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Empathy: The fundamental skill for connecting with others

Empathy is often described as the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person. Some people argue that as much as we try to do this, it can be a challenge if you have never had a similar experience. Certainly this is a valid comment but like any other aspect of effective communication it is possible to learn the skills of empathy if truly committed. We all have imagination and the ability to listen and depending on your intention it is possible to understand another person’s situation – their perspectives, emotions, actions (reactions) – and communicate this to the person.

Empathy is an Emotional Intelligence (EI) competency. In the field of Emotional Intelligence, Goldman’s original framework consisted of five dimensions:

Self- Regulation
Relationship Management

Why bother developing Empathy?
Empathy is critical for leadership
Research has shown that what employees want is to feel like their manager listens to them. When leaders really listen, using empathy to understand what the person is thinking or feeling without trying to offer solutions or strategies to solve their problem this is when people feel valued. Empathy creates safety and when people are free to be themselves, they are much more likely to be motivated and productive.

Empathy enables shared team learning
Without empathy, people tend to go about life focused on what is happening for them. Without empathy, team learning is simply not possible. Each of us has differing perspectives and if we cannot move from our own perspective, we fail to truly learn and to share. Without taking a moment to listen, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. This often leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale and even divorce. People do not feel heard and importantly not […]

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence has been described as ‘consciously integrating feeling, thought and action to create choice in relationships with self and others’ (Source: Six Seconds). In essence, what we say to ourselves (our self-talk or beliefs) and about others determines our reality.  By becoming more aware of our thinking and disputing potentially destructive/negative thoughts can result in us feeling differently. This awareness can certainly assist us in achieving our true potential.  Howard Gardner, a respected leader in the field of emotional intelligence (EQ, as opposed to IQ – the traditional measure of intelligence) from the Harvard Business School identifies self-awareness as a crucial element of emotional intelligence.
Research has shown that by increasing someone’s awareness, bringing it into a new focus and breaking out of old patterns, you can even alter aging!  This phenomenon was brilliantly demonstrated in 1979 by psychologist Ellen Langer and her team at Harvard, who effectively reversed the biological age of a group of old men by a simple but ingenious shift in awareness.  The men, all aged 75 or older in good health were asked to meet for a weeks’ retreat at a country resort.  They knew in advance that they would be given a battery of physical and mental exams, but in addition one unusual stipulation was placed upon them: they were not allowed to bring any newspapers, magazines, books or family photos dated later than 1959.

The purpose of this odd request became clear when they arrived – the resort had been set up to duplicate life as it was twenty years earlier.  Instead of magazines from 1979, the reading tables held issues of ‘Life’ and the ‘Saturday Evening Post’ from 1959.  The only music played was twenty years old, […]

Women in the World

Meryl Streep’s Tribute to Hilary Clinton
We thought we’d round out 2013 with an uplifting piece. Take some time to watch this wonderful video of Meryl Streep’s tribute to Hilary Clinton. Such an inspiring, uplifting speech for women all around the world.

Women As Leaders


Today more than ever, organisational success depends on leveraging diversity of leadership: to harness talent, improve the quality of decision-making, provide inspiration, role modelling and real change.

In spite of progress made by women in management particularly in frontline roles, recent statistical revelations about the status of women and work is concerning. In general, the advancement of women is sadly lacking and Australia continues to be under-represented particularly in the upper levels. Furthermore the gap between male and female wages is widening according to  the latest workplace survey figures. Currently the average full time wage for a women is about 82 cents for every dollar earned  by a man in a fulltime job.

Part of the reason for this widening pay gap is that in  virtually all sectors, Australian women are under-represented in leadership positions.

The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) 2012 Census of Women in Leadership shows that women only hold 9.2% of executive roles in ASX500 companies. Furthermore, only 12 ASX500 companies have female CEOs. The EOWA has been collecting data since 2002 on workplace leadership and sadly it is evident there has been minimal improvement in gender disparity.

Unless systemic change in gender diversity in leadership is achieved, there is little chance of the disparity improving on its own. Much has been written about the evident need for substantive gender equality and yet progress is slow. Given the current gender bias women are employed in roles where their productivity is simply not maximised.

