Lou Forster

Lou Forster
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In this Living with Purpose Interview, Lou Forster speaks about how she is a connector, bringing people together in social and work situations and breaking down the barriers between people. No wonder she has found herself as Head of Brand & People at Chorus, an organisation which itself has a story of bringing people and organisations together in a very successful merger in WA. She has gone on after this interview to become CEO at Advocare.

Lou has been working in the human services industry for 20 years and has been in a number of management and leadership positions in organisations and as a Non Executive Director. As a result she’s developed a lot of knowledge and skill, but reflects in this episode about how she’s now valuing the use of conversations with people as a powerful tool in her approach (and mentions Nicky Howe – see episode here).

There’s a lot to reflect on in this episode. At one point Lou reflects on how purpose in life encompasses both her work and personal lives:

“Your resume and your eulogy very rarely have the same things in them. And sometimes we can spend our whole life building the resume. But at your funeral even if you have been hugely successful in your career It’s very unlikely that anything in that career will be what people will talk about. So, I guess I don’t know where or when I heard that, but I thought, okay, as much as I need to put work into building my resume, I also need to make sure that there are some things to say in my eulogy.”

Lou mentions:

Ear Hustle podcast

Drive by Daniel Pink

Chorus Voices Podcast

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Transcript of podcast episode

Francis Lynch: Hi, my name is Francis Lynch and welcome to the Living with purpose interviews. In this episode, I’m talking with Lou Forster, who is a leader in the community sector, a podcaster, and has been a non-executive director with a number of organisations. How do you introduce yourself to people?

Lou Forster: Well, if it’s related to work, I will perhaps frame it in the in the work I do. But I think when you wear many hats, that is not as easy, feeling bored or you’ve got Connections in different places. Some of the culture work. We’ve done where I work. Chorus. We I think I got my name badge on there and we just have a first name on the name badge, so no surname and no job title which to us is a real kind of signifier that, you know, the most important thing about us is us as a. You know, we’re we’re a person first. And then you have a bunch of labels other than that, so I can probably come across a bit cagey when people ask for an introduction because I’m trying to place, you know what what might work for the situation. But I think I’ve always worked with people, so probably, you know, start with what I’m interested in or, you know Lou Forster: what makes me tickle or. well, try and pick up on the other person. What might be interesting for them.

Francis Lynch: Do you, Do you think that there’s a difference for you between who you are, in a sense, in your personal life and who you are at work? Or is it Is it sort of blend all together for you?

Lou Forster: It blends together, I think because, yeah, again, that real people centred kind of approach. I’m Louise first and foremost and then I’m talking to you is Francis. You know, first and foremost, and then then there’s a whole history of, you know, how we met each other and things we might, you know, work together on over the years. But really it’s just, you know, person to person. No, I think, yeah, you you have different parts of yourself, but you might kind of have a bit more fun with your friends on the weekend. But still, I think in essence, yeah, very much. Same same person. I like to think so. And I I struggle with people that perhaps put on too much of a facade. And you know. It actually takes. A lot of energy if you’re not. You choose. Self. It’s quite emotionally exhausting to be someone that you’re not.

Francis Lynch: Do you think that’s changed for you over over time?

Lou Forster: I don’t think so, but one thing that has changed over time is being much more comfortable with living a life that I’m happy with. And you know, it meets my values, but perhaps other people don’t agree with. I think when I was younger. I would find that hard if if someone didn’t like me or or didn’t agree with something I was doing. So at some point about 10 years ago in my early 30s. You know, some stuff happened and I’m like, actually, as long as I’m happy and I feel like I’m being consistent and true to myself, Lou Forster:  it’s actually OK if other people don’t. But other than that, I think I’ve always been. Pretty similar, you know, very bubbly and very extroverted. I get so much energy from people. So, I mean, 2020 has been an interesting year with COVID. definitely lack the energy from people over the over the course of the year. Yeah, but I think if I look at my childhood self as my dad’s birthday today or this will be playing, who knows when. But so his birthday in August and it I reflected on my photograph that. Was with me when I was probably 18, and I looked at the picture and I could just instantly imagine that, you know, dinner. I got my arm around him and I don’t feel much different to that, but you obviously learn learned a lot along the life journey.

Francis Lynch: It’s interesting. You talk about being an extrovert and getting energy, and I’m the opposite of an introvert. And I wonder sometimes whether it’s really real. But when Francis Lynch: you when I hear you say that it’s, it’s obviously something that that makes sense to you.

