In short, it is about the three different problem profiles. I have revisited the blog post and updated it to align specifically with leadership and how we can improve our teams(s) and importantly the leaders around us.
» Throughout my career, I have made many observations about teams and individuals, as I have run teams in agencies, had two of my own consultancies, advised businesses & marketplaces and worked across multiple disciplines and business sectors; I have seen many versions of individuals who raise problems or pain points or become the problems themselves.
For the most part, people raise pain points, typically it is for the right reasons and depending on your work environment (or direct manager), you will see types of three profiles of people:
Problem Raisers — Problem Solvers — Problematics
Problem Raisers usually have the right intent, they want to raise pain points for themselves, for users or for clients. Problem Raisers want to create a fix to these pain points, however, they might not engineered in that way, they may not be creative (Problem Solvers are) or environmentally it is not their place (theposition within the org or down to core individuals or departments to be the fixers) to offer a solution.
Problem Raisers are concerned about the problem but the fix is not always an important milestone for them, they potentially work around the problem or in some cases can continue to work without the Problem being explicitly fixed or removed.
A great team or cross-functional teams have a blend of Problem Raisers and Problem Solvers.
Problem Solvers (often seen as ‘the rescuer’ in Stephen Karpman’s The Drama Triangle) are those people who find pain points, raise problems and then offer solutions, typically driven by the outcome and fixing the problem that is at hand.
Problem Solvers can come in two subcategories:
Empowered Problem Solver: Empowered Problem Solvers want to solve the puzzle, they see puzzles not problems. Empowered Problem Solvers have the ability to lead from the front and often act as the project manager and engineer the fix. The fix is their energy source and how they thrive.
“Problem Solver Solutioniser”: The problem solver solutioniser are not empowered to make the change themselves and have to push for the solution from the passenger seat.
From experience, the best Problem Solvers typically have a growth mindset, they embrace change, they strive to improve themselves and the situation around them and want to take it on as a learning curve and grow from the experience.
There can actually be negative to Problem Solvers; they can get frustrated and fairly quickly and do not understand why these problems are not fixed. Problem Solvers often have high IQ and WIQ (work IQ) but can lack the PQ (political intelligence) needed to ensure these problems are addressed.
The best Marketing, Growth and Product people I have worked with fall into the Problem Solvers profile and actively want to address the pain points at hand and the ones that are up and coming and prioritise accordingly.
If a Problem Solver Solutioniser is ignored or their pain points are not addressed in a reasonable time, over time Problem Solvers can turn into Problematics and that can be a difficult place for you and your teams.
Most often Problematics have a negative impact on their colleagues, they negatively impact how they are perceived and will then impact your department’s performance and the company’s subculture.
As a leader, this is where you have to step up and ensure these changes are made or you or an external exec coach actually evolves the Problem Solver Solutioniser’s to have more PQ (political intelligence).
We have all worked with Problematics, they stand out, they are a negative (almost toxic) employee and unfortunately, the likelihood is they have been burnt, and the pain points they raise have not been addressed in the way they have felt heard.
Problematics feel like their pain points have never been addressed or fixed and every time they raise pain points it comes across as a problem or someone else fault.
Problematics are often overly negative and it starts to spread or they compare their experiences versus others and start resenting the work or workplace. Two or more Problematics in close proximity can have a real negative impact on people and teams around them.
I generally believe Positive Problematics can be moved back to Problem Raisers with specific coaching, supporting frameworks and measurements to help them understand the logic behind the decision made and re-engage them back into the business.
My Problem-Solving Power Half Hours can work with Positive Problematics and I recommend there are two or three sessions to uncover their issues and enable them to put across their business cases.
Once a Problematic knows deep down things won’t change or they cannot make the changes they have recommended, unfortunately, they become Negative Problematics.
Negative Problematics are faced with a realistic outcome and that is often unclear to them, it is to move onto a new workplace and have the opportunity to become Problem Raisers and reset their energy and become successful again with their role.
One Problem — Two Solutions: With every problem raised, you should offer two possible solutions, one preferred and show how you landed with this solution and the second an alternative.
This framework works particularly well with more senior people who are unaware of these types of pain points or those who like to make the decisions.
It is always important to ensure you show business impact, and external impact with revenue figures and I recommend going that step further and showing internal/cultural impact.
Offer a way to show which people or teams need to be involved and the timeline of the proposed solution. If this pain point is to replace other issues or stop work on existing items on roadmaps everything needs to be laid out and thought through. Often you will need to speak to the relevant teams to gain this insight however if you are a Problem Solver this will be part of something you have thought of.
As a leader, you can run the exercise in 1-2-1’s, informal check-ins or across your leadership team meetings and categorise your fellow leads into these three profiles and decide if you need to help enable them, back them more or in extreme cases move them towards an exit if they have moved too far towards a Negative Problematic.
This week’s focus action is to categorise your department members into these categories and an interesting exercise is to apply this to your fellow management and leadership colleagues, this will give you a different perspective on how you can and should interact with your colleagues and the actions you have to take.
Dear Leaders, are you an entrepreneur? Or do you have an itch you want to scratch but struggling to know its time… Or would you consider yourself an intrepreneur*?
If yes, this week’s leaders letter with returning guest Caleb Parker is for you. Caleb is a true entrepreneur, what makes Caleb unique is his ability to understand complicated markets, building brilliant brands to stand out and evolve the industry before sweeping changes.
Caleb and I had a great chat a few weeks ago and I wanted to bring it to you in the format you enjoy most, podcast, video and written formats.
Quote Of The Podcast
As entrepreneurs, we’re, we’re telling a story where we’re creating new ideas and we need to be sharing that with the world. I fundamentally believe that entrepreneurs make the world a better place.
I’ve said this many times to the point that it’s almost like a recording now, but for lack of for the, you know, trying to avoid being, you know, not authentic, I really believe that entrepreneurs, because we’re the ones who are standing up and saying, you know, there’s gotta be a better way.
And to be able to scale a business, to be able to grow a tribe, to be able to attract people to our cause, we have to be, we have to make sure people know about it.
— Caleb Parker
Caleb and I discussed some incredibly important topics:
The new Misfits Mindset podcast and why it’s important
Dedicating life to championing the entrepreneur mindset
Why modern companies have to embrace media
The future of work and remembering the importance of people first approach
The future of humanity
AI and the shift we are experiencing and going to experience
If you prefer podcasts click play and listen below or on your favourite player like Spotify or Apple podcasts.
The Leadership Lessons & Takeaways From This Interview
Entrepreneurs drive the business world forward, not always perfectly, however, without entrepreneurs we would stagnate and have a lot less disruption
As a business leader, you will have several itches, especially if you already have a business or operating in one, often another itch is bigger (and better) and going to be the bigger business you will end up working on and making positive changes with – Caleb see’s opportunity and runs full pace at it when the time is aligning
When it comes to LLM and AI – ‘missions’ are going to be more important. Missions are going to be incredibly powerful as a driver and it’s critical for people to connect to a (company or personal) mission to get their best work
What works for some does not work for others and that is ok but as leaders, you have to embrace differences and enable people to thrive – whether that’s in an office environment, working hybrid or becoming more flexible within business operations
The world of work has to change, especially around the future of the office – it has to be more flexible and environments people want to work in and collaborate in not just be in to work in
The business world will change in the future and there may not be 100-year companies anymore, there could be more disposable companies set up for specific tasks and then change or fold once their tasks or job is done and that’s going to be empowering and offer futures for many professionals.
And stay up to date with Caleb’s new company Brave Corp
This week’s focus item is to embrace your entrepreneurial side and look at how you can look at a set of problems from the outside in and push forward on it, what is the worst that could happen?
Thanks and have a great week,
*intrepreneur – Is self-motivated, proactive, and action-oriented people who have leadership skills and think outside the box (link)
The Full Vodcast Transcript
Caleb Parker Bold To Brave
[00:00:00] Danny Denhard: Caleb, firstly, thanks for joining me today. I want to give like a background on, on who you are and what you do and, and the mission you’re on, but I thought I’d give a little intro because what people tend to do is they tend to ask the guest first. And I think I want to give a a little shout out because we’ve, we’ve known each other for a little while and you’re one of those people that, always comes front of mind to things. So the way I I would explain you to people when, when I do intro emails for you is first and foremost, you’re, you’re a great person. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re a builder and an operator, which many people can’t do. You’re one of the select small percentage of people who understands what it takes to be a modern day company.
