<![CDATA[Albany Lane]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/ Thu, 18 Oct 2018 22:47:55 GMT Thu, 18 Oct 2018 22:47:55 GMT LemonStand <![CDATA[Spring is time to reconnect with what is important to you]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/spring-is-time-to-reconnect-with-what-is-important-to-you http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/spring-is-time-to-reconnect-with-what-is-important-to-you Wed, 05 Sept 2018 00:00:00 GMT One of the things I love most about my work is the variety of projects that I partner with diverse clients on. Here are a few of my favourite engagements over the past month:

  • Staff development workshops with newly formed team at major performing arts company
  • Bringing some light to the "elephants in the room" by facilitating discussions on risk management and financial planning with smaller arts and community organisations
  • One-to-one coaching with emerging leaders in brand-name commercial companies, developing strength-based strategies for career advancement. 

Spring is a wonderful time of the year to reconnect with what is most important to you, and make a start on what it is you want to create or change in your life.  It is also a great time to review what may be working or not working in your life.

Working one-on-one with a qualified coach may be the most effective way for you to “rearrange the furniture” in your mind, so you can create what you truly want in life.

Today, we are participating in the world of work in new and exciting ways. Yet many of us feel uncertain or overwhelmed by the many roles we play in society. Finding balance is elusive, yet a foundation for a thriving and flourishing life.

At Albany Lane our coaching is founded on the values of compassion and courage: we will support you and challenge you to find an authentic way of being, especially in the world of work.

Unlike other coaching programs, Albany Lane does not tell you what to do or how to do it.

Working in partnership, we identify your dreams and goals, see where you are stuck, and work together to uncover new resources to get you moving forward.

Change does not always work in the way we expected.  Sometimes you need to clear out some habits or beliefs that are holding you back. Sometimes you need longer to integrate what you have discovered, before you are ready to move on. We might get a long way down a path, and then need to pause for a while to see what is the next step.

Therefore Albany Lane’s coaching is as flexible as possible, whilst still holding a framework for your commitment to change.

So if you are interested in coaching as a way to support you in your life and work, and wanted to work with Albany Lane this year, please get in touch about new packages, including a one-off vision setting workshop to inspire you to change. 


Posted in: Balancing work and life, Career Development, Coaching, Decision Making, Inspiration, Intuition, Making change, Mindfulness, Strategic Planning

<![CDATA[Positive Stress]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/positive-stress http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/positive-stress Tue, 07 Aug 2018 00:00:00 GMT As we head deeper into Winter, the long dark nights draw us inward to look at what really matters to us: ask yourself - "How much does my internal compass direct my outward lives: career, finances, family, social life and play?"

Now is a good time to take stock, and reflect on how much time is spent "doing something", rather than doing something worthwhile.  It’s a trap many of us fall into, being busy but not productive can lead to stress, which stifles our creative thinking, rather than positive tension which helps propel you to a new and exciting outcome.

The realisation that there is a key difference between tension and stress is critical when making decisions about your career.  At just the right amount of stress, in the form of positive tension, performance is optimal. There is a ‘comfort zone’ where you are coping well with the stressors you are experiencing.

A little bit of stress is good for you, however, there is a point at which the stressors start to have a negative effect: you are no longer coping well and fatigue sets in.

Beyond this point, stress increases, and results in reduced performance and if allowed to continue, it will lead to exhaustion, ill health, and eventually breakdown in both your workplace activities and your wellbeing.

The best way to avoid this is to increase your capacity for positive tension, do things both professionally and personally that aligns with your core values, seek our collaborations and projects that matter to you and get a supportive team around you.

If you strive to be a happy, fulfilled, honest, confident, empowered and principled person, surround yourself with people who are the same. Energies like this are contagious!  Go where the energy is - if something feels sticky and stagnant - walk away - if it feels like you are sailing or dancing - stick with it. Experiment and have fun, try new things, but if they feel wrong, don’t be shy about walking away!

So for the rest of 2018 - we say - bring it on!! Challenge us with your problems, issues and inspire us with your passions and dreams. We want to support you to have the best creative working life you can.

One of the pillars of wellbeing is having a sense of purpose, most often experienced in our working life. If you feel that this area has been neglected for a while, or needs some fine-tuning, please drop us a line, so we can help you create positive tension and maximum joy!

Posted in: Balancing work and life, Decision Making, Inspiration, Making change, Mindfulness

<![CDATA[Five important points to consider when establishing a career in the Arts]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/five-important-points-to-consider-when-establishing-a-career-in-the-arts http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/five-important-points-to-consider-when-establishing-a-career-in-the-arts Sat, 16 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT One of my favourite questions is to ask is: what advice you would give to your younger self? 

Be brave, ask questions, and trust your instincts are often top of the list. Get support, practice self-care and remember to breathe are also common answers.

It seems that we oldies would have valued someone kind saying, 'Go for your dreams, but don’t be too hard on yourself if things fail, because somehow, you’ll survive'.

And for the most part that’s true – things do have a way of working out. You will get a new job, you will develop supportive relationships, and you will even recover in some way from that injury or other health issue that threatens to hold you back. 

But is being optimistic enough when you are starting your journey working in the arts and creative sector, in a world where the average worker will have 17 employers by the time they retire?  

Where are the practical tips that could help you now: to get your foot in the door or make the most of your qualifications and experience?

From an oldie who has watched a lot of people move forward in their careers, here are some tips that will really help.


While recruitment is changing, and many jobs are by word of mouth, your first impression can still be a CV or résumé. Keep it short, make it authentic and never lie. Keep in mind that the person reading it is likely to be busy, reading lots of similar documents, and, if they're like me, hates doing recruitment. Make their job as easy as possible: speak in the first person, use everyday language, avoid jargon and only include what is relevant for the job at hand.



Your referees are gold at any stage of your career, but especially when starting out. You don’t need a long list of people, but you do need a couple with whom you have a positive working relationship and who can speak to your work ethic and personality. as well as outline your job skills. Keep them up to date with your professional development, thank them for their support and always let them know when you are applying for new work or using their name.


You need them now and you will need them later, doubly or even triply when working in the arts and creative sectors. Jobs and opportunities are rarely advertised and often come through word of mouth and referrals. So, forget being discovered for your genius and make a commitment to being seen and heard – at events, in online conversations, and in asking for and giving advice. Your network is only as strong as what you put into it, so be generous if someone asks you for help.


My career started before the internet was a “thing”, so my profile was limited to people I had met and knew. Your profile is an open book to anyone with a smart phone and your social media will be checked. So be smart, keep it clean and keep it relevant. Imagine your future ideal employer is watching – and work back from there.


Not all jobs are “dreams” and not all experience is life-changing. Sometimes you do need money to pay bills, become independent and build up your resources. Do not be afraid to accept jobs that are less than ideal but which keep you going while you finish training, gain experience, or even work out your next career step. Be grateful for these opportunities and respectful of your colleagues, and these journey jobs may lead you somewhere you may never have imagined. 

Posted in: Career Development, Inspiration, Strategic Planning

<![CDATA[Who is responsible for your career?]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/who-is-responsible-for-your-career http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/who-is-responsible-for-your-career Wed, 06 Jun 2018 00:00:00 GMT One of my mantras is that no-one is responsible for your career development except you – not your boss, your mum or your significant other.  Whilst your career can be boosted by the support of coaches, mentors and sponsors, the one driving the bus is always YOU.

Once you accept this, you are ready to increase your chances of securing the type of work you really want to do, with the kind of opportunities you want to experience. However without the core competencies of career development under your belt, professional growth and satisfaction will, without a lot of luck and good karma, stay beyond your reach.

Core competencies of career development for any stage of your working life include: 

Self-awareness –  understanding who you are beyond a job description or creative practice: your core strengths, motivations, values
Resourcefulness – developing confidence to take risks, grow your networks, and find new places to work (and play)
Strategic thinking – setting goals, being adaptable, navigating change and creating opportunities.