Lou Forster: Yeah. And I I think I I read something a bit more about the energy probably this year. So before, yeah, I’ve heard people say extroverts like people, introverts don’t and and the more I read it was actually not true. Introverts love being around people. It’s just it. Can be exhausting, so you know you go out with a big event and you need almost a day to recover or something. So. I thought that was really interesting. It’s and and we make assumptions about each other based on that. So I have two people I work with and one’s an extrovert and had assumed that the colleague who was an introvert wouldn’t want to do any presenting of content, you know, to a group because she was an introvert. And she said no, I would have to really work hard to do that. But I would love. To do that. So I thought it was really interesting how we can make assumptions and we will probably, yeah. The world isn’t split into two anyway, so I will experience extraversion differently to somebody else anyway, but I know I get lots of energy from different people, so that that’s definitely rings true for me.

Francis Lynch: So the work you do at Chorus, do you bring that energy into to the way that you relate to people and you know your your your head of brand and culture brand and people isn’t?

Lou Forster: Other people? Yeah. And. And the people side of things is, you know, very culture focused. So yes, but it it is made-up of people and culture which might be human resources area volunteering cause we have about 50% volunteers and that relatively large Organism. Marketing and communication and work, health and safety. So all those people Lou Forster: focused. And yes, I definitely bring all of that to the, to the role and I’ve the leaders who report to me are very competent at their roles and have been around. A little while. So you know there’s less doing for me and more. Being we just had a retreat a few weeks ago as an exact team. In the middle of winter, out at kind of somewhere where school kids would go for a camp. So you can imagine pretty basic, but we we came away from that really crystallising our. Role is is. To support and mentor and coach and Be and not do or decide too much and to take responsibility, but not necessarily. Reaction, and particularly the way we run chorus. So I’ve come back even more comfortable with the fact that most of my work is conversations with people and writing the odd thing or, you know, giving feedback on a on a physical piece of work. But generally it’s conversations, Nicky Howe, who we both know says that you know it’s based on conversations and it feels weird. Sometimes that’s your job.

Francis Lynch: I saw some photos from when you were on that retreat and on social media. And were you? Were you surprised? I mean, it did look very basic I can say but but. Were you surprised that where you got to in terms of you know that focus of being, you know really about conversations and the way that you manage that with people?

Lou Forster: I think so because I’m quite structured in my thinking, so I’m I when I usually have a clear idea of what I’m going to get out of something and I. But I knew that we had gone for something a little bit less structured, so I was probably slightly uncomfortable not knowing what we would get out of it. And we also had. An aboriginal guy, Sean Nanap, came and with two of his nephews and we, yeah. Spent most of the 1st morning with him and in fact that was probably the. Best thing to Do because I. Just relaxed and just went OK. We’re just gonna go. With the flow. Here and just park time. My usual concept of time so that so then by that 1st  you know the end of the morning on the. 1st morning I think I had shared any expectations and then I was just open to. What would transpire, and I think my colleagues. To for me them working on our relationships is really important and we do a lot of work. The five of us on that so that we are as I guess constructive as possible and how we work together because our view is if we are not getting on or working well together, we have to like each other. But you know respect and work well together, whole organisation you know can crumble. On that. So yeah, we work really hard and being open and honest and constructive.

Francis Lynch: So how how do you find yourself being where you are now and doing the type of work you’re doing now?

Lou Forster:  By just following. Lifes path and saying yes to lots of things, I think so. Not fearing too much. Stepping into some unknown so I think. I’ve always had a. Vague sense of wanting to achieve, but I’ve never known exactly what, so I’ve always been driven. But yeah, I haven’t had this. You know, very clear path of where I want to go, which has been fantastic because it’s, let me be really open to. Possibilities that perhaps if you’re too, you know, driven down one path, you you might not say yes to, and one example is you know where I am at chorus. It’s very heavily in the South of Perth and I was living in the north of Perth. So I probably wouldn’t have applied for the role I was actually at one of the organisations that managed to form chorus, but I wouldn’t. You Lou Forster: know, it just was felt probably too far away, but the CEO at the time phoned me up and said, you know, would you consider? I’m like when someone phones you up. It’s a different conversation. And she said, well, how about we just have coffee And and and and yeah, within two days coffee was a job. So it wasn’t a formal interview at all.

Francis Lynch: I think I know who that was.

Lou Forster: But Sheila Cummings. Scottish. Yeah. Sheila. Yeah. Yeah, it was was she was a I didn’t know of her, but didn’t know her very well until that coffee and another colleague came. And yeah, there was just so quite Perth, actually. You know, I think that cities across Australia have quite different ways of working in London, which is where I come from a very different way of working, but Perth is. It’s very much network driven, you know it’s who you know and who you’re connected to and yeah. And that people say Lou Forster:  lots of jobs don’t even get to be advertised. So yeah, that’s an example of not planning anything.