Furthermore, women lead differently and research shows that women bring characteristics and capabilities that address many of the leadership challenges that organisations currently face.

The Women as Leaders program was first delivered on behalf of the Commonwealth Regional Directors in 1994. It has provided a platform for many thousands of women to access management and leadership positions. Delivered […]

Finding the Right System for your Training Management Needs

Ready to take the next step in purchasing a new management system to streamline your training business? Before diving into the endless sea of options, you should first determine what features are necessary for your RTO’s success – in other words, the ‘must-haves’.

LMS, SMS or TMS? By the time you start building a list of potential products, you should already be well aware of the difference between these three system types and the functions each can offer your business.

Most commercial products on the market are actually a hybrid of two or more systems, compiling the most ‘in-demand’ industry functions into one multipurpose solution. However, what might be important to another training business might not be necessary for yours, so when considering pre-packaged options, make sure that your ‘must-haves’ are included. This is where things get tricky, because it can be hard to find a truly end-to-end solution with everything you could ever want or need. With that being said, it doesn’t mean you should make sacrifices, even if you have to be the Goldilocks of management systems until you find the one that’s ‘just right’.

Many software companies offer customisable products where you can pick and choose which functions you need/like from all three systems. Custom work is often more expensive though, so make sure you put the ‘must-haves’ absolutely first, saving the ‘nice-to-haves’ for whatever is left-over from your budget.

Never settle on a product based solely on a cheap quote! Compromising for the sake of your bank account will ultimately come back to haunt you in the long run when you discover that the system cannot handle all the tasks you require of it.

Your management system should be a means to renovate and improve your overall business model; […]

Women’s Leadership Program – Brisbane 2014

Women’s Leadership Program Brisbane – 2014

Within a rapidly changing world of work, age-old and emerging challenges faced by women are compounded by increasing competition, new pressures and changing priorities. There has been a gradual emergence and recognition of the need for a more holistic approach to leadership, one that incorporates the unique qualities and talents that women contribute.

Individually and collectively, women make a valuable, and often extraordinary, contribution to all levels of social and economic life.  However current research still identifies that the talent of women in Australia remains significantly underutilised.

VM learning has offered Women’s leadership programs since 1994 to more than 4000 women. The Women as Leaders program provides women with enhanced skills and tools necessary to manage in today’s contemporary workplace.
Program Coming February 2014!

Who Should Attend?

For women considering a management career, new supervisors or for any woman wanting to gain a deeper understanding of contemporary leadership practices, increase their self-awareness, enhance their self-esteem, or develop a greater sense of life direction.


Don’t miss out on this wonderful, empowering opportunity! Email now for more information 


This year we were fortunate to participate in FAHSCIA’s delivery of professional development, rolled out across NSW to 200 staff and volunteers working with people in crisis. The forums focused on sustainable Emergency Relief service delivery and provided participants an opportunity to practice important skills. Responding to the needs of Emergency Relief clients, managing emotional and difficult clients, and maintaining healthy mindsets in high stress work environments were key areas of focus.

It was a wonderful experience working with such dedicated and generous individuals who give so much to those most in need.

In the other area of our business, we are delighted to announce that our web-based training management system, aXcelerate is going gangbusters! We’d like to take the opportunity to welcome our new clients this year including:

ACAT, Aboriginal Health Council of SA, Accell, ACT Training, Active Training Services, Adapt Education, All Saints Anglican School, Amina Academy, ASC Training and Development, AT Group, Trust Asthma Foundation of WA, Australian Business & Retail Academy Queensland, Australian Business Leadership Training, Australian College of Beauty Therapy, WA Australian College of Massage, Australian College of Mining, Australian Dance Institute, Bannister Technical, BPG Training, Think Real Estate, Camden Haven Community College, Concern Australia, Learning Alliance, Coffs Coast Community College, Culturally Make a Difference, Evolve College, Executive Excellence, Fitec Australia, Flinders International College, Get Skilled Training, Gold Coast School of Beauty, HSE Plus, IRT, Industry Pathways, Integracom Management Group, LGASA, Mayfield Education, New Horizons Safety & Training Services, Odyssey House PCYC NSW, Port Macquarie Community College, Prestige Service Training, Quality Education Services & Training, National Training Solutions Queensland, Master Builders Association, Ramsdens Communications, Regal Security & Industry Training, Resources Risk Solutions, Rhodes Group Australia, Richards Mining Services, Safety & First Aid, […]

