Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/ Our podcasts aim to help you, the listener, to get a personal development tip that will make you better at work. Help you to improve your time management skills, nail your negotiation skills, or to be the best at Category Management. Every episode of this podcast will enable you to do one thing that will improve your efficiency and effectiveness at work.| We (MBM) are the soft skills training provider to the UK Grocery Industry, helping Suppliers to win more business. They choose us because of our money back guarantee, our relevant experience, and because we make their learning stick. The problem suppliers face is that they are investing money in training but are not seeing a measurable return on investment. Our 5 level evaluation provides a ‘Chain of Evidence‘ for each training course. Our trainers have worked on both sides of the fence and know the challenges of working with the UK supermarkets and being a supplier in a very demanding environment. Our unique training method, Sticky Learning ®, ensures that your Learners are still using their new skill 5 months later and this is supported by a money back guarantee. http://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk Tue, 02 Jun 2020 13:54:54 +0000 en-GB © 2019 Making Business Matter Be the best version of yourself by listening and implementing these tips Making Business Matter (MBM) Limited. Trainers to the UK Grocery Industry. Experts at Making Learning Stick. #stickylearning ® episodic Our podcasts aim to help you, the listener, to get a personal development tip that will make you better at work. Help you to improve your time management skills, nail your negotiation skills, or to be the best at Category Management. Every episode of this podcast will enable you to do one thing that will improve your efficiency and effectiveness at work.| We (MBM) are the soft skills training provider to the UK Grocery Industry, helping Suppliers to win more business. They choose us because of our money back guarantee, our relevant experience, and because we make their learning stick. The problem suppliers face is that they are investing money in training but are not seeing a measurable return on investment. Our 5 level evaluation provides a ‘Chain of Evidence‘ for each training course. Our trainers have worked on both sides of the fence and know the challenges of working with the UK supermarkets and being a supplier in a very demanding environment. Our unique training method, Sticky Learning ®, ensures that your Learners are still using their new skill 5 months later and this is supported by a money back guarantee. http://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk Making Business Matter (MBM) Limited das@makingbusinessmatter.co.uk clean http://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/3000px-1b-1.jpg Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/ https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 E20 – Effective Communication Skills with Suzie Parkus – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/suzie-parkus-interview/ Tue, 26 May 2020 09:39:20 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=44890 full 20 2 E20 –  Interview with Suzie Parkus

Suzie Parkus is a sought after motivational and educational speaker, trainer and soon to be author. Her expertise lay in all things communication, from interpersonal skills, relationships, emotional intelligence, networking intelligence and most importantly in today’s day and age, how our state of mind affects how we act, react and interact. Good emotional hygiene is often overlooked, but once understood, unlocks the key to that all-important human connection. Today, we discuss all things communication.

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:
Okay. I’m paper really, got my drink. Welcome to another Sticky Interview. My name’s Nathan Simmonds. I’m Senior Leadership Coach and Trainer for MBM, Making Business Matter, the home of Sticky Learning. We are the soft skills’ provider to the UK retail and grocery industry. Now, the idea of these podcasts is to be sharing great thinkers, great approaches, concepts and ideas that are going to help you and your teams be the best version of their selves so that they can deliver the best possible results even in a time of crisis like this.

Nathan Simmonds:
Today I’m going to be speaking to friend, peer, coach, mentor, all of those things. Someone that I speak to regularly about communication and collaboration, Suzie Parkus. And reading her bio… although I’ve known her for some years, I want to read this bio. She is a sought after motivational and educational speaker, trainer, and soon to be author. Her expertise lay in all things communication, absolutely it does; from interpersonal skills, relationships, emotional intelligence, networking intelligence because we need to be intelligent when we’re networking.

Nathan Simmonds:
And most importantly in today’s day and age, how our states of mind affects how we act, react and interact. Good emotional hygiene is often overlooked. But once understood, unlocks the key to that all important human connection. Suzie, thank you very much for being here and part of this interview today.

Suzie Parkus:
Thanks for having me.

Nathan Simmonds:
I’m looking forward to asking you some questions about this because we met, three years ago? Two years ago. Three, it must be three years ago now.

Suzie Parkus:
February, 2018.

Nathan Simmonds:
There you go. Okay, two, in personal development seminar and we got talking eventually after that event. One of the key things that I’ve always struggled with is how I communicate intentionally, how I work with people, how I offer my services, and how I make contribution first rather than about what I can take from people. And there’s a lot of that going on. So my key first question for you is, why do you do what you’re doing?

Suzie Parkus:
Why do I do what I do? I think this kind of came to me when I was doing a talk last year, if I’m honest. I was given the opportunity to just take the floor and they changed the nature of the interview. In this opportunity to just kind of talk from my heart, I said something that has never left me, which is that I never got seen, heard and noticed when I was younger. It just came out as unconscious stream of thoughts. Then it got me thinking that now I do get seen, heard and noticed and part of what I do is helping other people do the same. But it’s not just that PR publicity piece. It’s about interacting with sort of class and confidence and consideration. I’ve never been interacted with like that growing up.

Suzie Parkus:
And so, I’m very sensitive to what it feels like not being, I didn’t know, not having my feelings taken into consideration when being approached, I guess.  I’m very sensitive towards others when I’m communicating with them. And that’s actually the biggest piece. That’s the IQ, well, the emotional intelligence. I try and ask people to get their head around first before opening their mouth so they can make sure that they are aware of not just how they’re coming across but how they’re making other people feel. And I think that’s really where it came from. If I dial it all back, it’s very much about my own experience. It’s just ironic that I have a degree in communication studies when I actually wants to be a lawyer. So, it pretty always cuts out for this work.

Nathan Simmonds:
There is that class that you talk about and the presence that people come to. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in a network, an event, building a relationship with a future spouse or working in a retail factory environment. You want to get a message across and you need to be taking into account people’s feelings. And it’s, people just don’t do it. They don’t think about it. On MBM, we have a… Darren started to talk about the don’t shout campaign.

Nathan Simmonds:
What he meant by this is when we’re giving feedback, now we don’t stand there and scream at people. We don’t shout at them and tell them what to do because no one likes being told what to do. You go over there and you have a level of respect for that individual’s feelings and you approach them and make them the most important person in the conversation first and foremost, and then develop the relationship so that actually you can work together.

Suzie Parkus:
I would say first of all feedback is always great. That’s kind of how our relationship started, giving you feedback on stuff, bearing in mind that we’d gotten to know each other first before asking for that. So yeah, constructive feedback is awesome, unsolicited feedback is not. That’s where you start hurting people. You said about intention before. So, all forms of communication has an energetic charge. And this might sound a little bit on the woo-woo spectrum for some, but we feel a charge behind people’s words. Two people could say the same thing and depending on what you’re wanting to achieve when you’re expressing it, it can hurt or it can elevate.

Suzie Parkus:
So that intention behind what you’re saying has as much impact as what you’re saying. That constructive feedback you’re talking about. If I’m giving you some feedback and I want to see you develop yourself into the best version of you, it’s coming from a nurturing, loving place. So my energy behind that is only going to be of a nurturing feeling. But if I was say jealous, judgemental, intending to pull you down, you’re going to feel small as a result of that constructive feedback.

Nathan Simmonds:
Agreed. Every conversation has an emotional charge behind it. I’ve learned, and this is in various different religious texts from thousands of years ago. In short, it says what you think of people is how you treat them. That thinking might be based on a situation or a stress that you’ve got, but when you front load that conversation and then run into it and scream or make it unsolicited. Even asking for permission is vital. It might not be solicited. Gaining that person’s trust to build the relationships, I’ve got some information that’s going to be vital to support you and your successes. Is it okay that I give you that information? When that person says yes, then we can approach them. We can give that feedback.

Nathan Simmonds:
But if we’re going in as a point of judgment and I’m thinking, you’re an idiot, you’re not good at your job, it doesn’t matter what I think I’m saying; people can read between the lines, they can feel what you’re thinking before you even say the words. They did a science test. They did it with plants where they subjected one plant to abuse and one plant to love and attention.

I think it was in a school. So they actually tested it with bullying in a school to prove a point. And the plant that was subjected to the bullying and abusive language actually died. It’s just, it’s incredible. So bearing in mind that we actually hold quite a lot at a cellular level, similarities to plants, when you’re giving someone that intention, that abuse, that language, that shouting behavior, it’s going to have a negative impact on you in some way, shape or form. And it’s not okay to be treating people like that.

Suzie Parkus:
So can I go a bit scientific with you?

Nathan Simmonds:
Absolutely you can.

Suzie Parkus:
Okay. There’s a very famous that go [inaudible 00:07:33] in water. I think I might have even told you about it before. And so, that experiment you’re talking about, yes, it’s been done on plants. Yes, it’s been done on an apple. It’s been done on lots of things. Where there is a high concentration of water, basically as beings we are 70% water and in that experiment that Masaru Emoto does, there’s love written on a piece of paper with a Petri dish of water. One that says hate, same thing with the Petri dish of water. As the water evaporates, crystals are left behind. And then what’s left is beautiful crystals above the love and ugly ones above the hate.

Suzie Parkus:
His whole point is, our words carry a charge, exactly what you’re saying. So it’s exactly what I said before, because if I’m saying something to you from a bad intention, I’m actually sending negatively charged particles your way, if you like, and it will hurt. The same is true about how we talk about ourselves. If we’re not feeling good in ourselves right now and we’re giving ourselves negative self talk and then we go to communicate with someone else, we’re then projecting what we feel about ourselves onto somebody else as well. So this points a lot going on internally that we then start to project externally.

Nathan Simmonds:
Great. And chronically we could go down a really sciency route with this. I am aware of the water test where they did with that and it showed that when the water crystals under love and positivity, the elements froze or formed symmetrically, whereas under the stress they formed asymmetric. Like you say, in ugly shapes and forms. Then you talked about kind of the negative self talk.

But it doesn’t matter if someone else is projecting that thought onto or you’re projecting it onto yourself, you’re still causing that shift at a cellular level. And for those that are aware of Dr. Joe Dispenza and Dr. Bruce Lipton, they’re talking about kind of cellular shifts energetically when we’re doing this to ourselves and how we make ourselves sick quite a lot of times. I’m very worried this might not be the podcast interview to go down that road though.

Nathan Simmonds:
The question is, what tips have you got for people to help themselves mentally prepare for a meeting? I mean, right now mentally preparing for an online meeting because even doing this is going to have the same intention, the same impact you can still say it might seem on face, or a phone call. People can still hear the tone of your voice. They can feel if something’s right or wrong. We do it with our family. I can hear something’s not right, what’s going on? So how do people mentally, sorry, what tips have you got to help people mentally prepare for online meetings?

Suzie Parkus:
Well, first of all I would say give yourself space between whatever you’re doing, whether it’s phone calls, other meetings, having lunch, whatever time of the day it is, give yourself space to disband energetically from whatever you were doing before so that you can realign yourself and recenter yourself ready for this. This thing that you’re doing next, you’re bringing your best self. Because if I was on a call before, unless I gave myself two minutes spare, and it was a harassing call, I’m going to turn up harassed for you and your audience. And that’s not fair on me, it’s not fair on you and it’s not fair on the audience.

Suzie Parkus:
So it’s about just recentering yourself, making sure that you’re hydrated, you’re wearing the right clothes. That also means not standing up in your underwear because we’ve seen now lots of videos where people have stood up and some people aren’t wearing anything and some people are wearing underwear. So, be ready mind, body and spirit to present the best version of you for that meeting. Because again, energetically people will know if you’re not present. And presence really is a gift. When you’re focused and you’re in the moment and you’re here ready to show up and listen to and interact with the person or people that you’re wanting to interact with.

Nathan Simmonds:
Something that I teach that goes hand in glove with that like you say, is not having the meetings back to back. Even if you’re not in… we have a luxury now we’re online so we have no excuse for being late because actually we haven’t got to walk to a meeting room. I talk to people. I say, “How many people have got a meeting passing up next to a coaching session?” So you’re in one end of the building, you’ve got to get to the other. It’s likely that you’re meeting with someone so it’s going to overrun and then you turn up to a coaching session or developmental one-to-one with one of your team and you turn up 10 minutes late because you’re never going to get there on time. What are you saying to that individual?

Nathan Simmonds:
And then also like you say, if you’re harassed, have you actually given yourself the time to decompress from the previous conversation, realign your thinking and then come into that room and make that person you’re speaking to the most important person in the room? Or are you complaining about all the actions and things you just picked up from the previous meeting because you haven’t had a chance to decompress that thing and move forward. So, it’s just giving yourself even five to 10 minutes bandwidth to shift the thinking and come into it with the right intention for that conversation.

Suzie Parkus:
If you’re still affected by what’s just happened before. You’re not going to be present and you’ll be vacant because you will be decompressing and processing in your brain, only partially listening to what’s going on in the room right now.

Nathan Simmonds:
And that’s just sending all the wrong signals. You’re not making them the most valuable person, the most important person. That conversation is all about you, you, you, because you’re still worried about: what am I thinking? What are my actions? What does my boss think of me? It’s all me, me, me. And people, regardless of whether you say it or not, are going to know that you’re distracted and you’re not paying attention.

Nathan Simmonds:
Interesting thing though, and I’ve seen the videos of people accidentally putting their videos on Zoom and this stuff being bandied around on LinkedIn. I’m not sure if it’s LinkedIn appropriate. I’ve seen your network and events. I’ve seen how you connect with people, and I’ve seen how you… I’m an advocate for this myself. I believe in accessorizing as a man. I wear, the belt and shoes match, the cufflinks and tie match up as well. It’s meant to do this. The online world, the online meeting is a slightly different world. How would you recommend people dress for an online meeting?

Suzie Parkus:
I would dress how you would like to be received personally, if you were in person. I could easily have walked up to this in my hoodie, my onesie, just a tee-shirt. But that’s not how I want to represent and present myself. And so it’s about going, how do I want to be seen? This isn’t a sneak peek into my private home life. I’m still being professional. So it’s how do I want to be seen professionally. It might be the work that I do is joggers in a tee-shirt, in which case walking up in a suit would seem a bit weird. But then the reverse is also true.

Nathan Simmonds:
I think you’ve scored what we’ve talked about and you said dressing for the job that you want to do and you want to be in, but also dressing for the job you’re actually in as well. The videos of those people that have been caught sitting there naked actually, they’re sitting there naked, are they actually fully present in the conversation they’re having if they’re just sitting there-

Suzie Parkus:
They’re not taking it seriously.

Nathan Simmonds:
No, they’re sitting there with the shirts on, but they’re just wearing their pants underneath. There’s a level of deviancy or mischievousness. They’re not taking the job seriously because they’re turning out for a meeting in just their pants. That’s not okay. Mentally they’re just trying to deceive the people on that meeting to let them think that they are professional and they’re doing a good job when really they’re sitting home in their pants doing not very much. Again, what are you bringing to the meeting?

Suzie Parkus:
I don’t know. I think it’d be an interesting test for that person to one day have their trousers on and one day not have their trousers on and actually ask themselves the honest question, did it make a difference? And it really will because I think the top half of you is in the room and the bottom half of you isn’t. So if you can have a complete outfit, as I said, and behave like there are people in the room that you are addressing, it will have a huge effect on your mindset as well. You’ll sit differently as well. Just even as a small thing, but you’ll sit differently in the chair. You probably won’t have your legs spread open if you’re in your tights and suit trousers.

Nathan Simmonds:
I think in that is you cannot be 50% committed. Or you say, no, the top half is committed and the bottom half isn’t or wherever you’re setting that mindset around, is you can’t be 50% committed. You either are or you aren’t. There is no kind of middle ground with that. So actually all you’re doing good work? No, you’re not.

Suzie Parkus:
It kind of comes back to what you were saying before as well about people picking up on signs and signals. I’m not a body language expert, but I definitely do pick up on things. Subconsciously, we are all very clever human beings. Yes, you might have people who are trained in communications like me, people who are trained in body language, people who are trained in mindset, all these different niches and expertise. But it doesn’t matter. As human beings as a whole race, our subconscious is very powerful and we will ultimately pick up on the tone of voice, the pace of your voice, the words you’re using, how you’re holding yourself. You are giving away tells left, right and center.

Suzie Parkus:
One of the things I explain to people a lot, those of you that do look me up, I do have a very strong dating background as well. It’s where lots of my metaphors come from. So as an example, somebody goes on a date and they have a nice time, it’s okay, they don’t need to make their excuses early. Will they go on a date with that person again? Absolutely not. If you ask them why, they’ll say something was off. Same in business. You’ll meet somebody in Zoom meeting, in person, hear them speak, you’ll be like, “That was nice. Don’t want any more of it.” And that’s because of subconscious things that are emanating from you that are turning people off rather than turning them on.

Nathan Simmonds:
Great. And like you say there, something doesn’t feel right. The words are right, but something didn’t sit right. I don’t feel the need to connect or collaborate with this individual, and you put things on hold. You go in a different direction because it feels better to go in the opposite direction at that point in time. And that’s huge. We have talked a lot about collaboration and mindset over the years. How do you successfully collaborate? What are the top three tips do you think?

Suzie Parkus:
I don’t want to collaborate with everyone. Number one. We’re not a good fit. There has to be a fit. You have to think about relevancy because if there’s no obvious fit, then you’re actually setting yourself up to fail anyway. But if I can say, you and I should speak, and there’s mutual benefits, then the person’s going to listen. If it’s for my benefit, who’s not going to listen?

Nobody wants someone to approach them for their own gain. It has to be for mutual gain. But more than that you need to explain further why it’s of further gain to them than it is you, where you’re adding value rather than taking money for yourself. Because everyone is in business. We’re all busy. We’ve all worked really hard and invested lots of time and money and what have you to get to where we are today.

Suzie Parkus:
That’s why influencers, as an example, get asked to cooperate a lot because their lot of secrets are out there and they’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting out there. So they’re a very desirable commodity to collaborate with. So of course, they’re going to screen you even harder because you’re looking to piggyback and leverage what they’ve got. And that’s the same for any collaboration.

Any reason you’re reaching out to somebody is because they’ve got some level of status insofar as the relevancy as to why you should be connecting. So it would be, I want to connect and collaborate for said reason. Make it absolutely clear what the benefit is and really accentuate why it’s a great benefit to them as well. Like yes, it will benefit me, but this is really how it’ll benefit you.

Suzie Parkus:
And if you know their bottom line is really important, then talk about the figures. If you know visibility’s really important, talk about how it will grow their visibility. Talk to you what’s important to them, not what’s important to you. And it’s always about being relevant. I can’t stress that enough. I talk about how to stand out above the noise and not to be part of the noise. It’s too much noise anyway.

So in order to cut through the noise of what’s going on, whether it’s the inbox, everybody wants some piece of you. All the stuff on social media, wherever the noise is coming from, the more relevant you are… it’s like a laser cutting through just a load of rubbish that’s out there every day, which is what unfortunately we feel like we’re faced with quite a lot. That the communication coming in is irrelevant and we just see it as white noise.

Nathan Simmonds:
This is partly the reason why so many businesses are doing what they’re doing right now. This as an interview series is part of that, is about making sure that we stay remembered, we stay relevant and we stay retailing in the nicest possible way. And it’s the same for any business out there right now doing what they’re doing. How are they cutting through the noise? How are they utilizing the space they’ve got? Who are they collaborating with, and how am I collaborating with you? What’s Suzie’s superpower? What does Suzie do really well? Okay, how can I get Suzie to share that with other people to support them? And then it’s the same when you’re inside a business.

Nathan Simmonds:
I remember one of my first kind of reach out emails I sent a few years ago where I wanted a director of a business to be my mentor. He was new to the business. I sent him the email, said, “I’m really interested in what you do. I’d like to learn more. I’d love you to mentor me, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Crickets, as the saying goes. Why? Because he couldn’t see any mutual or the added benefit for him. He couldn’t see the greater benefit I was going to add to him. He didn’t know me from Adam, so why would he say yes?

Nathan Simmonds:
And again, when you kind of transfer that idea into working in teams, if I want to go and connect with this person in a different department and I want their support, how do I make sure they’re going to give me ongoing support? What can I give them first that’s going to help them to see the benefit in helping me. So it’s all about first give, give, give, give, give, and then in return, okay, what’s going to come out of that? But 95% of the world are going in there and they’re sort of all thinking, what am I going to get first before they’ve even worked out what they’re going to give.

Suzie Parkus:
There’s one crucial sort of ingredient in this recipe that we’ve navigated to mention so far. And it’s something that I learned by default when working with the media. And that says, don’t give people extra work to do. What’s frightening when people come at you is you want from me, and it’s like the eyes roll and it’s like, “Oh, my sink.” It’s like everyone’s flat out busy. No one’s got spare time. If they do, they generally it’s friends, family, charity, what have you.

It’s not somebody that they don’t know. So you need to be compelling in such a way that somebody will want to make space for you. And ultimately when I talks about this whole approach, there’s two things that people take into consideration, how much it’s going to cost me? Because I don’t want to spend any extra money. I don’t want you to cost me any money if we’re going to do this. And also what are you going to cost me in time? Like what’s my investment in this?

Suzie Parkus:
If you can say, actually you don’t need to do anything… So let’s say as an example I collaborated with somebody recently and I said, “It’s really as simple as we’ll set up the MailChimp email for you so you don’t even need to do the tech. We’ll even write the email for you. You just need to okay it and we’ll hit send on your behalf.”

So it’s all GDPR friendly, but you don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to worry your head about getting your head around technology. Also, you don’t need to write the email, we’ll write it for you, we’ll just hit send when you say yes. And the benefit for them was actually adding value to 500 customers and they didn’t have to do anything but they looked better in their customer’s eyes. And it’s about taking that responsibility away from them to do extra duties but including them in what’s going on as well.

Nathan Simmonds:
And we see that a lot from the manufacturing side of it. People don’t understand leadership starts internally. When I’m talking to people I say, “Okay, how are you approaching it?” “Well, I go to my boss and I say I’ve got a problem.” And I say, “Was that your first mistake?” Because the first thing you’re doing is saying you’ve got a problem. And what’s your boss going to say? “Good for you. Because I’ve got enough of my own problems. I’ve got a list of problems as long as one arm and a to do list as long as the other, I don’t want any more problems.”

Nathan Simmonds:
So what I’m explaining to people that are doing this is, come up with three or four solutions. “These are my three or four solutions. This is what I’m thinking of doing. This is the risk to it. What else would you suggest in order to make this a success?” “Now, option two is good. Go away and come back.” You’re not giving the problem, you’re taking action and you’re also showing yourself as initiating and motivated and got a desire to learn and actually create success results with these people without adding to their workload. Because people don’t want more to do.

Suzie Parkus:
Actually you’re showing that you care. You’re showing that you’ve got initiative. You’re showing that you’re positive because if you only give a go to someone with a problem, I can say that’s the fastest way to the door. No one wants someone that’s just a negative Nellie and it’s like, “I see problems everywhere.” It might be well intentional, but as you said, don’t come with problems, come with, “I’ve identified there’s a problem. It’s affects could be and will be X, Y and Z.” So you’re making them aware why it’s a problem. You’re not just looking for problems. “And these would be my suggestions. Do any of these sit with you? I’m just looking out for the betterment of the business in my department, you as my boss,” whatever it might be.

Suzie Parkus:
You’re also sharing that you’ve got that leadership material in you as well. That’s also how to stand out in a crowded workplace if you’re in a big company as well. When it comes to promotion, they’re go, “Do you know that guy Jack, he was always coming up with problems with amazing solutions. And actually over the years he’s saved us I don’t know how many thousands of pounds. We’re looking for new whatever, director, et cetera. Let’s get him in for an interview.” And that’s how you get approached internally. You get headhunted internally by showing your value constantly.

Nathan Simmonds:
And it’s not necessarily an overnight thing that happens. It takes time. You have to build credibility and credits in the solution bank, in the collaboration bank so that people go, “Oh yeah, I want to go and work with that person because actually they do come up with great solutions. Well, let’s get him involved in this other department over here. Let’s get him involved in this conversation. What do you recommend? You’re at the coalface, what else can you bring to this?” And Jack, the hypothetical person we’re talking about, suddenly feels more valued and is in different spheres and different arenas creating new ideas and new potential for himself, which is phenomenal. And that’s the benefits of collaboration.

Suzie Parkus:
Yep. You mentioned the V word. It’s huge. Feeling valued. When you value someone, it’s like sticking more fuel in the tank because we all like to feel appreciated and acknowledged. And so, when there’s more of that happening, you’ll get more of that good stuff from your employees as well.

Nathan Simmonds:
Yeah, and it’s interesting that the power phrase of Jim Rohn quote from Cranky the 80s, and he said, “You can get $6 an hour for sweeping the floor at McDonald’s, or you can get $6.50 for doing it with a smile on your face.” So that value piece, what people I think specially in certain work environments get caught up on is they think, “Oh, I’m worth more than this but I don’t have to put the work in.” It’s about making sure that you are adding value so you’re seen as more valuable and then you will be paid for that value.

Nathan Simmonds:
And again, like I said, it takes time to get to that place. But people expect it’s that gang thing, I’m doing this, therefore you owe me that. No, no, no, no, no. You contribute this and give more than you want back in return. You have to create an excess so that then people can give to you from that excess in the relationship that you’re building with them. People get the equation run the wrong way, whether it’s from getting a promotion or whether it’s wanting to connect with a celebrity influence.

Suzie Parkus:
Yeah. We have a self-imposed value rather than a demonstrable value. I mean, again, we can go down a rabbit hole, but just to surmise, some people are told that they’re really, really good at something constantly, therefore they think they’re shining at it, but they’re not working at it. So that’s where we have the self-imposed value when we think I’m worth more because I’ve been told constantly I’m amazing at X, Y, and Z. But you might not realize that you’re actually not demonstrating it to your boss. And also they’re the ones that are paying your bills.

Nathan Simmonds:
That’s kind of getting into the realms of care with the work and the fixed mindset and the growth mindset where that individual peeps getting praise, praise, praise, praise. So it’s “I’m good at this so I don’t have to try any harder.” And actually it’s that complacency which causes their own downfall at the end of it. So it’s, when you’re in a work space, it’s constantly looking for ways to add value. Where do I create the most profit for the business, for my team, for my client? How can I add to their world? And by adding that value to them, there is that law of reciprocity. By me doing that, there will be a loop that will come, a return on that.

Nathan Simmonds:
But it doesn’t come until you give. They’re all a contribution. We don’t get… if you keep take, take, take, eventually the ecosystem collapses on itself. We have to give and create the ecosystem so we get that return and that value back. But that comes from adding value, becoming valuable and then getting that value back. It’s not bad but you can’t… it’s not a chicken and egg scenario. Doesn’t work that way.

Suzie Parkus:
Before you move on from that point, because one thing I notice it says a lot. Call it the lack mindset, I don’t know. Call it tit for tat, I’m not quite sure. I’ve come across this before. I’ll do this for you if you do this to me, or I did that for you so you’ll do this for me. No, you won’t tell me what to do. It should be free will.

I think a lot of people see others whereby people are running around after them. They’re getting offered opportunities, life just seems like a breeze. But they haven’t actually taken a step back to go, why is everybody coming forth for this individual? Because maybe they looked out for needs of others. Maybe they communicated in a way that landed with a deeper level of connection rather than transaction. It’s how we make people feel.

Suzie Parkus:
And if we make people feel like, I have to do something because you’ve done something to me, I can tell you they won’t do anything for you because no one wants to be beholden. You’re actually screwing around with our free will. People put you on a pedestal, value you, respect you, want to do things for you when you come from a good intentional place, when you have that good mindset, when you make others feel good, where you’re constantly adding value and you’re looking out for them. Look out for others and they’ll look out for you.

Suzie Parkus:
And then you also were talking before about the way we’re conducting ourselves, it all comes down to relationships as well. This is all relationships, in business and in our personal life. It’s very easy to draw parallels around where we’re not maybe adding value in our personal life and go, “Oh gosh, I might be doing this in business as well and vice versa.” Because we are creatures of habit but we are also able to be coached and we are able to grow as well.

Nathan Simmonds:
Interesting. You say about the relationships at home as well and I think human beings are very good at compartmentalizing themselves and separating themselves and they’ll act one way when they’re at home with family and friends or children or whatever and then they’ll act another way in business.

But in truth you’re exactly the same person. So you can’t be having a completely holistic approach to life if one element is off kilter. And so the question I often ask people is, “Okay. You’re approaching it in this way. Would you talk to your wife and children this way? Or how would they respond if they heard you talking like that to another person?” And getting people to calibrate that thinking is, does the video and the audio sync up. Now, the home and the work life, do those things correlate?

Nathan Simmonds:
Because if you wouldn’t speak to another person like that in front of your daughter or want your daughter to marry someone that talks to people like that, that’s a clear indication that maybe that choice of language needs to shift and the way that you want to have that mindset and the way that you want to connect and collaborate with people. If it’s all about me, me, me, and it’s not about, we, we, we, the giving element, the system’s going to fall down on itself. And that system is actually you as a business entity in your career, in your entrepreneurship and in your team. You could end up with your team not being successful, you losing your job or your business folding completely. It’s not uncanny.

Suzie Parkus:
It comes back to what you were saying before with the apple and the plants. You need to nurture and develop and value.

Nathan Simmonds:
Funny though as you were saying that you need to nurture, value and develop yourself because all of this stuff, if you can’t do it for yourself, how can you give it to other people? And that might require a coach, that might require some additional training, that might require just actually how do I talk to myself and what do other people hear when that voice is in my head when I’m talking to them. I’ve heard before, when you have children, your outer voice becomes their inner voice. So it’s, how are you speaking to the people around you?

Nathan Simmonds:
And from a leadership point of view, I talk about leadership and parenting being one and the same thing, is when you’re talking to your team, how you talk to your team about the work that they are doing is how they will talk to themselves about their work, whether there’ll be critical or championing. And then when they become leaders and managers, that’s exactly how they will talk to the people in their teams.

They will just repeat exactly what was done unto them. So it’s vital that we understand what the voice is we’ve got up here, how we focus that on ourselves and how we judge people, or not judge get curious, how we talk to them and what sort of ripple effect that’s actually causing down the line for these people as they get promoted and get into their own realms.

Suzie Parkus:
I found that, getting curious bit, quite interesting because it’s a phrase that I was quite connected to last year. Because we have this awareness that something’s not okay or we’ve done something and we have that moment of, “Ah, I shouldn’t have done that.” So get curious in that moment. What was the trigger? Why did I do that? Because that’s where you can do a pattern interrupt in that moment. Say it won’t happen again or it won’t feel as bad again because we are, again, creatures of habit and if you get curious, understand what the trigger was, maybe dissolve the trigger or catch yourself before you do same thing again. You actually start becoming better at your actions and interactions later on.

Nathan Simmonds:
Agreed. There’s the quote that I love and I think is Walt Whitman, I think is Walt Whitman. “Be curious, not judgmental.” And in that, it’s just asking questions. We know because we’ve trained under various teachers previously the moment that you judge someone, you cannot influence them. Yet if you ask the right questions and you get curious, you can ask people, and that include yourself. And the interesting choice of language you use is, “I shouldn’t have done that.” What I’ve come to learn is should is the language of guilt and shame. “I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t be here. Oh, I should have said that.” Well, the truth is either you did it or you didn’t do it.

Nathan Simmonds:
And it’s that moment of judging yourself as being incapable of actually delivering or following through on that thing that you should have done, you start to judge yourself and therefore you can’t influence yourself. And in that result is then you cannot create another action that will actually change it when you move forward.

So the way that I’ve started teaching people is rather than saying I should this, should that, whatever. Actually, what did you do? What didn’t you do? What did you learn from that situation that you need to improve on next time? Because then that creates the action in your head rather than a guilt complex. “Oh, actually if I do this next time it will be better.” Okay, which one would you like to prefer? Sit there and wallow in your own guilt about the situation or create a new action that’s actually going to improve it? Oh yeah. Develop from what happened and enjoy the failure process almost in these situations.

Suzie Parkus:
I do think there is a different kind of growth, sorry to interrupt. There’s a different kind of growth to be heard when we’re self coaching compared to the external coaching and I also think it’s a practice. Again, you and I have been on a journey and we’re quite following that journey, but it’s one that’s never going to stop. So if you’re someone who’s new into kind of personal development or developing yourself, I definitely think that an external coach will ask better questions than we can ask of ourself until we’re a little bit further down the line.

Nathan Simmonds:
Agreed. And you know what, I’m going to use this moment to plug the Making Business Matter coaching cards because we learn how to coach, and there’s a reason why I’m plugging them now and I’ll talk about that. We learn how to coach and it’s easy for us to go and ask other people those questions. But we have an internal bias where maybe we don’t want to ask ourselves those questions and face up to the truth of what’s going on. And this is where those coaching cards come in is you can play solitaire with yourself. You can lay the cards out and you can pick five cards from each section going through the GROW coaching model and almost force yourself to ask the question as if it was an external person doing it.

Nathan Simmonds:
It just gives you that little bit of a nudge just to go down that road a little bit further and get curious about yourself and actually what is it. And also at the same time in a safe environment where you’re doing it on your own terms, not in a room with someone maybe you don’t know. So, I had to drop that in there because it’d be remiss of me not to. So if you want to go and get the pack, go and get the pack.

Nathan Simmonds:
Mindset. I’m thinking, we’re going down a couple of rabbit holes here, Suzie, like it, love it. Mindset. And I’ve been looking here, one of the key prompts I put down here was, what is the impact and importance of having a connection and collaboration mindset.

Suzie Parkus:
What is the importance of having a connection and collaboration mindset? It comes about, it’s exactly what we said before. It’s what’s in it for us. Where am I adding value, not what’s in it for me. If it’s all selfish and it’s about me, it’s going to feel ugly to the other person and it’s going to fall on deaf ears and you’re going to be pedaling really hard and they’re going to be trying to get away from you really quickly. And so, it really comes back down to the intentional piece.

Looking at it as a whole, why am I approaching that person? What am I bringing to the table? What’s in it for them, what’s in it for us? And it will feel nice and you’ll be able to ad lib and navigate the conversation and the dynamics of the communication much better than if you want to have a certain outcome in mind that is also very you centric.

Nathan Simmonds:
I mean, it’s interesting you talk about the collaboration piece. Linking it back into that curiosity piece is actually getting to paying attention to the people so that if you come into the conversation in the wrong way or say something out of context with that, is being conscious enough to see that the person is emotionally, verbally, physically backpedaling, and helping yourself to switch that mindset back on.

Because like you say, it’s ugly, it doesn’t feel right. And most people know when they’ve said the wrong thing or most people get that sensation on, “No, that didn’t come across right.” When you feel that, you can even flag on for me personally and say, “You know what? I think I came out the wrong way. I think I need to shift the perspective a little bit.” And even verbalizing it sometimes can actually soften the conversation. It’s going to just enable you to actually come back to that. But it’s having that-

Suzie Parkus:
Well, it’s also, sorry, I was going to say it’s responsible communication, isn’t it?

Nathan Simmonds:
Yes.

Suzie Parkus:
Rather than having a conversation with yourself after the conversation, “I shouldn’t have said that.” Say sorry in the moment. It’s hard to come back afterwards because then you’re reigniting the feeling for them to go, “I need to feel that again.” Oh yeah, I’m not okay with your apology or I am or whatever. You actually just reminds me of a conversation I had Friday before last. This person has got a big personality and like I do, you’ll say quite jovial. It was almost like a backhanded compliment, but it wasn’t.

Suzie Parkus:
It was actually a forward compliment that I guess, because we hadn’t really connected properly before, she was on the back foot and not understanding where I was coming from. And then it felt really awkward to have to over-explain myself that it actually was a compliment. And then it was kind of like, “We’re good with the conversation now.” And that’s the other part of it. We have our own personality. We might be jovial, we might be quiet, whatever, but you do need to kind of match the energy and personality to some extent at the person you’re talking to just to make it feel a bit more comfortable.

Nathan Simmonds:
Great. Talking about matching the energy, you introduced me to the five love languages. I’ve read that and done, there’s a free online test that goes with it, which is phenomenal. One of the elements that we teach at Making Business Matter is around the communication styles from David Merrill.

I teach that with the same premise though as the five love languages. We spend our whole lives talking to everyone how we want to be spoken to rather than speaking to people the way that they need to be spoken to. Because, again, we’re all walking around as the star of our own movies, wondering why everyone’s not doing what we’re telling them to do. Because actually you’re not speaking to them the right way. If you learn to speak to them how they want to be spoken to, they’ll react and respond in a much more fluid way and supportive way because they can hear what you’re saying rather than you trying to impose your thinking onto them for your own benefit.

Suzie Parkus:
That comes back down to awkward conversation. It’s like two people could say the same thing in a very different way and they go with the other person not you because you’re coming at it from your way of how you like to be spoken to and the other one’s going, “I’m going to match the other person. I understand their love language as it were and I’m going to speak to them in a way that they’ll understand.” That’s the difference between speaking Chinese to an English person kind of thing, which is how it can come across when you’re imposing your thinking on someone else.

Suzie Parkus:
So I’m very fluffy and creative and if somebody is very black and white and direct, but sometimes it can be a real struggle to meet in the middle. And again, it’s something I’ve had to learn, know who I’m talking to first to meet them because I’m reaching out to them. That’s the difference. If you’re reaching out to someone, it’s your job to match them, not feel like they’re an idiot or whatever because they’re not understanding you. It’s about making the conversation easy for both of you.

Nathan Simmonds:
And that’s one of the things that actually you have pulled me up with absolute love and respect on, and I know that I have done it before is, I would have half a conversation in my head as if I’m talking to the person and then I’ll dive into the conversation exactly the point I left off and the person’s left wondering, “What the hell are you talking about?” Because I can see all the benefits and pluses because I’ve had half the conversation. But the person can’t engage and they’re left confused and bewildered and they have no idea what they’re saying yes or no to. And we all know that confused people don’t buy in the nicest possible way.

We are selling ourselves into a relationship with an individual and that person, if they’re going to collaborate or mentor us or support us, has no idea what they’re going to get. And so they’re like, “No, it doesn’t feel good. I’m out.” And then they’ll check out-

Suzie Parkus:
Yeah, there is a problem to that. Coming back to this whole responsible communication piece, I would challenge people to think about Imago technique, which is effectively saying, “So Nathan, what I’ve heard you say and what I understand you to say is…” So even if you have come in halfway through the conversation because you’ve had half of it with yourself and you’ll be like “No, no, have you missed out the other bits?” And then I get the opportunity to go, “I’m really sorry, what other bits? The only things that you’ve discussed with me today are…”

Suzie Parkus:
And when people are reaching out, whatever it might be, it’s another company in turn linked to their senior director, whatever, it’s about having an understanding as well that somebody might not have the communication skills that you’ve got. This has been something that I’ve had to really work hard on because I’d like to hear things in a certain way. I don’t want you to make me think harder than I need to. It’s like, you want to talk to me about something, make it easy for me to understand.

Suzie Parkus:
But then you have to kind of quieten that voice down a bit and go, “They’re trying.” And also it can be quite intimidating to reach out to someone who you perceive to be a competent communicator, a good communicator, a senior, et cetera. That’s why we have to take a step back and go, “So to my person below me or the person that’s reached out to me. Again, Nathan, thanks for reaching out today. So just to be clear, the collaboration that you’re interested in and the thing that you’re proposing to me is…” So I’m giving you a chance to go, “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.” Then I know I’m clear on what I’m making a decision about rather than being dismissive, thinking I’ve understood you and going, “Not for me.”

Nathan Simmonds:
Not many leaders will do that because they believe they don’t have the time to actually get curious. THey’re too busy judging that person without getting curious and thinking about, actually this person’s making the effort. They might be intimidated, they might be flustered because this means a lot to them emotionally, where are they at from a mindset point of view? Actually my question then is, which I think is a rhetorical question, I don’t think it’s for an answering today, is if leaders and directors and business people actually responded that way, do you know what? I can see you’re enthusiastic about more leaders and I can see you’ve got an interest in this. I can see… I’m curious to hear the rest of it.

Nathan Simmonds:
I’m trying to deescalate the situation for that individual so they can get the point across clearly. And then as a leader who is a confident communicator potentially to take the time to say, “Do you know what? I now get that, let’s have a conversation about how that conversation started.” And bridge that gap to help them shift the thinking, and the relationship dynamic that will happen inside businesses and inside business relationships as a result of that curiosity rather than dismissiveness would be astronomical to the relationships. It’d be huge. Can’t get enough. Sorry. Hold on. I’m going to use that as a bridge though. How do you ask someone to collaborate?

Suzie Parkus:
How do you? Well, I suppose it depends. Are you internally asking or externally asking. But again, coming back to it it’s, have a very, very clear outcome in mind.

What is in this? If I know you, so it’d be Nathan. “Hi. I don’t know if you’ve got a minute today. I’ve seen an opportunity that I think it’d go really, really well for both of us. On your part, I see you may be needing to do this and me needing to do that and then the outcome would be X, or there’s an opportunity here for both our audiences. And actually you don’t need to do anything other than send an email, which I’m really happy to write on your behalf or our behalf. And let me take that of you. I’m not asking to do anything, just hit send and take…” again, in like I said before, take that responsibility on myself. I am the one that’s asking. I’m the one that wants something from you.

Suzie Parkus:
And if it’s someone you don’t know, so then you need to start to warm up the relationship first. Because otherwise you’ll just end up being that influence the other guy is, “Ah, another one. Another one that wants something from me.” You need to come out to it differently. You need to come across that you care. That’s the difference. So many people reach out, call to somebody and it’s like, I want, or I see a benefit. But you’re actually not making it a human connection. You’re not seeing them as a person. You’re seeing them as the commodity.

Suzie Parkus:
And that’s where you’ll start actually creating walls between you and that person because they’re already a commodity to so many people. The more senior you are, the more people want you. So the more you can show love, care, respect, interest, build the rapport, build the intimacy between you. I still talk about the whole dating thing. You wouldn’t go from Tinder to bed. I know some people would, but in the grand scheme of things, you build a relationship and you build trust and you’d show people that you know how to treat them properly and you see them as a human, not just as an end result.

Nathan Simmonds:
And I think, again, it comes down to that intention. Tinder to bed is one thing, Tinder to marriage is a completely different thing. And if you wanted to get to an influencer or a mentor or support in a business venture, it’s a longterm relationship and it doesn’t just come from… again, I’ve made that mistake where I’ve asked people we know on a LinkedIn invite. I said, “Look, I’m doing this. I want this.” I know the benefit, they will never see it.

Nathan Simmonds:
Whereas I’ve done LinkedIn requests where I said, “You know what? I was seeing this post. That’s amazing. I really want to have a future conversation with you. I just want to see what’s going on in your world.” And start building the relationship. Okay, it might take three to five to seven messages over the course of maybe six months to get a… I’d rather now have six months of messaging than six minutes of not ever having a relationship with that person ever again.

Suzie Parkus:
And people will remember how you made them feel, never what you said. They’ll probably delete all your emails, go, “Ah, a lot of rubbish.” But your name comes up in conversation again and they’ve already dismissed you because they associate you with a feeling. And I’m just thinking back to an event that you and I were at last year where I know that you really wanted to connect with a certain individual who’s very, very senior and you wanted to get ahold of. You connected with a person at that event and they gave you some invaluable advice, which is to get involved with somebody on the team of that person, build trust and rapport with them and let them be the champion for what it is that you want to do with the bigger person.

Suzie Parkus:
There are so many different ways to skin a cat at all. It really depends on who you’re talking to and the outcome you wants to achieve. And that’s where I’d strategize a different approach for different people. And it’s also got to feel comfortable. The communication that you’re having has got to feel comfortable for you. I might do things one way, but you have to do it like you because if we’re supporting you to get an outcome, when you’re on your own with that person, again, it’s going to be like, who are you? You kind of reached out to me in a certain way and now you seem like a different person. You’ve always got to have that integrity and that authenticity piece.

Nathan Simmonds:
Great. I’ve known my wife 21 years this year and we’ve only been married, I say only been married, I think it’s 12 years, is year 11 or 12 years this year. It took 10 years to get to that point before we got married. It’s the same with any great collaboration and great business relationship. It’s not going to be, “Oh, here’s a quick cup of coffee.” Set famous coffee brand logo or whatever on the corner of embankment, and that’s it, done deal. No, no, no. It’s conversations, it’s interactions, it’s the diffing, it’s the value that you add. And having that integrity and authenticity in that relationship. Who would you say is a good collaborator that comes to mind for you?

Suzie Parkus:
I think Oprah and Ellen. If you think about it, they have a platform. I know we’re going really big here, but they have a platform and they’re going to be very conscientious about who they bring on the show because that’s their audience. But equally the people approaching the show have got to be in align with the show and the audience and the intention. And I think they’re really good people to watch in terms of who they bring on and how they guide that relationship with that person when they’re in front of them.

Nathan Simmonds:
I’ve heard conversations about Oprah and how she actually supports people’s nerves when they go onto stage and how Oprah just shares words of wisdom to support them through that journey. So it comes back to that integrity piece of when you’re rushing and then you feel nervous about a conversation, actually for a leader to turn around and nurture you in that moment so that you can be the best that you can be, so you can learn the most. If it doesn’t go anywhere, at least bare minimum, you’ve got some incredibly valuable positive feedback to help build the next conversation with the person who is going to be that right connection.

Suzie Parkus:
As I see things that are coming up for me, number one is whole collaboration piece. I’ve been bumped before so it’s really important that I share this bit. It’s very easy to get excited about people initially. Because again when dating everyone’s showing their best self. It takes a while to know who you’re talking to. It takes a while to see people in different situations, on the different testing environments for their personality to really come through. And your values have got to be aligned as well.

Suzie Parkus:
See, I reached out to somebody who’s doing a collaboration and it went ahead very, very quickly. But they were very money and ego orientated and I wanted to develop people, build a collaboration. They wanted the quickest way to the bank. So actually it created friction very, very quickly and it could have saved us a lot of time and energy had we realized that we weren’t on the same page even though we had the same knowledge and were looking to do the same outcome. The energetic mismatch really presented itself. So I really would say take some time to know the values of the person you’re talking to.

Suzie Parkus:
Also helps with the outreach as well. Now, if I’m at a leadership bit, as a leader, you’re meant to be developing the people beneath you, or as a senior person. And I think it’s about humanizing yourself in the eyes of the people beneath you as well because they will never approach you again if you come across like this face dragon who’s never got any time, who’s always shooting them down. They’ve never got anything positive to say about their approach towards you or their enthusiasm. Their enthusiasm will wane as a result. And you’ll find they will stop showing up and they will stop wanting to add value because they’ll just be frightened of being shot down again or being misunderstood or being judged or whatever it might be.

Suzie Parkus:
So it really is about, like you said, seeing who’s in front of you, not assessing how they’re turning up, assessing their intention and the outcome they’re trying to bring to you. And then as a leader who I would hope has got developed mindset can bring all that together like you said and go, “You know what? Suzie, you might’ve come in here like a bull in a china shop today as an example, but your enthusiasm is infectious and I get where you’re coming from. To me, I found it overwhelming so maybe I wasn’t listening straight away to begin with. But you know what? This is really great. Now I’d like for you to show me a step by step plan as to how this will look.”

Suzie Parkus:
So again, it’s about going, “Suzie, please take the thinking away from me. Please you’re not supposed to think about anything else, I’m a senior person. I’m on board, now show me sort of the roadmap and get me on board.” It’s up to them to guide you as well because that love language thing, right? We’re all different people with different needs. So the minute someone’s on board, again, I think it’d be really helpful to go, “This is what would help me.”

Nathan Simmonds:
And then go away or give that person an action. “Look, I’m not going to do any more work with this. It’s your idea. It’s your responsibility. You want this relationship. Absolutely fine with me. Here’s three things that you need to be on doing.” That also shows the person you’re connected with, if you take those things away, or wanting to connect with, you say there’s a way; take the action on it and then bring it to life and then come back. “These are the three things. This is where I think I’m going with it. Okay, what else would you suggest?” And then you start building on.

