One of the greatest ways to make your business joyful and fun, to stand out from the crowd, and to become wildly successful is to be you. – Simone Milasas (Joy of Business)

Have you ever wondered about your personal style of doing business? Have you thought about what being a leader means to you and how to portray that in the world? What if the key to successful leadership is simply to be yourself and trust your instincts, insights and awareness?

Here are five tools to help you lead effectively, just by being ‘yourself’.

1. Be interested, not interesting

The better someone feels at work, the more engaged and productive they will usually be. So, what if being a true leader involves the willingness to take into account the people you work with?

Most people are not used to having someone around who truly listens to them. Are you currently asking your staff questions about them, or do you only talk about work?

People love to talk about themselves, and are more likely to be interested in you when you are interested in them. What if you as a leader were the person who listened to everyone first, instead of talking about yourself? Create time for your employees; ask questions, find out what is happening in their lives and take the time to listen.

2. What can this person/group hear?

When you speak, are you taking into account what your audience is willing and able to hear, or are you simply trying to get your point across? As a leader you want to get everybody motivated, define your target and create a team that is engaged with the business. But usually everybody has their own way of getting things done and a point of view of their own. Because of this, most people don’t really care what you think – they have their own thoughts!

As a leader who takes their team into account, you always want to speak with an awarenes of what people can hear (ie what they will accept, or listen to), rather than just trying to get your point across. Strikingly, you will have an unconsious awareness of what people are willing to hear so, before you speak, ask yourself, What can this person/group hear? You may be surprised at the difference in your language and delivery, as you intuitively begin to communicate what can be heard. This simple trick will dynamically affect your business.

3. What does this person/group require me to be?

Are you willing to be whatever someone needs you to be? It’s interesting that some people require a leader to tell them exactly what they need to do and some hate it when they get told what to do. Some like it when you ask their opinion; some don’t. Some groups require some bossiness and direction, some require more friendship and a lighter touch.

So what is that that people require you to be? Once again, you can trust your instincts to guide you in this. Just by asking that question, What does this person/group require me to be?, you will start getting a sense of what the person or group requires from you.

4. Who are you as a leader?

What if there is no right way of being a leader? What if the most effective leadership style is to be wholly authentic?

Did your parents call you shy, or tell you not to be bossy, to be a good girl, or to behave ‘properly’ as a child? Your ability to lead, now, is limited by all the stories that you took on and believed about yourself from when you were young, through adulthood. To be a truly effective leader, are you willing to give up every story you have been told about you? What if you can choose to be everything: shy, bossy, the good girl, a strict leader, a femme fatale … and make the choice to be what will work best, according to moment/situation you’re in and the person/group you’re dealing with?

Importantly, what if you could have no preconcieved ideas about what it means to be a leader? The more you are willing to be anything and everything as a leader, the more effortless it will be to take the lead in any situation, in whatever way is required of you.

5. Are you ready to stand on your own?

Are you willing to stand alone and be a different kind of leader? A leader is someone who recognises future possibilities, even if nobody else is able or willing to see them yet. In fact, there may be occasions when you might not even have the words to explain it yourself; and yet, you just know.

As a leader you must be willing to stand on your own, since you will often be aware of what’s best for the business, and of what’s possible, long before others can perceive these factors.

When you have an instinctive understanding of what is best for your business, it is common to try to convince others that you are right – to get others on the same page as yourself – or to give in to others’ ideas of what is possible, and dismiss your own leadership instincts. But what if there is another way?


Be willing to ask yourself, as a leader, What do I know about this? What do I know are the possibilities?, If I was totally being me here, what would I say or do?, and you will remain attuned to both your authenticity, and your natural instincts. Then, ask, What can this people/group hear? What do they require me to be? In doing so, you will instinctively communicate what you truly mean, in a way in which your audience can receive it. Remember to remain interested in other people, and be aware of the needs of others in your environment. In these ways, you can discover what truly effective leadership is, in business.

Yasodhara Romero Fernandes is a professional performer, vocal coach, performance and communications expert and certified Right Voice for You facilitator. She completed her Master of Performing Arts and Composition at ARTEZ in Netherlands and has spent a decade touring as a professional performer throughout Europe, Asia and the USA. As a Right Voice for You certified facilitator, a special program by Access Consciousness, Yasodhara conducts classes and private consultations around the world, helping people open up to the power of authentic communication and authentic living.

