#SeriouslySocial The Podcast
with Simone Douglas and special guest Ally Nitschke
Our guest this episode is Ally Nitschke from Made for More. She chats with Simone about her life as a dancer, a mother and working in the finance industry. They then go on to discuss the value of self-care, and the real differences between bosses and leaders.
Special guest: Ally Nitschke
Check out our page for updates and teasers about upcoming episodes, www.socialmediaaok.com.au/podcast
Hosted by Simone Douglas
Videography by Marie Carbone
Audio by Chris Irving
Music used in this episode is “Alte Herren” by KieLoKaz, used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence This production is protected by a creative commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.
Chris Irving 0:01
Welcome to the seriously social podcast with your host, Simone Douglas. Our guest today is Ally Nitschke from Made For More. She talks with Simone about motherhood, self care, and how bosses aren’t always leaders.
Simone Douglas 0:18
So hi, Ally! Thanks for joining me today on the red chairs and this episode of The seriously social podcast.
Ally Nitschke 0:25
Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here.
Simone Douglas 0:27
My absolute pleasure. So tell me a little bit more about Made For More. And what’s brought you to the red chairs today?
Ally Nitschke 0:35
Yeah, awesome questions. So how I ended up founding Made For More was a few years ago, or, you know, nearly 15 years ago now. Actually, I hung up my ballet shoes as a professional ballet dancer funding, got cut here in South Australia. So I went out and got a real job. And somehow, from my dad’s background, found my way in the banking and finance sector, and I absolutely loved it. I loved the people, I loved the challenge. I loved the teams that I worked with. And I really loved the work. And as is normally the way when you start doing a good job at something, you get promoted. So I found myself becoming quite successful, which was great. And then about 10 years ago, I was handed the keys to go and open up my own branch and recruit my own team, I was in my very early 20s, and full of enthusiasm and optimism and ready to conquer the world. So I went and did that and got to hand select my own team, which was amazing. In fact, one of my team members is my husband and has been for the last 13 years. So I like to remind him of that sometimes, but then the GFC hit, in SA and in in Adelaide, and of course banking and finance wasn’t a great place to be working back then. So because the team was going so well, they were all promoted, and we were disbanded. And then I was fronted, and sort of shifted to another branch and was fronted with a wall of 14 women who were super unimpressed to see me, unimpressed with their current manager, with each other, they hated their job, hated, hated, just really, really toxic situation, very unhappy. And that was probably my baptism of fire into you know, leadership, tough conversations, how it is that we can turn around to toxic toxic cultures and toxic workplaces. And then about five years ago, I went and had four kids in five years. I’ve got four little boys,
Simone Douglas 2:21
Such a brave woman.
Ally Nitschke 2:22
Yes, yes. There’s a lot of water boys in my house. Yeah. And that was a real, I guess, chance to reset and go, “Okay, well, what am I going to be doing career wise moving forward?” And that’s where Made For More came from.
Simone Douglas 2:35
Yeah, cool. It’s um, I find that whole thing about walking into toxic cultures in business really fascinating because I spent nine years working for ALH group. And that was my job, was to fix broken pubs.
Ally Nitschke 2:46
Simone Douglas 2:47
And it was always you had to start with the people. If you couldn’t open those lines of communication, you weren’t going to get anywhere fast. What kind of advice would you give to a business owner or a manager that has acquired or been sent into a business? When they do walk into that wall of unhappy people? Where do they start?
Ally Nitschke 3:05
Yeah, good, really, really good question. And it is unfortunate, sometimes probably more unfortunate, when you given gifted over and perhaps inherit these types of teams, but it certainly is something that you can work through. And a lot of it is around, you know, getting and building those relationships with people on a one on one basis, finding out what it is that is making them tick, tick tock, maybe. Finding out what it is that’s making them feel so unhappy and how you can turn that around. So finding out what their main motivators are, I talk a lot around love language, you know, what is it that they are missing, because most people want to go to work 30 hours, 40 hours, however many hours a week and have a good time, like no one’s like, you know, what I really want is a job that I just hate. Every day, like, no one’s saying that. So really, having some honest conversations with those people, and then addressing the behaviour rather than the person.