Francis Lynch: If you. Picture yourself back at. That 18 year old that your dad’s birthday does now make sense. Does it sort of feel like a really the journey was predictable. Or was it really?

Lou Forster Yeah, there’s there’s a couple of. Pointers which are quite interesting. They’re related to parents, so I had a conversation with my dad around then probably a little bit before. Or so the 16 to 18 kind of year old age in England, you’re choosing only a. Couple of subjects. It’s a bit less than in Australia and he was desperate for me to kind of do business. You know, his idea was, you know, get the skills so you can earn the money and, you know, lead a good life lead a well, probably lead a good life that brings a good income to lead a good life with his thinking. And I just Lou Forster: remember saying I cannot do something. I’m not, you know, interested in or driven to do or we had a big debate about that. So I ended up studying anthropology, study of kind of people and society and culture. Which he he. Wasn’t against, but he did find that a bit fluffy. And then my mum.

Francis Lynch: So where’s the job in that?

Lou Forster: Yes, exactly. There’s not many people working as anthropologists, although. I did see. One job advert once and I cut. It out and. Kept it because they they do exist. But then my mum was very kind of, UM, uh, you know Jill of all trades had lots of jobs growing up as a real hard. Worker and she didn’t have tertiary education. She did lots of care working in the community services sector and in some schools and in in people’s homes and all sorts of different, you know, variations on that. And so I did a lot of my kind of teenage work in that area and at the same time was Lou Forster: deciding that I’ll never have a career in this because it’s his mum’s career. It was just handy to get some work in because I had Connections and, Yeah. So I. Did value the experience I was getting, but I would didn’t for a minute think that I would make a career out of that. And then I did. So that’s kind of weird how, you know, you got it wasn’t rebelling against my mum, but it was saying I’m not going to go down that path, but in the end I did slightly different in the work that I did, but the sector has stayed the same my whole career

Francis Lynch: Are there things that you learned back at that, that early age of, you know doing that. Work with your mum or in that same area that that influence how you came to be where you are now?

Lou Forster: I think it’s a work ethic. So I have a couple of. Scenes in my head, you know, she didn’t remember everything, but I remember Lou Forster: being. A doctor surgery after hours she was doing the cleaning there. So that would yeah be like A 6 or 7:00 PM and I’d just sit and maybe do some homework or help her. And that would possibly on the way back from an activity where my activities and then on the way to home to dinner. So there was a. Lot of fitting life in and she also she was a single parent for a few years and she never let me miss out on anything. So I saw that her work ethic and her belief in opportunities was really important. So she I think I went to a. And and after school parent teacher evening when I was about. 18 and there was a trip to Poland, and I had just kind of. Wasn’t that worried about it and over the desk my mum said to the teacher. Yeah, Louise will be going. I’ll write you the deposit cheque now. I’ll hand it over the table and he. Was like, OK, OK. And and that. Was?

Francis Lynch: she’s going 

Lou Forster: She’s going. And I was. Yeah. And I think for her, it wasn’t about living vicariously through me, but just making sure I had all the opportunities in life that would. Give me the best. You know, choices and that Poland trip was amazing. I learned an awful lot, went to Warsaw and Krakow and saw Auschwitz. Yeah, I don’t think anyone that’s ever gone to Auschwitz ever is the same again. So you know deeply changed by that so. Yeah, it was more about, I think her work ethic and what. She wanted for us in life and so that that’s really instilled less probably about the actual work and really it was more just probably that people.

Francis Lynch: So so as you. You know, you come to where you are now has has it been? A A smooth. Straightforward journey? Or has there been a sort of twists? And turns or is.It Francis Lynch: sort of.When you look back on it now seen as a pathway?

Lou Forster: I think it definitely again more about opportunities, a lot of the. Places I ended up working or living were a result of a conversation or being at a certain place at a certain time, so it was quite sliding doors. A few of my decisions, so I think you know you, you could have predicted that. So I lived a little bit in the north North Shore of Sydney and that was literally just staying with a friend. When I landed before I decided what I was. Going to do and just so happened that one of the flatmates was moving out and there was a room available and then I thought, well, I need a job and at the time I was really into scuba diving. So next day I had a little look around, got a job and found somewhere to do my dive master training. So I was like, well, Universe is telling me I’m staying in manly for a bit and I was there for. Lou Forster: A couple of years and, you know, met my husband. And you know, we had a a daughter and and who’s you know, 14 now so. that, that. Was literally a conversation and you know, staying with a friend overnight so that that’s kind of very sliding doors, I think and and a few other jobs have been a. Little like that. So other than working in the scuba diving industry for a couple of years, that was probably the most weird box of my career, but it’s still really valuable and. I I learned how to teach people with disability how to dive more around having a specialised skill for a visa, but that that did kind of link the work I was doing and then I realised I couldn’t do that for too long and went back to community services. So yeah, it’s a kind of odd stint, but there was still a connection to the work. I ended up doing.