The good news is that anyone can develop these core career development skills – be you a recent graduate or a mid-career professional.  

The even better news is that you can develop these skills in a way that best suits you – that aligns with your core values and commitments in life; that supports what is important to you. 

So you don’t need to compromise yourself or “sell-out” to have a great career using your creative or management skills.   But you do need to master the basic skill-set.

Give me a call about how having an experienced coach can help you develop these skills – and transform your working life so that it meets ALL your needs:  purpose, lifestyle, health and financial stability. 

You only have one shot at life – so make the most of all the resources available to you to be happy and make your unique impact in the world.

We all can do it.  We just need to take a first step forward.

Posted in: Career Development, Coaching, Decision Making, Making change

<![CDATA[How to improve your employability]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/how-to-improve-your-employability http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/how-to-improve-your-employability Mon, 28 May 2018 00:00:00 GMT In the era of the gig economy, one of the core skills all artists and arts workers need to master is how to be employable for life

While the rest of the world is waking up to the pros and cons of the “gig-economy”, characterised by short-term contracts and casual employment, the creative sector shrugs its shoulders and asks, 'Hasn’t it always been that way?' 

Well, yes and no – David Throsby’s latest survey for the Australia Council on professional artists’ earnings and work practices, noted that the forces of globalisation and casualisation of employment have also been felt in the arts, with an increasing number of artists reporting moving to a portfolio career.

This is where, instead of being employed by an institution in a linear trajectory of development, a professional artist must navigate a range of contracts, development opportunities and employment to continue their creative practice.[1]

Unfortunately, in the arts as in other sectors, being employable is sometimes equated with being “exploitable”, where you get trapped in a situation that neither supports or values us; instead it keeps us stuck in a situation out of someone playing on our passions and our fears.[2] 

While the employers might own the jobs, no-one is going to be responsible for our career but ourselves. 

Therefore, one of the core skills we need to learn as an emerging or early career artist or creative worker is not just how to get that one specific job, but how to be employable for life, that is:

  • Develop your own personal brand – what you want to be known for as a person as well as an artist.
  • Understand your value in different job "markets” that have need of your skills and experience.
  • Manage your time and resources across commitments, including being responsible for your own self-care.

Some people are naturals at pulling all this together – and we wish them well.

The rest of us can develop our capacity to becoming more employable and valuable in this new world by focusing on the following:

  • Get to know yourself: Understanding your core values and motivations will help you make better choices from the options in front of you at any one time. Stop fitting your square peg self into a series of round holes just because it pays well or the job title looks good. Instead, make choices that align with your values and put you in work environments where you can express your true self and work on projects with meaning and purpose for you.
  • Develop resourcefulness: Become resilient to changes outside your control, confident in making the changes you want to or need, and creative in how you develop new opportunities for your career development. Resourcefulness is critical in any career journey. It is what changes a dead end to a jumping off point and a failure into a learning opportunity
    • Resourcefulness is always grounded in reality – but not held down by the “told you so’s” and fears that will otherwise hold you back.
    • Become strategic: Learn how to put emotional baggage to one side, step back and assess the development of your organisation or sector, as the CEO of your own career. Recognise your reactions and triggers and learn how to give yourself space to make strategic choices about opportunities and options. Develop how to discern between well-meaning interference and actual informed and non-judgemental advice. Be able to trust your gut based on practice of making choices that suit your true self best – and not the narrative others have for your life.

    In this way, the path to becoming employable is the same path to a satisfying and fulfilling career.

Posted in: Balancing work and life, Career Development, Coaching, Inspiration, Making change

<![CDATA[The Myths Of Self Care]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/the-myths-of-self-care http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/the-myths-of-self-care Sat, 12 May 2018 00:00:00 GMT  

For most of April, I have been running on less than a full tank due to a lingering cold that arrived at Easter and stayed around until Anzac Day. 

With all the symptoms of headache, congestion, fever and fatigue, I had to take a few days off and take it easy to recuperate. What is challenging when you are in a paid role can seem insurmountable when you are self-employed. Not only do you have to allow yourself time to rest and relax, but also keep the anxiety bugs at bay.

So this month I have been reflecting on self-care and how it fits with the world of creativity, leadership and business. What I have found is what it is not:

  • Self care is NOT beating yourself up about all the things you have not done – which includes what you should and should not eat, how much you should exercise, or when and how you should sleep
  • Self care is NOT holding yourself up to standards of high-achievement – sometimes good enough is just that and doing more is waste of time and resources
  • Self care is NOT being in competition with your friends, colleagues or siblings –  rather it is developing connection to mind and body and discovering what you personally need at this point of time
  • Finally self care is NOT to be found in a book or a program – it is found in the moment when you hear the need of your “self” to put down the phone, ignore your emails, ring your mum, sister, friend and listen (really listen) to your partner and family. It is found in moments when you give in to the urge to sleep, eat, move at whatever time of day it happens to be. It is also found when you hear your inner self saying you may be ready for a new challenge or adventure, that your current world is safe but a bit boring, and it is time to take a few steps out of your comfort zone and find a new way.

Posted in: Balancing work and life

<![CDATA[Understanding yourself: stop holding back and become a better leader]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/understanding-yourself-stop-holding-back-and-become-a-better-leader http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/understanding-yourself-stop-holding-back-and-become-a-better-leader Wed, 14 Mar 2018 00:00:00 GMT
When women come to me wanting to develop their leadership potential, the first thing I ask is, do I have permission to challenge them. 
This is a fundamental precept of coaching - a willingness to be open to feedback.
Step 1 in developing your career or role in an organisation - is to understand yourself. This includes how others see you, and even more importantly how you see yourself. 
Many people speak of experiencing "imposter syndrome" when they step out of their comfort zone and take on new challenges.  We feel exposed to criticism from others, and even more strongly from ourselves. This can erode our confidence, and have us reluctant to take risks at work and in life.  
Being unwilling to take risks, undermines our confidence and capacity to lead change: in our working life, our organisations and our community.  It stops us from applying for new roles and opportunities, from implementing new policies and strategies, from challenging the status quo.   
Our fear keeps us small, feeling undervalued and unappreciated.  It stops us speaking up in a meeting, from getting the resources to pursue our ideas.  Ultimately, it stops us following our dreams and standing up for what is right. 
However, understanding and appreciating yourself, your values and strengths, provides a foundation from which you can step forward and lead change. 
In coaching, there are moments of vulnerability - when something new is learnt or uncovered.  In this safe space, you develop the capacity to be OK with these discoveries, and develop small, modest tests to allow others to see this new you. 
By understanding our "self", we have a new capacity to navigate the various roles we play in work, home and life.  
One of the best compliments I ever received as CEO at Milk Crate Theatre - was from a community member who said they liked that "what you saw is what you get". 
When others see and appreciate your authenticity, you begin to develop a culture of trust, from which we can communicate and make change in partnership with those around us.  
We can stop holding back, afraid of what others will think, and do what needs to be done.  

Posted in: Coaching, Leadership, Making change, Mindfulness

<![CDATA[What is your Super Power]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/what-is-your-super-power http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/what-is-your-super-power Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT Everyone is born with  a specific set of character strengths that makes us unique, some we learn, some we harness. And at one point or another, you’ve probably been told what your unique strengths are. You may have been  praised for your creativity or told how good of a leader you are when it comes to collaborative work. Now imagine being able to use these attributes as superpowers to create a happier life for you and the people around you.

Research has shown that identifying your character strengths can help you develop better relationships, at work and at home and  impact your wellbeing. This is because when you focus on your best qualities rather than your weaknesses, you develop more self-confidence and feel happier in general.

According to Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Christopher Peterson, two pioneers of positive psychology, we all possess 24 character strengths to various degrees. These strengths fall into six different categories: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

If you are not sure what your character strengths are, take the VIA Character Survey. This scientific survey will help you discover your best qualities in less than 15 minutes.

Another great way to find out what your character strengths are is by simply asking your closest friends and family.  On top of that, you’ll probably learn something new about yourself as well.