[00:00:41] So you integrate media and media creation into what you do. And you’ve always put community first. So have I done a good job
[00:00:49] better than me? Probably thank you for that. I really appreciate it, Danny. Yeah, no, I, I think media is important. As entrepreneurs, we’re, we’re telling a story where we’re creating new ideas and we need to be sharing that with the world.
[00:01:02] I fundamentally believe that entrepreneurs make the world a better place. I’ve said this many times to the point that it’s almost like a recording now, but for lack of for the, you know, trying to avoid being, you know, not authentic, I really believe that entrepreneurs, because we’re the ones who are standing up and saying, you know, there’s gotta be a better way.
[00:01:20] And to be able to scale a business, to be able to grow a tribe, to be able to attract people to our cause, we have to be, we have to make sure people know about it. And so that’s where I think social media has been fantastic for helping us over the last 20 years to do that. I’m a big fan of using media for that.
[00:01:39] And you said mission, I guess my personal mission somewhere around 10, 12 years ago, I decided that I’m dedicating my life to champion in that entrepreneur mindset in that I’ve been going doubling down on that for the last several years.
[00:01:57] And you’ve, you’ve had quite a successful decade or so you’ve been involved in many different businesses, all different shapes and sizes.
[00:02:07] You’ve, you’ve obviously got you’ve got a lot going on. I think somewhere to start might be with the new podcast series you’ve got, which is called Misfits, right?
[00:02:16] Yeah. Misfits mindset. It’s it’s a, it’s about what we’re doing is sitting down with founders of scale up companies to really dive deep into how they think and how they approach decision making, how they attract people to their team, getting the right people on board, how they rally people around their purpose.
[00:02:35] And then when it comes to pivoting or making really tough decisions, what goes on in their brain, I think there’s a lot of podcasts, there’s a lot of content out there on how to do this, what to do tactics and creating strategies. But it’s the, it’s the mindset. I think it. It takes to, to really be successful.
[00:02:58] Because business is hard. And yeah, I just think that I really want to dive into that for my own learnings, but also for, you know, other entrepreneurs as I champion this, this mindset,
[00:03:10] I think is something that you, you said when you go to like conferences. People talk about what they did. They don’t necessarily talk about why they did it and how they did it.
[00:03:19] And then on podcasts, it’s like the greatest resource for, for almost anyone, because you can find out what they did, why they did it. And some of the, the how, but what you hit the nail on the head is the mindset. No one really gets into that and drills into it specifically in and around business. And I think that’s like something that’s going to be unique and why people will want to tune in as of next week for episode one and the series, was there anything specific that you learned?
[00:03:45] Are there like two or three different really high level or really specific lessons that you took away or that you, you have to apply for your new business?
[00:03:58] Well, I don’t want to spoil the season, of course, but I will say that there, there are some, some recurring patterns that, that we, we noticed across the, the 10 episodes in season one, season two is in production right now. But we’ve got a range of people different industries and different phases in their business.
[00:04:20] They’ve all raised millions. They’ve all, some of them have exited. But I think resilience is one keyword that I would use, but I don’t want to go into too many details because it’s just, it’s a, it’s a great season and yeah, you’re right. Trailer and episode one drops on Monday the 30th and then for 10 weeks, we’ll have.
[00:04:39] Each, each episode coming out and you in something that might is there anything that really surprised you like that really jumped out and you, you really were surprised by what, what someone said or like an under undertone that happened that you weren’t aware of, or you didn’t think would come out of, of the questions and answers.
[00:04:58] Yeah, there’s, well, there’s one thing that pops to mind is in episode one with Holly hole. She’s the founder of an events company. She’s actually nominated for the great British entrepreneur awards. And I’ve always been for myself. I’ve always tried to separate emotion from business decisions.
[00:05:20] And she made the point that actually it’s not about separating emotions, about controlling emotions, because you need emotions in business, because that’s what helps you bring out and rally people in, you know, the positive aspects of the emotions. Can, can contribute to business success and that just made me see things a little bit differently.
[00:05:40] , Everyone understands IQ, you know, your, your intelligence, especially around like in the job that you’ve got a few skillsets that that I would apply to IQ. You’ve got EQ, which is emotional intelligence, which got a lot of attention a while ago, but a lot of people don’t actually work on it.
[00:05:56] And I think, like you said, like the emotions and being able to either control them or lean into them. It’s really important. And then I call it a PQ, which is political intelligence. Like I think what a lot of people haven’t realized is the two actually played together. There’s the emotional intelligence and then the political side, which is typically playing the game or, or leaning into working through some of the problems.
[00:06:20] And I think a lot of the time, the emotion sides, the emotional side is, is tapered down or, or, or held down, whereas actually a lot of the time you can win by embracing and blending the two, two sides together. So I’d love to, I’m going to be tuning in next week.
[00:06:38] There, there is a, you bring this up. There’s another episode the founder of a company called Tokyo, which is TOQ.
[00:06:45] , so Eduardo talks about how how we can see truths on both sides of, of a conversation or a topic. And I think that plays very well into business and in sitting down and negotiating business deals, but it can go into, you know, relationships in everyday life to politics to. Everything
[00:07:05] I can’t on a lot of people’s leadership journeys and entrepreneur journeys, they are so busy.
[00:07:15] They don’t ever take a step back and consider what’s happened or don’t actually try and. Feel their emotions and the emotive sides. I’ll be tuning in to to definitely dive into it and understand it. We you’ve also got like a new, a new company coming out that’s part of part of the podcast series to, to a degree, if you want to dive into it a little bit and give people a flavor of what you’re going to be doing and how it’s going to be driving business forward.
[00:07:44] Yeah, the, you know, the podcast itself the, you know, our audience are, are the people that we want to be surrounded by the people we want to do business with in general entrepreneurs, people with the people with the growth mindset we’re launching brave. And there’s some news that came out last week.
[00:08:00] I the founder of a brand co working brand called bold. We set up in 2016 was acquired in 2019. And back in may, I started working on brave, actually, I’ve been working on the idea for brave for quite some time, but officially back in may, I started working on brave and then we just announced the launch of the new company last week.
[00:08:20] in January, we’re launching the brave app and we’re, we’ve taking all of the growth mindset entrepreneurs from startup to scale up around the world and giving them an opportunity to connect with each other come to the, our events that we partner with other entrepreneurs to facilitate and to bring people together.
[00:08:40] We have a network of locations that people can tap into. But I don’t want to make this a sales pitch about braid because really, it’s really about the mission of championing that entrepreneur mindset. That’s just the way we facilitate that.
[00:08:54] And that’s something that as long as I’ve known you it’s something you’ve been passionate about and you know, you’ve been doing it for such a long time.
[00:09:02] I think people often don’t realize like how long it takes and how much work it is to not only start a company, but have that like mission in the background where like you’re striving to always, always succeed and always have that like connective tissue or element where people have to come together to succeed.
[00:09:20] I think that’s something that’s probably been lost a little bit more recently.
[00:09:24] Well, it’s the cliche thing where you say, okay, well, it’s 10 years of hard work, looks like an overnight success or whatever. And I think what, what I’ve learned in my journey is the vehicle may change, but the mission doesn’t.
[00:09:39] And, you know, I’ve been, I’ve, I’ve been in several different vehicles, but my mission has stayed the same in the past decade. And this is a new vehicle, it’s an evolution of an existing vehicle, but I think the mission of helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, making real estate easier for entrepreneurs.
[00:09:55] And I think it’s my small contribution to making the world a better place.
[00:10:01] Sounds like great mission to me. I think there’s a lot of there’s a lot of, obviously there’s a lot of noise around to return to the office and office space and, and that, and Dropbox recently announced that they’re going to be giving back a lot of space.
[00:10:14] Do you think that office is going to be like this big, big contentious point for, for the future? Or do you think there’s going to be a shift and people will, you know, 2024, 2025 will come to a point and it will, there’ll be like a leveling of the market almost for return to the office and the office being like one of the most important elements to.
[00:10:36] It’s a success in, for, for corporations or businesses.
[00:10:41] I look forward to the day where, where we don’t have to talk about return to office.
[00:10:45] I look forward to the day when we have podcasts and not talk about return to office. I’d rather be talking about return to humanity. Because if you ask a hundred different people how they like to work and what makes them successful, you’re going to get a hundred different answers.
