Ep. 163: Stacey Ashley - High-Performance Leadership

Stacey Ashley, leadership expert, speaker, author, coach, and consultant, joins Count Me In to talk about high-performance leadership. Stacey has over 30 years’ experience and has helped thousands to develop their leadership competence, confidence, and credibility. She was named to LinkedIn's Top Voices in 2018, earned Four International Stevie Awards (including Coach of the year 2019), and was nominated for Telstra Business & Womens Awards 9 times (including 2020), among many other awards and recognition. She is passionate about elevating the practice of leadership and, in this episode, talks about what it takes to develop the right mindset, resilience, and accountability. Download and listen now!

Contact Stacey Ashley: https://www.linkedin.com/in/staceyashley/

About Stacey Ashley: https://ashleycoaching.com.au/about-stacey/

Leading Possibility: https://ashleycoaching.com.au/

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Mitch: (00:05)
 Welcome back to Count Me In, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I'm your host Mitch Roshong and this is episode 163 of our series. Today's featured guest is Stacey Ashley. Stacey is a high performance leadership and coaching expert. With over 30 years experience, Stacey has helped thousands of individuals develop their leadership, competence, confidence, and credibility. In this episode, she speaks with Adam about creating your own positive mindset, developing resilience, and developing accountability in others to learn more about these leadership skills, among others, keep listening as we head over to their conversation now.
 
 Adam: (00:51)
 Stacey, thanks so much for coming on today with us. I really appreciate you joining our Count Me In audience. One of the most important factors of great leadership is having a positive mindset and resilience. So can we talk about how one goes about creating that mindset and developing resilience?
 
 Stacey: (01:09)
 Yeah, and isn't it important right now after the last couple of years? I think more than ever. So look, there are so many things that you can do, but for me it's kind of like keep it simple and I think that there's some really straight forward things that everyone can do for themselves. There's some people of course kind of come with a positive mindset, which is great, so just keep going. But for those who need a little bit of help, I think, it's kind of noticing the little things. So noticing, what you do well or something great that happened today. Really you can be quite deliberate. You know, I have a session with my team every week where we actually deliberately go "what were our wins this week?" And we can kind of accumulate them, and we keep track of them.
 
 Stacey: (01:51)
 So if we're having a bad week, we can always look back and go, there was some really good stuff that we've been doing. And so let's focus on that and that kind of keeps us buoyant and positive. But I think the other one, that's really important is just to remind yourself of all of the incredible resources you have and the strengths and the great things you've done in the past. And I know a lot of the clients that I work with, I kind of get them to journal it, even if they're not big on journaling, but just to start to keep a little bit of a track again. Once a day or once a week of, you know, things that they have done well or that they have accomplished or, made progress with and sort of creating that evidence of you know what, I can do this, look at this track record that I've created of things that I've been able to do or overcome, or, you know, rise to achieve.
 
 Stacey: (02:42)
 Because when we are having those kind of down days and we all have ups and downs, but you know, when you have those down days, you can just open your journal and go, actually, you know what? I can do this. Look, I've done this before and I've done that before, and I've learned all these things. So I think sometimes it's just making sure that we keep balance for ourselves because often as humans, we kind of focus on the things that don't go well, are a bit negative , and those sorts of things. So we want to offer ourselves some balancing out of that. So if you start to, kind of notice the things that do go well, what you are capable of and create that history for yourself, you're balancing your own conversation. I think that alone really allows you to then kind of rise and sort of bounce back.
 
 Stacey: (03:26)
 I remember, my kids a couple of years ago, well, a few more actually, when they were little kids, they did a resilience program at school and it was called bounce because it was recognizing that we don't all stay up and positive all the time. We all have ups and downs, but it's the ability to bounce back up that actually creates that resilience opportunity. And so I think if you can do that for yourself, have that evidence of your ability to cope and have great strategies and make progress and that sort of thing. I think that takes you a long way to developing that positive mindset. Because you've got all those reminders right there for you.
 
 Speaker 2: (04:03)
 Yeah. Having all those reminders is important because, you know, I was thinking, as you were saying that, you know, we do have lots of ups and downs. Nobody can be positive all the time. So are there other strategies besides, you know, not everybody's good at keeping a journal, are there other strategies that, to deal with those ups and downs as you're working through that?
 