Posted in: Career Development, Making change

<![CDATA[New Year, New Opportunities, New Career? Event 15.2.18]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/new-year-new-opportunities-new-career http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/new-year-new-opportunities-new-career Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT Changing jobs in now a regular part of life. Today the national average tenure in a job is 3.3 years, with expectation that we will have up to five careers in our lifetime. Jobs are also more likely to be temporary or contract based and these trends impact the way we manage our working life.
Judith Bowtell and Albany Lane invite you to join us for breakfast and hear from individuals who have mastered major career changes: from Big Business to Solo Entrepreneur, and from Small Arts and community organisations to major corporates.
So if you are contemplating change in your working life now or in the future ( and you will!) come and join us for breakfast and hear from those who have made the jump, survived and thrived!

Cassy Sutherland, Senior Change Manager .
Managing complex change programs and single change initiatives, Cassy's career has moved from management roles in the arts and community sector, into senior roles in major financial companies: Westpac, BT Financial Group and most recently IAG.

Paul Lyons, CEO Mental Thoughness Partners
With 25 years as a business leader, adviser and coach, Paul has enjoyed a diverse career across Australia and Asia Pacific. Paul was co-founder of recruitment firm Ambition and now co-founder and managing partner for Mental Toughness Partners - a group of HR practitioners and coaches delivering programs in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Megan Barlow, Director The Acting Experience (note Megan has new photo on LinkedIn)
Following a career in corporate and business world and retraining as a drama teacher, Megan founded The Acting Experience in 2010 as a place for young people to connect to their creativity and be empowered. She now runs multiple classes for young people each week, from primary to HSC, plus classes for adults. Her Youth Theatre Ensemble recently performed The Crucible at Parramatta Riverside, directed and produced by Megan.

Judith Bowtell, Founder Albany Lane Consulting
After 25 years in screen and arts management, policy and strategy development, Judith established Albany Lane in 2012 to support professionals in the arts and cultural sector, through executive coaching and strategic support, to develop their working lives and leadership potential. She has worked with people in creative companies, government agencies and small to medium arts sector, as well as individuals establishing solo or freelance careers. 

Thursday 15 February 2018. 7.30am- 9am 
House Bistrot 32-34 Kellet St. Potts Point
tickets $30+bf @ eventbrite

Posted in: Balancing work and life, Career Development, Making change, Mindfulness

<![CDATA[Why breaking resolutions is the best thing you can do.]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/why-breaking-resolutions-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/why-breaking-resolutions-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do Sun, 21 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT Welcome to 2018

Did you start your year with a bang and a promise to:

-        Declutter your house/office/car/life

-        Finish that diploma/renovation/other project

-        Get a new job/new house/new partner/new life

-        Detox/go green/reduce waste/be better

Congrats if you have and well done if you have fallen at the first, second or third steps. 

Because research has proven, that failure is the best way to maintain a lasting change in your life. 

The Immunity to Change is a theory by researchers in psychology and adult learning, Robert Keegan and Lisa Laskow. 

In this model our “immunity” to change is a hard-wired mechanism to preserve the status quo, and thereby limit our exposure to anxiety and fear – emotions that prompt the “fight, flee, freeze” responses in ourselves.

When we are stuck making a change in our behaviour that we believe will benefit us, it is due to an underlying contradictory thought pattern or belief.  Until this belief is challenged and resolved, we will constantly come up against it, leading us at risk of seeing ourselves as “failures” in this area of our life. 

One way of resolving these long-held beliefs, is to create SMART goals – small, modest, actionable, research-based tests - that will allow us to collect experience and data that creates a different world view to our belief, but does not trigger our anxiety buttons.

These modest “tests” or steps to change are simply that – an experiment in what might happen if we do something different today then we did yesterday.  

Examples might include:

-        DECLUTTER: Have a box or bag at the front door where you place unwanted object each day/week and when full take it to the op shop.

-        NEW JOB: Contact one person from your work network you have not spoken to for over 12 months and invite them to coffee

-        REDUCE WASTE: Keep reusable shopping bags in the boot of your car

Now you may or may not do this – and that does not matter as achieving is not the aim of the test.  What we are aiming to do is learn what works for you. 

Without the freedom to fail, we become fearful. Life becomes a place of pass/fail judgement – rather than a series of experiments and learnings.

Change and moving forward will take risks – small, modest risks to do something new with the outcome unknown. 

If you can embrace this view your resolutions become pathways to self-discovery, rather than yet another “failure” we can use to convince ourselves we are not good enough and beat ourselves up.

Take another look at where you stopped in your promise to yourself, with a compassionate heart not a judgemental head. 

See what information you have learnt about your tactics and strategies, and see what you could do differently.  

Read, research, ask experts in that area – and then start again – maybe a smaller step this time so you can check in earlier and see how this is working for you. 

Keep going step by step by step, adjusting as you go, with patience and self-compassion and something new will emerge.  Maybe what you thought you wanted, maybe something altogether different and even better than what you thought was possible.


If you want to know about managing change in your life, with compassion please contact Albany Lane for a free 20-minute chat.


Posted in: Balancing work and life, Career Development, Coaching, Decision Making, Inspiration, Intuition, Leadership, Leading in crisis, Making change, Mindfulness, Strategic Planning

<![CDATA[I really want this job…. But the pay really sucks.]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/iwantthisjobbutthepaysucks http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/iwantthisjobbutthepaysucks Thu, 07 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT Has this ever happened to you?  You see a job you would love to do and would be fantastic opportunity; it highlights all your key skills and seems to be made for you to shine; you admire the company, resonate with its values, and have great rapport with the team.   You apply, are made an offer and the reality sinks in when you see the figure on the page.   It is much lower than you expected or had previously earnt, and takes you back a step.  

However, by this time you are emotionally invested in the company.  You may have seen your new workspace, have started imagining a future working there, and begun (at least in your mind) to detach yourself from your current role. 

What do you do?  Do you take the job as is?  Do you try to negotiate a slightly better rate?  Do you hold out as a deal breaker and risk losing it all?

And what do you do about the disappointment and possible offence and hurt at being valued below your worth?

Arts Hub recently published a report on salaries in the arts, Salary Survey reveals Hard facts about our Sector.  

The findings were that salaries in the Arts sector are:

-        Lower than average

-        Women lower again

-        No real change expected

So in this environment – how do you progress your career and take care of your financial needs.

Financial wellbeing is one of the four pillars of wellness, which include, Career, Heath, Wealth and lifestyle. Andrea Warr, founder of WiserLife,  an agency that follows a Whole Life approach to wellbeing, with companies and individuals, states in a recent article,  “What is Well Being?” . “Wellbeing is unique to each individual and has added complexities based on life phase or age or gender or ethnicity or personality traits. Wellbeing can be about fixing a problem created by a trigger event that highlights an aspect of life that needs to be addressed. Wellbeing is also about prevention and building the foundations of a more healthy and productive longer life.”

The Japanese believe that practicing selfcare is a duty of each citizen to a well working society. Even the youngest children in Japan learn from the family, school, community, and nation how to be members of Japanese society. In each group, a child learns the self-discipline and commitment expected to be a supportive and responsible group member. The family, school, and nation all take on important roles in teaching the child the rules and norms of society. A child in Japan is a member of the "national family." All Japanese children are cared for by the whole society, and all Japanese adults help teach the norms and customs of the society. Children learn that the group is more important than the individual, and that the individual should not stand out, however, a strong sense of wellbeing and contribution to the whole creates a better functioning nation.

It therefore makes sense that good selfcare is the duty of arts workers if they are to contribute to the success of their practice, their careers and their companies.  

But what do you do, when the employment practices (including remuneration) of the company or organisation (or the sector as a whole) work against you taking care of one fundamental tenet – financial security and self management?

