to listen and pay attention. And I really wished that I had done that sooner. Like, well, even before I took this job, I had a gut feeling that it wasn't the right thing to do, but I was head hunted. I've never been head hunted before. And my ego just went and they offered me a lot more money than I was getting paid and pretty quickly realized the money wasn't worth it. But it was too late then I felt like I didn't have another, any other recourse, but to continue with this job, the money is never worth it, by the way, the money's never worth it.

James:

Yeah. Yeah. Well,

Mel:

It's a lot.

James:

a lot wisdom there and Yeah, no, I definitely. I think it's, you know, these, You know, one of the whole aims at the podcast, right.

Mel:

where

James:

things where know, have your experience which is, you know, something that probably people don't want to go you know, have that explain to someone who if may have faced these, you know, maybe there's a pathway that you get to in your life where go down this path and electronic. to this before because like

Mel:

I had planned to move to Mexico for a year. And then this job came along and I cannot tell you how much I wish I had gone to Mexico for it. I still never have, but my priorities shifted, but I really believe that there's many, so many times in our life where we have this fork in the road. And it's like that sliding doors moment, you know, from the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, this, um, you can either take DNA or you can take Darby. I think that, um, you know, you may end up ending up where you need to be, but the way that you get there can be really different. And I just think that when you have an opportunity to do something or when you have two opportunities and you have to make a decision think really carefully about which decision is right for you, not just today, but longer term as well. And think about. Like, I really wish that I'd thought more about how did my decisions in my twenties, how would they make me happy in my twenties? Because I made a lot of decisions in my twenties that made me deeply unhappy, and I can't underestimate enough how important it is to feel joy and be happy with your life because we've got one life and you need to make the most of it. Yeah,

James:

that's really not. That's great advice, I think. And Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing because I think that's really powerful and I that are listening, I really take that in because it's, uh, you can tell it just comes comes from your

Mel:

It does.

James:

Um,

Mel:

And it's also really easy for me to say this with hindsight, like I'm in my fifties and I'm assuming a lot of your readers or listeners will be in their twenties. Or early thirties maybe. Um, and I know if someone had said that to me, when I was in my twenties, I would have just gone. Yeah. Whatever. But if you just take one thing away, then think about what makes you happy and how can you get more of that?

James:

Yeah, I think

Mel:

That's Certainly.

James:

cool. Certainly. Yeah.

Mel:

I think it's really What

James:

I think it's really great what you've shed, Uh, definitely. Um, I've I've heard that, uh, like you were saying, you know, What's going to make me happy in the next short time. here. It might not necessarily be the best option. You know, I've heard that described where if can just extend the time frame of decisions, even when it comes to.

Mel:

like productivity.

James:

productivity, Like know, I have to have this thing done by this time. Like okay. let's, if we stretch the time on out to like five, 10 then now we can really see, okay, particular day where I didn't maximize every single loss at a beetle, you know, where I

Mel:

to that would

James:

took the job that would like really, know, I would have to work really hard, but it might for me or whatever. Like, you know, if you're trying to get to a certain place in future if you just really look, then these kinds of things where you're taking. the. You know, you're taking certain roads, et cetera, becomes like, um, less important like taking it, taking. a certain,

Mel:

What you just said there, I think is so important. I think it's really, if you have to make a big decision, I think it's so important to give yourself the time you need to make it and to make the decision when you, when you're in the right head space. I, I used to be, um, one of my past jobs was a media manager in a government department, and I learned really quickly that whenever a journalist rang me looking for a quote, I would say to them, what's your question. I'll get back. So that I could think it particularly if it was something was, um, not great. And a lot of the media I did at the time was great. Um, I just wanted time to be able to craft a response that would put my agency in the best possible light so that, um, and if it was something that was emotional. I needed the time to think through what I, what was I going to say? Or what's the most appropriate response that will satisfy them and satisfy them? And I think that with, and I really learned that it's not only little decisions like that, that you should do that too, but all decisions, you know, big, well, big decisions, especially. And the other time, I think it's important to delay a decision is if you don't actually need to make it right now, like we, um, my husband and I moved from Brisbane to the sunshine coast last year, and we'd been talking a lot about what we would do. When my step son finished high school and we started having the conversation when he was in year seven. And just that, uh, you know, thinking through a few, just sort of brainstorming ideas, and then we just parked it and we said, well, we don't actually need to make a decision for another five years or really even seven years or maybe even 10 years. So let's just, you know, touch base and think about where are we at every two or three years and just sort of assess. And then when the time came, we thought through lots options and we were a lot more clear on what we wanted, what we both wanted, that would work for both of us. And that's an extreme example of delaying a decision. But even if you get like, even if you get a job offer, if you get a job offer for a job that isn't, that means you need to move, or you need to leave a company that you love, or it, it made some big change. Don't feel that you need to say yes, immediately, like take some time, ask, get, ask for references of people who work in the organization, ask for, do your own due diligence before you make a decision. And even as something as simple as writing, getting two pieces of paper and writing on one piece of paper or the pros and the other's piece of paper or the cons, and then ranking them what comes out of. really wish I'd done that. There's a few decisions I've made life where I wish I'd done that.