 Stacey: (04:22)
 Yeah, I think so. As I said, even just noticing things in a positive way. So just asking yourself questions in the positive, you know, what did I enjoy today? What was good about today? What was one good thing that happened today? So just in the moment you can grasp, you know, that positive element, I think, you know, other things that we can do, certainly what I've noticed in the last couple of years of course, is that goals have not been achieved. Like everyone has goals in different ways, whether they articulate them or not. And organizations certainly had lots of goals and for lots of reasons, we didn't actually make them right? Because the world changed and a lot of it was out of our control. And so for, many people, teams and organizations, they can feel like we sort of failed.
 
 Stacey: (05:07)
 We didn't make it and that's not great for your mindset. And so I think a better focus just even every day is to focus on progress. You know, don't focus on, did we hit the goal, but did we make progress? Did we put some effort in, did we move forward a little bit further than we were yesterday or did we actually have to change direction because that's what the circumstances dictated. So again, I think it's just noticing day to day, how you can, you know, contribute and make a difference. And you know, that you have put effort in and all of those sorts of things and recognize yourself for it and your team and you know, all those sorts of things. But I think that's the in the moment stuff is so powerful to support yourself and your mindset.
 
 Stacey: (05:54)
 And then I think the other thing Adam, that's really important is, one of the things about resilience I think is not going, Hey, everything's sparkling and amazingly wonderful right now, but, having the ability to go, okay, it might not be great right now, but I do believe that I can do some things that are going to improve it over time. And so I think having that conversation with yourself as well, like, okay, it's not ideal right now, but what can I do to actually help it along a little bit in the future? And, that feeling of doing something, of taking just a little bit of power back in the moment, again, super important for your resilience and positive mindset.
 
 Adam: (06:36)
 Yeah, it's almost like you're taking back that power from the down moment. It doesn't have to make it a high moment, but you're kind of bringing yourself out of the hole and you're able to kind of push through in that way. Is that what you're saying?
 
 Stacey: (06:47)
 Yeah, absolutely. And so it's not about that. I'll just, you know, be a victim of circumstances and go, oh, well, there's nothing I can do. Actually, you know, I can make a choice, right? Then, you know how they say that in the moment is the choice and even choosing not to make a choice is a choice. So I can choose to be a victim of circumstances or, you know, situations, or I can say, okay, no, I'm gonna look at what can I do here? And I think that, as you said, it's very empowering even though it's not the perfect set of circumstances and that empowerment, that taking back a little bit of control is so important for people to feel like, you know, they are influencing what's going on around them. And that again yeah, adds to the resilience piece.
 
 Adam: (07:32)
 Yeah. So we've been focusing a lot on like our leadership and creating that mindset, but leaders have teams and are there ways that, you know, we as leaders, if we're doing this work in ourselves, we'll notice in our teams, oh, wait, this person may be having trouble. This person's going up and down a lot. Are there some like maybe coaching concepts or ways that we can help our teams, you know, kind of start working through these same things we've been discussing?
 
 Stacey: (07:56)
 Yean, absolutely. I mean, the thing that I really love there is that you said, you know, you can notice what's happening for other people. So that's the very first thing as a leader. Notice, observe, you know, check in with your people, all of those things, because that gives you the information and the insight to then be able to support them. So, absolutely that's the first thing, but from a coaching perspective, there's a couple of really simple things that you can do. You know, if you notice for example, that perhaps someone seems like they might be having a moment where they don't feel like they've got any power or, you know, they're in that what I would call below the line, you know, they're not feeling very resourceful. They're not feeling like they can actually make a difference at the moment, is to actually ask them a question to sort of just, jolt them a little bit, I guess, interrupt that thinking pattern.
 
 Stacey: (08:47)
 And so ask them a reframing question. So if they say something like, oh, it's all too hard, then you would ask them a really simple question in the positive like, well, what would make it easier? You know, and it's not about solving the big problem. It's just about getting them out of that moment of, I can't do anything to I can do something or they might say I'm just so busy and overwhelmed. And then you would say, okay, what's one thing you can focus on. So rather than focusing on everything, what we are doing is we are actually passing back control to them because we're getting them to think of a solution. And again, that's that whole empowering and I can do something in the moment. And so, just that little technique as a leader can really change somebody's day, you know, by asking one question in that positive action-taking kind of way, does that make sense?
 