I believe the issue of appropriate remuneration and opportunities for career progression is one that the sector has to take up as a whole as part of its promotion of wellbeing and safe work practices. Initiatives such as How Can the Show Go On and Melbourne Arts Collective  – all specifically tailored to the needs of the arts sector, incorporating tools and strategies from positive psychology, as well as resources from clinical psychology to help improve understanding of mental health issues, their prevention and treatment.

For too long, the sector has worked in a culture of self-sacrifice to a vision or cause, and neglected the base needs of artists and workers.   This change will not come if we rely on the policy makers and leaders to do it for us – because they are not the ones feeling this pain.

We need to make choices that support our own wellbeing – changing our mindset from a world of scarcity to one of adequacy.  That is that we deserve to be adequately remunerated for our efforts and accepting anything less is doing a disservice to ourselves and others.

Of course this higher mind state is difficult to maintain when you really, really, want that job and know you will be happy there.  However I suggest you take a step back and check what the impact will be on your four pillars of wellbeing and will it throw you out of balance. 

Because as soon as one pillar is knocked sideways, your house will start to feel shaky and will be at risk at falling down.  Is any one job really worth that and do you really want to work for an organisation that undervalues its workers: their skills, knowledge and contribution.   

Posted in: Balancing work and life, Career Development, Making change, Strategic Planning

<![CDATA[The Courage To Be Disliked]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/the-courage-to-be-disliked http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/the-courage-to-be-disliked Thu, 12 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT Last time I was in Melbourne I bought two great books:  one about the joys of minimalism which I brought home and promptly lost in the precarious piles of books and magazines that is our kitchen table.   The other was about The Courage to be Disliked – a dialogue between philosopher and student that unpacks Adlerian psychology and gently guides us to move beyond our perceived limits. 

Written by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga it challenges our instincts of seeking approval and chasing recognition.  It challenges us to choose a life for ourselves – rather than one shaped by the actions and views of others.  It asks us “who’s life are we living” and at what cost.  It encourages us to give up being liked as an end goal and see what we are really seeking.

As a professional and ex-government bureaucrat, there are probably a few people out there who do not like me – people I have said No to, people I have refused jobs and opportunities, people who have disagreed with me and the organisations I have represent.  There are probably a few who are downright angry at me – and a few that probably do not remember my name but do recall not getting what they wanted.  So, I have grown to be kind of comfortable with being disliked – as long as that dislike is in a contained and distant place.

What I am not as comfortable with is the ability to be disliked in the moment: the ability to face someone’s anger and disappointment head on; to accept the projections of other experiences of rejection being thrown in my face; to carry the emotional burden of frustration that the world does not always go the way they want. 

The adult part accepts that there will inevitably be conflict somewhere in my working life – and I need to toughen up and deal with it as professionally as possible.  My training as a coach has also had a steady practice in being non-judgemental of ‘difficult’ emotions.  I can now sit with someone in sadness and grief, and honour their ability to manage that state.  But when the yelling starts – I still run for cover.  

The parent part of used to take on others aggression as somehow my fault, and start to soothe everyone down with apologies and promises of better things to come.  This often left me compromised and powerless, a people-pleaser not a great “relationship manager”.

Nowadays the parent gets a bit fed up with that – and at the first sign that someone is trying to manipulate me – it is a swift reminder that it’s my house, my rules – and don’t come back unless you have thought about it missus.  (I must admit I like this parent sometimes!)

But the child part just feels bewildered and scared when someone starts yelling or not listening or imposing their view.  She feels uncomfortable because she does not feel safe anymore and wants to run away and hide.  Not being liked can become not being accepted, wanted or safe to a child – and that is a scary place to be.

And if I ignore this child part she won’t let up – late night ruminations, ranting to loved ones and being consumed by an issue that has long past - are all signs that inner security has yet to be restored.  It takes quiet and understanding and listening to soothe this child, and bring myself back to equilibrium.

So, it does take courage to be disliked. To face conflict with an adult’s understanding of both yourself and others.  To accept emotional “spillage” as part of the process and to be confident in drawing your boundaries of acceptable and non-acceptable behaviours.  

Unfortunately, we are more likely to be taught to appease or deflect conflict, to ignore or avoid it.  We may have been taught to go “toe to toe” in any battle and never give up until the last person was down.  To fight, flight or fade in the face of being disliked.  

But if we have courage – the heart-centred approach – to being disliked as a moment in time – then we can be with a conflict in a more objective, satisfying and adult way.  By choosing not to respond to the dislike, but instead stay curious and listening no matter how hard, we will find a better way.


Posted in: Decision Making, Inspiration, Leadership, Leading in crisis, Making change, Mindfulness

<![CDATA[What your (funding) partners want from you, but may be too polite to ask]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/what-your-funding-partners-want-from-you-but-may-be-too-polite-to-ask http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/what-your-funding-partners-want-from-you-but-may-be-too-polite-to-ask Sat, 17 Sept 2016 00:00:00 GMT Partnerships and collaborations are more than just ways of making the ends meet on an artistic program or a creative project.

They can be a great way to promote work to new audiences, and connect your creativity with new markets.   They can be hard work for everyone involved, but they can also be enormously rewarding, and not just in the financial sense. 

Strong partnerships are built on strong communication and common goals, and equally can fall apart or not get off the drawing board due to some common mistakes (at both ends).

If you are the one initiating the relationship, it is good to spend some time thinking about what your funding partner may want – be it government, corporate or philanthropic. 

From making the ask to after the project ends, here is what your funding partner wants from you, but may be too polite to ask. 

Do your research

Even if you are applying for a grant, make sure you not just read the guidelines.  Find out what has been funded in the past, what sort of projects and what sort of amounts.  That way you can make a reasonable ask for support.

If developing a new relationship, again find out as much as you can about the organisation, its aims and objectives, and how decisions get made.  Ask your networks to support you in your information gathering and think laterally about how you might work together.   

Again, make sure you know where the company or organisation already has partnerships and what these might look like.  You don’t want to copy these, but gives you a sense of what your potential partner is looking to achieve.

Listen first and ask questions second

Take the first meeting as a get to know each other session, rather than a direct ask for support. 

When you get to meet with someone from either government, foundation or corporation, make sure you listen at least as much as you speak. 

Be curious and ask questions that will connect you to the motivations and values of the people speaking.  

Above all, don’t assume because someone works in a place different from you that you don’t share common motivations and values.   If you come with an open-mind you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you might share.

Provide creative ideas and solutions

It goes without saying that potential partners are looking for more than logos and tickets. 

The most valuable partnerships are those that respond to the needs of the funders and provides a creative solution to their challenges. 

The magic of true partnership happens when you find a partner who can provide the resources to take your creative idea and mission further, and that delivers them the outcomes and impact they want.  

Your value is in finding a creative solution that your partner cannot deliver on their own or with someone else. 

Your challenge is to believe that your work can be that answer or answers, once you look at it with fresh eyes.

Be very clear about how you will work together before you start

Before you start working together, take the time to thrash out your agreement and confirm it in writing.  

Start with a bullet point “heads of agreement” of the arrangements you have made, and then confirm in a more formalised contract (if needed).

Set up regular project check in points so that there are no surprises and everyone is in agreement about how to move forward.

If it is your first time working together, take time to work out the details of this new working relationship and take it one step at a time.  Be honest and acknowledge if something isn’t working, and take the initiative to find a solution together.

And remember, to communicate the needs of your partner and what has been agreed to your project team.  That is your responsibility. 

Be respectful and acknowledge support

This should be a no-brainer, but it is surprising how often there can be slip ups at the last gate.  

A missed acknowledgement in writing or in person can unfortunately damage all the hard work you have put in to make the relationship work.   So can a missed appointment or a withdrawal from communication from either end.  

Don’t muck up the easy bits of logos and tickets (if part of the deal) and if you have the chance go a little bit further just because you can.  A bit of generosity will be appreciated.

Be open to feedback and suggestions

Everyone can learn from every experience, and your partnerships and collaborations are no exception.   Take time out after the end of your project to do a full debrief and ask for honest and constructive feedback.  