James:

Yeah. Yeah. I think, I think That's a good strategy. And I've used that in the past. for many decisions, but some one one I was deciding to go overseas on exchange when I was at university. And I was like, you know, like that it fairly big decision. Like, am I going to go do this thing? Like, it's And that's what I do I did go. Cause, on my piece of paper, I went to the UK, I went to Sheffield, I, yeah, Sheffield is like, um, near Manchester I'd seen in utopia. Um, but you know, I had my thing. And I okay, pros at this, like, it's going to be fantastic experience. I mean, you get to like meet new people, go to Europe, travel around all that stuff. Um, you know, and then the cons is really. like, Maybe I won't I won't get to see my friends for six months, which I mean, I was like, six months, isn't really that long. and then and money, as well. I was like, okay, How am I going to pay for And that worked out well as well. So then I was well, at

Mel:

fully

James:

clearly the white years, absolutely like this is you know, a rare opportunity. Like, of it. And So some sites I ended up going and which I think is good. with. having that time where you sit down you say, and these are the things. These are the pros. These are the cons of actually thinking about it rather than just being like, oh, like going almost with the

Mel:

Um, I'm really curious. You said you, one of your cons was leaving your friends. When you came home, had anything changed with your friends? Oh with your lot their lives. And I asked that because I was an exchange student. When I finished high school, I went for a year and I, it was something I always wanted to do. And I was, I changed so much in that year that I was in the state of shock when I came home and nothing had changed. I was just like, well, how come nothing's changed? I've changed.

James:

No. I certainly, I Honestly, I had a similar experience, when I wouldn't want to exchange because you know, I went away and I was kind of, I was James and then I went there and I came back and I have this, I have an Excel sheet with my university grades on it. Okay. like, I have this like, here, like James, and then James goes on exchange and then after Jens came back, it's like completely different Like, uh, and it just affected so many of my life. And I'm honestly like super that I did it because it's

Mel:

yeah. I'll

James:

yeah. I'll put it down to like, what,

Mel:

I have to, mm it's. My year I went to Canada. My year there was in the top five. Best years of my life ever. And maybe even in the top three, it just, it influenced so much of my life. And, you know, I went in 1988, so what's that 33, 34 years ago. And it still influences my life today. Like decisions I make and that, that I would never have made had I not had that year. It just opened my eyes to the world in completely different way, different perspectives, different ways of seeing things, different ways of doing things, different lifestyles and Canada, and like the UK, Canada, UK, and Australia. That really, they're not that different from each other on paper until you get there and you realize they are.

James:

Yeah, Yeah, definitely. I think even for me, it was even, you know, getting. out.

Mel:

Your

James:

routines. in lieu of speaking about that before before the show, you know, getting out of routines of the ways you do things at home uh, in your city or wherever are, and just having to reset those. And just you know, like they're just completely gone. Um, you know, one of my uh, previous guests explained it like this way, you're sort of. you have a bucket of things and as you go through your life, you're just kind of Putting things in, and then when you go overseas or when go to a whole new place, you kind of just empty. it out and you get to Put things

Mel:

Yeah.

James:

In west Redesign a lot of that, uh, you know, the ways that you run your and really reflect on, what you've done. Yeah. So

Mel:

I think the other thing, the other thing that was so huge for me when I went is. I'd lived in the same community for, you know, most of a lot of my childhood and teenage years. And so there were people who'd known me for a long time who had preconceived ideas of who I was or who assumed that I was something because of how I was as a younger child. And. Going to a country or a city where you know, very few people and nobody knows you is really liberating because you can be whatever you want and you can do things that you would never do and take chances and risks that you would never take, because nobody knows you. And if it all goes pear shaped and you make a complete fool of yourself, you're not there for very long. So they'll forget by the time you leave. Yeah, but it's such a great way to become, it's such a great way to experiment with, you know, different aspects of life. I love it.