 Adam: (09:38)
 It does make sense. It stops somebody in the midst of their down and helps them kind of get to that point of resilience and gives them the tools to get to that point of resilience.
 
 Stacey: (09:47)
 Yeah, absolutely. And, not only that, if they, if they come up with an idea about, oh, I could do this instead, and then they do it well, there's achievement and progress and all of those things that you get on top. And so, you know, it's a simple thing, but it can make a really big difference.
 
 Adam: (10:07)
 Yeah. It can make a really big difference. So as a leader, we have to be problem solvers and you were just talking about, that's one way of problem solving, but I read you say, we need to go from problem solving to value adding. What does that mean? Let's discuss that a little bit.
 
 Stacey: (10:21)
 Yeah. Okay. So, this for me is, it's the difference between, you know, what I notice is even now after many years, too many years, probably, there are so many people who become leaders because they were really good at what they used to do. They were an expert, you know, whether it was an accountant or a salesperson or an IT - what do you call them - developer? And so they were really good at that. And so they, and someone had this bright idea let's make them a leader. And so they weren't necessarily given all those leadership skills. And so their leadership career progresses, but they still rely a lot on their expertise often. Although they do develop out their leadership toolkit. And so for me, the difference between problem solving and value adding as a leader is if you are just relying on your own expertise, then you tend to be the problem solver, right?
 
 Stacey: (11:11)
 You want to find the way forward the solution and that means that you are really limiting the capacity of your team in a way to you rather than tapping into all of the people around you. And so, for me, the value adding is as a leader, you have to let go of being the expert. You have to let your people be the expert. And then your job is to tap into all, all of that amazing resource and, you know, knowledge in the people around you. And of course that's using a coaching approach. And so when you use a coaching approach, you ask the right questions to help your people solve problems, to come up with, you know, innovative solutions and, you know, tap into their ideas and that sort of thing. And so that, to me, that's the value add. So instead of having a capacity of one, I've now got a capacity of all my team. and so, you know, I can activate all of them. And so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, because you get this amazing collaboration, innovation and everything, because your job is not to solve the problem. It's to bring all those people together, you know, to be able to come up with the way forward.
 
 Adam: (12:22)
 So let's unpack that a little bit because that's, I think a really profound thing, because I think many, many leaders find themselves in a position of leadership because they were the expert. And so you mentioned, coaching, you know, coaching people to asking the right questions, to get them on board. There's also hiring people who are smarter than you, who are better experts than you, right? Are there other ways to kind of help encourage people to become those experts?
 
 Stacey: (12:47)
 Yeah. I think that there's kind of a couple of components to it. So, you know, you hear, so there's the boss, who's the expert kind of, and that's can create limitation, but if we let go of being the expert, that's one aspect. But, the other thing is that we want our teams and our people in our teams to not only be good at what they do, but we want them to aspire and grow so that they can add, and that they can contribute in lots of different it ways because everyone has, you know, incredible capacity and resource and, that sort of thing, but they don't necessarily believe that they can or aspire to it or take accountability, you know, for it. And so coaching again, can support all of those things. You know, when we, when we coach our people, we are sort of expressing our belief that we know they can figure this out.
 
 Stacey: (13:36)
 And again, that's a very powerful thing to do, as a leader to believe in your people and create the space for them to come up with a solution or an idea, or, you know, those sorts of things or to, actually trust in them. I'm gonna give you this, I'm gonna ask you some questions so you can figure out how you're going to do it. And then I'm just going to leave it in your care, to get that done. And that trust, I think it just creates this opportunity. People can really step into that go, you know, it feels good. You know, if your leader trusts you to do something, it, it can feel really good, but we've got a couple that with making sure that they do have enough knowledge and resources and all those sorts of things. And so for me, it's the balance between mentoring people, kind of sharing your wisdom with them so that they can tap into your expertise, but they learn it and then coaching them to apply, you know, that knowledge into whatever it is that they're trying to do. And you, as the, leader are not getting involved in because you are leading, you are not doing.
 