Francis Lynch: So you. You spoke about, you know the the phone call that took you to the work that you’re sort of doing. Now have there. Been other sliding doors at moments or or people. Who have really. Influenced the way you. Work or the work that you’re doing.

Lou Forster: It’s a massive connector, so pretty much anywhere I go anything I do I will connect with people and you know, try if someone else is interested. Connecting on a, you know, meaningful level and swapping contact details, or if it’s professional, like via LinkedIn. So through that I’ve had, you know, lots of opportunity. And again, I’ve really nurtured that. I went to a 40th birthday drinks a few weeks ago and lots of us that were there were connected through the NBA at the University of Western Australia and I seem to know everyone there yet. There was lots. Of pockets of people that didn’t know each other. So every time I moved around there Lou Forster: was introducing people and they’re all saying how is it, you know, all of us, but we don’t know each other. And I think it’s just, it’s just a natural magnet for me to find out something about someone share something about me connect. But later on we can, you know, meet up so that that way of being, I guess has really influenced what I’ve done because I’ve had lots of opportunities. You know, propose. To me and the other one is saying yes to things. So I I my advice I give to people earlier on in their career now is put yourself out there because I have found a few times I put myself out there and been unsuccessful the first time. But because you then put yourself out there, people know that you’re interested, and often within six months I’ve had someone come to me and say, you know, how you, you know. You’re interested in that thing. Well, this thing is similar, and would you be interested? And if I hadn’t put myself out the first time, I wouldn’t have had the question the second time. So. Yeah, knowing people and being really brave, I think have really led to some amazing opportunities.

Francis Lynch: Yeah. And and I mean certainly that is similar to how I’ve experienced you as well. And do you find the those opportunities, do you do I suppose how I wanna ask this is do you feel obligated by the requests made of you?

Lou Forster:  No. Although I was doing business development work for a while, and when you’re doing that, you you pretty much never say no to it at least. Just, you know, meeting or going somewhere initially. And that’s exhausting. But but good experience. So I think after doing that and then realising that time is really valuable, I probably you know maybe a couple of years ago got. To the. Stage where I would still make time for people, but I would say like I’d be very happy Lou Forster: to have a phone conversation with you. And I was doing a lot of driving like you were and. And so the car time. It’s a really good, you know, time for me.So I would.If I had. A request that I thought I’m just not sure. Let’s have a phone conversation, and even if if the if that turned into a phone conversation, you get a sense of whether the person is going to. Commit to their. You know what they’re saying? Sometimes things just, you know, flitter out so. Things like that. So I found a good way of valuing my time and still not. It’s not feeling obligated to say yes but still you know, sometimes I’ve had some great. Results from from those types of Connections. And if I hadn’t have put myself out there and something good wouldn’t have happened. But you know, going for just coffee with someone could end up taking three hours in a weird way, because you’re not as productive in the morning and you have to travel and you meet someone and something Lou Forster:  else happens. So I I realise that you know someone would say, oh, just a 20 minute coffee, but actually that that. That can really affect your.

Francis Lynch: Yeah. Well, do you think that that we have learned through COVID times, you know the the use of video technology has that changed the way that you.

Lou Forster: it has changed so much and and I love it because in 2007 I was working for a. A kind of Federated advocacy organisation and we were doing e-learning and different types of technology to. Do more more. Structured training online and and I can’t believe that’s, you know, 13 years ago and just trying to get people to adopt that technology was. Just that was the biggest. Hurdle and it was so valuable because as we’ve all seen in COVID and you can bring talent to many places, not just from A to B, but to, you know, people all across the. So time zone getting the way a Lou Forster: little bit there, but yeah. So I’ve always had that interest in using technology not for technology’s sake. I’m not really a tech head, but if there’s something amazing that can be done through technology, I’m really inspired and so I was quite frustrated why people wouldn’t, you know, adopt this amazing. Opportunity and then, you know, laid dormant in my world for a bit, a tiny bit of video chat with them, overseas family. And then suddenly, yeah, 2020 is the year of the video live video dream.

Francis Lynch: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Can I ask, are there particular people who’ve made an impact in your life?