VM’s Journey

VM Learning will soon be celebrating its 25th birthday. Where did the time go?! The VM Group began in 1989 with a six-month mentoring program for Indigenous youth at risk. It was a unique program exposing participants to a variety of activities from filmmaking to dance. Many participants credited the program with sparking their interest in these areas, a large number of who moved onto study and work in associated fields. It was certainly one of the most meaningful projects that we have had the pleasure of being involved with.

VM quickly grew to become a major player in the VET market, offering many accredited programs, including the first Certificate IV in Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Enterprise, to 40 communities across Australia. I have so many fond memories from this time. It felt like every week we’d be off to a new destination. Packing my bags before a trip, I’d often find myself humming the tune “I’ve been everywhere man”, by Lucky Star. An oldie but a goldy!
Corporate Professional Development & aXcelerate
In the 90s, VM started delivering transformational leadership programs to corporations around Australia. These programs were considered ahead of their time and were based on Australian and US research in the fields of Neuropsychology and Emotional Intelligence. These programs have been and remain the hallmark of VM Learning.

One of our other flagship projects, The Women as Leaders Program has been delivered nationally to over 4000 women including hundreds of Indigenous women. Since its inception in 1994 the program has been honoured with numerous awards, the most recent of which being the 2013 ACLW International Women’s Day Award and the 2013 Sustaining Women’s Empowerment in Communities and the Organisations Award (Gold Winner).

Now an established leader […]

How Important is Trust?

Stephen Covey made the comment that “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” He has also stated in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that trust is the highest form of human motivation.

While trustworthiness is undoubtedly a key trait of effective leaders, it is also the most fragile.

There are some obvious ways in which leaders abuse trust like betraying a confidence, taking ownership for work completed by others, operating in a less than transparent manner.

Trust can also be eroded slowly if team members perceive a discrepancy between a leader’s words and actions. If a leader makes a commitment for the future, employees will rightfully expect them to make good on it.

Consistency as a leader is imperative in building trust. Any change to workplace procedure or strategy needs to be communicated and implemented in a systematic and clear manner. This will work to waylay employee anxiety and gain commitment to the new direction.

10 Ways Effective Leaders Build Trust
(Nan S. Russell in Trust: The New Workplace Currency).

Here are 10 ways effective leaders, with or without titles, foster authentic trust at work. How many apply to you?

1. Leaders are good at what they do. Leading by example is a great way to earn the respect and trust of team members. If you perform your job efficiently and effectively, it builds trust in your performance as a leader.

2. Leaders are passionate about their work. Passion isn’t about cheerleading, platitudes, or faux enthusiasm. It comes from an inner desire, determination, and drive to get the job done, and get it done well. For many, it’s about making a difference or contributing […]

Talking about women leaders, we have met a quite a few in recent times!

We have been fortunate to provide learning for members of community and charitable organisations who provide emergency assistance on behalf of Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Many of the women attending our training work in very small offices with few resources and yet do a fantastic job in assisting people in financial emergencies to deal with their immediate crisis situation. These are women who lead.  They may not see themselves as leaders, but they support, nurture, influence, mentor and are committed to what they do; providing a service in a way that maintains the dignity of the individual and encourages self reliance.  That’s leadership to me!

The Emergency Relief services are an important gateway to other services and supports that can help people deal with more complex issues, including issues that have contributed to, or are a consequence of, financial stress. For example, Emergency Relief organisations also refer people to services such as financial counselling, financial literacy programs, drug and alcohol support, crisis accommodation, mental health and family support.

Training has been delivered throughout NSW and has just kicked off for Queensland. Our learning and development programs cover key communication, conflict management, emotional intelligence and compassion fatigue. This project has been a learning partnership and our consultants have found this a highly worthwhile and meaningful experience.