It’s probably no big secret, but I’m a big gamer. I grew up playing video games, and I still love them to this day. But I’ve found that many people dismiss them as something for children or for geeks, or believe they have inherently less value because they ‘aren’t a part of the real world’. Many also simply say it’s not their kind of thing, but I’m here to respond that there is a much wider world of video games out there than the popular ones you see where people are shooting each other or beating each other up.

Video games can improve many different aspects of your life. Here’s how.

1. Improve your critical thinking

You’re defending someone accused of a crime. You’ve investigated, gathered the evidence, and now it’s time to interview the witnesses. The first person’s eyewitness testimony seems to point conclusively to your client’s guilt. But is that really the case? Is there something in your evidence that contradicts the witness’s statements? But what evidence, and which part of the statement?

Or, you find yourself on an abandoned island. There are contraptions everywhere, with no instructions. Pressing certain things sometimes has obvious effects, sometimes not. So you wander around, trying to work out what you’re meant to do. What is the cause, and what is the effect?

These games ask you to look at what you have, or to look at your environment, and to make connections between sometimes seemingly unrelated items. They’re about finding patterns. They’re about analysing data, making links, and formulating a solution based on the information at hand. The kind of skills you would use every day in a work environment, or even in your general life.

Suggested games: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (and the other games in the series), Professor Layton series, Myst, Portal (and Portal 2), The Talos Principle, Braid

2. Learn to innovate.

You need to catch a rat to give to a chef (don’t ask). After some exploration, you have quite a few things in your inventory. (You have thought critically to get many of those items.) Among those items, you have a box, a stick, some food, and a piece of string. So you tie the string to the stick. Then you use the stick to prop one side of the box open. Then you put the food into the box. Voila! A makeshift rat trap.

Or you need to force a soldier out of a locked hut, without him knowing that you’re there. Knocking or any kind of forced entry is out of the question. There is, however, a metal chimney on top of the hut. You climb up and try to remove the top, but it’s too hot. Your inventory contains bottled water, so you pour it over the top. Then you use a handkerchief to remove the cooled-down chimney. Finally, you stuff the now-empty water bottle into the metal chimney to block it.

With no way of escape, the smoke fills the cabin, the soldier runs out, and you have accomplished your goal!

While seemingly silly or irrelevant to your life, these puzzles encourage you to look at the items you have on hand and look at them from a different angle. You need to work out what properties these items have, and how they can be used in new and different ways in order to accomplish your goal. They encourage experimentation and innovation, and will help you to see things in your own life in a new light.

Suggested games: Monkey Island series, Broken Sword series, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, King’s Quest series, Machinarium, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

3. Increase your empathy

Games offer a unique opportunity to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. They are interactive, so the player is actively making choices and is a lot more invested in the outcome. Do you choose to execute the traitor, or let them go? Will you steal from someone to make your own journey easier, or take the high road knowing that both you and your child will go hungry?

There are also other experiences that give you a glimpse into the lives of others different to you. Exploring someone’s house, seeing how they live, reading their diary. Putting yourself in the shoes of someone with depression and choosing how to deal with it.

Suggested games: Depression Quest, Undertale, Analogue: A Hate Story, To The Moon, The Walking Dead (Telltale game), Gone Home, Mass Effect series, Witcher series

4. Improve your teamwork and communication skills

One of my new favourite games is where one player takes on the role of disarming a bomb, while the other players are the bomb disposal experts. The bomb disarmer must describe what they see on the bomb to the experts, who have a manual that describes how to disarm the different modules. The experts cannot see the screen where the bomb is, and the disarmer cannot read the manual. Everything relies on communication between the two parties. And time is ticking away! If the timer reaches zero, the bomb will explode.

It gets especially challenging – and amusing! – when trying to describe a series of odd symbols to the experts (“a triangle with three legs!”) or explain the words on a set of buttons (“UR, no not you as in you and me, the letter U and the letter R, you’re… no not your, you’re!”), for example.