Lou Forster: Yes, probably a group of, you know, probably more than a handful of people that for different reasons have made an impact. There’s not like one or two who I would say, you know. Just completely changed my life. And again, probably that’s Lou Forster: because I spread myself out, but my MBA, well, actually we weren’t a cohort. So we all most of my friends that I made doing my MBA, we were working well. You know they would consider will be part time, so you’re doing. Evening units. So you you kind. Of just ebb and flow with people. I didn’t probably didn’t do more than three units with any one person, but you know, I put myself out there in. The social. World and, you know, tried to work with different. People in groups. But then so I made lots of friends, but I came out with and still have. So I finished in 2016. And and about seven of us have just kind of stuck, and there’s quite sticky. Yeah. And which I think of culture terms as being quite sticky. And we’ve just been there for each other, personally, professionally, socially. And it’s, yeah, it’s a really nice kind. Of mix and when you asked the question about whether I my different self. professonally they would. You know, they they are very much a cross section of my life because the professional element is really important. You know, we’ve all studied to further ourselves and yeah, we have enormous amounts of fun so.

Francis Lynch: So so that, that. That experience that you had of of being in a programme, the MBA programme and and being so it’s it wasn’t virtual. You did it in in the classroom.

Lou Forster: All face to face.

Francis Lynch: how valuable  how valuable How about how valuable was that network building for you as part of the process?

Lou Forster: It was that was probably the most important element for me. I think I’ve written A blog, you know, 10 things I loved about the MBA. And you know the content that I learned was great and I have, I do apply it regularly thinking about the content is probably more important than the content Lou Forster: itself. So how you learn to critically think. The people I met. So yeah, my peers were really important. And just like building on learning as well. So yeah, you’re trying to process the content, but you learn so much from someone else’s perspective on on a a certain view or on approach and the negotiation unit particularly, and even just doing group assignments. You know, if I speak to people that get frustrated about those, I can’t say they are so painful, but they are so valuable. Because all those skills that you apply with the high performers and low performers you use those always in the workplace. So as you know, annoying as they are, they are definitely a good learning tool but also actually UWA the the opportunities to meet broader networks. You know people in business. And sponsors and, you know, people at the Business School that was really valuable. And I always try to make. The most out. Of those and to the European study tour Lou Forster: to the cohort that went on the story tour, there was 14. Students and two staff, which is a nice group size. We had a really, really good tool and we had some amazing opportunities over there through networks, you’ve got to. Go to. Airbus space and defence to a site that if you work at Airbus base and defence in Europe you can’t get into, but we had a connection and it was an amazing experience so.

Francis Lynch: It sounds incredible it sounds great. The premise of this podcast is about purpose, and so I’d like to ask. You whether you. Can describe what you think your purpose in life is.

Lou Forster: That Is a very deep question, isn’t it? I think 1 analogy I quite like was that. And your CV resume and your eulogy very rarely have the same things in them, and sometimes we can spend our whole life building the resume. But yeah, you’re. At your funeral, or Lou Forster:  even if you have been hugely successful in your career, it’s very unlikely that anything in that career will be what people will talk about. So I guess I don’t know where I where or when I heard that, but I thought OK as much as I need to put work into building my resume, I also need to make sure that there’s something. You know, to say at my eulogy. And and it’s not in a. In a morbid way, thinking for me at all. But I think people think about year after year you’ve gone in sense of what difference did you make in their life? What type of person were you? Yeah. So that’s just one way of thinking about it and and one that exercise actually did when I was studying was. Reflected best self exercise comes out of a Canadian university, I think. There’s about asking lots of people about three stories when they think you were at your best. Self you were. Your best self, but it needs to be a story of an actual time, and that person needs to explain why they think Lou Forster:  you were. You know you at your best or your best self then and it’s like the Johari window a little bit. I got quite a lot of. Responses back and it was a few years ago when I did it, but sometimes the most insignificant, insignificant the wrong word that these tiny little things that I said or did or. Had a massive impact on someone else because of whatever reason that I started a job when I first came to Perth with a woman who’d been out of the workforce for 10 years, and she’s probably about 15 years older than me. And she said that the time I spent and the patience I had with her to learn the technology kept her in that job. She said I would not have lasted. That job, if it hadn’t been for you and I was like, I can’t even really remember that it. It was just intuitive to me. I like training or coaching and we had a bond because we, you know you. I think when you start on the same day as someone, you always have a bit of a, you know with with Lou Forster:  same day buddies. But that. You know, gave. Me. Goosebumps made me teary cause I thought wow, sometimes we just don’t know the impact we have on other people and it doesn’t need to be heroic. So yeah, things like that. Hopefully I can have a few of those at the end of my life.