[00:10:58] So I think the last century that we’ve been working in offices in the knowledge based economy, it’s all been, real estate’s all been about taking a white box and giving it to a company, the company turning it into a branded box. And then that branded box. The company tells everybody to fit into, and I think going forward, it’s going to be a lot different in the sense that people understand how they’re.
[00:11:23] Team works best and everybody works best slightly differently. And so companies will to attract the right talent and they’re going to be more empathetic to people and they’re going to be able to help people be successful in their own way. And that’s going to mean a lot of different things for a lot of different companies, but the office quotations no longer has a monopoly.
[00:11:44] On work, it just becomes one of the tools in the whole platform of work. And so, to me, and this is some of the stuff that we want to address with brave is we want to be able to create offices that what we’re calling campuses are flagship locations and cities where there are places that destinations that people come to do certain types of work some days.
[00:12:07] And the app gives them access to tap into other communities and workplace environments on other days. But there’s going to be days where they don’t go into an office and they work from home. I’m working from home today. So I think the future is flexible and that’s what I’ve believed for some time.
[00:12:22] I’m just kind of surprised it took a global pandemic for other people to get on board with it.
[00:12:27] I think for a lot of people and probably for the next generation to come, because there isn’t like a playbook, there isn’t a copy paste that you, that people can follow, it’s really difficult because.
[00:12:40] The people in charge are always going to default to or mimic the way that worked for them. And I think this is, this is like the one of the core tenants of, of, you know, my mission of trying to fix the broken world of work is to help people understand that everyone is different. Everyone is engineered slightly differently and everyone can work in different environments, but the traditional office spaces and isn’t always conducive to work and definitely isn’t conducive to, to collaboration. So it’s just something that you nailed it on the head is humanity. And, but what we’ve. Lost a little bit in this as well is, is understanding that some people can work in a busy, noisy coffee shop and others can’t.
[00:13:24] Some people will do their best work on their mobile phone between commuting on the way home and other people have to sit in absolute silence or sit in their bedroom on their bed to do their best work. It’s just, that’s sort of been lost in, in the last, you know, decade.
[00:13:44] And even, even within one person, it’s not binary because sometimes I do a lot of travel, sometimes on a plane, I can be super productive on my laptop and getting things done.
[00:13:55] Other times on the plane, I don’t even want to open my laptop. I just want to watch some movies and drink some wine and have my meal and go to sleep or, you know, so I think it depends on the day. And so it’s not just. Depending on the company or depending on the person, it actually depends on the day in the mood that person’s in.
[00:14:10] So I think the future is a lot more human and empathetic. And I think the leaders that are going to succeed going forward, the companies that succeed with these leaders are going to be more in tune with their team and empowering their team to make those decisions for themselves. I think the other thing is you talked about how people learn to be successful growing up in the workforce themselves, and they’re trying to pass that on.
[00:14:35] I think the best leaders are leaning, leaning into the future by looking at what the next generation is doing. And so I was at a Google comp, I was at, sorry, I was at a conference two weeks ago at Google HQ in London, and they were talking about AI and they were talking about how AI is going to impact us.
[00:14:52] And look, there’s a lot of questions around that and we won’t go into that. But one of the questions that I thought about was, okay, well, if, if we no longer have to search for the answer, but we can speak the question and not just the answer comes back, but what to do with that answer and, and not just have one answer.
[00:15:14] A path, but multiple paths that we can choose from the A. I. Really takes all that up. What if we’re just thinking about the right path to choose? The answers are all there. Here’s the right path to choose. We have to decide that. So that’s going to just change the whole workforce. And, you know, we can go down a rabbit hole there, but.
[00:15:33] I think there’s more questions than answers around that right now, but I think it’s important for us to lean into the future of work by looking at how people are growing up today.
[00:15:43] For sure. We can, we can flirt a little bit with AI. It’s overhyped at the moment. I think the, a lot of the tools are very similar.
[00:15:52] My true belief is that… At the end of it, we’re probably going to get to a point where we have assistants, like an AI assistant, that’s going to help us informed. The one thing that a lot of people aren’t talking around is like our competitive edge, which is that we’ve got the gut, which will often give us the best answer.
[00:16:12] So a lot of us are really data driven and that’d be really easy.
[00:16:15] You got the what that gives us the best answer?
[00:16:17] The gut?
[00:16:17] The gut, yeah. So like our gut reaction, our gut feel drives us forward. So almost all big businesses. Say 20 years ago, didn’t have any of this data or any startup 15 years ago, had a tiny, tiny percentage of, of informational data.
[00:16:34] And what a lot of companies and people have moved away from is the gut, the gut feel or what’s, what’s driven them or made them successful. So some over lean and over index on it, but there’s a lot of companies now who are going to allow large language models to give them the answer. And without being cautious enough to query it or say to ourselves, but what do we, what do we believe and what’s our gut telling us, or what is it that we might’ve missed? That’s going to give us that competitive edge because otherwise all the data is going to be, data is going to drive all the decisions. It’s going to be moving away from what’s made a lot of people successful. I’m not, you know, everyone will quote Steve jobs in five years time and say, well, Steve jobs wouldn’t have, wouldn’t have given all of the data away and wouldn’t have enabled the machine to make all the decisions, especially on design or on features.
[00:17:28] We’re going to get to this point where we’re going to be assisted and I completely agree. It would give us the pathways or the steps that we could take. It’s just on us now as like the decision makers or the business leaders to decide whether that data is right, or those pathways are right, or we need to interject and become a different source of decision making because unless you’re going to give your complete knowledge center, like I’ve got almost 8, 000 Apple notes, unless I’m going to give that in into a large language model, it’s not going to necessarily understand me and help the team around me. And I think that’s what some of the async work is, is sort of done well, is everything’s around clear communication.
[00:18:15] And I wonder in the future, if we’re going to be able to get to a point. Where we can say, AI has given us this answer, how do we give the second, third, fourth order on it? And how do we empower people around us to, to say, actually, we don’t believe that is true. We need to tweak that. I think that’s something that a lot of people have almost stepped away from a little bit and gone on that hype cycle to a point, but I’m happy to be proven wrong in, in the future.
[00:18:46] I think, I think there is a lot of hype around it and I’ll be the first to raise my hand to say, I’m not an expert. I’m very curious about it. My friend, Jason says that nothing’s AI right now. It’s just machine learning. There’s no artificial intelligence. It’s just, it’s just, it’s learning right now. But I think I can imagine that in the future we’ll be able to ask it a question.
[00:19:07] It presents us with several options. We choose, let’s go back to the humanity side. We choose as a, as a human, what we think is the right path forward. And then it goes and completes the task. So I think what that does though, if that. Is a reality that we will one day live in from a leadership perspective, we have to stop valuing doing in time and put more value on outputs results in thinking, and that’s a big shift.
[00:19:39] That’s a big shift for leadership who’s used to managing people doing things on a systematic basis.
[00:19:48] The question I was come back to now is. For the, for the middle managers and the people who are department leads or business leads is, are you going to enable and allow more policing? So like, are you going to allow human policing?
[00:20:03] So where they are, what they do, the delivery on the task, or is that going to be some sort of automation? That’s going to, that’s going to be the driver and the police, the police force on, on, on their work and the outputs of the company, because I think that’s where we’re going to land in. In a short while, and are we going to be able to.
[00:20:24] To trust, trust that enough, or is it going to be still relying on a combo of people and process that’s automated?
[00:20:32] Look, I don’t have the answers here for sure, but my ethos is that we bring people together around a mission. We work backwards from that mission to how, how did we get there? We all get on the same page with that strategy, the tactics we’re going to deploy.
[00:20:52] And then we give each other the space and autonomy to choose how to do that and come together when we need to. Now that’s a bit maybe altruistic or maybe even utopia. And it doesn’t work right now for all companies because there’s a transition going in, in leadership styles. But the future to me is people aren’t policing.
[00:21:14] People are motivating.
[00:21:17] That’s what the, you know, difference between a manager and a leader is motivation and driving people to, to get by into what they’re going to be doing long term. Manager often is someone who moves. Moves people from task to task or tactical channel to channel or spreadsheet to spreadsheet.
[00:21:36] Right. So yeah, I, I sympathize and appreciate you giving, giving your thought on that one. With a lot of the stuff that you’re doing, you’re, you’re kind of predicting a little bit of the future of work and some of the ways of working. Do you have do you have some predictions or do you have a, like some.
