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A myth or an achievable reality?



The Oscars came and went this week in a blur of glitz, glamour and political statements. While politics and the Oscars are a more unusual pairing, this year politics was as prominent a theme as the off-white frock, with actress Patricia Arquette’s politically charged acceptance speech a particular highlight.

During her speech, Arquette drew uproarious applause from the audience for her plea for equal rights for women in the United States of America: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America”.

While her comments (especially those made backstage after Arquette’s speech) have come under scrutiny from particular members of the public, it cannot be denied that her speech and the resulting media attention surrounding it, has ignited the gender equality debate.

Some have argued that Patricia’s speech was unnecessary. Fellow actress and conservative pundit, Stacey Dash was quoted saying “I didn’t get the memo that I don’t have any rights”. Furthermore, American author and social commentator Suzanne Venker, argued the issue of gender equality in itself is pointless. “The problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable – meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications.

But being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.

This doesn’t mean that men can’t take care of babies […]

What Makes A Good Leader?


We all know how difficult it can be to lead; to lead a business, lead a sports team and thanks to recent media scrutiny, lead a country.

As the media paint the picture of instability and speculate who will be our prime minister in 6 months you can’t help but wonder… if our country’s key politicians are facing difficulty with leadership within their own party, what hope do the rest of us have in leading successfully?

While leading a country arguably relies on greater resources than leading any sort of team, it can be argued that a great leader requires fundamental principles and qualities that remain constant no matter what situation you’re in; leading a country, a sports team or even your work team.

One of these fundamental principles is Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI is an umbrella term coined by David Goleman in his ground-breaking work of the same name. It encompasses many tried and proven ways of improving human relations. It’s revolutionary because EI’s structure provides a simple, natural understanding of complex human issues. It also provides a pathway to skills that can enhance the way you live, love, play and most importantly work with other people.

Emotional Intelligence is a crucial element in achieving great leadership because leadership is all about human relationships and consequently anything that improves relationships will enhance leadership. EI has proven itself not only in enhanced work relationships but with a direct flow on effect to the bottom line.

EI includes five interlocking elements. It starts with Self-awareness, the old Greek advice of ‘Know Thyself’. The rationale here is if you don’t know yourself, you will not know the effect you are having on those around you. For example, if you don’t realize […]

Valentines Day Blog:

Here at VM Learning we often talk about developing the H.E.A.R.T of your business and many of our clients may be wondering what H.E.A.R.T has to do with a training and development company. In the wake of Valentine’s Day, we thought now would be a fitting time to discuss why matters of the heart are so integral not just to VM Learning but to any healthy organisation.

Literally, the acronym H.E.A.R.T refers to the values of Honesty, Empathy, Acceptance, Respect and

Trust. Symbolically, it represents all that gives life and maintains rhythm, warmth, circulation, connection and unity. Bringing the two together, we believe that these values are what determine the health of any organisation; the ability to have an open flow of communication, to have genuine encouragement, support and acceptance within the work team and to have all aspects of the system flourish with fresh ideas and inspired action.

The concept  developing the H.E.A.R.T of your business was first coined over 25 years ago, when we first started to deliver dynamic training and development programs to individuals and corporate organisations. During these 25 years VM have focused on highlighting the importance of combining H.E.A.R.T with intelligence and technical skill within an organisation, as studies have show

n that these key concepts help to motivate employees and further their engagement within the company.

For example, a British research company conducting studies in workplace

happiness from 2002 to 2009 found that employees that trusted their executives and colleagues were 50% more likely to be engaged with their work than those that didn’t feel they trusted their colleagues.  Within this same study 63% of participants who didn’t feel respected claimed they would leave their organisation within two years.

These are important statistics as employee […]

The Flames of Conflict




With the New Year, there often comes an opportunity to approach processes in a new and fresh way, especially within organisations. However this change and the excessive workload that stems from this change, can result in an increased number of ‘conflict bushfires’.

The VM Group is regularly invited into organisations where these conflict bushfires are raging or are just about to spark.  Consequently, we thought we would share with you some of the basic insights and strategies an organisation can put in place in order to transform their conflict into cooperation.

As we all know, prevention is always better than a cure and we encourage developing preventative strategies rather than reactive ones, so that organizations can divert resources away from firefighting and focus their time and energy on more important business goals.

Our main message is that, while conflict is a fact of life, it need not be a way of life. Conflict is inevitable in the context of diversity.  We all have our own goals, values, approaches, and personalities which can often be completely at odds with our colleague’s values, approaches, personalities or even perceptions of ‘the facts’.  It is these differences that inevitably lead to conflict. Subsequently we need to know how to deal with conflict and use it constructively.

Conflict tends to follow a downward spiral through five stages:

Stage 1 Accusations and Threats

Stage 2 Expansion

Stage 3 Generalisation to the entire relationship

Stage 4 Plan and plot

Stage 5 Spread

During the downward spiral of conflict, psychological changes happen. We start to use selective perception—we see only the `bad’ in the other person and are blind to the ‘good’.  We generate a self-fulfilling prophecy; we are usually not treating the other person very well (e.g. we might be approaching […]

Sexist? Who, Me?


Over the last four years or so, a research tool has been capturing the attention of not only social psychologists, but a significant portion of the general public. This tool can assess how closely people’s brains link concepts such as items like “black and bad” or “women and passive” and can consequently reveal subtle forms of discrimination amongst participants.

It’s called the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and focuses on how closely and quickly our brains can link or categorise various words and images. The idea is that most of us identify words and images more rapidly, when they come from closely related categories than when they come from un-related categories. For instance, if you associate librarians with intelligence and boxers with violence, you can probably tell in a split-second that synonyms for intelligence like ‘smart’ and ‘brainy’ relate to the dual category ‘librarians or intelligence’ and synonyms for violence like ‘aggression and hostility’ relate to the dual category “boxers or violence”.

Many social psychologists believe that these cognitive associations lead to “implicit bias” (the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding) which can then lead to subtle forms of discrimination.

In the case of sexual discrimination or gender bias, recent research in America using IAT tests revealed that gender bias was present and furthermore influenced aspects like voting and female leadership within the workforce. Students at Stanford University who lead the study found that when participants followed instructions to sort images rapidly, the average person found it easier to pair words like “president”, governor” and “executive” with male names and words like “ secretary”, “assistant” and “aide” with female names. This finding indicated that these participants had a lot more difficulty associating women with leadership.

The students argued […]