James:

Hmm. Yeah. no, definitely. Um, I'd love to you know, take this conversation to a different, different area. Now, one thing I want to ask about. is, Um, your current role, kind of what you do as communications leadership. This whole sphere is really, really amazing what you're doing and obviously you've given some awards for this kind of stuff. So it's really, really good at what you do, but how did you actually, and how does someone get into

Mel:

kind where you

James:

kind of stuff where you are, presumably you've gone from being employee somewhere and then now you all you've become this person. That's Hey, I'm a, I'm an expert in this area. I think can, go down this route. I mean, what was that catalyst fee that.

Mel:

um, when I moved to Brisbane, I worked for short time for a contract job, um, for the Brisbane festival, doing the marketing for that big arts festival in Brisbane that I did work for five years in the Queensland government. And I remember when I rang my dad and said, I've just got a job with the Queensland government. He laughed so hard. He accidentally hung up the phone. Because he said, you're not government material. Like you're just, so you've come out of corporate and you're not going to cope. And I said to him, I'm going to give a five years and I lasted five and a half. So I was quite proud of that, but I just needed a change. And I had seen dad go from government to consulting, to working for himself and watched him just blossom. And do think, do work that he loved every day. And he had, he and my mom both taught my brother and I that, you know, life is really short. You have to do what you love. And if you don't do what you love with people you love, then you need to make some changes. And that wasn't like, that was from big things like who you work with and the kind of work you do. Through to who you have friendships with and romances with. If you don't genuinely love the majority what's going on in your life, then you know, you've got control and you've got the power to make a difference. And so when our. Um, had reached a time in working for government and working for other people. I just thought there's gotta be more to life than this drudgery of going to work every day. And I wanted to work part-time because I had a lot of other things that I was interested in and wanting to do. And I put an application in to work. Part-time the head of HR couldn't understand why a woman in her thirties, without children would want to work. Part-time. So my application was denied. And so I left, so I just resigned and I've never looked back. So I've been working for myself for nearly 16 years, and I love that. It gives me complete freedom and flexibility to choose who I work with, the type of work I do. And when and how. Um, and all of those things have changed a lot in the almost 16 years I've been working for myself. Um, and I've also changed. I've become more experienced. I've become more confident. I'm more confident in asking for what I want. Actually. I know what I want. And I didn't when I started. Um, and I think that comes with experience and age, you know, as you get older, you become more experienced and you become more confident and so, and you become more willing to, you know, you're worth more and you know, what you value, um, I believe a lot more than you do when you're younger, because again, it comes with experience. Um, so I today work with leaders and teams to help them become more. So that they can create real connection and sustained engagement and a really big part of the work that I'm starting to do with my clients is to help them become connected themselves because how do you lead others if you can't lead yourself? And if you don't lead yourself first, your not going to be as effective as you could be at leading a team of people or leading an organization.

James:

Yeah. no,

Mel:

wisdom in

James:

wisdom in there. Definitely. And I absolutely agree with a lot of what you've said that, um, what about

Mel:

your

James:

your experience previously, you know, with this whole ban out situation, uh, and you know, that whole corporate lifestyle that you were living. you know, Not, not where you want it to be, at all. how does that reflect now in, in what you're doing, what you teach and, and share, is there much of a thread that carries

Mel:

Yeah. You know, those

James:

You know, those kinds of things

Mel:

So in terms of what I do, I went for a swim at once time at the beach because I could, um, and I really try to live what I teach. I can, I'm not perfect at it, not by any stretch, but I really, um, what, I'm, what I would like. What I think is so important. Leaders are so busy today. Like leaders have so many pressures placed upon them, and it's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busy and to get caught up in the demands and the priorities of other people that you forget to prioritize yourself. And I think COVID has really highlighted that for a lot of people that they, that they have. Some big aspects of their life that they weren't happy with. Um, and I'm not saying that people were happy with lockdown, but I think that when you have to spend it, when you're forced to spend time with yourself, you reevaluate. What you love and what you don't love, and what's important to you and what actually do you get up and go to work every day for, like, why is it that we're doing that? What is it that what's the big benefit or the ultimate that we want from that? And what do we want people to remember us by when we're not here anymore? And I think that I really am trying to help my clients. You know, the broader world. Think of those things. if, if you were to die tomorrow, what do you want people to say about you? What do you want people to think about you? What do you want people to remember you for and is what they think view? And remember you. What you actually want to be remembered for, or do you want to be remembered as a workaholic who never had time to spend with his kids or who, um, was really grumpy at work all the time, because you were so stressed or do you want to be remembered as great leader who listened and who genuinely care? And who walked the talk, you know, who said, I don't want anybody here after six o'clock and if you can't do your job in, you know, the time that we've got, that's a reasonable over the course of a week, let's have a conversation and see what we can change about it. I want to be helping people understand the questions they need to be asking of the people in their lives, like questions. What do you need from me to do your job better? What do you need from me to be a better person? What do you need from me fit to fulfill your goals? And do you even know what your goals are? And if you don't, what do you need from me to help you work out what that might look like?

