28. What to do when your boss is in the clouds

The Inner Chief – Episode 28 – What to do when your boss is in the clouds

Most of us have had a boss who seems totally disinterested in our work. They’re the opposite of micro-managers, leaving us completely to our own devices and at times in more senior regional roles can go missing for weeks at a time.

In this episode we cover:

  1. The most common reasons why they're not giving you the attention you deserve
  2. What this is really costing you
  3. Actionable steps  you can take to remedy the situation

Stay epic

27. CEO Hetty Johnston on passion, resilience and negotiating with Prime Ministers

In this episode of The Inner Chief we hear from Hetty Johnston, AM, Founder and Chair of Bravehearts.

You can support Hetty’s work through Bravehearts at www.bravehearts.org.au


Normally I put a detailed set of show notes. In this case, I’m electing not to. This will make sense when you’ve heard this episode. Hetty is someone you have to listen to. She is one of the most influential leaders of modern Australia and summary notes just won’t do her justice.

So find an hour to really focus on this session. Hetty tells the FULL story of her life and the horrific circumstances that led to the beginnings of Bravehearts after her daughter disclosed she was being assaulted. She also shares some of her techniques for negotiating with Prime Ministers, staying resilient and gives the ultimate career advice if you want to be a GREAT chief.


Hetty is the Founder and Chair of Bravehearts & Australia’s leading child protection advocate.


For over 20 years Hetty has been leading the charge in child protection and has built Bravehearts into powerful not-for-profit with global reach. She and her team are regularly asked to speak and advice on their most important work all over the world.

Hetty’s most recent accolades include:

  • Australian Businesswomen’s 2016 Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Queensland Australian of the Year 2015
  • Logan’s Wall of Acclaim 2015 Inductee
  • Member of the Order of Australia (AM) 2014
  • Author of national awareness campaign, ‘White Balloon Day’, ‘Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (SADS)’, ‘Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure’ child protection CD-Rom and her autobiography, ‘In the Best Interests of the Child’ (2004)

Just some of her responsibilities include:

  1. Chaired the Queensland Child Protection Week Committee for three years;
  2. Held a position on the Board of NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect);
  3. Was a participant on the Federal Government’s Working Party on a ‘National Approach to Child Protection’;
  4. Currently sits on the Federal Governments working party on Cyber-Safety;
  5. Working with the Federal Government’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

She is consistently sought after by media for commentary on issues pertaining to child protection and has been the subject of personal profile in many print media, talk back radio and television documentaries such as Australian Story.

Hetty is a truly GREAT chief. She has battled resistance to change for 20 years from every angle imaginable and from some of the powerful groups in our community. And through it all she has stayed, strong, focused, warm and immovable. I’ve know Hetty personally for over a decade. She is a force of nature when it comes to leading change across our society and through all this has maintained a warmth and kindness, never forgetting that this is ABOUT THE KIDS.

Recommended Books by Hetty Johnston

The Gift of Fear – https://www.amazon.com/Other-Survival-Signals-Protect-Violence/dp/0440508835/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522021749&sr=8-1&keywords=the+gift+of+fear


26. Why you should run across a desert and love it

Why you should run across a desert (and love it)

G’day Chiefs

In this episode I talk about why you should run across a desert (and love it). Huh? What I really mean is why you should do something epic.

In 2007/8 I conducted a personal growth experiment by tackling the Gobi March a 250km ultra marathon across the toughest terrain in the world. I then repeated the effort with my mate Glen Hunt at the Atacama Crossing over the same distance in Chile in 2010. 

This is a bit of that story and what I discovered on…and didn’t expect.

The benefits of doing something epic:

  1. A totally new perspective on life
  2. Boosted confidence and esteem
  3. Knowledge of the power of total commitment
  4. A new and awesome network
  5. Practical application of smashing big goals

Most people never attempt big goals because their mind is full of objections like, “I’m not an athlete” or “I don’t have time in my life already so how would I do this?”

The thing about big goals like this is that you find a way to learn something new or get fitter so you can get a little further along the journey. You find something that inspires you—like climbing Kilimanjaro, or completing the Camino trail—and you find a way to get it done.

When you settle on something epic, make it congruent by involving your family in the training, doing it with your partner, or raising money for charity. I raised money for Bravehearts and it kept me going at least once or twice when the chips were down in training or during the run.