Also, putting back into the relationship that you’re showing you’re committed to it by following through on the actions that you’re given or you’re developing out of that conversation. Huge. Absolutely vital.

Suzie Parkus:
Yeah. I can say that knowing you personally, you are a very fast action taker and you’re quite detail-orientated. I believe that you do like to know what’s being asked of you and then you really put your whole heart into it when it comes across. Because I know that about you and I’m then introducing you to other people, I know they’re going to have an amazing experience of you too and it’s just, that’s all this really is, is about sharing the best of you because that will impact what other opportunities, conversations, collaborations, et cetera, are going to come in the future.

Nathan Simmonds:
I think it’s exactly that. So, speaking to a client this morning and how you then turn up, how you present yourself, and maybe you guys speak to someone else in a different department and they say, “Oh, there’s Nathan, he’s really interested in this, this, this, and this.” “Okay, fantastic. I haven’t seen him before. I haven’t seen him thinking like this. That’s really interesting.” Six months down the line there’s this job position comes up. And you know what? I know who would be really good for that. Nathan. Why? Because he’s full of energy, is really blah, blah, blah, blah. But how do you not kind of engage with that person and start thinking or start having those conversations in different ways.

Nathan Simmonds:
You’re not building those relationships in different spaces. You’re not always confined to work in this job and just get the next job and the promotion in a straight line. Your promotion route and your career trajectory should be more squiggly than a Google route from Hastings to Leicester. It should be going in different directions because that’s the way the river bends sometimes. And having the conversations, looking to connect, looking to collaborate and add value is going to get you in the right places to make that happen. It might not be the person you’re speaking to, but it might be the introduction they make to somebody else that’s going to get you in the next space, which is going to move you up. Super important.

Suzie Parkus:
That’s why you need to be responsible for the conversations you’re having, the communication you’re having, how you’re showing up, and most importantly that PR piece. How do you want to be remembered? Because it’s as much about what people are saying when you’re in the room as well as when you’re out of the room.

Nathan Simmonds:
Managing your shadow. So before you even walk in the room, what shadow do you cast on the room and managing your shadow when you walk out of it, what shadow do you leave behind you? And that counts as much as in the queue of the canteen because you have no idea who’s standing behind you when you’re talking to people or how you’re talking about people or who hears what. And it’s just been about mindful about being that person that you truly are, integral and authentic all of the time. Not just based on an environment or a situation or experience you’re in. Actually, who are you in that moment? Who are you in the face of adversity or stress, and be that. But ultimate question, how do you make behavioral change stick?

Suzie Parkus:
How do you make it stick?

Nathan Simmonds:
How do you make it stick?

Suzie Parkus:
Oh, how do I? Okay. I make it stick by showing the difference of, well, basically what got you here but won’t get you there. That kind of thing. So let’s assess what is going on right now and what kind of things would you like differently? Then obviously, once it’s been demonstrated that by doing something different you can have a better result, people don’t go back. You just don’t. Once you’ve had a taste of something better and you’ve known how to get it, you’re not going to have something that’s not of an equal standard or not on par. So you’re going to keep pushing forward. That’s been my experience anyway.

Nathan Simmonds:
Amazing. Where can people find you?

Suzie Parkus:
It’s www.suzieparkus.com which is, S-U-Z-I-E P-A-R-K-U-S. And all my social media handles are @SuzieParkus.

Nathan Simmonds:
Amazing. Suzie, thank you very much. For those listening, those paying attention, there is a whole heap of value in this conversation, in this interview that we have just had. It’s about giving. About contribution. It’s about having that collaborative networking mindset in place and being responsible for when you are communicating all of the time.

If you want to move, you want to develop yourself internally in a career or in a business or the business in its whole, how you talk to people, how you communicate, how you show up every single time is actually vital, which is what Suzie Parkus shares with the world and is passionate to get across to people because there are so many people lacking this integrity, unfortunately, surprisingly and shockingly. Please go back over the interview, pick out the nuggets again, use it, share it, teach it. Massively appreciated. Get you on the next one. Thanks very much.

Suzie Parkus:
Thank you.

Nathan Simmonds:
Thank you.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Communication Skills and our Communication Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Communication Skills tips and articles.

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clean no 01:00:17 Nathan Simmonds
E19 – Team Building with Oliver Bailey – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/teamwork/ Fri, 22 May 2020 08:41:37 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=45444 full 19 2 E19 – Team Building and Teamwork: Interview With Oliver Bailey from Harvest for Heroes

The son of publicans from South London, Oliver Bailey attended Dulwich College school, leaving in 1994. Beginning his career in Recruitment, he founded his first businesses in 1998. He has since owned and acquired further businesses in varying fields, including Information Technology, Construction, and Energy. In recent years, Oliver has focussed on Healthcare, where is an owner and Director of Remedy Healthcare Solutions, a leading provider of insourced and outsourced diagnostic services to the NHS. He recently founded Harvest For Heroes, a fundraising initiative to supply free, fresh produce to our NHS front line workers. Today, we discuss teamwork in more detail.

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:
Welcome to Sticky Interviews. I’m Nathan Simmonds, Senior Leadership Coach and Trainer for MBM, Making Business Matter, the home of Sticky Learning. We are the provider of leadership development and soft skills training to the grocery and manufacturing industry. The idea of these interviews is to share great ideas, great concepts, and great ways these skills are being used to help you be the best version of you in the work that you do. Welcome to the show.

Nathan Simmonds:
Today I am speaking with an interesting, exceptional, and very focused individual. I’ve seen some of his posts on LinkedIn, I’ve seen the interviews on the BBC News, and I had to reach out and have a conversation with this gentleman about his work, what he’s doing right now in the midst of COVID-19, if we’re in the middle of it, the beginning of it, the end of it, I have no idea.

Nathan Simmonds:
With the stresses that the services, our national services are experiencing, Oliver stepped up in this, pivoted with his business idea, and he’s supporting them with fresh fruit and vegetables, and providing this to NHS workers because they’re under so much stress they’re not able to think and make healthy decisions about what they’re doing in their grocery shopping. He’s stepping in with a charity organization that makes this happen for them at their doorstep, delivering them fresh fruit and vegetables at the hospitals, at source, at location to help them so they can focus their thinking onto the most important task, which is making sure people live. I don’t think I can be any more explicit about that, to be honest, Oliver.

Oliver Bailey:
No, that’s pretty good.

Nathan Simmonds:
I said this before, and I was going to say it again, from me, and from everyone already you’re helping no doubt you’re getting loads of thanks for this, I want to say thank you from us, from everyone else that you’ve touched. You’re doing incredible work. Please, explain why you do what you do, what you’re doing in probably a clearer way than I could ever imagine to.

Oliver Bailey:
Well, I appreciate your support on this, Nathan, and anyone’s interest in it. That’s great and it really helps keep us all going. This all started off at Harvest for Heroes, well, I found myself, like lots of people at the moment, with a fair bit of down time that’d been imposed on me, or I should say working from home, and with working from home, a real slow down in my business. As you know, with all the weight of the world, there’s only so much you can do at this time because everyone else is busy. I work with the NHS in my professional life, so they’ve all been dragged away on things far more important than talking to me.

Oliver Bailey:
So I found myself with a bit of time on my hands, and I wanted to do something for my local hospital, which is here in London, Kings College Hospital. I’ve got a lot of love for them. Two of my children were born there. My son, Henry, was born a couple of years ago there with a rare form of spina bifida, and a really stressful time for us all looking back. When he was a year old, he was taken in to be operated on, when he was a bit stronger, and their rock star neurosurgeon, [Azul Zabian 00:03:05] and his team fixed him. A seven hour operation. Henry’s downstairs running around now. So just amazing, just amazing.

Oliver Bailey:
I’m always, I would say of all of the professions that I watch, I think surgeons are right up there in terms of me talking to someone who struggles to wire a plug or hang a picture, the amazement for these people, and when it’s your own kid it’s even more so. They fixed him. I’ve got a lot of love for the hospital.

Oliver Bailey:
I literally phoned them up one afternoon and just said, “Look, what can I do for you? I’m sitting here, the family, we’re all driving each other mad. Can I come down and do something? Do some driving, volunteering? Can I bring you some cakes? Coffees? Anything? I don’t suppose you want [inaudible 00:03:54] the hospital.” They came back to me, and the feedback I got was that they’re being inundated with very lovely but not very healthy stuff. So they were overdosing on grapes and donuts and stuff like this, which is all well and good. But they said what they were short of was general fresh produce, fruit, vegetables, and general groceries. That was, if I was going to make a contribution of some kind, then that would be very much welcomed.

Oliver Bailey:
Well, in my ignorance I said, “Well, how does that work? Where are you going to cook all this stuff? You’re not cooking there.” They rightly pointed out that it was after the long, laborious shifts with frontline doctors, nurses, and anyone else, if I have some stuff to take home with them. We all saw the crying nurse on TV the other day that couldn’t get any groceries, they finish all sorts off hours, so that was the thinking.

Oliver Bailey:
But I got [inaudible 00:04:52] from Rachel, my partner, who said to me, “We’ve just got one of these lovely fruit and veg boxes from New Covent Garden Market,” where all of the traders are sitting around because the restaurants, parks, and hotels are shut, so they’re now trying to keep their businesses alive by directing into people’s homes. And we had this lovely box of produce. Well, I could send them one of those, then.

Oliver Bailey:
So that’s what kicked it off, really. I then remembered that I had a friend who I worked with sometime ago, Darren Boroughs, who him and his father had worked in New Covent Garden Market, the biggest fruit and veg market in the U.K. for a couple of generations there. So, I phoned him up and I said, “Look, have you got any ideas around this? I see a demand there, I want to do a good thing, but I just don’t know how any of this works.” Additionally, I reached out to a couple of suppliers, some who were more enthusiastic than others, some I had to chase, and some who came back to me.

Oliver Bailey:
Anyway, Darren knew lots of people in the market. I basically said, “Well go away and see what the most fresh fruit and veg provisions that you can get in a box for the lowest amount of monies,” and he went off and did that. That afternoon, I had thought of a name, Harvest for Heroes, which that’s one of the things I pat myself on the back for, I think it’s got quite a ring to it.

I sort of got a Zoom thing going, I wrote a few mates in, so I got Darren on the Zoom, and I got chap who’s doing the website for our business at the moment on there, and I got a friend of mine who’d worked for Facebook, and another chap who’s a management consultant. And they also have got loads of time on their hands like me. I just thought, “I’ll get a few brains together and give them my idea, and see what they think.”

Oliver Bailey:
Well, I was used to talking to hospitals all day, Darren’s used to fruit and veg, something [inaudible 00:06:38] than me with social media. And the chap with the website and branding, he was really keen because he said, “I’d love to get involved with a project like this! This is what I want!” We were all loving to get involved in a project that doesn’t make us any money but has got this feel good factor. That’s what was great about this. You know, I’ve run the marathon for charity, and raised a few quick for bowel cancer, and done a few things, but I had never done anything like this, I’m not a serial fundraiser.

Oliver Bailey:
But I think looking at everyone’s pictures on Zoom, I’ve never seen everyone so excited about something that wasn’t a massive commercial venture for us all. But everyone said the same thing, “Oh, we want to get involved in something like this.” And we did. We had a chat, we formed it, we got a domain, Ollie went off and started doing the branding and the website and whatnot, I started a Just Giving page, and we started speaking to family and friends.

Oliver Bailey:
That’s a little over two weeks ago, and we have now raised somewhere in the region of 27,000 pounds. We’ve been out to see 16 hospitals delivering these fruit and veg boxes. It seems to be being received really well. We have been on BBC News, we’ve been a couple of radio things, had a couple of articles on us, and it’s quite a simple idea, but it seems to be being received really well, and we’re having a blast doing it. I’ve got a new baby to carry now, so I started to realize that, but it’s a nice challenge. So that’s us, yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:
The bit that gets me is the team building bit and how quickly everyone’s moved on it. One of the things I do a lot of coaching on is talking to people that are doing jobs that actually doesn’t fulfill them. They’re doing it for the paycheck, and they get to a certain point in their life where they don’t feel like they’re creating an impact with their lives, or they want to get promoted or whatever it is. And like you said, you just got a group of professional people that have got different expertise in different places and put them in a room, come up with this idea, and everyone’s going, “This feels really good. I want to do this,” and it’s got nothing to do with money.

Nathan Simmonds:
One of the things, when I’m teaching people about motivation, is it’s actually not about the money. It’s never about the money. No, there is always something that people will … there’s a job out there that everybody would pay someone else that they could do it. I ask that question, “What’s that job that you would pay someone else for you to do?” They will come up with different ideas.

Nathan Simmonds:
And right now, for you as a team, as that team’s growing, it’s about the fulfillment, it’s about how good that feels, it’s about the contribution you make for someone else, it’s the look on their face when you give them that fresh fruit and veg, the healthy alternatives.

Oliver Bailey:
I completely agree. And I’m sorry to interrupt you there, Nathan.

Nathan Simmonds:
No.

Oliver Bailey:
I wouldn’t describe myself as an airy-fairy, going on about my feelings all the time type of person. I’m really not. And there are two things around this. I suppose [inaudible 00:09:51] school teacher is the other [inaudible 00:09:52] 25, 30 years. But the main thing around this was just the doing it. So we had all of these guys and all these ideas, but what I think has made this happen is us just saying, “Let’s just do it. Feels right. Let’s do it.” And not, because we could’ve analyzed this to death, by which time the coronavirus thing would be over and no one gets any fruit and veg had they wanted it. We could’ve discussed every little nuance of this.

Oliver Bailey:
I’m a bit of a, “Unless it’s right, it bugs me, and let’s not send that email yet until we’ve spoken to everyone we need to speak to and got everyone’s input.” I was encouraged to not be like that, and that was one of the good things. We just did it, and we just started doing it. So that’s the thing that’s, I suppose, got it up and running, and I can’t take credit for that really.

Oliver Bailey:
As far as the feel good thing goes, you know, I’ve been a salesman all my life. I should’ve worked harder at school, perhaps. Maybe I’d be a professional barista or whatever. But I haven’t, so I’ve had to make a living by selling, and convincing people that what I’m offering or telling them to do is the right thing. And it’s exhausting. I’ve been, well about job satisfaction, I’ve had sales job that I like. The one I’ve currently got, which is a healthcare company, but it all comes back to sales and winning business and clients.

Oliver Bailey:
But I would say I’ve been burned out over a period of my life, at least half a dozen times, selling various things with different businesses I’ve had, some that have worked, some that haven’t. It’s all been quite chaotic. Made lots of mistakes.

Oliver Bailey:
But doing this, and I don’t want to sound cliché, it really has given me a spring in my step. It gets my, another cliché, juices flowing. I’m going to mention 20 clichés now because I can’t think of any other way to articulate myself. But it really does, it really makes me feel good that we’re doing a good thing. It excites me as much as any amount of pound notes ever had. And it really has changed my way of, perhaps, I think it’s changed everyone’s way that they look at work and life. I think it’s prone to [inaudible 00:12:14] question there, whatever happens. But it’s made me put more emphasis in my emphasis on other areas of what I really care about.

Oliver Bailey:
And whether that’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing, whether it means I’m going to fall off the gas in some way, or I’m not going to be the killer salesman that maybe I thought I was once, maybe, or my suspicions are that just in two weeks, the conversations I’ve had doing this, and the communication and the love, if you want to use that word, it’s far more valuable than 5,000 cold calls, both the way I look at it and by results and ways decisions are made. Sorry, but that, yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:
As you’re saying that, you and I have led certain kinds of life, and all our experiences have led us to this moment. Everything that’s happened before has led up to a moment, and every thought leads up to a decision being made. And right now in the middle of this, you’ve gone, “Hold on a minute, what can I do in this situation? How can I pivot? How can I help? What’s important here?” You made a decision on that.

Nathan Simmonds:
Now, all your sales skills over here, and all the things you’ve done, it’s, like you said that burnout experience, the overwhelm, the anxieties and stresses that go with that, are kind of triggers and indications of potentially where you’re actually designed to be. They’re nudges for you to move into something else. Whether you choose to pay attention to them or not, or whether you go sideways into the same job but under a different name, which often we do, you’re going to constantly get that reminder.

Nathan Simmonds:
Like you say, without being airy-fairy, that love, those faces you see when you walk into that hospital and deliver those goods, that’s absolutely priceless. But through the struggles that you go through as an entrepreneur, salesman, a business person, all those sorts of things, is then looking back over your life and going, “Ah, now I understand why I learned that, now I understand why I learned that.” You make almost every job becomes like an apprenticeship, where you’re learning these skills.

Nathan Simmonds:
One of the key things you talked about there, which so many people lose sight of, I don’t know how this works, except then you assembled, you built a team around you, and you get the team-building in place so that you have the right people around you to say, “How does that work? Oh, Darren. Oh yeah, this guy’s name. Okay, great. Okay, but I don’t understand social media. Who around me knows social media? I’ll go and ask that person.” Where 95% of the world, especially in the Western Hemisphere, will go, “Yeah, okay, I don’t know that. I won’t ask because I don’t want to look stupid. I don’t want to be made to feel stupid.” So they don’t step up.

Nathan Simmonds:
We have that awful phrase of sticking your head above the parapet. Well, the analogy says that if you’re sticking your head above a parapet, you’re inside a castle and you’re under attack. Well actually, it’s not about thinking like that, it’s about saying, “Do you know what? I need some help. I’ve got this idea. I think it’s a bloody good idea, but sound this out quickly.” Now we see that these people are sitting around picking their ears in the best possible way, waiting for something to happen, and boom, you’re in, and you do some good. I think that’s phenomenal.

Oliver Bailey:
Yeah, I agree. I was going to say, another element of that, and I have been guilty of this, and I still am very guilty, is letting go of the baby. So I’ve had, and I know I’m rubbish at loads of things, I know I’m lousy at them, but there’s always something in me that thinks, “Oh, I need to sit here and work out how to fill out this Google spreadsheet thing.” And it’s just not my strength, but I sit here and work out because somewhere in some type of way in mind you say, “No one else is going to do it,” or, “No one else is going to do it as well as you,” even though you know you’re lousy at it.

Oliver Bailey:
There is an element of that, and I’m learning this as well, people are not idiots and I’m not that clever. Let’s try and … And there is an element of that as well. I can spend four hours doing something that might take someone else 40 minutes. What is the point of that? I still do it, and I still learn the hard way.

Oliver Bailey:
And it all comes back to your thing about team building. You do have to play to your strengths and give other people the credit that they’re going to be able to pick the ball up. I’m learning that. And sometimes, there’s no reason for me to do it, not because I think I’m better than anyone or I’m selfish or I want to guard things, I think it’s just a habit sometimes, isn’t it? I find myself muddling through things and thinking, “Oh, what am I doing?” Then you pick the phone up and make one call and the world is light again and everyone’s having a lovely time. But yeah, there is that.

Nathan Simmonds:
And do you know what? In this conversation, I do have to say, I love your brutal honesty about yourself about this, and your brutal honesty about the frustrations that you experience as a leader, as a businessperson in this environment, but also that honesty of picking up the phone and getting someone else involved. It’s just a great … It’s then relearning the lessons every time, “Okay, it feels horrible,” and then you pick the phone up faster, and then next time it feels horrible, you pick … and you just keep shortening that distance, shorten that route to market. Because that is, it’s like, “Well how do I get to this situation faster? I’ve got this problem. Who do I know? Okay, phone them, get them involved.”

Oliver Bailey:
I’ve still got to learn my lessons with hangovers that I’ve had over the years. I’m wore out, I’ve got the hangover, and I’m still struggling with that a little bit. But maybe some things you learn, don’t learn others. I’m happy I’m not struggling in the business anymore. But you’re absolutely right in what you say, yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:
Leading on from that, what is the objective as it stands at the moment for Harvest for Heroes?

Oliver Bailey:
Well, we’re at a sort of interesting time. The objective to start with was doing something nice for anyone at Kings College Hospital, and we’ve fulfilled that, and we’ve been going back, we’ve been back a few times and that’s great. As I mentioned before, we didn’t have time to put an accurate business model or game plan or whatever you want to call it together, so we just wanted to get some money in from my mom and dad, and Darren’s friends, and whatnot, and then we wanted to buy some of these boxes and go out and deliver them, which we’ve been doing.

Oliver Bailey:
Now we’ve sort of got just over two weeks in, and we’re now at a point where I think we’re too big to be the kids going down the road with a sponsorship form, or say too big, we’ve possibly raised too much money and too much work’s gone into it to be looking at it like that. But we haven’t raised a million pounds, and we’re not a charity, by the way, we’re a crowdfunding initiative at the moment. But we’re also now starting to have conversations around, “Okay, what do we do with this?”

Oliver Bailey:
The things I think that are great about it is I love the branding, I love the name and I love the branding that Ollie’s put together. I think it looks really good. Now, whether that’s relevant, again, I’m not an expert at charities or fundraising, but I think it’s a nice vehicle for me or anyone else who could do something with it. I just wanted it to be doing a good thing, and I wouldn’t like what we’ve done to be wasted if it could be used to do a good thing. That might not even be with me, but it might be a joint venture.

Oliver Bailey:
So we’re starting to explore that now, and look at what we’ve got, and what we do. Sometimes you have more time to do various things, but sometimes all efforts have to be on getting to the hospitals, getting their interest, and going and seeing them, talking with Covent Garden Market, and van drivers, and so on. Then we seem to have had a bit of an up and down. We raised loads of money, and then we went out and got some boxes out and so on, and then I spoke and it was so well-received. But then the inquiries dried up a bit, or I spoke to maybe a couple of hospitals that were really grateful but they sort of said, “Oh, we didn’t have anywhere to store this.” And I went a bit flat.

Oliver Bailey:
Then I started to think, “Oh, we’ve got loads of money in the bank, but do people really want what we’re doing?” And we’re having to sell this stuff into places, we’re going to lose money. That’s what business is like, it’s a bit like this. In sales, you have a really good week and you think you’re Richard Branson, well maybe there are better examples at the moment, but you think you’re actually on fire and your business is worth millions of pounds, and then you have a lousy week and you think, “I wouldn’t be able to give this away.” It’s an emotional game, isn’t it?

Oliver Bailey:
So like I said, it was a bit like that with this. And there’s something, we had a load of interest, maybe the BBC thing or something else, but suddenly we were being flooded with, “Can you help us?” That was brilliant, and it was hospitals, but also care homes, who are I think the forgotten heroes, the care workers in all of this. They’re in harms way was well, they’re earning very, very little money, and it’s a heroic job that they’re doing.

So although we’ve made this about the frontline, we’re also having conversations now about who do we open up to. We’ve been seeing a couple of care homes today, just because it’s just a compelling story. And I’ll put an update on the fundraising page today, I don’t think anyone’s going to get in contact and say, “I thought the money was going to nurses, not people who were working care homes,” but I’ll do that.

Oliver Bailey:
To answer your question, because I’m rambling again, we’re looking at lots of elements of it. I want it to keep doing something good if the demand is there, and it seems to be that this is a good thing. It’s quite a simple idea. There are others doing similar things, but they’re charging for this stuff, and we’re doing it by donations. There are other ways you could go, you know care homes, other key workers in the medical space, community health people, they’re all working incredibly hard. We could form a joint venture with someone who are doing a similar but slightly different thing. I’ve had conversations around that.

Oliver Bailey:
I spoke to someone at Public Health England, who is on the Board of Charity, and they do a similar thing, but they hand out … Olivia Rose, I think they call it. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. They do fruit and veg vouchers. You should look at that afterwards. They identify vulnerable people in the community, and they give them vouchers to use on fruit and veg at farmers markets.

Oliver Bailey:
This came out literally from a conversation because I thought of talking to someone in Public Health England to say, “Is there any way you guys can throw a few [inaudible 00:22:40] at this?” Then it came out that he was a trustee of this charity that was very similar to us. So that turned into another conversation.

Oliver Bailey:
So we are just working away, trying to put some process around what we’re doing now, and sort of in that period where we’re not quite sure where it’s going to go, and trying to make the right decision. And we’re all ears on that.

Nathan Simmonds:
I think it’s one of those things, from what you’re saying, until you start scratching the surface and looking into it and speaking to it, all of a sudden you speak to one person that knows someone that does this, and all of a sudden you get that other bit of clarity, which you can then bolt on. As you said, if you had done that at the start, “Oh I’ve got this idea but I’m going to go and speak to this person, then I’m going to speak to this person, and then maybe I have to speak to Jim over there who’s going to send me over to Harry over here,” eventually COVID-19 is done and it’s actually 2021 and you haven’t helped anyone.

Oliver Bailey:
Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:
Whereas in this situation, it’s start it now, get perfect later. You get the ball rolling. And I’ve done it even inside leadership teams. If you get a bit of momentum, people are less likely to say no to you once you’ve got a bit of momentum because they think someone else has already told you yes. And the fact that you turn up on a hospital’s doorstep and say, “I’ve got this box of stuff over here,” and they’re like, “Oh yeah,” and there’s like a subconscious shift of, “Oh, so-and-so must have sent them. Yeah, we’ll take that. Thanks very much.” It then starts to build up the momentum, and then you can start making tweaks and adjustments. I think it’s huge.

Nathan Simmonds:
I think it’s, you also talked about it’s almost like selling things for free. I actually found that harder. So when I qualified as a leadership coach, trying to sell people coaching sessions for free, people almost or don’t see the value in it. They don’t ever perceive value because there isn’t a price to give on it. It makes it harder to sell them stuff because there isn’t a ticket to it, and they can’t go, “Oh, that’s worth 2,000 pounds. Yes, I’ll have that for free. Thanks.” It’s very difficult for them.

Nathan Simmonds:
So like you and I, I went the route, and I did my coaching, and I was in palliative care in hospices with the hospice leadership team. I have then subsequently gone into the teaching schools, Royal Marsden School and taught leadership skills there as well, because it’s absolutely the right thing to do. We have access to those things, we’ve got an idea. And controversial, got a little bit political here, regardless of what taxes we pay, the NHS requires a certain amount of funding, taxes go so far, all those sorts.

Nathan Simmonds:
These people do phenomenal work, and they need support in one way, shape, or form, especially now, but at the same time always. I personally have been under the knife five times now, maybe six times, for various different abdominal surgeries, and if it wasn’t for those people, I potentially wouldn’t be here right now. If it wasn’t potentially for the work they’re doing, they wouldn’t have looked after … and like you said, the care workers, looking after my grandmother, looking after my cousins, elderly relatives. There’s a certain level of thanklessness that goes with that.

Nathan Simmonds:
Making that contribution of a box of fresh fruit and vegetables, and as I said earlier, when you haven’t got the cognitive functions because you’re tired, because you’re stressed, and all those sorts of things, the moment you go into a supermarket, if it is fully stocked, you’re less likely to choose the fresh fruit and vegetables and make the healthy choices. You’ll make an unhealthy choice because it’s easier. It’s higher in salt, it’s higher in sugar, it’s a quick fix. But then your health suffers internally as a result of you giving your heart and soul to all these other people. Massive.

Oliver Bailey:
And that was a driver, I suppose. That was one that the person who had put me on to this being maybe a good suggestion, that they want to keep their doctors and nurses healthy. It’s this really important part of this. There are a number of, or a few aspects of what potentially makes this a reasonable idea, and that’s the business element of the suppliers in New Covent Garden Market ticking over and having someone to go and drive out to and supply stuff to, again keeping them healthy, the convenience element of people being able to get what they want without showing up maybe in the supermarkets, or going out at ungodly hours and not knowing whether there’ll be somewhere open.

Oliver Bailey:
Also, yeah, all the benefits you’ve just said, the health benefits. And if given an option, we’re not all Julia [inaudible 00:27:19] are we? Given an option, some of us will take the unhealthy option, particularly when you’re running around and you’re stressed. We know what that’s like, when you’re grabbing stuff and you’re craving certain things. A lot of us will take the unhealthy option, you know? So the fact that, particularly the fruit element of this, and the basics, it’s gone down really well. It’s probably making people have to eat slightly healthier stuff. So I think those elements of it all work.

Oliver Bailey:
We had a point where we started to get a bit too bespoke with people, so we they would say to us, “Oh, we love the fruit and veg boxes, but we really liked those one of the two types of apples that you had, and they were more popular than the onions.” I started to, being me, drive myself mad, and start tailoring all these boxes.

Then I thought, “Ugh! I hope we aren’t doing this!” Then I had a few callers ask me, I was like, “No, we’re working it all out. It’s fine. It’s all going. So just keep doing what you’re doing.” [inaudible 00:28:22]. But yeah, I think the health of our … especially when they’re faced with this disease every day, I’m sure a large part of it, I’m not a clinician, is you need a strong immune system to be in these areas of huge viral loads, in harm’s way every day. I think everyone is supportive of them being in the best [inaudible 00:28:50] they can.

Nathan Simmonds:
Absolutely. A couple of random thoughts come in my head, and I’m going to share them in this conversation. One is, when you’re looking at the unhealthy food choices, you’ve got stress kicking in, your immune system starts to shut down because your stress levels are up, that’s a neuroscientific fact, we know that. You make poor food choices, you start shoving loads of sugar in, loads of unhealthy additives, et cetera, et cetera. When that stress starts to drop down or settle, the sugar starts to build up as a background problem to your immune system.

Nathan Simmonds:
One of those two things is going to snap. Either the stress level comes off and the immune system kicks back in and it can’t deal with it, or you’re already corroding the system from the back there with the unhealthy food choices and as a result of doing that you’re fighting a losing battle at that point. You’re not keeping these people, these key workers to the highest of their capacities physically, mentally, and emotionally to do what they need to do right now.

Nathan Simmonds:
The other random thought that popped into my head is Riverford. We have a Riverford box. So let’s be honest, there’s a few of us that use the veg boxes and get meat supply from them. They do phenomenal little recipes that go out with the boxes once a week or whatever. Like you said, it’s almost ridiculous that you kind of have to force or strong-arm someone to make a healthy food choice. You almost want to make it as easy as possible, and maybe have someone provide a recipe that maybe covers two or three of the ingredients in your box so when they get it, it’s just like, “Oh, there’s even a recipe that tells me what to do because actually I don’t want to think about this right now.

Oliver Bailey:
Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:
And there’s other avenues that can spur off of that as a tangent. Phenomenal. I think it’s hugely important, it’s hugely needed. Regardless of what’s going on politically, economically, these people are doing great work now, before, after. We know that, you and I, for various different reasons. And they’re super important.

Oliver Bailey:
That’s another thing, actually, Nathan, is that another conversation we’ve been having around this, which you just touched on, is there life, and how, and what does that look like for this enterprise after coronavirus, whether that’s in a week, or six months, or a year. Where do we take it after this? So we all had differing opinions this. One of my friends said, “Well, I can’t see how people, with all the charitable organizations around, I’m not sure if when we come through this people are going to be particularly inspired at buying fruit and veg for doctors and nurses. Not that it’s not a nice thing to do.”

Oliver Bailey:
Then I’ve heard other, differing opinions, which I’m sure yours would be one of them, which is this is absolutely needed, and they’re still doing this job, and they’re still doing what they’re doing, and it does need a push. That’s another question. Although it was coronavirus that kicked this off, how dependent, if you will, this sounds like a business thing, how dependent is its lifespan on coronavirus? Or what do we then pivot into again if there isn’t a good thing to be done? And when it can be used, what do we do with that?

Nathan Simmonds:
I think it’s one of those things that you look at the business model as it is, and this is a different conversation, but there is always a crisis. For businesses, 12 weeks ago, they had a crisis in the U.K., wherever. Six months ago, every business had a crisis going on. Six months from now there’ll be another crisis going on. And it might not be that you’re looking for Harvest for Heroes, it may not be that actually in six months on it’s nurses, maybe it’s firefighters in a certain district or certain area dealing with a situation. You look at Australia with the bush fires that happened this year. They had unprecedented bush fires, these guys need support.

Nathan Simmonds:
It might be that Harvest for Heroes isn’t just about nurses, it’s actually funneling those support to the people that are under the most stress that are giving us the highest level of protection at that point in time because we as a, not even a nation, as a community need to band together to support these people because they’re trained to do things that we not even in our wildest dreams would want to do.

Oliver Bailey:
Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:
Categorically. It makes me want to cry because I’ve got friends that are in fire services in Australia in these sorts of areas. They put themselves under immense amount of stress. And you know what? I mean, all of what they do, because they do stuff that I would romantically think that I would like to do, but you know what? Not a chance. Not a f-ing chance.

Oliver Bailey:
Couldn’t agree more.

Nathan Simmonds:
Amazing. So look, I want to get into some team building stuff, and talking about team building ideas, because this is kind of soft skill. I don’t think there’s a soft skill about it. You’ve focused what your unique superpower, which we’ve talked about, into this, and you brought these people together in phenomenal ways. I want to talk about teamwork examples and team building. What do you think are the qualities of good teamwork?

Oliver Bailey:
Well, teamwork I think is essential. We spoke a bit about holding the baby, or letting go of the baby, whatever you want to call it. Most of my success, where I’ve had success in business has been around relationships, when I look back on it friendships, love, fun, for me, rather than other people might get all their success on process and analytics and some of that. I’m rubbish at all that stuff. I’m rubbish. So what I’ve managed to lean on is forming friendships, relationships, maybe being personable, and being personable as a strength, but not being analytical or being the best manager in the world or consistent, all these things.

Oliver Bailey:
So I mean, I think that teamwork is, I think it’s about leadership, whether that is leadership because you just never miss a trick and you’re so amazingly accurate all the time, or whether that’s leadership because you inspire people, or you’re good at geeing people up, or you’ve got the Ernest Shackleton or Churchillian ability to excite people or make them think, make them excited about a shared goal.

Oliver Bailey:
I think teamwork is a number of things for me. It’s understanding that you need a team in the first place, and you need to let go, and you can’t do it all yourself. That’s a big part of it. Then I think it’s about everyone. I think it’s about relationships, I think it’s about a shared goal, and I think it’s about the first thing I said, I think it’s about people liking each other, and what you have to put in to make that happen. I’m sorry if I’m not even answering your original question and I’m rambling, but that’s what I think.

Nathan Simmonds:
I was going to, Oliver, is it okay for me to share with everyone your unique superpower?

Oliver Bailey:
Yeah, of course.

Nathan Simmonds:
Absolutely. When Oliver and I got talking together, we talked about mental health, and how I’ve had my challenges, and I’ve worked with people. And Oliver says, “Oliver,” I said, “tell me what’s going on?” So Oliver goes crazy for about seven and a half minutes, and I’m just like, “Bloody hell.” I’m just absorbing all of this information. Oliver goes, “I think I might just have had a bit of a ramble. I was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago.” I was like, “It’s a unique superpower.”

Nathan Simmonds:
This is the element, is at the same time, you may be going off, and you may think you haven’t answered the question, but proof’s in the pudding. Sometimes you don’t have to be able to describe things perfectly or define them to the letter, but it’s the action that causes traction, it’s the intent and speaking to people, and people feeling that intention. They’re not getting all airy-fairy and hippie. They feel the positivity and the [inaudible 00:37:04], and they want to get involved, and then they can start to look at things.

Nathan Simmonds:
The bit that you talked about there, it’s kind of a compartment onto, it’s a bullet point there, talking about having a shared goal, creating network, being and having friends, having fun in what you’re doing. I think those are the vital things. That shared interest, and everyone having a singular point of focus and knowing where that point of focus is going to go, that absolutely helps out.

Oliver Bailey:
And they’ll all be happy when you get to whatever that goal is. That’s important as well, everyone’s interests being aligned. Being incentivized and happy, but I’ll get into that point at the end, I think that’s important.

Nathan Simmonds:
I’m thinking about, right now, one question that I want to ask you is what is a good definition of teamwork? I’d like to hear an example if you’ve got one to hand, potentially, of right now in the last three weeks of you doing what you’re doing, what your definition, what is a good definition of teamwork in your experience right now?

Oliver Bailey:
Well, okay, so in the context of what we’re doing, so we’re a fundraising organization, and everyone is driven by, first and foremost, everyone is driven by doing a good thing. But then there’s other things over and above that which are possible driving people, and that’s fine as far as I’m concerned.

So I said to you, Ollie said, “I’d love to get involved in a project like this,” because he’s used to building websites in a commercial way and getting paid, and actually for his own self-development and maybe for the perception of his business, it’s a good thing and it helps all around. So he’s driven by that, and they’re the things that are driving him. What a great case study to have press, and we got on the BBC, and we help the NHS, there’s no money involved. That’s good. It makes him fel good and he looks good.

Oliver Bailey:
Other people might be enjoying the social media aspects of it. I’m enjoying going out and having … I’m enjoying chief executives of hospitals giving me a pat on the back, people whose PA I couldn’t even get on the phone three months ago. So there’s an example, there you go.

Oliver Bailey:
And I’m driven by success, I’m driven by things … I’m quite competitive, so that is what drives me. I’ve never been driven by money. So while I’ve been out on the sales floor, whatever I’ve been selling or doing, I’ve never ever been driven by money. That comes as a byproduct of just wanting to be better than the bloke over at the end of the desk that you don’t necessarily see eye to eye with, and winding each other up all day.

Oliver Bailey:
But I’m quite competitive, and if I do something, I really throw myself into it. I’ve been guilty in the past of losing interest, maybe, and that’s why I got a garage full of fishing rods, and smoker-ques, and water skis and everything else, because I start things and then get excited, and then, “Oh, I don’t like this anymore.” I’m really hoping that won’t happen with this. I really don’t see the signs of that this time.

Oliver Bailey:
But I’m driven by big success. So if that’s a fundraising thing, that’s the little thing that’s keeping me going. If you’re going to do it, get a fundraising competition, then let’s make it a success. Let’s get loads of money, and then let’s buy for loads of hospitals, get as many happy pictures as we can along the way. [inaudible 00:40:31] what a great thing.

Oliver Bailey:
To bring that back to teamwork, the definition of teamwork, I think it’s everyone in our thing being motivated enough to be on the journey in the first place, and we’re all good people, we all think it’s a nice thing to do. But some people, if they’ve got a load of work from their outside life and business life and they have an eye on feeding their kids, there needs to be something that makes them interested or invested in this other than it just being a nice thing to do. Everyone’s got their own little thing. So I’m being ultra-competitive, as I said, Ollie might think it’s a wonderful thing to have got behind, and other chair members might have a different opinion.

Oliver Bailey:
But I think teamwork is about a shared goal, and everyone having their reasons for getting there, being incentivized, and being just as happy when you get there, and being motivated enough on that journey to stay on the journey to get to the bloody goal in the first place.

Nathan Simmonds:
I think, for me, as you’re saying that I’m starting to realize it, and I know this from working sales, numbers are numbers. You know, if you chase numbers, you’re chasing a losing game because numbers are infinite. You’re never going to get it. It’s the emotion that you actually get from getting there. It’s not about achieving the goal, it’s about the emotion you feel when you get there, whether it’s the success of competitiveness.

But it’s the same energy that you get from getting to the CEO to sell them a box of veg, which you’re getting for charity, as it is winning a competition on the sales floor. It’s just that one of those has a slightly more nutritious backing to it. One’s a sugar hit, and one’s a decent set of healthy vitamins and minerals and needed supplements. It’s then working out which one you want to channel your energy into so you can continue that momentum on.

Oliver Bailey:
I totally agree. And just one last point on that, Nathan. About your point about numbers. Whether that’s sales numbers or pound notes, or whatever that is, it doesn’t, and I’m really learning that, it’s the biggest thing that’s come from this. That I’m really realizing that it just feels better to be doing something like this. I’m starting to look at it, and you look at some people who have built successful businesses, and they’ve done it in a beard and a scruffy old pair of shorts, and they’ve done it with love, and they’ve done it with relationships, and they’ve done it by it being a good thing and being driven in some way. I’m not that person, and I haven’t always been that person. At best, I’m taking steps in that direction,

Oliver Bailey:
Then you’ve got this sharp, hard-nose, greed is good, money never sleeps, and all that nonsense, or not nonsense because [inaudible 00:43:28]. And I’ve always looked at those sort of things, and we’d all rather be the chilled out, calm guy that doesn’t bite his nails, that’s made his millions that way. And I don’t think anyone makes it any one way, you’re the expert on this stuff. Not even the nicest people in the world have been ruthless, I’m sure, in business, as nice as they appear to people.

Oliver Bailey:
I really am starting to realize that in terms of your own mental wellbeing, your own self-worth, your own desire for feel-good vibes that maybe just haven’t been around for a lot of your life, I’m starting to see that there is a way that you can actually throw the financial forecasts out the window, and you can just start doing a good thing. Just like being competitive, success, money, and all this other stuff can follow that. It cal also follow something like this just because you just feel great, and you’re making those relationships, and you’re forming those things. And you might not even know what it is you’re going to do.

Oliver Bailey:
But I’m definitely taking a step, I’ve taken a big step in that direction. It feels good to be doing something good, and I’m not even thinking about money. But in some way, these things all feed you, and I don’t know, feed your ideas, and change your perceptions, and surely you can get success that way as well. Rambling again.

Nathan Simmonds:
No, no, no, no. It’s a very healing thing. And like you say, the problem in that is the majority of people believe that money is a certain way, that money never sleeps and you have to be ruthless, and there’s always competition, and you have to cut the competition out, and you can’t win if everyone else is winning, and all that sort of stuff. But actually, you’re learning from being in this sector. There are ways to create money almost from, not nothing is the wrong bit there, there is money there to be drawn on. When the intentions come in the right way, that money comes in and it feels good when that money comes in. Rather than almost having to fight for it, and then once it’s in, you’ve got to go then into the next fight, and so on and so forth.

Nathan Simmonds:
When you go into this mindset of money and approach, the hustle and the grind almost drops off. And yes it’s still hard work, and at the same time the hard work actually feels good, it doesn’t feel like work.

Oliver Bailey:
I completely agree.

Nathan Simmonds:
Because you’re looking in a totally different way, whereas if you’re constantly fight, struggle, fight, struggle, fight, struggle, that’s when you get the overwhelm and burnout. Over here, yeah, you are fighting a bit, but you’re enjoying the process, you can smile. Rather than going to the grind, you smile going through the process. And then you can come up with more ideas. Like you said, your idea has naturally come in, “How do I give this project more legs? How does it extend out over here?” Then you talk to people and another idea comes, and it’s like, “Oh yeah.” The idea will morph and change, though eventually it becomes the entity that it’s going to become in the future.

Oliver Bailey:
Completely agree. Also, you command just as much respect doing a good thing that’s making you zero money, more say, then you do through doing certain other things that might be perceived as success. In a lot of business, I don’t work for all these types of business, but you’re a coach, and you work in that world as well, and I’m just trying to sort of overlay what we’re doing over to my life in general and how this last few weeks has made me reflect. But yeah, one of the elements of success is relationships, isn’t it? And how you feel about people, how you feel about yourself, and who you can talk to, who wants to talk to you, and so on. I just think it’s good vibes all around doing this, and I’m learning a lot from it.

Nathan Simmonds:
Good. And this is what this whole situation is about, is they talk about it’s wrong, they talk about the meaning crisis in Chinese means danger and opportunity, it doesn’t, by the way, it’s fake news. It actually means tipping point, it means danger or tipping point. And you’re getting to a point where you’re tipping, you’ve got a choice of which way you want that to tip almost. You can carry on going down the road that you’re going down, and you’ve got a choice, or you can step back and go in a different direction.

Nathan Simmonds:
This is what COVID-19 and any crisis situation gives us an opportunity to look at, to deeply reflect on why we do what we do, and the impact, and why we do it for other people, and what’s most important to us. What are the behaviors we want to be role-modeling to our children? Does the audio and the video sync up, as I’ve heard said before? When you’re at work, and I’ve said to leaders, I ask this question, the way that you behave at work and the things that you talk about, how would your wife or your significant partner or your children react to the way that you speak when you’re at work?

Nathan Simmonds:
Now if those two things don’t match up, there’s something inherently wrong. And it might be a small detail, but when you look at this, well, actually, what I want to do is, actually I want to do this thing. It’s Harvest for Heroes, because it does this and it fills up this. Oh, now it’s different. Now you’ve seen what’s possible because you’ve had an opportunity to deeply reflect, look at what’s out there, and now you’re seeing this potentiality. And all of a sudden it started moving, and all of a sudden you’re potentially in that place of, “Oh shit, it’s a thing, and I can do this.”

Nathan Simmonds:
Then it almost becomes a necessity. It’s not a maybe at this point, it’s like, “Actually, I can see how far this can go. I can see the potential in this. Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s scary. And at the same time, yes, it is very exciting, and it would be remiss of me not to move towards that in some way, shape, or form,” because it’s not about you anymore, it’s about everybody else that gets one of those boxes.

Oliver Bailey:
I agree.

Nathan Simmonds:
I’ll start crying if I carry on down this road.

Oliver Bailey:
Are you an easy crier, Nathan, like me?

Nathan Simmonds:
A little bit, but it’s when you get into the depth of those sorts of goals and things, that’s when the emotion comes up because the goal becomes emotionally engaging, and it becomes magnetic. And you know full well from the last three weeks of going to a hospital, and you can see the looks on people’s faces when you do what you do when you’re at your fundamental best.

Oliver Bailey:
You’re right, yeah. And I am an easy crier as well. It’s funny, I was talking to these care homes, sorry if I’m digressing a bit.

Nathan Simmonds:
No.

Oliver Bailey:
I was talking about these. I got a lovely message over the weekend about care homes, about five workers, and this lady said her mom had died in the hospital, or her dad had died in Medway Hospital, which is one of the ones we visited, not far from you, and they weren’t allowed in to see their dad. And the mom was in a nursing home. So the dad was 91, [inaudible 00:50:41], but the mom was 96, so none of them were allowed in. I think it’s the saddest thing about coronavirus, none of them, you can’t see your loved ones, you can’t be there at the end. I mean, it’s just terrible, it’s so sad.

Oliver Bailey:
Obviously then they had to break the news to their 96-year-old mom over the phone, and I think that’s the saddest thing about all of this, it’s just when people are telling you their stories like that. It does touch you emotionally. It certainly does touch me emotionally anyway, and I’m an easy crier anyway. We just went outside to sing happy birthday to a bloke who’s 91, because he can’t get out, and so I’ll send you a video after this, but his carers opened the window, and Rachel brings him bread and bits and bobs, and the whole street came out and sang happy birthday to him. It was quite … I’ll send you a video.

Oliver Bailey:
Then one of the neighbors I had never met before, a couple of doors along, then starts telling me about her kids. She had a son called Ali who died in a car crash. I’m not trying to get too heavy here, but I’m just trying to talk about community and all the stuff that feeds into this, and might make you cry sometimes as well. She was excited, “It’s lovely to meet you,” and he would’ve been my age. Honestly, the hairs, I have goosebumps all over me, but it was lovely.

Oliver Bailey:
That’s a snapshot of how being engaging … I said, “Go and get a picture of him,” and she ran into her house and came out with a picture of him. I said, “I think I recognize him from when we were younger from the local pub.” But it’s that stuff, none of this has anything to do with business, which is where most of my focus has gone on in my life, but it’s this stuff that touches you inside.

And even if every business collapsed and everything, if you’re operating in this way, or if you get more of this, whatever this is, all this stuff, if you get in more of it, I think it goes a long way to sort of persuade you in whatever else is going on or collapsing around you, or business stuff is going on. I mean, where it’s a free for all in London, there’s nowhere we’ve got a pub, a business that’s been around got any money, whatever.

Nathan Simmonds:
Yup.

Oliver Bailey:
But this stuff is hugely important, to me anyway. And I’m sorry because you said you’re an easy crier, but obviously to you too.

Nathan Simmonds:
But I think this is a human thing, and I think that COVID-19 is bringing about that humanity into what we do. That’s important. Yeah, you digress, but this is where we’re going with businesses, this is how we need to operate more as businesses, small, medium, and large enterprises.

Nathan Simmonds:
You picked up on two things. So my question now is going to be what are the three most important things needed for effective teamwork in the workplace? You’ve already tipped one of them, it’s relationships, for me personally. The other one was it’s engaging. Like you say, going out in the back garden and singing happy birthday to a 91-year-old, it’s engaging. What’s the one other thing, then, that is needed for effective teamwork in the workplace?