 Adam: (14:36)
 There's a lot to think about there and can it also be accompanied with, you know, saying to them Hey, why don't you go take this course on X, Y, and Z to increase your knowledge. And then let's talk about it to help them broaden their knowledge outside of what you know, and maybe as like the leaders, the expert, but you want them to become an expert. So you want to help them expand. Is that a way to do it as well?
 
 Stacey: (15:00)
 Look, absolutely. I think that, you know, gifting people knowledge and opportunity is such an incredible thing to do. And, also for fostering, you know, if they have an interest in something and, that sort of thing to grow, that this is about, you know, the collective knowledge and, that sort of thing. And, if you can expand that, you know, this is about creating possibility, right? And so as a leader, that's part of your job as well. We don't just plateau. It's, you know, we've got a world change. We always need to be growing capability, not just our own capability. In fact, we've got this big responsibility to grow the capability of everyone around us. So helping them get knowledge and then coaching them through the application of that knowledge. So it's not just, you know, we know people go and do courses and then six month months later, they can't remember anything because they didn't actually use the knowledge. So yes, go and do the learning, give them that amazing opportunity, but then coach them to apply the learning , so they retain it all and we all get great value out of it. Yeah, what an opportunity.
 
 Adam: (16:05)
 Definitely. So you mentioned giving people the space and I think giving space comes with trust and accountability. How do you develop accountability? Especially in a team that may be lacking that accountability or you're trying to build that up, to apply all the things we've been talking about.
 
 Stacey: (16:21)
 Yeah, I go back to my default position, which is coaching. So coaching is a really great way to help people step into that accountability space. And I do work with a lot of, not a lot, but you know, definitely there's still a theme where people say, gosh, I wish my people would step up a little bit more or, you know, I don't feel like they're taking enough initiative or those sorts of things. It's accountability basically. But if I tell you, I say, Hey Adam, I've got this thing I need you to do, and I need you to do it by this time in this way, you know, because that's my way. and you go, oh yeah, thanks very much, Stacey. I'm really looking forward to doing that. Whereas if I say, Hey Adam, we've got this thing that we need to do.
 
 Stacey: (17:02)
 And I'd love to know how you would go about doing it. And what do you reckon is the best way? And what's the first thing you would do? What resources do you need to be successful? Then you are going to come up with these ideas and you know, and when you come across the idea that you think, yes, that's going to work and you say, Hey Stacey, this is the way I would do it. And I go, great. When would you like to star? But now the ownership has moved to you cuz you've made all the decisions and choices about what's gonna happen and how you gonna do it. And it's your great idea. And so instead of it being my great idea, now it's your great idea. You're much more likely to own it and be accountable for it.
 
 Adam: (17:43)
 And I guess the onus goes back onto a leader to be able to let go of the fact that the way you do it may be completely different and you maybe want to be like jump out and say, no, no, no, no, no change this way. But that person has to grow in their own way and be able to fly in a sense. Right?
 
 Stacey: (18:00)
 Yeah, look. Absolutely. And, of course there will be those moments when your member of your team comes up with this idea, you go, oh, oh dear that's--. But instead of going, oh no, that won't work. I would still say, use a coaching approach. So what makes you think this is the right way? What are the risks around this approach? You know, and asking them so that they think it through and they either overcome all of your doubts because they've actually thought it through and you know, it's a great idea. Or they come to realize actually, you know what, in order for this to work, I need to do something else as well. Or maybe no, it is too risky. In fact, now that I think about it, I need to go and do something else, but they're still owning it. They're still figuring it out. And you are being the coach encouraging, supporting, creating the space for them to think it through, but not taking it away from them. You're still letting them, you know, own it.
 
 Adam: (18:57)
 Yeah. You're letting them own it. So as we kind of wrap up our conversation, I wanted to kind of circle back. You've been mentioning coaching a lot. What are like top three coaching tips that you can give folks as we kind of end this conversation just in light of everything we've been talking about.
 
 Stacey: (19:12)
 Yeah. Great. The first one is, as a leader, you wanna ask lots of open questions and be prepared to listen to the answers. I think that's a really important one. You know, people know if you're listening. So, so great open questions, lots of listening. And I would say don't jump in too early to judge those answers. Those would be my top three.
 
 Closing: (19:36)
 This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like, what you've heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.

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