Simone Douglas 3:57
Yeah, no, that makes sense. Because what the first thing I used to do, every pub that I used to go into, is I would call a whole staff meeting. And I’d ask every staff member to write me a letter that I said, “Look, I’m going to read this, and I’m going to action it. So I need you to write me a letter and I want to know, three things. “Why do you choose to come and work at this hotel because you wake up every morning, you make a choice, you could go work at the hotel down the street or the one up the road, but you choose to work here. And I want to know why. Why do you choose that? What are the three things that you hate about working here? And how would you fix them if you were in charge? And then what are the three things that you absolutely love about working here that you don’t want me to change?” And I’d give them three days to like, put some serious thought into it. And I go, all of your letters need to be on my desk in three days. It’s not negotiable. If I don’t have one, I’ll come asking for one. And it had this really interesting, like ripple effect, because what happened was because you had pointed out to the staff that perhaps needed to leave. They start thinking about the fact that they were choosing to come to work and be miserable. And so they resigned. They just decided that this was no good for them. Yeah. But you also got some really fantastic ideas about how to fix the problems in the culture because you’re actually interested in their points of view and opinions. But yeah, it was, my favourite thing is to, like, bust it open by asking first. But when I was very young, I used to go in there and go, “you’re broken, this is stuffed, you know..” like,
Ally Nitschke 5:22
“we’ll call HR” and it becomes a HR issue. I love that you use the letters to actually start a conversation around what could be fixed, because I think that then you can also give and empower your teams to start coming up with solutions for those types of things. And then it’s more led by them.
Simone Douglas 5:37
What do you think is the biggest fear? Or the most common fear that you encounter in leadership roles when it comes to those courageous conversations? Like why do they avoid- why do we avoid them?
Ally Nitschke 5:48
Number one reason (and this won’t be a surprise at all) is people worried about making someone cry.
Simone Douglas 5:53
Ally Nitschke 5:54
yep. Essentially, that’s it. “Oh what if someone cries?” Well, probably, if you’re going to confront someone about their behaviour, they’re more than likely gonna cry. And that is absolutely okay. You know, crying is a release and very much part of what we’re designed to do to raise any emotions. And what I find is when someone does cry, because they are being spoken to about particular behaviour, or action is it’s kind of a release, like, it’s like, they know deep down that the behaviour has been unacceptable, or they’ve been waiting for someone to pull them up on and it’s finally happened. And they’re like, thank God, and the tears come out. But essentially, that’s what most people are worried about, and why we avoid it. And then when you start thinking about how much time and energy you spend, avoiding making someone cry, and then when they cry, then you can actually move forward. That’s the next step. So it’s interesting that that’s the number one hang up for people. It’s just crying. People cry. That’s what happens. It’s absolutely okay.
Simone Douglas 6:44
I think it can be really confronting and difficult to sit still in the face of that. And to have, I think, to have a productive conversation, when someone does cry, because they’re upset (not because you’re being horrible, but just because like you said, there’s such a big emotional build up), sometimes when you’re taking someone to task on something. The immediate response is to fix it for now. So I’m sorry, are you okay? But if you if you launch straight into that, they don’t hear what it is that you needed to talk to them about, because you got caught up in the fixing, I find.
Ally Nitschke 7:15
Yeah, and giving people the space, the person who’s upset, giving them the space to actually feel those feels. So, if as a leader, you can say something along the lines, you know, I can say that this has brought up a lot of emotion for you, you know, unpack that, you know, you feel that tell me what’s going on in your mind, because they internal monologue, or their head junk, is, you know, going, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe I’m crying in front of my boss, this and that” and they’ve blown it completely out of proportion. They’re just crying. It’s just tears. It’s an emotion, it’s a release of an emotion. And being able to hold the space for those people and just sit there and be with them while they are unloading. All of these motions that they’ve probably been holding onto for quite some time is some pretty powerful stuff.
Simone Douglas 7:53
Yeah. So what are some of the things that as a as a leader, and I prefer the word leader, actually, to boss really, but if you’re someone that’s leading your team, whether it’s in a business or whether you own a business, that can take a lot of mental and emotional toll in terms of holding space, holding energy, keeping everyone going in the right direction. What are some of the things that you put in place for yourself when you’re managing all these really large teams or, even now, to take care of that; take care of you?
Ally Nitschke 8:22
Yeah, certainly, I’ve improved this over time, back in my early 20s. I would say I was not good at it; I pretty much survived on Red Bull and twisties, (which wouldn’t recommend, by the way), it was not, it was not a healthy place. But I think, you know, we talk about self care a lot more these days, it gets a lot more airtime. And I think there’s a common misperception that self care needs to be a day at a day spa, or you know, like a weekend away or a luxury, luxurious escape. Whereas it doesn’t need to be that at all. So self care is actually doing something solely and selfishly just for you. As I mentioned, I’ve got four young kids. So if I can have like five minutes every day, and it’s around consistency, as well. So five minutes every day, where I actually get to have a hot cup of tea. And I can enjoy that for what it is as opposed to just using it as a warm beverage to drink. So actually have a bit of intention around it. I also practice gratitude daily. And I think that that has huge impact on my own mental well being. So the more that you as your reticular Activation System goes, the more that you start focusing on all the things that you’re grateful for, the happier you are. And I think as leaders, we need to be practising that as our own. Our own self care practice, but it’s our own responsibility to make sure that we are looking after ourselves first.
