Girls, Are You Flexing Your Confidence Muscle?


I was in Sydney over the weekend and after attending some meetings, I was killing some time shopping (yes I know one of my favourite past times). I went into the Gap and was wandering through looking at the clothes and because a close friend has just announced his wife is having a baby, I decided to look at the kids clothes. My kids have all got too big for me to buy in this section, so it was a bit of a treat to look at all the cute baby and toddler clothes.

I stopped in my tracks when I saw this great T-Shirt for a little girl in a cute baby pink. But what got me was the quote emblazoned across the front. It said:



Not 2 weeks before, I had been listening to Amy Cuddy (Social Psychologist at Harvard Business School) speak about Presence. It made me feel very inspired to see that finally here was a girl’s T-Shirt that didn’t have a fairy or a princess on the front, but had a much stronger message (even if it was still in baby pink).

Research has identified that when girls and boys aged 6 are shown a unisex doll posed in a powerful position they will identify this as a male doll. And boys and girls shown a unisex doll in a submissive pose will identify it as a girl. We need to teach our girls to stand strong and tall. We need to teach them that you don’t have to be small and submissive to fit in. We need to teach our girls to stand more like superheros. We need to teach them that when you stand tall and with confidence, you actually draw people toward you naturally.

We need to teach our girls this, but we also need to remind us big girls how important confidence is as well. Are we as women, flexing our confidence muscles enough?

One of the 4Cs of Mental Toughness is Confidence (alongside Control, Commitment and Challenge). The Confidence C defines the extent to which you have self-belief, self-confidence, confidence in your own abilities as well as interpersonal confidence.

Do you have belief in your own abilities?

Can you influence others, especially during conflict and challenge?

Do you have inner strength and stand your ground during challenges?

Consider a few questions to be asking yourself which can raise your opportunity to flex your confidence muscle a lot more often:

·        Am I aware of my strengths?

·        Am I using my strengths everyday?

·        What is standing in my way?

·        What are my options?

·        How can I……?

·        Who can help me?

·        Do I act like I mean it?

·        Do I visualise the outcome I want to achieve?

·        Do I just take action?

Just a hint, if you want to focus on flexing your confidence muscle, don’t ask yourself “Why” questions, they only bog you down and keep you “below the line” and focus on reasons why you can’t. Focus on the “how”, “what”, “who” and “where” questions and you are on your way to staying focused on solutions.

And remember one of my favourite Amy Cuddy quotes:

“Stop focusing on the impression you are having on others.

Start focusing on the impression you are having on yourself”

Want to know more about increasing building your confidence muscle? Send me an email at to enquire about coaching to build your self-confidence and your interpersonal confidence.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or





Is asking the question RUOK Enough?

Funny animal is a white horse laughing his funny face off.

There has been a lot of publicity lately around the new catch phrase to assist you to ask someone close to you whether they are experiencing poor mental health. Asking people we care about the RUOK question is a great first step. But does it go far enough, especially when you use the question literally and don’t ask any additional questions. Does asking RUOK really equip you to feel confident to manage and handle all the potential reactions that you may get from asking this question?

Unfortunately the response to the RUOK question I hear most often from people approached is this… “I’m fine”.

Interestingly, someone who is actually “fine” doesn’t use the response “I’m fine” to describe how they feel. They use expressions like “fine thanks” or “not bad” or “I’m doin’ ok”.

When I hear someone using the expression “I’m fine”, I usually think of the acronym for fine – F.I.N.E – Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. So when someone says to me “I’m fine”, what I interpret this to mean is “I feel like my life is out of control and I am freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional”. This is my signal to test the “I’m fine” response and drill a bit deeper.

So how do we get past the “I’m fine” response and really feel confident to ask someone we care about at home or at work how they really are and feel confident to offer support and assistance?

  • Ask open questions.

The problem with RUOK is that it is in fact a closed question. We can answer this question with a yes or no answer. It is much more engaging to ask open questions where you have the opportunity to start a conversation and explore how a person is thinking and feeling.

  • “How have you been lately? What’s been happening?”
  • “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately – I’ve noticed……(give some feedback on what you have observed in their appearance, behaviour etc) Is there something you’d like to talk about?”
  • “What’s going on for you at the moment?
  • “Tell me what’s happening for you at the moment?”
  • “How are you going? Would you like to chat about anything?”
  • “I’d love to buy you a coffee and talk about how things are going for you and how you’re managing all the things on your plate”
  • “You look like you might be struggling a bit, can I lend an ear and talk it through with you?”