[00:21:54] Some feeling around what the future of work might look like. Obviously you’re shaping it a little bit with Brave and you’re sharing a load of insights through the podcast. Is there, are there. Do you have some thoughts around the future of work and when we might be moving towards?
[00:22:09] Well, at a macro level, I think we’re going to see a lot more companies get started, a lot more people moving into entrepreneurship, a lot, almost call it solo inc or, you know freelancer inc.
[00:22:22] There’s going to be a lot of people where that become their own entrepreneur. Maybe they don’t build up a big company with lots of people around them, but they plug into other people’s companies and a lot of people working together in that way. I think there’s still going to be some big companies that grow.
[00:22:38] I think we’re going to see a lot more volatility around that. Seeing, we see companies today that have been around for over a hundred years. I think we’ll see less of those in the future. Companies will get set up to, for a specific cause they’ll go for several years and then they’ll go away and they’ll evolve into something else.
[00:22:53] Maybe. So macro level, I think we’re going to see a lot more uncertainty on jobs and stuff like that, but people on the flip side have the opportunity to create their own income, create their own wealth to control their own destiny. I think that’s going to be very difficult for some people. But this is why I, you know, I think you go back to the whole cliche of nurture versus nature.
[00:23:19] I think some people are born with sort of a innate ability to take on risk. And I think other people, even if they’re not born with it, can learn it. And so I think we need to be in our school systems, teaching people not to just go get a college degree or you go to university and then get a job that you stay at for a long time.
[00:23:39] It’s, it, we need to be able to navigate this new world and people need to be taught this.
[00:23:45] But I think what all that means though, is that and I’ll come back to my world of the future of work as it relates to the future of office, because that’s where sort of I, I live. I think real estate in general has always been inflexible for entrepreneurs and is very expensive to get into in the past.
[00:24:08] We used to think the first thing when we’re going to start up a company, we’ve got to go get an office. And now we don’t have to do that. But at some point we need to access. Professional places that we can meet people, whether it’s our team or our, you know, team or our colleagues and and customers.
[00:24:26] And so I think the future of real estate becomes more flexible because it, as I said earlier, doesn’t have the monopoly on work anymore. It’s got to be more service driven. It’s got to be more hospitality driven. It’s got to facilitate a community because I think people want to go where they belong and that they are empowered to choose when and where they work best. It’s about going to places that I feel taken care of and I feel like I fit in.
[00:24:55] 100 percent agree that the one there’s that one thread there that I personally really like is. Years and years we’ve both worked in environments where the office is. Open plan, you have, you have your desk, you have your monitor or two monitors, you have your laptop or your computer, and that’s your space.
[00:25:16] And you work around people from your team or your department. And then everything turned into hot desking and people didn’t really change up. And they loved their desk, their cup on their desk. They knew that they were near the toilet or the kitchen. And then interestingly, now it’s not, you know, the office is still very much similar layout.
[00:25:37] People didn’t rethink or, or restructure it and didn’t embrace the opportunity to change it. And something that I worked with a startup a few years ago, and we, we really rethought the office. Like we thought about what, how people would want to collaborate, how rather than the customer support team didn’t want to be near the sales team.
[00:25:58] It’s how could you embrace a different layout or. Or different areas where people could be noisy and collaborate. And then more library based rules where people could go and be quiet. And, and the kitchen was more of like a, an informal breakout area where you could have meetings or brainstorm stuff like that.
[00:26:15] And I think that’s, what’s really important for the future is offices will look different, like they’re going to have to operate differently, connecting people and exactly what you said is. It can’t just be a gray box anymore. It has to be something that is interchangeable or some way you can feel like you’re, you’ve got your community there, which is just so important.
[00:26:40] And I think where leaders need to evolve most is understanding that it’s different now, like it has to change in the near future and the longterm. And I predict that people that are for. I haven’t rethought the office, so I’m going to lose. And those who really rethink it or rethink environments are going to be the ones that win.
[00:26:59] And I really liked the idea of companies don’t, don’t have to be there for a hundred years anymore. I think the people will spin up companies, solve specific problems and then move on to the next one. And they don’t have to be acquired or have to sell to, to see that as successful. I think they’re going to be so many different career paths people take and rather than having one career or two careers, you might have three or four.
[00:27:25] And then you can patch on top passions that you might have. So. I love your prediction or where you, you’re going to help reshape. Some people’s future of work.
[00:27:36] Well, this is why I’m curious about the misfits mindset the scale of entrepreneurs, because if you think about being empathetic with people, but also rallying people around a mission and a purpose entrepreneurs, startups.
[00:27:51] Or where that ethos sits in, you can see it clearly the best, the people that are the early founders, the early senior team, the early employees, you know, all the way down to employee number 20, 50 at some point along the line, the further you get away from the founder in that early stage, the further you get away from the purpose and the mission, if you look at the companies today, I think the companies of the future, the leaders of those companies, and it doesn’t have to be just the founder and the CEO, but the leaders throughout the company are able to be so close to the mission and the purpose and are able to articulate that and have that front and center in all of their conversations with recruitment, attracting people with customers, with investors, everybody’s aligned around this mission and purpose.
[00:28:37] Because I have a theory that when someone is aligned, when someone is, is working towards something they really care about, they don’t think of it as work. So if. In the future of work, if people are aligning their, their purpose with their income, then they’re going to be happier. They’re not going to go home at the day and hate to go back to work the next day.
[00:29:03] They’re going to look forward to it. Mondays are going to be better for people. And so I think it’s important that leaders really articulate that. And don’t just treat people like an employee and like you’re solving my problem of getting to the next level. It’s it’s we’re all on the same team here trying to advance this particular cause.
[00:29:28] If you think about volunteerism over the last several years, volunteerism has rose significantly. People want to pursue something. People want to spend their time doing something that they care about and that they’re not getting paid for it. So imagine being able to do that and get paid for it.
[00:29:48] That’s a, that’s a big idea that I pitched a number of years ago for, for somewhere I used to work.
[00:29:56] I saw that actually.
[00:29:57] And it was one of those ideas that like is more than money. But I don’t want to get into, into like too, like too, too much detail into it. But if you can “imagine more”, so for what a lot of people don’t realize is companies often just are based on transactions, transactions, and, you know, user data.
[00:30:17] What we’ve moved away from is understanding actually is things that are very often more valuable than that. So whether that’s the time that you can spend and donate or it’s the energy that you can give to someone or it’s the support you can give to other people, doesn’t always have to be monetary and very often the monetary doesn’t.
[00:30:36] It doesn’t match the love or the energy or the time someone else can spend. So interestingly, it all, it all comes around, but I completely agree when you can base your future on something that you’re really passionate about and that you, you want to pursue some companies will embrace that. And I think that’s something that we’re going to see more and more.
[00:30:57] And I. I personally would love to see people, even if they’re intrapreneurs, if they can get the support internally to, to push that forward, I think we’re going to be in a much better place commercially and, You mentioned the word
[00:31:14] transaction and, and I think companies and employees, that’s a transactional experience a lot of times. And we announced the Brave launch last week. And my LinkedIn DMs like got flooded and you can quickly see who really cared about the cause and who didn’t buy what they said. And like, I’ve had some people to say, look, if you need any help, I love your mission, I love what you’re doing.
[00:31:39] I’ll, I’ll, I’ll work for free to help you, you know, and then, you know, it’s like, okay, well, at which point we’re going to be hiring people, that person, she’s who I want to hire, or he’s who I want to hire because. Forget skillset and experience and all that it’s the, it’s the passion they have for the cause that makes the most difference.
[00:31:57] Cause you can teach all that other stuff.
[00:32:01] A hundred percent funny enough with what you’re doing and, and where you’re going with, we’re seeing a lot of groups, you know, like iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, they’re becoming more and more powerful. In and out of companies, because you can learn far more and ask questions of people who know the company or know of the leaders and they’re going to get unfiltered responses, whereas online you tend not to get that, but it’d be really interesting in the future, especially in with Brave is you might get recommended someone who is an incredible employee who you wouldn’t want to lose, but it lines them up really nicely.
[00:32:38] And you can, you know, not let your. Your platform necessarily would love to do it, but that recommendation, that connection is going to be so valuable. And what people will pay high, high amounts for where they used to have to pay a recruiter high retainer fees to, to send someone who isn’t anywhere near as passionate or qualified.
[00:32:57] So I look forward to the launch.
[00:33:02] Me too. Thank you.