James:

Yeah. That's I like? that a lot. Certainly. it's a good way of at things. Right. It's uh, you know, service first Robin, you know, how, How can I

Mel:

Oh, absolutely. And as late as we hit a serve, like we don't have a job leaders come. If leaders don't have anyone to lead, they're not leaders. So you don't, you want the people that are under you in, and that's not the right way of describing it, but don't you want the people who you lead to be looking up to you. And to be saying, I want to be like that person. And I know we've all had, like, I can, I've had, I've had lots of different managers and leaders in my life and I there's some of them that I just remember so clearly. And some of them, I remember really clearly because they were amazing and they supported me and they believed in me when I didn't believe in myself and some of them, I remember because they were just. And I don't want anyone to think of me as the awful later. Although I do know that I will have some pastor who will think of me like that because we all go through awful phases when we don't we're doing and we're stressed and we're overwhelmed. Hmm. Yeah, important.

James:

That's, that's important, I think yeah. To, remember that Yeah. I mean, you're not a leader, there's no leader. I think great. Um, what, So you've got, you've got book coming out soon if I'm not fully connected. And I want to ask you about this and kind of tell us a little bit about what the book's about and in particular. what to know for yourself if someone's reading this book and going through it, what are some things that you really want someone to take

Mel:

like,

James:

From it, like, what are the key main key principles, um, with, like, but you've learned

Mel:

so the book's called fully connected how great leaders lead themselves first. And I look at why do we need to leave ourselves? Let ourselves first what's in. What's preventing us from doing that. And then I tell you three ways that you can lead yourself first. So you can do that by being more self-aware. Um, and by having a better understanding of what, what's your purpose, what are your values? What does your, what are your attitudes and behaviors? What are your strengths and weaknesses and how can you capitalize on your strengths? Um, And how do people see you and perceive you? Like, are you, is your level of self-awareness so good enough that you have an understanding of how other people see you as a leader and a person. And then the second thing I talk about is how do you stay? How do you self motivate and, you know, motivation is terrific. But when it comes down to doing the work, motivation tends to take a hike. So what is it that you need to do to first be motivated? And I believe that people are motivated by knowing their purpose, um, and by seeing what their role is in, whatever it is that they want to achieve in the world. But then how do you, um, what do you need to do to take action and how do you become disciplined enough? So that motivation. Helps you achieve your goals. And then the third part of it is self care. So what is it that you need to do to put, have a self-care toolkit so that you can look after yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally? Um, because if you, because when you, the more self care you have, so self-awareness leads to self care and self care leads to resilience. So if you look after your. Physically, mentally and emotionally when things are hard or when things, you know, turned to shit, you're going to cope far better than if you haven't been looking after yourself. Yeah.

James:

Yeah, I think that's so important. Like you send us spiritually, physically all those three areas really, really Um, what has been, as you've been researching and writing this book, like what has been the most surprising thing that you've learned? Through this process and perhaps it's something you've discovered recently. or, yeah. I'm curious to hear, like, what is something that really stuck out to you while you were

Mel:

one of the things that I experienced in senior leadership roles was that I was really lonely and I thought that was just me and it wasn't until I've had a whole heap of. People simulators and some clients and some friends also say to me, I'm really lonely at work that I just went, there's a big problem here because we shouldn't be. And so that was something that was really enlightening to me. How do we, how do we make ourselves less lonely, but also how do we make sure that our people feel like they belong at work? And what is it. We can do to help them feel valued and aligned to the organizational purpose and aligned to their own purpose so that they turn up at work. Able to do their best because it's one thing to turn up to work and wanting your best, which I believe everybody does people don't turn up at work going. I'm going to do a shitty job today. Just you look okay. There's probably some people who do that, but for the most part, I don't think people do that. And so I really believe that people turn up at work, wanting to be their best and wanting to do their best and wanting to succeed. I think sometimes I don't know how, and they're often not given the tools to do that because you can't do your best. If you're not giving clear directions, you won't do your best. If you don't feel valued. And if you don't feel that there's compassion in the organization and you definitely won't do your best, if you're really stressed, feeling overworked, feeling overwhelmed and just exhausted. Because it's not possible.