Be open, be encouraging and be honest. If someone is ready to talk they will usually be thankful that someone noticed they were struggling.

  • Just listen.

Once you have asked an initial question to initiate a conversation, just let the other person speak. If there is a silent pause, don’t try and fill it with more personal insights and advice. An expression used by coaches is to “hold the space”. Let the other person know you will not talk over them, or try to fill awkward silences; you just want to hear from them.

Your goal at this stage is not to give advice, and to be quite honest a person is less likely to take any advice you give if they don’t feel you understand their problem in the first place. So before you can get to offer any support, you have to let a person have “verbal diarrhoea” (as my mum used to say). You have to have empathy (and remember empathy= understanding).


  • Listening without judgement (about the person or the situation).
  • You do not want to listen to respond.
  • You do not want to listen to give advice.
  • You do not want to rush them.
  • Consider your body language – what does it say about your attentiveness?
  • Don’t try to fix their problems.
  • Don’t talk about your own problems or draw similarities with your experiences.
  • Don’t say “you just need to harden up”, “You’re worrying about nothing” “You’ll be fine”.


  • What If You Lead The Horse To Water and It Won’t Drink?

Sometimes a person is basically not ready to talk to you yet. Your goal then is to lay out a trough of the most sparkling, crystal clear water you can possibly offer and then gently reinforce the offer over frequent (but not annoying) intervals.

You could try and find out if there are any reasons they don’t feel like talking. You could ask whether they would feel more comfortable talking to another person and whether you could push that person their way. Just let the person know that you are prepared to talk whenever they are ready. Ask permission to just check back in on them in a day or so. Let someone just know that you are thinking of them.

(Be conscious though, that if the situation moves toward crisis point, stronger intervention may be required.)


This is just the beginning. Feeling confident to recognise warning signs, approach people with confidence and know how to initiate a conversation are all valuable tools we all need when taking mutual responsibility to promote good mental health in our communities and workplaces.

Want to know more about Mental Health Awareness and Managing Conversations training for your workplace. Send me an email at to enquire about training to build confidence and work place capability in both leaders and staff.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or


Recruiting Staff To Manage challenges.

Skills Intelligence Job Occupation Recruitment ConceptHave you noticed that often it is not the most talented staff that are the most successful in a work place? These days we are considering soft skills, in particular emotional intelligence when we recruit new staff. But in the current VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) landscape, are we also considering recruitment of staff with awareness of whether they have a fixed or a growth mindset? Are we considering whether they have resilience and Mental Toughness so as to to be able to manage change and have the confidence to manage their emotions and thrive in this dynamic landscape?

Organisations now need to consider recruitment of staff for their positive mindset, their commitment and determination to enable them to push through the roller-coaster ride of change and challenges and achieve sustained success. Many staff often succeed because they are Mentally Tough.

What is Mental Toughness? Mental Toughness isn’t being macho or uncaring or self-centred – it’s about being tough in the sense of developing resilience and confidence – both of which are key ingredients for success in any workplace.

Mental Toughness is a mindset that describes your default response when faced with stress, pressures or challenges, irrespective of the prevailing circumstances. This mindset makes a significant impact on your performance, positive behaviour and personal wellbeing.

On the other hand, mental sensitivity (the other end of the scale to Mental Toughness) can leave staff open to self-doubt and frailty in the face of the same stress, pressures, challenges or difficult circumstances.

Research has identified that Mental Toughness consists of four components, the 4Cs of:

Control – having a sense of self-worth and feeling in control of your life. Control describes the extent to which a person can control the display of their emotions. A Mentally Tough person will usually just “get on with it” irrespective of how they feel and their positive approach often lifts other people’s spirits. This Control enables staff to work through the emotions of the highs and lows without seemingly being derailed.

Commitment is about goal orientation and ‘stickability’ and  describes the extent to which someone is prepared to set goals for what they need to do and make measurable promises that, once made, they will work hard to deliver on.

Challenge describes the extent to which the individual will push back their boundaries, embrace change and accept risk. Mentally Tough people view challenges, change and adversity as opportunities rather than threats and will relish the chance to learn and grow in a new and dynamic environment. Someone whose challenge score is high will typically enjoy new places, new people, innovation and creativity.