Or there’s another game where you have to complete a heist using each of your characters’ specific skills, and not get caught. Together you make your way through a house or a building or an entire area, supporting each other and warning of incoming guards or traps.

These games teach you how to communicate clearly and effectively. (Either that, or they wreck relationships!) It’s a skill that’s easily transferrable to any workplace or business. Whether you’re working on a large project or working with a partner, you will learn to stay focused on the task at hand and let others know exactly what it is they need to do.

Suggested games: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Portal 2 (co-op mode), Monaco, Journey

Are there any games that have helped you improve parts of your life in any way? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

(Note that the suggested games lists are only a sample of games that I’ve enjoyed – there are many more out there that others also love!)

Bespoke suits for men have been seen as a measure of business success – and the difference between the haves, and the have-nots – for most of the twentieth century, and now into the digi-age. Ordering custom-made suits from Singapore, or Thailand, or London’s Savile Row, is so commonplace, it’s hardly even thought about. That is, unless you are questioning this:

Where was the equivalent status symbol for women? Why was nobody thinking about their spending power?

That was what Jodie Fox wanted to know. Alongside business partners Michael Fox and Mike Knapp, she started investigating how she could start servicing an existing market for bespoke shoes.

The result, of course, was Shoes of Prey, the international online phenomenon, where women can design their own shoes from tongue to toe, and have them delivered to the door in six weeks.

The lesson here is simple, and it resonates through so many strategic business decisions, processes, and the makeup of successful entrepreneurs and leaders.

Always question the why.

Curiosity is essential to business success

Curiosity, asking the why, enables leaders to:

  • think strategically,
  • to reincarnate,
  • to envision new life.

The result is a vastly improved chance to future-proof themselves and their businesses against failure.

Questioning the why reveals new information and insight into the way consumers, colleagues and competitors are thinking. It allows us to understand how members of our team are drawing conclusions, their innovative thinking and gives greater understanding of their emotional intelligence. Asking ‘why is this happening?’, ‘why did that person take that action?’, ‘why didn’t that company make the most of that opportunity?’ – all of these ‘whys’ give an answer that will reveal further evolution and success.

Questions are innately the way to open the doors to change

Ray Krock wanted to know why he couldn’t get a good hamburger when he was on a road trip. You may not know his name, but the resulting brand born out of that ‘why’ will be familiar.

The golden arches of MacDonald’s are somewhat ubiquitous.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger asked why there wasn’t a ‘share’ function when it came to photos on smartphones.

In 2017, Instagram’s ad revenue alone is expected to reach US$1 billion.

Questioning the why means also questioning the who, the what, the where and the when

It means taking a strategic approach to your decision-making processes, rather than simply leaving them as ‘x plus y will probably equal z, because that’s what they always have done in the past’.

Asking, questioning and changing your outlook when it comes to ‘why’ will alter the status quo and your business opportunities. It will change the impossible to the possible, and make you into an inventor and an explorer. Questioning ‘why’ can remove road blocks when it comes to your business direction and potentially assist with navigational clarity. How? It helps us in understanding a situation as it stands, and in how to improve the present for the betterment of the future. Without constant curiosity, and questioning, doors to the future remain firmly slammed shut. The lens of opportunity is blurred. And thinking? Dull, contracted and stale.

It’s time to back yourself

This is not about second-guessing one’s own business judgement ‘why did I do that? What was I thinking?’ Rather, this is about having the self-confidence to back yourself; to think beyond the small square of now, in whatever industry or sector you sit in, and always, always want to reach further and understand more.

Question the why. It will give information, which in an Age Of Knowledge, is perhaps the most valuable currency you can possibly be trading in. Asking that simple question – ‘why’ – will bank a wealth of facts, figures and data that can end up with you disrupting a stale or static market; and of course, bring increased profitability, and future growth.


Janine Garner 1Janine Garner is a businesswoman and entrepreneur, passionate about the return to open and transparent corporate relationships and the power of commercial collaboration in future-proofing careers and businesses. Janine is the author of From Me To We – Why commercial collaboration will future-proof business, leaders and personal success published by Wiley. She is the Founder and CEO of LBDGroup and works with senior leaders to build high performing teams.