[00:33:04] Why don’t you promote the podcast, the new launch, obviously that’s coming out fully in January, but where should people connect with you? What, what should, how should they either help you or what, what can, how can people help you move, moving forward?
[00:33:20] Well, thank you. First of all I would say that misfits mindset drops next Monday, finding all the major podcast platforms. I’m on LinkedIn. So Caleb Parker on my social media, Instagram, formerly Twitter X at Caleb underscore Parker. So I’ll obviously share. And all those places, but listen to the podcast.
[00:33:41] I would, that’s where I would promote the most. You’ll find on the podcast how to connect with brave and our timings and when our first events are where people can plug into to connect with other like minded people. And then. Look, I think the best way people can help me is to, to go out and, and find the problem that they’re passionate about and go solve it because that, that’s how we create a better world.
[00:34:04] And that’s what I’m trying to, to champion. Let’s, let’s solve the problems of today. And and create a better future together. I know it sounds cliche and cheesy and all that, but I’m American. So I can, I can get away with it, I think. And you can tell it far better than us miserable Brits. So yeah, it’s it’s great.
[00:34:20] Thank you. Thank you for all your time your, your honesty and, and I look forward to the podcast and supporting you on Brave.
[00:34:28] Thank you, Danny. Really appreciate it.
Dear leaders, have you ever met someone whose story and energy are so infectious you know you have to work with them?
I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with a motivational speaker and author of a new kids’ book Credo.
As I teased in the community as the sixth business moat (leaders letter 177), Luke and I wanted to share the mic and talk through the mission he is on and the energy he gives with every motivational talk, in his professional workshops and even when coaching his kid’s football (soccer) team.
I guarantee Luke’s incredible journey will inspire you and now on his mission to make every child’s internal butterfly bright – it will give you energy for more.
Luke and I discussed some incredibly important topics:
Leadership: How everyone has an opportunity to lead (but in different ways)
Lifelong Influences: How Luke’s former head teacher Mr Spencer inspired him and so many students to succeed (hint – he is that one teacher who had a huge impact on your life)
Pro Football To Dad: Life lessons and then applying them from not quite making the elite-level professional footballer to being a dad and taking on your inspired dream(s)
Passion => Job: How Luke turned his passion(s) into a life calling and a job as a motivational speaker and now author
Education Reform: Why Luke is going to create a new schooling experience to refresh how education operates within the UK, which has been stuck in the same cycle for decades
The Leadership Lessons I Took Away From This Interview:
1. Leaders (Like Mr Spencer) will have positive and negative impacts on your life, if you are deliberate as a leader you will be remembered. Legacy will live on for many years, how are you talked about behind your back or in the future
2. When you are told to not go for it (like Luke and Luke’s mum), you have two choices, (1) go for it anyway or (2) let it inspire and drive you (and the people around you, whether that’s colleagues, your children or family members)
3. Your passion will show up in and throughout your career, leadership is a skill you need to learn and when you blend your passion and leadership together it will translate and inspire many around you. This is why so many thought leaders and personality-led businesses (you hear more from the company leader than the company themselves) are doing so well currently
4. Even if you don’t make it in one hard profession (Luke’s professional football experience) you still have the chance to craft your own products and journey and even become an author
5. Have your own (leadership) theme, Luke’s is your inner butterfly – this is something Luke and I discussed in detail after the recording and I completely agree with it. If you do not have a leadership theme I am going to be diving deeper into your leadership theme in more detail in a few weeks.
6. Have a vision for the future – Luke is on his mission to change educational institutes for the better, it made me question what my vision was for the future. I know some of my steps for the future but are they realistic and then big enough to roll up to my mission of fixing the broken world of work
Why Department Leads Needs Active Management, Coaching & Effective HR Partners
Dear leaders, I heard a statement on a consulting call earlier this year that I can’t shake.
We are about to experience “the pirates overthrowing the ship’s captain”.
It was a phrase that I remember when I started my career when it was an internal leadership battle but I hadn’t heard it again in many years.
The context this time around was very different but the end message is still the same.
Pirates Vs Captain Or Was The Captain The Problem
The pirates overthrowing the ship’s captain statement was referencing a department that had enough of the existing department lead and had done everything to have them removed from their role.
By all accounts, the removal was well deserved. The lead hadn’t been a leader, they let performance drop to an all-time low, they let the majority of one-to-ones slip and rarely attended the department and team meetings. They left it to the team(s) “to sort out between them”.
Some of the circumstances explained:
Poor management had hindered the team’s subculture and was impacting how the team were interacting
The situation had hindered the trust of the business in that department
The leadership team asked the Department lead what was happening within the team and large campaigns and they were unable to answer and struggled to follow up
HR was fully aware of the implications and decided it best to allow it to play out
The turn of phrase was interesting, implying the team members were pirates. Oddly enough pirates are almost exclusively seen as bad, often focusing in on “attacks and robs”.
Imagine finding out you were referred to as pirates and semantically you were attacking and robbing the department lead of their role… that really wasn’t what happened and it’s essential we are crystal clear in our communications as leaders.
Through all of my brief interactions, the team seemed to be super switched on, they wanted to hit targets and were looking for some direction from the business, not just their department head. The team Heads of were lost due to bad communication and issues were pushed between heads of departments and HR.
The biggest lesson here is some smart people make bad department heads (especially those without training and coaching) and often act in ways they feel are allowing the team to breathe, however, the micro lessons here are important too:
The lack of communication caused problems from their boss, throughout the department and cross-functionally – meaning their own department was being seen as incompetent and unable to help colleagues
Dropping 1-2-1s caused bigger interpersonal issues and hurt trust within the department. Team leads would complain to each other and their teams but felt unable to make real progress. HR didn’t want to intervene too quickly – creating another layer of distrust – this grows and spreads quickly
Communication needed to flow effectively between the leadership team and heads of teams and throughout their teams. This is where skip meetings could have uncovered some of these issues (with open communication between the Department Lead boss and the Heads of Teams) and sped up the process of the Department lead being replaced.
One of the ongoing issues that are rarely addressed within businesses is the lack of management accountability and reviews of their managers and then review of their team members.
Step Up Leaders!
The number of times senior leaders could remove issues by simply connecting with their report’s team members and by asking for regular feedback you then should be able to spot patterns and not rely on “pirates”.
This week’s focus action is to check in and meet with important members of your middle management and see where Department leads are struggling or falling short, especially with the pressures of November and December.
Dear leaders, are you prepared for a sixth business moat?
The chances are you haven’t heard a definition of community that has even got you thinking about how you can turn your business into a community-driven ecosystem.
Let’s change that. Here’s a quick teaser on why community has to be included:
I recently spoke at the Love Inbound Conference. It was a great conference and organised really well and had a number of brilliant speakers, one of whom Luke Staton you will hear from in a couple of weeks (below is a short video to give you a teaser).
My concept and talk were centred around you guessed it… community, it is doing business differently (you can decide whether it is worth the long-term work and if you can make it effective in your space) and why connecting at a deeper level (community done right) is more important and actually scaleable.
Community is how the smartest brands are going to be building “connected customers” not just a broadcast channel on WhatsApp or Instagram (move over Facebook Groups, Circle and Telegram groups) but a fully engaging community platform for existing customers (aka members) and new customers can feel safe, share their insights, tips and give feedback directly to the brand, while saving other community members money (think about sharing discount codes/coupons and being rewarded for it) and having a direct 1-2-1 relationship with their brand of choice.
Sound too good to be true?
Not with hard work following the rules and cheat codes provided you will win.
I have broken down the full presentation into an exec summary below or view the full community deck below
The Exec Summary Of ‘Community As A Moat?’:
Network Effects Table Stakes Now: Moving on and building on top of network effects,
Trust: Customers and potential customers don’t trust brands – more trust = more business and more recommendations to friends, family and colleagues
Improved Acquisition: the only way to kill one-and-done customers is to build deeper connections with your customers and provide better service (quicker payback period, lower CAC, better LTV)
Less Reliance On Platforms: Remove your business reliance on algorithmic updates and zero-click results
Closed To Competitors: We can see every competitor’s Marketing moves, from their emails, to their push notifications to seeing every one of their ads
Better Retention: Retention comes from trust and offering great products we need (and sometimes want) – retention will be higher, it will engage customers who are advocates and those who want long-term trusted relationships
Brands have created ask fatigue: Always asking for more (this can be removed)
Whether you’re a startup, challenger brand or have aspirations to become a super brand, community will be hard work but will build a moat around your products, your people (yes builds connection deeper than CS tickets and complaints) and its performance
Everyone craves PLG (aka product-led growth) and referrals (and move away from SLG) but these are extremely hard. Why not grow with community-led growth think of a bigger & better flywheel, more feedback, and shared results
Superfans & Superspending: Be inspired by Taylor Swift’s lead, from her deep connections to building a community flywheel
Reddit is a precautionary tale of community but that’s a whole different community culture & that Reddit brought it on themselves
Dear leaders, do you know your superpower as a leader?