Confidence describes the self-belief an individual has in their own abilities and the interpersonal confidence they have to influence others and deal with conflict and challenge. Staff high in confidence, will possess the self-belief to deal with a situation and the inner strength to stand their ground when needed. Their confidence enables them to represent their view boldly and be comfortable in handling objections.

The Benefits of Mental Toughness

Being mentally tough brings a variety of benefits for an individual and an organisation. Research has concluded that those with higher scores on the 4 C’s enjoy the following:

  • Better performance – it explains up to 25% of the variation in performance.
  • Improved positivity – adoption of more of a “can do” approach
  • Greater wellbeing – more contentment and better stress management.
  • Change management – a calmer lower stress response to organisational change.
  • Increased aspirations – greater ambition and confidence in achieving those ambitions and a greater willingness to persevere to do so.

You Can Measure Mental Toughness.

You can measure the Mental Toughness of potential staff. The MTQ48 is a popular and versatile psychometric tool which is both valid and reliable and is used globally. It is an ideal measure for organisations looking to recruit staff that may have to endure high levels of stress in customer focused roles, uncertainty, pace and rapidly changing priorities. The MTQ48 provides a profile which assesses current Mental Toughness and can also be used to develop Mental Toughness for staff through a tool box of interventions.

So, given the challenges faced by organisations both now and looking into the future, we want to be able to recruit for Mental Toughness or be able to develop Mental Toughness in our staff if they are going to be able to exercise the Control, Commitment, Confidence and ability to manage Challenge that we require in this VUCA environment.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or


Diversity – What Is It That We Share?

Group of Diverse Hands Together Joining Concept

One of the biggest challenges facing organisations and leaders today is the rapid pace at which the workforce is changing across the globe.

Generational turnover, cultural evolution, widespread immigration, emerging markets, and advancing technology have all played and will continue to play a significant role in creating an increasingly complex corporate ecosystem that can create new barriers to recruiting, developing staff, ensuring staff engagement, retaining talent and safeguarding good workplace culture.

In the midst of these changes, workplace diversity has gained momentum in its importance as leaders seek to develop a more cohesive, collaborative, and creative work environment as a means of driving continued growth. It is interesting though, that what often gets lost in conversations and planning for work place diversity is the conversation about inclusion, the twin component of diversity that ultimately leads to business success.

I was recently asked to facilitate a session on Diversity with staff at a mid-size organisation with approximately 100 staff. The team were predominantly male whose primary role was outdoor manual labour and there was less than 5 female staff. The organisation was also about to take on board a number of new staff from different backgrounds including Indigenous Australians and staff with mental and physical disabilities. Although the work group already had staff from different cultures and backgrounds, management considered workplace diversity training would be extremely advantageous. This therefore presented me with a challenge. How would I provide information on workplace diversity to 100 people, with no access to a “power point presentation” in a back shed on a Friday afternoon?

The challenge was to make this training not just enjoyable, but also meaningful and that each individual take away some real personal insights. The answer… getting everyone involved to focus on the twin component of diversity… inclusion.

I wanted an exercise that could challenge thinking and was about an individual experience. As a result of some searching, I came across a great YouTube video on Danish TV. The decision for the session…. Role play the video for this team. Have a look for yourself.

We all tend to put people in boxes. We label others in so many different ways. There are males and females, millennials and baby boomers, experienced or not experienced, happy or sad. We tend to communicate our concepts in absolutes and consider all the ways we are different.

It’s often easy for us to look around and recognise the differences between us… and them. But how often do we look for the similarities between us, how we are actually the same as others and identify those similarities as an opportunity to bring us all together. And then suddenly there is us!

Take a look at the video. The exercise worked extremely well with significant engagement from staff (even for a Friday afternoon).

Could this same exercise work for your organisation?

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or

What is the difference between Transactional and Transformational Leadership?

business leadership teamwork power and confidence conceptIf you have worked for a Manager or Leader in the past whose only focus is to supervise your role, and ensure your performance, then you know what it’s like to work for a Transactional Leader. These leaders are only concerned with maintaining the status quo and considering the progress that needs to be made on a day to day basis. If they impart information, it is only through training – a one way flow of information. Transactional Leadership operates within existing boundaries like process, structures and goal setting. This kind of leadership can feel stifling for many individuals who want growth and opportunity.