This may, in the end, be some of the most valuable learnings you gain from the experience.

Be inspirational

Finally, as an artists or arts company, if you are authentic and stay true to your creative vision and mission, you can inspire your partners to be better human beings. 

This might sound a bit too much, but research has shown that when we inspire others to connect to our shared intrinsic values of universalism, self-direction or creativity, we are motivated to act in a more pro-social way and have higher sense of wellbeing. 


So think about your partnerships as being much more than a solution to fixing your bottom line. 

Take time to establish your relationships and be the person with who you would want to work. 

And remember that it is always easier to keep a relationship (if it’s working) than find a new one, so value and recognise those you have as the platforms that they are to build your work in the world.


Posted in: Career Development, Inspiration, Leadership, Strategic Planning

<![CDATA[Working freelance? Five things to consider first]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/working-freelance-five-things-to-consider-first http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/working-freelance-five-things-to-consider-first Thu, 11 Aug 2016 00:00:00 GMT The rest of the world is catching on to the value of freelance work with estimates of up to 4 million Australians working freelance at any one time.

  • For business it is a great way to get the specialist skills they need at an affordable cost
  • For individuals it is an opportunity to make the most from the expertise you have developed in your working life.

Working in the creative sector you may find yourself freelance by accident or necessity, as that is the way the sector is structured. Or you may be thinking about it as a better way to meet your career goals.

I have had two sustained periods of freelance work in my working life: first was when I was starting out in arts management in Sydney and for six years managed a range of part-time and contract gigs, and now where I consult on policy and strategy development for arts and creative companies alongside my coaching work. 

There are many benefits to working freelance: flexibility, autonomy and the opportunity to develop great networks and experiences.  Of course there are challenges as well: staying motivated, getting work and being able to manage demands of diverse projects and clients.

There is nothing worse than finding yourself working late nights and weekends and finding yourself worse of financially than you were if you were employed.  But with a bit of strategy, you can find a balance between income and freedom. 

It might take a leap of faith if you have not worked this way before, but these are the five key things you need to consider when considering moving to a freelance working life.

1.  Know your strengths and talents

Whilst it is tempting to market yourself as a jack or jill of all trades to get the widest catchment of clients, you are far better off focusing your skill set in one direction. People get confused easily and may doubt your skill set if you are covering too much ground.

Reflect on where your true talent lies and where you are most confident in marketing your skills. Make sure you are focusing on work you enjoy doing as well and not the stuff you would rather never do again.

2.  Claim your expertise

In freelance world you will be constantly marketing yourself and working to acquire new business. This can be confronting and can bring up concerns about rejection and self-worth. Of course we all have things we can learn and do better, but you have got to this point in your working life by learning enough to move forward.

Find the skill set and expertise that has real value for your clients. Spend some time working out what that is and why you have the right to claim it. Look for evidence in your working life of what you have delivered and created. Challenge your self-critic and judgement by getting a second or third opinion on what you have to offer. Write it down and be proud of what you have done.

3.  Price yourself appropriately and develop a rate card

Many people find the freelance life draining and unprofitable because they just don’t value their time appropriately. Remember that in setting your prices, you need to factor in not just the base market rate, but also your on costs. These are higher than for a casual employee (25% for super, workers comp, leave etc), as you will need to include basic business costs like accounting, insurance, IT etc.

 Working freelance also means you may not be being paid for every hour that you work. So adjust your fees to what you believe is your true capacity to deliver.  This is probably a lot less than 40 hours a week, 52 hours a year. If you count in normal leave provisions and public holidays, our working years are more like 44 weeks and your productive (ie billable) hours of work may be as few as 10-20 a week. 

4.  Manage your relationships

The work to get a client is one of those costs of being freelance for which you do not get paid. This work includes building networks, developing proposals, negotiating prices.  So you want to maximise the return from every working relationship: the contracted work, future work and referrals.

Your new client is taking a risk on you so it is up to you to give them the assurance you are able to provide what they need. Make sure you negotiate up front what they expect you to deliver and by when. Be realistic, do not over promise and set achievable deadlines. Stay in communication throughout the project and advise of any issues as they come up. 

5. Develop your reputation

When you are competing for jobs on a regular basis, your professionalism and personality will be judged along with your skills and expertise. When working freelance, your reputation matters even more than when you are in full time employment. You are known not just for what you deliver, but for how you do your work and how you get along with others.

Being likable is something you can develop and will add to your value in the freelance world. It is simple things like listening, asking questions, being on time, putting away your phone in meetings and even forgiving others for the little slights. It is not about being phony or brown-nosing, but giving others the respect you would like to have in return.


Freelance work may not be for everyone, but you may want to consider and start to develop your capacity to work this way.  The skills in strategic marketing, business acquisition and contract negotiation that you may need to develop will be increasingly important in our future working world.


Judith Bowtell of Albany Lane is an executive coach and consultant that supports individuals to develop their professional careers in the arts, cultural and creative sector and organisations to grow.  

If you want more:

Posted in: Balancing work and life, Career Development, Inspiration

<![CDATA[Does dressing the part for work matter?]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/how-to-make-the-right-first-impression-tips-from-a-stylist http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/how-to-make-the-right-first-impression-tips-from-a-stylist Sat, 30 Jul 2016 00:00:00 GMT Whether you are looking for a new role or developing new partnerships and supporters for your work, it might be worthwhile considering what impression you are making. 

It is a reality of our world that we are judged on our appearance more than we might think.  We all have unconscious bias that shapes our reality, and one of those is what we associate with qualities such as leadership, professionalism and creativity  

The first step is to become aware of the issue, and then if you feel this might be effecting you,  think about what actions you might want to take to change.

However take it gently, work in baby steps and make sure you are not judging yourself too harshly as this can be a sensitive spot.  


This week our guest Kerry Athanassiou, founder of Style Culture shares 5 achievable tips towards change.

Does dressing up at work really matter? Yes it absolutely does. What you wear to work daily or for your next job interview is more important than you think. Why? Whether you like it or not, first impressions do count.

Whether you are seeking a creative job or any corporate career based around a team of people, your appearance is the very first thing that is noticed and judged about you when entering a room. How you dress daily reflects on how you feel about your job and future. Paying attention to detail means you would like to be taken seriously in the job that you do.

Statistics have shown:

33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone.

67% of bosses say that failure to make eye contact is a common nonverbal mistake.

When meeting new people, 55% of the impact comes from the way the person dresses, acts and walks through the door.

65% of bosses indicate that clothes could be a deciding factor between two almost-identical candidates 

Source: The Undercover Recruiter


I recently read in a business review column that: “people will not necessarily make that much of a big deal when you are put together, but they will certainly notice when you are not". On paper you are one amazing intelligent, hardworking individual, but it is the first impression that will make or break the deal and not the super experience you may come with. 

So what do you do to make a strong statement without selling your soul? As a Fashion Stylist, over the years I have had clients of all ages either going for the next promotion or simply they would like to stand out a little more, without looking like the circus has come to town.  Research has revealed that what you wear could affect how you think and even perform.

So let’s start with some simple steps with making small changes to ultimately receive significant difference in our overall day to dress code for work.

1.       Attitude

In many cases it’s not just the clothes that matter. Everything from smiling, eye contact, how you stand or sit, your handshake and even more importantly, obvious displayed tattoos or body piercings may set you back.

2.       The business / company environment

This plays a vital role in how you will dress for work. There is no point in purchasing a suit when you are working for an IT or arts based business, well unless you would like to stand out for all the wrong reasons.

If it is a new company that you are being interviewed for, take a trip in and look around assessing what other future colleagues are wearing. Make sure this is not on a Friday; casual Fridays are interpreted many different ways these days and should not be used as a base for how to dress for work. You may want to call the HR department (should it exist) asking them about the culture around the office. Even when the company is a little relaxed as far as dress code, this is not green light for low cut tops, worn jeans or unkempt hair and nails.