On the flip side: Do you know your kryptonite? (The “substance” or actions that cause you to become weak when you are exposed to them)
Why? This is one of the go-to questions I like to ask in interviews and when I meet fellow leaders or onboard a new leader onto a project, a leadership team, a consultancy gig or when I start coaching.
You can learn a lot about someone by their own answer(s) and if required from the people around them.
Knowing your (work) superpower is one of the best self-awareness hacks when looking to evaluate yourself, your recent performance, looking to empower others or when looking at a new role.
It’s not up for me to judge superpowers or answers for kryptonite, however, I love seeing how people talk about their (super)powers and how they can light up and apply them to issues you might be experiencing. A person who has a superpower of problem-solving will light up when you bring up a problem and they’ll happily drive in without any ask for help.
I wanted to share fifteen superpowers that have been shared with me over the last ten years through conversations or through coaching onboarding (with consent of course) and see if they resonate with you specifically or help you select your superpower.
“GSD” – Getting sh*t done
Being able to break through the creative barrier
Prioritisation – driving the business priorities
Time management and teaching others time management hacks
Reducing combat to conflict and conflict to alignment
Ability to communicate bad news
Complex problem solver
Speaking the language of the business floor
Learn from every failure and able to teach everyone around me how to avoid that failure again
Reducing team anxiety around department goals
Knowing I am not an expert in everything but can surround myself with experts and ‘learn it all’s’
“Learning. Always” (this is from one of my favourite former colleagues and they learned constantly – their Microsoft OneNote likely competes with my 7111 notes I have currently)
Remove CAN’T (from the team vocabulary)
Embracing new challenges
Being prepared — for anything
Your Own Superpower & The Superpower You Are Told
The superpower I believe I have is being a translator throughout a business and between the leadership (the example is being able to explain technical problems or solutions to non-technical people)
The superpower I have been told I have is remaining calm when in the middle of a corporate storm or something big is happening and communicating the issue, breaking it down and then pushing forward on the required actions.
On the flip side, here are 5 pieces of kryptonite that might help you connect further or understand what others kryptonite is.
“Energy is drained quickly when surrounded by negative team members”
“I’m always overly prepared, if it doesn’t go to plan – I struggle to adapt”
“Repeating myself – feel it draining and the worst part of leadership”
“Data – often cannot see through when data could be wrong or driving us in the wrong direction”
“Knowing people will want to leave my company”
I know my kryptonite is people who can only see the short term, this drains me quickly and all I have experienced is this short-term only mindset negatively impacts those around them, especially in leadership roles.
This week’s focus item is to identify your own superpower and kryptonite and work out whether you need to work on your kryptonite or know this is just something that isn’t hindering your performance.
There’s A New System In Town – Good Enough, Good, Better, Best & Greatest
Leaders Letter 175
Dear leaders, if you have worked in a corporate environment, you will likely hear the phrase: good, better, best.
For those unfamiliar. The concept is easy, you have three quality categories to fall into:
Good (or good enough for the users)
(slightly) better (than others),
best (the best in the market)
Many still need help to use simple ways of comparing themselves or features (or disciplines like Marketing) into scores or categories. This is a super simple way for anyone from the most junior to the most senior to understand where they are.
These categories are easy to apply to yourself and your competitors in a table or matrix and then go a layer deeper when reviewing your own products and features.
Making Good, Better, Best Work In A Plan
What is more challenging is to say why there is a difference and the steps to take from good to better and then to best and then provide a dedicated timeline to get there.
Product teams especially can struggle to provide this on their roadmap and know with confidence their competitors aren’t doing the same or accelerating away.
Over the last few years, we landed in a place where good could have been a barrier too high, good enough likely could have been added especially since 2019.
Let’s be honest, there are two other categories on the scale:
1/ Good Enough
Being ruthless, “good enough” is where many market leaders truly are, they leverage their huge ecosystems or heavily invest in core features that make them seem much better than it is.
There’s a layer that many don’t talk about and that’s greatest.
The reason why greatest matters, best is sometimes not enough, even with the greatest tools or apps as a company you can still struggle to make it pop or become an industry leader.
Being seen as the greatest is often a tag you won’t really want once given externally. Let’s dive into why…
Better Or Best Is Powerful For Market Leaders Currently
Many products have shaped our experience and our reference point into a market we see as the best. This is often flawed but we rarely go looking for the greater product or switching cost is so high we just don’t. Here are a couple of examples:
Facebook has struggled to develop their own hit since the big blue app went live in 2008. They have had to buy the best in the market to continue their growth, including their acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Threadshaven’t set the world alight since launch and are proof Meta can acquire or drive users quickly but can they keep users on a “good enough product”. There are many better products on the market but this is the social media leader and knows how to port users and gain huge buzz.
Many Apple products are believed at best but aren’t the greatest. I love my Airpod Pro headphones, they changed my working style and enabled me to seamlessly shift between iPhone, iPad and my Macbook without any issues and kept me connected (alongside the great battery life). The microphone is terrible being Bluetooth-based and doesn’t help with calls without Apple’s update on background noise reduction (and some echo reduction) and podcast interviews. The issue for most customers we haven’t looked for, seen, used/experienced or heard of the greater products or are extremely expensive – we won’t ever purchase them.
Google is often seen as the (only for some) best search engine and search experience but it isn’t, it is often the only one have used and most often is the default search engine across their browsers (paying billions to Apple to be the default on the Safari browser), on their phone (if you have an iPad and use safari and use Gmail, see how hard google pushes its search and downloading chrome to own search) and on their devices at home and work.
The Potential Trap Of The Greatest
We have seen the “greatest” products launch and then bomb quickly.
They launch and either don’t have enough marketing budget, they haven’t promoted the app enough, don’t gain traction with the early adopters or they have sold quickly understanding funding won’t ever be enough.
Greatest is often a trap for startups and challenger brands. If you believe you are the greatest when you are at a large brand, you will likely need to revisit the scoring…
Audit To Know Where You Really Are
If you were to audit your product features or marketing efforts, how would you audit your business efforts?
Good enough (0-3)
Hint: By adding in the score you can show how you move the needle and be honest that you might be a 1 on good enough and can only get to a 6 as better.
The scoring and associated timeline will be invaluable for the business to understand your development and Marketing decisions.
And if you are higher on the scale (better or above), what do you need to do not to lose against competitors with bigger ecosystems, better distribution and strong moats?
This week’s focus action is to audit your Product and Marketing to understand where you are on the scale and what you need to do to really improve your performance and build for the next 18 months. If you default to AI – you need to run better auditing 😉
Dear leaders, this week we have a storytelling masterclass.
I invited a friend of leaders letters David to share his storytelling. David and his company help companies ignite the moments that matter.
David (Pullan) runs the story spotters, we have had the privilege of sharing a podcast, discussions on the importance of communication (internal and external), making workshops land and leadership and why many leadership teams just don’t understand effective storytelling
The First Three Strokes
It’s 6 pm on a spring evening in London.
I’m sitting in the bar of a Covent Garden hotel with my partner at The Story Spotters, Sarah Jane McKechnie.
Tourists, businesspeople and a minor celebrity scour drinks lists as they make plans for the night ahead.
But our glasses of Albariño sit untouched as Sarah Winckless, executive coach, and winner of Olympic Bronze in the Double Sculls at Athens 2004, tells us a story that will change the way we think about so many challenges that leaders face.
‘The thing about rowing is that if you only thought about the end, you’d never put your oars in the water. The end is about agony. In just under seven minutes, you know you’ll be blind with pain, hanging over the side of the boat, and probably heaving bile from the pit of your stomach. Agony. If you want to succeed you have to focus on the first three strokes. Power, tempo, rhythm. It’s all about those first three strokes.’
I want to suggest to you that this approach is one that all leaders should adopt as they start their transition into the first one-hundred days of a new role.
And the first three strokes in this case are story-based answers to three questions that every team is asking.
Do I like you?
