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!

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.

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


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. 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.

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. 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.

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?

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.

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. 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.

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?

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.


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?

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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? 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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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