However, if you have had the opportunity to work with a Transformational Leader, your experience is likely to be a lot different. Transformational Leaders work to enhance the motivation and engagement of individuals. They work toward not just a goal, but a vision and their purpose is to direct their team toward that vision. Transformational Leadership challenges the current state and is change-oriented. Leaders of this type embrace challenges and assist their team to see the opportunities within a challenge. They are not afraid of trying and failing and see the potential in the opportunity to try new things and encourage their team to do the same.

If you have worked in either of these two environments, you will instantly recognise the difference.

Consider the differences between the two styles of Leadership:

Transactional leadership:

  • Promotes compliancewith existing organisational goals and performance expectations through supervision and the use of rewards and punishments.
  • Task and outcome oriented. Especially effectiveunder strict time and resource constraints and in highly-specified projects, this approach adheres to the status quo and employs a form of management that pays close attention to how employees perform their tasks.
  • Reacts to problemsas they arise.
  • Work within existing organisational culture
  • Reward and punish in traditional ways according to organisational standards
  • Appeal to the self-interest of employees who seek out rewards for themselves
  • Akin to the common notions of management

Transformational leadership

  • Focuses on increasing employee motivation and engagement and attempts to link employees’ sense of self with organisational values.
  • This leadership style emphasizes leadingby example, so followers can identify with the leader’s vision and values.
  • Focuses on individual strengths of employees and on enhancing their capabilities and their commitment to organisational goals, often by seeking their buy-infor decisions.
  • More likely to address issues before they become problematic.
  • Emphasize new ideas and thereby “transform” organisational culture.
  • Attempt to achieve positive results from employees by keeping them invested in projects, leading to an internal, high-order reward system.
  • Appeal to group interests and notions of organisational success.
  • Adheres more closely to what is considered to be leadership.

So which type of Leader do you want to be? Do you want to be reactive or proactive? Do you want to be bureaucratic or charismatic? Do you want to focus on planning and execution or innovation? Do you want to attract followers by putting your own self-interest in first place? Or, do you want to stimulate followers by setting group interest as a priority? The choice is yours.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or


6 Ways to Improve Your Morning Mindset

Every day we wake up in the morning and most likely go through the same routine we do every other day. We wake up, crawl out of bed hunched over, go to the bathroom, have a shower, get dressed etc etc. We undertake these same sets of activities, and yet many of us feel that we don’t start the day out feeling good. Well for those of us who are aware of Einstein’s Theory of Insanity (doing the same thing, in the same way and expecting a different result) we actually have to do something different, if we want to actually feel different.

I think the body’s response to change is fascinating. Consider when it’s the middle of winter, a sunny day of 22 degrees feels deliciously warm, whereas in the middle of summer it feels unseasonably cool. It’s all about what we’re used to. And when you’re used to a certain routine, something different can feel quite strange at first and it takes us a while to adapt. But if we can visualise a different potential outcome, a more positive outcome, then maybe the small effort that goes into a change could be really worth it.

A habit occurs when neuronal pathways in the brain become fixed through constant use, like going to work the same way every day. It’s important not to let reactivity to a bad morning routine, become a habit.

If we take a beginner’s mind, ie looking at each day as if it were the first, we can wake up with: “Today is a day where I feel full of potential”.

Try it out. See how the words feel within you. They’re different, we register them differently within the body, and therefore in the mindset and attitude. And our mindset is what helps to form habits, good and bad.

So what can you do to start developing a positive morning mindset. Well it can start before you even get out of bed. When the alarm goes off, you probably roll over and press snooze, and say to yourself “just five more minutes” and then as the snooze button wears off and you know it’s time, you get out of bed slowly and wander in a hunch to the bathroom. So now let’s try something different. Let’s start and create a new habit. Try these 6 steps for developing a positive morning mindset.