The greatest victories are closer than you think…but the window of opportunity for doing them gets smaller every day. Just do it.

Stay epic


24. How to get and keep a CEO Mentor

G’day Chiefs,

In this episode we are going to cover How to get and keep a CEO mentor.

Every CEO I’ve met has had a mentor of some sort in their career. Interestingly, in most cases, these were through a reporting structure and weren’t formal mentoring relationships.

How to convince a CEO to mentor you

CEOs are insanely busy people in very high demand. And yet, every one of them I have met finds time to mentor several of the next generation. The fact is they want to help and give back, but they don’t want to waste their time.

It is unlikely that you can offer them much from spending time with you except for giving back. So that is the lever to pull. Here are a few steps that have worked time and again when I’m connecting with big chiefs.

If I skip any of the steps the success rate plummets. :

  1. Carefully select the right mentor for you. This should be someone you admire and trust through what you’ve seen of them. You need to be able to connect with them and so if it’s a fabricated relationship setup by the company if very often doesn’t work. Start with someone you WANT to learn from.
  2. As a rule of thumb aim for someone 2 to 3 (stretch 4) levels above you in your current organisation. If they can see common ground you’ll be more likely to get a positive response.
  3. Get to know them in a social setting at a work function or similar first. This has a massive impact of response rate. Build an initial connection by asking natural questions and just being yourself and show that you’re willing to be vulnerable and learn…if they can sense that you’re genuine and comfortable in your own skin then that goes a long way to them having a good instinct about you. In the end, if they can put a face to a name when you send through an note requesting to meet up for a coffee then your chances will sky rocket.
  4. Don’t ask, don’t get. Stop the rot and all the ridiculous reasons why you think they’ll say no and just ask. I’ve had plenty of CEOs turn me down for The Inner Chief or to meet up for a coffee but never once has any of them ever made me feel bad about asking. They respect it. Mainly because it is what they did.
  5. Get your email request right, this is not all about you. You have to pull the right heart strings. As a guide include the following:
    1. Proof that you listen to what they say and have read any articles/newsletter they’ve published
    2. Demonstrate that you’re keen to learn, aspirational and are challenging the status quo in your work
    3. Make the request and outline that you are also mentoring a couple of younger leaders (If you’re not, then start you’ll learn just as much in that process as in having a mentor and its rocket fuel for the soul)
    4. Just ask for one coffee to begin with rather than a full blow mentoring relationship. This is sort of like going on a bit of a date.

Example email:

Subject: Are you open to a coffee?

Dear CEO,

Thanks for your presentation at the recent annual leaders forum. Your insights around accountability really hit home for me and I’ve been thinking more about how I approach my career and life.

We’ve met briefly a couple of timesand if you recall I lead ABC function. We are in the middle of a significant transformation that requires full commitment and energy for all involved.

I’ve always been a believer in having mentors and currently mentor several young leaders in the business. I’m looking to be really stretched in my career and I was wondering if you could spare 45 mins for a coffee to give me a little guidance. I’ll come to you, I’ll buy the coffee. Whatever fits for you.

Of course, I understand if you’re already fully committed.



How to manage your CEO relationship

If you don’t get a coffee that’s cool. The timing just isn’t right. Try someone else. If you nail it then get yourself prepared and take a mindset to LEARN.

According to Dan Hunter, CEO of HealthShare NSW, “you manage the relationship, you manage the agenda.” This is spot on. You need to make this as simple as humanly possible for the CEO. Here is your agenda. Aim for once a quarter and arrange the time with their EA.


  1. Establish rapport and ask about their work, career and challenges
  2. Reconnect and update them on your progress. Outline how you acted on the advice they gave, the results from each of these and the lessons you learned.
  3. Ask any further advice on those challenges. E.g. “How would you approach…”, “What would you do in x situation?”
  4. Finalise by thanking the for their time and if they are open to catching up once a quarter in a similar format.

Other quick tips. If they recommend a book. Read it and take notes. Send them a one line email when done to say you read the book and the one big lesson you got from it. Be vulnerable and genuine and show that you’re looking for areas to grow and learn. CEOs are not looking for people that know it all or are blind to their development areas or impact on others. In fact, they are looking for quite the opposite.