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Sir Richard Branson is a man I’ve admired as long as I remember. His books – jammed with stories of his entrepreneurial exploits and intrepid adventures on earth, sky and space – sit atop my bookshelves, their pages underlined with insights on taking risks, managing setbacks and living bravely.

So when given the opportunity to spend a week with him on his private Caribbean island of Necker, I was curious as to what else I could glean from the man behind the larger-than-life media persona. As it turned out, plenty. It just wasn’t what I’d expected. In fact what impacted me most was not his brilliance as a businessman (clearly that’s a given!); it was his “way of being” and how that infused energy, passion and creativity into our group, the conversations we had and the possibilities that emerged from them.

Be Approachable

Before I arrived in Necker Island I was asked if I’d facilitate a Q&A session with him. I was delighted and honored by the opportunity but, admittedly, a little nervous too. A few times I had to sit myself down and remind myself of the advice I give to others; that no matter wealthy, clever or accomplished someone is, they was ultimately no more human than anyone else.

Turns out I give good advice, because, for all of Richard Branson’s fame, fortune and larger than life media persona, he’s actually a very relatable and approachable person.

From our first interaction as I was making my morning cup of tea, he was warm, friendly and easy to be with.

The lesson: Be someone others find it easy to be around

Many people are quite out of touch with how others perceive them and some even get a kick from being intimidating (a sure sign of an insecure ego.) But it’s worth taking a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the people you interact with to consider how they may see you. Often, as people grow more successful professionally, others grow more reticent to approach them, share information and speak candidly. As a result, successful people can become increasingly isolated and out of touch in their ivory tower. Regardless of whether you’re at the ivory tower level or not, making people feel comfortable around you is vital to staying tuned in to what is on people’s minds and forging genuinely rewarding relationships. Richard Branson does just that. (Oh and by the way, our interview went great!)

Be Real

Sir Richard Branson may have had a Knighthood bestowed upon him by her Majesty the Queen, but he was clearly not one for titles, nor the pomp and formality that can accompanies such titles.

Often barefoot on his island paradise, Branson is completely and refreshingly unaffected by his status and has no need to prove himself to anyone – a hallmark of every genuinely inspiring human being I’ve ever encountered. Of course that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a healthy sense of self-worth, but he isn’t driven by a need to prop it up. Needless to say, it was refreshing to meet someone of his fame and fortune who cares so little about it except to use it for good.

The lesson: Give up pretense and ditch the ego

Not only do you not have anything to prove to anyone, but when you try to do so, it doesn’t enhance how others perceive you; instead, it diminishes their perception.

Be Playful

Watch the business news and you can’t miss a bunch of suited men (and the occasional woman!) talking very seriously about very serious things because, let’s face it, managing a business-economy-country is serious business. But too much seriousness can suck the joy out of life.

While Richard Branson was not the loud larger-than-life larrikin I had somehow expected, he brought a light-hearted, lets-not-take-ourselves-too-seriously playfulness into our gathering, as he does everywhere. When we gathered at his home one evening to listen to Estelle perform for our group, he was the first to jump up on the bar and start dancing. I quickly threw off my heels and followed suit. Dancing on that bar, I decided I must do it more often. I mean, who needs a dance floor?

The lesson: Laugh more, stress less and stop taking everything so seriously (yourself included)

It’s not only good for your health, but it makes you much more fun to be around. So if you think you’ll one day look back and laugh, don’t wait. In the seriousness of life, a little play can make all the difference.

Be curious

Each morning on Necker revolved around a “think tank” session where we heard insights from a host of people on business, leadership and life. One of them was former NASA Astronaut Captain Mark Kelly who talked about good decision-making. He said, “None of us are as dumb as all of us.”

It was a great insight on the perils of “group-think” and the importance of challenging the consensus thinking. As Kelly spoke, Branson scribbled notes in his small note pad that he takes wherever he goes.

Sure, he may have built over 100 companies operating in 50 countries around the world, but he was open to new ideas and eager to find better ways of doing things. While being open minded may sound like sheer common sense, I’ve observed that as people grow older, they can easily slip into a fixed view of the world. They become complacent in their approach and closed to new (and better) ways of meeting their challenges.