Simone Douglas 9:38
Yeah, so that we can lead everybody else. Yeah, that makes total sense to me. So about two weeks ago, now I finally bought myself an infrared sauna. Like I’ve been waiting for nine years to get this thing. Just goes to show how good I am at putting off taking care of myself. But I have this magical thing now the week that I have the kids because they’re with their dad half the time. So the week that I’ve got the kids I picked them up from school. They come home; because they’re 10 and 13 now, so they don’t really need my attention until tea time, nor do they want it half the time. And I go and get the sauna for half an hour. So like at 3.30 in the afternoon, and it’s amazing, like, quiet, no one’s talking to me. My phone’s not dinging, things aren’t happening. So that thing about, you know, just finding that quiet space to go: “Actually, my life is really good. you know, isn’t it amazing? You know, I saw this really beautiful thing or that really beautiful thing.” And I always got taught by my grandmother forever ago: “Define beauty and awe in tiny, little things. So whether it’s the colour of a plant, or the way the sun hits the ground, or whatever it might be. But yeah, if you live in that space, it’s almost like buffering yourself with magic that people can’t really, like get through or get past.
Ally Nitschke 10:51
Yep, water off a duck’s back. And I think what you said, like, you know, there is so much in nature, that you when you actually stop and think about it, actually, that is fascinating. And the more you start noticing it, the more you recognise it in other places where you weren’t even looking before. And yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff gone.
Simone Douglas 11:06
Yeah, for sure. What do you think, is the biggest challenge in.. what I’m finding is, today, in business, it’s almost our way of doing business is evolving. So we always got told, or I got told, (in finance, probably the same), you know, it’s a numbers game here, you profit lines here, your margins, is what you got to do, here’s your wage percentages, etc, etc, etc. And then I had my own businesses, and I found that, yes, you need to be aware of all of those things. But if you can get the culture right, if the people within your teams know that they’re the most important thing, and that they make or break the success of the business, that the rest of it takes care of itself. But that’s not a natural place to start. But it’s becoming a natural place. Does that make sense?
Ally Nitschke 11:51
Yeah, I think there’s probably a lot more research that (and a number of papers that have been written around) how to improve culture, because we know the culture impacts high performance, most businesses at some stage want to be high performing, whether it’s revenue building or impact. It’s essentially they want to be better at what they’re doing. So the number one contributing factor for high performance for teams is culture. And then the one number one contributing factor for culture is leadership. So if we can think about a waterfall effect, so it starts with leadership then flows into culture, culture then flows into high performance reverse engineer that we want high performance, and really start focusing on that culture. And then it’s more around “This is just the way that we do stuff.” So when you’re building a culture of resilience and empathy, it’s you have to start practising what it is that you want to be as opposed to being it before you start practising it.
Simone Douglas 12:37
Yeah, that totally makes sense to me. And I think one of the best pieces of advice I got given years ago when I was like, in my 20s, and first getting into management, (and really had no idea what I was doing – I wasn’t a great people person back then); I’ve learnt a lot since then. But you know, it was about, Never be afraid to make yourself redundant. But that’s actually your job as a leader is to let everybody else shine so brightly. That your surplus to requirements really, like you’re still there and doing all these amazing things. But if you went and played with a bright, shiny object over there tomorrow, this would still have its own cohesiveness.
Ally Nitschke 13:14
100%. So if you as a leader can empower your staff to take your job. That’s amazing. That’s an amazing show of leadership.
Simone Douglas 13:22
What kind of advice would you give to the leader that’s struggling to let go and is still living in a little bit of micromanagement land and you know, looking over people’s shoulders a lot, what kind of advice could you give to them?
Ally Nitschke 13:34
Yeah, that’s a tough one. And micromanagement is one of those things that we know we shouldn’t be doing it. But somehow, accidentally, all of a sudden, you are micromanaging. So, yeah, letting go of the ego that’s surrounded by needing to know how to do everything and needing to know where everything’s up to. And actually, you can do it as a test until you start to recognise that your team are fine without you. So if you are a micromanager, actually, actively start giving away some stuff, start delegating more actively and not following it up. So just see happens, and you could do that as a practice activity.