Oliver Bailey:
I would probably think it’s admitting your weaknesses. I know we’ve touched on it earlier on, but the openness in terms of admitting your weaknesses and being available to support other people’s weaknesses.

Nathan Simmonds:
I was going to say that’s lovely in itself, I mean in a nutshell, is absolutely perfect.

Oliver Bailey:
Because I’ve had run-ins … I need to admit my weaknesses more, you know? Process and things like that have never been my strengths. In business in the past, maybe I’ve butted heads with people.

And one of the problems, wherever teamwork has completely broken down, where the teamwork has completely broken down is, there’s nothing wrong, “I’ve got talent, and they have got talent,” but I’m saying, “I do this and that, and I do this,” and they’re saying, “Well we do this and that, and you’re doing that,” and you almost feel you could hire a marriage counselor sometimes for business, where someone just comes in and goes, “Look, you’re really good at what you do, and you’re really good at what you do, and you don’t need to be beating these guys up all the time, or everyone justifying their place here. You go and do that, and you go and do that, and you don’t touch that.”

Oliver Bailey:
I think sometimes things can breakdown in business, and teamwork is a result of that. I think that’s important.

Nathan Simmonds:
Nice. Relationships, engaging, admitting your weaknesses, and also supporting other people in their weaknesses and bringing that together. Nice. Final couple of questions for me. Who’s help and support do you need right now to get this message out right now even further?

Oliver Bailey:
For Harvest for Heroes, well, I think it’s difficult because we’re in a time now where there are a lot of fundraising initiatives going on. We’ve all had our ass handed to us by our lovely old military chap. What’s the name?

Nathan Simmonds:
Tom Moore.

Oliver Bailey:
Tom, Tom, yes. I mean, wow, if you’re going to get your ass whopped in charity wars, then you want it to be by Commander Tom, don’t you? I mean, just phenomenal. So I mean, what do we want to do with it now? If people believe, and you seem to, that this is a good thing that we’re doing, or there is the need, and I am really believing that more and more every day now having had [inaudible 00:56:29], it comes down to raising money. I think that’s where my focus is at the moment because I’m speaking to more and more people, be it care homes, other hospitals.

Oliver Bailey:
We’re now going national, and we’re delivering on Friday, we’re going to Rotherham, Manchester, Southport, Olmskirk, Preston, and [Porterdale 00:56:50], and Huddersfield. So I’m going to go up there, and get in the car, and go around with delivery, and shake hands with all these people. It’s going to be a long day, but that’s what we need to do.

Oliver Bailey:
But there is a demand there, and it is going national. Some of these places in the North are quite a drive areas, but they really do need this more maybe than some of the boroughs in London we’ve already delivered to. And it comes back to raising awareness and donations. It sounds a bit crass, really when I talk about it like that, but it does. I mean, I’m looking at things like businesses maybe sponsoring hospitals, or people that can sponsor hospitals that they’ve got a good relationship with, or care homes, sponsoring a care home. We’re trying to put things like that together.

Oliver Bailey:
We just want to get funds, turn it into fruit and veg, and give it to where people are grateful and everyone’s a winner. I’m fully aware that businesses are struggling at the moment, and as are individuals, so I don’t know if it’s the best plan to be doing a fundraising initiative. But I mean, Tom has proved us all wrong on that. I don’t know, that’s the help I need to get this message out further.

Nathan Simmonds:
I think you’re right in the sense that Tom Moore has raised an astronomical amount of money for a good cause doing what he does. Yes, there are some people that are struggling out there. And at the same time, there are other people there that have 50p to give, or they have 50,000 to give.

Oliver Bailey:
Yup.

Nathan Simmonds:
If you can find people that are able to donate small, large, or whatever into that pot, that’s a benefit. On the other side of it, if there are businesses in local regions of NHS trusts or hospices or whatever that wish to sponsor those locations at this time, this is a prime opportunity to do that through Harvest for Heroes, with healthy veg boxes going to people that need it so they don’t have to think about their shopping and they can make healthier choices, which is going to help keep them moving forward for longer, now and also in the future as well.

Oliver Bailey:
And we’re looking into how do you do that. I’m not an expert, again, at this, so I’m not sure how we do that. At the moment, we’ve largely been you get some publicity and you get that spike in donations, and then, you know, we’re doing it all right. I mean, we’ve raised a good sum of money in a couple of weeks. I suppose I might even talk to you about this afterwards, how we get some help, or what may be a strategy about if we all agree it’s a good idea about getting money. Yeah, that’s certainly something that I need to focus, I think, at the moment.

Nathan Simmonds:
So right now, if you’re watching this, if you’re a small, medium, large enterprise and you wish to sponsor an NHS Trust or an NHS organization that’s near you that needs support, you can do that through Oliver Bailey, and we will share the links for the Just Giving page shortly. Even if you want to sponsor a small amount of money, whatever you are able to contribute to this cause right now, what is the link for this, Oliver? What’s the Just Giving page that you’ve got at the moment?

Oliver Bailey:
I’m happy for anyone to phone me. We’ve got an email address, we’ve got a website, just www.harvestforheroes.com. Harvest, F-O-R, Heroes.com. You can donate through that. There’s a link from there to the Just Giving site. We have an Instagram, HarvestForHeroes, where there’s video clips and pictures of nurses and some really good content on there. We have a Just Giving page, Harvest For Heroes in Just Giving, but again you can get that through the website. We’re on Twitter. And Oliver@harvestforheroes.com is my email address. Anyone can ring me up, you can get me at my mobile number, they can ring me up.

Oliver Bailey:
We just want to be doing a good thing. If anyone wants to be involved in that, then I will talk to them and we’ll work out a plan. Whether it’s sponsoring the hospital or sponsoring a care home, or donating a fiver. My lines of communication are open. Every time I have a conversation with someone around what we’re doing, whoever it may be, I feel good about it. So that’s how they can help, or I’d be happy to talk to anyone.

Nathan Simmonds:
You talk about, Oliver, the fact that you feel good about it. People are giving, and they can see where this is going to. Like you say, it’s been on the news, it’s been on the radio. It’s not just for now, this is supporting these people moving forward. So for them, to donate to that in any way, shape, or form is going to make them feel good at the same time. Do you know what, Oliver?

Oliver Bailey:
Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:
Thank you for today, thank you for what you’re doing. Please continue doing this. It’s needed, and for team building ideas and teamwork examples, this, I think what you’ve done is going to be a phenomenal case study for the people working on the team, and I think it’s going to be a phenomenal case study for other people looking at the way this team comes together and works. And like you say, looking back and looking at the failures and successes out of what you’re doing now so that you can get to more people in the future and continue to grow this and turn it into something even bigger and even more magnificent than it is right now. Phenomenal. Thank you, appreciate it.

Oliver Bailey:
Nathan, I really appreciate your support. It’s lovely to talk to you. I appreciate you distilling, for the listeners, my ramblings. We’re having a lovely time doing this, so yeah, we’re good vibes all around. Thank you very much.

Nathan Simmonds:
Appreciate it. And for those of you that are listening, go to Just Giving page. Find Oliver Bailey, make a donation because you know it’s absolutely the right thing to do at this point. I look forward to catching up with you on the next interview. Thanks very much.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Team Building Skills and our Team Building Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Team Building Skills Tips and articles.

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E18 – Effective Presentation Skills with Paddy Willis – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/effective-presentation-skills/ Thu, 21 May 2020 09:25:30 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=45039 full 18 2 E18 – Effective Presentation Skills: Interview With Paddy Willis from Mission Ventures.

In this episode, I interview Paddy Willis. Paddy is Founder and CEO of Mission Ventures and has a passion for building better challenger brands. He was co-founder of disruptive baby-food brand Plum, which was sold in year five to Darwin PE in 2010 on retail sales of £15m. Since then he has been mentoring and supporting start-ups across the industry, with the first UK Food accelerator launched in January 2015. Recently, Mission Ventures announced their partnership in The Good Food Fund, a £1.8m fund established by Big Society Capital with Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity to tackle childhood obesity with market-led solutions. Today, we discuss effective presentation skills.

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmons:
We are in. Phenomenal. Welcome to another Sticky Interview. My name is Nathan Simmons. I’m senior trainer and coach for MBM, Making Business Matter, the training provider, soft skills provider for the U.K. grocery and manufacturing industry. The idea with these interviews is to be sharing the thoughts and concepts of great people in great spaces doing great work to help you be the best possible version of yourself. Today, I’m speaking to a gentleman I got to meet last week by the name of Paddy Willis.

Nathan Simmons:
Paddy, I’m going to read his bio here. I’m going to tell you why some of this is so engaging for me, though. Paddy is the founder and CEO of Mission Ventures, and has a passion for building better challenger brands. He was co-founder of disruptive baby food brand Plum, which was sold in year five to Darwin PE in 2010 on retail sales of £15 million, which on its own, Paddy, is pretty phenomenal.

Since then, he has been mentoring and supporting startups across the industry with the first UK food accelerator launch in January 2015. Recently, Mission Ventures announced their partnership in the Good Food Fund, a 1.8 million fund established by Big Society Capital with Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity to tackle childhood obesity with market led solutions.

Nathan Simmons:
This is where it got interesting for me, why I wanted to, and when I reached out to Paddy, so there’s three elements of this. One is challenger brands. I thought that’s really interesting, disrupting markets. Two, childhood obesity, this is a huge thing that’s going on with the way that the industry is moving.

Then I got thinking, those two facets on their own are difficult enough. What do effective presentation skills… What is a great presenter in that space where you’re talking to companies about challenger brands that may put them out of business potentially or disrupt their market, and also getting people to make moves on the amount of sugars, and salts, and fats, et cetera, they’re putting into their foods, and what sort of skills have you got to have in order to present to that level, to get people to make those shifts?

Nathan Simmons:
I thought, “This is a person I need to get to know. This is a person I need to ask some questions to, and this is a person [inaudible 00:02:22] interview.” Paddy, thanks for being here.

Paddy Willis:
Thank you for the invitation, Nathan, delighted to join you.

Nathan Simmons:
Thank you. So look, one of the first things is, and we talked a little bit about this before, that necessity to create a brand. Why do you do what you do? Originally, it was Plum baby foods, but now you’re helping other markets do that disruptive thing that you do. Why do you do what you do?

Paddy Willis:
Well, they always say that if you do what you love you’ll never have a job in your life. I think I’ve probably got that wrong, but you know what I mean. The principle is that if you do what you love, then every day is a great opportunity and great fun. I do what I do, and that’s in terms of working with founders and entrepreneurs of, in this case, food and drink businesses, but I have worked with a whole broad range of different sectors over the years because I’m drawn like a moth to the passion and the commitment and the vision of these individuals who often don’t…

Paddy Willis:
Particularly, this is very true in the food sector, and this is completely an unscientific observation, but it’s based on having worked with food and drink startups over the last five-plus years on our business accelerators is that I would say 85, if not possibly 90%, of founders do not come from within the industry. The reason I think that is, is because if they did come from the industry, they probably wouldn’t start because they would realize just what a challenge it is to succeed in this market. It’s also been helped by the fact that a lot of barriers to entry have come down.

Paddy Willis:
It’s become much easier and resources to things like shared kitchens and consultants, everything else, has become much easier. When we set up Plum back in… We launched in 2006. So it’s about the passion for the people and the purpose that they have behind what they do. I’m sure we’ll talk a bit about that in some of the context the challenger brands. The other thing, and this we’ll come back to, it’s irrelevant to the concept of what makes for a good presentation because really it’s about story telling, and a good brand is about telling a good story. I always remember. There’s a guy called Daniel Priestly, an Australian entrepreneur who I try and think when I heard him speak. It was at a small event for founders. I don’t know what it’s called. It was 10 years ago.

Paddy Willis:
He talked about the fact that he is a very keen mountain walker, and it’s a thing. When you go mountain walking, you know where you’re going and you set off up this hill. Which the hill becomes a mountain, and you get to the top, and you eventually get there, and you take in the view around you, but inevitably your eye is drawn to the ridge that it’s going to the next peak, and that’s going to take you onto the next part of your journey. He says, “But if you were to look down where you’ve just come from, you would see that inevitably there are going to be people following you in your footsteps, following the paths that you’ve trodden.” He says, “It doesn’t really matter what you do,” and this isn’t exclusive to an entrepreneur.

Paddy Willis:
It could be anybody in a career, and in life in general, is that you will at all different stages in your life, you’re starting on a mountain of value, and that’s everything that’s helped you get to that point in your life. He says the simple thing to do and the pleasurable thing to do is to look behind you and say, “Actually, do you know what? I wouldn’t go left there. I’d go right because I tried left and it was a bit tricky. I went right and I’m here.” So it doesn’t really matter whether you’re five minutes ahead of somebody, or five hours ahead of them or five years ahead of them, or 50 years ahead of them. There is always this concept of being able to share with people what you’ve learnt on that pathway, and that’s what I love doing.

Paddy Willis:
I do a lot of mentoring, do a lot of activity particularly around helping our young students to understand the world of entrepreneurship, open their eyes to possibilities as and when they eventually get into the workplace. So it really comes down to working with people with passion, and wanting to try and share that journey, share what I’ve learned from standing on whatever mountaintop I might be on, or even the mountain I might be halfway up. Wherever you are, it’s just helping to pay that back.

Nathan Simmons:
Exactly, and that is why I do what I do. With 23 years in leadership positions, I have made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made a lot of errors. I’ve failed countless times of being knocked back from interviews, by being frustrated at myself, and it’s not about denying, and I’ve learned the difference between pain and suffering. It’s not about denying people the pain because you need the pain to make the movement, but it’s helping people to make the movement faster so they don’t wallow in it, and then it becomes suffering.

They don’t do anything, and then it takes them longer to extract that goodness out of where they’re going. If you can pass that back one year, two years, five years, 20 years to someone else that they’re at a turning point in their journey at 23 rather than 43, and I say that leadership and parenting are not two sides of the same coin.

Nathan Simmons:
They’re exactly the same thing, and you want the people in your care to supersede you. No parent in their right mind wants their child to be equal to less than them. They want them to supersede them. So when you go and mentor and business coach or do all those things, you want that person to supersede you, so they can go do something incredible. That comes from people like you, by sharing some of that wisdom to help them go left instead of right at the right time, phenomenally powerful.

Paddy Willis:
I’m a great believer in karma and what goes around, comes around, and all these other phrases that basically mean that you treat others as you wish to be treated. So everyday I’m learning something new. I wish I’d been braver to ask for help and mentorship when I was younger, but there was sort of a sense that I had in my head, if no one else has it, just in my head that I just got to figure out for myself, and the reality is that there are so many things that I don’t…

You’re absolutely right. You learn far more from the failures than you do from the successes, and successes you just think, “Oh, that was good.” And then you carry on and do a bit more, but actually, when it doesn’t work out, that’s when you sort of think, “Well, why didn’t it work out?” You’re forced to rethink about it and readdress it.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, so I think for anyone in leadership positions or aspiring to a leadership position, it’s having the humility to know when you don’t have all the answers, and I’m a great believer in authenticity in terms of whether it’s a brand, or whether it’s your personality, people can smell bullshit a hundred miles away, and to a degree that’s sort of… In a challenger context, I sort of think that’s what’s happening now to a degree with the shift away from some of the big colossal brands of being around for decades. People don’t quite believe in them the way maybe they used to, and they’re inquiring mind is leading them more towards brands that speak in a different language, that put forward values that the consumer can relate to.

Paddy Willis:
That’s another reason I love what I do because I get to work with people who are expressing those values, every day in the products, and the brands, and the businesses that they are building.

Nathan Simmons:
That’s an interesting tangent. We might not be able to go down it today. One of the research pieces I did about a year ago came up with only 27% of all employees actually believe in their company values.

Paddy Willis:
Wow.

Nathan Simmons:
Which is huge, and then when you look at the engagement levels of the global import, it was something like 87% of the employed are not engaged in the work that they’re doing. So those two equations kind of just sit quite nicely together. When you then transfer that over to the client and the customer demographic, okay, what does this person actually want? Because there’s a wider choice, I can go and choose a product from a person that I think has more values or looks like me, or holds my best interests at heart, and having this one size fits all potentially from a large organization may not be the best approach these days. I say that more now from a coaching aspect.

Nathan Simmons:
As coaches and mentors, we know there are a million different coaches out there, but it’s all about finding your demographic, finding your niche, and potentially from what I’m hearing from you is that sort of thinking is also bleeding into the food industry and challenger brands as well, huge interest.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you look up what is a challenger brand, essentially it starts from a mindset. It starts from a position of saying, “Really? Is this as good as it gets?” If I look back to the genesis of the idea for Plum Baby, which was my and Suzy’s idea at the time, was we have a gap of eight years between child two and child three, and going back, although consumers have benefited, but it was always a convenience thing. It’d be good to have something you could chuck in the baby bag and take away for the weekend, et cetera.

Paddy Willis:
It was the fact that nothing really had changed, nothing had moved on, and so that was the inspiration for Suzy in this case to go out and say, “Look. Surely, we can do something better than this,” and that’s what led to the genesis of Plum Baby, and we helped change the category as a result, but it was born out of that frustration that big food, and when we’re talking about brands like Heinz, and Danone, [Countgate 00:12:16] Organics, which was the Lizzy brand had formed organics some years prior, and had built it very successfully. It was really probably the only challenger brand at the time in that space, and yet again that had elements that were a bit tired, and not driving real innovation.

Paddy Willis:
That’s what led us down the path to do what we do, which was to launch a premium, but ambient baby food. It was actually, when we sold in 2010, we were still quite considerably bigger than Ella’s Kitchen, and in the years that followed, guess what. Paul Lindley led Ella’s Kitchen to be biggest baby food brand in the U.K., overtaking Countgate and Heinz in the process. I don’t think we ever believed we could do that. We’d always set out, by the way, to have a five year plan to an exit, which is actually what we achieved, but the point being that we broke down the barriers of how things were done in that sector.

Paddy Willis:
Now, of course what’s happened is that Ella’s Kitchen has gone from being the challenger brand to being the leading brand, and once that happens, you’re no longer the challenger brand. You’re the incumbent. It’ll be interesting to see over the years what happens to those myriad of smaller brands that are out there now trying to challenge the marketplace, but that’s what’s…

There’s two good examples of parents setting up brands that tackled something that they saw missing in the market, and that’s what we see an awful lot of, particularly with brands that are seeking to do something around child obesity. Often there’s cases being set up by founders who are parents and who have been shocked or disappointed by the sugar-laden additive, heavy products that they saw being forced or encouraged to consume.

Paddy Willis:
So I think, yeah, it starts with a mindset, and it is that element of, “Do you know what? This doesn’t have to be the only way, and we’re talking about food and drink, but obviously that’s happened in other markets as well. Tesla is quite an interesting example of how somebody has managed build an incredibly successful company challenging the automobile industry, which… So the challenger brands are everywhere, and I think what’s encouraging is that the younger generations now, by which I speak to some. You could call millennials the younger generation. The Gen Zeds and millennials are making more purpose-lead decisions, value-led decisions.

Paddy Willis:
That’s leading them to choose brands that are shaking things up, and personally I believe that this is the part of what we want to achieve as Mission Ventures is to help transformations by helping to build better challenger brands that can lead the process of change, very much as what’s happened in the baby food market where now, suddenly, the status quo has been shifted towards a brand that is doing better food, and filling little tummies with more nutritious food than what was acceptable before.

Nathan Simmons:
There’s so many good things in there. One is you talked about having that five year plan and working to that, and I think that’s one of the key effective presentation skills that are there is when you go into a presentation, you begin with the end in mind. When you go into a business, you begin with the end in mind. When you go into kind of disrupting a market in a certain, you begin with the end of mind. Stephen R. Covey, Seven Habits, it’s a life lesson, and you also touched on what is a challenger brand, and it’s about disruption. It’s about that necessity is the father of invention. Like you said, you had the gap between child one and two.

Nathan Simmons:
Actually, can we do something different here? Can we bring something that we know solves a problem to us, and because it solves a problem to us, actually it probably solves a problem to another two million people out there, in some, way, shape or form. The other interesting analogy that popped in my head is you’re looking at Ella’s Kitchen, they were the disruptor. Now, they’ve become the incumbent. Now, they’re number one. It’s almost like Bannister’s four-minute mile. He breaks the four-minute mile by whatever it was, half a second, two seconds or whatever, and then that record was broken something ridiculous, like 27 times in the next 12 months because he proved it could be done.

Nathan Simmons:
Ella’s Kitchen goes out. It does that. Plum Baby Food comes in. Another one comes in. Another one comes in because, like you say, you’re at the top of the mountain or you’re halfway up the mountain, and people are going, “Bloody hell. Look at Paddy. Where is he off to? Maybe I can do that in my space for something that’s important to me? I’m going to start climbing that mountain as well.” When you talk about what is a challenger brand it’s about disruption and doing something from necessity. Where does it come from? Might you say it’s purposeful? It’s from the heart in the majority of times.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah.

Nathan Simmons:
What role do you think challenger brands play in helping to shape the food industry moving forward more so then?

Paddy Willis:
Well, it is this point about saying if you’re going to disrupt a category, and coming back to the example with Plum and others, is that you go about doing that because you believe it’s not settling for second best. You forge a way, and in doing that there’s that sort of drag effect where people come into that slipstream if you like, and suddenly the new normal is to be healthier. All of our recipes when we launched were… At that point, you could still call them super food, but they have all the super food ingredients. We introduced this whole concept of baby food going away from being rather sort of bland fillers to something which actually carried purpose for the ingredients.

Paddy Willis:
That’s pretty much the case, not all across the industry, but much more prevalent now. As I said, that’s what’s led to others being able to come up alongside and overtake us, and become the dominant party. Another good example in that is Fever Tree. Who would ever have believed? I remember as a kid going in and sipping from bottles of Schweppes tonic water in my parents’ drinks cabinet, and being terribly sophisticated in the process, and also a bit naughty, and who would ever have believed that label of Schweppes was ever going to be toppled as the market leader? Lo and behold, within 15 years of launch Fever Tree has done that.

Paddy Willis:
I know they’ve had a few challenges more recently, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that they were able to take on a market leader, and I think a lot of their very clever advertising and marketing was this whole point about if three quarters or whatever it was, if your drink actually is the mixer, then surely that’s as important a part of the drink as the tonic, as the gin or the spirit. In terms of what can the challenger brand do to change the market, it can do exactly that. It can lead, and it can demonstrate that there are better ways to do things or different ways to do things. Those different ways to do things are actually meeting a consumer need.

Nathan Simmons:
That got me thinking. This is why I’m enjoying this conversation. Me learning about challenger brands, me learning about… It’s almost like these homebrew beer companies, craft beers, and so many of them coming about. Actually, there’s a level of quality that’s pushing art now because, actually, we want something… We don’t want complacency. Or generic. We want different,  inspiring. Those purposeful products with values, and then it got me thinking about Simon Sinek’s book, and I’m still yet to read this, The Infinite Game, and one of his concepts in there was having a worthy adversary. It’s not about having competition.

Nathan Simmons:
You want someone that’s going to push your buttons, and sometimes really annoy you and agitate you, but they push you to be better than you were before because you know if you stop paying attention, they’re going to accelerate away from you. It’s not that they’re going to crush you. It’s they’re going to take the market lead. How do we bounce ideas off of each other from the other side of the call? How do we use them as the encouragement to help us make our own products obsolete before someone else does? Really pushing this thinking, so actually we need challenger brands to be stepping up so that actually we step up and cut out the complacency, super important.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah. That’s a really good point. I’d say you could learn that in management situations as well is that if you don’t have people who are thrusting challenger personnel that you getting you, you got to keep thinking. You got to keep thinking, “What am I’m doing to deliver value? What am I doing to demonstrate that I’ve got ideas and capabilities that could be put to greater use within this organization that I belong to?” I think this is important. I can remember this. I’ve been in situations in the past where you’ve been in the business, and suddenly someone has announced that they’re doing a product, tool or service, which is very similar to yours.

Paddy Willis:
You go, “Oh, we’re too late! We’ve missed the boat,” all this. No, actually, because if you’re out there on your own, you’re an outlier, and it’s really hard to be able to scale behind that because you’re challenging the ways things have been done traditionally. As soon as it becomes a little bit more mainstream, and people start to get into that same flow, then that’s when people will start to go from beyond just the early adopters into the next category consumer. You do need people to come on that journey. Clearly, you hope obviously that you’re going to keep a nose ahead, and be the dominant partner in that race towards perhaps toppling the incumbent and becoming the new market leader.

Paddy Willis:
Doing it on your own and in isolation is a real challenge. As hard as it can be to see sometimes to see people coming into this saying, “Market segment.” You have to recognize the fact that that’s doing two things. One is validating your concept and your idea, but it’s also making it easier for consumers and clients to understand that what you’re doing is not so odd because, actually, there’s various people doing different flavors, different degrees of that, and then that’s giving them a choice to choose from that, rather than or do I go mainstream or do I go to the slightly oddball outlier? Not for no reason do we have that old adage of no one ever got fired for choosing IBM.”

Paddy Willis:
So if you’ve got a situation where you can see a selection of options that look different to maybe the way the market looked a year to 10 years ago, then making a choice on that is less challenging, maybe less threatening to you as an individual or to you as a business leader. I think that’s really important is that people need that to counterbalance.

Nathan Simmons:
I think that’s also a test of your own focus, and optimism, and belief in what it is you’re doing because if you’re presenting with confidence that product, or you’re feeling that kind of knock of someone else is in this space, that you can stand up and present with confidence what it is you believe and why you’re doing it, the purpose of this where this is coming from.

Again, as you say, people will buy that authenticity. They’re buying into your values. They’re buying into why you’re doing it, not necessarily just because someone else thinks they can undercut you and deliver a cheaper product at a better price. There will still be a marketplace for you as long as you are storytelling and presenting that element in a way that is bringing those people on board, and encouraging them to buy, super important.

Nathan Simmons:
Thinking though, what’s now in the big project? So we talked a little… I alluded a little bit to the Guy’s and St. Thomas’s element. What’s the current big project?

Paddy Willis:
So this is really exciting, and I get slightly daunted in that excitement because we are trying to tackle something that is so huge and, yet, so important. We’ve all been aware of the incessant rise of obesity as a nation and, most worryingly, how it’s starting very early on.

Childhood obesity now is a big topic. So Guy’s and St. Thomas’s the charity has set themselves a 10-year program where they are investing in and exploring different ideas to see what can be done to challenge the status quo. They wrote a report with Big Society Capital, who are the other co-funder behind the Good Food Fund, which we are working with. They published a report called Healthy Returns, which was setting out to explore this concept of could you derive market-led solutions by backing and supporting healthier challenger brands?

Paddy Willis:
So that’s the context. This is one of many projects that they are funding, and because they are a place-based charity, Guy’s and Tommy’s charity, they are focusing particularly on Suffolk and Lambert. Now Suffolk and Lambert happens to have some of the worst rates of childhood obesity in London. There is a particular obesity corridor that runs across both those burroughs. What we are doing is working with… Ascension Ventures have been nominated as the fund manager for what is a 1.8 million fund, the Good Food Fund, which will provide equity and debt solutions to a range of businesses that can help to try and tackle this challenge.

Paddy Willis:
We are running a business accelerator, which is likely to extend to about 10 or a dozen businesses, particularly with a focus on healthy snacking, but not exclusively, but looking at healthy snacking, and are there ways where with younger children, so primary school-aged children, that we can encourage families, and the children to adopt healthy habits by providing more options for them, and this is really a pilot program where if we can work with the challenger brands, and with retailers, and other routes to market over the next 12 to 18 months, the ambition for the funders is to create a much larger fund that will not only be supported by themselves, but by others within the investment community.

Paddy Willis:
In doing that, bring with them the retail industry, the wholesale distribution industry, and again, it comes back to this point, really, of saying, “Is this as good as it gets? Are there not things that we can be doing to improve the environment in which families, particularly those from low-income families, because low-income families… I’ll give you a classic example within the burroughs we’re talking about. 10% of children in primary school in [Cottage 00:28:26] Village were obese. That rises threefold to 33% in Camberwell Green. There you’ve got two wards where there is this huge disparity and it comes out of the fact that the options available for low income families are poorer quality, and this is the issue that we are trying to face.

Paddy Willis:
Can we work with the challenger brands to help them take what are classically more expensive products to make because they are using usually more premium ingredients, and by definition they are using smaller runs in volume and, therefore, their costs are higher. They need the margins in order to attract the investors, and to stay in business so they have to inevitably end up marketing themselves through the more expensive retail channels, which are really just not the hunting ground of low-income families. This is what we are looking at. How do we help steer the brands and the industry into ways of thinking about how we can disrupt the way things have been done traditionally?

Paddy Willis:
So it’s very, very exciting, a huge, huge challenge. It won’t just be down to us, and a dozen or so brands, but this is a test pad for looking at how we can work with the brands with the distribution channels to see what can be done to provide scalable brands that can address the challenge and, at the same time, generate healthy returns for those that are investing in them.

Nathan Simmons:
It was sparking some old ideas that I have about food, et cetera. I obviously have a relationship with sugar. I’ve alluded to that in some of our previous conversations on how that affected my health at a very young age. I ended up being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and having imbalances in my gut flora. Ended up having huge sections of my intestine removed, abcesses, and [inaudible 00:30:28] sores.

I was lucky enough to cure that because we were very focused on our diet. Not everyone has access to that information. On the flip side of it, though, is actually when I think about that question of what place do the challenger brands have in the market, well, actually, things like sugar, sugar beet, sugarcane, the whole huge swathes of power over the content of food, and for the way that people buy.

Nathan Simmons:
Actually, one of the things I was looking at I used to grow a vegetable called a yacon, which actually when boiled down produces inulin, so your body doesn’t actually digest it in that sugar, but because no one is farming that at a large level, you can’t produce that sugar and, in effect, such a low rate purchasing price because of the volume of sugar beet that’s on the market, potentially. You need some of these challenger brands to be stepping in with these new solutions that are going to go, “Actually, here’s a product that’s at the right price in the right place delivering the right flavor so that people can make a choice when they’ve got that in front of them.

Nathan Simmons:
Then in doing so, they can do something that’s healthier or better for themselves, so at a price bracket that suites that demographic in that space as well, super important.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, definitely. No. You’re right, and we work with a brand called True Foods, who you mentioned inulin; they’ve adopted inulin. They’ve gone from being just a granola brand initially to being a whole range of granolas and porridges, but also doing what they call a jarful of fiber, which is liquid inulin and coming from chicory root, and it’s got fantastic qualities for helping to close the fiber gap, which a far too high a percentage of our population experience.

We struggle to get our five a day, but we’re also definitely not getting our fiber. You referred to gut flora and gut health. This really is the big movement that we see is brands that are extolling gut health and some very exciting evolutions in that space, a long way still to go, but people always say, “Trust your gut.” It’s your second brain and everything.

Paddy Willis:
Yet, we don’t treat the gut very well. You just alluded to decisions that you were making as a child that led you to have all sorts of drastic medical issues later, and this is why it’s important for us to… Education will go so far with consumers, but there is a role for brands to play in challenging the way things have been done in the past. It’s hard if you’re a small producer with relatively expensive ingredients, and a need to, obviously like every business, to make a margin that’s sustainable.

We’ve been looking at what are the things that can be done around that to help you to scale your business effectively, and in doing that to then become a more affordable healthier range that becomes an [inaudible 00:33:55] brand in terms of it’s available to everybody, rather than just a select few.

Nathan Simmons:
There’s that, and I remember the turn of the buying process we’re going from normal food products when organic started to become a thing, and then it was actually being organic was a lifestyle choice. It wasn’t actually an option because organic food was so expensive at the time, and I think it’s getting better now. Like you say, it’s having those options are available where actually the content, and the ingredients are of not necessarily they’re a premium quality, of a good quality where it is affordable. It is accessible. It’s healthy, environmentally sound, and it’s also good for us internally, a gut level, and I think that some of that’s going to happen at a personal level, a company level, but also at the food produce level as well.

Nathan Simmons:
How are those organizations being run, and what are they saying is okay to go down that food chain, which actually is causing a lot of the problems, and how that’s manipulating the thinking. This is an interesting tangent. I was screaming out for sugar all of the time. I always wanted sugar whenever, but it wasn’t actually me screaming out for sugar. It was the internal yeast infection.

It was the bacteria triggering responses in my brain to scream out for more sugar to feed the imbalance, which then caused a hospitalization. They don’t understand that. You just go to the sweet shop and you buy whatever is there because you feel you have a necessity to do that. You almost feel as if that choice is taken away from you because you just don’t know any better, unfortunately, because that’s the environment you’re in.

Paddy Willis:
No, definitely. As I said, the big focus for the charity is to explore how we can help those lower-income families through improved options. Everybody wants affordable, tasty nutritious, healthier food, but in a lot of cases, the cheaper options are not… You’re either cheap or you’re tasty, nutritious, and healthy. That’s a massive oversimplification, but that’s classically what you see. Shelf space is given by retailers to those brands where they can shift in volume, and it’s really hard for a healthier brand to necessarily get those [inaudible 00:36:34] rates in place. I think where there are fewer options available for affordable, healthy, and tasty food and, also, the other element, of course, is around what are the options for playful exercise that will engage children?

Paddy Willis:
We are talking at the time of the pandemic, and the lockdown, where it becomes really hard for families to… You’re imagine you’re in a town somewhere in Lambert or Suffolk. Your options are limited. I’m here in Surrey and I’ve got a garden I can walk around and a village to explore, and take the dog for a walk. There are these polarities, unfortunately, in society, and to a degree, this has been really the spotlight of the pandemic is… The pandemic is to try and spotlight on this issue, and I was reading just the other day that… I think it was Just Eat had released some data, which said that families are tending to order their takeout food for delivery earlier, sometimes up to two hours earlier than they would do normally.

Paddy Willis:
They’re adding on more desserts, and ancillary purchases with their meal because people spend the whole day in lockdown, and if you’re a frazzled parent, it’s much easier to say, “Oh, okay.” You’ll get the sticky pudding or the dessert, whatever, the kid is asking you for. There comes another sugar hit just before bedtime.

It is really hard. Certainly, the work that came out of the Healthy Returns Report demonstrated that, of course, a large part of these inner city low-income families are populated by single parents, usually mums, at home, with a couple of young kids. The challenges are legion. There is the worry behind getting the bills paid. There is a worry about the children’s health. There’s a worry about their schooling. There’s a worry about who they might be hanging out with.

Paddy Willis:
All these things are crowding in on you, and also if you haven’t necessarily come from a household where there’s been a culture of cooking, and such that your field of vision, the options within your field of vision are very narrow. With the pressures of your existence comes an even greater narrowing your focus. It’s that fight or flight mode where you are literally looking at survival. How do we get through the day? How do we get through the next bill run, the next payday, et cetera? You will naturally gravitate towards the simplest solutions, and sometimes that’s the takeout. Sometimes it’s a snack to help keep the kids quiet and off your back. You’re trying to get the laundry done or whatever the things are.

Paddy Willis:
It’s really, really tough. The food industry has an opportunity now to step up and give shelf space to healthier brands. Give opportunities for brands with purpose and with real values to drive and initiate change because we know that can happen.

Unfortunately, we’ve just also gone through several weeks of panic buying where shelves have been cleared to make more space for the big brands, and I understand there are reasons why that happens, but there has to be a balance here, and people will want choice. They’ll want better options available to them. In doing that, you need to give airtime, space on the shelf to the healthier challenger brands that can not only resonate with how you feel about the world in general, but also to provide tastier options and tastier solutions than just the mainstream.

Nathan Simmons:
The other thing you picked up on there was we’ve had to pivot our business quite rapidly in this very changing last few weeks that we’ve been in lockdown, and we’ve been doing some live trainings, 1:00, 20 to 30 minutes. One of those was around isolation. Actually, people have been getting tired earlier. The initial part is they were getting tired around 8:00 and feeling lethargic. They’re not able to focus on their projects. They don’t want to start new projects. You’ve got these levels of worry and stress that sit in the background, but you find a lot of these things that people are doing are actually stress reactions. They’re actually symptoms of cabin fever.

Nathan Simmons:
You compound a couple of these elements of, “Okay. I’m in [inaudible 00:41:19], wherever, in this small space. I’ve got children.” Potentially, you’ve got some other stuff here around price, value, quality, all those elements, and then you bring all that into one bundle. You then put that into the melting pot of COVID-19 and, all of a sudden, those choices start to compound very rapidly, and like you say, the dessert quantity or ancillary purchases goes up to backfill the abnormal environment you’re in, the alien environment, and compensate that as trying to make yourself feel better with a sugar hit that brings the emotions up, and the dopamine levels up just to deal with the negative situation that people are in. They’re trying to balance that out.

Paddy Willis:
Some data I saw recently about how big brands, Walker’s and others, are seeing a bit of a boom at the moment because people are gravitating back to those comfort brands that they’ve known throughout their lives, and bigger purchasing volumes have driven bigger sharing bags and everything that’s going through, and if you’ve got more limited time to exercise and to work that off, that is a real challenge at the moment. Of course, the reason it’s been in the spotlight more recently because there’s been evidence suggesting that a very high percentage of those that do end up dying from COVID-19 across age groups have had issues with obesity, and the underlying issues that go with that, whether diabetes or a heart condition, et cetera.

Paddy Willis:
There is an interesting dilemma where people are wanting to comfort eat to get through this period of isolation and shut down, and abnormality. There’s also, at the same time, been a huge increase in Google searches for healthy eating, healthier snacks, healthy food, et cetera.

There’s a sort of balancing act going on between people who are saying, “Okay. Let’s have family bag or whatever,” and others who are thinking, “Well, actually, I need to look at my health, now, my nutrition, and work out how can I avoid some of these kind of pandemics in the future?” Let’s face it. There will be another one at some point. Maybe not in our lifetimes, and that’s the real issue is there has to be some work because already we know that obesity had been driving a lot of the NHS budget.

Paddy Willis:
It’s drawn down an awful lot of that underlying health impact. Now, of course, we’ve got this suggestion that it’s made people more vulnerable to COVID and, therefore, there has to be an initiative by government to say, “Look. We’ve all been really good at getting out there and supporting NHS, and wonderful things like that Army veteran walking 100 times around his garden.” The last I heard it was over 13 million.” Listen.

Nathan Simmons:
[crosstalk 00:44:21]

Paddy Willis:
Extraordinary things going on, and we can’t be doing all of that just in order to then just drift back into some level of complacency. There will have to be some level of government initiative around healthier eating.

There also needs to be some responsibility for consumers to be willing to look at the other options available to them, and to consider swap outs between… For example, the work we’re going to be doing in the burroughs if we can put products on the shelf, it would take the same price as the market leader. There is a healthier option, but without shouting the health story to people because that’s a turnoff. If we can get them to make swaps that are tasty and nutritious, and affordable, then little by little you can see how you can very, very gradually start to nudge the needle in the right direction.

Paddy Willis:
That’s not really asking very much to the consumer because you’re simply just giving them options that allow them to make their own improvements for health, and many other things they need to be doing as well with their lifestyle, but that’s just a tiny thing that we can start to try and work on.

Nathan Simmons:
I’m interviewing a gentleman by the name of Oliver Bailey next week, and that interview will be available by the time that people are listening to this, and what he is doing is he’s taking the fruit and veg from the markets that’s no longer going to restaurants because they’re closed, raising charity money to then buy those products, and then going and giving that to the doctors and nurses so they haven’t got to think about what they got to go shopping for because you’re talking about that stress environment.

They’re doing 13, 14, 15 hours. They don’t want to think. The first thing they do is go to the café or they go to the supermarket. They’re hungry, which is the worst state to be in when you go shopping for sure. You guy 10 times more things that you don’t need, and you make those healthy choices.

Nathan Simmons:
Repurposing that produce, and giving it to these guys that are working in high-pressure environments as well. It’s just having the ability to be able to pivot as a consumer for all the right reasons, and be able to see those possibilities, and innovate with your own health and wellbeing, but it’s having that education, that internal dialog to be able to do it, and having those supporting challenger brands. Now, you talked about that gentle nudge, and that leads into the third part, really, of this conversation for me, which is around presentation skills. What are the qualities of a good presenter? Because you’ve got to get a message across, and being a good presenter to companies, to consumers, to regulators, the full works. What are the qualities of a good presenter?

Paddy Willis:
Well, I think the first thing that is very obvious that we’re stating is the presenter has got to be engaging. If you can’t engage the audience, then it doesn’t really matter what you’re going to tell them. They’re not going to switch on. They’re not going to be receptive. You need to be engaging with that. It helps if you can be confident in the message that you’re looking to deliver. It’s very hard to put across a strong message if the presenter is lacking the confidence because then you’re thinking, “Well, actually, do they really believe in what they’re saying?” I think I mentioned the word authentic and authenticity before. I think there’s a huge need for people to let the natural authenticity come out.

Paddy Willis:
You brought out some very scary stats early on about how disengaged people can be with their jobs, and the work they do, but hopefully if you’ve been put in a position to present something, as we do certainly with the work that we do with the brands, and the partners that we work with, and we are on the verge of signing our first corporate venturing partnership, the joint venture with one of the U.K.’s biggest food brands to help them get closer to challenger brands, and help them to look at potential deal flow for M&A down the road. All this is coming down to do we have the… Why would they trust a little, old organization like us a fraction of the size of their business that’s been going for trillions of years to help them in what they know is a real challenge?

Paddy Willis:
They know they haven’t got the enhanced skills to bring these brands on, and to development. They’ve got all the big issues of their existence to worry about, rather than some scurrying, little brand that’s getting in the way, and not making a profit for them.

You have to have confidence in that. Also, particularly if you’re doing something, whether you’re talking to one person or whether you’re talking to a room or to an audience, you’ve got to be able to have empathy. You’ve got to come back to the point of our engagement. I’m a great believer that if you’re making a presentation to a bunch of people around the table or into an auditorium, you have to make eye contact with everybody. You have to bring them with you, make them feel personally that you are talking to them.

Paddy Willis:
Often, it’s interesting. I know I’ve been guilty of this many, many, many times, and will be again, but you often find people. It’s a little bit like a garden sprinkler that’s kind of got slightly stuck, and it won’t go to water the rest of the garden. People get stuck in a certain quadrant of a room, and you’re thinking, “Come on. Come on. Come on. You can do it, you can do it. Bring your focus over to the other side of the room.” Yeah, so I would say it’s about the engaging. It’s about having confidence in what you’re presenting and discussing, being your authentic self in that, and having the empathy, having the ability to engage with the member of your audience.

Nathan Simmons:
To me that’s the four… really pretty important to do that. I think when you talk about that confidence and that empathy, and authenticity, you’re tapping into those things. I had a conversation yesterday and how many people get overexcited or they put too much importance on what they want to talk about, and they come diving in, and they just blurt out a load of stuff at people, and they only give them half the message or they give them the backend of the message, and mess with it because, yes, it’s all important to them, but they miss that storytelling.

Nathan Simmons:
They miss that connection, that engagement to bring the audience on the ride to show people the journey, that necessity that has created the invention, and the authenticity of why you’re doing that, and being able to impart that empathetically so that people go, “I want to listen to this person.” They do know what they’re talking about and do give a shit. They care and I want to be a part of that. I want to support them as a leading brand or manufacture. To invest in these people so they can go to the next part of that business journey. I think those four top tips on effective or good presentation skills is phenomenal.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, and what goes with that, for example, is… Again, I’ve been guilty of this and will be again, not reading the slide. Don’t just read the slide. If you put words on a slide, someone else has already read them probably by the time you’re going to reference to them, so embellish them, but tell the story that goes with that. I reference more times than I could ever imagine the mountain of value story that I heard from Daniel Presley. Actually, I can’t remember anything else that Daniel said in that talk that he gave 10 years ago, but I can distinctly remember that story. I think we only have a capacity, and as I get older, that capacity reduces day by day, but to retain information that we get, but it is the story because we are all essentially storytellers.

Paddy Willis:
We tell stories to the world about ourselves. I am presenting myself in a way that tells you and your audience a story about who Paddy Willis is. We inherently do.

That’s what we do as human beings and as members of a society or of a community, but if you can tell a story… I can envisage situations now where I’ve been in an audience. There’s a presenter up on stage. He might be pacing around a bit, and he or she has presented some facts, and they say, “I want to tell you a story.” Everyone almost is sort of leaning forward. “Oh, you have a story.” Because it’s a little bit like when you go back to school. I didn’t always engage that well in the classes, but when the teacher said, “Look. It’s Saturday, going to read a book.” Whoa, brilliant! Okay. So you’ve taken that in.

Paddy Willis:
It is this element of telling the story, and I think that’s what people will carry away. They might carry away one or two facts, which really struck them as being significant, maybe a statistic or something, but probably what’ll happen when they go back to the office or back to their spouse, and they say, “Well, how was your day? What was the presentation like?” They say, “It was interesting. I had a few good things. He told an interesting story about X or Y,” and that’s I think so important in presenting, and it gives you that little bit of license to step away slightly from what’s on the slide to bring a bit more humanity into it because slides tend to, by definition, to be quite dry.

Paddy Willis:
They’re putting across the key facts, but if you can tell a story that is relating to why those facts and the story behind it is relevant to the audience, why they should join you in a partnership, why they should consider your idea for the next project that your company is going to back, why you should be considered for the promotion or whatever the thing is. Yeah, so storytelling, absolutely critical.

Nathan Simmons:
I think that’s one of the prime skills of effective presentation. One is don’t just be reading off your slide. Ultimate power leads to ultimate corruption, but ultimate PowerPoint ultimately destroys everything, I think is the phrase, and then embellish with the story. That’s what makes it really effective, and you brought that to live then just by saying it’s like story time in school, and everybody bloody loves story time at school. Everybody loved, “Okay. Well, I’m doing my math,” so I’m making this stuff out of pipe cleaners, and blue tackle, whatever, but the moment the teacher says, “Right. Everyone over to the reading corner. Everyone over to the whatever space. We’re going to do a story.”

Nathan Simmons:
Everyone, like boom! It’s inbuilt from you from a very early point. Stories have been used to pass on learning, theory, concepts for years, and years, and years, which is why the Greek dramas were so good. They were teaching you drama so you could observe human relationship under a magnifying lens so you could learn from it but we forgot to learn from those dramas.

What actually happened is we just ended up watching soap operas five times a week, and getting lost in the drama, rather than learning from the drama. Effective presentation, four tips: again, engaging, confident, authentic, empathy, include those. The effective presentation skills really get in there with some story, and bring it to life for people. Make people feel like they want to lean forward. Phenomenal. Last question.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah? The point about repetition is really important as well because people get worried about repetition. They think, “Well, I’m going to bore people,” but this is something I remember being told decades ago about whenever you’re imparting information to somebody in that situation of a presentation. It’s tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them, and then tell them what you told them. That process of set out the scene so they know what’s coming. Give them the information of the scene, and then wrap up the scene at the end, and tell them what they’ve just heard. A good presenter will do that falling off a log, and it’s a real skill, but it has to be done in a way which it comes back to authenticity.

Paddy Willis:
That confidence is about why I want to tell you this in the first place, and why it’s important for you to listen, and why what I’ve just told you is still significant. I hope that you’ve now taken away points that will now lead to the other really important thing, which is, of course, when you conclude that presentation is to say your thing of thanking people for their attention, and their time, and everything else, but give a call to action. Is it that you want them to ask you questions? Is it that you want them to fill in the survey form or something on their chair? Or is it that you want them to sign up for the next event or the subscription, or whatever the thing is that you’re… or sign a big check to fund your next project.

Paddy Willis:
I think that’s the thing. Often, you’ve had a really good presentation and you’re thinking, and then they say, “Thanks very much,” and they walk off the stage. You think, “What do I do? What do I do with all that, now?” So I think it’s really important that, as I said, whatever the thing is that you don’t just leave it hanging. You’ve got to provide an opportunity for people to do something. They can choose not to, but give them that choice. Give them the choice to either engage with you or your team or to say, “That was interesting. I’m going to process it.” That was interesting. Hopefully it was interesting. There needs to be something which comes out of that, which is a call to action.