Stay epic


23. Ownership Precedes Victory – How to really take control of your career and become a great Chief

In this episode I cover one my personal mottos “Ownership Precedes Victory” and how to use it to really take control of your career and become a great Chief

Life in the chaos of the modern business world can be crushingly difficult. The rapid pace of change in technology, as well as new customer and employee expectations is now amplified by a hyper-competitive global landscape. Executive teams now have to navigate their companies through transformational change just to survive.

For those reporting to the executive team, and leading the operational charge towards big targets and new cultures, it can be incredibly complex and difficult to stay in front of the game. They work hard all day, every day, on an endless list of tasks at work and home. The politics, red tape and antiquated systems suck their energy and many begin to wonder if there is more to life than this.

It feels like the world is happening to them, rather than they’re happening to the world.

After spending the last decade with some of the best in business and sport, it is now crystal clear that their intelligence and relationships, while undeniably important, are only a part of their success. They became great Chiefs not because they are lucky with intelligence or networks, but because they have taken to heart a powerful philosophy: ownership precedes victory. They take personal accountability for the outcome of every challenge they face, relationship they enter, and business they lead. They demand ownership of it and they will not share the blame with others

It is this hunger to accept the mantle of responsibility that separates the good from the great.

But in practice ownership can be brutally difficult because it is between you and you. And the best are their own hardest markers.

As one CEO said to me recently, “You can’t lie to the person looking back at you in the mirror.” This is what ownership is all about. Can you be truly honest with yourself?

Using this little philosophy can be like an internal call to arms when challenges arise. Instead of shrinking in the face of a challenge or a difficult person, ownership is about rising up to your full height and using every resource, connection and strategy at your disposal to get a new outcome.

In a work context take stock for a minute and ask yourself whether you have taken true ownership of the outcomes in the following:

  • Your relationship with my boss (hint – your boss is your customer, how would they rate you as a customer?)
  • Key stakeholders and peer relationships
  • Low performers in your team
  • Your company targets and results
  • Your personal development and the development of your team?

Sometimes we just need a little reminder that the qualities and habits that make one great are not natural. They are learned and earned and 100% in our own control. It isn’t a quick fix – it takes lots of soul searching and all of your personal power. But when you rise above the challenge by taking the harder road and knock it out the park, your victory is so much sweeter.


Stay epic


19. CEO Angela Buglass on Creating Your Own Destiny

Our CEO this week is Angela Buglass, who has recently returned from 15 years in the UK where she most recently held the role of VP Marketing for LF Beauty, part of the global sourcing giant Li & Fung.

Her experience includes roles with leading players Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder (working on the AVEDA brand).

Angela is now CEO of Trilogy International Limited (TIL), a NZX and ASX listed company which comprises of three high-performing consumer brands: Trilogy Natural Products, ECOYA and Goodness Natural Beauty Lab.

In August 2015, TIL acquired CS&Co., a leading New Zealand beauty distributor, which was then followed by an 80% acquisition of Lanocorp New Zealand Limited in 2017, a developer and manufacture, of skincare, bodycare and haircare products.

Her work has taken her from NZ all around the world and back again and her stories are inspirational, insightful and so wonderfully down to earth.

Key Points:

Angela’s top quotes and insights from this episode include:

  1. I think the biggest reflection I have now about university, is when you're studying things, you're often getting the highlights. You're learning the best parts of the story. “Here's where we won”. We don’t talk enough about the losses because losing is just as interesting in terms of the development process.
  2. The setbacks I had personally were probably just me not being focused enough, not knowing what I wanted or stopping to think about what I wanted and what the path was to get there. But then on the other hand, I look back and think, well, I had a lot of fun in those early years of my career too. And you don't want to get too serious too soon.
  3. When I worked for a smaller business the thing that was really interesting was even though my role was sales and marketing manager I was exposed to everything, not just the little bit of marketing I needed to do for my brand, but also the selling strategy. Also working with finance to make sure the cash flow was good. Working with supply chain to make sure I had stock to sell in the first place. And even working on product development, which I would never probably have got close to in the L’Oréal world. So that was probably my first sort of general role and I found that I was quite interested in all of those factors because to me they all spin around together. You can't have one without the other. And that's probably the best learning from a smaller business.
  4. Should people think about working for a smaller / mid size business for experience? Absolutely. For me it was fundamental in my development. I think you have to be aware of what you're opening yourself up for, that you must be sure that you can cope with variation and rapid variation in a day or within a time period. So you're switching from a finance meeting to a supply chain meeting. You're taking a different seat at the table to make decisions when you're in a supply chain scenario to that when you are with marketing.
  5. Are you good at life balance? I’d probably say ‘no’ for now. I've read a lot and I continue to read a lot about how my own personal wellness is so important to my company's wellness in terms of being able to have clarity, have vision and lead by example. That's one big, big thing. We've had quite an intense period of growth in our company and as, you know, a recent acquisition and that has probably meant more hours than normal. And there comes a time in a CEO role where you can't say, “Sorry, I didn't meet that objective”. There is absolute expectation by the shareholder that you will see those tasks through. I guess that's why often they say CEOs have an optimum period to be in their role because it's a lifestyle, more than just a role.
  6. What is the most important part of your routine? It's my diary management and the way we are thinking ahead. I had a new EA start last week and she said to me, “How do you do it? How do you have back to back meetings and get even basic things done in the day?” So, you know, we're talking about having diary gaps and breaks, but looking ahead to next week saying, what do I need to have done? We're putting deadlines on my diaries for prep time, deadlines for my team to have things to me. We'll usually go at least four or five weeks out just flicking through, because it can be very easy to run out of time to prepare for something that needs a lot of good thinking.
  1. What has really propelled me to do well in new roles or to succeed? It is about defining what are you missing as a leader and then finding that for yourself. So, if for example, you a really relationship driven person and you've spent many years doing great sales at a territory level or you know, with the same customer for many years, identifying that what you really need is fresh customers or a fresh market so that you can test your well-honed skills on something that you've never experienced before. Or being able to say, OK, I've just actually stopped learning altogether within this organization. There is nowhere for me to go. I need to step sideways like we talked before, either into a smaller organization or a bigger one, bearing in mind that a smaller one will mean a wider role in a bigger organization it will mean a narrower role.
  2. What are you looking for in future C-Level Executives? You're looking for that confidence first. Firstly, I'm don’t mean arrogance, but confidence and commerciality. I think what I learned was you rely on things such as CV’s and reports from executive search interviews, a whole lot of traditional methods to assess a person for a role. The reality is it's their ability to do the job, enjoy the job and relate to the rest of the team. That appears to me to be most important based on my experience. I've employed people at C-level who were perfect on paper and even had good reviews from previous employers and big organizations and again, that big organization, small organization thing played out. It's interesting, isn't it? Because if you apply for a hairdressing job, you must go and do a day or a couple of hours on the floor showing people that you can cut hair. In our worlds, you don't get a trial run and that's possibly a bit unfortunate because how people interact and fit into the culture and how they actually use their academic skills to develop the business are the two biggest things for me and I've seen that done well and I've seen it done not so well.
  3. Your best interview questions? I try and go down that sort of parallel life because everybody has a dream that they wanted for their future, what they thought they would do when they were younger. So, for me it's often saying, “You know, where should your career have gone? or Where would you have liked it to have gone?” Often it ends up in some sort soul searching in terms of, well I thought I was going to be an accountant and that didn’t happen, so here I am. And then you can also start to have a little bit of a feel for what their disappointments have been in their CV rather than talking only about the high points and promotions. I like to know what were the bits that haven’t happened for you so far?
  4. How do I know if I’m building good track record? It would depend on the category in the market. I always benchmark my brands against the category and both should be growing. If the category is flat , then maybe it’s OK to not have growth in your numbers. But if you're introducing a whole lot of new products and not growing, then there's definitely something wrong. And if you're spending more than you were spending before and still not growing, there's definitely something wrong there too. So, it comes back to some good commercial metrics.
  5. What is the final message of wisdom for the next generation? It's first and foremost, be honest within yourself. Are you doing something you love or are you doing this job because you think you should? Are you honest about where you want to go and how you want to get there? And then are you honest with your team about what the job is? There's a lot there around communication, self-development, honesty and really starting to build your own plan. You must be the creator of your own destiny.


Recommended Books & Articles

Patrick Lencioni – 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Bob Garrett – The Fish Rots from the Head