Francis Lynch: I mean, you started off earlier talking about being focused on people and when. I asked you to introduce yourself. You. Spoke about that. And so is that part of who you are in terms of actually wanting to be there for people and wanting to be able to support people?

Lou Forster:  Yeah, yeah. And I, I think having some part in someone else discovering something else for themselves, that’s not too long winded way. So I don’t really want people to, you know, have my help or, you know, achieve something because of me. But I’d love to be able to. It’s a classic coaching, Lou Forster:  really and I try not. To make it too. You know, formal coaching, but if I can have a conversation with someone and and they are able to unlock something for themselves and then achieve something that just gives me no end of energy and satisfaction really and and vice versa. I think yeah. When. With other people can help you see things and and you you change the way you think or behave. I’ve I’ve learned definitely to be a lot more open to feedback in the last probably. Five years because I think it’s, you know, we’re we’re we’re programmed to get really defensive when someone might be criticising us. And I’ve definitely learned to. Stop and value what anyone says and be curious, even if it’s mean. I realise that it probably means that that person 2 means in the same sentence, but that they’re probably in in a different place and so I’ve become so much more relaxed Lou Forster:  about that. Which is. Yeah, I think it takes you a long time to get there.

Francis Lynch: Do you think that your the purpose or the the focus for your life? Do you think that that has changed much over the years or is it something that really you’re able to see a through line?

Lou Forster: I think again focusing more on purpose just generally or or me or. The eulogy, rather than the resume that has changed, and I I remember going to see a woman called Rachel Green who does some coaching and she’s speech pathologist by trainning. Running but I had a coaching session and she was really trying to dig into, you know what? What motivates me, what my values, what drives me? And I was like, this is wasting my, you know, expensive hour of coaching. I didn’t say that, but she must have picked up on that because in my head I wanted to set some goals and get some feedback from her about where I. Should you know, put my energy. And it probably took me a couple of years to kind of go. She was onto something. Just it must be a maturity thing and yeah, but but again, I learned because I was so frustrated at the time I can now. See, when people I I try not to force feed advice to people because you you just need to be in the right space to hear it. And I think we’re doing some work with them at chorus with some Dutch guys called corporate rebels and they go around the world seeing organisations that do well. Answer the best job in the world that I can just flying. Around seeing all these. Cool things that companies do, but they talk about people are just where they are. And and it’s such a simple kind of statement, but you. Can’t drag people. Along and you know you can’t force feed people. You just gotta know that everyone is where they. Are and like everyone can move and grow, but just accept Lou Forster: that people are where they are, so you know that’s quite powerful for me.

Francis Lynch: So what does that mean for you in the way that you work? I mean, how does that change how you think about your work?

Lou Forster:  Yeah. And I I think chorus causes a quirky organisation and probably how we approach things as as senior leaders is seen as quirky by people who are quite. Process driven, you know, eye dotting and T crossing. So when things come up, people who are quite process driven want to just jump in and make a decision and roll it out and just tell people that we’re changing the way we’re doing something and we’ll be like, well, yeah, have we thought about the implications on people’s lives and how change is accepted. And most people don’t like being told. Actually, like being part of the journey of discovery. Yeah. So I think it, it does shape the Lou Forster:  work because hopefully we get better outcomes and we build a better organisation by doing that. But I can see in people’s faces. They just think sometimes it’s a bit wacky and also that. It’s just so time. Consuming and frustrating that you can’t get decisions made and so yeah. It definitely influences work, and I’ve learned through thing big, big projects that have, you know. Hit roadblocks or or. Really upset people because we tried to push something through. So I’ve I’ve definitely learned through experience or we all have as a a group. So yeah, absolutely that that kind of thinking has influenced how I work.

Francis Lynch: There’s a lot of you bring a lot of energy to your work by, by the way, you’ve been describing it and I wonder how you keep charged up. You know what gives you the energy to keep doing what you’re doing.

Lou Forster: What was like what was like? Building things or problem solving, and so I remember saying to people over my career. I’m not great at just doing, you know, business as usual in a. Not even stagnated, you know organisational or place. But if it’s just daily grind, you know, I was talking to carers when I first came to WA in 2005. So every call was different, but it was still really a call centre. It was just kind of, you know, you’re more technically skilled with people answering the phones as opposed to perhaps, you know, someone called your phone  account, but even that every conversation could be a bit different and it and it was there was quite a lot of problem solving, we in a really short space of time, I just could not motivate myself to be energising. That role. So yeah, I I think I said to Sheila who care options before Chorus dropped me into a red-hot mess. I. Don’t mind that. Rubbing her hands or a project that got them opportunity. Lou Forster: That’s why I like business development, things like community engagement and performance management. When you’re really doing hard work with individuals or groups, yeah, they’re the types of work that inspire me. So yeah, if it if it gets too samey or too transactional. To UM. Predictable. I can feel myself like I’m having to, you know, have harsh words with myself to get motivated.