3.       Your current wardrobe

Sadly everything is up for judgement, it is human nature, we all judge to some degree and people in management have an especially trained eye for noticing things most wouldn’t.

If it’s a case of needing to detox, throw away, mix and match your current wardrobe, creating a fresh new look, then it’s time to think about handing over to a professional. A personal stylist is someone that hopefully has had many years of experience working with various body shapes and all ages. A good personal stylist that genuinely cares about your personal image will streamline your wardrobe like an assistant would organise and schedule your week. You can read about it more here if you like. 

Creative professionals sometimes focus on the work and not so much in the daily dress, resurrecting fashion items from 1989 may send the wrong message to your peers that your work has become as aged as the clothes you choose. Ben Stiller created an entire movie on it, funny maybe for a blockbuster movie, but in reality who wants to be laughed at?

Whether you are working in an art studio, design firm, or corporate environment, dressing professional is a must.

4.       Pick your outfits like you would pick your battles

Depending on the industry you are in, don’t go out and invest in pieces that will cost you the earth with no return. What do I mean by no return? If you turned up at Apple or Google wearing a suit, you would stand out like a sore thumb, but a tracksuit wouldn’t exactly go down well in most boardrooms either.

These days fashion giants would have us believe “it’s cheap so buy it and throw it away after the season ends”. By choosing what you wear carefully and investing in quality not quantity with current trends, you will present yourself chic, well put together and even on trend, every time.

Stylist Tip: Clothes that have buttons missing, are pilling or discoloured need to be put aside, donated or thrown away ASAP. There is nothing worse than an energetic vibrant worker that looks tired, scruffy or aged due to the clothes he or she is wearing.  

5.       Personal grooming

Don’t neglect your personal care. You may have a fabulous outfit on but if the greys streaking through the hair needs to be treated and tamed or nails are not clean, it is definitely sending out the wrong message. 

If make up has never been your thing, start with basics. I have always believed in the French inspired “daily basics”.  Remember you want to be noticed for all the right reasons, maybe not appropriate to be wearing purple lipstick if your background is in finance or law, but if you are the artistic type, have fun with colour that complements your skin tone by wearing a statement red lipstick.


Overall dressing the part will not only impress your boss or interviewer, it gives you great confidence in how you personally feel. If you are unsure, play it safe. My feeling has always been it is generally better to be dressed too professional, rather than too casual, particularly if you work in a client-facing environment. Your clothes are there to make a statement about you, let’s ensure that they’re making the right one.  “Dress for the job you want and not for the job you have”.


If you need advice on how to put outfits together or would like to learn more about updating your wardrobe we would love to help. You can contact us here www.styleculture.com.au 

xox Kerry @ StyleCulture.com.au



Posted in: Career Development, Inspiration

<![CDATA[Rejection sucks: how to comeback from missing out on a job]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/rejection-sucks-what-to-comeback-from-missing-out-on-a-job http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/rejection-sucks-what-to-comeback-from-missing-out-on-a-job Sat, 23 Jul 2016 00:00:00 GMT Rejection sucks: how to comeback from missing out on a job.

Missing out on a grant hurts.

Missing out on a job can hurt just as much or even more. It can be really hard if you are coming off a redundancy or end of contract. 

If you are trying to change jobs or take a step up in your career, it is very likely that you will be unsuccessful now and then. Doubly so in the hyper-competitive world of the arts and creative sector.

Here are some steps you can take to triage the hurt and get you back into the job hunt game.

1.       Take it on the chin and don’t blame the other party.  

It is never fun to tell someone they missed out on a role. Blaming someone means you won’t get valuable feedback and just makes the situation worse. I once cried on the phone to a recruiter when I was going through a rough patch 20 years ago. I regret it to this day.

2.       Work out if it is me or you.

If your rejection is a one-off, try again. If it’s recurring (4-5 times) chances are something is missing in either your application or in the “fit” between the roles and your types of experience and level of skills. If you feel relief rather than disappointment when you get a rejection, then you really need to go back to the drawing board.

3.       Step back and ask some questions

Pour yourself a cup of tea and try to take an objective view of the situation. Am I choosing the right roles? How do my skills and experience match? What else can I offer to stand out and add value for an employer? How do I stack up in the competition? Am I a good “fit” for the organisations I am targeting in terms of their size, scope and culture?  

4.       Get some help.

When searching for answers it helps to work with someone you can trust and respect. Ideally this is someone who has knowledge of your sector, but is not competing for the same roles. Get feedback on your application and CV from someone who has experience in recruiting and employing staff. Go beyond your friends and family (who can offer tea and sympathy) and get some honest and thoughtful advice.

5.       Get proactive.

Applying for advertised positions is only part of the game of career change and job hunting. Opinion varies widely, with estimates of up to 50% of roles never being advertised. This is especially true of sections of the arts and creative sectors that rely on quick turnaround and contract workers. You need to be seen and ready to take opportunities. Get out and about. Build your networks. Develop your profile. Be engaged in your sector, including the work of others. Stay curious, generous and grateful. Don’t by sneaky, creepy or sleazy!

Rejection sucks, but being strategic in your job hunt or career change can lessen the chance of missing out on work that will fulfill and satisfy you. 

If you want to get strategic in your job hunting here’s the framework I use to support my career development clients at Albany Lane:

1.       Explore who you are and what you stand for.

Understand what really matters to you beyond job titles and salary packages. What are your dreams, values, motivations? What is your overall mission in life?

2.       Acknowledge your strengths and ambitions.

Be clear on what you have to offer the job market now, and also what you want to develop in the future. Be very clear about what you don’t or no longer want to do.

3.       Develop a menu of strategies to create this change. 

Use your imagination to explore all the options open to you, safe in the knowledge you won’t have to do anything that does not feel right. Investigate the plans that excite, interest or appeal to you most.

4.       Understand the limits of your comfort zone. 

Everyone has their own appetite for change. Stretching too far at once can trigger fear and anxiety, causing fight, flight or freeze reactions, looping you back to feeling stuck. Learn how to interpret the physical and emotional cues that you are going too far or too fast.

5.       Experiment with taking steps just outside your limits.

Nothing changes until you change, so find the step or steps that gets you moving. Then check in, reflect and readjust to keep you going towards your goals.  

6.       Build confidence and resilience through taking action

It is step by strategic step that we build confidence and change our lives. The giant leaps are relatively rare. Staying in action, getting feedback, developing new options will keep you on your path to change.


This framework has supported many people to find a more satisfying way of working in the arts, cultural and creative sectors. It has helped them get “unstuck” from unhelpful ways of thinking and acting to developing and executing career development plans that work for them. 

The first step is to recognise what does not work and that you want to change your current situation. The next is to get some expert support and guidance to keep you moving forward.


Posted in: Career Development, Inspiration, Making change

<![CDATA[Bouncing back from missing out on a grant]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/bouncing-back-from-missing-out-on-a-grant http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/bouncing-back-from-missing-out-on-a-grant Thu, 14 Jul 2016 00:00:00 GMT Missing out on funding or a grant can be frustrating, disappointing and demoralising. However, the reality is that core arts funding budgets are either dropping or static in most areas, so losing out in the grant rounds will probably hit most of us more often then not.  

The good news is that writing your grant application gave you important insights into your organisation which can now be utilised in other ways.

Once you have finished kicking the (metaphorical) cat after missing out on a major grant, ask yourself these questions and use the information from your grant application to move forward.

1. What do I know?

Your finances had to look orderly in that grant application so use that information to ensure they stay there.

Identify the full cost of delivering each element of your program and every project.  Include all overheads (salaries, administration, rent, outgoings etc) as part of your project budget.

If your overheads are more than 30% of your project's budget, accept that you need to revisit your program or your operating costs.

2. Where do I need to change?

Once you know how much every part of your program costs, work out where your funding cut is going to hit most.

What parts of your program will be affected? If your application was for a single project this might be a simple matter of accepting that project won't happen. But if you have missed out on organisational funding you may need to review your total operations. 