Simone Douglas 14:06
And just watch your stress levels climb and then be right, though, because then you work out that the sky didn’t fall in. That the customers were still happy that everything still got done. And you got something off your plate. And then yeah, I find once once you build the empirical evidence, although then you’ve got, you know, like with personality, profiling and things. So DISC is one that I work with a lot. And my stress response or stress type is High D. And so I’ll sometimes if I’ve got too many things happening in all the businesses, I’ll walk into my general manager, Tamara, and I’ll start firing questions and she just gives me a look now. And I go, “I’m doing the things, aren’t I?” and she’ll say, “Yeah, can you leave my office now please?”
Ally Nitschke 14:48
And that’s great that you’ve got that relationship where you can say “Actually, you’re coming in a bit hot. Let’s cool it down” and you can recognise that then that is what has happened. So I think that’s really interesting what you said about the personalities and DISC (I’m a High D as well) is the more that you know about yourself, the better you’re able to regulate yourself. So what you don’t know, you don’t know, right? So there’s a whole bunch of resources. You know, there’s this thing called Google where anyone can find out pretty much anything and a whole bunch of free personality testing. There’s a great one that’s based around Myers Briggs called the 16 personalities, it’s free. It’s online. It’s beautifully written, comprehensive, beautifully illustrated. And it gives such a comprehensive report on your strengths, weaknesses, what kind of personality you are. And I use that as one of my tools for when I’m running workshops. And it’s really interesting, especially new leaders, they’re like, Oh, I didn’t know that this was unique to me. And that’s kind of cool. Now, here’s my area that I need to work on. And I didn’t know that that was a thing, either. And it is, the more that you know about yourself, the better that you’re able to manage yourself.
Yeah, absolutely. I found another tool that I discovered a couple years ago, that I found fascinating was the Gallup Strengths Finder. So what that helped me to figure out was the missing elements that I needed to recruit for, because they weren’t my strengths as well. So I think you do have to have that balance of, you know, understanding what your team’s about, understanding what you’re about. But it still does come back to those courageous conversations that you were talking about, because you can have all of that knowledge, and still live in a bubble. So if there’s someone out there that’s actually struggling to get their head around starting that, how does someone go about working with you to kind of develop those skills?
The courageous conversation?
Simone Douglas 16:32
Ally Nitschke 16:33
yes, I’ve got a model or five step process that I talk through with people and we work that through. So it’s basically like a circular model. And the first one is like, figure out what the stories are that you’re telling yourself. So how much of it is fact? And how much is it something that you’ve conjured up in your mind, you know, and a story that you’ve perhaps blown out of proportions and assumptions that you’ve made? So get clear on what it is that’s pretend in your head. And then we want to go on like a bit of a fact finding mission. So find out what it is that what actually happened, what’s true, what’s not true, and actually gather some facts? And from there, we want to just keep building on that knowledge. So where is it that you want to be going? What do you want to plan out? courageous conversations are very much resolution solution focus. So yes, you’re gonna have a courageous conversation, but actually, where do you want it to end? And then when you know where you want to end, begin with the end in mind, when you know where you want to end, and it’s a lot easier to plan what it is that you want to say. I was recently talking to a friend who had to have a courageous conversation outside of the workplace. We, the family member, had been excluded from an event or something like that, and was like, “okay, you know, what are you gonna do?” And she was saying, “Oh, I just want to find out why.” And I’m like, “oh, what will that get you?” and she’s like “oh, nothing.” I’m like, “oh, okay, like, is there maybe a better option?” And what she actually wanted was, you know, to be included in all these family things. So when you start with that focus, as in, I want to have a courageous conversation so that I get included. Yeah, that’s a very different conversation to I want to have a conversation to know why I was left out or why someone is doing this. So begin with the end in mind, and then holding that space what we talked about earlier, so expect a response, like tears, expect a response of silence, expect, you know, you would know from interacting with your team members what their response is going to be. So plan for that, even if you’ve already collected, and respond that way. But yeah, begin with the end in mind is probably my number one tip.
Simone Douglas 18:23
Yeah. Fantastic. Well, Ali, thank you very much for joining us on the red chairs. If you’re looking to engage Ally and make the most of her amazing services, you’ll find all the links in the various places at the end of the podcast, but you can google Made For More
Ally Nitschke 18:38
Made For More or madeformore.com.au
Simone Douglas 18:40
There you go, fantastic. Thanks very much.
Chris Irving 18:44
Thank you for listening to the seriously social podcast. See our website for more details at www.socialmediaaok.com.au/podcast. Check the show notes for credits, music used in the programme, and more details about our guests.