Career : Affairs of The Heart

Margot’s first degree at the University of Sydney was a Bachelor of Education. She moved to Darwin where she headed up Darwin Family Centers. This organization provided child care and family support for the families across the top end of Australia. It was while studying for her MBA that she started working as a business consultant, at the youthful age of 24. Margot works with some of the world’s top companies at executive level, helping organizations in times of crisis, such as after mergers and takeovers.

She mentors numerous leading international business figures and conducts workshops and conferences. She is the author of Approaching the Corporate Heart, ISBN 0-7318-0655-7, Simon & Schuster.  

Margot is Chairman of Zaffyre International, and can be reached at mcairnes@zaffyre.com. See also her websites at www.zaffyre.com and www.margotcairnes.com/index.htm


Success in life has a lot to do with your heart.

Back in 1998 when I wrote my book, Approaching The Corporate Heart, a client, the managing director and  owner of a successful Australian-based multinational, told me: “Men won’t buy it. They feel too vulnerable about the word ‘heart’. It’s like being in love, you lose control.”

Like it or not, our society looks down on those who wear their heart on their sleeve. And those who let their heart rule their head are not seen as wise, smart or likely to succeed.

At the same time, we all flock to movies about courage such as Braveheart. We know that King Richard was brave because he was said to be lion-hearted, whereas we shy away from those whose who are hard-hearted, knowing that they can be cruel and unreasonable. Yet someone who is soft-hearted is unlikely to make sensible business decisions.

“Heroes of all time have been people with heart".

As a hobby, I train a schoolboy rowing team. I started working with the team because my son was in it and it was losing. When my son left school, I stayed on with the team.

About three minutes into a six-minute rowing race, rowers experience intense pain. That pain continues until they cross the finishing line when they often collapse from exhaustion, effort and pain. To be a racing rower takes great courage. When the pain starts, the half-hearted want to give up. To win a rowing race, you have to really put your heart into it, push through the pain and go full-bore for your goal.

The first year I worked with the team, they finished the season in second place. The second year I worked with them they came second in each race. Every week we would visualize their desired goal, work on the beliefs that were blocking attainment of their goal and build relationships within the team. Each week they came second.

One day they filed in for the session with me and I could see in their faces that they couldn’t take it any more: this woman was going to get them all fired up yet again, get them excited about the prospect of winning. But deep in their hearts they knew that they were going to be disappointed. 

A colleague of mine recently did a course in sports psychology. His main take-out was “Get used to disappointment”. Sportspeople have to give their all every time they compete, but in every competition only one competitor or team can win. All the others have to learn, regroup and be ready to give it their all next time around.

So the rowing boys and I had a session on disappointment. We discussed how when you really go for a goal, you have to go for it with heart and soul. If you don’t succeed, you feel broken-hearted. When we are broken-hearted, we often feel like giving up or at least giving a little less. Half-hearted rowers don’t win rowing races. So we all faced, acknowledged and let go of our disappointments.

The next week the boys, for the first time in their school’s history, became the Schoolboy National Rowing Champions. Their hearts jumped for joy.

But the rowing season wasn’t over. They still had the Head of the River, the pinnacle of the rowing calendar. Their school hadn’t won Head of the River for 28 years. They went in fully trained, emotionally and spiritually on the money, the all-time favourites – and came third.

I was away the day of the race. When I received the news I was shocked. What had gone wrong ? I could see the boys’ faces in my mind and I mourned their disappointment.

Then I remembered the words of Napoleon Hill in his all time classic, Think and Grow Rich. Based on the study of high achievers such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie, Hill wrote: “all who succeed in life get off to a bad start and pass through many heartbreaking struggles before they ‘arrive’. The turning point in the lives of those who succeed usually comes at the moment of some crisis, through which they are introduced to their other selves.”

I saw my broken-hearted boys not as losers but as great achievers of the future. Having the courage to be disappointed, and to feel their disappointment, was the training ground of the greatness that lay ahead.

I thought back to my disheartened MD client and realized that he was wrong. Heroes of all time have been people with heart. Ironically, I thought that this MD himself was a man of great courage and heart. He had not only founded and successfully led a huge organization but had given back big-time to the community through his sponsorship of the arts, his work with Aborigines and by establishing a not-for-profit organization to support those with life threatening diseases.

Perhaps it is not true that we are afraid of being folks of great heart. Maybe we are just afraid to admit it.   


© Margot Cairnes 2004

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