Francis Lynch We need that type of energy and that type of person in every organisation. So yeah, that, that’s that’s always appreciated, and you can’t have everyone the same. Yeah, it just doesn’t work.

Lou Forster:  No It really doesn’t.

Francis Lynch: So tell me are. There particular sources of inspiration for you. At the moment, I mean. I know you’re a podcaster and and I’m assuming you listen to podcasts, Francis Lynch: or you know where. Where are you getting some some learning from at the moment and?

Lou Forster: I love audio content and particularly when I was in the car a lot I found in the last few months I’ve listened to less. So that’s interesting because your brain definitely works differently when you’re listening as opposed to reading. And and I think when I was studying, you read so much, you know, theory I think after the. MBA I was like just. Give me, you know, some kind of soap. Never really. Soap. But I got into a really cool podcast called Ear Hustle, which is set in a San Quentin penitentiary like prison. In California, and so it kind of sounds quite out there, but it is the most amazing human. And stories, they are the most amazing human stories and stories within stories. So the the hosts have one host in particular has a story. They’re on season four or something now, Lou Forster:  and every episode is amazing. It’s amazingly produced and sounds, you know, effects are great. And so I’m always, you know, thinking, listening to something that I enjoy. But then thinking. Wow, I love. The way they did that, they introduced that and and and it will inspire. Me with something. So yeah, I’m not listening to tonnes of podcasts. On work or or kind of theory related stuff at the moment because I’m. Struggling, but when? You did ask, you know, you gave me a heads up on that question. There’s a couple of books that I they’re not that new for me, but I keep going back to them and that’s when you know that they must be working. So the the first one is the drive by Daniel Pink. And I think because I’m so driven. I found it interesting to go. Oh OK this. This there might be a bit of a, you know, one way of looking at, you know drive and that might help me working with others. So here’s three kind of elements are that we Lou Forster: need autonomy and to be able to make decisions for ourselves, we need mastery. We all need to be able to get better at something and feel good from that, and we need to have purpose, a yearning to do something in the service of others and that. One of that service came through when I did a series of a three-part podcast series on loneliness. And there’s psychological evidence that when we are in service of someone else, we cannot feel depression. Just in that moment, it is the most effective thing to do something for somebody else. And and you know you feel better. About yourself, so like that. Dr Autonomy, mastery and purpose. That’s Daniel pink. I think it just. Explains why I’m so into people, doesn’t it really? Cause I want to understand how they tick and whether I can, you know, have more effective conversations or relationships.

Francis Lynch: In the process, because I do, I know you run with with Dan, the Chorus Voices Podcast, which I’ve listened to many, many of the episodes and and I like the way that you often do tell stories and and you you really rely on the voices of people within the organisation as staff or volunteers or service users. So. Is that something that you? Like, tell me why you. Why you like doing that or how that came about?

Lou Forster: Well, you have an influence in that, Francis. So that’s always nice to know. Like we, I’d love the audio like I said and and I love technology when there’s a value for it. So when I thought, wouldn’t it be great to record conversations or to have that available for other people? That’s how I must have got into podcast, but that was, you know, a good ten years ago. So and so we’re four. Yeah, they were. They’re putting more popular than the movies. I think in 2016 in in America, it was Lou Forster: pretty that. So I didn’t really have a formula, it was just capturing things and sharing them and just just, I guess, toying with them the the promotion of of content and then, you know, you kindly. But you’ve been playing with audio waves, and can I come and talk to you about what you had learned in your kind of first exploration, which is amazing and and you give me a PowerPoint presentation and some notes and I still have them and I share them sometimes and we’ve we’ve referred to those when we were. Building chorus voices. So there was interest, there was a willingness to just experiment. I think with me, I’m I’m a more of an agile thinker and do a. Yeah, the opposite the waterfall. Yeah, plan, plan, plan, plan, plan and then maybe don’t even ever do it or Miss Miss match. You know what you’re trying to achieve. So I think I said to the marketing. I mean and to Dan I I said to Dan, I think that we could co-host a podcast and I’ve got some Lou Forster: ideas around it. And he was like, sounds great. Let’s. To go and then send it to the team. It was harder with the team at first. They’re fantastic now, but but I’m known for having some hairbrained ideas and get the. Kind of they they. Like it, but they kind of roll their eyes cause like, Oh my God, how are we going to pull this off? You know, get it from idea to delivery. But we said that we would commit for six months and see how it went. And it and it was successful. So we kept kept going and kept recommitted to it.