Nathan Simmons:
My next question was how do you end a presentation? That is how you end a presentation. There is a call to action. There is something that you’re giving them. They are taking away a tangible action or an activity that is going to continue their thinking about what you’ve just talked about so that when they get up out of their seat, whatever, they go outside. They get on the bus and go. Still thinking, “What did Paddy just say? Oh, when I spoke to the bus driver that reminded of this.” You’re keeping that flow of thinking because you want that learning to stay in. It was interesting. Again, it came back to that mountain of value analogy. Where is the top of the mountain? That’s where we’re going. Tell them where you’re going to go.

Nathan Simmons:
Lay out the roadmap, and then take them up the mountain through the journey of the speech, and then when you get to the other end, you can now look back and see the journey that you’ve been on. It beautifully ties in with what you said about from Daniel Presley, engaging in those three core elements of a decent presentation. Phenomenal value just in that piece, let alone all the other stuff about challenger brands, and supporting those people, and the work with childhood obesity, phenomenal. It’s a penultimate question. It’s always the same for me. What do you do to make behavioral change stick?

Paddy Willis:
Oh, gosh.

Nathan Simmons:
That’s a big if.

Paddy Willis:
That’s a big if. Well, actually, I’ve got a little bit of personal evidence of that recently because just before Christmas I was suffering with some back and neck issues, and I went to physio, and did the classic thing of saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll do this exercise, do this exercise,” and then didn’t really do them, but went back and it was evident I hadn’t done them, but it was just before Christmas. Christmas/New Year period I managed to get a slot, and then I thought, “If I’m going to do anything about this, I really need to make this work, otherwise, why am I paying all this money?”

Paddy Willis:
So I did, and now every morning without fail since the Christmas/New Year period I’ve got up and I’ve done roughly 15, sometimes extending it to 20 minutes of exercises and stretches, some of it given to me by the physio because some of it was more Pilates and yoga related. I feel great because I was also doing that, and I get less issues, less stresses and strains in backs, and necks, and what have you, but years, and years, and years I should have been doing that, but it took me getting to the point where I thought, “I’m embarrassed if I have to go back to my physio and admit that I haven’t done what she asked me to do because how does that make me look?”

Paddy Willis:
I was shamed into doing something that I knew was going to be good for me, and so just as an example of that, that’s something which is very relevant to me, now, and now I actually enjoy doing my exercises. I look forward to them. That, I think, is how do you change? Behavioral change is really hard. It’s not for nothing do we have the old expression you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and leopards won’t change their spots, and stuff, but there are things that you can do. I think the important thing is to make it small incremental step changes. Don’t make it a huge thing that is going to really be a struggle to get around. So if you’re just doing one exercise for two minutes every morning, and building up, and then adding something, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Paddy Willis:
I probably started off doing 10 minutes, and I’ve extended it, and I did a few extra bits, and I maybe done that repetition a little bit longer. I’ve added in something else I might have seen or thought was useful, but I make a point of not going stupid on it because I’ll know that the next day I’ll feel guilty if I don’t keep up to the same level that I did the day before.

I am deliberately keeping it at a modest level, which I think is enough for my immediate need. I’m not putting myself forward for whenever the next Olympics are. It’s just something for my personal need and satisfaction. I think it’s important to just make it baby steps, and as you go forward, each time you’ll… Each time you go forward, your elastic has got a little slacker, so you can take that extra step, and I think that’s…

Paddy Willis:
Recognize that you’re not going to do it all in one go. Be prepared to put the time in, and wait for it to become a new habit, which is what I’ve managed to do in this case.

Nathan Simmons:
The huge value in that they talk about if you’re going to eat an elephant, you don’t try and swallow it whole. You cut it up into bit-sized chunks. What you’re talking about is one shifting the secondary gains. Why am I doing this? Actually, I’m paying this money. I need to do this. In the nicest possible way, we’re not getting any younger. You’re right. If we don’t start doing this stuff now, what’s that going to look like in 20 years’ time? Who’s looking at that stuff? And then it’s creating that as I was thinking about it as you were saying that habit bandwidth. How much bandwidth capacity do I have for this physically, mentally, emotionally, in time, whatever?

Nathan Simmons:
Okay. How do I create a bit more? It might be 20 minutes of exercise, but now I’ve got a bit more energy. Actually, I woke up 10 minutes earlier, so I can do an extra five minutes of… so on and so forth, rather than dissuading yourself from doing it because you’re not doing 45 minutes of Palates every single morning because, actually, you don’t have the capacity to do that. You build up, and then you work on that, and get to the point. That’s huge, great share. Last question: Where can people find you?

Paddy Willis:
Well, they can find out about Mission Ventures at missionventures.go.uk, and they can look me up on LinkedIn. I’m known as Paddy Willis there, as I am the rest of my life, and I’m also on Twitter, @PaddyWillis, although I’m not terribly prolific on there. I’m more of an observer than a contributor. Yeah, and happy to hear from people if there is anything that they feel they can contribute to.

Nathan Simmons:
Amazing. I cannot stress enough the importance of the work that is being done by Paddy on various different avenues of helping challenger brands. These small companies that are up and coming, connecting them with bigger companies.

So anyone that’s listening to this that has got a food idea and they’re incubating it, connect. If there are big brands that potentially are looking to bring these people on and take them to the next level, connect with Paddy. This is going to be massively supportive. In the midst of this, he is also working to help support the initiatives in the reductions of childhood obesity, which is causing so many problems for so many people, whether they realize it or not. We know obesity is causing a huge strain on the NHS, as it is anyway, let alone without COVID-19.

Nathan Simmons:
So these two avenues of work that Paddy’s doing, for me, Paddy, from everyone out there that you may be the ripple effect of the work that you’re doing you may not get to see, thank you from them to you as well. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Anyone that’s listened to this and got value, reach out. Connect with Paddy. Talk to him because he may be able to help you get that food idea out there, connect you with someone, connect you as a big company with them to make a change in someone’s life. That’s huge. Paddy, thank you very much from MBM. Thank you very much from the Sticky Interviews, and we’ll see you on the next one. Appreciate it.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Presentation Skills and our Presentation Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Presentation Skills Tips and articles.

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clean no 01:05:03 Nathan Simmonds
E17 – Situational Leadership with Jay Raham – Expert interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/situational-leadership/ Thu, 21 May 2020 08:44:06 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=46367 full 17 2 E17 – Situational Leadership: Interview With ‘The Magician’, Jay Raham

In this episode, I interview Jay Raham. Jay is an award-winning lecturer, consultant, and public speaker. With a vision to enhance the practice of leadership at a global level, so far he’s worked with 7000+ aspiring managers in Mauritius, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Morocco. He refers to himself as ‘The Magician’, creating magical moments impacting innovation, creativity, and sustainability. Recently, Jay has been pushing what he sees as ‘professional excellence’ to another level; achieving 5 Fellowships, a unique accomplishment taking his skill set to a new level and helping others to think outside of the box. Here, we discuss situational leadership.

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:

Welcome to Sticky Interviews. I’m Nathan Simmonds, Senior Leadership Coach and Trainer for MBM, Making Business Matter, the home of Sticky Learning. We are the provider of leadership development and soft skills training to the grocery and manufacturing industry. The idea of these interviews is to share great ideas, great concepts and great ways these skills are being used to help you be the best version of you in the work that you do. Welcome to the show.

Nathan Simmonds:

We’re digging into some different territory with this next conversation. So I’ve got the pleasure of speaking to Jay Raham. We’ve had a bit of a conversation to and fro through LinkedIn. We’ve had a little bit of a look at each other’s leadership aspirations and we are both super-enthusiastic about leadership as a whole and have big visions about what we want to create and what, but I’m not going to spoil that part yet until we get into that. I’ll let Jay share that one.

Nathan Simmonds:

First of all, let me introduce him completely by some of his accolades and his current celebratory points along his journey. So he’s an award-winning lecturer, consultant and public speaker. He has the vision to enhance the practice of leadership at a global level and he’s already doing this through his training of aspiring managers in Mauritius, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Morocco which, in itself, is pretty astounding for any leadership trainer. In fact, he’s already clocking up over 7,000 leaders so far that he has supported, guided and mentored. Amongst all this, he’s also achieved five fellowships which, in itself, is a unique accomplishment. And one of the interesting places that he likes to start his conversations is about how he likes to introduce himself as the magician. But we’re going to get into that in a minute. We’re not going to cover that yet.

Nathan Simmonds:

But first of all, Jay, I just want to say a massive thank you for being here. Really appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation with us and develop up some of these ideas for the listeners. Thank you very much.

Nathan Simmonds:

So why do they call you, they don’t call you, I don’t think they call, I think you started this somewhere. Why do you call yourself the magician?

Jay Raham:

Before I got into that Nathan, I just want to say thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to come on the show and it’s always great to work with like-minded professionals and I appreciate you taking the time out and making this happen, so thank you.

Jay Raham:

So, going back to your question if you like Nathan and why I like to introduce myself as the magician. Sounds weird, bizarre, strange. People have said things in the past. But there’s a reason behind it; there’s an explanation behind it. And yes, it is part of my personal branding. And I believe it presents me in the best possible way. So the reason why I consider myself a magician, so with all my clients, it might be individuals I have developed from the leadership program over the years, what I like to do is create moments that allow them to find that inner voice, that confidence boost and then take that away with them to their office and experience those magical moments where they are able to inspire the team members, they are able to take them on an inspiring journey.

Jay Raham:

And also connect with their clients, their customers. So that is my explanation why I like to introduce myself as the magician. So if you ask me, I do like to create those moments where everyone in the session or an individual level, they feel there’s a positive energy to work with and there’s something to take away.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s amazing. How much do you know about the Jungian archetypes?

Jay Raham:

Sorry, just say again, please?

Nathan Simmonds:

How much do you know about the Jung archetypes?

Jay Raham:

Not much.

Nathan Simmonds:

Good. So this is the interesting part of it, is Jung says there are four kinds of main archetypes. It’s the warrior, the king, the magician and the lover. And actually the magician is the creative energy. He comes up with new solutions, new ideas. He comes with that sort of energy. So even without you realizing it, you say you like to introduce yourself as a magician because you like to create these magic moments, but it is about that creation. So you’re channelling that inner-magician which, as you know, is a really nice thing. Whether you’re doing it consciously or subconsciously doesn’t matter. Because it’s all about the people in the room experiencing that, then carrying it and going and doing something different.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I also know about you is that you pride yourself on thinking outside of the box.

Jay Raham:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Now, again, it’s that magician energy, that magician archetype that creates the new solutions of being outside of the box. That’s super important. So it’s really nice that you introduce yourself that way because it then sets kind of, not a precedent, you’re setting an intention about what you’re going to bring to that room, what you’re going to bring to your clients and what those people are going to carry when they walk out of that room as well. So that’s super important, I like that a lot.

Jay Raham:

Thank you for that. Something I have experienced with my interaction with my clients and learners and all the rest; it’s important to set the boundaries; it’s important to set the scene. And from my perspective, it’s always beneficial when I can share a little bit about my success, what I have achieved with regard to my journey and I do believe there is still so much more I would like to do and achieve over the years. But it’s a great way to get a reaction. I’ve had so many people asking, Jay, why do you call yourself the magician and I’m like, “Give me a minute and I’ll explain myself.”

Jay Raham:

And it’s interesting, once I’ve had the chance to explain and go over it, often people would approach me and say we really admire your confidence level. We admire the way you present yourself. And it makes sense. So it’s just a cliché. It is a part of me.

Nathan Simmonds:

Absolutely that. And I think it’s when you’re setting that intention as a trainer. And for us, it’s all about behavioural change and we’ll get into that later on. When we, as trainers and consultants, as speakers, walk into a room, we come with a reason. We come with a sense of purpose. We have our own internal dialogue. And when we walk into that room, we are going to do a certain kind of thing, in that space, based on what we’re bringing. That’s the reason why we were invited to that room. That’s why companies pay us, that’s why people invite us to speak and that do the thing, because we come with that reason.

Nathan Simmonds:

For me, my purpose, when I articulate, is I am challenging people’s thinking so they can become more incredible than yesterday. That’s the first words that come out of my mouth every morning and it’s the reason I get up. So when I walk into a training room and I tell people, I am going to challenge your thinking so that you can become more incredible than yesterday. And people look at me like, who’s this madman?

Nathan Simmonds:

And then, you can see some of the people, they’re like that. Oh, not sure about this fellow, what’s going on. And then I ask them, is it okay that I challenge your thinking so that you can become more incredible than yesterday. You know what, it’s a loaded question. I know what the answer’s going to be. If you say no, then you’re in the wrong room. But by doing that, you already prepare the room. You’re already creating that atmosphere, that ambience as you as the speaker and the trainer. So people can decide whether they’re going to buy into it. And then you go in because you’ve always set your bar, your expectation, you deliver your content and you want to bring people to that level, to that bar.

Jay Raham:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

So when you turn up as the magician, you’re there to create magic. Do you know that? I love it. I think it’s genius.

Jay Raham:

It hasn’t let me down. It’s been with me for the last seven years.

Nathan Simmonds:

Nice.

Jay Raham:

And initially when I considered it, yes, it made me feel uncomfortable and I wasn’t too sure about myself. And I was on an interesting journey, partially I was developing myself and also looking at ways to enhance my brand, achieve awards and also build my credibility. But the last two years have been absolutely amazing with regard to achieving the fellowships. I believe I’m the only one in the UK who’s achieved five and my target is seven, so I’ve got two more I’m working towards.

Jay Raham:

So it’s been an interesting journey and over the years I’ve found greater confidence in the brand and why it’s become a part of me. So, yeah, it’s been an interesting journey.

Nathan Simmonds:

I think you have to discover who you are, almost. You have to go into that self-reflection. Who is it I’m bringing and what’s the reason I’m bringing it. But I think because we unlearn; we unlearn who we actually are through a course of time, through our experiences. And then it takes a little bit of getting used to step back into that power and own it and then go and do that thing. So, as you say, it’s a bit of a journey, it took me maybe two years to get really comfortable to say to people. And people say what do you do for a job. I help people become more incredible than yesterday. And they’re like oh oh.

Nathan Simmonds:

But you say it with such confidence that people go, “Ah, I’d like to do that as a job”. And they have no idea what you do. Because you come with that confidence, it’s almost like you’re taking off the jacket of the labels of other people and just being you. And being responsible in that.

Nathan Simmonds:

So, yes, it takes time to get comfortable with it, but the more people that get comfortable in that kind of understanding of themselves, the more incredible the world becomes.

Jay Raham:

Also, Nathan, on my part, I think it’s fair for me to thank my previous employers, so particularly the Royal Bank of Scotland. When I first moved into banking, my background prior to moving into learning and development was banking, and I worked with the Royal Bank of Scotland for ten years. As a young person, I didn’t have much confidence; I struggled with presentations; I struggled to interact with my clients, customers. It was great so an individual saw potential in me and decided to invest in me as a professional. They enhanced my communication skills. They gave me the exposure to work with clients on various projects and it’s an amazing journey. And going through that whole journey if you like, it gave me the opportunity to self-reflect and understand a lot more about myself as a person, as a professional.

Jay Raham:

And what I found, I loved working with individuals. I’m not someone who can be locked in an office and work on my own. Even with this whole lock-down, I’m struggling, because I love being around people. I love inspiring people. I love bringing the best out of people. That’s my style. That’s my approach.

Jay Raham:

But yeah, without the training, the guidance, the support, there’s no way I would be doing what I am doing with confidence and passion if it was not for that initial journey. So I am grateful to my previous employer, the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Nathan Simmonds:

Do you know what, unfortunately for me, it’s novel to hear that, that people say these sorts of things? You were in the right place, right people, the right environment and that were the Royal Bank of Scotland. Phenomenal. And you’ve had the right conversations. And I don’t think that sort of environment is that common. I don’t think it’s that regular from my viewpoint of it. Which is probably why you do what you and it’s why I do what I do. And I’ve said this to you previously. I came from the flip side of it. Yes, I was in banking; yes, I’ve been in lots of other businesses. But I had some of probably the worst managers and leaders and the worst environments. And it was frustrating. It was painful. I didn’t enjoy the process.

But at the same time, I’m 100% grateful for the experiences that I got from those people because I learned some of the most valuable leadership lessons from the most damaging leaders and managers. Because I had that ability to self-reflect myself. For me, that’s one of the key traits of a good leader or someone that is working in leadership, is that ability to reflect and develop from that. Super important. And it’s nice and novel and refreshing to hear that you’ve had that growth and that potential seen in you early on as well.

Jay Raham:

Yeah, and also the clients, or the customers, they played a massive part. I can look back and reflect on situations where a customer would just walk in on a Monday morning. Jay, how’s your weekend? We just want to have a chat with you. It’s bizarre considering someone would come in just to see you as a person, just to see your face. And there have been situations where clients have opened up about their own vulnerabilities and I had to push them back and say, “I’m really sorry, I’m not a qualified counsellor. We shouldn’t really be having these discussions. I’m here to try to sell you some financial products”. This is not part of the package if you like.

Jay Raham:

And yeah, it’s just been interesting and I’m just excited in terms of what’s ahead for me with my vision and what I would like to do. It’s been a great journey for me, the last 27 years.

Nathan Simmonds:

But even in you saying that there are, not red flags is wrong, there are alarm bells that are ringing, or people are asking you this stuff and approaching you with this stuff. For me, that’s kind of tell-tale signs that there is a direction that you’re designed to be going when people start sharing that sort of thing with you, that you’re propagating this skill set where you magnetize people to you because they need that support, that guidance, that magic energy or whatever.

Nathan Simmonds:

The other point I think, as a leader, as a manager, maybe people only see that in reflection. But as another element of the leadership, and we’ll talk about this in a minute, is being able to see that in your people and understanding actually, let’s see what that skills. Let’s see what their unique superpower is, their USP, and help them to foster and develop that for them as an individual. Yes, inside our business but also for them and their long term growth which may be outside of this organization and doing something completely different, rather than trying to keep them in this team and stifled and suffocated.

Jay Raham:

Yeah, and you have made a very valuable point Nathan. Something I like to do with my clients; I promote this concept around the dream team. So it’s not just developing a team, it’s developing the dream team, a team that looks out for the organization’s best interests. A team that’s eager to move their organization forward. And often management or leaders would say there’s a lot of work that needs to go into it and we need to invest in training and all the rest, but actually it’s not true.

What’s important is respect. It’s making a team feel valued. It’s making the team members feel appreciated and also every now and then, just saying appreciate your work, thank you very much for helping me out and it’s great to have you as part of the team. That’s all it is. It’s creating this atmosphere where people feel this sense of belonging. We feel we’re family. We’re one unit.

Jay Raham:

It’s something we Brits lack is creating this atmosphere around families. If you think about the American companies, they’re very passionate when it comes to creating this whole environment where everyone feels they’re part of the unit, part of the family, there’s a purpose, a sense of belonging. It’s amazing. It fascinates me. And there’s just so much scope in terms of developing professionals and helping them up their game. It’s amazing in terms of opportunities.

Nathan Simmonds:

It is. And you talk about the family thing and I talk about this, I’m not sure with you, but [inaudible 00:17:00] when I’m training; is when I’m leading a team, I treat the people in my team like they are my children, not like a child. Now, this is your work family and they could be… I’ve worked with people that are 66, 67 years old and they are still my work children. I look after them and nurture them because I want them to develop. I get the same sense of parental pride when they succeed and they go and do something.

The same sense of parental shame when they make a mistake or make an error to a customer. I get that same sensation. We spend more time at work than we do perhaps at home with our real families. So these are the people that you need to be building bonds with and relating with and getting excited about. Because we don’t go home and talk about the number of toilet rolls we sold or the number of burgers. We don’t though do we? Instead, we talk about the conversations we have with people. Talk about what Bob did or what Jane did or how you helped a customer overcome the problem because they were stuck roadside. Whatever. That’s what you talk about. It’s the relationships that we build and that’s-

Jay Raham:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

Look, we’re going in 15 different ways from Sunday on this, so look, I’m keen to get more of this information but let’s make it really pinpointed and focused. For you, what is the greatest quality a leader needs to develop?

Jay Raham:

Emotional intelligence.

Nathan Simmonds:

Boom. Okay, go. Tell me more.

Jay Raham:

See, what I’ve found from my own research, when it comes to managers, almost 80% of managers lack emotional intelligence. And what that basically means is, having the ability to read your own vulnerabilities and appreciate how your behaviour could impact everyone around you, so effectively, your team members. And if we consider the current situation with the whole Corona Virus outbreak, there’s a good possibility once we’re able to deal with this and get through the process, remote working would take off. That’s my belief.

That’s what I passionately think or believe will happen. And there’ll be a bigger emphasis on connecting digitally with our colleagues, our team members, so for example, WebEx, Zoom and all the rest. It’s absolutely necessary for managers and leaders to be aware of how their behaviour could impact. If you’re in a business environment, it’s very easy for you to assess your own behaviour, for example, our body language. If someone reacts or demonstrates confusion, it creates the opportunity for us to challenge our behaviour, but when it’s all digital, there’s no webcam or camera involved, we’re not necessarily aware of our behaviour.

Jay Raham:

So for me, emotional intelligence plays a big part. It’s also looking at how we develop our relationships with everyone around us. Not just work colleagues and family and friends, but everyone. We’re human. Everyone that allow us to progress and become who we are. So, for me, it’s about taking ownership. It’s about appreciating our own vulnerabilities. There’s room for improvement regardless of how established we are in our careers, our job, our profession. There’s always the gap we need to explore.

Jay Raham:

So yeah, for me, it’s the most important aspect of leadership that needs to be developed, emotional intelligence.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s interesting you talk about the gap. And I think there is, when we’re goal setting, if I set my goal for three, five, 10 years or whatever and I start to evolve as a person, because it’s not about achieving the goal, it’s about the person you have to become in order to make the goal a reality. But as you start to evolve, so does your goal. So in truth, yes you do achieve the goal, but you don’t because your goal is on this conveyor belt which is constantly in front of you. And it’s not that there’s a gap, it’s just that you’re developing as an individual so there is always that one degree of improvement, that one percent change that you can make that gets a better result. There is the word that you could change, the approach that you could use.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s having the ability, that self-reflection that you mentioned earlier, being emotionally savvy. How did I feel when I had this conversation with that person? What emotions came up for me when I said that? Oh, I saw they weren’t happy. I didn’t feel good. Having that ability to see and to feel yourself and it’s going to be conscious of what and who you’re bringing to that conversation and then go and do the reflection piece. Then go and make the improvement if you need to apologize, apologize. Hold your hands up and say, “I made a mistake”. Ask them how you could make it better for the next time.

Jay Raham:

Yep. Absolutely. Also, 2018, the Chartered Management Institute carried out research on the competencies of management and management figures. What they found, which inspired me at the time, more than 80% of managers are accidental managers. And often when I share this topic with my clients, my learners, people react very negatively. Jay, we’ve worked very hard to get to where we are. We believe we’re good managers and all the rest. And it motivates me just to demonstrate some weaknesses within their own behaviour, the abilities. But this research, I found it inspiring and it encouraged me to push myself, to do a lot more, hence I decided to develop myself at the highest possible level so recently I’ve completed my level seven Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership with the Chartered Management Institute.

Jay Raham:

I’ll be starting my Masters in September. So I’ll be doing that in Leadership and Management. And my long term goal is to achieve my PhD in management so in leadership. So, again, it’s having that visibility and pushing yourself.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yep, agreed.

Nathan Simmonds:

For me when I did my coaching degree, I knew that technically you don’t need a degree. You’ve got a qualification in coaching. There were plenty of coaches out there that say I’m a coach. Some of them do a good job. Some of them do a debatable job. But for me, it’s the process of going through the qualification that made the difference. For me it was doing the research and writing the essays and reflecting on what I thought I knew, what I didn’t know and breaking some of those disbeliefs, those misnomers down.

Nathan Simmonds:

But then also going through the process of doing the coaching hours. So going and documenting a hundred hours of coaching, reflecting on it, refining it, seeing what. And again, it comes back to that reflection. That emotional intelligence piece. I didn’t need to do the qualification, but as a result of doing the qualification, I am fundamentally a different kind of person, a genetic level, as a result of going through that process.

Nathan Simmonds:

So when you talk about you’re going to do a PhD in this, the level of depth you go into, the understanding that you get out of that, the opportunity to break theories down and come at things from different angles and shift other people’s perspectives, while you’re going through that process, is phenomenally powerful.

Jay Raham:

Something I’ll quickly share. It’s just a quote I work with a lot. And I just can’t remember the name of the gentleman now, it’s Arnold something. Apologies but it’s just gone now. But all it is, it’s just a minor quote. And it says a good leader is someone who is willing to take responsibility when things are not going well and also not always looking at taking the credits. So it’s more about the team as opposed to the leader. I’m sure his name will come back to me; it’s just gone now. Ah, that’s it. Arnold Glasow.

Nathan Simmonds:

Nice. And it’s not about being self-deprecating. It comes back to that Newton quote, about being the giant. The only reason I could see so far is that I stood on the shoulder of giants. As a leader, it’s about being the giant, yes, but enabling people to climb up on your shoulders so that can see further than you ever did. And I say this a million times when you have children, no parent in their right mind wants their child to be equal to or less than them. No way, shape or form. You want your children to supersede you. You want them to have a bigger house than you. To be more successful than you and have a bigger impact. All of that stuff.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s the same when we’re as leaders when we suddenly get out of our own way and get out of our own ego and go, “Do you know what, there’s a set of shoulders here, climb up, let’s see how far you want to go”.

Jay Raham:

Yep, makes sense. Valuable. Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. I love your thinking and I love the depth at which you’re willing to go. The depth at which you’re willing to go with your time to invest in this subject for so many people. Because that’s what makes the difference.

Jay Raham:

There are also other motives behind that. There are motives behind, for example, my vision which I’ll share when you would like me to share.

Nathan Simmonds:

You share when it’s appropriate for you.

Jay Raham:

Well, my vision is, in the next seven years, I would like to reach seven million leaders across the world. And I am working on an exciting project at the moment that would allow me to connect with my, not clients, but with the professionals in terms of developing them. And I am confident, I’m not going to talk too much about my concept, I’m still working on it. But in terms of what I have in mind, it would be a unique concept and the reason why I’ve given myself seven years, I would like to achieve a Professor’s title before I roll out the program. For me, it’s important to have that credential, the reputation behind the program, the process and all the rest.

Jay Raham:

So effectively, it would be a digital platform. It would be very different to what we know. And I am excited about the scope. I am confident I’ll hit my mark. Seven years, seven million clients across the world. No big deal. We’ll get there. That’s my vision, that’s my thinking.

Nathan Simmonds:

And for me when I talk to people about goal setting, is the only difference between a small idea and a big idea, is the limit to which you apply in your own head. And then it’s understanding well, it’s not the goal, it’s about the person I have to become. It’s not the goal, it’s about the emotions I want to feel when I get to there and then you start to build those emotions now, which turns you into that person from the inside out, so it makes the goal a reality.

Jay Raham:

Absolutely. And it just means, sorry, it just means I can more passionately go around promoting the whole concept around being a magician.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. And for me, I talk about setting big goals and stuff, but in truth, even if you didn’t hit seven million people, for whatever reason in the next seven years, and you fell short and you only got 50% and you only got to 3.5 million, would the world be a better place as a result?

Jay Raham:

100%.

Nathan Simmonds:

So you’d be crazy not to aim for seven million. If you aim for 3.5 million, maybe you only get one. You aim for the seven, maybe you’re still head and shoulders above where anywhere you were previously.

Jay Raham:

Yeah, yeah. The reason why I am feeling confident, so over the last few weeks, a lot of professionals have approached me and we’ve had discussions around developing individuals and some of the ideas I’ve shared, people have come back and said “Oh Jay, this is amazing. It’s so simple yet it’s amazing”. And my argument is its simplicity that’s the most effective. It’s not important to make it all fancy and complicated. It’s simplicity. For me, it’s the mass market. It’s targeting effectively everyone, not just being specific. And therefore the process I have in mind. It’s a very simple concept but it would just change the landscape.

Nathan Simmonds:

Nice.

Jay Raham:

I wish I could share a lot more with you, but because I’m also trying to keep it as protected as possible, but as the years progress, yes, it will become more visible in terms of sharing it with the wider audience.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I hope so too. And why? Because I look at the concept that, you know, there’s 95% of the world probably have no idea that they have a sense of purpose, let alone know where they’re going. And even if you know, with 95/98%, even if you could shift that by 1%, how different would the world be? How different would civilization be, humanity be?

Nathan Simmonds:

When you’re aiming at, say, seven million people, what happens when you raise their consciousness? And you may do this as well, but I talk about internal leadership as well as external leadership. If you cannot lead yourself, you cannot lead anybody. If you cannot take the lead on an interview, you’re not going to get promoted and if you’re not going to get promoted, you’re not… And it’s just changing these dynamics one step at a time.

Nathan Simmonds:

So we are all visionary leaders if we choose to tap into it. At some point, we have the skill set. So the more people that you can get to to get this internal view, this internal dialogue, the more people raise their game, civilization changes as a whole. And I don’t think that’s too big an ask to be honest.

Jay Raham:

No, and also, just relating back to what you’ve just said, Nathan. It’s also important for us to become role models. So if I’m not able to inspire myself, how can I possibly inspire the people around me.

Nathan Simmonds:

Hell yes.

Jay Raham:

And for me, when I talk about inspiring, and I appreciate different individuals have different goals, different definition around success, my motive is not to make money or become a millionaire or anything like that. It’s just to make this world a better place from a leadership perspective. And when we talk about connecting with our team members, our fellow colleagues, like you said earlier on, we spend so much time with them, why not make their existence purposeful? Why not make it fun for them? So they look back and they say, “Jay, I’ve got your back”.

Nathan Simmonds:

And for me, when you look at the size of that goal, for me my goal is big. I’ve said a hundred million people. I’m not just saying this kind of to… You’ve got seven years. My life goal is a hundred million people, to positively and successfully influence the growth and development of one hundred million people, through my coaching and training.

The reason I share this part, is I had aspirations to be walking on stage, I could see the vision, me walking on stage, audience of 15,000 people, having this… I found that my kind of goal has changed shape, the more that I’ve evolved, the more that my thinking has shifted. And actually I see myself in front of an audience of 15 people. And that audience of 15 people are people that think radically different that have big goals that I can then work with that helps them to go and impact the millions of people.

Jay Raham:

Absolutely. Sounds good.

Nathan Simmonds:

But like you say, that impact of one person could mean something totally different to someone else. Their vehicle to make it happen as well is completely different. For some it’s a coach, for some it’s a hairdresser. Different worlds.

Jay Raham:

Also, for me Nathan, it’s important to give the individuals, and when I say the individuals, the managers, the leaders, the confidence to go on and achieve greater success. So just to give you an example. Someone I worked with for the last three years in terms of developing this individual, working on the confidence level.

So this individual was someone who was relatively new to management, considering it’s been a three years’ journey, this individual has moved into a senior position with a reputable company. And, for me, the passion, the excitement, the buzz you feel, you can’t put a financial value to it. As a banker, there was a stage where I cared about just bonuses. It was about hitting the targets and it was about having that lifestyle, this dreamy lifestyle. You go on holidays and you drive a nice car. You do what was required at the time. Going to expensive bars and all the rest.

Jay Raham:

And yes, I have had the opportunity to live that life. But what matters to me the most is the influence, the impact, the vision how I can change the world as a wider community. And also, make the commercial environment more feasible, going forward.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s helping build too to plug into that internal leadership, so they go and excel. It’s commercially viable for them. They can create their own business, their own impact. And again, as leaders and coaches and trainers or whatever, we get them to plug in that so then we can do more of that. And get that loop or that commercial loop of reciprocity that keeps it going so you can impact and connect with more people.

Nathan Simmonds:

I want to continue that train of thought, so for you, and I know we touched on a couple previously, what are the top three traits for leadership?

Jay Raham:

Well the first one for me is having a vision or someone who’s visionary. And with visionary, comes the whole aspect around inspiring the people around you. So naturally, when we’re in difficult situations, we look for opportunities to admire someone who would just stand out from the crowd and take us on an interesting journey; help us achieve our goals.

Jay Raham:

So for me the first one is someone who’s visionary. When I say visionary, they need to have the emotional intelligence to appreciate the wider picture and also the wider audience and be prepared to take responsibility. So if things don’t go well, it’s important to put your hand up and say, actually, this is not working, it just means we need to re-evaluate our strategy, come up with a new game plan and move in the right direction. So the first one, having the vision or being visionary.

Jay Raham:

The second one for me is communication. And without communication, as a team, as a business, as an organization, we cannot progress. For me, it’s keeping it simple. And that means to avoid using business jargon. Sometimes as managers, as leaders, we emphasize keywords or buzz words. But we need to think about the wider audience. And it’s also going back to the emotional intelligence piece, what impact will this have, my behavior, on everyone around me. So that’s the second one for me.

Jay Raham:

And then the last one is accountability. As managers, as leaders, we need to be able to take a step back and appreciate when our own vulnerabilities, our mistakes, and also approach our team members for help. We can’t possibly have answers to every possible question. It just makes it more exciting and more rewarding when we work as part of a team.

Jay Raham:

So just to give you an example, if someone’s developing an idea, let’s not knock their confidence. Let’s give them the motivation to develop this idea. What’s your thinking? What’s your rationale? Tell me a little bit more. What is the impact behind your thinking? So we don’t necessarily need to take away the concept, it’s just enhancing the discussions.

Nathan Simmonds:

Absolutely, yes. And it would be remiss of me not to mention that now in the interview, is asking the right questions. And at MBM, we’ve created some new coaching cards. One is the coaching deck, so you’ve got core coaching questions from the GROW coaching model. And we’ve also got a leadership deck that I put together which helps you to do the self-reflection, helps you to see where you’re going, helps you to see what the obstacles are that are going to come downstream. But then also create solutions with your team, with yourself. Who to ask questions for, who to bring into. Because as a leader, we’re not designed to have all the answers.

Nathan Simmonds:

Now good leadership is about making sure you’ve got the people with the right capabilities when you don’t have the answers and making those people feel included and bringing them in. And then also helping them with those coaching questions, to challenge in the right way, so that the person can see maybe the gaps in thinking because they haven’t had that level of learning yet. And then they can develop the thinking themselves, come up with their own solutions. It’s still their idea. It’s your responsibility as a leader to remove the obstacles by asking the right questions so that person finds a solution for themselves. And then they will go on to do greater things than you do. That is phenomenally powerful. Vision, responsibility; I’ve put responsibility down there as well. And communication. And accountability. Huge. They’re absolutely vital. Good.

Jay Raham:

Yeah. It’s just what I believe in as a professional and also I’ve seen the impact it has had on me as a professional. So it’s always beneficial and valuable when I can share my experiences with my audience, the clients, the learners and demonstrate how my vulnerabilities have guided me to achieve greater success. So appreciate my vulnerabilities. Developing a strategy to overcome that and then looking at the impact with regard to the journey.

Jay Raham:

We have to be realistic as professionals. I’m not trying to create this unrealistic dream, vision, ideas. We need to keep it real.

Nathan Simmonds:

For me, there’s two elements. One is, I learnt this a few years ago, the thing that you lack is the thing that you’re meant to give. So the thing that I always lacked was actually someone to challenge back. So I was there, the very strong character, always pushing and I wanted someone to push back, within the right assertion to challenge my thinking, to help me become more incredible. I never had that. I was always seeking it.

Nathan Simmonds:

And from the other side of your story. You saw the benefits, you got exactly what you needed. Potentially, there may have been a lack of that elsewhere. You got that from that environment and it’s just nurtured you to step up into that and move that forward. And I think that, in itself, is powerful because then you can see how important it is. For me, I see how important challenge is. Challenge is absolutely necessary to thrive. You can’t do anything without that friction, without that positive friction. But like you say, for yourself, is looking at that, having that vision, having that communication, having that accountability, being able to bring that up.

Nathan Simmonds:

I think with the goal side of things for me is, I think people do need the big goals and I think they do need a certain level of tension. But they also need to have an understanding. They also need to have the comprehension of themselves, how they just take the steps and how they keep moving towards it, and how they build it.

Jay Raham:

Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And for me with a leader, it’s that leadership by proximity. It’s that being there, catching them getting it right, saying thank you at the right time. As you said before, that appreciation. Nurturing their ideas and nurturing them. So that they feel like they can go and do something different as a result of your relationship.

Nathan Simmonds:

For me, listening to your story, had you not had those things, or you had the opposite, it could have been a very different journey.

Nathan Simmonds:

What makes a true leader?

Jay Raham:

For me, it’s respect. For me that’s the key word. When you treat everyone as people, as humans around you and demonstrate genuine respect, not just from a business perspective, but just on a social level, just being friendly, open-minded, willing to listen to what people would like to share.

Jay Raham:

So for me, it’s creating those moments, the opportunity. I had my moment with these individuals, these professionals and it’s amazing what I have achieved over the last 27 years. So for me, it’s having that quality moment with your team members where you demonstrate you are genuinely interested in their well-being. Not just from a business perspective, but also on a personal level. And to me, that says respect.

Nathan Simmonds:

I’m going to put you on the spot. What’s the one thing that you remember one of your mentors/guides saying that you still remember now to this date.

Jay Raham:

Learning is a never-ending journey and there’s always room for improvement. Hence I love pushing myself. Last two years I’ve completed 15 professional qualifications. And between now and the next seven years, I’ve got 27 courses in mind. I have pencilled out. So for me, it’s that piece. Learning is a never-ending journey and the more I’m able to acquire just means the more I’m able to share with my audience, my learners, my clients. So, yeah, I still remember. And it was actually Mr Brankin who said that, my English teacher. He said, “Jay, learning is a never-ending”. So yeah, it’s bizarre I still remember.

Nathan Simmonds:

And there was a reason why I say that. Talking about what makes a true leader. It’s being aware, for me, that there are things that people who are listening to this are saying today that will be repeated in 20 years’ time. And having the comprehension of how powerful your own words are when you’re sharing them with someone else. And the imprint and the impact that it makes on that person.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s curious you say that. You say about the number of qualifications. You say about the professorship. The fellowships that go with that. And that’s the one quote you remember. So, for me, that massively hyper-punctuates the whole Jay experience.

Jay Raham:

I remind myself and I have tried to reach out to this individual, just to show how much I love this person as a human being. If it was not for this individual not being in my life at that point, clearly, it would have been different.

I have also gone back to my school and have asked the headteacher if I could possibly have access to the email address and because of data protection and all the rest, they said, “Jay, it’s not something we can share”. I’ve also tried to reach out to this individual on Facebook, Twitter. Haven’t had any success. But I just want to remember him for what he has done for me as a person. And he has inspired me to push my boundaries and convince myself if you have vision, if you have a strategy, that there’s nothing to stop you from living your dream or your dreams.

Jay Raham:

And for me, it’s a never-ending journey. And also the reason why I said respect if you Google the subject, there are various concepts that come up. But for me, it’s for my own perspective, based on my own experiences and what I have found, when you demonstrate respect to the audience around you, it’s amazing what you can, in terms of the reaction you get. So that’s my buzz word, my key word.

Nathan Simmonds:

As I say, it’s not even a buzz word. You know what. These buzz words, they come and go. At the same time, respect is absolutely vital, critical and very necessary in everything that we do. Respecting people for taking the time to invest in sharing their time with you, because time is one of the most valuable commodities we have. For the respect in them for engaging with you and giving you their attention. And also for helping you carry that message because the more respect we give to them for that, the more likely they are to carry that message out and go and touch somebody else with it.

Jay Raham:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think failure to capture that as a thought leader, even as a trainer or coach, or even just a leader in a team, because your audience is your team, you’re going to miss out, massively.

Jay Raham:

Something else I’ll quickly add with regard to my personal branding. I also had something else in mind which was a Messiah. And the reason why I haven’t used it as actively as I wanted to is the risk of offending people. But if we put religion to aside and if we just look at the concept as it is, the Messiah is an individual who’s knowledgeable and is someone who guides people to choose between the good and the bad. And as a professional, that’s exactly what I do. That’s exactly what I do.

I did a workshop in Singapore and I introduced myself as the Messiah of leadership. And quite a few people reacted negatively and challenged me. Again, it got me excited. And then I explained my vision, my way of doing things. And it’s really bizarre. By the end of it, I had 57 aspiring managers and leaders in this workshop, and again, it was while I was on holiday. They all stayed back after and asked me if they could have my email and my LinkedIn profile. And it’s amazing. But for me, magician is the safe option. I don’t want to offend anyone.

Nathan Simmonds:

For sure. But then, again, it comes back to those archetypes. Actually when they talk about Messiah, and it’s Robert Moore. You would love this book by the way. If you haven’t read this you need to get into the book. The audio is on YouTube free so I think the book’s quite old now. It’s called The King, The Warrior, The Magician, The Lover, something along those lines. And it talks about when you get into the depth of the king, he talks about the Messiah.

He talks about Christo in a Christian archetypes and ideas and stuff. And add to that Messiah, I think when he breaks down the definition of it, it means king. It doesn’t mean as in Christ, it actually means the king archetype, the king energy. So getting into that personification. But it’s the connotation that people apply to this stuff that causes power. You could flip that on its head and go completely controversial and say Adolf Hitler was a great leader. He was phenomenal at creating a movement and inspiring people to move. Doesn’t make him mentally sound or a nice person. Leadership capacity, phenomenally powerful.

Nathan Simmonds:

Again, it comes to that connotation that goes with those moments and making sure that we’re tailoring that response and gearing people up. Yeah, I want to create a challenge. I want to create friction. And in doing so, I know where that’s going to go to. There’ll be a couple of bumps and there’ll be a couple of people that don’t like it at the start. But then you start to get that engagement of people within that space. Ah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Loving this conversation Jay. Look, penultimate question.

Jay Raham:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

How-

Jay Raham:

Go easy on me. Don’t put me on the spot now, go easy on me.

Nathan Simmonds:

How do you make a behavioral change stick?

Jay Raham:

My vision.

Nathan Simmonds:

Nice.

Jay Raham:

So, for me, and it’s not just my vision, but for anyone, if you have a vision in mind you realize you constantly have to challenge your behaviour. And because of this concept, this philosophy, it stays with you. I have met a lot of individuals, professionals too, have said we don’t like change and we’re very set in our own ways and all the rest. But let’s just take this COVID-19 for example.

If we look at the nation as a whole, there are so many professionals working from home, given a choice, maybe six months back, it would have been a no-go area, something there’s no way we would consider, but environments force us to change our behaviour to try new things, to adapt. It’s about survival. So, for me, it’s my vision. Personally, for me, from my perspective, it’s my vision. From an audience’s perspective, it’s what motivates them. It’s the end goal that’s attached to the vision, the dream, the objectives, the SMART objective, whatever that it is. That’s what drives it for me. The vision.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s having that stake in the ground. It’s having a flag. You create an idea and it’s then having the flexibility and resourcefulness that sometimes when you want to get there, maybe the river turns left when you thought you were going to go right, but you still know where you’re going. You still have an understanding that there’s going to be a flow, that there’s going to be something that happens. Oh, this curve means that now I can actually incorporate this. And I can include this. But you’ve got the flag in the sand; you know where you’re going and you move to it. And people will make a decision. I believe in Jay, I’m going to help him get there. I don’t believe in Jay; Or, I think he’s full of something and I’m not going to go with him.

Nathan Simmonds:

But you give people the opportunity to make that decision and then through that conviction, through that energy, through that ownership of who you are when you come to that equation, boom. Then people can make a decision. And more people will make a decision to go with you based on that if you know who you are as that leader.

Jay Raham:

Yeah, absolutely. And I get excited when people challenge me. It’s an opportunity for me to demonstrate how good I am and how I can inspire them. I’ve been in situations where people have said, “Jay, how can you be so arrogant”. And I will say I’m not arrogant, I’m confident. There’s a difference. Because of my success, because of what I have done, if I never had this self-confidence, this self-belief, there’s no way I would have achieved a quarter of what I have achieved. And I’m not just talking from a financial perspective.

I’m talking about my own personal development, fellowships, education. Also the impact I’ve had on so many professional clients. Every workshop, there’s always some learners who stay back and say, “Jay, I just want to say you’ve been great, you inspire me, you motivate me”. And I’ll say “Oh, just put in an email to my line manager. Who knows, I might get a pay rise out of this”. So let’s just be creative. But again, it’s having that vision, having that self-belief. Otherwise, what is the point of doing what we do if we can’t achieve success if we can’t help people progress and become a better version of a professional figure?

Nathan Simmonds:

Hm-mm-hmm (affirmative). Agreed, on so many different points.

Nathan Simmonds:

Jay, last question. This is the easy one. And you’ll definitely, and I would hope you definitely have the answers to this one.

Nathan Simmonds:

Where can people find you?

Jay Raham:

LinkedIn. Moybur Raham 2020.

Nathan Simmonds:

Wonderful. We’ll get that in the credits underneath so you can see, you get the LinkedIn details and the connection details to Jay. And people call him Jay, his real name is Moybur Raham. Everyone calls him Jay. I get to call him a friend now because this is just phenomenal. We’re having a lot of fun doing this. This is amazing. Thank you.

Jay Raham:

Thank you.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you, Jay.

Jay Raham:

No, thank you. Honestly, it’s been a pleasure for me and I think it’s great we both have bounced off each other and for me that’s inspiring. It just demonstrates we both are heading in the right direction professionally. From a leadership perspective, there’s also that social connection. If you’re not able to connect with your audience, how do you move forward? So I just want to say thank you for the opportunity, Nathan. It’s been great to come on and talk about what I love doing, my passion.

Nathan Simmonds:

I was going to say, it’s hard life isn’t it, talking about what you love doing.

Nathan Simmonds:

So look, for the people listening to this, I just want to say thank you very much for your time. I and we respect you taking the time to listen to this interview. Deeply appreciate it. Go and dig in. Have a look at the work of what Jay’s doing. Go and find out about the fellowships that he’s involved in. Look at the research that he’s doing. Invest some of your time into your own development to be in his space. And go and ask him some questions. This man is curious about his own abilities and his own beliefs and his own capabilities in the leadership domain. And with that in mind, he wants people to be curious about theirs with him as well.

Nathan Simmonds:

So I encourage you, connect, speak, ask questions. See what’s going on. And learn from this fountain of knowledge that’s going to help you be a better leader. Get some of that magic energy. Go and experience what the magician’s got to do because I’m sure he’s pulling more than birds out of his top hat, okay?

Nathan Simmonds:

We’re having fun. It’s good. Jay, look, thanks very much for today. Everybody, thanks very much for your time. We’ll see you at the next interview.

Nathan Simmonds:

Firstly, massive thank you from the MBM team for tuning into this Sticky Interview. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to click subscribe and stay up to date with our new training videos and great interviews. And secondly, if you want to learn more about the skills we’ve been talking about in this episode, click the link and take a look at the MBM virtual classrooms. They’re there to help you be the best version of you in the work that you do. Until next time, see you soon.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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E16 – What is a Crisis? with Ross Hardy – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/what-is-a-crisis/ Fri, 15 May 2020 10:41:02 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=45519 full 20 2 E16 – Interview With Crisis Negotiator, Ross Hardy
Ross Hardy spent a decade as a cliff-edge crisis negotiator at one of the world’s most notorious suicide spots. The team he founded and led there became the busiest search and rescue team in the UK and has rescued 1000’s of people to date. The leadership lessons that he learned in those years, he now teaches through Discovery Hope, a UK based leadership consultancy. His latest online course Smart Thinking For Times of Crisis is available on Udemy and teaches tools for self, team, and organisational leadership for times of crisis and high pressure.
What is a Crisis, Ross Hardy Interview

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:

Welcome to another Sticky Interview with MBM, Making Business Matter. It’s the home of, and soft skills provider to the retail and manufacturing industry of the UK. This podcast, the whole idea about this podcast is to be sharing great thinkers, and great concepts, and great ideas with you, to help you be the best version of yourself, especially in this time that we’re living in right now with the crisis that are happening.