Do you like me?
Where are you going to take me?
Now I appreciate that question three is the one we really want to answer.
Strategy. Logic. Goals. KPIs.
It’s where time is saved, and money is made.
But as Daniel Kahneman and others have said, you will never speak to the logic of the neo-cortex unless you placate the ‘emotional gatekeepers’ of the limbic system.
Emotion then logic. Warmth then competence. Connection then challenge.
Get this right on day-one and it will create the momentum that will carry you to victory in the following ninety-nine days.
So, let’s look at how to create the story answers to these questions.
This is all about letting people know why you’ve been chosen for this role and what it’s going to be like having you at the helm.
And the answer doesn’t lie in a list of your qualifications and career highlights.
The answer lies in your values and the way you go about your leadership.
I recently worked with a wonderful leader who wanted her team to know that she would be their biggest cheer leader and would encourage them to do things they never thought were possible.
The way she did this was by showing a holiday photograph of her four teenagers who were all smiling after finishing a ‘Sound of Music’ bike tour that only hours before had appealed to them as much pushing a pea up Everest with their noses.
Of course, she backed this up with details and facts.
But she won the hearts by using her humour and daring to show her humanity.
Do You Like Me?
A client of mine was at Cambridge at the same time as Chelsea Clinton.
One day the word went out that ‘Bill was in the quad.’
Suddenly the corridors echoed to the sound of books slamming shut and feet racing downstairs to see the ex-President.
The thing my client remembers most is the way that Clinton ‘bragged about you to yourself.’
He had obviously heard small details about the people his daughter spent her days with, he had remembered them, and he wasn’t afraid to voice his admiration
The ability to use genuine appreciation is an instant short cut to the hearts of your team on day one.
But if you want to get good at it you need to start preparing in the weeks leading up to your transition.
Ask HR about where the values are seen in action. Talk to departmental heads about success stories. Walk the floors and notice the things you admire.
Then be like Bill and mention these on day one.
Your team will always thank you if you are specific about the qualities you appreciate, and how they have shaped your desire to be their leader.
Where Are You Going to Take Me?
You have placated the emotional gatekeepers and are ready to create your vision.
Vision is essentially your view of where your people need to go and how they will get there.
But possibly the most important, and most overlooked, element of storytelling is why they need to get there.
The ‘why’ provides the motivation.
Michael Watkins developed the STARS model to help analyse the type of transition that leaders face.
STARS stands for Start-Up, Turnaround, Accelerated Growth, Realignment and Sustaining Success.
By their very nature, each situation will provide a different motivation.
But emotion alone won’t prove that this is the situation you are facing.
It’s time to get out the data and facts that will speak to the logical neo-cortex.
But never forget that the neo-cortex is already being bombarded with information and will look for any reason to switch off.
Welcome back to our old friend story, the superhighway to head, heart and hands that Shawn Callahan from Anecdote International defines as, ‘facts in context told with feeling.’
Find the facts that prove the need. Describe who will be responsible for what. Identify where the benefit will be seen. And show how it will be measured.
Then say it like you mean it.
All of this will create belief. And belief will create action.
The Next Ninety-Nine Days.
So, you’ve arrived at the end of day one.
You’ve set off with your first three story strokes
People know who you are. They understand that you appreciate who they are. And you’ve motivated them with your vision of success.
Which leaves the next ninety-nine days.
Ninety-nine days of focused action and choosing the behaviours that will trigger what others say about you.
But that’s a whole other story.
Want to learn more about storytelling and David’s journey? Watch David’s appearance on the 10Q interview ↓
I think you will agree this is a brilliant framing and will help you really understand storytelling and how to connect teams with powerful stories.
Remember to connect with David on LinkedIn, I know you will also love David’s MO – to help leaders and high-performing teams turn their ‘what’ into ‘WOW!’.
This week’s focus item is to learn from David’s day one idea of storytelling to create momentum (you can start day one this week with a powerful story)
Dear leaders, this week I interviewed Jacob Morgan, it so happens his book goes on sale today and it is a brilliant read. I was lucky to receive an early copy and it’s a must-read for modern-day leaders.
What are the five main takeaways from your latest book leading with vulnerability? And how can a leader apply these takeaways over the next month?
Vulnerability for leaders is not the same as it for everyone else. As a leader your words have more weight and influence so what you say and what you do reverberates much further and louder. This means that if you keep showing up to work talking about failures, challenges, and things you are struggling with, eventually people will start to wonder why you are in a leadership role and you will undermine your credibility. Be mindful of what you share and who you share with. This builds into the second point below.
Don’t be vulnerable at work, especially if you are in a leadership position. Instead, lead with vulnerability which means combining competence with connection. For example, instead of just admitting to a mistake at work, talk about what you learned and what you are going to do in the future to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again. I call this The Vulnerable Leader Equation.
Practice this by making sure you are always bringing together competence and connection into your interactions, business decisions, and engagements.
The people you work with don’t just want to know what you are thinking but also how you are feeling about a situation or a decision. Leaders are great at sharing their rationale but are poor at sharing how something makes them feel. Being able to share this is what creates connection and trust. Take a look at something called “the feelings wheel” and instead of just saying you feel “good” or “fine,” try to get better at naming the real emotion you are feeling or experiencing.
Turn negative experiences into learning moments. Vulnerability means that you are sharing or doing something to emotionally expose yourself. Sometimes this will yield great outcomes and other times it won’t. For example, someone might use something you say against you to keep you from growing in your career. Instead of using these as reasons for why you should never be vulnerable again, focus on what you learned from the situation, about yourself, and about the other person that will allow you to do a better job of leading with vulnerability in the future.
Climb the vulnerability mountain. The cover of my book is a person getting ready to climb a mountain. The beginning of the climb is always easy but the higher up you go the more challenging it becomes, the more you might get hurt and take the wrong path. However, the more beautiful the vistas become, the farther out you can see, the more clarity you get, and the more people you meet on your journey. Identify what basecamp looks like for you, in other words what’s something you can do today that gets you going up that mountain. Maybe it’s admitting to a mistake and sharing some lessons learned. Then, define what sits at the very top of the peak for you, something scary you can’t imagine doing. Once you have the base and the peak, start climbing day by day, week by week, and month by month!
Q. What interview question would you ask a leadership candidate to see if they lead with vulnerability? If I could only ask one question it would be:
You have to confront your leader about a mistake you made on a client project. What do you say?
Q. I call the first step to vulnerable leadership “taking the corporate armour off”, what is the first recommendation for the biggest sceptics to show their new leadership skills?
It’s true, leaders need to remove the armor but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have thick skin. As I write in my book:
“There’s an assumption that armoring up means not showing emotion but that’s not entirely true. Armoring up also means avoiding situations and circumstances that would require you to show any emotion or be human to begin with. Some leaders do this by shutting down difficult conversations, avoiding certain topics, or using their power and authority to get others to bend to their will without questioning authority. Bad leaders never take the hits because they don’t even put on the uniform to join their team on the field. Great leaders take the hits for their people and keep charging everyone towards the end zone. That’s what having thick skin is all about.”
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to leading with vulnerability is assuming that once they say or do something, that there is nothing else that can be done. It’s like taking a short in basketball, if the ball doesn’t go in, it’s not game over, you can get the rebound and shoot the ball again. The same thing is true in leadership. I recently had a heated discussion with a friend of mine about making time for us to hang out which had previously been a challenge. We talked on the phone and after I shared how disappointed I felt and how hard I was trying I noticed he became quiet. I could tell that what I said didn’t land well and was making him very angry. Instead of letting things die, I followed up and said, “you sound really upset by what I just said, tell me how you interpreted everything.” To which he replied he felt that I was acting dismissive and not appreciating the challenges he was going through. Long-story short, we figured everything out because I was able to follow up after getting a bad response.
Q. Unlocking your superpower is my favourite theme in the book. How do you recommend leaders unlock their own superpower and how would you recommend they help their teams to unlock theirs?
For leaders, you have to start. This is one of the points I had above in regards to climbing the vulnerability mountain. Reading, studying, and examining things will only get you so far, eventually you have to start taking those steps. Build your vulnerability mountain and remember to bring both connection (vulnerability) and competence (leadership) to every interaction and engagement you have. If you want to encourage your team to lead with vulnerability then it has to start with you as the leader.
Q. Your podcast has a number of brilliant guests and is a must-listen for me personally. What has surprised you by interviewing so many leaders?