In either case, it is a good idea to consider whether instead of just reviewing the parts of your program immediately affected, this is a time to review your whole approach.

3. When will the change hit?

You need to identify not only where the cuts will hit most but when that impact will come.  

Will it hit next year, or have you got enough to keep going for another 6-12 months?

If you need to find new sources of funding, what are the cycles for other grants, funding programs, and/or philanthropic giving?

Do you need to develop a detailed cashflowto see when you need to be planning for change and when to implement?  That will let you know when you need to make decisions and get into action.

4. How can you restructure to fit your new situation?

This is the tricky bit, and there is no one size fits all answer.

You need to decide whether your approach will be to attempt to replace the grant you had hoped for or to cut the program so you can fit within your new funding envelope?

Consider other options for funding; crowd-sourcing, social ventures, workplace giving, fundraising events and actively engaging donors. Is there anything you have not tried? is there anything you could develop further.

Now is a great time to look at a range of scenarios and test them for strengths and weaknesses. Use that imagination and creativity to push your thinking outside standard patterns of thought.  Make time to engage with other parts of the sector, other models, other ideas about how things might be done.  You want to be absolutely sure that you have explored every option before moving on.

5. Why am I doing this?

Finally, when making decisions about how to either re-fill your funding pipeline or restructure your activities altogether, go back and test your findings against your organisation’s mission.  That is the ultimate test about the viability of any project or venture you propose.  If it aligns that’s great – if not, you need to revisit.   And if your mission no longer resonates with you or your stakeholders than you really do need to go back to the drawing board. 

Creative and strategic thinking are needed to build resilient and sustainable arts companies.  Plus, the leadership to make tough decisions and take organisations on journeys of transformation and change.

Try not to do too much at once, take it step by step, and remain optimistic that you will find a way through.  Get support that you need and be generous with others.  It may be hard work but if you believe in your mission than it is worth at least trying to find a way.  

And at the end of the day there is no other answer, it least you know you gave it your best shot.


Judith Bowtell of Albany Lane is an executive coach and consultant that supports individuals to develop their professional careers in the arts, cultural and creative sector and organisations to grow.  

If you want more:

Posted in: Fundraising, Inspiration, Strategic Planning

<![CDATA[Bigger is not always better - the six key risks in growing your organisation]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/bigger-is-not-always-better-the-six-key-risks-in-growing-your-organisation http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/bigger-is-not-always-better-the-six-key-risks-in-growing-your-organisation Fri, 18 Mar 2016 00:00:00 GMT I have yet to meet a CEO who did not want to grow their arts organisation: be it new programming, larger audiences, more participants or increased revenue. 

Ambition is a great thing.  It gets us up in the morning, motivates us and others and, most importantly, allows us to make the sacrifices needed to achieve greater goals.

However, misplaced ambition can have you chasing unrealistic or unproductive goals that put at risk your organisation, your mission and your wellbeing.

Becoming a bigger organisation through increasing revenue, staffing or activity is attractive.  Particularly when you feel like you are working on a shoestring and there is no respite from funding worries and increasing costs.

Being bigger can increase your impact and your position in the market but  there are often hidden costs in growth that may erode the impact and sustainability of your organisation.

Before you lay out that ambitious strategic plan, take a step back and think about what could go wrong.

Outstripping your governance and operational framework

Lots of arts organisations are like beautiful swans up top and ugly madly paddling ducklings underneath. Many times the problem is that there has been no planning for growth, and the systems and framework to support your performances and programs are either not there or no longer suitable. 

Good governance is paramount to guide decision-making and ensure the future sustainability of the organisation. By that I mean clean, clear policies and processes around expenditure, budgeting, employment, contracting etc.  From my experience, it is often the number 1 reason why arts organisations come unstuck. 


This is another common mistake. You get a bunch of new money for a new program, so you bring on new staff.  Then the funding stops but the staff member remains because they have become “essential” to the organisation.  Then they leave and you recruit for the same role because it is “critical”.  However there is no revenue for this role and you now have a cost to the organisation that you may not be able to sustain. 

Make sure all recruitment is scrutinised by CEO (and board if you are in or at risk of a deficit) and that you are getting the skills you need now for the work you have ahead. Have your managers make a written business case as to what value this role will bring to the organisation in terms of costs saved, risks managed or revenue raised. Realise that each extra staff member costs the company not just their salary, but approx.. 20-30% more in on costs plus at least 10-20% of managers’ time.

If you are already managing more than two or three people, think carefully if you need more staff or if some external contractors could not do the work quicker, better and without needing the time, energy and input that a responsible manager should be giving their staff.

Increasing non-productive work

Unless you have the governance and staff issues well under control, growing is likely to mean the CEO and leadership team end up with a lot of unproductive work in extra meetings and staff management responsibilities. Without an effective governance framework, you can spend too much time working out how to do things that could be systematised.  Every extra staff member requires management, development, general care and attention.

If you find yourself managing too much administrative trivia and spending too much time in internal meetings, you need to go back and address points 1 and 2.

Losing focus and relevance

Even if you are managing the three points above, you can still be at risk of losing your place in the market if your offerings become too divergent and diverse.  If you find you have a hard time making a succinct and coherent narrative around your offerings (i.e. you can longer simply say what you do and why you exist) than you may have got too big.  There are no wins in being all things to all people.  It is much better to be knowing for what you do by the people to whom you matter.  

Missing strategic opportunities

Not having focus means you can become more easily distracted by “noise” around you of everyone else’s activity and not able to see clearly the opportunities that are best going to move your organisation forward.  If you have too many options on the table, it is harder to see which will best contribute to your organisation’s mission and artistic program. If you feel overwhelmed by the options out there, take a step back and ask yourself what you want to be known for in five years’ time.  Then drop anything that does not resonate.

Slowing everything down

Every time you grow and become a more complex organisation, you risk slowing everything down.  More people means more time to make and implement decisions.  Getting bigger can mean losing your agility to respond to opportunities in a timely manner.  Being slow can cost you more money and absorb unnecessary resources. 

Posted in: Inspiration, Leadership, Strategic Planning

<![CDATA[Facing an uncertain future in your career]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/facing-an-uncertain-future-in-your-career http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/facing-an-uncertain-future-in-your-career Sun, 17 Jan 2016 00:00:00 GMT Budget cuts and restructures are part of the landscape today, especially in the arts and creative sectors where cuts to arts companies and funding programs is an almost daily occurrence. 

A week ago  the  Australia Council announced 14 retrenchments.  It is is a reminder that anyone can be effected by decisions over which they have little control.

This week 10 youth arts companies face an uncertain future, Screen Australia has to deal with more cuts, as do the national cultural collecting institutions

Today, the NSW Government announced mergers in local councils, which could impact the work of cultural development staff, and arts professionals working in local and regional cultural venues: museums, galleries and performing arts centres.  There may be even more cuts to programs from these decisions too. 

The uncertainty is far from over. When the outcomes of organisation funding decisions are known in April, more organisations may need to consider staff cuts.

I have been through this situation myself a couple of times. The merger to form Screen Australia in 2008 and a restructure at Arts NSW in 2012 impacted me at two different times in my career. Those experiences and my work now supporting others through career changes has given me a few key insights to help you if directly or indirectly impacted by funding cuts at work.

  • Recognise what you can control and what you cannot:

When decisions come down from Canberra (or your state or local equivalent), there is not much you can do.  Policy and funding decisions are made in an environment that may be political but are rarely personal.  It is very unlikely that you could have influenced the decision.Sometimes things just happen and we have to accept them and move on.  If you think otherwise, that way madness lies.

  • Give yourself some space for your emotions:

No matter how philosophical you are, you will feel hurt or upset when your job is threatened or taken away.  When decisions are made that threaten your sense of self and your security, it is human (or even animal) nature to react.  Allow yourself to feel whatever is there, without trying to change, fix or analyse it.  Just give it space to be and experience the sensation of sadness, anger or fear.  If it feels overwhelming, seek support. 