Nathan Simmonds:

Today, sharing the interview space with Ross Hardy, someone who’s got phenomenal experience in crisis situations, in crisis negotiation, in crisis communication. And I’ll introduce him shortly with a little excerpt from his bio, which is astonishing reading, and it comes with astonishing experiences. Ross Hardy spent a decade as a cliff edge crisis negotiator in one of the worlds most notorious suicide spots. The team he founded and led there became the busiest search and rescue team in the UK, and has rescued thousands of people to date.

Nathan Simmonds:

Just to add a little note in there, I live just down the road from this spot, Ross and I know the areas very well, locality and geographically. And yeah, world famous. The leadership lessons that he learned in those years, he now teaches through Discovery Hope, a UK based leadership consultancy.

Nathan Simmonds:

His latest online course, Smart Thinking for Times of Crisis, is available on Udemy we’ll talk a bit more about that later, and teaches tools for self, team, and organizational leaders for times of crisis and high pressure. It’s not just about today, in the day and age of COVID-19, it’s about the crisis that was probably on people’s tables 12 weeks ago, it’s all about the crisis that will be on people’s tables 24 weeks from now. This may be unprecedented times, but these are not unprecedented circumstances, or ways of thinking. This is why it’s vital.

Nathan Simmonds:

Ross, massive thanks for being here, really appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation. Going to dive straight into this with some of the things. I want to find out why you do what you do. We’ve had a little bit of a conversation. I want to find out why you do what you do, and I want you to tell the world why you do what you do.

Ross Hardy:

Okay. Well firstly, as you mentioned, I spent 10 years as a crisis negotiator. I led a team of crisis negotiators on a cliff edge, dealing with people who were coming out to end their lives. Some actually from all over the world to that single spot. And in that time, I had an awful lot of experiences of people in crisis of course, learning how to manage people in crisis, throughout crisis negotiation techniques that we would use, and also learning how to lead myself, to lead a team, and to lead an organization that’s dealing with crisis on a daily basis.

The crisis of people who were coming to Beachy Head, that’s the place I was based, with the intention of ending their lives. But also, the kind of crisis that normal organizations come across, and crisis that were unique to that organization, the risks of the life of a team, the challenges in fund raising, and lots of different things that were associated around a kind of unusual workspace if you like.

Ross Hardy:

So that was my experience for 10 years. And as I stepped out of that, I realized that I’d began to realize that there were so many opportunities to share the skills, and the learning that I developed over that time with others, particularly in how we manage ourselves, our teams, and our organizations in preparation for, and during times of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So that’s primarily why I do what I do, because I’m passionate about leaders, I’m passionate about leaders ability to influence the world, to influence their world, to transform their organizations, to actually build organizations that really make a difference. And so I’m very excited to help equip leaders to be better equipped to manage themselves, their teams, and their organizations during those challenging times that we face. And obviously, at the time of we’re doing this, of course, particularly challenging times with the pandemic, Coronavirus and all the lockdowns.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. And I think the interesting crossover, you talked about that leadership of the self. So the skills that you learned going through that process, and then how you reapplied them to yourself, super important. One thing that I am a big proponent of is self-leadership first. You cannot give more to someone else than you have yourself, therefore, if you’re not able to take the lead on yourself, you cannot lead a situation.

Nathan Simmonds:

And no one managed their way out of a crisis. It takes leaders, internally, externally; full-works. So it’s interesting, when you’re looking at, say, a suicide hotspot like that, where people don’t know, and I’m aware of the sensitivity of this, they don’t know what the next step is, they can’t see the next future step, and they can’t lead themselves out of that situation. So the only course of action they have, is to complete in that exercise.

Nathan Simmonds:

And again, scale up, you transfer that over into business. Business people making themselves redundant, or taking actions which aren’t appropriate to the growth of that business in tricky situations. It’s the same kind of thinking that creates that detrimental outcome, I think is the closest I can get to that.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Super important. So how did you become a crisis negotiator? Because I mean, it’s not kind of the line of work you suddenly look for a job, “Oh, look, there’s a post in the Job Center, I think I’ll go and do that because it sounds interesting.” There’s a calling that comes with that for sure, Ross.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely. I mean, I actually, I used to be a church leader. Led a couple of churches, spent a whole number of years leading churches. And I was actually just praying one Sunday morning, and then I got such an impression about … I live local to this suicide spot. And I knew the situations that were going on there, and they were in the paper week in, week out, the recoveries, and so on.

Ross Hardy:

And so it was very much something I’ve been aware of for many years. But I just suddenly really got such an impression about the importance of reaching these people. And I had, in my mind, this picture of these two people paroling Beachy Head, reaching out to the suicidal, actually going out, and interacting with people on the cliff edge, and actually hopefully interacting with them in such a way to deescalate crisis, and get them to choose life.

Ross Hardy:

And so it really started from there. I had started actually with very little clue of how to do it. We just started putting things together. And we learnt a lot from some materials we had from the FBI crisis negotiation units in Quantico. Also, we had bits and pieces from various different sources that we brought together to start to develop a training to actually implement crisis negotiation with these people at Beachy Head.

Ross Hardy:

So it took us about a year from that moment. I think it was a year and one week before we became operational. And we started with a little team of six. So yeah, so that was back in 2003, and we began in August 2004.

Nathan Simmonds:

I’ve got to ask you though, there is a level of sensitivity with what you were working in at this point. And I’m aware, working in middle management groups predominantly, that there is a reticence to ask questions, there is a hesitation to get involved with people where mental health is prevalent. So whether it’s an anxiety attack, PTSD, different whatever. A lot of leaders feel nervous about asking the right question, or asking any question, because they feel it may be right or wrong, it may be taken the wrong way, they have a fear it may make the situation worse.

Nathan Simmonds:

So in having that fear, they then therefore, they don’t take any action at all. How do you do about ratifying your content, your questions, and your approaches before you go out there on the edge, and actually go into the ‘real’ as it were?

Ross Hardy:

Well one of the things we actually realized quite quickly as we began to assess how best to negotiate a crisis, hopefully for someone to choose life. We realized actually, we couldn’t beat around the bush. We couldn’t actually, we couldn’t kind of side step the major questions. So we actually had to begin to face the crisis people were struggling with head on.

Ross Hardy:

Now, there were variations in this, but they would … And it’s extreme, it would be, the person that I was convinced was suicidal on a cliff edge, I would simply, one of my first questions after introducing myself would be, “So what’s brought you to the point of wanting to commit suicide?” I would get directly to the point that they, of why they’ve come there, and what was in their mind, and then we’d talk from there.

Ross Hardy:

Then we’ve … I’ve already said, “Actually, it’s safe to talk about this stuff. You’re not going to suddenly surprise me, you’re not going to suddenly overwhelm me with your response.” And I think that’s often what can happen in our communication. We’re so good at replying to, “How are you?” With, “Fine, how are you?” It’s our kind of very British way. And we can often side step the real issues that people are going through.

Ross Hardy:

And so, in the extreme, we would get directly to the point. Now, aside from that, I would actually stop, and I’d ask someone, “How are you? What’s going on?” I’d ask them some kind of open questions, and give them space to actually begin to talk, and then I’d listen. And then from that, I’d begin to pick up the signals, and the concerns.

Ross Hardy:

But one thing I would always say to someone, if they’re ever concerned about someone’s welfare, the best thing you can do is to actually be fairly direct, kind but direct, in asking someone actually, “How are you? What’s going on with this? Are you okay?” Or to the extreme obviously, if you’re concerned with someone’s welfare, and whether they might harm themselves, “Are you feeling suicidal?”

Nathan Simmonds:

I’ve learned that you can say absolutely anything to anybody, as long as you say it with absolute love and respect.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

If you genuinely have a concern about someone’s mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, purely getting involved and asking the question, from a place of that love and respect, from genuine curiosity as a leader to support the people in your team, develop those people, you can ask them, “How are you?” And create the space where, actually, they’ve got time to think about that, and formulate a response.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think the point you were raising is, people mincing the words, and they’re saying, “How are you?” I can’t remember where the quote comes from, I’ve heard it, and it’s about language being the tool for us to make excuses, and cover things up. So we say these pleasantries in passing, yet they don’t mean anything, and they’re hollow until we actually sit in that space and go, “I’ve observed this, I’m worried about this, I care about you in this form, I would like to know what’s happening here?” And going to the heart of the matter.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely. And the key with all of this is, it’s not just about asking the questions, it’s about listening. And it’s not just listening with a number of techniques, because there are some active listening, or it’s active listening techniques are fantastic. But ultimately, if we’re not listening to understand someone, and we’re not listening in order to let them know that we’re understanding them, then actually, we’ve kind of missed the mark.

Ross Hardy:

But if we give people space, if we’re asking questions, and actually we’re stopping, and we’re giving people space to respond honestly, and we’re saying, “It’s okay, you can respond honestly, you can respond with challenging stuff, you don’t have to pretend to be all right.” Then actually, we begin to see people open up, and begin to share what’s really going on. And that in itself is the most powerful thing we can do for any individual person. The power of listening is an incredible tool, I can’t underestimate its importance, and it’s value.

Ross Hardy:

One of the things we used to find on a crisis negotiation, I mean, I once dealt with a person who had just murdered someone. They’d killed someone, and came to the clifftop with the intention of ending their life. That’s a pretty challenging negotiation. They know that actually, behind me, okay, 100 meters behind me, but behind me are the police. And those police are going to have to arrest that person, and she’s going to spend however long in prison from that moment on.

Ross Hardy:

And she knows that situation is going to happen. But I’m there, and I’m listening to her, thinking to myself, “My goodness, how am I going to help this person? She’s going to die, she wants to die. In one sense, there’s no reason for her to live at this precise moment in time. All she can see is a moment ahead, which is going to involve prison, and incarceration.”

Ross Hardy:

And I realized then, through some of the things, perhaps we’ll get onto in a little but, actually in managing our own smart thinking, that I actually had to change that way of thinking. I realized of course, listening is the best thing I can do. If I can just listen to this person, then in the greatest likelihood, she’s going to choose to live. And actually, she did. And it was an incredible story.

Ross Hardy:

But she chose to live. But it took simply listening to her. So that listening in itself deescalates internal crisis in people in a massive way, it’s a powerful, powerful tool. It’s the greatest tool we have for demonstrating empathy, for building rapport. And it really, it’s a significant tool for crisis, but actually for any situation where we’re dealing with other people.

Nathan Simmonds:

Agreed. And we teach that as part of the coaching courses that we run. And what you can learn about someone in less than seven minutes, when you actually pay attention, is mind blowing for some people. They may have worked with these people for seven years, and in seven minutes of focused listening just to that individual, they find out more than they ever knew in that seven year period. And the relationship completely changes, because they’re just listening, but they’re actually actively paying attention to that individual for the individual, not for themselves.

Ross Hardy:

Yup, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s amazing. Where does this then cross over? So I want to talk about how we bridge into this space in a little bit. So how does what you learned on the cliff edge, quite literally, how does that then kind of transfer into the business world that you’re now working?

Ross Hardy:

Well I think the first thing, and you mentioned this earlier on, the most important thing in leadership is how we lead ourselves first and foremost. Actually, if we can’t lead ourselves well, then everything else is going to be less than perfect from that moment onwards.

Ross Hardy:

And so, one of the skills that we had to learn within the crisis negotiation environment was actually how to manage ourselves when under anxiety. Because if you imagine, if you’re dealing with someone on a cliff edge, so for example, you’re dealing with an intoxicated teenager walking along on the edge of a cliff, and I mean, literally on the last inch or two of a cliff, can’t stand up straight, walking backwards and forwards, talking to you, highly agitated. They’re going through a major crisis, but that will certainly cause anxiety to the person doing the negotiation. Every moment, your kind of hearts in your mouth.

Ross Hardy:

And actually, you begin to realize, you have to manage that anxiety, because there’s a really significant thing about anxiety, it can have its plus points, it can spur us on, it can encourage us, it can cause us to act, it can cause us to move. But actually, any of us that have experienced a heavy level of anxiety will also recognize that feeling of not being able to make a decision, to feeling stuck, to feeling confused, to feeling unsure really which way to go.

Ross Hardy:

And sort of scientific kind of studies in the last few years have begun to discover more and more about why that is. And one of those studies discovered that the neurons in the prefrontal cortex, that executive part of our brain, are disrupted during times of anxiety response.

Ross Hardy:

So actually, when you think about it, that executive part of our brain, that’s the part we use for planning, and decision making, and problem solving, self-control, acting with long term goals in mind, controlling kind of reflexive behaviours that would be really short sighted. All the kind of things that we desperately need to be operating to 100% in, and controlling during a crisis. And yet, anxiety itself disrupts the neurons in that part of our brain.

Ross Hardy:

So it actually affects our ability to think smartly. So, there’s a real need in our self-leadership for deescalating anxiety, and reengaging smart thinking. And there’s some really simple tools that we would use for that. The first of those is emotion labelling. So, it’s part of our kind of emotional intelligence kind of armoury, it’s part of our knowing ourselves, and it’s about stopping and saying, “What is it I’m feeling?” And actually looking to label it, not just assuming it’s just some negative thought or emotion here, but actually, what is that feeling? What name would I give it? It might be anxiety, it might be dread, it might be terror, it might be, “I just feel down in the dumps.” Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter in one sense getting it exactly right, it’s a personal understanding of what you identify that emotion to be.

Ross Hardy:

But as part of the process of looking at it, and understanding it, there’s a de-escalation that actually goes on in that emotion. We begin to almost, it’s a little bit like, imagine being out at sea in a little boat. And there’s one thing being stuff in the middle of a fog bank, yeah, you can’t see which way is which, you don’t know which way to head. But if you were to move yourself 100 meters out from that fog bank, yes, you can see the fog bank, it’s still there, it still exists, but it’s a whole different thing. Now you’re in the sunlight, and you can see all the other environment around you, all the other options that are around you. You can see how to navigate around that fog bank.

Ross Hardy:

So in one sense, what happens is, we label our emotions, we begin to step out of the intensity, of the feelings of those emotions, and we begin to see them from a distance. So we’re actually looking at a kind of a bigger picture of it. We step out of the fog bank, we begin to see it for what it is. But actually, the process of trying to understand it, and label it has actually drawn us out from being within the midst of its negative expression, to a little bit removed. The fog bank is still there, we still might sense the coldness on the breeze, but we’re not actually immersed in it to the same degree.

Ross Hardy:

So that’s the first thing. The second thing then is identifying the thought that the emotion rode in on. So more often than not, say, take that example I was talking about in crisis negotiation a little while ago, my anxiety was, “I can’t help this lady, she’s going to die.” So that was the thought it was riding in on, “I can’t help this lady, she’s going to die.” But that thought carried anxiety. So I suddenly felt anxiety. And that anxiety starts to disrupt my smart thinking. All of a sudden, ah, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know which way to turn, I don’t know how to help her. I’m starting to get more caught up in what I’m doing, and what I’m thinking than her, and actually in helping her because I’m getting anxious about the lack of possibilities sin front of me.

Ross Hardy:

So in that moment of time, and it’s possible to do this even whilst you’re actively listening to someone, I caught hold of that emotion. I said, “I’m feeling anxious, this is why I’m feeling anxious.” I identified those two things immediately. It began to deescalate that negative emotion. And as it began to deescalate that negative emotion, it started to also reengage that prefrontal cortex, it started to reengage that smart executive thinking.

Ross Hardy:

So that was the first two stages. The next stage then is cognitive reappraisal. It’s taking a hold of that thought that that negative emotion was riding in on, and changing it to be more positive. Or if you can’t make it positive, at least more neutral than negative.

Ross Hardy:

So we’re changing that thought. So I’m taking that thought, “There’s nothing I can do to help this lady, she’s going to die.” I’m taking that thought, and I’m saying, “I don’t know … I know this lady is going to have a challenging future if she chooses to live. But I know, at this moment in time, I can at least listen to her, that’s the most powerful thing I can do. And I’d give her the greatest chance for survival.”

Ross Hardy:

So I’d begin to take hold of a different thought that, actually, I can listen to her, and that’s powerful. And in doing so, I start to, that more positive thought carries with it more positive emotions. Hope if rising up for me, expectation is rising up for me. In one sense, I’m taking another step back from the fog bank, I’m beginning to see more possibilities to navigate around this situation than I did do before. And it’s deescalating again those negative emotions even further, and reengaging that smart thinking. So I’m beginning to have more effective planning, decision making, problem solving skills. They’re being reengaged as my executive thinking is being reengaged.

Ross Hardy:

So those skills, for self-leadership are really significant, because if we don’t realize that smart thinking is disempowered by anxiety and negative emotions. But we don’t realize that our thinking is becoming more and more flawed the further we go into a deep and significant crisis.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge value in all of that. And I know, from kind of a neurological point of view, what happens is, the primordial brain kicks in, your amygdala starts going absolutely crazy, the neocortex shut down as the blood starts getting squeezed out, and you’re thinking with your four F’s, your fight, flight, flock, and freeze. So your natural instincts are starting to kick in, but that logic, that data processing, that problem solving has gone out the window, which is completely normal because what your brain doesn’t want you to do is start counting how many teeth the tigers got when the tigers come to kill you, it wants you to move. I get it.

Nathan Simmonds:

But the problem with that is, is your brain cannot differentiate between a job interview and a tiger attack. And you talk about that anxiety kicking in is now, okay, where is what am I focusing on? Am I focusing on how good I think people think I am? All those things. So that time of crisis becomes a job interview for some people. For other people, it might be a murder situation. The brain shuts down, we go into this kind of this survival instinct, and all we can come up with is, is a solution that closes that off as quickly as possible in one way, shape, or form.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing points you added in there. Emotion labelling, where did the emotion ride in on? And cognitive reappraisal. The one thing that I picked up in your language, and I’ve shared part of this with other people, and we shared this with our daughter as well, is people saying, “I’m angry. I’m upset. I’m anxious.” When you’re not those things. And your language was as, “I’m feeling anxious. I’m feeling angry.” You’re, it’s not categorizing it, you’re kind of partitioning it to a, it’s a sensation you’re feeling. You are not the emotion. You are not lost in the emotion, you are Ross experiencing the emotion.

Nathan Simmonds:

And then, like I say, you do that cognitive reappraisal, “Oh, I’m feeling like this. Okay, what’s the reverse of that? Okay, where can I find value in that? What’s the positive opposite? Okay, how do I shift that up and move it forward?” So that we shift the mindset, we readjust kind of the focus and the importance, and then we go to that direction. Well actually, based on what I can see, now what can I do with this? What can I do differently?

Ross Hardy:

Yeah. Absolutely. I think so often, I mean, just take the example I just gave you with the fog bank. The boat in the fog bank isn’t the fog bank, it’s experiencing a moment in time, in the atmosphere that is actually affecting the people on that boat’s ability to see, and to act. It’s restricting them in certain ways.

Ross Hardy:

And actually, when we begin to realize that there is a way for us to step back … Now, we can deescalate anxiety. I’m not saying that we have a magic pill, and all of a sudden anxiety is gone and everything is fine. It’s not like that. But actually, we can deescalate it to the extent that we can kind of reverse course, and step out of that fog bank. And then we can beginning to manage things in a different way.

Ross Hardy:

We begin to see that, yeah, it isn’t us, it’s an experience we’re having, it’s a moment in time, it’s something that is happening to us, it is a response that is going on within us, but it isn’t us. It’s not our identity. And this is so important as well when we look to what we believe about ourselves, and many of those that find themselves in personal crisis have begun to believe things about themselves that aren’t true, their understanding is shaped on their experiences, and they’re starting, as you said, almost to identify themselves with the feelings that they’re feeling. And they are very different things, so.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that’s huge. Because what you’re thinking about in that crisis situation, you’re standing on the edge of the cliff and you’ve got that hopelessness potentially kicking in “This woman has got some serious stuff in front of her. Am I skilled enough? Am I capable of doing this? What will people think if she completes? What will people think of me.” All of that stuff starts to swim around. And it just starts to turn into this whirlwind, an absolute storm.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

There’s certain elements I teach. One, when you’re talking to someone, and you’re giving feedback, or you’re coaching, whether it’s a crisis situation, whatever, is what you think of people is how you treat them. And I didn’t learn this till much later in my life. But the content of your head dictates the content of your mouth. So if you start thinking that this woman is going to complete, the content of your mouth is going to start projecting words, intonation, cadence, whatever, that’s actually going to encourage that to happen.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:        And then what you think of a situation is what it becomes. If you truly believe that you could not have done that, or could not have resolved, and got the best possible outcome out of that situation, you wouldn’t have been striving to make it happen. Your actions then would have betrayed you, and would have gone to actually what you were thinking about.

Ross Hardy:

That’s right.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that last stage that I share with people is, what you think of yourself is what you’ll achieve. So if actually, you are on the edge of the cliff, and you’re the person that’s looking to complete at that point in time, what you think of yourself is what you’ll achieve. If you’re the person doing the crisis negotiation again, if you think you’ve got the skills to actually overachieve, and over deliver that, then you’re more likely to actually succeed in that environment, in that space.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. What you’re thinking is so key, because as you say, we’re going to betray what we’re thinking by what we begin to say, how we begin to act. We can all equally begin to … One of the interesting things I find very helpful is how I can change some of my thinking by what I declare with my mouth. So I’m very intentional to say certain things, to make certain statements about myself because I know that I have a tendency to think the opposite, to think some negative thing. So instead, I would start to make some declaration.

Ross Hardy:

It might be, for example, sharing … The information I have is valuable to other people, and that actually, they will value hearing it. So I might have a negative thought about that going, “Well no one wants to hear this, this isn’t of any interest to anybody.” That’s a lie, but it’s going to start to affect the way I communicate, it’s going to start to affect the kind of influence I have on other people, they’re going to start to feel there’s something not quite comfortable here. It becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. We start to actually almost push people away by how we’re reacting to our thinking.

Ross Hardy:

So in a situation like that, I would start to say to myself, “Actually, I have valuable things to share, I have information that’s important for other people to hear. The things that I have to share actually can make a massive difference to people’s way of life, to people’s leadership, and so on.” So actually, I’m making an intentional kind of declaration. And in doing so, I’m kind of readjusting some of those thoughts. And I’m intentionally starting to replace that thought, and those words with the right words so I can begin to adjust course with my thinking.

Ross Hardy:

And I think, to use another kind of ship analogy, some of those thoughts, they’re quite significant. Maybe they’ve been going on for a long time. They’re a little bit more like the big old tankers. Sometimes they take a little bit of turning. We have to keep working, keep working. We’re not going to turn on a 6 pence, it may take a few miles of kind of turning the wheel, and speaking the right things.

But actually, if we’re consistent in those kind of decelerations, and consistent in taking hold of those thoughts, and that cognitive reappraisal I was talking about earlier, taking thought, and making it more positive. Then soon enough, it becomes a behaviour, it becomes something that’s part of us, it’s not something we’re having to do, it’s something that we are, it’s something that really is being expressed through us even in the challenging times. It’s our go to response even in a negative moment. But it sometimes takes a bit of work to establish that.

Nathan Simmonds:

And you’re right, it does. Something is journaling positive confirmation. So when you have these moments, when you’re working in a training room and delivering content, and someone in the room says something ah, penny dropped. “That’s amazing, I said the right thing, I approached it in the right way.”

Nathan Simmonds:

When I do the live trainings, when I’m doing that, okay, I’ve said the right thing, I’ve included the right part, how do I make sure I do that again? Because we’re capable of doing those things, it’s just, like you say, that voice of the critic kicks in, “Oh, yeah, but that was yesterday, you’re not as good today.” Well actually, I did it yesterday, so therefore, I can do it again today. I can go into this conversation with those skills, and the things that I learned from last time. And do you know what? Maybe last time wasn’t the best version of me. Maybe it was only 60%. I know it was 60%. So therefore, what can I do to adjust it to make it 70% today?

Nathan Simmonds:

And you just keep taking those steps to keep moving the mindset, and the capacity, and the ability, and just keep doing what you do so well, and layer it, because you know you can, and you know it has an impact, and you know it adds value.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge, huge.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

So let’s get into some definition pieces now then. From kind of a leadership, and a business point of view, what is a time of crisis?

Ross Hardy:

Well a crisis base is going to be any kind of place of intense difficulty or danger. So from a leadership point of view, it can be personal, it can be organization wide, it can be something that the nation is experiencing, or as we’re seeing at the moment, a fairly rare occurrence, but something we’re currently seeing at the time we’re recording this. We’re seeing a crisis that’s across the nations, it’s affecting the majority of the world at the moment because of this pandemic.

Ross Hardy:

And we’re seeing not just a health crisis, but we’re seeing the effects of lockdowns, we’re seeing the effects on business, we’re seeing the effects on individuals, we’re seeing the effects on mental health. When we really stop and consider it, there’s 1,000 different effects of this crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So a crisis can be different depending on the individual, the organization, the team. So some, let’s face it, as a team of crisis negotiators, dealing with someone who’s feeling suicidal was our bread and butter, it was a daily experience for us. If you were a team who suddenly had a member of your team, or someone that was visiting your office suddenly suicidal, and capable of going through with that act in your presence, then that becomes a crisis for your team. So those two events are the same, but for one, it’s sadly normal everyday life, and for another, it’s a crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So I think one of the things to say with crisis is that, what affects one person, or one team, or one organization doesn’t have to affect another person, team, or organization in the same way. It’s whatever we face that causes us, our team, or organization intense difficulty, or danger. Any kind of event leading up to that.

Ross Hardy:

So it could, with an organization, it could be obviously a major recession, it could be the loss of a key client, it could be the loss of a key employee, it could be some failure in the manufacturing process, it could be some kind of loss of our intellectual property. There’s a whole manner of things. It could be an individual’s negative experience, they make a mistake and it causes a kind of ripple through the company. So crisis is one of those words that can cover a multitude of things. All it really needs is that sense of intense difficulty or danger to it.

Nathan Simmonds:

As you were saying there, one man’s crisis, or one person’s crisis may be another person’s normal every day activity. Even boiling it down to the point of running out of company headed paper for an individual while they’re dealing with a complaint, could be the end of their day for them kind of mentally because it’s so frustrating.

Nathan Simmonds:

And like you say, for another person, dealing with those highly volatile situations, those key tipping points, as in Beachy Head and those moments, again, that’s almost every day work for some people, because they’re practiced. And the phrase that I’ve said countless times over the last four, five weeks or so is, “People don’t rise to the expectation, they fall back to the level of training.”

Nathan Simmonds:

So what it is we’re used to doing, what it is we’ve learned to do when we’ve curated that tension, and friction, and stress before the event happens, that’s the stuff that’s going to start to come out when we need to display those skills most. Super important.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think you’ve answered some of it in part, and I’m keen to, if there’s anything to dive into, what causes a crisis?

Ross Hardy:

Well I think, again, that is so difficult, depending on the individual situation. It can be a whole manner of things. When we talk about crisis on an organizational level, which can then obviously spill over to a crisis for individual team members, and for leaders, then the reality with my kind of studying of things is that, is for the majority of it, the cause of the crisis is a lack of being prepared.

Ross Hardy:

So if you look at crisis kind of statistics from around the world, then there’s a massive percentage of crisis affecting organizations that are internal to the organization. So it works out something like, almost three quarters of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So if you think about that, there is a potential, with the right thinking, the right actions, the right preparations, to avert three quarters of crisis. And but that takes a moment of planning, it takes actually takes a moment of planning, it takes kind of looking and considering the options. Now, earlier on you were asking me about, how do some of those skills that I learnt at Beachy Head, and leading a crisis team there, how they worked out into the business environment.

Ross Hardy:

And obviously we looked at the individual leadership, self-leadership. There’s also team leadership, and the organizational leadership. And if we take organizational leadership as an example, one of the most simple ways to begin to be more crisis proof is to stress test our organizations.

Ross Hardy:

Now, certain aspects of the organization may require more complexity to this. But in its simplest form, stress testing our organization is about taking a potential scenario, and kind of sitting with a few key kind of leaders, or our teams, or whatever, and actually thrashing out what would happen if we experienced this. What would happen if we experienced this?

Ross Hardy:

Now, I used to say, actually, sometimes take a wild one, take an unusual crisis, something you think, “Well, that’s never going to happen.” But take hold of some of these things. Sometimes you can almost have a laugh with those. But actually, you’ve just shown the organization, you realize that it starts to reveal places that are strong, that would perhaps operate very well, and then all of a sudden, glaring inadequacies, or weaknesses.

Ross Hardy:

And it gives us an opportunity then to build in strength. And we can’t necessarily prepare for every single eventuality we’re going face. But if we take a good variation, a good kind of spread of eventualities, and we kind of create scenarios out of those, and we test our organization with it, and think, “How would our organization react?”

Ross Hardy:

We’re going to start to see places that regularly come up as being weak, or needing improvement, or needing change. And if we can then say, “Well okay, let’s begin to create change in that area, let’s begin to build in strength. Or we see an area that’s consistently weak, but we can’t necessarily do anything about it. Well what we can do is build some strength around it that will help support that weak area in a time of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

If we begin to do that, then we know that we’ve suddenly made ourselves far more resilient to a whole load of different crisis. So crisis that we haven’t yet imagined. So at the moment, again, we’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic. It’s not our everyday occurrence, it’s not something that we necessarily even would have considered putting down as part of kind of stress testing, and crisis preparing, and crisis proofing organizations. But it goes to show that the more preparation we do in general, and kind of stress testing organizations, the stronger we can build them so that when we face crisis, we can better navigate them. And hopefully, they’ll be a number of crisis that we never ever going to experience, because we’ve actually prepared beforehand, and filled in those weak places.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, exactly that. And I’ve been part of disaster recovery programs inside of businesses as well, and we’ve done kind of the, almost the stress testing with strange scenarios that you may not think ever happen, but they do happen on occasion, they’re the unexploded World War II bombs in car parks, and stuff that have shut down parks or cities. All that sort of stuff.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think there’s a certain amount of pressure testing stuff that you have got on a physical level. Testing the fire alarms, you do it on a weekly basis. But even when you do your fire evacuation, actually locking several fire exits so they have to go in a different direction. You pressure test it to see what comes up.

Nathan Simmonds:

The other element is then looking at your curated tension. So potentially not pressure testing but holding a space where we go, “Okay, actually, what do we need to think about this? How do we need to approach this? Is this going to work? What are our competitors going to do? Is this product going to be outdated and obsolete in five years? How do we make that happen in three years so that we can actually bring a new service in that lasts another five years on top of that?”

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s creating those tensions, and those frictions necessarily and intentionally so that you can find the weak points, and you can find the strengths as well. And I think a lot of these things is … I’m trying to think of a good analogy, but it’s … It’s finding out whose got the thinking capacity. It’s an approach, it’s a way we think, it’s a way we communicate. How do we get the right information so that we can give the right tools to the people in our business?

Nathan Simmonds:

Because if I’m thinking, “Okay, the end is nigh.” And I’m running around thinking this is the end of the business, and I pull the drawbridge up, and I’m not communicating out, what message is that sending? How is that supporting the people in the business?

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

So it’s finding out whose got the right thinking, who’s got the most smart thinking that’s going to create the outcomes, that’s going to push people forward.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, yeah. I think that leads to another part that obviously we’ve looked at how we can lead ourselves within a crisis in order to reengage smart thinking. But it then leads on to another part of what we learned on the clifftops was transferable into every day kind of leadership, into team leadership, and into businesses. And that’s actually how we lead our teams during times of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

And again, a lot of that relates to skills that would be at home on a cliff edge in crisis negotiation as they can be within the individual relationships going on within a work environment. And that’s very much based around listening and building empathy, letting people share where they’re at, who they’re … How they’re feeling, why they’re feeling that. Actually giving people opportunity to express what’s going on in the midst of a crisis.

Ross Hardy:

That’s really significant because that is, again, part of the process of deescalating negative emotions, and reengaging smart thinking and then. But if we also make that part of who we are, if we actually care and spare time for our teams, and we actually spend time to, in the midst of all our business, and all the important things that we need to communicate to them, and talk about, but actually, if we make sure that somewhere within those relationships, we’re building time to actually care about the individual, and listen to the individual, then we’re constantly developing empathy.

Ross Hardy:

One of the original kind of models we used at Beachy Head was a model called the behavioural influence stairway model, which the FBI used. And it’s basically about active listening over time. That active listening demonstrates empathy, which builds rapport, which then develops influence. And then we added on, once we got influence, then we could encourage behavioural change. So obviously, on a cliff edge scenario, the person chooses to come back, and chooses to live.

Ross Hardy:

So the reason I’m saying this about how we find the smart thinkers for how we stress test, and crisis proof, and crisis prepare organizations, is that actually, if we go through this with our team, then we can help them understand what they’re feeling, and why when they’re faced with a crisis scenario.

Ross Hardy:

So at the moment, we’ve got teams all over the place, many of them working from home, suddenly faced with lots of challenges, technological challenges that perhaps they’re not used to, and the stuff they’re having to do from home, they’re maybe worried about their jobs, they’re worried about the future, they’re worried about the economy, they’re worried about their families, they’re worried about their health. There’s so many things going on in people’s lives.

Ross Hardy:

And the great thing with kind of active listening is, it works as effectively over phone, or Zoom, or Skype as it does, or FaceTime, as it does face to face on a cliff edge. It’s just as powerful. But actually, there’s this place where, when we’re building and developing empathy, we’re actually letting people explore as you’re asking people open questions. So, “How are you feeling? What’s going on?” Actually giving people space. You’re listening, you’re giving spaces of silence. Letting people actually begin to consider, “What is it I’m really thinking at the moment? What is it I’m really feeling?”

Ross Hardy:

And as they begin to share that, then actually, what are they doing? They’re doing exactly what we did in our first stage of self-leadership. They’re labelling their emotions, and they’re identifying the thought that the emotion is riding in on. So by just talking about those things that you’re listening to them about, giving them space, and asking them to share about, you are actually helping them deescalate the negative emotions, which is reengaging smart thinking.

Ross Hardy:

And then you can use other tools. So we would use what is poshly called, problem solving using collaborative analysis. But ultimately, simply mean, me saying, “Have you thought about …” and offering them a thought to consider. I’m not telling them what to think, I’m not telling them, I’m not saying, “You should do this.” Like I’m their father or something. I’m actually giving them a thought, and I’m saying, “Have you thought about this? Have you considered this?”

Ross Hardy:

It gives someone an opportunity to take hold of that thought, to kind of look at it from every facet, to look at the pros and cons, to talk it through because you’re still listening to them. And actually, when they see that it’s valuable, they can take hold of it from themselves, they could embrace it. And then immediately, they’ve carried on with that process, the third stage of our self-leadership process, collaborative, oh, sorry, cognitive reappraisal. They’ve taken hold of that original negative thought, and they’ve gone, “Actually, this is a better thought. I’m going to think this instead.”

Ross Hardy:

So when we use those kind of skills with our team during a time of crisis, or even just in the general kind of way, in our everyday interactions, then we begin to reengage their smart thinking. And it enables them to think more clearly when we’re faced with crisis, whether it’s a real crisis such as all those things that people are currently experiencing, or whether it’s a crisis scenario.

Ross Hardy:

Because one of the problems we have when we look at crisis scenarios is that if you look at a fairly realistic crisis scenario, it can stir up all the negative emotions, it can stir up the anxiety. We could look and go, “Oh my goodness, the business could fail, I wouldn’t be able to pay my mortgage, I’d lose the house. All of a sudden, it’s blown out of from this one little scenario, to all these feelings connected with all these negative thoughts.

Ross Hardy:

And even though it’s still only a scenario, it’s affecting our smart thinking. We’re not thinking as clearly. So therefore, we can’t plan around it, we’re in the middle of the fog bank, even though it’s a theoretical one that we’re considering, and we don’t know which way to turn to go out, which way is the quickest way out of this fog bank.

Ross Hardy:

But when we’re actually listening to our team, and when we’re speaking to our team, and letting them share what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, we’re perhaps offering them some thoughts that they can consider for themselves that would be better thoughts to have, we’re actually deescalating those negative emotions, we’re reengaging that smart thinking, they’re stepping out of the fog bank, so they’ll be able to think more effectively, more powerfully, using that executive thinking.

Ross Hardy:

Their planning ability is stronger, their decision-making ability is stronger, their problem solving ability is stronger, their self-control, and controlling any kind of reflexive behaviours, all of those things are stronger. Therefore, they’re going to be far more effective when they’re considering actually how we’re going to manage this potential crisis scenario, and how it would affect our business when we’re stress testing it.

Ross Hardy:

So when we apply that to our teams, then we have a team that are far more effective, they’re going to come up with far better solutions that are going to see problems that they wouldn’t otherwise perhaps have seen, would see solutions that they wouldn’t have otherwise have seen. And therefore, we’re going to be far more crisis proof, and crisis prepared afterwards.

Ross Hardy:

So it’s really a powerful thing just to be listening. So if we apply that on a kind of regular basis to the way we lead our teams, that actually, we care enough to sometimes put aside the busyness of the work that we’re at, to actually say, “This is about you, this is about me understanding you, and making you feel understood.” Then that is such a powerful tool, actually, it brings out of our team members their greatest abilities, their best abilities, it brings them to the top of their game.

Ross Hardy:

And that’s so important, because after all, people are on the team because presumably, they deserve to be there, they’re on the team because they have skills and abilities that actually, you really want as part of your organization. So you want those abilities working to their best. So when we do that in a kind of crisis preparedness way by before we’re stress testing, then we can actually stress test in a kind of deeper and more effective way, because as soon as someone’s dealing with the negative emotions, they know how to manage them. They’re starting to realize, “Yeah, okay, I’m feeling anxious at the moment. This is why. So I’m just replacing that thought.”

Ross Hardy:

And they can then think about something more clearly, because it kind of brings me on to one key thing that, the problem with negative emotions is they are of course unpleasant. They’re designed to make us react for our own, as you were saying earlier, for our own benefit, to survive some dangerous moment, to run away from a wild beast, to escape from the fire, from the dangerous moment.

Ross Hardy:

But actually, left to just keep affecting us over a longer period of time, they’re unpleasant, they have negative effects on our bodies, they actually, they damage us, they don’t help us. So we’ve got this kind of negative experience that comes with the negative emotions. So of course, our normal reaction to that, it’s actually, if we know something causes us anxiety, the biggest danger is from our most likely response, and that is, “That area causes anxiety, so therefore, I’m going to step away from that, I’m going to hide from it, I’m going to ignore it.”

Ross Hardy:

So we could say that the greatest danger for being crisis prepared, whether it be personal, team wide, or organization wide is denial, it’s actually the decision to put aside significant issues because they make us feel uncomfortable, so therefore, we won’t look at them, because then if I don’t look at them, they don’t exist, I won’t feel that way, that will make me feel better.

Ross Hardy:

But it’s not fixed anything. It’s actually made us feel better in that instance, but if there really is a risk involved in that thing we can’t, that crisis scenario we can’t look at, then we’re all right until the day that crisis happens, and then we’re in the midst of it, we’ve done nothing to prepare.

Ross Hardy:

So it’s really important that we’re making sure that our smart thinking is engaged, that we’re managing our emotions so that we can look a crisis in the face and say, “Actually, is this an issue? Is this dangerous? Is this a challenge? How do I need to manage this?” And recognize that, if we’re not consistently working with the emotions, working to deescalate those, that actually, our natural reaction would be to put aside important and serious information that warns us of crisis. Put it to one side so it doesn’t have a negative effect on us, and miss the information that could actually help us save our organization, or better manage a crisis that we’re facing.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s that denial that holds us back. I’ve dealt with the workplace anxiety and depression from a personal point of view as well as from a leadership point of view. And talking to a mentor of mine three, four years ago, and he said to me, “Anxiety is the emotion of growth.” It’s that anxiety that we feel, the increased heart rate, the sweaty palms, the discomfort, it means you’re actually at the edge of our comfort zones, it means actually, we’re going to take a step forward into something we have, into uncharted territory.

Nathan Simmonds:

And this is what leadership is truly about. It’s about going up front and being out there. The anxiety, from my personal perspective, the anxiety really turns into a kind of general anxiety … What’s the word I’m looking for? Kind of diagnosis. That’s when we are in that denial, and we never face up to it. Because it will always sit there in the back of our mind. And the next time we go for a job interview, “Oh, no, I won’t do it.” And that level of anxiety steadily builds up, and it compounds over time.

Nathan Simmonds:

So again, if you scale that up to people dealing with crisis situation in their businesses, I’m not going to deal with that situation because it feels uncomfortable, I’ll deny it, then something happens, then your business shuts down.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Because you haven’t faced into what it is it’s teaching you. There were so many things you covered in there. One of them also popped in there was you talk about kind of that future proofing, how we communicate to people. Okay, are we communicating in a way to people where they will follow our lead. Where they will support themselves, where we’re teaching them how to manage their own, and take the lead on their own feelings, etc?

Nathan Simmonds:

And again, something else I learned was, the future is just a made up version of what might happen with your imagination and your emotions escalating and deescalating bits that it thinks are most important at that point in time. But in truth, it is all just fantasy. Some of it may be right, some of it might be wrong. But your brain has no way to differentiate between what’s actually real, and what’s actually right now. So your brain starts going into overload. Your brain chemicals are all over the place.

Nathan Simmonds:

And again, it comes down to, what’s the next best action? Well if you haven’t engaged and invoked your smart thinking, that logical, some of that rational, a lot of some of the emotional content, you’re not going to make a decision that’s going to be supportive of the whole, of the organization, of the company. And it’s not just going to be a detriment to yourself, it’s going to be the people that are in your network, it’s going to be people that are next to you.

Nathan Simmonds:

Now, and the last point before we start getting into something that I was going to ask, and I think you covered in, how do you communicate in a crisis? You covered that eloquently. Communication in a crisis is about listening, it’s about the direct questions. And some of the key things you were talking about. We’ve designed a new model, a deck of coaching cue cards, per se, for the leader, for the mental health first aider.

Nathan Simmonds:

And we’ve designed it on a model called MIND.

M is all about mindset. And that is, where are you right now? How are you looking at it? Are you in the fog bank?

I is for important. So it’s actually, what are you putting the importance on? Where are you putting your focus of attention? And actually, is there a better place, or better angle to be putting that importance? So if you step out of the fog bank, okay, what’s important? Well actually, I need to get there. Okay, what have you got available to you that’s going to make that shift in that?

Nathan Simmonds:

And then the N, which for us in the MIND, is network. Who’s around you? In your crisis team? Your support mechanism? Who can you learn from? Who can help you in this moment of time? Based on the actions that you might take, or you’re going to take, who else does it impact? And how does it affect their lives? Those sorts of things.

And then that D part, you talked about from stress testing, it’s coming up with actions. D stands for direction. Actually, based on all that information, what do I want to do right now that helps me to move forward, and progress, and create that next positive steps?

Nathan Simmonds:

So I can start creating an action plan. And again, I can’t remember the quote, it was the singer, and she says, “Action is the antidote to despair.” It’s the inaction, it’s the stuck in the moment that causes the problem from a company point of view, personal point of view, leadership point of view. Inaction is going to cause us the biggest problem.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Shift the focus, come out of the fog bank, look to see what you got available, where you going. What am I putting the importance on? Is it on the fog bank, or is it getting home? Who is going to help me do this? Who is in my network. And then, okay, take action and move it. Like you talked about from those FBI models and those ideas. Phenomenal having those questioning skills of yourself to make it happen. Huge value in this. Huge value in what you do, and how you’re helping people, and what you’ve already done. How old are you now, Ross?

Ross Hardy:

Just coming up to 46.

Nathan Simmonds:

46. A life well lived with a lot more to bring yet to come. Phenomenal. From me, and from everyone else’s lives that you have touched, and all those people, thank you to you, appreciate everything that you’ve done so far. Crickey, there’s another at least 50, 55 years in both of us to create more huge impacts.

Nathan Simmonds:

Big question from me then. You’re doing this crisis, thinking, smart thinking, you’re supporting businesses that are going through stress testing, and curated tensions, and supporting training potentially of people that are still having these conversations. How do you make behavioural change stick?

Ross Hardy:

Well the reality is that people can do, and they can do training, and they can hear the right messages, with the right actions on them 100 times, but actually, until we start to internalize it, it’s of course going to have no effect. Lots of people go away from trainings, and go, “This is fantastic, this is really good stuff.” Never do anything about it after maybe a week, and it’s …

Ross Hardy:

So the key really is that there are a number of different things. I think ultimately, it always starts with thinking. And it starts with thinking, whether it’s in ourselves, or whether it’s with other people. When there’s a behavioural change, so for example, the whole issue of dealing with reengaging our smart thinking, of facing how anxiety is, of course a regular kind of enemy if you like for us dealing with crisis negotiation because of the risks to others, and ourselves, and all the things that are going on, sometimes many times a day.

Ross Hardy:

We realized that actually we had to be very intentional. It was kind of like within forced repetitions. We were really intentional to step in, and to practice these skills on a regular basis when we didn’t need them, so that when we did, as you kind of again mentioned earlier on, we step back to how we’ve been trained. And if we step back to our learning, we kind of fall back on those things we’ve been trained in.

Ross Hardy:

And so we know that actually that that’s not the place necessarily to learn. Now, for a lot of people, who are perhaps listening to this, who are already in a crisis, it doesn’t mean these things aren’t effective, they massively are to use there and then. But actually, for behavioural change, to see change within us, it’s about us practicing those important and effective things, particularly about how we know ourselves, how we understand ourselves. Actually taking time out of busy schedules to actually go, “What am I feeling? How am I doing? What are the thoughts that these feelings I’m having are connected with? Are these thoughts positive? Are they effective?” Actually beginning to change those thoughts.

Ross Hardy:

And again, as I said earlier on, part of my tool kit for changing thoughts is actually declaration. So thoughts, yes, will affect what comes out of my mouth. But I can also, if I have an intention to change a negative way of thinking, I can also intentionally make the right words come out of my mouth. I can actually start to make declaration, I can start to declare out of my life certain things, certain ways of thinking, and as I’m doing it, I’m hearing it, I’m receiving it, I’m thinking it, because I’m having to speak it. I’m actually building that in a deeper and deeper way into my way of living. And so therefore, I’m beginning to develop that behavioural change.

Ross Hardy:

And that can be true with our teams. But behavioural change when it comes to helping others, again, there’s a practice of actually how people are thinking. But sometimes, we need to actually share to understand how we’re thinking. So this is where listening is such a powerful tool in behavioural change. It seems almost counterintuitive sometimes. Someone who’s … People used to say to me quite regularly when I told them I was a crisis negotiator, “Oh, you must be brilliant at talking to people.”

Ross Hardy:

And I used to say to them, “Well actually, no, more often than not, I get my words muddled up.” I listen to myself sometimes when I’ve got a recording, and I think, “That made no sense whatsoever.” There’s a kind of babbling of words that sometimes fall out of my mouth. But actually, the key for crisis negotiation is listening. It’s not being an effective speaker, it’s about being an effective listener.

Ross Hardy:

And so behavioural change in others come so often from us listening to them. It’s about them hearing themselves, hearing their thoughts out loud. And they speak what they’re thinking. And often when they begin to speak out what they’re thinking, they begin to realize that. “That’s a good thought.” Or, “That’s a terrible thought. What on earth was I thinking that for?” It comes out into the cold light of day. And in a sense, we’re taking the fog bank again, we’re taking that thought from within the fog bank where it’s hidden away in all this emotion, and they’re drawing it out into the sunlight, and they’re seeing it for what it really is.

Ross Hardy:

And I say, “See it for what it really is.” Then actually gives them the best opportunity to either embrace that thought because it’s a good thought, or to reject that thought, and replace it because it’s a poor thought. And just one thing that came to my mind earlier when you were speaking, thinking about the future, it’s not made yet, it’s a kind of construct of our imagination at this moment in time.