The lesson: Be open to unlearning what you think you know so you can re-learn what you need to know

Keep asking questions and never assume you have all the answers. Because, no matter how successful you may be, there will always, always, be ways of doing things better.

Be Passionate

At an age when many would retire to the golf course (or in Branson’s case, to a tropical island), Branson has no interest in putting his feet up and sipping martinis. There are still so many things he’s passionate about, including the various initiatives of his foundation Virgin Unite.

Of course it’s easy to be cynical and say “All fine for Richard Branson to do what he likes; he’s loaded!” But the truth is that he got to where he is because of the passion he’s bought to everything he’s done and his willingness to lay it all on the line to turn his audaciously bold dreams into reality.

Passion is contagious. It rubs off on everyone around you and attracts enthusiastic passionate people to you like moths to the flame. From meeting Branson’s team at Virgin Unite, he’s clearly done just that.

The lesson: Find what you’re passionate about and then find a way to do more of it

If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, then you’ll not only do it better but you’ll be more successful at it. Branson is a great example of someone who has done just that. Again and again and again.
photo credit: Virgin Hot Air Balloon

Margie Warrell is an international speaker, thought leader and the best-selling author of three books: Brave, Stop Playing Safe, and Find Your Courage. She’s also the host of RawCourage.TV – helping women be braver in work, love and life. Learn more at

So you want to be self employed?

With Australia leading the world in using online workers to fuel its economy, and Mashable predicting that 50% of all workers will be freelance, now seems to be a great time to make the leap from employed to starting your own business.

Before you make the move of becoming your own boss, here are three points to consider:

1. Have a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses

Often you want to start your own business but have no idea where to begin. You may or may not have ideas about the type of business you’d like. Start by sitting in a quiet room with a piece of paper and a pen. List down your strengths in one column and your weaknesses in another (or things you don’t enjoy doing). Then list your expertise, for example, you might be highly skilled in writing business plans or writing web copy.

Complete this exercise over a couple of days, giving your brain time to absorb the information and come up with a few more things you hadn’t thought of. After you have completed the list, match your strengths to your expertise. This will give you an idea of what niches you want to be positioned in and make your personal brand stand out clearly. For example, you might enjoy business strategy and at the same time be skilled in writing web copy. You can position yourself as an expert in both of these niches to define what type of business you want to be in.

2. Study the market and your chosen niche

Once your list is complete, have a mosey around the net and Facebook for the types of things other experts are doing. Reviewing their websites will give you an idea of the type of wording used, design expectations, email capture methods for your own business. Jot down any similarities or differences you see.

How do you find these experts? Use the keywords you’d like to be found for in Google and see what names and businesses come up.

Facebook is becoming an excellent method of providing value to potential customers by interacting in the comments or posting your own questions. Join a few business groups to start with – look for groups using the search function. Don’t spend more than half hour going through these groups. Contribute by sharing your knowledge generously and be an active member. Lots of opportunities also get shared in these forums so become a familiar name through active participation.

Check out small business government websites like for resources or checklists on how to start a business. Have a list of associated costs so you know how much money is required to become self-employed.

3. Talk to business owners

Often running a business seems like a great choice compared to working in a job. However, don’t quit your job just yet. If you can start a part time business around your existing job than it eases the stress of trying to generate an income straight away. Talk to other business owners about what it really takes to start a business, the money required and what other things are necessary. For example a lot of businesses are using Facebook pages to generate interest in their business before actually launching a website. This way they’re working with a captive audience interested in what the business has to offer when it comes to selling their products or service. You can also use low cost Facebook ads to gauge levels of interest in your target audience.

Chatting to other business people will also give you ideas on what not to do. Most people are happy to give you advice and share with you how they went about starting a business. Talk to friends and family about your ideas and they might know of other people you can talk to for more information.


Rashida Tayabali is the founder of Project Mum, a project matching service that connects growing businesses to skilled mums for short and long term projects. She helps solo business owners gain clarity and focus in their business through one-on-one coaching sessions. If you’re a small business owner seeking focus and clarity in your business, or need help in making the leap to self employed and not sure how to begin, register for her brand new coaching sessions by emailing

Image: Alejandro Pinto