  • Start planning now for an unknown future:

Even if you are not directly affected by funding cuts, our futures are uncertain.  That is just part of contemporary working life no matter what industry or sector.  Treat yourself and your career with respect, and do some regular maintenance of your CV, networks and profile in your sector.  Take on projects that develop new skills or challenge you, expand your repertoire, become a known expert or find a mentor or sponsor.  These are all small strategic steps that put you in the driver’s seat of your working life and can be done right now.

  • Give up feeling guilty, playing small or knocking back opportunities

At the end of the day the truth is that no one is responsible for your career development, job security and financial future: not your employer, colleagues, the board or government.  Even if you love your current role, it is an act of self-care and maturity to give yourself the best opportunity to be seen by other prospective employers and supporters.  That does not mean acting unethically, but it does mean working strategically to make the most of and create opportunities right now in your working life.  Many roles are never advertised so you are cutting yourself out of the market for some great chances if you don’t get yourself seen and heard.

  •  Get support and professional guidance

It is rare in arts organisations to have resources for outplacement and career transition that you might find in the corporate or government sectors.  However, getting a professional coach or counsellor that specialises in career change is one of the best investments you can make.

I first saw a career coach when faced with the Screen Australia merger, and could see that the role I had loved for six years was going to disappear.  At the time I was exhausted, angry, disappointed in myself and others, plus overwhelmed by all I had to do before we merged. Having a career coach (which I booked and paid for myself) gave me a safe space to explore all my options, and create a plan and actions in line with the direction I wanted to go. It gave me confidence to take some risks and step outside my comfort zone, without feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  The result was I took on projects where I was more visible to more people, got seen, and was eventually offered a great role with a fantastic team, that played to my strengths.  I never applied for a job. Instead I was able to negotiate a role that met most of my wants and needs. That is the difference of having someone on your side – not a friend, partner or colleague – but an objective and committed coach.

  • Book yourself some “worry” time to fixate on the future

It might seem counter-intuitive, but give yourself a date and time where you can worry about your current position and the future.  Maybe do it with friends or colleagues.  Really indulge in imagining all the worst case scenarios of joblessness, poverty, homelessness.  Get right into it for a little bit.  Don’t hold back.  And then when you have exhausted all the options to worry or time is up, stop.  Repeat if necessary but keep to a set time limit.  Knowing that you can worry as much as you like at a designated time can keep the fears and anxiety creeping in when it is not wanted.  It can also be a bit of fun.  

We live in uncertain times, and no one is ever immune to sudden and confronting changes in their working lives.  Take some time and space NOW to put yourself in a position to succeed no matter what your circumstances, and stay on the front foot in your career.

More information: Create your next career step workshop, 13 February, NSW

Judith Bowtell of Albany Lane is an executive coach offering workshops, mentoring and coaching to individuals and organisations in the arts. Her background includes more than 20 years experience in arts strategy and policy, in funding and cultural agencies, as well as leading small arts organisations.

If you want to find that strategic space in your working life:contact@albanylane.com.au

Posted in: Career Development, Decision Making, Inspiration

<![CDATA[Funding cuts - stay calm and prepare for change]]> http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/funding-cuts-stay-calm-and-prepare-for-change http://www.albanylane.com.au/blog/post/funding-cuts-stay-calm-and-prepare-for-change Sun, 10 Jan 2016 00:00:00 GMT This year nearly every small to mid-size arts company will be impacted by the decisions being made by the Australia Council and other funding bodies around organisation and project funding.

Last year we heard of numerous companies closing or winding back operations. Despite partial backflips by Minister Fifield (backflip with a half pike?) there is still a greatly reduced pot of funds to go around.

These decisions impact the entire arts ecology, from the SMEs to the majors, as well as individual artists. Any contraction in production puts pressure on all points of the sector. If you are working or aspiring to work as an arts professional you will be effected.

There is little to be gained from general anxiety or panic, but if you are in a leadership role you need to acknowledge, understand and communicate the reality of the situation.

There are some critical actions you can do now (that is before any external funding decisions are made) that will put your organisation in much better shape for dealing with changes as they come.

Firstly, if you are facing a real or potential significant drop in funding, you need to step up and accept this reality. Now is an opportunity to act as a leader not just a manager, by responding courageously and creatively to change, and taking responsibility for the outcome. It is time to stop being a victim to circumstance and get your head and those around you out of sand.

It is time to step up and bring about some fundamental change in your company for a better future.

  1. Forget business as usual. The world has changed and anyone in your team from your board to your artistic and management staff that argues differently is no longer your greatest asset.  Don’t scare the horses, but if you are in a leadership role make it clear that you are expecting your team to be aware and responsive to the changed environment.  That includes not assuming that all current and future commitments can be met.  See point 2 and 3.
  2. Review your delegations. Working in government I saw lots of arts organisations come unstuck, posting continuous deficits and struggling to turn things around.  More often than not there was an issue in the governance of the organisation: that is clear processes to manage the “who, what, why and how” of decision-making, especially around expenditure and forward commitments. The single most useful thing you can do now for your own sake, as well as your staff and board, is review your delegation policy. If you have or are likely to be posting a deficit, you may need to wind delegations back to board or CEO level, so that major or long-term commitments (especially staffing) are properly scrutinised. 
  3. Review your financial position or budget. Get on top of your figures. THIS WEEK. No excuses. Just do it. Don’t rely on your accountant or finance manager (if you have them). As CEO (Chair or board member) you are responsible and you need to know what you have, what you are committed to spend, and what you are realistically going to earn.
  4. Throw out your strategic or business plan. The environment for arts production in Australia has fundamentally changed and will continue to change over the next few years.  If you have a business or strategic plan that is more than six months old, you can pretty much throw it in the bin and start again.  That might sound harsh, but if your plan was made any time before mid to late-2015, than it was based on different assumptions about the funding market and operating environment. Working off that plan will risks bringing you unstuck.  
  5. Assume you will be unfunded. For your own sanity and the future of your organisation. You may not be, but your operating model should assume no significant government funding in the long-term.  That way you will have a business model that allow you to be (almost) independent of government-funding if need be. 
  6. Repurpose all government funding as a limited-term strategic investment. If you do get an organisation grant this year, congratulations, but assume it is the last you will ever see.  Plan to use it as you would an angel investor or similar.  That is as resources to develop your current or new business opportunities so that they can operate without ongoing government funding.  If you think of all funds as a one-off grant, you will be less tempted to use the funds to increase the scale of your operation beyond what is feasible long-term.
  7. Revise your business model to drive revenue, not just manage costs. The best use you can make of any organisation funding at the moment is to unpack and review your business model and budget with fresh eyes and no assumptions.  That means looking at all your activity in terms of its potential revenue, market position, cost to deliver and operational risk.  That way you can see where you need to invest resources strategically to grow the high potential parts of your program, which deliver on your mission and artistic vision. You can also see what needs to be cut. 
  8. Remember it’s never just about you. If you are running a not-for-profit you are custodian of a vision, which is more than you, your staff or board. Your intention must always be to leave a legacy so that the mission will continue, for as long as your community has need.  If you are stuck in the struggle at the moment, step back and ask yourself this question – who are we doing all this work for?  Then give yourself some time and space to let the question sit there and see what comes up. It might be that your community has moved on or newer products and services are meeting changed needs. If you are no longer relevant, as seen in response to your funding requests and income-raising, then start preparing to let go. 


If you want some support and advice on how to prepare and respond to changes in the funding environment, including reviewing your business model and strategic plan, contact us for some no obligation ideas on what to do next (contact@albanylane.com.au).

Judith Bowtell of Albany Lane is an executive coach offering workshops, mentoring and coaching to individuals and organisations in the arts. Her background includes more than 20 years experience in arts strategy and policy, in funding and cultural agencies, as well as leading small arts organisations.

Posted in: Fundraising, Inspiration, Leadership, Leading in crisis, Making change, Strategic Planning