Ross Hardy:

When we often look about taking a thought, and a cognitive reappraisal, we take a thought, and we take a negative thought, and make it more positive, or at least more neutral than it was. One of the comments I used to have quite regularly was, people would say, “Well surely we’re just, we’re making it up.” And I’m saying, “Well yes, that positive thought is a figment of your imagination. It’s not the facts in front of you, it’s your appraisal of what you feel those facts mean.”

Ross Hardy:

But if you think about it, the negative thought is exactly the same thing. It is a figment of our imagination, it is our opinion of the facts. So the fact is, this certain situation is happening, yes, it’s a crisis, it is a time of intense difficulty, or danger, but our opinion of it can vary widely from the very negative, to the very positive, depending on actually how we interpret the facts, and how we then apply them.

Ross Hardy:

So our thinking is central to behavioural change, we know that. But I just think it’s about being intentional. If we’re not intentional, we can dream about this great thing changing our lives for the better. But it remains a dream. We have to be intentional, we have to take hold of something, we have to keep coming back to it, we have to kind of keep embracing something, a way of thinking, a way of acting, a way of living, until actually it becomes part of who we are.

Nathan Simmonds:

Beautifully put. And I think there’s two elements in those. I think a lot of trainers do this. Is when we get to the beginning of a training course, we get people to write their goals down at the beginning of the session, what do you want to get from today? So we create that intention. And they put it up in their own handwriting.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that’s a categoric rule for me is, when you’re setting your intentions, they have to be written in your own handwriting, because you cannot delegate your goals to somebody else. Life rule right there. But it’s interesting when you talking about that declaration. The thing that popped into my head from what we do is actually, how do you want to learn? What experience do you want to have from today’s training session? What do you want to get from this course?

Nathan Simmonds:

And making that declaration out loud. How do you want to learn today? What is your expectation? What values are you going to bring to today to make today a success? And saying out loud, so you can hear it yourself, and kind of creating that feedback loop for the rest of the day, for the rest of that session that you’re sitting in.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge, huge. Ross, huge value from today. Thank you, huge thanks, as I said earlier, for what you’ve already done, the impact that you’ve created in so many people’s lives, and the ripple effect of that. Thank you for the value that you’ve shared here for today. Last question from me. Where can people find you?

Ross Hardy:

So you can find me on my website, which is discoveryhope.com. So that’s discoveryhope.com. And I also have a, as part of my kind of crisis proofing, crisis preparing, I thought it would be really valuable to put some of this stuff onto an online course. Little did I know what was about to happen. It wasn’t through intention, it was by accident, but two weeks before this big crisis happened that we’re currently facing, I put some of my workshop that I’ve been doing regularly, called Smart Thinking for Times of Crisis into a course on Udemy. And that’s called, Crisis Leadership Skills: Smart Thinking for Times of Crisis. So you can find that on Udemy.

Nathan Simmonds:

I left it on mute. Technical problems. Look, go and find … Thank you, Ross. He was waving at me trying to sign to me to make that happen. Look, go and have a look at Ross’ website, go and have a look at the content that he’s sharing. There is some super fundamental thinking in there that is going to help businesses, entrepreneurs, leaders of all shapes and forms get that clarity of thinking to get the results they need. And go and have a look at the course. This is a time of crisis right now for COVID-19, we get that. However, in 24 weeks’ time, 56, there will be another situation on someone else’s desk causing them this, to reduce this capacity for smart thinking. The steps, the guides, and the approaches that Ross has offered are hugely beneficial.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you very much for listening. There’s also going … As I mentioned earlier, the mental health coaching cue cards that we’re building at the moment, they will be available very shortly. There will be a link for these in the comments below. So please, they are a huge amount of value for what they are. If you want to get help, as a leader, to ask the right questions in a crisis situation, some of the questions are going to be in there. Go and get the mindset training as well from Ross, and those approaches, and combine those two elements to create something exceptional that is going to make you stand out in these situations, and create the training that you will fall back on in that times of crisis. Thank you so very much, and we’ll speak to you soon. Cheers, Ross.


For further leadership tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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E15 – The Five Laws of Retail with George Troy – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/george-troy/ Fri, 24 Apr 2020 09:53:27 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=44761 full 15 2 E15 – Interview With Retail Business Consultant and Author, George Troy

In this episode, I interview George Troy. George is a widely read blogger, author, and consultant focused on retail business communities, including online and brick-and-mortar stores. He has enjoyed decades of real-life experience as a senior executive for some of the best-known and most successful retail companies in the US and globally. A specialist in apparel, footwear, sporting goods, cookware, and home furnishings, Troy has led the retail divisions of Deckers Outdoor (UGG Boots) and outlet divisions of Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn. Today, he reflects upon his years of experience and discusses his new book, The Five Laws of Retail.

George Troy

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:

Record, so I’m recording. We’re live, this is grand. Welcome to Sticky Interviews. My name is Nathan Simmonds. I am working with MBM. We are the soft skills provider for the UK grocery and manufacturing industry. These interviews are about sharing the philosophies and the thinking of great people to help you be the best version of yourself. Today, I’m interviewing George Troy. Now, I’ve had some wonderful conversations with him from everything from chickens to squashes to the five laws of retail which is exponent, expert …

This is his field of genius. I’ve been speaking to him about these, and I want to share some of these ideas with you, or get him to share them with you.

Nathan Simmonds:

I want to introduce him first. I’ve got his bio here and it’s pretty decent reading for someone in the consultancy industry. This is good stuff. 35 years of real life experiences, a senior executive for some of the best known and most successful retail companies across the globe. A specialist in both men’s and women’s apparel, sporting goods, cookware, home furnishings, and he’s even led a retail division of Deckers Outdoor, which we all know as Ugg Boots, Williams Sonoma, and The Pottery Barn.

Key successes, taken Ugg Australia retail sales from 0 to 400 million in the US, Europe, and Asia in just 8 years. That on its own George is a pretty decent celebration right there of a career.

George is currently a consultant with the Grayson Company, based in New York. He’s also serving on the board of directors for two non-profit organizations based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Also, he’s got a BA with honours from Berkeley in anthropology, which makes his storytelling unique to say the least, and he uses that as the backbone of his approach to his book, ‘The Five Laws of Retail’. Please, welcome George Troy to the camera and the interview. George, thanks for being here. Really appreciate this.

George Troy:

Well Nathan, thank you very much for that introduction. I’m glad to be with you. It almost sounds like he could never hold down a job.

Nathan Simmonds:

Well I think you’ve got the experience from the apprenticeships of some of your earlier roles, which then got you into Ugg because of that real life experience and the stuff that you cut your teeth with. You know what? Now you’re a consultant doing that for other people. It just increases the impact you get to have on those businesses. You know what? I’d rather you didn’t hold down a job because it means you get to go and see more people and do more good in the world.

George Troy:

That’s true. That’s true. Thank you very much.

Nathan Simmonds:

So look, for me, the big question first of all when I’m talking to people is why do you do what you do? What was it that inspired you to be where you are and do the things that you’re doing right now?

George Troy:

Well there are a lot of things. Primarily, the book that just came out, The Five Laws of Retail, can I show that for a moment?

The Five Laws of Retail, and it’s just released last spring. It’s doing fairly well, and there’s several reasons I did that. One is that I honestly believe, I know, that these things will help people. They’ll help people be more successful and to avoid failure. The other thing is as you just alluded to are the stories. I tell the story of these laws through the stories of things that happened to me, and that I did research and historical research and business research too, because retailing, whether it’s groceries or beverages or shoes, is all about the people, and it’s all about the types of interactions and the things that happen.

George Troy:

Nathan, you know, if you’ve been around the track a few times, like some of us have, there are a lot of stories every day, every week, every month, and some of them are sad, and some of them are funny, and some of them are poignant, but they’re all instructive. Those are the things that people remember. I wanted to tell those. I wanted to share those with somebody or with the people who read the book. That’s the main reason.

Nathan Simmonds:

That word you used, which was instructive, now there’s a mechanism, a model that I teach which is the drama triangle from a guy called Karpman, Dr. Karpman, phenomenal model for psychology. It’s all about drama. But when I talk to people about it, and as you look at soap operas that we watch now, it’s all based on drama. The reason the dramas were created, you know the Greeks created drama, was to teach us stories of relationships and how we interact with people. It’s just that along the way we forgot to actually view the instruction manual that was being played out for us.

Nathan Simmonds:

And then when you talk about those stories of your experiences, my experiences, us being around the track, those stories have been going on for tens of thousands of years. It’s not like they’re any different. You share stories about the East India Trading Company and some of those. This stuff, it’s almost on rinse and repeat because people aren’t paying attention to the stories that are played out previously.

George Troy:

Exactly. Exactly. There’s always a consistency. I have one with you I’ll share with you right now if you don’t mind. We had a store in Manchester, and opened it just before there were some terrible riots in Manchester and throughout England. I forget even what they were about. I think it was some government cutbacks or something. So we were concerned about this, and instructed our store people to lock the stock room, lock up the safe, and lock up the store, and leave. They did because we were concerned about their safety.

George Troy:

Well sure enough, rioters, these hooligans got in, and they broke all the windows and they tore up the store. They didn’t get very much. The stock was in the back. But all during this time, our security cameras were running, so we recorded some of this. Well, during the time there were these riots and there were these hooligans in the store, a DHL delivery guy shows up with a pair of special order shoes. He goes through the broken window, and he’s got his invoice and a clipboard, and wants somebody to sign it. He gets one of the rioters to sign it, and then he hands them the shoes.

It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard of. The guy did his job. This was his job, and he did it. He got the signature and all the paperwork was done, and it was funny and at the same time instructive of something, but I’m not quite sure what. You shouldn’t always just follow the rules. You should be or one of your people if you’re the leader of a team to make decisions on their own. It’s not particularly smart to leave shoes with rioters. It doesn’t matter if he got the paperwork. And it was all on film and we had it.

Nathan Simmonds:

It almost seems ridiculous. Okay, I’ve got to go in here and get a signature. Who is the lead rioter here that needs to give me the signature?

George Troy:

Exactly.

Nathan Simmonds:

Nonsensical, yeah, and like you said … But then you can take that kind of informative thing or approach of actually well what’s the leadership lesson here? How can I use this story to actually instruct my leaders in their stores to make sure that, you know what? If things aren’t right, what’s the best decision you can make? The best decision would have been take the shoes back to where you need to be until this is all over, and then we’ll redo it again.

George Troy:

Exactly. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that is the best part. At the same time, should he even be getting out of the van? No. Again, it’s just encouraging those leaders to think for themselves. What is the best possible outcome in a crisis situation? Which we’re in at the moment as well, as we’re recording this. So look, I know this, I’m looking at books up here and up there of management books, of leadership books. What makes this one so helpful?

George Troy:

Thank you for asking that, and I hope that it is helpful. A couple of things, one is that I think sometimes people make things more complicated than they need to be. There’s a thing at least I’d always refer to, an affliction called analysis paralysis that some people have.

Now analysis is important, of course, and what you do with it is also important, maybe more than important. I think that what I tried to do is to distil the business principles that I had learned and employed into some very easy to understand and simple things, these five things, through which you can see your activities and your business grow through a lens.

If you filter things through these five things and use those as kind of a level set for what you’re doing, it’ll be a little easier. It should make your job easier, and more successful, and to avoid failure. That’s partly it.

Nathan Simmonds:

Nice. And those five things, this is the five laws of retail, yeah?

George Troy:

Yes.

Nathan Simmonds:

What are the five laws? Come on, give it to us now.

George Troy:

I’m going to do this without looking at my notes. I wrote the book, but sometimes I have to [inaudible 00:09:00] so closely.

Nathan Simmonds:

I know this feeling. Sometimes people will ask me questions about my book and I’m just like, “Let me go back. I’ll come back to you.”

George Troy:

Right.

Well people first is the first law.

Turn is magic, and actually that … I enjoyed writing that subject. In the grocery business, turn … And I use some great examples from the grocery business. Turn is magic. You have to turn your inventory, turn it into money, and third is … I’m going to have to look.

It’s the retail price and not the cost It doesn’t matter what your mark-up is because you don’t make it until you sell the thing, so it’s the retail price … It’s what the customer perceives as the value.

And the fourth is the power of product, and the,

Fifth is to protect your downside. That’s kind of the last but you know … Things happen, as we’ve recently found out, things that you can’t predict, things that you can predict and you should be prepared ahead of times in those eventualities so that they don’t catch you off guard.

Those are the five laws: people first, turn is magic, the power of product, retail price, and protect your downside.

Nathan Simmonds:

I think they’re huge. I don’t think enough people do it, especially on that last one, protecting your downside. Honestly, I don’t think enough people do that. We get too complacent about a situation and we stay in it and we stay in our moment and we think everything’s going to be okay. We think that everything is secure, whether we’re self-employed or especially if we’re working in a company. Thinking, “Oh I’ve got this job and I’m going to do this job for 40 years,” but the truth is, if the CEO sneezes in the wrong direction, that company closes down quicker than you can say boo to a goose.

Nothing in nature is certain, and we have to prepare. There must be kind of some sort of plan to mitigate. No parachutist jumps out of an airplane without a second parachute. It’s not that they’re hoping to use it. It’s just that they know that if the first one goes, they really want a second one to back it up. The percentage chances of them actually using that second parachute is so tiny, but there was no way they would jump out of an airplane without two chutes.

George Troy:

Right, right. That’s a great analogy.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah and we need to protect your downside. It’s going to happen at some time. We’ve been here … I’m 42. How many recessions have I lived through? How many crashes have we seen? Even in the last 12 years, we’ve seen 2 major situations happen, 2 major, major situations.

George Troy:

Yeah. Retailers are inherently optimistic and positive. Next week, next month, next year is going to be better. We always plan for that. But you do have to plan for in case that doesn’t happen.

Nathan Simmonds:

Funny, you almost have to map it like it’s stocks and shares. You can see they’re going to go up and like this, but you have to work out where your peaks and troughs are going to be and adjust accordingly.

George Troy:

Exactly. It’s exactly right.

Nathan Simmonds:

So when it comes to, for me, because I’m a leadership person, I teach leadership, I coach leadership, and all those elements that people in retail desperately need I think. What one of the five laws would you say is most applicable to developing the leadership then?

George Troy:

Well, I think you’ve got to save people first because a leader has to create a community and value your people. Your people are your most important resource, and as a leader of an organization, you have to work through people whether they’re your direct reports or reports beyond that. You have to create a sense of empowerment is an old buzzword, but it really is empowerment. If this DHL delivery guy had been empowered to make right decisions, he would have made a different choice perhaps, but he didn’t feel that way. So we have to work through people and create a sense of community and an environment where you can get the most out of it.

Nathan Simmonds:

I think one of the challenges … And it’s true. I think people are a resource, but at the same time, I think sometimes people see them as part of the product. What I mean is say if you’re selling trainers or you’re working in a packing hall and they’re putting the trainers in the box. Often the people that work in that environment are being treated no differently to the shoes in the box. And remembering that they are people. They are human first and foremost. They have got a power internally, that empower, that internal power, and they just may have forgotten to switch it on or to engage with that.

Because like the DHL guy who’s just being told what to do. Well you just go to this store, you just get the signature, and you just get back here as quickly as possible because we want to make sure you’re doing it in the right time because that’s all we care about, productivity. Whereas actually we want to instil with some questions, that person, to fire them up in their own way and to do it from the inside out, not to expect to be told what to do every time. That’s how you get people to do great things for themselves.

George Troy:

Exactly.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, I’m a big advocate for it, George. People first.

George Troy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

What have you got in the book? We shared a couple, or you shared a couple of stories. What have you got in the book then that really brings that people first element to life?

George Troy:

Oh well I hope there are lots of things but you know if you think back to your experience in a retail environment or any kind of business environment, whether it’s a shoe store, a grocery store, an airline desk, or a church, and I talk a little bit about religious retailers because they’re some of the best. They have a product to sell with a great mark-up and people will pay anything. But that’s an aside.

George Troy:

I talked a little bit about the karma and the feeling of a place. How often have you walked into a store and just feel good? It’s a place where you want to be and these are people you want to be with. When I talk about a leader must build a community, it’s not just your employees and your direct reports. It’s your customers. They want you … The most successful retailers of any category bring their customers in and create a community that involves them.

In the book, also I suggest that people think about a different kind of organization structure. That hierarchical structure with the guy at the top and then the stuff … That came actually historically out of World War II, where you had the Supreme Commander and the generals and admirals and corporals and however that sets up in the military. And then after the war in the 1950s, that was sort of applied to business. Well that seemed to work. Let’s do it like that.

George Troy:

Well I suggest that an org chart might be more of a circle, where it shows kind of illustrates our inter-dependentness, and our interconnectedness, spokes on the wheel, and the customer is part of that organization. It takes away from that hierarchical thing, which I’ve never liked anyway. I mean I’m just always a rebel and just don’t like that kind of thing.

I think a great leader working through their people, not telling them what to do but like work through them, and it takes a little more time to do this. It’s not easy. It’s not an easy thing to do. But you’ll be rewarded with a community and an environment that has a positive karma. I’m probably dating myself when I use words like that, but it is. It’s sort of a vibe, a karma, that is communicated to your customers. You’ll be rewarded in lots of ways.

George Troy:

The other thing that I think it’s important to recognize, Nathan, is that people work for other reasons than the money. You know, you do get the pay-check and we all need that, but there’s other reasons people show up for work every day. As I mention in the book, somebody taught me along the line you want your people to want to come to work, not feel like they’re dragging their ass in and they have to be there, although that is part of it too. But they want to be there and to be part of something and to see your company and your business flourish. That’s how real success can happen. That will also see you through tough times like we’re going through right now.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, agreed. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, I used to work in car insurance at one point and now in tool hire and different areas. It doesn’t matter whether it’s shoes but in the nicest possible way, we don’t go home and tell people how many car insurance policies we’ve sold or how many pairs of Ugg boots we’ve sold. We just don’t talk about that.

What we talk about is we talk about the interactions with our colleagues. We talk about the interactions between our customers. I spoke to this customer today and they loved this and I’ve got to share these ideas with them. They ended up buying 20 pairs of shoes, but it was the conversation that happened that caused that. Like you said, it’s that community piece. And community, communion, communication, it’s about being with people in an environment. As leaders, we create not a vortex but almost like a bubble where the customer wants to come back to that, where the colleague wants to come back to that, and they can congregate and feel safe in that space and do good work, which is the fun part.

George Troy:

It is. It is. Yes, you want to have an environment where people want to hang out and be part of it.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yes.

George Troy:

That’s very important and that’s very well said.

Nathan Simmonds:

This is the thing. They want to go home and talk about it, so they talk to someone else that then talks to someone else that says, “You know what? I want to be a part of that.” It’s like the culture of Apple, wasn’t it? It used to be if you wanted an iPhone or you wanted an Apple computer, it was called the cult of Apple because it was part of that community ethos. It’s about building that stuff.

Thinking about current situation, because right now we don’t know if we’re in the middle, we don’t know if we’re at the beginning, we don’t know if we’re at the end at the moment of the current situation with COVID-19, how is this stuff relevant right now then?

George Troy:

Oh gosh. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, of course, as everybody has. I think there are several things that are important for business leaders to recognize and to understand. The first is that many people who have been in the workforce for maybe just 5, 10, maybe just even 15 years have never seen a bad year. They’ve never had a bad time. Although none of us have seen anything like this, but those of us who have kicked around for a while, we’ve seen a couple of recessions, we’ve seen a couple of mergers, we’ve seen a couple of bankruptcies maybe. Some things have happened. So we’re a little bit more prepared. But others haven’t.

George Troy:

I think that means a couple of things. One is it’s unreasonable to expect you’re going to get 100% work out of your people. It’s not going to happen. You have to be a little bit understanding and give them some slack because people are scared. They’re genuinely frightened. They’re worried about getting sick. Worried about their family getting sick. Also, they’re worried about their income. Just managing your life right now is challenging and difficult. Getting to the store, and you know groceries are an essential business of course, but doing it has become more difficult. Getting laundry or getting your haircut or getting all these things is a little more difficult on top of being stressed and worried about being ill or worrying about your money. A good leader has to be sympathetic to that and allow them some slack.

George Troy:

I think the other things that are really important are some of the basics. You have to be honest and you have to communicate, and that means frequent communication. If you don’t know all the answers, and you won’t, it’s okay to say that, and here’s what we’re having now. Here’s what we know now, here’s what we hope to learn later, and here’s when I can get back to you with more answers or an update. People want to have that and they’ll hang on every word. It’s very important to do that and do it with integrity and authenticity.

You’ll be rewarded with respect and loyalty as a result, and you’ll all work together better. Those are some of the main things. I think be sympathetic and empathetic to people’s concerns and worries right now because they’re very real, and to be honest and constant communication. People want to hear. Of course, many of us are feeling more isolated and separated as we are sheltering at home is what they call it here about staying home more often. I think those are some of the most important things.

Nathan Simmonds:

That comes back to kind of that first law, people first. People want to be communicated with. They want that transparency. Even if you don’t have all the answers, that regularity of conversation is going to help keep them in the loop, that they know in an hour’s time we’re going to get another update, and even if that update is we still haven’t got the answers yet, they still feel connected to the community. They still connected to the situation.

George Troy:

That’s right. It’s not that scary. If you’re not honest and don’t communicate, then people make things up, and those things are worse than what the reality is. It’s okay to tell them. I think probably the people that you work with and your clients know that, and model that themselves. I hope so. But it’s okay to be reminded of it and put a little more effort behind it at this particular time.

Nathan Simmonds:

I mean this is something I’ve heard, and when I say lots of people is you know common sense isn’t so common, unfortunately.

George Troy:

Seems that way.

Nathan Simmonds:

And sometimes when as leaders, there’s a high percentage of people making a presumption of well if I know it, they must know it, but like you say, that worry kicks in and there’s that uncertainty, and when I’m worrying about this, I’m worrying about that. That neocortex, that logical part of the brain isn’t working at 100%. What might have seemed like common sense yesterday, it no longer functions, and actually as the leader you have to act as that rational point of contact to help remind people it’s okay. This is what’s happening. These are the actions I’ll take. You’re supporting to them to think. You’re the leader. They’re looking to you for that input to make sure that actually you’re leading that community in the right direction in times of crisis.

George Troy:

Exactly, exactly. This is where all those skills become most important. I mean, when times are good and business is easy, business is easy. Not that it ever is totally easy, but when it’s difficult like this is when these kinds of things are most important, to be consistent with.

Nathan Simmonds:

I was just thinking about law number five which is that downside element. What would be kind of some sage wisdom to share with people? Fingers crossed we don’t go into a situation like this again for another couple or three hundred years, fingers crossed. But what are the lessons that are being learned potentially now that would help people to kind of prepare for that downside again in the future?

George Troy:

You know, that’s a great point. I’m glad you mentioned that because although this is such an urgent emergency at the moment, I’ve already heard people I’ve been talking to, there are good things coming out of it. Many people are learning a different way to work, not just working from home because that’s the only thing you can do, but they’re finding it really does work. Telemedicine seems to be working, where you can talk to your doctors. We’re talking right now. Describe your symptoms or a nurse practitioner and get some medical advice. There will be … I predict that there will be some very good and positive changes to come out of this terrible experience, and so we have to be open for that and look for those.

George Troy:

You can also, another mark of a good leader, is to ask your people, and let that bubble up. Undoubtedly things that we haven’t noticed that are out there that people are finding that are working. It’s just the … I’m never ceased to amaze that the genius, particularly of younger workers and younger leaders who don’t have maybe some of the paradigms that our 35 years have built up for us, so they see different things and different opportunities. I think it’s important to recognize that and to see that.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s a massive point. People at the coal face see the world differently to people that are leading the teams or leading the business, and actually what’s it … When we’re leading a business, we don’t necessarily see the intricacies of what’s causing these guys blockages and challenges. Like you say, letting them percolate those solutions to the surface, because whether it’s homeworking, whether it’s a new solution, oh we could be using this tool, oh we could be doing that. Let the ideas come, and encourage the ideas to percolate to the surface, because it’s going to be those ideas that’s going to help them through best at work in the coal face in a new environment and challenging situation that we’ve got now.

George Troy:

Well that’s right. And as a result, the whole line organization will be stronger. The other thing at this particular time I think is to hopefully you develop some of these relationships and these communities already and have a foundation for them so that your other business partners, whether they be landlords or suppliers or whatever, can work together with you to mitigate some of the risk and some of the damage. Nobody should have to take the whole fall for it. In many cases, the really strong leaders do that.

George Troy:

I read an article just yesterday about Bob Iger who was the CEO of Disney. He’s still the chairman of the board at Disney Corporation, and he is giving his entire annual pay check for the rest of the year to a fund for employees who maybe need it, don’t have other resources, or whatever. I heard another great interview with the president of Bank America and he was asked on a business channel what they are doing. He said, “Well the first is I’m letting all employees know that they have a job. They will not lose their job,” and so he went on with that. That’s where he started, even though he’s a banker. He started with the people. Those are the marks of a really great leader. They’ve already internalized that and they’ll be rewarded for it.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s vital. Like you say, the first thing … Especially in the finance sector, the finance industry, they get a pretty bad rap a lot of times, especially 2008, credit crunch, all those sorts of things.

George Troy:

And some of them deserved it.

Nathan Simmonds:

Rightly so, because they were playing a very different game back then. I think that may have been a historical nudge to actually say, “Do you know what? This isn’t okay.” It kind of is a prelude and a preparation to get to 2020 when this is happening to go, “Do you know what is right thing to do? It’s to use these bonuses, it’s to make sure we’re doing this or we’re putting people first to support actually what we do as a business. It’s not just about the numbers and whatever we’re doing to make that happen.” I think that’s hugely important.

Nathan Simmonds:

The other thing I was thinking about, and you said about that, was in the business is talking to suppliers and talking to the manufacturers and stuff like that. I was having a conversation. I wish I could remember who it was. They were saying, “As businesses, we need to be speaking to the people we’re supplying to.

We need to be speaking to the people that are supplying us, and also kind of brokering deals with them in the best possible way,” because maybe you run a business and these small companies over here that you’ve been supplying to, maybe they go out of business because they’re going through equally hard times as we are. By even you having a conversation with them and brokering a deal at this time, you strengthen that relationship so that when we come out the other side of it, there’s more of those people there, the small people, and you’re able to supply to them, so you’ve still got a business when you come back in a month, two months, three months’ time.

George Troy:

Exactly, exactly. And that will happen. We will come back.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, we will come back for sure. It’s not as if they’re unprecedented in the history of mankind, but the last time we had something like this was potentially kind of the Spanish Flu was one, that was much before our lifetimes, a few of us, and then you kind of get the plague, these things happen. In business there there iss always a crisis of some sort of varying intensities and proportions, whether it’s Blockbuster is going out of business because of Netflix or whether it’s Kodak going out of business because of digital cameras or whatever. There’s always a crisis to be managed. Like you say, it’s managing the downturn, looking after your people, perceived value. Is the product still valuable to your clients, your customers? And all those elements that you put into the book as well.

George Troy:

Exactly.

Nathan Simmonds:

Good.

George Troy:

Absolutely true.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s incredible. I don’t think enough people look at this, whether it’s from a service provider or whether it’s from a product provider, ‘The Five Laws of Retail’ are still relevant and poignant and still very necessary.

George Troy:

I think so. I’ll tell you one more quick story, and it’s about a guy I used to work with. He went through some changes in his life. He went off on his own, opened his own store, the store failed. I think he became alcoholic for a time, and got over that, and all these things happened to him. Well, he ended up … I hadn’t talked to him for many years. He ended up working for the Catholic cemeteries of the San Francisco Bay Area. He was like their marketing director. And so I looked him up, and we went to have lunch one day.

George Troy:

I said, “Bob, how’s it going?” And he said, “You know, everything is retailing. Take this business, for example. There’s a great markup. There’s never any returns, and we put a smile on every customer’s face, literally.” It was funny. When I called him, his base, his office was in the cemetery. There were like five or six cemeteries that he worked with. It was called Gates of Heaven, and they had a receptionist. When I called up, she would say, this is absolutely true, she’d say, “Gates of Heaven, how may I direct your call?” With not so much as a snicker or a laugh at all. That’s just the way she was told to answer the phone, like the DHL guy. That’s the story. Everything is retailing and it’s all about the same principles. That’s what I believe.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it is. To echo that from a slightly different angle, I’ve always told people every day is a sales day.

George Troy:

Yes.

Nathan Simmonds:

And yet sometimes you have to sell getting out of bed to yourself because maybe there’s something that’s going on and you have to … Sometimes you have to sell yourself whether you’re going to have a cup of tea or a coffee. Sometimes you have to sell am I going to be nice to this person or am I going to avoid this situation? People that say they aren’t in sales, we’re all selling something at some point to somebody, whether it’s to ourselves or somebody else.

George Troy:

Absolutely true. Absolutely true.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. I’ve enjoyed, George. I love this conversation, love the elements. I also love the storytelling parts. You talked to me about the East India Trading Company, and some of those you’ve included in the book. I really enjoyed that stuff, and then the use of large scale events that have happened when people know where their stuff went, whether it’s East India going to the Boston Tea Party, these are big events. Again, if you use these lenses to actually get that clarity, you can see where these people went wrong in their journey and you can apply that thinking and logic back to yourself very easily, so I appreciate it.

George Troy:

I think so.

Nathan Simmonds:

Last question from me, or second penultimate question. I keep making this mistake. It’s penultimate question, what do you think makes behavioral change stick? Or what do you do that makes behavioral change stick?

George Troy:

Oh, well that’s a great question, and you know, Nathan, I don’t think there’s an easy answer to it. That’s difficult. I think that’s very, very difficult. But I think consistency is one of them, and I think also that question kind of dovetails into another thing, which I have seen happen in the last several years, and that’s a seed change in values. The values that are important now in the 21st century and going forward, I think there’s three you can identify.

They are authenticity, honesty, and community.

When I talk and other people talk about the importance of community and how and why people work, and why people do whatever they do, it’s for more than just the pay check. It’s not just the pay check, not even in the 20th century. It was sort of an assumption that yes it is all about the money, and nothing else matters. Well a lot other matters as it turns out then as now. Now it’s more recognized. I think if you’re consistent with being honest with people, and I don’t mean not just stealing out of the till, but honest with facing the facts and authenticity, because people can smell that. If you’re not authentic or your product is not authentic or your stores aren’t authentic people know it instinctively. Even if they don’t articulate, there’s something there.

George Troy:

The community, which is … I mean we’re very social animals. That’s what makes this current crisis so difficult. We can’t get together and hold hands the way we want to or the way we’re hardwired to do. These things I think are hardwired and they’re more recognized now, and more recognized as being important. Some of the values of the last century, which were built upon the horrible wars of the first half of the century and the prosperity afterwards, are … They’re still there, but these other ones I think are more important. How do you make it happen over time?

George Troy:

There are lots of things that can threaten it. I’m glad you recognize that and ask that question because there are lots of … It’s not easy. A lot of things can threaten it and derail it and make the changes, the constructive changes that your leaders want to make not happen. I think it’s being consistent and being honest and building community. Those are the main things.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. You’ve reminded me of … Actually because the San Francisco area … Is it San Francisco? No, Seattle. I’m getting my geography mixed up because Bruce Lee popped into my head. “Long term consistency beats short term intensity.”

George Troy:

Yeah. Exactly.

Nathan Simmonds:

You’ve got to be consistent. If I’m turning out with these values of authenticity, honesty, and community, am I turning up with those three things every single conversation? Am I turning up with those three values every single meeting, every single day, every single relationship, every single interaction? That’s the consistency piece that builds the relationships, that creates the community because you’re being authentic and honest that creates long term behavioral change. That’s a beautiful thing.

George Troy:

And it’s part of who you are. It’s already there. You don’t have to construct it. It’s already there, it’s part of who you are. You’re just recognize it and employing it.

Nathan Simmonds:

Employing it, doing it, making sure that the video and the audio sync up as I say. Kind of let the two things happen. And doing it because you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s human and humane and all of those things.

Last question, definitely the last question, where can people find you and where can people get your book?

George Troy:

Oh thank you very much. Well my website, georgetroy.com, also has you can sign up to receive my regular blogs on current business subjects. The last two are about this pandemic and advice about those things and that might be helpful. The book is available at Waterstones online now of course, and Amazon online of course, so they’re not hard to come by. Those are the places where I’m at. Other than that, I live in California but I’m in the UK from time to time, and I hope to be there again before too soon.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I have said we’re going meet up. We will be exchanging coffees, and George and I are both avid gardeners so we’ll be doing a seed swap at some point as well. Looking forward to that.

George Troy:

That would be great.

Nathan Simmonds:

Look, guys, watching this video, go and check out George’s work. As a small business, entrepreneurial type, people that are in the retail business, go and have a look at it. His book is helpful. These lenses are literally magnifiers of how to look inside a microscopic level and see what you need to be doing in the right way, but also gives you the long term view to actually see what’s coming down the stream so you can mitigate the downside, so you can put people first, so you can make sure the value your client are getting is on point, and make sure you’re turning over that product. This is what it’s all about. George, thank you very much for your time. So appreciated. Just want to say thanks again. Everybody, George, any final words?

George Troy:

Yes. On my website, in the book are my personal contact information and I would love to hear some of your stories.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. Get in contact with George, share your stories, let him know what’s working and what areas the book is supporting you on. That would be phenomenal feedback for him.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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E14 – Digital Wellbeing with Mich Bondesio – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/digital-wellbeing/ Thu, 16 Apr 2020 09:52:42 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=44294 full 14 2 E14 – Digital Wellbeing: Interview With Mich Bondesio from Growth Sessions.

In this episode, I interview Mich Bondesio. Mich is a business performance mentor, with a 20-year background in communications and project management. Her Growth Sessions mentoring programmes, workshops and talks support business people to build healthier cultures and develop more mindful approaches to work. Mich’s clients include consultants, entrepreneurs and teams working in creative and digital-focused sectors. Today, we discuss digital wellbeing in more detail.

Digital Wellbeing, Mich Bondesio

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:

Welcome to Sticky Interviews, this is Making Business Matter, MBM, the home of Sticky Learning and the trainer of Soft Skills to the UK retail and manufacturing industry, helping them to increase profits and sales. This interview series is all about speaking to great thinkers and sharing ideas to make that happen.

Nathan Simmonds:

Today, we’ve got Mich Bondesio with us. I hope I pronounced that right, I’ve never checked the pronunciation of your last name, Mich. I do apologize if that’s horrifically wrong. Talking to us today. Thanks very much for being here, Mich. I’m just going to give the guys a quick rundown of who you are, where you come from, and I’m going to get into these questions, okay?

Mich Bondesio:

Okay.

Nathan Simmonds:

So the first thing, Mich is a business performance mentor with a background in communications and project management. Her grow sessions, mentoring programs, workshops and talks support businesses, people to build healthier cultures and develop more mindful approaches to work, which we all need in this day and age, before this and after this. Originally from South Africa, Mich is currently based in the northwest UK, her clients are consultants, solopreneurs, and small teams working in creative and digitally focused sectors around the world. Mostly in the creative space, as far as I’m aware at this point in time.

Nathan Simmonds:

Mich, thanks very much for being here.

Mich Bondesio:

Thanks for inviting me.

Nathan Simmonds:

It was huge, we started to have a bit of a get to know you, which had nothing to do with this interview series, and as that conversation developed and sprouts came out of it, I was just like, some of the stuff you’re talking about is absolutely vital for people to be hearing, from a mental health point of view, from an isolation point of view, which we’re all in right now. I think the majority of people are just starting week three. I know I, we’re a week before that because our work’s starting to slow down, the face-to-face work started to slow down a little bit. So we’ve been isolating for, this would be the beginning of week four.

Nathan Simmonds:

And as we were talking about that you were just saying there’s going to be some critical crunch points that come up through this that you’re kind of aware of. I just thought, you know what? We’ve got share this. We’ve got to give this to people in the work space and they need to hear what you’ve got to say about this, to support those consultants and the culture that’s coming up out of this.

Nathan Simmonds:

So first of all, thank you as I just said. Please tell everyone what you do and why you do it.

Mich Bondesio:

So, as you mentioned I’m a communications consultant and business performance mentor, and I want to help people to develop more mindful approaches to work because for the past 20 years I’ve worked in high pressure deadline driven environments and industries and sectors, which have very unsupportive work cultures, and I’ve also experienced burnout first hand and my burnout was so epic that I wasn’t able to work for more than a year. So I have first hand experience of being socially isolated and very unwell and not having a work environment that was supportive of my recovery during that point.

Mich Bondesio:

So I realized actually that we need to be helping others to build their resilience, develop the skills that they need to work better whilst supporting their wellbeing. Because it’s all very closely tied, there’s a lot of research out there that shows that better selves are better for business, they’re better for your bottom line, and if you were humans first and resources second, essentially. So if you put humans at the center of your business, they’re going to be better for your business.

Nathan Simmonds:

I love that because I’m guilty of doing it in the past as well. We are humans first before we are resources. The bit that I’m mindful from as a leadership point of view is making sure that we get a balance of both of those. Like you’re saying, like people first, so how that links in for me is actually these are human beings, what are their needs, what are their wants, what are their desires, what support do they need, what training do they need, how can we help them do that?

Nathan Simmonds:

Then helping them to see where they’re going. Because we can see what they’re capable of and the skills they’ve got, we can then see how they move across the chessboard of business in the nicest possible way, but they’re moving to their strengths. I’ve often referred to people in business, it’s like a game of chess and some people are knights and some people are bishops and some people are kings and queens or whatever. But if you try and move a bishop the same way as you move a knight you’re going to get some serious resistance from the people around you.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct.

Nathan Simmonds:

So like you say, it’s making sure that they are supported, so that actually they feel like they’re working optimally.

Mich Bondesio:

And that leads to more engagement and loyalty totally company as well, so they will bring their whole selves to work and they’ll give you 110%, because they feel supported and they feel safe within the environment that they’re in to deliver their best.

Nathan Simmonds:

Absolutely. And there’s plenty of people around here that band these numbers around. 87% of people are not engaged in the work that they’re doing and it’s leading to millions and billions of pounds, I think even in the UK it’s 84 billion I think of lost productivity due to some of these situations. But if you’re not feeling productive and you’re not feeling like you’re contributing, you won’t do your best work, and if you go to somewhere that you just genuinely feel unhappy about and you’re unsupported in that, burnout is an absolute given, for sure.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing, but then you also talked about that self-isolation piece. It’s a personal event for you, so how much are you happy to share about that in what you do?

Mich Bondesio:

I’m happy to share as much as I need to. Actually sharing was part of the last step of the recovery process for me, so I think it’s important for people to know why I’m doing what I’m doing now because it had such a profound effect on my life. So I’m happy to share. Through that process of burnout, I kind of rediscovered myself, I developed the skills I needed to support myself better in both working and living. I discovered the importance of solitude as a form of self-awareness and as a way to actually help you develop all of those ideas that we have inside our head but we never get a chance to actually think about or do something about.

Mich Bondesio:

And I also… I discovered that I had far more resilience than I thought I did. And this is an important thing for all of us to know is that we do have resilience within us, to cope with highly stressful situations. We just need to know how to bring it out, we need to know what to do in certain situations. So I’m finding that in this situation, yes it’s scary, yes it can be anxiety inducing, it can create a lot of fearfulness within us, but if we have the skills and toolkit that we can call on to support us when we’re feeling that way then we can get through it a lot more easily. We feel a lot less paralyzed, we feel a lot less uncertain because we’ve got the skills to look inward to find that certainty.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you. And I do a lot of work inside workplace stress, anxiety and depression. I’ve suffered with that horrendously myself, I’ve worked through it, and talk about that resilience to push through. Yes you can still get through it. It doesn’t make it easier and eventually that stuff starts to kind of… it can start to weather you and wear you down and then eventually something happens. The key part, as I talked about, is everyone has that resilience.

Nathan Simmonds:

The bit that I often see with people is, especially from the workplace, what we call the normal workplace anxieties and depressions. I have a problem, I feel like this, everyone else looks like they’re okay, therefore I don’t say anything in case I look like I am the problem or causing a problem. And we keep quiet.

Nathan Simmonds:

And because of that keeping quiet we start to put a lid on things and the pressure builds up and we’ve got all these coping mechanisms in place and whatever it is, for me it used to be drinking too much coffee, or overworking. And then something happens and then you fall down. No one copes their way out of a crisis. You don’t manage yourself out, you know you have to take the lead on that.

Nathan Simmonds:

But then going back through what you’re saying, developing ideas, having the solitude and quiet to develop those ideas and come up with new… with a creativity, that actually helps to improve where you’re at.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. We’re all capable of creativity, we’re just not aware of it. But creativity needs a little bit… sometimes a bit of a constraint can help but it also needs space and time and very often our modern workplace does not allow for that, because we are constantly on and we’re multitasking, even though that’s not something that our brain can do, and we’re working in a digital sphere where everything around us works faster than our brain does, so we’re actually the weakest link and we’re trying to keep up all the time.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, no. The other thing you’re talking about in creativity is the amount of times I hear people say that they are not creative. Absolute misnomer, you’re a human being. First and foremost you’re a human being and you are a creative creature. Everything you do is a creation. The fact that I’m creating a sound using air coming out, going past my vocal cords, is creating something. When I cook a meal, I’m creating a meal for my family. When I’m doing these interviews, I’m creating a space to share ideas, and we all do this, we’re all creative in different ways.

Nathan Simmonds:

Some of us are creative as car mechanics or painters and decorators or cooks, whatever. And the moment we start thinking like that, well actually what else can I do with this creative thinking? And what else can I do with my spare time? What else can I do in this leadership space? Or, what else can I do with this project that I’m working on and come up with new solutions? But like you say having that quiet space to actually develop the idea and then being able to put it out there. Super important.

Mich Bondesio:

Indeed, I was just going to say in a work situation, often things are busy all the time and there isn’t time for deep work because you’re expected to be always on and available and contactable and responding to things immediately, and that is not conducive necessarily for creative space and for creative thinking.

Mich Bondesio:

So, in a workspace, that’s part of what I do in terms of encouraging healthier cultures is creating different types of work styles for different types of work. And allowing that space for the creativity to come out.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. I’ve got family that work in the creative space, and I’m aware, even from my own, from creating training content and doing certain events, that I need to have a time to doodle, and have a time to research, and have a time to not do that, and then have a time to then come back to it. But like you say, the modern workspace is 9:00 till 5:30 with no lunch break because you eat your lunch at your desk and if you’re at your desk you’re considered working so you’re get interrupted every five minutes and all that stuff, but you’re just going from the meeting to this to that project, and it’s someone else’s idea, which you’re interacting on but not being creative in those spaces. It’s more an expectation than anything.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah. But then what happens is that we don’t get our work done during the day because we’re constantly in meetings, so we end up working when we get home. So we’re still on and we’re still contactable and if people are sending us emails at night we’re responding to emails at night. So the work day never ends and actually that’s really bad for our rest and recovery, and for our creative thinking because our brain needs to rest in order to be able to produce the ideas.

Mich Bondesio:

So there’s a lot of bad habits being created, and behaviours in terms, because we’re always on and because there’s a war on our attention, there’s information coming at us all the time from lots of different places.

Nathan Simmonds:

There is a war on our attention, you’re bloody right there is. I’m mindful, I’m not sure who’s going to listen to this, I’m mindful of my language. I talked about this in the livestream I did just now, the webinar, is I sent an email last night because something popped in my head so I sent the email and I knew I had an hour booked out to do some work on a Sunday night just to make sure I was ready for Monday morning, I pencilled that in. The rest of the day was spent out in sunshine, doing personal work.

Nathan Simmonds:

I sent the email expecting not to get a response back until Monday morning but I had a response back in five minutes. So I know that people are sitting there with their phones and with their laptops because they’re home working right now or whatever it is, and they’re potentially using blue screens, quite close to their own sleeping time. Like you say they’re not actually switching off, they’re constantly giving themselves that deluge of blue screen, of that irritant to the brain stimulants. If they do go to sleep, it’s taking longer to get to the places they need to in their sleep to actually process and recalibrate that creative thinking that comes from dreaming that I know we need.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. I mean, the melatonin, the impact on our melatonin, our sleep hormones means that it’s not just about struggling to get to sleep, it’s about how we can stay asleep and the quality of the sleep that we have, because it’s not just REM sleep that we need, it’s the other sleep that we need too, because they all perform different functions and processes that support our brain’s wellbeing. And then on top of that there’s also cortisol, the other hormone that gets stimulated by all of the negative news that’s coming at us when you’re looking at Twitter in bed and so forth.

Mich Bondesio:

So that’s raising our stress levels and our anxiety levels, that also impacting on the quality of our sleep and our sense of wellbeing. So, yeah, I mean I really advocate for strong morning and evening routines. You might not be able to control the rest of your day but if you start your day and you end your day well, both of those are really supportive of helping you during your work day and it’s all connected with your sleep. Both of those routines support you for sleep and help you to wake earlier in the morning as well or ready in the morning to take on your day.

Nathan Simmonds:

Great, and it’s interesting you said about the news being so negative, there’s a lot of stuff going on. Yeah, we need to be updated, but at the same time it’s producing cortisol because it’s causing a stress reaction in us. And if you’re watching the news at 10:00, which is probably the worst time to watch the news. A, you’re watching the TV, B, you’re watching it late at night, which is pumping your cortisol, which is then making it more difficult to get to sleep and the sleep you’re getting is not the right quality because you’re not dropping through those stages.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Cortisol is actually a beneficial hormone, and we know it is because it helps you to wake up, which is what I found out recently. But having it in your system when you’re trying to go to sleep is not giving you that beneficial sleep you need.

Nathan Simmonds:

So I’m going to switch from coaching interview hat to clear trainer/mentor mode, stop watching the 10 o’clock news, it’s not good for you, it’s okay, it’ll still be there tomorrow. And it will help improve your sleep, I promise.

Nathan Simmonds:

What other things can people do to really thrive in self-isolation? You’ve got some great experiences in this so what are the key things you took away that helped you to thrive in this?

Mich Bondesio:

Sure, so there’s three things.

Two are more personal and one is more work focused.

Firstly, I would say building strong self-care foundations because we need to support our body to support our brain. These are little habits that we can look at focusing on.

  • We’ve spoken about good sleep habits,
  • nutrition,
  • regular movement,
  • mindfulness and
  • meditation, being conscious of our breathing and lastly
  • practicing loving kindness, which is all about self-esteem and the language that we use when we describe ourselves in the mirror or to somebody else. And to all those impressionable people around us that might take on what we’re saying in that negative way.

Mich Bondesio:

All of those little things are so important to support our health and wellbeing, and our productivity and performance.

The second aspect we should be focusing on is around, we may be socially distancing, I actually prefer to call it ‘physically distancing’. We need to seek sociability online or in any way that we can because one of the big things we’re dealing with in self-isolation is loneliness and isolation, and both of those have a really negative impact on our physical and mental health. So what can we do to stay connected and to feel like we’re a part of a community?

Mich Bondesio:

Then the third aspect that I would focus on is around your habits to do with work. We are now, most of us are being forced to work remotely. For some of us this might be something we’re very accustomed to, but for people who are new to it, what they may be trying to do is transpose their work day and their work routines as they currently were on to their home life, and they can’t do that because now there are partners that need to be looked after, pets, children need to be educated, there’s laundry that needs to be done. There’s a whole lot of other responsibilities that factor in.

Mich Bondesio:

So we have to create new routines, we have to create new systems and rituals for how we work, which means that we can’t be necessarily available 9:00 to 5:00. We may be working outside of normal work times but what that also means is we’re not necessarily available outside of work times. It’s when we can get the work done. As long as we’re doing the work and we’re showing up and we’re getting the work done, does it really matter that we’re not necessarily available at 11 o’clock when you send that email? So it’s about changing our communication styles as well.

Nathan Simmonds:

I’m probably going to have to work through each of those sections but I’m going to work on that point that you just raised there. And it’s also about setting the expectations for it. We’re all working differently. It’s not necessarily that we’re all working Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 5:00, when actually we’ve got the home-schooling situation. Maybe we have to work in different shifts, maybe we start earlier but we have longer lunch breaks, maybe we start earlier and finish earlier, whatever it is. But making sure that we’re talking to our bosses, our managers, or whatever, so that they know what hours, they can see the plan. So they know when we’re going to come back to them.