Thanks! What surprised me the most is that leaders are just like everyone else. I’ve had CEOs and billionaires from some of the world’s most successful companies on my program and they have struggle with the same things that you and I struggle with. They all have families, insecurities, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and they want to be seen and heard, just like we all do. At the end of the day, we are all just a bunch of imperfect people.
Here is one of my favourite episodes of Jacob’s podcast with Seth Godin ↓
Dear leaders, have you embraced speak-up culture at your business? Many have struggled, so this week I have a great newsletter to help you shape or reshape open culture.
So this week I have a great 5 questions answering why speak-up culture is essential and how to lead your people to embrace and encourage a communication culture within organisations of all sizes.
I invited author Stephen Shedletzky aka “Shed” to answer 5 questions about his upcoming book aptly named Speak-Up Culture and the lessons he took from leading his own company, learnings from working alongside Simon Sinek and dedicating his career to driving change across businesses.
Q. You have a new book hitting our shelves dedicated to “Speak-Up Culture”, what are the five things every leadership team should do to encourage and adopt a speak-up culture?
First, I think a definition may be helpful.
A speak-up culture is an environment in which people feel it is both psychologically safe and worth it to speak up, to share:
Ideas, even if they’re half-baked,
Feedback, to help one another grow together and our work improve.
Concerns, even if they’re unpopular or personal,
Disagreements, especially with those more senior to us in an organization, and
Mistakes, believing it will lead to improvement, not being repeatedly ignored or worse punished.
The book, “Speak-Up Culture: When Leaders Truly Listen, People Step Up,” shows you how creating an environment where people feel it’s both safe and worth it to speak up is the responsibility and the advantage of leaders at every level who want to be great at leading, and who want to create a better version of humanity while they do it. The bottom line, for everyone, is that organizations with speak-up cultures are safer, more innovative, more engaged, and better-performing than their peers.
The book releases on October 3, 2023, and is available for wherever you get your books.
Okay, now here are five things leadership teams can do to foster a speak-up culture:
Value people’s voice and contributions.
Encourage people to speak up.
Reward people when they do speak up, especially when they bring up bad news or hard things to share.
In our cultures we get the behavior we reward and the behavior we tolerate. Tolerating behavior is a passive form of rewarding it. Identify your values and the behaviors your leaders and people ought to exhibit to live into them. Recognize and reward the behavior you wish to see more of. Provide feedback, coaching and discipline, if necessary when folks behave outside the value set. If they continue to behave outside the value set, even if they are individually high performers, they’re behavior is likely toxic to the team and these folks should be offered to the competition.
Ensure you hear from a diverse set of voices and embrace difference. If the same folks are the ones speaking up, your speak-up culture could be much more inclusive and robust.
Q. Leaders go first. That’s what it means “to lead.” is one of your recent quotes – How do you recommend leaders to lead in troubling times?
Admit what they know and don’t yet know, so long as it’s appropriate. Vulnerability isn’t sharing all the things all the time. That could simply be oversharing. Vulnerability is about context — it’s about sharing what is necessary, appropriate, and useful given a particular context and audience.
On the first day of my corporate career (September 7, 2009), 1,000 people were let go following “post-merger synergies.” I was the kid walking in as many more people were walking out, boxes in hands. I saw the direct impact that a lack of transparency in leaders had on not just folks’ productivity, but also their health and well-being. I distinctly remember my colleague, a 37-year veteran of the company, sitting in the cubicle across from mine frightened her pink-slip would arrive next.
In this instance, I witnessed far more leaders in self-preservation mode rather than sharing what they could openly and fighting for their people.
I make the distinction between capital L Leaders and lowercase l leaders.
While Leaders may have the title, as my esteemed colleague Rich Diviney shared, “Leaders aren’t born. Leaders aren’t even made. Leaders are chosen based upon the way they behave.’ Leadership is a set of behaviors and when folks behave as such, regardless of if they hold a formal position of leadership or not, people follow. Those who lead hold influence, and they have a following. To lead means to show up to serve, to be consistent and authentic, to extend compassion and empathy, to be decisive and yet accountable, giving credit when things go well and taking responsibility when things don’t go well.
Here is a flavour Shed’s new book and going deeper into culture ↓
Q. You worked alongside Simon Sinek; you facilitated a number of speeches and workshops for other businesses. Out of all of the great books and philosophies (The Infinite Game, Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, Find Your Why and Together Is Better) which sticks most with you today and your teachings in your own company?
Definitely his most recent book, The Infinite Game (2019). I describe that book as Simon’s greatest hits album plus some very worthwhile bonus tracks. The book is brilliantly wrapped in game theory – building upon the work of the late Dr. James Carse and his work on Finite and Infinite Games — to show us that we’re all players in games that have ends (finite) and games that may have mile markers but no end (infinite). While many business leaders strive to “win” the game of business, beat the competition or be the best, they’re using finite language and thus a finite mindset in infinite games.
Of all of Simon’s works, The Infinite Game is most robust and relevant today. In the five practices he covers (Just Cause, Trusting Teams, Worthy Rivals, Existential Flexibility and the Courage to Lead), he nicely highlights the importance of his previous works as well.
Q. Driving change and innovation is hard within businesses, even when you are the most senior or have the most relevant title, how would you recommend business leaders do to drive positive change within their organizations for the rest of the year?
Leaders must know that even if they’re driving the bus, everyone’s behavior on that bus is pivotal and paramount. Leaders ought to lead, not drive change. This proves a useful distinction between leaders and drivers. Leaders inspire. Drivers force or even coerce. Leaders engender followers. People do as drivers say out of fear or a perception of necessity. So, I do believe it’s important for leaders to lead, not drive.
Leaders ought also to be aware of three gears that must all move to create meaningful and last change. These three gears, depicted below from the book (page 106 in chapter 7, Culture Matters) are Mindset, Actions and Systems.
A leader’s mindset matters and impacts others. You cannot force someone to take on a new mindset. Transformation is an inside out job. But when people have some sort of experience that changes the way they think and view the world, it changes the way they lead and behave. We can change our world when we change our mind.
Second, as if I haven’t belabored this point enough, our actions and behaviors matter, a lot! And, as it turns out, we can actually act our way to new thinking. L. David Marquet highlights an impressive story on this as he lead and empowered a crew of 150 sailors to turn the worst rated submarine in the entire 1999 US Navy fleet, the USS Santa Fe, from worst to first in one year. He had his sailors act into a feeling of pride by following a simple set of actions in greeting visitors aboard the Santa Fe. It’s brilliant. More on this directly from Marquet here.
Finally, systems matter… again, a lot as well. We need all three of these gears to work in unison. If one is off, the entire culture suffers. If you put a good person in a bad system or environment, the latter prevails every time. I call this Pickle Brine Theory. If you put a world-class cucumber in awful pickle brine, we, my friends, have an awful pickle that should never have been made. And we can’t blame the pickle. We must examine its brine – the environment it was in. Take an average pickle, put it in excellent brine and we have a delicious pickle, to whatever your taste. To complete the analogy, we all start out as unique cucumbers and the brine we’re in determines the pickle we become. That’s right, culture is like a pickle jar. There, I said it.
Q. What do you predict the future of work looking like in three years’ time?
Hate to be lame, I’m not a wild futurist that thinks the world is going to be fundamentally different in what human beings want and value. Sure, the context will always change, but these truths, I believe, will remain:
1) Respect – We all wanted to be treated as the human beings we are, not as numbers or cogs in a wheel or machine.
2) Flexibility – We want to feel empower and trusted to do our work in a responsible way that integrates into our lives.
3) Compensation – We want to be compensated fairly and equally based upon the value of our work.
Finally, there will be (or already is) a job called “AI Prompter.” Let’s have humans working the machine, and not the other way around… unless we truly are in The Matrix… Well that got real meta at the end here #trippy.
The places of work – virtual, physical and hybrid– that offer flexibility, fair compensation, and who treat people as the human beings they are will prevail.
I think you’ll agree there is a tremendous amount of value here and brilliantly actionable ways to introduce or reintroduce speak-up culture into your business. If you’d like to connect to Shed, please do so on LinkedIn and definitely think about purchasing Speak Up Culture book for your leadership team.
This week’s focus action is to introduce (capital L) Leadership and ensure speak-up culture is introduced and respected in Q4.
Thanks, have a great week and I’ll land in your inbox again next week with another leaders letters.
» If you have missed the 5 questions series you can enjoy here