Francis Lynch: And and how do people you know who you know? Whether it is a service user or a staff person. I mean, what what’s the feedback that you get about those people who contribute and get involved in it?

Lou Forster: the people that get involved in it, really enjoy it. I think that’s a different experience because that suddenly opens up a world for them. You know they. Have a platform. And I think people like share it with their family and friends and and you can see that people really enjoy that with the general listeners. It’s it’s so frustrating because it’s hard to know qualitatively and much about them, so you can know what platform they use to listen and what country they’re in 

Francis Lynch: how many.

Lou Forster: and how many? But you don’t really get a great picture of who they are and why they like your show. It’s just anecdotal. So I. I love it when someone says, you know, listen to the podcast and. I’m like, well, what? What is it that you know you like about it? I’m. I just, you know, suck up that information. So unfortunately, it’s pretty anecdotal. And even when we kind of put calls out to ask for feedback, you really don’t get an awful lot. So you just have to get the crumbs and chase those.

Francis Lynch: And and look, I think it’s an, it’s an example of a podcast that I’ve actually given to quite a lot of other people because I think it actually has done an amazing job. While being able for me from the outside to get a sense of what’s actually. What is the culture, of course, and how? How are you being able to, you know, bring these three organisations together and to build? A group and. And you know, I just think it’s been a really successful podcast. So you know, congratulations, because I think it’s great.

Lou Forster: That is amazing and but that is probably the best feedback. You know we could receive isn’t the Net Promoter. Score is if you you’re. Willing to recommend something because recommending something puts your reputation on the line as well. So you you don’t just recommend something unless you. Do believe in It because that person might go and that was rubbish. And Lou Forster: what were you thinking, Frances? So to me. That’s. You know, that’s the epitome of feedback. So thank you. It’s great to get that.

Francis Lynch: So we’re so we’re coming to the end of this episode of of Living with purpose. Is there anything else that you wanted to to sort of tell me about that you’re involved in or?

Lou Forster: Well, there was another book, and I think it just it speaks to something else I’ve learned over the years. So rather than, you know an actual project or anything I’m working on, but so this one is another Dan or Daniel, Daniel Kahneman’s thinking, fast and slow. It’s a bit of a mammoth read and probably. I don’t need to read all of it. Sorry Mr Kahneman. But there’s the the crux of what it is. That we’ve got our. Savannah brain and we’ve got our kind of rational brain and the Savannah brain kept us alive. But it it’s Lou Forster: made us incredibly defensive and paranoid, and we look much more for risks and danger, but it’s there for a reason and the analogy. I use I was interviewing new staff, you know, recruits in in an organisation with one other woman for. A few years, so we we. You might have a third person on the panel, but we would have interviewed you know. 30, 40, 50 people or something over a few years wasn’t a massive organisation but did lots of interviews and there they were mid to senior level skilled roles. We didn’t make all the best tyres and we realised that generally when they weren’t and you don’t usually know that it’s not the. Best hire for a. While we realise that one of us had had a gut feel in the interview, but the other one had probably rationally talked that one out. And so we were like. OK. We made a pact that if if one just had a gut feel, we didn’t need to explain it because Daniel Kahneman talks about the system. One thinking, which is the the quick Lou Forster: fire protect yourself. It doesn’t connect well to the linguistic part of the brain, so it’s actually quite tricky to to use words to explain to someone else why you have the gut. Feeling which I thought was fascinating. So our pact was, if you have a gut feeling, it’s just a no. And we’ve saved ourselves probably 6 or 12 months of frustrating work.

Francis Lynch: Yeah, I know. Absolutely what you’re talking about. I, I’ve I’ve had that gut feeling a number of times and and, you know, down the track wondered why I didn’t trust it.

Lou Forster: Yeah, well, because it. Feels weird I think, and we don’t. Yeah, it’s it’s a. It’s an odd feeling. And and other people, I think maybe judge us on a gut feeling because it doesn’t sound, you know, data-driven or evidence based or something. And then you give your rational brain long enough and it’ll find some really valid reasons to talk you out.

Francis Lynch: that’s right. I really appreciate you coming on to the podcast and look forward to see where the next part of the journey for. You is.

Lou Forster: Thanks, Frances. And I also you know well, thank you for. Getting in touch again after being in a different. State for a. While and to me that just explains what I’m all about. Because you make real Connections with people and. You might speak for a few years, but when you. Do it’s great to touch base again and. See what you’re both up to.

Francis Lynch: Yeah, great. Thank you. 

Lou Foster: Thanks Francis.