Nathan Simmonds:

Frustration is caused by what we think and the expectation we have in our head and reality not matching that.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct.

Nathan Simmonds:

So when I think so-and-so is doing this job and they’re not doing it, then I become frustrated because those two elements aren’t meeting.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s huge.

Mich Bondesio:

In this situation it’s very important for teams to, together, set the expectations for how and when they work and then have regular check-ins. But leaders shouldn’t be micromanaging because if they’re constantly checking in and expecting a response that person’s not going to get that work done if they’re being badgered all the time, you know? So it’s maybe daily check-ins, weekly check-in.

Mich Bondesio:

Also what’s really important in terms of communication is asynchronous communication. So what that means is not responding in real-time. This is a very common way of working in tech remote companies where their teams might be spread across various different time zones, which means they’re not expected to respond immediately. So what that means is you don’t have email open all the time, you don’t have Slack open all the time, you don’t have every form of communication open all the time, with the dings and the pings distracting you from getting the actual work done.

Mich Bondesio:

So if you can agree on set times where you’re going to meet up or respond when, an email may come in and maybe it’s the case of saying to your manager, “I work for two hours solid in the morning before I check emails. If it’s urgent, please phone me so that I can get that work done.” Or, “I’m not contactable between 2:00 and 4:00 because that’s when I’m in educating mode and I’m the teacher for the afternoon.”

Mich Bondesio:

But then it’s also about deciding what types and styles of communication are right for different situations. Is it always necessary to have a Zoom meeting when actually a Slack, when a minuted response via Slack could suffice? Is it better to do email in this situation? Because Zoom meetings are very draining in terms of energy and I’ve only recently found out the reason why is because our brain is practicing or experiencing cognitive dissonance when we are in a Zoom meeting because what’s happening is we see the presence of somebody but we can’t physically feel them so there’s this sense of absence and presence that our brain is constantly battling between, and it takes a lot more energy for us to connect and make sense of that. So that’s part of the reason why it’s so tiring.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s interesting. I’d heard something recently that to see someone’s face is better than to not see them at all. So there’s an element, like you said, there’s this element of yes it is, because I can see the whites of their eyes, but there’s also that pull where actually I can’t, they’re not there.

Nathan Simmonds:

And then you’ve got that amplified, so if you’ve got that on gallery mode on Zoom so you can see everybody’s face, you’re seeing a whole group of people and you’re constantly looking and there’s all this different movement of people doing different things, of background…

Mich Bondesio:

And your brain’s taking in all of that stimuli.

Nathan Simmonds:

Exactly that. So you’ve got this dissonance from the person speaking who’s not physically there, and then you’ve got, depending on how many people in that Zoom room, all that movement, tiring your brain out because your brain’s overworking.

Mich Bondesio:

And the flip side of that is, as I discovered myself, I was telling you the other day that I had to minimize the images of people so that I could see my presentation. So I was delivering into a void and I felt like I wasn’t being acknowledged because I couldn’t see people’s responses or how that was landing. But the flip side of that was it made me realize actually when somebody else is delivering something can they actually see how it’s affecting me? Do I need to accentuate my responses so that they can see that it’s landing? Do I need to do more gestures and actually nod more vigorously so that they can be seen and feel heard? So there’s a lot more energy going on.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s a new skillset, and this is… talking to another interviewee, Natasha Wallace last week, she mentioned that people are getting more tired and I haven’t thought about that myself. We’re all getting tired-er in the evening because we’re not used to the way of working. We’ve got a different operating rhythm. We might be doing the same work but we’re doing it in a different space, we’re doing it with a different schedule, a different routine. And our brain is still compensating for that, it’s still checking, a primordial level in the amygdala, is this a threat environment, is this safe?

Nathan Simmonds:

So your brain is computing with that and then shifting it back to the habit forming part of your brain to say this is okay, you can carry on doing your office job in the kitchen and that’s okay. But your brain’s still trying to work that out. And then it’s trying to computer and manage your child then coming to ask you questions halfway through a project that you’re working on. Is this a threat? Are they going to eat me? That same computing is just tiring you out because it’s in your operating room, and you talk about cadence as well and that rhythm.

Mich Bondesio:

That’s right.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s that thing, are we working in a different way to what we’re doing? Yes we are. Is this new? Yes it is. And the other thing, you talked about that physical distancing, there’s a book called The Lost Connections by Johann Hari.

Mich Bondesio:

Yes.

Nathan Simmonds:

Revolutionized the way I think about mental health, my own mental health and other elements about it. It was a phenomenal read, made me feel really quite positive about what’s being talked about. And he talks about the opposite of sobriety. The opposite of… I’m sorry, he says the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection. And it’s the need for connection, it’s the need to connect with our families in a different way, it’s the need to emotionally connect with people around us. And connect more.

Nathan Simmonds:

You talk about social distancing, I actually, we’ve been social distancing for a very long time and what is actually more like antisocial media, like Facebook et cetera, it’s not sociable in the majority. Sociable is actually connecting and talking to people, sociable is actually getting together with friends, whether it’s on Zoom or whether it’s in reality or whatever. And sociable is actually working with your family unit at home and the people that you’re closest to and connecting with those people and having meaningful conversations, not just posting drivel.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. It’s like an onion, a series of layers of support. And social media actually sits right at the outside of that.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s not feeding the middle part, or very rarely is it feeding the middle part. And then you talk about the self-care foundation. Sleep we touched on, food, meditation, love and kindness. I think it’s important to talk about, I don’t think as leaders we talk enough about love and kindness. I do, in a fairly pragmatic and direct kind of way. Often it is, horses for courses, when I speak to people it’s in a very direct manner and I talk about it, it’s very important, I practice it regularly for myself. What one thing would you recommend for people to help them practice love and kindness, especially in this situation?

Mich Bondesio:

So our brain, we can train our brain to feel positive about something and it could be as simple as smiling, even when we don’t feel good, and maybe it’s about having a visualization or an affirmation or a mantra that you get into a habit of saying to uplift your spirits, to be kinder to yourself. So it’s about accepting that we’re okay where we are even though we’re a work in progress, in terms of loving kindness.

Mich Bondesio:

At the moment we might be feeling I’m not working enough, I’m not being enough of a good parent because I feel like I’m being split all over the place because this crisis is demanding too much of me, I don’t know what to do but you know what, I’m going to be okay, I’ll take one step at a time, I can figure this out.

Mich Bondesio:

One of the important things that I learnt as part of my recovery was that there is always another way to do whatever it is that you need to do. There is always another way. So if you haven’t got the answer, keep looking, there’s always another way. And in terms of the positivity aspect that I was saying, if you’re having to develop new habits that you’re finding quite tricky in the beginning, like learning how to use Zoom and it’s a bit disorientating and there’s a lot that is new to you and it feels stressful. If you tell yourself that it’s exciting and that this is fun, it might not sound like it is or it might not feel like it is to start, but if you keep doing that and you keep registering that, with a smile, your brain starts realizing this is fun, and then it starts identifying it as fun and then it starts becoming easier.

Nathan Simmonds:

Exactly that. And you talk about shifting physiology. Sometimes if you force yourself to smile, you try and have a negative thought while you’re smiling, it’s pretty much impossible, your face changes. So when you start to smile it starts to shift. Then the other way, if you think about your cat or your children at a Christmas play or whatever, you’re going to think of that and it’s going to force you to smile because it feels good. So it’s almost like a chicken and egg scenario that you can force one to happen with the other.

Mich Bondesio:

It’s true. And you were talking earlier about creativity and the importance of playing, and that’s a really good way to lift your spirits and to feel more positive as well. When we go into play mode, we let go of all of those other constraints and we’re just in the moment and we’re a lot more mindful.

Nathan Simmonds:

And if you’ve got children, schedule more time to play.

Mich Bondesio:

Yes.

Nathan Simmonds:

And outdoor time, we home-school anyway, so we’re fairly used to this. This is a new level of intensity because we haven’t got Forest School, we haven’t got the yoga classes, all those things. But at the same time is we’re making sure that we’re scheduling every single day an arts and crafts session. So it might be stuff that she bought for Christmas and my wife Anna will be doing this with her. On Saturday we were making a life sized sea turtle out of cardboard and painting and I’ll probably not share pictures about this on the… But it’s coming up with new ideas and doing this stuff. I’m just going to paint.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I realized that I was still… In doing that I still realized that I was carrying some tension from work. And I was kind of getting frustrated with certain elements, I was frowning, I was doing the serious face which I often do when I’m working. I was like hold on a minute, I’m painting a giant sea turtle with my seven year old daughter, I need to breathe that out and let it go and just be in the moment of painting a sea turtle. And doing that stuff. And like you say just allowing that creativity to come just so I can relax and unwind and do a different day. Massively important.

Nathan Simmonds:

I wanted to expand on what you said though on there around coming up with those ideas of looking for that excitement. A teacher of mine once taught me when you’re in a serious situation you can just ask the question, what’s funny about this moment that I haven’t noticed yet? And there is always something about it, if you just change the angle which you’re looking at it, you can then start to ask questions. Well, what’s funny about this that I haven’t noticed it? And try and find something that does make you laugh or try and make you laugh or something that makes you laugh about an element or a person that’s involved in this situation that you remember from the past. Ah, and just to change the physiology just enough so you can get a new idea in moving forward.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct. And that harks back to the idea of self-awareness, and in the busy world that we now live in and this was before the crisis happened but it’s been exacerbated as a result of it. There’s so much that’s demanding our attention, as I said there’s a war on attention, our attention has been split in lots of different ways. We are living in a culture of cortisol because there’s things constantly raising our level of anxiety.

Mich Bondesio:

What that gives rise to is autopilot behaviours, because there’s too much going on for us to make conscious decisions about things. So we kind of default to the automatic response, which quite often is tied to detrimental habits. They’re not as supportive as they potentially could be.

Mich Bondesio:

So it’s practicing that self-awareness so you become more aware of hang on, I’ve responded in a certain way, why am I responding that way? Being able to question that, being able to reflect on it. As you said, what’s a different way of looking at this or what’s funny about this situation? All of that requires being able to snap out of the autopilot mode and into the conscious mindful mode. And that takes practice.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge amounts of practice. And a certain amount of… Not acceptance, is the wrong word, acknowledgement that your brain is doing it first of all.

Mich Bondesio:

Correct, yeah. You can’t stop it from happening, you can only become aware of it happening.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, you become aware of it and you go, “Oh, I’m going to do something different.” At MBM we talk about learning to learn, so we teach people how to learn first and foremost. And one of the things they talk about habit stacking. See, if you’re doing a certain habit you can then build on that and remember certain things to help improve your learning. The other side of it though is almost doing the opposite of things. So go to work a different way, brush your teeth with the other hand. Doing those things, you get to a certain point in your life where not only do you have a favourite mug, and I guarantee anyone that’s listening to this has a favourite mug, and then they will go and find that mug if it’s not there just to check if it’s clean or not so they can use it, and even worse than that when we get to a certain point, I bet you have a favourite hob on your cooker as well that you use.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s ridiculous things like this, like hold on a minute, 95% of my day-to-day was exactly the same as it was yesterday, so you become aware of it, and if you want to create that neural plasticity to kind of help make a change, do something a little bit differently, just that gives you a nudge or actually I can do something differently or I can change the way that I’m looking at this, I can be kind to myself. Regardless of what I think happened before or I can change the way that I work that makes me feel better at the end of the day, even in isolation.

Mich Bondesio:

And that’s why it’s important to start small because if you try and make radically big changes you’re not going to stick with them because this whole idea of, we spoke previously about work/life balance being an unhelpful term or phrase because balance is a static concept, it doesn’t move, and we’re essentially setting ourselves up to fail if we’re trying to achieve balance because everything around us is moving.

Mich Bondesio:

So that’s why cadence is so much more important. But if we want to achieve that sense of cadence, what that means is being okay with the fact that we may have rituals and routines that we try and implement I our day but they need to be kind of flexible because things happen and we have to react to those or respond to those. So being open to the fluctuations in our day, rather than feeling like we have to stick with something.

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s that rigidity and that holding on that is holding us back. So you’re talking about that balancing. Whenever anyone ever says  to me balance it, it always takes me back to the end of the original Italian Job with Michael Caine and they’ve just robbed the Italian bank or whatever it is and they’re whizzing around the mountainside, and at the end they’ve got the gold in the back of the bus and the bus swings off and goes over the edge of the cliff and it’s just teetering on an edge. And you’ve got the gold at one end and then you’ve got all the guys at the other end, and noone of them can move. So if everyone jumps over the bus, the bus goes over the edge because of the gold. And if anyone goes for the gold, there’s not enough weight at the front of the bus to keep the bus…

Nathan Simmonds:

Life is like this, obviously not this detrimental. But we know that in nature nothing is certain. There is no security in nature, stuff just happens. So if you’re constantly trying to balance everything and make sure everything just sits in like, nobody move, I’ve got a plan. It’s not going to work like that. You kind of have to have the flexibility to say, “Okay, this is coming in, I did the best I could with the best that I have, and based on that information I can maybe ask a different question that’s going to help to shift the direction rather than look for a balance, and keep us moving forward in a progressive kind of way, rather than trying to keep everything at some sort of erroneous status quo almost.”

Mich Bondesio:

This is why it’s important to have strong self-care foundations because it creates a level of certainty for us. We know what we’re capable of, we know what it is we can do. There is always going to be uncertainty around us, whether there’s a crisis happening or not. So if we can’t find certainty externally, we can find certainty internally.

Nathan Simmonds:

Exactly that. We have that choice of reaction. We have the choice to respond, how we’re going to respond, that’s the one thing that we have any control over. And regardless of what’s going on around us and I can’t remember the poem, but when everything’s chaotic around us the one thing that we have choice about, as you said, is that certainty internally, beautifully put. Massive advocate of that.

Nathan Simmonds:

So we’ve looked at in there, self-care foundation, we’ve looked at love and kindness that we hold into ourselves, that physical distancing and making sure we’re staying connected as well with people around us, and we looked at the work routines and making sure we’ve got that cadence and that operating rhythm that you and I talk about when we’re speaking to that. Amazing. Huge value in that already.

Nathan Simmonds:

A couple of things I wanted to talk about here. I talked to you before a little bit about digital wellbeing, and when I went and googled it, all it came up with was an app that teaches you digital wellbeing. Which in itself is almost an oxymoron, I think if that’s the right term. It’s an online app for helping to teach you digital wellbeing. So by being online, it’s kind of keeping you in the loop.

Mich Bondesio:

Keeping you online even more.

Nathan Simmonds:

So, to you, what is digital wellbeing?

Mich Bondesio:

For me I think it’s about being aware of how, when, and why we use our digital tools and the impact that they have on our health and wellbeing and productivity. And by tools I mean everything from our hardware, like our laptops and our tablets and our phones, to our software, to the apps we use, to TV and to streaming apps like Netflix, for example. Anything that we are engaging with that is electronic, that is technical in nature, and that we use to fulfil work and life practices.

Mich Bondesio:

When it comes to wellbeing what happens is when we’re not using them in a way that is supportive, it gives rise to anxiety and depression, it affects our concentration, our focus, our attention span. We are becoming permanently distracted, so we can’t complete lengthy tasks. We can’t have a conversation with anybody because we have become… It’s become automatic that we reach for our phones, it’s become an extension of our hand. It’s like a pacifier or a comfort blanket.

Mich Bondesio:

And there is actually even a phobia that has been named after it called nomophobia, which is the fear of being without your phone. It gives rise to anxiety. And this is where we’re at. So we actually need to be conscious of the impact that it has, we need to be aware of what we need to use our tools for and how the best way is that we can interact with them in a way that still supports our health and wellbeing.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. You touched on some… ideas were coming into my head what you were talking about earlier, it’s that connection piece though, and that fear of not having your phone, that addiction to having your phone. An addiction is an addiction. Doesn’t matter if it’s your phone, gambling, sex alcohol, drugs, whatever. Addiction is addiction.

Nathan Simmonds:

In that, the opposite of addiction is connection, as I mentioned earlier, and we as a family went and spent time, I have an allotment, I’m avid vegetable grower, we love doing this, so we went down there for the day and I didn’t touch my phone once for six hours. I didn’t even think about it. And actually to be honest I probably didn’t even need to take my phone with me because the most immediate people were next to me anyway.

Nathan Simmonds:

In that time I was painting the sea turtle, and it’s not finished yet, we still have to put it together, I didn’t touch my phone because I was with my family. And like I say, for me it’s doing those things that feel good where you can lose yourself in time and space, doing what you enjoy doing, that connects you heart and soul to who you are and where you are, whether that’s a family member or an activity, or something that creates that that is of purpose, that is purposeful, that creates that feeling. Anything tech is going to create a barrier to that.

Nathan Simmonds:

And even a discomfort in talking to someone. I’ll put my phone there and if someone comes it gives me an excuse to check my phone because I don’t feel comfortable having this conversation. But you need to be communicating, especially now, which is what I love, certain elements of this is that it is forcing the communication, it’s forcing the conversation to happen in a different way.

Mich Bondesio:

True.

Nathan Simmonds:

To you, why is digital wellbeing important?

Mich Bondesio:

Well, when I was going through my burnout and recovery, I found that my digital tools were both a help and a hindrance. So they were an opportunity for me to connect with the outside world but they were also provided a view into other people’s so-called perfect lives through social media, which made me feel worse about my own because I wasn’t in a healthy or good place at the time. We’re seeing this quite a lot, particularly with young people, who aren’t necessarily emotionally equipped to deal with the experience or the feelings that they’re encountering, when they feel like their life is not perfect enough or they can’t achieve what somebody else has.

Mich Bondesio:

So, that from a social media perspective, but I think that digital wellbeing with your tools is important as well, because we’re going to be spending… I mean even before the crisis, the future trend was that we’re going to be spending more time online, more time in a digital world. So that means more impacts on our brain and on our body. And as knowledge workers who are working in the online space, our brain is our number one asset, so we really need to look after it in every way possible.

Nathan Simmonds:

I can’t remember the exact stat but I think it was something like your brain uses 20% of all the energy that you’re putting into it. I could be wrong with that but it’s a huge.

Mich Bondesio:

I think that’s correct.

Nathan Simmonds:

In comparison to the rest of your body, it’s using 20% of the energy you’re putting in there. Now, when you talk about that, and we’re not equipped to deal with this stuff, my daughter says to me, “Dada, when can I have a phone?” She’s seven years old, she sees us with phones, she sees other people with phones. I use social media and platforms as part of my business, my own personal business as well as connecting with you guys on the laptop for the interviews.

Nathan Simmonds:

I said, “Okay, so what’s Mama said about this?” And Mama said maybe at 10, whatever the age was. I said, “Okay, well…” and she said, “What do you think?” And I said, “Well, do you know what age the human brain stops developing?” She’s seven so occasionally I like to drop these things in there at an early age. And she went, “No.” I said, “24.” She was like, “So you want me to wait till I’m 24 till I have a mobile phone?” And bear in mind she’s only seven.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I said, “In the scientific viewpoint, yes, because I want your brain to fully evolve and develop at the rate it’s meant to without pushing these chemicals in at these levels so that it grows the way it should do.” I’m also aware that there’s a necessity to be tech savvy and there’s a journey that we go through as developing human beings where we’re exploring and we need some of those tools to explore because the new world is going to involve this. So it’s about having the right mixes of that.

Nathan Simmonds:

As we get older I think it’s making sure we’ve got right routine in place, so this is tech time, this is green time, whatever it is, meditation time, nature time, away time, without the phone, the WiFi switched off, zero distraction, time with the right people, including yourself, to make that stuff work.

Mich Bondesio:

I agree, and with your children, whatever age you decide is appropriate for them to have a phone I think it’s about educating them on the pitfalls and the dangers of being online as well. Really, really important. I mean this has come up a lot recently with Zoom and there are a lot of children who are having meetups on Zoom but they don’t necessarily have the right security settings in place, and people, trolls are joining Zoom groups and they’re sharing inappropriate content and they’re… These are things that kids need to be aware of. They’re a lot more tech savvy than we give them credit for, so they’re open to this, but if they’re aware of the dangers and they know what to look out for to stay safe, that’s the most important thing.

Mich Bondesio:

And then it’s also about setting those good examples as a family, as you say, having time for tech, having time for play without, having time for family time where we’re doing activities with each other that do not involve any kind of device.

Nathan Simmonds:

You just answered a question for me because this morning I went to arrange a Zoom call interview with another interviewee for next week and it said password. And I couldn’t switch the thing saying I had to have a password on there. So presuming Zoom is now switched on so it’s password only to stop these things from happening.

Mich Bondesio:

That might be the case but there’s a very good blog post that I wrote on Friday by Wordfence, which is a security app that I use on my WordPress site, and I’m happy to share it with you. It’s got a lot of simple settings that you can change in your account to support security.

Nathan Simmonds:

Super important, especially with children. And I’ve heard some horrendous stories of, like you say, trolls in certain situations, even hacking into the video monitors of babies and stuff, and basically some horrendous person hurling abuse at the child, but thankfully the child, this child was actually deaf when they found this situation out so the child couldn’t actually hear what was being said and just slept through the whole thing. But had it been another child-

Mich Bondesio:

That’s horrendous.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. Before they got to that, so it’s security understanding, and it could have had really detrimental impacts to their child. Not okay. The other thing you mentioned, I picked up on, is that zero tech time, we have a rule in our house, we don’t have phones at the table, unless it’s a particular emergency or situation. We come to the dinner table, we sit as a family, we eat dinner, there is no phones, there are no laptops, we don’t have the radio on or anything like that, we connect to that time and we talk to each other and we have questions. So it’s important that we’re setting that as mealtimes is part of our routine and our ritual, it’s part of our operating rhythm and zero tech.

Mich Bondesio:

And there’s an important thing there as well, when you’re eating, when you slow down and you’re having conversation, it actually stimulates your digestive process. So it’s an important part of slowing things down and giving your body enough time for your gut to send the hormones to your brain to tell it that it’s not hungry anymore. But when we are on our phones and we’re in those autopilot mode, we’re eating too fast, we’re not taking cognizance of… and that’s why we end up eating more than we want or we finish dinner and then we dive straight into the chocolate or the snacks because we don’t realize that we are full, yet.

Nathan Simmonds:

That is a really interesting point and I hadn’t thought about it that way around. Because I’m aware that as hunter gatherers, when you see the apple tree from the distance, you get a dopamine hit, which encourages you to keep going after the apple tree. But whereas if you’re on you mobile phone and you’re getting a WhatsApp thing, you’re still getting the dopamine hit, which is keeping you going forward, but it’s not registering you’ve actually got the food which was in front of you and you’re messing with your brain chemical levels. That’s super interesting. So like you say then we make poor choices around the snack eating afterwards.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah, it all has a knock-on effect. And there’s a lot of research around, you were saying addiction’s addiction irrespective of what it is you’re addicted to, and they found that the physiological effects of our phone addiction are exactly the same as if we were addicted to hard drugs.

Mich Bondesio:

So the comedown when we don’t have it, the need for it, that craving, it’s all exactly the same. And we get to the point where it becomes automatic because it becomes, kind of our brain identifies it, oh that’s something that helps me feel less discomfort. That’s something that makes me feel safe or makes me feel pleasure so that’s what I reach for. And then it becomes automatic and even though we’re not experiencing it anymore and it isn’t bringing us joy, we will still reach for it, we will still do that, engage in that behaviour. And so it becomes so detrimental and negative, but they’re all small things and we’re not aware of them because we’re on autopilot.

Nathan Simmonds:

You’ve then got me thinking about another… this conversation’s going in an open ended direction, sorry, I read an article and they were talking about virtual reality. So I can’t remember the name of the company but I think it’s Oculus virtual reality kit. And then you look at Ready Player One, the film, where the majority of the world is plugging into a virtual reality thing, and that’s what they do with their spare time.

Nathan Simmonds:

And actually it’s the same thing. So when they had people on these virtual reality sets and they were getting them out, it was like they were experiencing a comedown. They experienced levels of depression and anxiety when they’ve been in it for long periods of time. So as we move forward into the future and we’re getting more tech heavy, and the tech becomes even more immersive, because even in the training environment it becomes more immersive. There are ways that we as trainers, when we’re using Microsoft HoloLens, or we’re using VR and AR to actually deliver content in different ways, we’re actually encouraging the use of tech.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s going to be easier for people to plug into that, and be immersed in it, and then when they try and come out and come into the real world, they’re going to experience the comedown even further. So it’s going to be even harder.

Mich Bondesio:

And that’s why the self-care foundations are important. Because that’s what we do to support our body and our brain as part of our rest and recovery, when we’re stepping away from those digital tools.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s got to be that. Like you say it’s got to be foundation, it’s got to be in place to make that happen, before we go and use the tech. If, and we’re doing this with our kids and ourselves, if we’re teaching them how to use the tech first but not doing the foundational work before they go in, you’re going to end up with people going into some sort of recovery process to learn some sort of 12 steps or to stop using their mobile phone.

Nathan Simmonds:

Whereas actually if you can understand what the foundation is before you go into that, oh I’m using my tech but I’ve already got these good habits over here, where I spend time doing this, I go in play in the sandpit, I connect with people, I talk to people, and then I go and use my tech in a thoughtful way, a mindful way. We then don’t get the burnouts and the necessity to self-isolate when we have those support mechanisms in place. Which is huge.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah, correct. And I mentioned earlier about our brains being our number one asset. And the thing is that we are the weak link in this tech environment that we find ourselves in. Because, our brains can’t process things as fast as the technology that we’re using. So we will always be behind, we’re always trying to keep up. That’s why these rest and recovery periods are so essential as well, to give our bodies and our brains time to charge up again and be ready to join the fray again.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. And like you say, the phrase, fighting, martial arts BJJ, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, those sort of things. There is a rest and recovery time. We don’t go to the gym five days a week, eight and a half hours a day, no one does that. I don’t think the Rock even does that and he’s huge, yeah? There is still a recovery time that is required to make that happen. And that recovery time is time away from tech.

Mich Bondesio:

Time away from tech, and it’s part of cadence cycle.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. I’m sure there was some sort of play on words of some circadian cadence cycle thing going on. I couldn’t quite formulate it but it’s there. So a couple of the last things in my head. One of the questions that I’m getting used to asking people is around behavioural change. We’ve talked a lot, there’s a lot of behavioural change in what we covered here in the last, nearly an hour in this. How do you make behavioural change stick?

Mich Bondesio:

You start tiny. I don’t know if you’ve heard of BJ Fogg and his Tiny Habits method? I employ some of that in the work that I do and the mentoring work I do with people. You have to start small and it has to be something that people identify with. That they can fit into their existing routines quite easily. Because, if it’s too foreign and it’s too big, they won’t stick with it. So I think that’s how you make behavioural change stick.

Nathan Simmonds:

What was the name of that book again?

Mich Bondesio:

Tiny Habits.

Nathan Simmonds:

Tiny Habits. And who’s it by?

Mich Bondesio:

BJ Fogg. I think I’ve got it here. This is what it looks like.

Nathan Simmonds:

Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

Mich Bondesio:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing, thank you very much for that, that’s huge.

Mich Bondesio:

My pleasure.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you very much for this interview, it’s been phenomenal. I wanted to dive into so many different aspects and bend them in so many different tangents which is why, partly, I love doing this. Where can people find you?

Mich Bondesio:

They can check out my website.  Which is growthsessions.co. And they can find me on social media @michbondesio, that’s M-I-C-H-B-O-N-D-E-S-I-O on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Nathan Simmonds:

Wonderful. People listening to this I highly recommend go and have a conversation. Go and have a look at this work, go and apply some of the stuff that’s been talked about in this conversation. Whether it’s just from the self-care, to the physical distancing, to the work stuff that we need to do to build stronger relationships from Mich. Really appreciate the value that’s been dropped in here. I really appreciate you Mich, thanks very much for this, it’s huge.  I look forward to you guys sharing another interview and joining us in the very near future. Thanks very much from me.

Mich Bondesio:

Thanks.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you, Mich, cheers, bye.

Mich Bondesio:

Thanks so much, bye Nathan.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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E13 – Conscious Culture in a Time of Crisis with Natasha Wallace – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/conscious-culture/ Fri, 03 Apr 2020 10:23:10 +0000 Nathan Simmonds https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=44124 full 13 2 E13 – Conscious Culture: Interview With Natasha Wallace from Conscious Works

In this episode, I interview Natasha Wallace, the author of The Conscious Effect: 50 lessons for better organizational wellbeing. Natasha is also the founder of Conscious Works, a coaching company that helps leaders to lead consciously. Today we discuss conscious culture in more detail.

Conscious Culture, Natasha Wallace.

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:

Welcome to the Making Business Matter Podcast. Currently, we’re meeting niche leaders and change-makers. Those exciting people that are helping to make business future proof. Today we’re going to be speaking to Natasha Wallace from Conscious Works. So a little bit about Natasha, we’ve got her blurb here, her bio.

Nathan Simmonds:

A lady with a particular interest in what causes leadership discomfort. She recognizes that ladies are time poor and under pressure. Natasha is helping them to focus on who they are and where they need to be. Allowing them to achieve the best results for themselves and their teams.

Nathan Simmonds:

With a career in high HR leadership and organizational development, roles across a range of sectors, and her most recent role was as a people and development director, which is blessed her with a depth of practical experience for building cohesive and impactful teams. And now her work is all about sharing this with other people.

Nathan Simmonds:

Welcome Natasha. Really great to be interviewing you. First and foremost, I want to find out a bit more about you. We’ve had a bit of a conversation already.

I want the people listening to this to find out a bit more about you. So, who are you and why do you do what you do?

Natasha Wallace:

Okay. I’ve spent my career working in HR. Predominantly in organizational development roles. I’ve always led HR teams. But I’ve always had a particular passion for how you create great cultures. And how do you optimize the performance of business whilst keeping people happy? Because I’ve always believed that those two things should sort of work in synergy with each other.

Natasha Wallace:

My career has seen me manage culture change projects. I’ve lead the development of leadership development programs and co-design, co-facilitate those. I do a lot of work around talent management and career management. I spent 10 years in professional services up until starting my own business.

Natasha Wallace:

That was quite interesting actually. Being with an organization for so long because it’s about how do you sustain the performance? How do you put things in place that are actually going to work for the long term? And I worked as part of a partnership. Our whole modus operandi I guess was, well we called ourselves a ‘Succession partnerships’. We were developing people for the future.

Natasha Wallace:

So we wanted to put as much into people and get them as I guess, developed as we could because we would hope that some of those people would take over the running of the business in the future. I was immersed in a world where sustainable performance was really, really important.

Natasha Wallace:

And that’s part of what I do now is; how do you help leaders to work in a way and operate in a way, run their businesses in a way that they can achieve performance? Because that’s ultimately what we are trying to do in organizations, but without sacrificing wellbeing.

Natasha Wallace:

Then I burnt out myself. I didn’t achieve high performance without sacrificing wellbeing, so that was my own personal experience. That was a real wake up call to me. So about three years ago I hit the wall, so to speak. It was a real surprise for me because given that in my mind I was somebody who understood how to achieve sustainable performance and also had to take care of people.

Natasha Wallace:

I guess part of the role of the HR professional is making sure that you are taking care of the people. But I didn’t take care of myself. That taught me an awful lot about being a leader and achieving good results.  I’m massively achievement orientated so I’m quite driven in that respect. But how do you do that in a way that enables you to level log healthy, happy life at the same time? And I think the modern-day leaders, that is a challenge.

Nathan Simmonds:

When you talk about sustainability as HR leader and the teacher of people, you have to be walking the talk. As teachers in the leadership development space, it’s okay that you can read stuff from a textbook, but if you haven’t got the skills to prove actually this is how it works and this is how it benefits other people, people tend not to see a certain amount of credibility where they want… What’s the word I’m looking for?

Nathan Simmonds:

They just don’t believe you. You can tell me that, but actually, how is it relevant to your life? How’s it relevant to my life? What are those experiences you’re sharing that actually make me want to actually live by what you’re teaching me?

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah, absolutely. I’m quite lucky to have had the experiences I have because I’ve been an employee, a leader, somebody who’s working with the board to try and drive performance, and I’ve also developed leaders, so I feel like I’ve sort of seen all sides of it. And I have made my own mistakes as a leader, I didn’t get it right all of the time. Sometimes I got it quite badly wrong, so I’ve certainly learned from that and I’ve learned from my own burner experience.

Natasha Wallace:

So almost sort of triangulating all of that knowledge, I now really trying to, I guess, help leaders avoid that same fate. It’s interesting actually, I can remember getting to a point when I was running the people and development function in my last role and things had gone relatively well for a few years.

Natasha Wallace:

Even on reflection, I think that we delivered pretty good performance. Our engagement levels were always pretty high, I had a good relationship with the team. It was a growing team, so it ended up being quite big in the end. But we did it, to the point where I knew that my team were overworked, I knew that their customers, so leaders in the business weren’t always happy with what we were doing and there was a bit of resistance and pushback, so they had to deal with some difficult challenging conversations and situations.

Natasha Wallace:

And I knew that they all wanted to do a really good job, but I was so in it. I was so close to the situation and knew that I needed to improve things for them. Make the environment easier for them and remove some of the obstacles and strain on them, but it was really hard to do that. You almost wish there was somebody like me who was able to come in as an objective person, like a safe person to have-

Nathan Simmonds:

And shine a light on it fully, just say, “You need to see this.”

Natasha Wallace:

Absolutely. And I would have wanted that person to go and speak to the team and have honest conversations with them, and come back to me and say, “This is actually what’s going on.” So I could go, “Oh, okay.” And even if that was about me, I would have wanted to have had it and I think that’s what being a conscious leader is about.

Natasha Wallace:

Sometimes you have to hear difficult stuff, you have to be willing to hear things about yourself. You have to be willing to change things. You have to be willing to I guess get a bit more uncomfortable before you get more comfortable for the sake of the greater good, but I didn’t have that and actually I ended up on this hamster wheel of having the same problems going round the same problems, not being able to fix them. It was massively frustrating and challenging as a leader.

Nathan Simmonds:

I think it’s Neil Donald Walsh said, “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” And to expand as leaders, as parents, as entrepreneurs, we have to be a conscious enough to say, “Actually, I don’t know this, I don’t have all the answers. I can see how this is going down.” And have a little bit of forethought and that long time you were talking about earlier, “Okay, what’s going to happen? If we continue down this road, is it positive or negative?”

Nathan Simmonds:

And then having the ability to say, “You know what? We’ve gone down this path far enough, actually this isn’t okay. We either need to change track and jump across or we need to backtrack and then take a different route with a bit more clarity.”

Natasha Wallace:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And a lot of leaders, I think when they’re so far in the trenches, they suddenly think that they can’t own up to this, they can’t put their hand up and say they were wrong or they’ve made a mistake, and they feel like they’ve got too far in to pull out and then something breaks, and something catastrophic happens.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah, definitely. I think also as leaders, you expect yourself to have the answers, so I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be able to figure it out. I’ve certainly learned the power of co-creation is awesome in so far as speaking to two or three people outside of yourself to get their perspective and input can be the thing that really unlocks the answers to the problems.

Natasha Wallace:

When I say leader, I mean anybody who has got responsibility for people. You might call yourself a manager but you’re still responsible for leading people. And I see junior managers and fairly young managers in the same situation. I don’t necessarily think that this is something that comes with years and years of experience.

Natasha Wallace:

You get given responsibility for other people and very often you think, okay, now I need to know exactly what I’m doing. And so you don’t necessarily speak up about the challenges that you’re facing, or the difficulties, or the discomfort you’re feeling as a manager, and so you just knuckle down and get on with it and hope for the best.

Natasha Wallace:

But actually I believe that when you are a manager or a leader, there needs to be that sort of almost shared leadership and maximizing the knowledge, and the wisdom, and the opportunity to co-create around you. So you’re like, “Yeah, I am leading this team but I won’t have all of the answers, so who do I need to speak to or who can I speak to that can help me on this journey?” Because it’s hard.

Natasha Wallace:

Leadership is a really, really challenging role and it takes a lot of mental energy and it takes a lot of your reserves to think about yourself and a whole other pile of people at the same time. And what I’ve learned is that more often than not, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves to prioritize our own work, to focus our attention of what matters most for ourselves.

Natasha Wallace:

But then scale that to a whole team and it becomes even more complex. So the more support you can get from the people around you, the better. And that fundamentally, all of the research shows that that is one of the aspects that leads to high performance in teams is shared leadership and that sort of cooperation, and commitment, and of doing it together.

Nathan Simmonds:

Great. The challenge is though, when we go from manager to leader, because there is a distinct difference, more often than not we’ve been making widgets, doing whatever we’re doing, and then someone says, “Oh, you’re doing a really good job with that here. Have a responsibility to look after the people that are making widgets. Do a great job, don’t screw it up, we’ll see you in 12 months if you’re lucky.”

Nathan Simmonds:

We don’t get the training to do that and more often than not, what we do is we end up doing or repeating exactly what was done to us by the previous person. And we just repeat the same bad habits because we don’t have enough leadership development in place or decent role models in the environment we’re in. And we don’t go and ask questions for fear of looking weak and being reprimanded for it.

Nathan Simmonds:

And more often than not, we don’t ask because the people that we do ask don’t have the answers either because we’re just repeating what they did previously. So when you talk about conscious leadership it’s like you say, is about being aware, it’s about wanting to ask questions. It’s about also having a certain skillset to ask yourself the questions.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I have always said to people, “I’ve learned some of the greatest leadership lessons from some of the worst so-called leaders that I’ve worked for because I didn’t want people to feel the way that I felt after having been spoken to that way.” So I wanted to do something different, but that takes a different level of self reflection and it takes another certain raft to questions to be able to make that happen as well.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think in reflection to what you were saying is the thing that… This is what I learned a few years ago, the thing that you lack is the thing that you need to give. So that element of actually you needed someone like you right now, the person that you’ve become to actually walk into your organization and say, “By the way, I can see this, this, and this. You might need to tweak this, this, and this, and it’s going to feel like this.”

Nathan Simmonds:

And you’re like, “Ah!” I notice and the weight comes off. And now you know that looking back on your life in retrospect and seeing those fantastic things and those experiences you’ve had, you can now give that to other people that will enable them to move through the pain quicker so that they don’t end up suffering.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah, absolutely. Actually, I have the benefit of working with young managers, new managers, and also highly experienced leaders. What’s really great about guessing to work with people who’ve got less experience is that they’re less set in their ways, they’ve got less fixed ideas about the way that things should be.

Natasha Wallace:

So actually you can have a conversation with a relatively new manager or even a manager that’s been in post for a couple of years. I’d say, “Actually I think what’s going to work there is this because of this context and because of these people, et cetera.” More often than not, they just go, “Oh yeah. Okay, great.” Off they go and they just do it differently. And that’s amazing.

Natasha Wallace:

So I think the opportunity to work with people at the earliest stages is hugely valuable in important because I think a bit of fixed mindset can creep in the more experienced you are, so I think you’ve got that sort of dichotomy of feeling like you need to know the answers as a leader, having probably got quite a lot of great feedback over the years, which has led you to being a leader in the first place.

Natasha Wallace:

So potentially a little bit of ego creeps then and you believe that you possibly do you have a lot of the right answers. And then there’s the fixed mindset thing, which is the extent to which you are actually willing to change and make mistakes and learn from them. I had definitely become a little bit fixed in my mindset when… Having led teams for 15 years. Although, I was a really young manager and for the most part it had gone okay.

Natasha Wallace:

On reflection, knowing what I know now, I can see that it could have gone so, so much better, but it had gone okay. But I had become quite fixed, so I didn’t realize that for instance, I dominated the conversation quite a lot of the time. I didn’t realize that I was quite happy going away and working on a project on my own and then giving the answers to the team because I believe that I could probably do that.

Natasha Wallace:

And now I coach other leaders who are doing that and I will say to them, “What’s stopping you for speaking to the team now? Speak to the team now. Find out what they think now.” And they’re like, “Oh yeah. Okay.” And then they go and do that and there’s some lovely co-creation that happens.

Natasha Wallace:

But once again, I didn’t have me saying that, but I was in that role. And it’s only now that I’m able to do it, I’m able to work with leaders to challenge them to think that differently and explore whether they maybe are a bit fixed in their thinking in a safe way because I don’t need them to deliver. I’m not in the company, I don’t need them to deliver certain results.

Natasha Wallace:

My main aim is to enable them to be at their absolute best so that they can, and then it’s up to them.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think that’s a wonderful thing is you’ve become conscious of what you’re doing. I’m going to ask you questions about what kinds of person is in conscious culture. You’ve become conscious through your own pain, your own realizations and reflection. You work in an organization which is then giving you the space to work with other people, which means they’ve got a want and a desire to wake up link some positive changes for the business internally, externally, all those things.

Nathan Simmonds:

And then by you sharing those experiences with people that are earlier in their journey they… And we know this as conscious leaders and coaches, they will supersede us. They will go further than we ever did. The Isaac Newton quote I think is about standing on the shoulders of giants so you can see further.

Nathan Simmonds:

You get to be the giant so someone else can stand on your shoulders and go even further. And it’s such an energizing experience being able to give that sign or ask that question where you get to hear the pennies dropping for that individual and they go, “Now I get it. Okay, I’m going to do that.” And you just pass the wisdom on and it’s just such a liberating feeling.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

I’m thinking before we any further, we’re going to ask some couple of key questions here for you. What is a conscious culture in workplace for you?

Natasha Wallace:

The term psychological safety is banded around quite a lot at the moment, but in my view it’s about creating an environment where people could actually be honest with each other. So people could speak up without, I guess the fear of there being repercussions. And it’s also an environment, and it’s not just the leaders that need to take notice although it starts with them. It’s paying attention to what’s really going on.

Natasha Wallace:

When I left my job, I bought these three monkeys that sit on my window cell in my living room. So the scenery, speak, no evil, hear no evil because I wanted it to be a constant nudge, a constant reminder that actually it isn’t okay to just leave problems and leave people to have to deal with their own problems.

Natasha Wallace:

As a conscious leader, you have to get, get involved with that, you have to try and figure it out. And I think a lot of leaders don’t necessarily know how to fix the problems, so they avoid them, but I think that you have an obligation to your people as a leader to remove the strain and obstacles to them being able to do the best job.

Natasha Wallace:

Because fundamentally I see this every day, people do just want to do a good job. They want to go to work, they want to bring value, they want to be recognized for delivering something, contributing something to the bigger picture. They want to have some meaning I guess in what they do. People don’t just go to work for money, even if it’s a background motivator for some people. And so you have to create an open environment where people can speak up.

Natasha Wallace:

And that also is about making sure that people feel included as well. So it’s about noticing who’s speaking, noticing who’s not, creating the space for the people who maybe don’t speak up as much to speak and allowing them to express themselves. And also we’re hearing so much about mental ill health now and this current crisis that we’re facing unfortunately is likely to lead to an increase in mental ill health either during the crisis or after it.

Natasha Wallace:

If you don’t have a culture where people can come and say, “You know what? I don’t feel okay. I’m not doing my best work.” Or, “The role that I’m in at the moment isn’t suiting me for whatever reason.” Or, “The environment that we’re working in. Or, “The ways that we’re working.” Or, “whatever isn’t enabling me right in this moment to be at my best.” Unless somebody can bring that and unless a leader is willing to go, “Okay, talk to me. Talk to me, how do we make this better?” You actually adjust the pressing performance.

Natasha Wallace:

So it’s a misnomer to think that not talking about these problems means that performance will be sustained. It won’t, it’ll be suppressed. So you have to create that space for openness and honesty. I speak to people regularly actually about the fact that their role isn’t quite right for them, or it’s not exciting them, or they feel bored.

Natasha Wallace:

And actually when you have an honest conversation with somebody about that, more often than not, you can figure out how they could tweak their role slightly, or tweak the way that they’re working, or the conversation that they need to have with somebody in order to remove the blockers. And they felt like they had no agency, but through creating that space for the conversation, they did have agency.

Natasha Wallace:

So I think that’s really about conscious… If you know the iceberg analogy of what you see on the top isn’t really what’s going on. It’s everything that’s going on below the surface of the water that’s the real stuff. It’s all the water cooler conversations, the conversations down the pub, the Slack chats between groups of people who have spun off to have a moan about what’s going on in their organization.

Natasha Wallace:

It’s the double signals that people see happening, so the congruence between what the leaders are saying they want and what’s actually happening because the behaviour doesn’t match the words. All of that underground stuff, anxiety, frustration, all of that needs to be raised up to the surface. So that’s the sort of negative side of it.

Natasha Wallace:

And then there’s a positive side. I get hugely excited when I work with teams because I don’t just work with the leader of a team or the leaders. I do that work, but sometimes I get the opportunity to work with people from right across the team or even the whole team. And at the moment I’m working with a whole company, so I get to speak to all of them.

Natasha Wallace:

And you get so much opportunity to see the energy, the bright spots, the ideas, the excitement, the enthusiasm, the knowing that you get within the broader system. If you only have a look at the leaders who are leading the system, you simply do not get under the surface of the problem because as a leader, you’re making an assumption about what’s going on, but you don’t necessarily know the truth.

Natasha Wallace:

So going onto the surface and dealing with everybody in the system means that you actually have this clarity and this energy. I was working with a client a few weeks ago and I had worked with a few of the people in the team and there was a few, just brilliant people in the team, not in the management structure, in the team who were like, “We could do this, we could do that. In many ways, think this is the problem. I think this is getting in the way, but this could be better if we just did this, dah, dah, dah, dah.”

Natasha Wallace:

And the client said to me, “What should be our strategy for making things better? Can you put a proposal together?” And I said, “You literally have everything you need in your team right now. Ask them-

Nathan Simmonds:

Under one roof.

Natasha Wallace:

… you’ll figure it out. Don’t need a consultant to come in with a fancy strategy. Just speak to your team, you’ll figure it out. You might need somebody to structure to put some framework around it, to facilitate some conversations, but you definitely don’t need the consultants to come in and tell you how fix it. You’ve got that.”

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think what happens is people get stuck in the hierarchy and they think that people up here can’t speak to the people down here. And actually if you look… There’s a gentleman that I follow for a while called Giles Hutchins and he works in a very environmental framework. So the oak tree in this same scale is no more, no less important than the ant.

Nathan Simmonds:

In fact, the ant wouldn’t exist without the oak tree and the oak tree probably wouldn’t exist without the ant. So you have to have all of those things working together, and co-creating, and having conversation in safe environments and feeling psychologically safe to have conversations with the CEO and just share ideas to help the whole system to thrive.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah, I totally agree. I think it takes time to build trust. And I will say to companies sometimes when they’re talking to me about how do we create this culture? I will say, “You’ve going to have to give it a little bit of time because there’ll be some ingrained behaviours that you will need to intentionally shift in order for people to trust each other.”

Natasha Wallace:

There was a great study that was done by Google. They called it Project ‘Aristotle’ and they wanted to find out what led to high performance in their teams. They wanted to get the essence of what high performance was. So they looked at 180 of their highest performing teams to try and figure that out, and they looked at all the normal things that we as HR professionals, leadership consultants back in the day would have looked at.

Natasha Wallace:

Diversity, intelligence, project type, experience and role expertise, all of those things. They didn’t find that any of those were the difference makers. The difference maker, the most significant thing was trust and the ability for people to speak up and take what they call it, personal risk.

Natasha Wallace:

So we now know through heaps of research, not just Google, Amy Edmondson has done a ton of research on this. She published her book, ‘The Fearless Organization’ last year, which was really, really great. I would really recommend any leader to pick that up because it really clarifies what does lead to high performance and it needs to be an environment where you have higher standards, so you’re driving for results, you expect people to deliver good work.

Natasha Wallace:

This isn’t about creating a paternalistic environment where we protect everybody. That’s not what psychological safety is. It’s about, “This is what we want to achieve. This is where we’re going to head. This is what we want to deliver. These are what the targets are. We expect everybody to play this role and we want you to be able to tell the truth.” Those two things can absolutely work in synergy with each other. You don’t need to be the source of nurturing parents.