  1. When the alarm goes off, stay in bed and spend those 5 minutes stretching in the bed. Stretch tall and stretch wide. Get your blood flowing and your body ready for movement in a positive way.
  2. When you do into the bathroom (if you’re not busting), go to the mirror first and give yourself a huge smile. Now I know this might sound a little odd, but look in the mirror while you’re grinning like an idiot and say to yourself “I feel terrific”. Say it three times in a row and like you really mean it. It’s OK to have a bit of a laugh at yourself while you’re doing it. Laughing is good and the whole 5 second exercise will get your endorphins flowing – your happy drugs, to kick start some good emotions. Now, when you go to the kitchen and greet your family, keep the smile on your face and smile at every member of your family. They might wonder at first what’s wrong with you, but just wait for the positive impact. We know that there is a ripple effect when we engage in positive behaviour in our relationships. If we smile at someone, they are more likely to smile back and to keep smiling and be happy when they meet others in the day, and those people are then more likely to smile at others and so on and so on.
  3. Don’t check your mobile, or your emails or any other device. Your time is your time. Protect your time and your work life balance and keep work activities to do within work time. Give yourself a break from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc etc as well. There is plenty of time in the day to attend to these later. Give yourself a tech free morning until 9am at least.
  4. After your shower and before you get dressed, sit down on the carpet and do 10 minutes of meditation or mindfulness. Regular meditation has been shown to increase activity in the left pre-frontal cortex, a region in the brain known to be connected to positive emotion.
  5. Eat breakfast. I know we are all in a rush and usually a coffee is all we have time for. But 10 minutes at the kitchen table correctly fuelling your body for the day can make a world of difference. Not to mention it’s another opportunity to smile at your family.
  6. While you’re eating breakfast consider your plan of action for the day. If you have things on your mind that you are worried about, then take clear action and decide on a specific course, problem solve and work through what is within your control. Feel empowered to charge ahead with the day knowing that you are in control of your reactions and have a clear sense of how you will cope with any adversity.

Now you’re ready to start the day fresh, motivated, empowered and full of opportunities. Go out and start the day with your new morning mindset.


Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or

5 Ways You Can Manage Individual Differences

differencesJust consider for a moment all the ways you are different and diverse from everyone else around you. Your gender, age, culture, education, peer group, appearance, religion, experiences, personality, parents, siblings, mental toughness, resilience, knowledge, confidence, interests, hobbies, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, mental health, physical health, fixed or growth mindset, values……etc etc. I could go on and fill a dozen pages with all the ways we are different from each other.

But I could also fill pages with all the ways we are similar (or even the same) to each other as well. We all have fears, challenges, desires, have a need to “fit in”, want friends, want be listened to, get emotional, doubt ourselves, strive to find meaning and purpose for our lives, want to find love, want to feel secure, fear rejection, want to be happy….. etc etc etc.

Yes we have differences, but we are basically the same in so many ways. So why is it so hard for us to get along with each other and manage our differences? Conflict is normal, essential and very manageable. There are even significant benefits to conflict and disagreement. Differences are inevitable, but I think we also have an opportunity to recognise what we want and how we can achieve this without us making a judgement that we are right and “they” are wrong. You never know how similar your emotions, goals, needs etc. actually are to another.

So… how do we manage these individual differences and allow our relationships to thrive?

1)   Consider your Positive Intention – ask yourself, “What is my positive intent in interacting and having a conversation with this person. Be clear and focused. If you enter a conversation with a negative intent, “They need to know what a negative impact they have on others”– to belittle, tell them they are wrong, be negative, criticise etc, then you are likely to get a very poor result to your interaction. But if you determine your Positive Intent, for example “My positive intention is to give them feedback to allow them to build positive relationships with peers”, then you are much more likely to enter a conversation with the potential for a positive outcome which strengthens the relationship, not breaks it down.

2)   Find any common ground – often it is easy to see all the ways someone is different to you, but ask yourself, “How is this person’s goals the same as mine?” Are you both looking for acceptance, to just have someone to listen, do you both have a fear of losing control or a desire for security. If you can find some commonality to your relationship, interaction or problem, then there is a much greater opportunity for success and strengthening of a relationship.

3)   What can I learn? Our diversity is our strength. Have you ever been stuck on a project and taken it to a colleague to let them look at it, only to be struck by an “Aha” moment when they point out the obvious thing you’ve been missing? We all see things through different eyes and everybody’s lens is a very valuable commodity. So before you jump to conclusions… listen, seek to understand. It just may provide you with valuable insights you had never considered before.

4)   Understand your own behaviour and its impact on others. So often we look to other people to see what they are doing “wrong”, why they don’t “get it”, and ask “what is their problem?” But how often do we turn that magnifying glass on ourselves. After all, the first two cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence are Self-Awareness and Self-Management. So ask yourself… “What is my behaviour and how does it impact others?”

5)   Embrace the difference. Individual differences are actually such a huge strength in a family, community, organisation or country. Our diversity allows us to consider different points of view, be innovative, achieve greater levels of success, have greater choices and have a growth mindset.

So the next time you are challenged with individual differences, create yourself some space to listen, put your assumptions on hold, look for options, recognise your own impact and ask questions with a positive intent. Think of the possibilities……..

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited mental toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their mental toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or