James:

Yeah. I heard that foundation. Like describing, I think is, really really important Um, in so many areas, you know, whether it's your work or just your life satisfaction. Generally, I think if you don't have those three things, worked out, um, clearly then, you know, it's, it's an, accident waiting to happen almost so, so Really look into those areas and And then thinking about what you're doing keep them in good, condition and

Mel:

Exactly. And it's the same with all aspects of your life. You know, you can't show up and be the best person you want to be for yourself, for your partner, for your kids, for your friends, if you're exhausted or overwhelmed or stressed or tired or hungry or hung over, or, um, You know, uncertain, unclear. So my, you were asking me before, what would be my advice? I think, um, I've got two pieces of advice for people. Give yourself something to look forward to every day, because when you look forward to something and then it happens, you get this massive dopamine hit and you feel. So even if, and I asked, I got this idea from, um, a friend of mine during COVID, who was in Melbourne, in the endless lockdowns. And I said to her, how do you keep going? And she said every night before I go to bed, I think of something I'm going to do tomorrow that I love. And so I go to bed with this sense of anticipation and joy that tomorrow I'm going to do this thing that I love. And she said some days it might just be having half an hour, quiet time on my own without my husband and kids around reading a book that I've been wanting to read for a long time. Or it might be planning to spend, you know, some, some special time with one of my children or, you know, any number of different things. And she said, none of these things that I do that give me joy take more than half an hour. And, but that's enough to keep filling my cup and refilling my cup. And so, um, I think that's critical actually. There's three things. The other thing, I think if you haven't been to the doctor in over a year, Going to have a health check because if there's things going wrong physically, then that will manifest mentally, emotionally as well. But, you know, make sure that your body's in good working order. There's a whole bunch of different health checks you should be having, depending on how old you are and what your family history is and how long it's been since you had the last one. So if you haven't been to the dentist or been to the doctor in over a year, Just, you know, have a checkup, get some basic blood tests and see that everything's working and get a skin check because you know, we live in Australia and a lot of people have nasty skin cancers. And then the third thing is I talked earlier about the feather, the brick and the truck have a think about whether there's any of those things happening in your life right now. Are there any feathers that you need to be aware of? Have has the feather turned into a break and is a brick on the edge of becoming a truck. So just have a think about what is it that you can do to look after yourself better, because life is really short and hopefully you want to have a really long life. That's filled with joy people you love doing work that you love.

James:

Yeah, I like that a lot. And I like that. Yeah. I think that's so important. And that analogy is

Mel:

That's a good one.

James:

I that was actually,

Mel:

I don't know where I read can't Sorry, if it's you, who came up with the idea,

James:

Well, yeah, that that was going to be my last question. And it's something that that you've sort of already answered in some something I ask all the guests at the end of the show. is what advice would you give to someone that's just starting out in their career? Like, you know, given all that, you know, Now, if you had to of go wind back clock and restart the advice that you'd give you

Mel:

listen to your instincts because they are very rarely wrong. That would be my number one, rice. If, if your gut instinct is saying this isn't quite right, ask questions. And listened to it. Hmm.

James:

yeah, I think that's important too. I think. uh, Yeah, know, you've got the mind and heart and

Mel:

that heart,

James:

they're powerful things. You've got

Mel:

that mind got connection. There's so much research. Now that shows there's such a close link between what happens in our gut and what happens in our brain. And there's some really good books. None of which I can remember the names of. Um, but there's so much research around that. Like the last 20 years has just shown this really strong connection between the mind and the brain and the gut. And so if you're interested, do some research and find out more, but I really believe listen to your instinct. We've all got an instinct. It's like that sixth sense. So, you know, pay attention. Particularly if it, you know, you might call it the spidey senses on the, or the, you know, the tingles on the back of your neck or your spidey sensors. But in my experience, they're not usually wrong. Hmm. that's

James:

I think That's so important. And thanks so much for sharing that with today. Mel, thanks so much for this episode It's been fantastic to have you on and to hear your thoughts? We've covered. so much and So much, uh, you know, so much value, really so much wisdom that we've had from you today, Uh, if the audience wants to find out more about you and find out the things you're working on where is the best. place for

Mel:

So my website is probably the best place. Mel kettle.com. It's currently getting overhauled. So if you look at it in the next few weeks, come back about a month later and you'll get to see it nice and shiny and sparkly and new. Um, I'm also really active on most social media platforms. So I love LinkedIn and I love Twitter. Trying to love Instagram a little bit more. So, um, yeah, just, if you just Google me, you'll find me and I'm always happy to have a chat. If you have questions, want to know anything else, please just get placed to get in touch.

James:

Thanks for listening to this episode I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you want to get my takeaways, the things that I learned from this episode, please go to graduate theory.com/subscribe, where you can get my takeaways and all the information about each episode, straight to your inbox. Thanks so much for listening again today, and we're looking forward to seeing you next week.