Nathan Simmonds:

I think there’s a parental element that comes into. You need that transparency. If it’s not working for one person, more than likely it’s not working for 80% of your organization. It’s just that people sit in that bubble and they’re worrying or they’re thinking what someone else is thinking of them, so they don’t actually speak up or share that problem.

Nathan Simmonds:

And then that psychological safety starts to break down. It’s a phrase I’m not versed to and I was going to ask you what is psychological safety? And you’ve covered that. So I have the trust and actually be able to share that and I had to support the whole top to bottom, left to right, all of those things. To be able to speak to the right people, not moan to the wrong person next to the printer.

Natasha Wallace:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Which isn’t going to make the change in the world. Leading on from that then; What is a conscious person in your opinion?

Natasha Wallace:

Okay.

It’s somebody who is aware of themselves.

Who spends time reflecting and considering how they’re feeling, how they’re acting, the impact of their behaviour.

They will create a space for that.

You almost need solitude to be able to reflect and then just block this crazy, chaotic, complex world.

Natasha Wallace:

I almost said VUCA, now I’m saying VUCA even though I can’t stand the term VUCA. But anyway, in a volatile uncertain world it can be really, really hard to find a time for reflection and contemplation, and to consider the impact you’re having, or how happy you are, or how well you feel.

Natasha Wallace:

I went from thinking I was really super happy and well within six months to being very unhappy and very unwell. My experience affected my physical health. What I recognized is actually my physical health had been compromised for years and it was only at the point that I broke, that my body just gave up. But I had put myself under strain for a very, very long time.

Natasha Wallace:

So consciousness is about being aware and creating the space for reflection. I meditate a lot. I’m not suggesting people need to go off and meditate. It certainly helps me, but it is about the creation of space. People exercise, you can get into a sort of transcendental reflective space when you run, going for walks, being out in nature, in the shower, all of those times when you go quiet.

Natasha Wallace:

I know an awful lot of people, especially younger people, they’re almost scared of being quiet. They’re scared of not having something going on around them, music playing, something going on, on their phone. The TV on in the background. It’s not just younger people, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed and recognized.

Natasha Wallace:

But unless you actually clear everything away and allow yourself some time just to be very intentional and to consider what is going on for you, you won’t be conscious. I think that’s a lifetime of work really. I think it’s a lifetime of work to create that space, to consider who you are, to consider whether you’re at your best, to consider whether you’re having the right impact or the best impact on the people around you, to find out what your purpose is, the extent to which you feel well and satisfied. All of those things just need some attention.

Natasha Wallace:

I work with people on that as a coach. You don’t have to have a coach, but it is useful to be able to speak to other people about those things as well. Often you’d learn a lot about yourself from what you learned about other people, so if you get really curious about others, then it’s a really great reference point for understanding yourself because as humans, we really do like that comparison.

Natasha Wallace:

That’s why we say binary sort of yes or no, wrong or right. We like to have something to compare against. So getting curious about other people and getting interested in other people actually is another way of developing yourself as an individual.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. The definition I have of love, which is a bit of a strange tangent to go on a business podcast is not to do with happiness. It’s the ability to give someone else the mirror or trust someone enough to give them the mirror so that you can see yourself and all your faults in it. That for me is the definition of love.

Nathan Simmonds:

As coaches and leadership, trainers and developers, and culture changers, we can see what’s going on because we’ve lived some of that path. We’ve got the battle scars and we’ve been vulnerable enough to dig into that reflection. So, we now have the opportunity to hold the mirror up for other people and help them to get more switched on to what they’re capable of, what they’re going through, the roads they’re going down just so they can see it.

Nathan Simmonds:

The other part you talk about that reflection as you say is a lifetime of work and it is a lifetime’s work and at the same time though, it’s a very small amount of action that’s required to make that change. And sometimes, for me, I have a very busy brain. I’ve gotten over this, what I refer to as the merry go round or carousel of ideas, that’s constantly swirling around in my head and I can’t afford to have distraction because there’s already enough on there.

Nathan Simmonds:

So sometimes getting that peace and quiet, attempting to meditate is very difficult as a leader. Having the right questions though inside my head in a very short format focuses my attention. I say to people, “The quality of your day is dictated by the quality of the questions that you start it with.”

Nathan Simmonds:

So it’s having that initial reflection piece of; What’s working? What’s not working. What can I do to improve this? What’s the next action? Who can I help today? Where am I going to create the biggest impact? So by asking those questions, like you say, it’s on that binary equation, is it good? Is it bad? Okay, what’s the answer I’ve got?

Nathan Simmonds:

How’s that moving me towards purpose? Or moving towards fulfillment? How’s that helping me develop the team so they can be more successful in what they’re doing? And asking a couple of key questions just to get that one degree shift every single day so that when you do get to the end of your life, that has compounded over a course of time and you have discovered a completely different country like Christopher Columbus did by accident. It’s that sort of stuff, which is really important.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Next question for you. Why is it important to be a conscious culture? as an organization.

Natasha Wallace:

There are some very straightforward commercial reasons;

As long as people don’t feel enabled to do a good job, it’s going to be impacting business performance. Whilst people are having conversations away from their leaders and managers, disgruntled conversations, disenfranchised, frustrated conversations, they’re not being sorted out, it will be impacting performance.W

While people aren’t getting what they need in their roles, and they’re not fulfilled, and they’re not motivated, and they’re not infused, it will be affecting performance.

And if people haven’t got the environment to be able to stay well, and I mean that in the broadest way, so physically well and mentally well. The ability to concentrate, focus, prioritize their work, have good relationships, respond in a good way.

Natasha Wallace:

All the things that we need people to do good work, if the environment doesn’t support that, it will affect performance. People won’t be in work, so there’ll be absent. They will be in work but they won’t be doing as good a job as they could be. They’ll be distracted, they won’t be able to focus, they won’t be having the best quality conversations with your customers, with the stakeholders.

Natasha Wallace:

Basically, unless we know what the truth is, unless we know what the hell is going on, it will be impacting performance. And of course, that’s the last thing that any leader, shareholder, individual doing a job wants. We all want the same thing, we all want to be able to go to work and do a good job and produce good results.

Natasha Wallace:

The amount of times I’m working with teams and when I talk to them about what it is they do want to achieve as a team. So what does high performance of good performance look like for them? The majority of the time they talk about mastery, excellence, high standards, high performance. That they want, that they want to do a really good job.

Natasha Wallace:

So the creation of a conscious culture is around how do you make sure that you’re close enough to what’s going on and what could be getting in the way of people doing even better work in order to clear that away so that they can get on and perform. There’s piece of research that was done at a paper published recently about what leads to burnout. The two things that came across in that paper is that obstacles and strain are both significant contributors to burnout.

Natasha Wallace:

And that leaders need to be making sure that those are cleared away so that people can do good work and so they can perform. Another thing, there was a book written around continuous performance management. I can’t remember the authors. I read it last year where they talked about the fact that they’ve discovered now that the majority of under-performance actually stems from environmental conditions, not will and capability, which is historically what HR would have been supporting managers to try and deal with.

Natasha Wallace:

So it’s less likely to be because somebody doesn’t want to do a good job or because they’re not capable of doing a job and more likely to be the environmental conditions they’re in. So it could be resources, it could be systems, tools, processes, policies, leadership, management-

Nathan Simmonds:

That was going to be my next question, is it the people in the environment that challenge that as well?

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day, we all form part of the system. So the tools and the resources, and the processes, and the ways of working are important to provide the infrastructure for a team, but actually, most of the work I do is around the relational stuff. It’s the interrelations between people, both on the sort of peer to peer level and also from a more leader, manager to individuals level.

Natasha Wallace:

When you enable people to have better quality conversations with each other, and as coaches, that’s a lot of what we do, it can really create a better environment. So I will often be working with teams to, I guess raise awareness of what do we want to achieve. So I get people talking about that. Where are we now? What is the gap? And what types of conversations and ways of working do we need to focus on in order to get us there?

Natasha Wallace:

And most of the time when you bring that stuff up, when you create the space for those conversations and when, as you were saying earlier, you asked the right questions and I guess that’s the great thing about our work is that we have learned how to ask questions that open up conversation and help and enable people towards where they want to go.

Natasha Wallace:

Then it can be really transformational, especially when you continue that. So it’s not a one off intervention, it’s a way of working. If we’re constantly asking ourselves these questions and we’re constantly doing that as a collective thing because we want to be better, then the results are exponential really.

Nathan Simmonds:

So whenever we want to do a gap analysis for myself, or doing it with clients or whatever, I know is one of those cliché tools that we use. Coaching is one of the few skills or is a skill and knowledge and the behaviour all at the same time. So like you say, we ask a couple of questions, it’s not a one off intervention.

Nathan Simmonds:

You can ask the same question every single day for the rest of your life and still get a one to three degree shift in thinking outcome and results. So when you start to build that in as a culture, as a behaviour and a skill inside, it seems they can do it for themselves and with the people around them. That trust and business grows is just huge.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

I was also thinking, another thing that I want to talk to people about is I believe that people aren’t defined by their environment. They define their environment by what they put into it and it comes downs, I think to that resourcefulness, I could be wrong. 80, 90% of the world do get caught up in their environment and they do believe they can’t make a positive change because they’re stuck in a certain job or they stuck with a certain kind of leader and they believe that they don’t have any power or ability to move that.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it comes down to that resourcefulness. Actually, if we have the right questions available, we can start to look at things in different kinds of ways. And the strange analogy that came to my head, and I’m wondering if the millennial types that are watching this may even know this, but we used to watch The A-Team when we were kids. So Saturday afternoon was watching The A-Team and you’d see these guys would come in to save the day and then it would all go totally wrong and they’d all be trapped in a bomb.

Nathan Simmonds:

Now these four, or five guys were trapped in a bomb without any kind of ways to get out of the problem. And then somehow they will come up with this ingenious idea with a gun that shoots cabbages out of a coffin or something ridiculous and save the day, but it was purely because they were using the skills they’ve got.

Nathan Simmonds:

They were looking at the resources around them in their environment and asking the right questions and actually coming up with new solutions. And that’s just the same for entrepreneurship, for business and for leaders. We just have to start looking at things differently, looking at people differently, looking at ourselves differently with a certain level of optimism, ask them better questions and get some better results and create that culture that you talk about.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah. And I must admit, in the last 12 months, more companies are asking me to help them to create coaching cultures, and that goes way beyond the ability to ask questions and listen, which are I guess the two foundational skills of coaching. It is about trust, it is about understanding yourself, and your beliefs, and what drives you. It’s about understanding your biases.

Natasha Wallace:

It’s about being able to have difficult conversations. Having honest conversations, that’s a really important aspect of coaching. If you’re shining the mirror, you can’t only bring up the bits that are really good, you’ve got to look at the bits that don’t feel very comfortable as well.

Nathan Simmonds:

You’ve got to have all of it.

Natasha Wallace:

Absolutely. And it’s about the ability to show compassion, and that means you can’t tell people to be compassionate. You have to give them insights into other people’s worlds. That’s such an important aspect of being a coach because I guess we come and are able to do our jobs because we can suspend our belief to some extent and we can limit our judgments because it’s the very nature of what we have to do to be good coaches.

Natasha Wallace:

So in working with leaders, I will help them to their coaching capability by understanding themselves a bit more, by becoming more conscious of who they are, by becoming a bit more conscious of other people in the team’s reality, and then through building that understanding and helping people to empathize and understand each other more, you become a better coach and you become more curious.

Natasha Wallace:

Curiosity is often something that comes out of coaching when I’m speaking to individuals about how they have to solve their problems. I’ll say to them, “What questions are you asking?” “Oh, well, I’m not really asking that many questions.” “Well, why not? Why are you not trying to get under the skin of that?”

Natasha Wallace:

And very often just becoming more curious and asking more questions rather than being in solution mode or in I have no agency and I just have to take this and do what I’m told mode means that people don’t get what they want because they haven’t shown up as a curious person.

Nathan Simmonds:

Great. And it was awesome, the question, What’s the reason you’re asking that question?

You talk about that trust, and that rapport, and that non-judgment, and what’s the reason you’re asking? Are you looking to prove a point? Or just prove someone wrong? Or actually are you genuinely interested in an individual’s growth and development and creating that relationship?

Natasha Wallace:

When I train to be a coach all those years ago, I’ll always remember something that we were taught then, and it is when you’re asking a question, who is this in the service of? Is it in the service of you or is it in the service of them? And I think sometimes as a coach it’s sometimes a bit in your service because you’re trying to help somebody get to where they want to be, and so it’s not totally in the service of them.

Natasha Wallace:

You’re trying to help them achieve results, and so you have some skin in the game. But yeah, I think as leaders and managers really being aware of who is in the service of when you’re having a conversation with somebody can be quite a good frame to guide your questioning.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I’ll say it a million times between here and the day I die is; who is the most important person in the conversation? And I will live by that mantra by myself and I teach that to everybody else as well because if at any point when you’re having that honest conversation with people or you’re doing the coaching, who is the most important person in the conversation?

Nathan Simmonds:

Is it, are you making me look bad? You’re making my results look bad? You’re making my team look bad? Or actually is it all about actually how can I help you improve what’s going on here?

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah. I think there can be quite a lot of conflict there for a leader because at the end of the day they do have to get results delivered and there’s a commercial aspect to this, but I think if you start from the position of criticism and fear, which is, “You’re going to make me look bad and so therefore we need to do something about you.” You’re almost certainly not going to get to where you need to be.

Natasha Wallace:

You need to start from the position of, “How can I enable you as your leader to get you to where you need to be?” And if we keep on trying that or if we, or if I’ve given you as much support as I think I can and it’s still not working, then a different conversation is required, but the starting point should absolutely be about, “How do I get you to where you need to be?”

Nathan Simmonds:

Absolutely. Then you might find out they’re not the best fit for that role. In this conversation, you find out they’re a better fit for somewhere else in the organization or they’re a better fit in another industry and you support that individual wholeheartedly so they can go and do what they’re actually designed to do and create that fulfilment and purpose in their life. It’s a no brainer.

Natasha Wallace:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

Otherwise, we just don’t go home feeling fulfilled as leaders because we wander around firing everyone because we think that they’re making us look bad and that’s not okay, and on a human level, let alone a business level.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

Right now, I want to say we’re in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t think we’re in the middle of it. I think we’re just scratching the surface of the current circumstances.

Natasha Wallace:

Okay. What instantly comes to me as adult to adult conversations.

Everybody knows what we’re going through, employees and leaders are seeing the same news. We know it’s tough and unfortunately for a lot of businesses it’s affecting the bottom line. It’s affecting long-term features and it’s a real worry. There’s some practical things around how you can make sure that you keep your cashflow and your runway steady.

Natasha Wallace:

Things like, try not to make redundancies, furlough people instead. The government have created this amazing scheme whereby we can keep people employed on 80% of their pay. If you can only afford to give them 80% of their pay, and you can’t top it up, fine. If you can top it up, top it up, put them on furlough, try and just keep things steady for a while. There’s practical things that you can do.

Natasha Wallace:

There’s been a lot of knee jerk reactions that have gone on over the last few weeks with large organizations making tons of people redundant, and now they’re backpedalling to bring them back and furlough them, and some of them aren’t, which is a shame.

Natasha Wallace:

There is a risk that you will get this situation and potential performance issues mixed up, so don’t use this situation to start dealing with performance issues if you can help it. This is a really difficult time for people and if you can furlough them for a certain period of time, and if you then need to deal with performance issues at the end of that period, then do that.

Natasha Wallace:

But I would say let’s try and keep people as steady as we possibly can during what is mentally demanding anxiety and juicing period of time. So that’s some sort of just practicalities. In terms of the support that you can give them to your people, I would say keep people talking, stay connected to them and co-create the answers.

Natasha Wallace:

So with one of my clients, I’m Clearview, it’s a tech company that I work with. We jumped on a call last week, most of the team and said, “This is a difficult time. How are we going to get through it and what is each person doing to deal with this in their own way?” And that created what we called our practical survival guide. So we actually created a survival guide that everybody co-created and the whole team.

Natasha Wallace:

So rather than HR telling people what they could do or rather than the leadership team advising people on how they can deal with this situation, it was co-created. So use the opportunity to co-create solutions, co-create your answers.

Natasha Wallace:

Never has there been a time where we’ve needed to be more conscious, so as leaders it’s about intentionally connecting with people, making sure people know what the priorities are in this new world, keeping them up-to-date with what’s going on in the business because we all know there’s a lack of clarity or a lack of communication during times like this just increases anxiety, which will lead…

Nathan Simmonds:

We’re back recording. We had a technical glitch there, but we are back together. So Tash, floor is yours. COVID-19, how we bring conscious workplaces to life and conscious culture to life in this time right now?

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah. I’ve talked a little bit about how you deal with it organizationally and within teams, but there’s a personal thing here and so far as you need to be consciously aware of how this is affecting you. And we are all being affected in different ways. What I have noticed is this is putting quite a lot of mental strain on people.

Natasha Wallace:

So even people who maybe don’t feel as though they are highly anxious or highly stressed about the situation, I’m hearing lots of people saying they’re having to go to bed earlier in the evenings, or they’re getting much more tired, or their normal evening routine that they’d normally have energy for, they don’t have energy for.

Natasha Wallace:

And it’s because, so normally 95% of what we think is the same as we thought yesterday, what we do is the same as what we did yesterday.

How much of what we do and I think at the moment is the same?

It’s just there’s so much more going on. We’ve had to change the way we’re working, we’re having to reinvent our businesses.

Natasha Wallace:

We’re having to change the way we communicate with people, we’re having to pay lots more attention to people at work. The parents who are working at home, they’re having to blend being a parent and home-schooling into their working day. The amount of energy that we actually expend in terms of your mental capacity is massive.

Natasha Wallace:

And it’s why we are on automatic pilot so much because our brain needs to conserve energy and the best way to do that is to repeat the same program over, and over, and over again. And that actually helps us to be effective and efficient. But at the moment, it’s very difficult, we’re having to shift so, so much of what we’re doing. So just be aware of that, that you’re tired for a reason, you’re waking up in the middle of the night for a reason.

Natasha Wallace:

Even if you don’t feel consciously stressed about the situation, you could be feeling subconsciously stressed about it and you need to take care of yourself. This could last for a while, we may be at home for a while, and so I would say don’t look at this as some sort of two week bleak. This could be the way that you need to continue to work, so I think getting into a routine, making sure you are getting exercise, making sure you are getting fresh air.

Natasha Wallace:

Making sure you are taking time out for yourself and you are getting space. I would recommend things like meditation and journaling for those people who that sits well with. For other people, just make sure you’re getting some time to yourself to do things that you enjoy, the things that make you happy because we need to try and keep ourselves resilient during this situation.

Natasha Wallace:

And also you may be dealing with people around you who don’t feel resilient right now. That’s also very, very demanding and it can put a lot of pressure on. So just making sure that you are aware of where you’re at and how you’re feeling is important.

Natasha Wallace:

With some of the teams I work with, we do the one to 10 how you feeling today? Just as an opportunity to check in, actually how am I feeling today? And it’s amazing. The scores can go from two or three right up to nine or 10 because we’re all in the different places at different times. So just pay attention to that.

Nathan Simmonds:

Great. And I think in this, there are going to be waves of emotion that come through this period. It’s not just going to be through this period, it’s going to be after this period. There’s going to be ramifications of certain things that happen where people have got mental health challenges and they’ve been brought into close proximity with people.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that’s going to bring up other challenges, which are going to then expose other things. And again, it comes back to the idea of trusting to be able to speak to the people around you in your family space, inside your workspace as well. So if you’re working from home and things aren’t okay in the family space, is having those joint up conversations and helping each other.

Nathan Simmonds:

And as we find and expose certain things, things are going to change. I’ve recently posted, we don’t want to go back to normal. Because it’s the normal that basically got us into the situation that we’re in now. So this is a huge amount of change time. Time to change and to embrace that change and enjoy it. But it sounds like a hell of a lot of that trust, it’s going to take a hell of a lot of that psychological safety, is going to take a hell of a lot of conscious leaders and conscious thinkers and conscious culture. This is because your workplace has just changed shape completely; to foster those people and incubate those environments.

Natasha Wallace:

And if we look at some of the attributes of a high performing team; being able to share emotions and storytelling, they’re really important. At the moment, you’ve actually got a reason to do that, to actually express how you’re feeling and to open up conversation around that. It’s around showing vulnerability and that’s something that people now have the opportunity to do because we’re all in this together.

Natasha Wallace:

This has really levelled playing field. This has put us all in to the same situation. Where people will understand why you’re going through, what you’re going through. So use it as an opportunity to create that connection in the team that will lead you to higher performance longer term. It’s a good opportunity to build that togetherness and that connection.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. Something else that came to mind is the longer-term ramifications. We build the relationships now in these small moments where there’s going to be anxiety. There’s going to be emotional tensions that come up because we feel confined or caught up. Actually in 12, 18, 24 months on potentially when things have become the brave new world that we’re heading into, actually there’s going to be some points in that where we come back to this.

Nathan Simmonds:

And trauma is relative and actually it’s about being alert enough as a leader, as a coach and now what we’ll all do together. “I’m feeling like this is likely the people in my team will be feeling this.”. Whether it’s on the micro or the macro level, doesn’t matter. This stuff is going to come back to remind us repeatedly until we process some of those emotions as leaders and workers as well.

Nathan Simmonds:

And just really switching into this, have the conversations. Build the relationship now, get emotional acuity because you’re going to need it for 12 months, 24 months from now as this thing continues on in a different way and as life changes shape as well.

Natasha Wallace:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

I’ve enjoyed the several conversations that we’ve had already. Thank you very much, Tash for your time. The last part from me, where can people find you to have more of these conversations?

Natasha Wallace:

They can go to my website, which is conscious-works.com. You can me at natasha@conscious-works.com. I’m on LinkedIn if you look up Natasha Wallace. My book, The Conscious Effect: 50 Lessons for Better Organizational Wellbeing. You can get it in pretty much all of the online book retailers.

Natasha Wallace:

What’s been so lovely is in the last week or so, I’ve had quite a few people get in touch with me. They’ve said, “I’m re-reading your book now because it’s really helpful to me now because it talks about how to understand yourself and take care of yourself, and how we deal with stress and ambiguity.” So a lot of the messages I wrote, I guess 18 months ago, all of a sudden are things that people are trying to figure out, so it’s worth a read. That’s a shameless plug, isn’t it?

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s not a shameless plug! What you wrote about 18 months ago was relevant in one space and very necessary, is now even more poignant and even more relevant. Moreover, it’s even more necessary right now as we stretch our connections in different ways across the virtual workspaces. And actually remembering what is culture is culture, just where we sit in our office always culture.

Nathan Simmonds:

An environment we create and co-create with the people that are most important to us. That’s the important part. So not a shameless plug. The Conscious Effect: 50 Lessons for Better Organizational Wellbeing, a practical guide for leaders building inclusive cultures. Oh! Buy it, read it, enjoy it. The sound effect was on purpose because I’m excited about that. Please go and find the Natasha Wallace’s work, she’s doing some great work.

Nathan Simmonds:

I love having the conversations, I love sharing with her. One of the reasons we wanted to share with Making Business Matter for you guys. We are also doing some extra things talking about mental health. We’re also producing a deck of cards for mental health wellbeing to help leaders ask the right questions of their people in emotional times. And we would also be providing this over the next week or so.

Nathan Simmonds:

Hopefully by the time you’re listening to this, this will be available. Tash will be sending you a copy as well so you can use that and shamelessly plug them for us at the same time. All right?

Natasha Wallace:

Fantastic. Of course.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing. Thank you very much and thanks very much for listening. We look forward to getting you on the next episode and we’ll speak to you soon.

Natasha Wallace:

Thank you.


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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clean no 01:00:36 Nathan Simmonds
E12 – Change Management with Professor Damian Hughes – Expert Interview https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/damian-hughes/ Tue, 17 Dec 2019 13:47:20 +0000 Jo Palmer https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=38766 full 12 2 E12 – Professor Damian Hughes: A Change Management Catalyst and Professor of Organisational Psychology and Change

Read the Interview Transcript Below:

Jo Palmer: ‘We are doing an expert interview, and today I’m with Damian Hughes. We are talking largely about organisation development. So rather than me introduce your credentials, Damian, I think you’d do a better job than me.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Well, thanks for inviting me on, Jo. It’s a real honour to sort of chat with you. For anyone listening it’s probably easier to explain the jobs I do, to give some context. So I’m a professor of organizational psychology and change, that’s my main role. But I work as a consultant psychologist across a wide range of organisations from business to sport to education. And then the third job I do is I write. So I’ve done a number of books very much around the topics of high performing cultures and how and how to make change happen.’

The Barcelona Way

Jo Palmer: ‘Fantastic. Before we get into organisational development, let’s touch on your most recent book, The Barcelona Way, which is currently ranking on Amazon’s best sellers. Damian, what was your inspiration for writing this book?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, so I got approached a number of years ago by a publisher who asked if I’d be interested in writing a book on the topic of culture. And I said I’d love to do it. They said, would I be interested in trying to make it a little bit more accessible by viewing it through the lens of a sports team?’

DH: ‘Now, while that sounded an intriguing challenge, the reality is, like a lot of businesses, a lot of sports teams sort of pay lip service to the topic of culture. So they’ll tell you how important it is. But their genuine level of investment, or interest, or focus tends to be quite minimal. So we narrowed it down to three teams that genuinely use culture as a competitive advantage. So the first one was the New Zealand Rugby Union team. The second one was the New England Patriots in the NFL. And then the third one was FC Barcelona.’

‘Choose Barcelona’

Damian Hughes: ‘So I think it was air fair costs that meant the publisher said, “Choose Barcelona.” But the reality was, it was the one that I felt had almost been unexplored and it was really rich to link it. So what the idea was was, I looked at culture through the lens of how Barcelona had decided to follow this process known as a commitment culture. And a commitment culture is where you have a really clear set of principles or behaviours, and you’ve got a really clear sense to why you exist. And what all the evidence says from all the research on the topic is a commitment culture tends to be a lot more successful over a sustained period than any other type of culture.’

DH: ‘So I look at the different types of cultures, but then specifically this idea of a commitment culture and how that can be used and harnessed within any organisation, so anywhere where people are coming together for a common cause, how you can use it to then drive competitive advantage.’

How Long Did it Take?

Jo Palmer: ‘Fantastic. Brilliant. How long did it take you to write it, Damian?’

Damian Hughes: ‘It ended up being about three years. So I was back and forth from Catalonia for about 18 months, back and forth doing interviews and things like that. But a lot of the research in terms of the most recent research and the papers, that took an awful lot of wading through to be able to give people sort of the idea that it isn’t just about sport, it’s about people that just happen to work in sport in this case. I’m lucky enough I’ve done a number of books, Jo. So what I’ve realised now is that you have to really be intrigued and love the topic, because it ends up dominating an awful lot of your waking hours. So it was a real three-year labour of love.’

Favourite Book

Jo Palmer: ‘Wow. Out of all the books you’ve written, Damian, which has been your favourite and why?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Oh, that’s a difficult one, that’s like asking to choose your favourite child. I love them all they’re all subjects that I really am passionate about. They often remind me of certain times in my life. The book I wrote previous to The Barcelona Way was a book called The Winning Mindset, and that was a whole series of interviews that I did with elite sports coaches, but looking at the topic of engagement, so how do you get people switched on and engaged? But we again, we viewed it couldn’t lens of the sporting world. I’d probably say particularly fond of that because I almost wrote it… So it’s a bit of a love letter to my dad.’

‘A Love Letter to My Dad’

Damian Hughes ‘My dad’s quite poorly now, but he was in elite boxing coach all through my childhood. So my background is I grew up in a boxing gym. While he’s poorly now I wouldn’t to sort of pay tribute to some of the stuff that I’d seen him do. So I include some of the stories from his own career as well. But in my head, it was a bit of a love letter to my dad and the sort of work he’d done.’

JP: ‘Oh, how lovely.’

DH: ‘Yeah. But I’d say The Barcelona Way is a love letter to my professional life as well because that’s where I’ve ended up spending a huge proportion of my working life has been working around this topic of creating high performing culture. So yeah, I’m just as fond of that as well.’

JP: ‘Yeah. Well, I won’t make you choose one then, Damian. That’s fine.’

DH: ‘You won’t what? Sorry.’

JP: ‘I won’t make you choose one.’

DH: ‘No, yeah, it’s a brilliant question. I’ve never really thought about it. But like you say, when I reflect on it it is like choosing your favourite child, which is not something you could really do.’

JP: ‘I get it. Because if someone said to me, “Jo, pick your favourite child.” I wouldn’t be able to. I love that answer.’

DH: ‘Thank you.’

Organisational Development

Jo Palmer: ‘Thanks for that, Damian. Let’s talk about organisational development.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Okay, brilliant.’

JP: ‘What is organisational development and what are the key values?’

DH: ‘So organisational development is the idea of how do you create an environment where people can flourish and blossom, and subsequently perform at their best? That’s the purpose of it. Now, the best way I would describe that is it’s like an ecosystem. There’s a whole series of different strands that have to come together to be able to facilitate people for performing at their best. So there’s no silver bullet answer to this. There’s no one size fits all. It will always be unique to the organisation. This will range from things like your guided behaviours. It will be about your speed and ability to transition quickly. This will be the things that you get that are most important in terms of delivery, people development, leadership development, all of this comes together. So it’s quite a complex area.’

‘Start at the Idea of Behaviours’

Damian Hughes: ‘But I think that when you work with teams, a lot of organisations that are looking to understand organisational development and how it can be a competitive advantage, the place I would urge anyone to start is start at the idea of behaviours. Now I make a distinction here between organisational values and organisational behaviours. So what I mean is that values are quite an abstract term. You can say that you want people to adopt a value of being fair or demonstrating trust. But the reality is people can just say, “Yes, I agree with that.” Without ever needing to give you any evidence of it. A behaviour is something that you have to clearly demonstrate.’

DH: ‘One of the big things that I find often inhibits performance in organisations, Jo, is ambiguity. So when things are ambiguous or when things are a little bit opaque and not particularly clear, you get confused reactions, people behave in a subjective way. When people behave subjectively, you get lack of consistency, which is a big frustration, whereas high performing organizations consistently deliver.’

DH: ‘So that’s why I think behaviour has become really important to be able to articulate, what are the non-negotiable behaviours? So the phrase I use is I talk about, what your trademark behaviours? So the behaviours that define you when you’re at your very best.’

‘What Elite Cultures Do Is They Prioritise’

Damian Hughes: “The second mistake I see a lot of organisations do is though they might go down the behavioural route, they come up with a big long shopping list of all the behaviours they want people to adopt. What elite cultures do is they prioritise. So they don’t have any more than three behaviours, three non-negotiable trademark behaviours. And a nice way of doing this, if there’s anyone listening to this that think they’d be interested in maybe adopting it in their world, the exercise I encourage everyone to do is something called success leaves clues.”

DH: ‘Now, what that means is you start by answering the question, “When we’re good, why are we good?” When you’re able to articulate what good looks like in your world, you will find consistently present behaviours that exist. And then they become almost your foundation stone to build the culture on this. So the idea is, how do you then create an organisation that facilitates the delivery of those behaviours at the highest level as consistently as possible?’

JP: ‘Wow. So it’s about simplifying it to get the best of the behaviours.’

Types of Cultures

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, and that’s often a big challenge for all of us, like I say, that what you find is that I’ve made reference from, we’re talking about different types of cultures, and one type of culture that often can exist is a bureaucratic culture, the bureaucratic culture is almost where it’s driven by rules and regulations and policies and procedures. So decisions tend to be made by a consensus. So you’re trying to keep as many people happy as you can. And that means you often end up being quite political about behaviours and that’s where you end up getting a really long list.’

DH: ‘Now commitment cultures, as I say, they simplify it. So there’s a great phrase that we were talking off-air before about organisations like Disney. And one of the things that Disney often talk about is that they say, “When you joined Disney, you don’t join a business, you join a culture.”‘

DH: ‘And the idea behind it is that they’ve got three non-negotiable behaviours. If you’re in a customer service role, they give you three behaviours, and they take it a step further, they even give you the behaviours in order of priority. So they say that if you’re ever confused if you’re ever in a situation where there might be a number of options you can take if you applied the behaviours in the order that they’ve ranked them for you, it gives you a clear way of being able to know how to respond and have confidence that everyone else will respond in the same way as well.’

Change

Jo Palmer: ‘Wow. Okay. Fabulous. Why is change important in an organisation?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Well, change is important just because, I mean, change affects all of us in every possible way. One of the things that I say, I encourage people to look out for in their organisations is, you’ll often hear people that resist change, and they’ll do it in subtle ways. So they won’t say, “I hate change.” But they’ll tell you things like, “It was better back in the day or years ago.” Or, “This place has changed.” And it’s often not said as a compliment. I encourage anyone that’s charged with the responsibility of making change, not to allow comments like that to go without comment.’

DH: ‘So when there’s somebody say, take a silly example like when you hear people say, “Oh, kids are different these days.” I often stop and say to them, “Compared to when?” And you’ll stop people in their tracks, they’ll say, “What do you mean?” You say, “I’m asking you, when do you think kids are different compared to when? When are you comparing it against?”‘

‘Well, When I Was a Kid…’

Damian Hughes: ‘What you’ll often hear is grown adults saying, “Well, when I was a kid.” And these may be people that are in their 50s. And you go, “So you’re talking about your childhood, which was 35 years ago.” And they go, “Yeah, yeah.” And you say, “So do you not think society has moved on? Do you not think society has changed? There have been no other changes in the world around you in those 35 years?” And the answer is, “Well, of course, there has.” You say, “Well, why do you expect children to react in a different way?”‘

DH: ‘So we all deal with change, like when we become parents or when we embrace new technology, we got a new phone or something like that, we’re actually skilled at dealing with change. It’s when change is done clumsily or we don’t feel that we have any input in it that people will often try and resist it.’

‘All Organisations That Need to Be Able to Adapt and Transition Quickly’

Damian Hughes: ‘So one of the things that all organisations that need to be able to adapt and transition quickly, because the question of, so how well are you equipping people to make change take place? Because what might appear common sense doesn’t always appear to be common practice. So actually invest in people with the skills to understand how they have already successfully dealt with change, but equally the replicable skills that they can use to deal with change again and again and again is a really necessarily scale for all organisations. Unfortunately, he’s not always recognised as a priority. It’s almost a case of, tell people what to do and then try and deal with the fallout of them not doing it. Whereas if you can give people the skills before you ask them to change, you can often make it happen a lot easier.’

JP: ‘Yes. So the change happens, then it’s the fallout after, it’s quite difficult then to get everyone back on side.’

Targetting the Right Problem

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah. Yeah. Very much. I’ll give you an example, I’ll sometimes get calls from organisations that the theme of what they’re looking to develop amongst their staff is resilience. And the first question I always ask, or the challenge I give to them is, “Well, tell me because I’ve yet to meet anyone that needs to be resilient in the face of kindness or decency or understanding. But I’ve met plenty of people that need to be resilient when they’re in an organisation that is pretty unforgiving, relentless and unpleasant.’

DH: ‘So is it genuinely resiliency you need? Or is it a cultural problem that you possess?” Because the challenge is what you’re suggesting otherwise is you’re going to armour plate people to deal with a difficult environment. So the reality is, if you can give people the skills to manage change, but do it in a sensitive manner that still acknowledges the human being underneath the role, that’s how you create high performing cultures that can adapt quickly.’

JP:  ‘Yeah, right from the start as opposed to having to try and do it after the fact.’

DH: ‘Yeah, exactly.’

Change Objectives

Jo Palmer: ‘Damian, what are the main objectives for any company going through a change?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Wow, that was a really good question. So I’d say the main objectives for any company is, first of all, be able to articulate why the change is happening. Because what you often find is that one of the big frustrations in organisations where change is often happening is, they say that people can gossip about it. When I hear people gossiping about the reasons behind change, I would challenge the leaders to say, “You haven’t communicated good enough or effectively enough.” And in the absence of your communication, people are making up their own stories of what was going on instead.” So if you can articulate why the change is happening and not just give people…’

The Three Fs

Damian Hughes: ‘So a big mistake I see is, people use fear, facts or force to get people to change. I call it the three Fs. So you frighten people into changing to say, “If we don’t do this, we won’t exist.” So you have that ridiculous phrase of creating a burning platform. The second reason you do it is you just give people stats and facts and figures, that doesn’t mean really speak to them. It is the emotion that we need to tap into. Or the third reason is when you just tell people, “You’ll do it because I’ve told you to do it.”‘

The Three Rs

Damian Hughes: ‘Now all three of those tactics work in short term situations, but they are not sustainable for long term change. So instead I counter it with almost like, for an organisation that wants to induce change, you talk about the three R’s So, first of all, you have to relate to people and give them the sense that you understand them and you tap into that. Then you have to reframe it and get them to understand the benefits of what you’re looking to change. Then the third R is you need to repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, and repeat it, so people are comfortable with it and getting to grips with it.’

DH: ‘So what most organisations do, to summarise the answer to that is, they use the three Fs to induce change. What successful cultures and organizations do is, they use the three Rs to remedy it instead.’

Jo’s Example

Jo Palmer: ‘Do you know what, that’s really resonated with me because in a previous company we went through quite a big change, it wasn’t communicated well, we were all talking about it between ourselves, it almost feels weird because you don’t know what’s really going on.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you think about it like an easy way to illustrate how people gossip is you think was like conspiracy theories. So when an attack happens or there’s a disaster, one of the first things that you will hear is people’s conspiracy theories emerge to try and give you a story of why it happened. The reason is is because the human part of our brain, our prefrontal cortex doesn’t compute that the world is random and chaotic and occasionally a dangerous place, so to counter that we try and make up stories that allow us to navigate through change in a comfortable way. If we can justify it and understand it, we can deal with it a lot easier.’

‘Gossiping Is the Equivalent of Conspiracy Theories’

Damian Hughes: ‘So when I see it in organisations, gossiping is the equivalent of conspiracy theories. So it’s about being able to communicate the why of change just as much as the what.’

Jo Palmer: ‘You’re absolutely right. It’s good to know.’

DH: ‘Well, thank you. I’m glad it resonates.’

JP: ‘Because I’ve been through it myself, it all makes absolute sense. And then subsequently I ended up leaving because I didn’t like the change, and at no point was it communicated well, so I had quite an impact on my life because of a change not being communicated.’

Applying the Three Rs

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, exactly. I said, you often see, like I say, if you applied the three Rs to it, and you say, “Did they relate to me? Did they understand my affairs as a human being? Then did they reframe what the change was about and what benefits I’d get?” And then finally it’s that idea of, “Did they repeat it and repeat it until they knew I was comfortable with it?”‘

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah, no, you’ve simplified it. You’ve made it so it’s just easy to understand.’

‘I Do Try and Invest a Lot of Time Trying to Think of Ways to Explain It’

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah, well thank you, cheers. But again, I appreciate your kind feedback there, Jo. But a lot of this is about, I do try and invest a lot of time trying to think of ways to explain it, because like you say, often what appears common sense to a leader, for example, because they’re immersed in the reason behind that and they understand the subtlety and the nuance, the ability to communicate is a different skill than the ability to understand why you’ve done it in the first place.’

Jo Palmer: ‘Wow. Absolutely brilliant.’

DH: ‘Well, thank you.’

JP: ‘Fantastic. You’ve really simplified it. I get it. I really get it. And I can now be sitting back and thinking back what five years ago for me, where it all went wrong.’

DH: ‘Right, okay.’

JP: ‘Yeah, fantastic.’

‘Well, Why Did It Happen?’

Damian Hughes: ‘And again, once you understand that, the idea is, what you’re doing, what you’re describing, the process you’re going through is, you’re engaging in that reflection to say, “Well, why did it happen?” So when you understand that, that then gives you the skills to be able to say, “So how would I deal with it again next time?”‘

Jo Palmer: ‘Damian, had I not spoken to you, I would probably never have thought about it again. It’s only speaking to you now, and I’ve been able to relate to something that happened to me in my previous position, to gosh this is why I was where I was because of that. At no point did anyone speak to us about it. No one checked to see if we were okay with it. It wasn’t communicated at a level we understood. It was communicated at a very top level. And what came across too, the whole thing was that they were doing it because of the needs of the business as opposed to the needs of the people.’

Freeze Mode

Damian Hughes: ‘Yep. So some of the predictions that you can follow up again, so without knowing the example, because I know we’ve not spoken about this before the callers, I guarantee that some of the dysfunctional behaviours that followed from colleagues on not was that some people went into freeze mode, which is very much we’re all being very apathetic and stop caring. Some people would have gone into a very cynical mode and been aggressive and abrasive, which is the fight response. And some people like you’ve described, went into flight mode, which is disappearing, gone off. The sickness rate goes up, and then some people decide, “You know what, I’m better than this, I’ll go somewhere else.”‘

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah, absolutely. It was absolutely like that. They were trying to change our contracts and a lot of people didn’t agree with it. Some people just went along with it, and they subsequently left because they didn’t want the changes but wasn’t prepared to stand up and say, “Actually, don’t like your changes.” But there was a good proportion of staff that did say, “Actually, I’m going to stand up for my rights.” You’re not going to change this, that and the other.” Because they were entitled to do that. But it then caused, believe it or not, between the team, it divided, so some people agreed, some people didn’t. So all of a sudden these people that are your team, you almost feel individual and alien to them.’

How Much Time Did They Invest in the Understanding Change Bit?

Damian Hughes: ‘Yeah. But then again, that goes back to the idea that I’m sure those people were smart, intelligent people that had a clear rationale. But then the question I’d ask is, how much time did they invest in the understanding change bit? So they would have understood what the change they wanted to implement was. But how much time did they do the bit that proceeds it of understanding the human impact of how change fails and how you can mitigate and do your best to put plans in place that you make change appear a smoother transition.’

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah. Well, it’s really made me think and made me understand as to why I was where I was at the time. But yeah, thanks, Damian.’

DH: ‘That’s great.’

Who is Responsible for Organisational Development?

Jo Palmer: ‘Who’s responsible for organisational development?’

Damian Hughes: ‘That’s a great question. Again, this goes back to that ecosystem answer that I gave you, that there’s no one person. So if you relied on just one person to do it, you’ve got the culture that develops there is an autocracy. So you’re relying on one or two people to force change through.’

10%

Damian Hughes: ‘Again, a commitment culture says leaders play a big part in it, but I like quoting the stat to leaders that says, it was done by a Dutch economist that said that he’d looked at the question of how much impact the leaders have on the bottom line in terms of the ultimate performance of an organisation. And what he found was it was about 10%. I like that stat for two reasons, because one, sometimes you can use it with some leaders that maybe have a bit of an ego and stop them getting carried away, because you say, “You’re important, but you’re not that important.”‘

DH: ‘Or the other reason I like it is because he allows leaders to focus and say, are you maximising your 10%? So they play a big part in it, but then what I also say is that it is the role of the… Another phrase from that research I was telling you about Barcelona is, cultural architects. These are people in an organisation that are leaders, who just don’t have the title of being a leader. But they’re people that when they speak, they speak with real credibility, that people engage and switch on and listen to them. So you need to develop people like that, that really identify with the culture, that care about it, and that are prepared to champion it as well.’

Development Plans

Jo Palmer: ‘Thank you. When and why should an organisation use a development plan?’

Damian Hughes: ‘When should they use it? It should be a constant thing. So if you think about, when I was talking about interviewing those coaches for that book, The Winning Mindset, we were looking about how sport does it. Sports coaches don’t deliver feedback once a year in an annual appraisal or do it every six months. They’re doing it constantly. So they build feedback loops into their whole environment.’

DH: ‘Feedback loops are if you give people evidence that’s directly relevant to the job that they’re doing, and it has a clear consequence, it either delivers results or it doesn’t, you give people the opportunity to change their behaviours a lot quicker. So if you can think about like we have a mental model in our head of development plans are often sitting down in an office and having an afternoon’s worth of conversation, they’re valuable, but they’re not developing plans on their own, it should be a constant process.’

A Simple Analogy

Damian Hughes: ‘So I’ll give you a really simple analogy for it, or one that works for me is if you think of road safety laws, so how do you get people to stop speeding on roads anywhere around the world? What they’ve found is the most effective way isn’t punishing people with speed cameras or having police officers try and catch you.’

DH: ‘The most effective way is using radar displays. So when you drive through a radar display that flashes up your speed and gives you a smiley face, what we know is that people stick to the speed limit for about 7.2 miles longer than any other method. And the reason is is because you’re going through a feedback loop, so you’re getting evidence of the speed you’re driving at. The relevance of it is about the road that you’re travelling on. The consequence is if you’re going too fast, you might hurt somebody or yourself, and therefore you’ve got the ability to just take your foot off the pedal and change your behaviour. So it just gives you a reminder.’

DH: ‘So again, in organisational development terms, I often encourage people that are looking or are interested in this to say, how can you develop feedback loops all the way through your organisation that tell you whether you’re on track to deliver good performance or not? And get people to think about ways in which they can do this.’

JP: ‘Fabulous. Thank you.’

DH: ‘Pleasure.’

Techniques For Change

Jo Palmer: ‘What key techniques do you recommend during the change process?’

Damian Hughes: ‘The key technique I’d advocate, I know we referenced it before, so apologies for doing it, but I would start with this idea of success leaves clues. So I would start in any organisation by asking the question, “When you’re good, why are you, good?”‘

DH: ‘Now, whether you want to analyse it through, it might be the best feedback you’ve ever had, or it might be the best year’s results you’ve ever achieved. Whatever it is, rather than take it for granted, do a proper dissection of it and have a look at the DNA of, “When we were good, why were we good?” Like I say, out of that, you will get a series of behaviours that have been consistently present, and that’s where you start the process of saying, “How do we deliver those behaviours more consistently across the board? Because when we deliver those behaviours, if we marry that up with the ability we have to do our job, those two factors will drive foolproof performance.”‘

How to Find out More

Jo Palmer: ‘Thank you. What extra material could you recommend for people wanting to find out more?’

Damian Hughes: ‘Extra material. I’d encourage people just to read, read, read, and read. It almost doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t particularly advocate any specific book for it, because that’ll be dependent on the individual and their interests, but I would say, there’s always something you can learn if you’re prepared to read about it. So even if it was, you’re interested in reading, for example, autobiographies of successful people, find out, read it with a discerning eye to say, “Well, what lessons are they sharing with me here? What were the behaviours that they were constantly demonstrating?”‘

Pay Attention

Damian Hughes: ‘Or just pay attention when you go into places where service is good. So it might be you go to a restaurant and you get really good service. Rather than take it for granted, stop and think about it, “Well, what was that service? What was it that made it good?” Because what you’ll find is that a lot of high performing cultures will often bring people in from outside of their industry because they’re not hidebound with convention or rules.’

DH: ‘So this is a nice way of articulating, the role I play sometimes with sports teams is, my job isn’t to be there to make technical… So say, for example, working with a rugby team, my job isn’t to go and make some comment about the rugby playing ability of the players in that environment, because that’s not my job. My job is to maybe come in and share ideas from different organisations about how you can create a culture where those rugby players can get the best out of themselves.’

DH:  ‘So just pay attention to where success is happening, when good performance is happening in any context, I’d encourage people listening to say, either read about it or go and explore it in more detail.’

Three Take Away Tips

Jo Palmer: ‘Yeah, I like that. Thank you. Last question, if you could give three top take away tips, what would they be and why?’

Tip 1

Damian Hughes: ‘Wow, that was good. The first tip I’d give is, be kind. I know that might sound a little bit unconventional when we’re talking about organisational development, but I think kindness is such an underrated virtue in organisations. I made that observation before about, people don’t need to be resilient in the face of kindness. So when we start by being kind and showing a level of understanding and decency to both other people, and just as important, to ourselves, I think that’s a really powerful way of getting people to embrace change, because they will naturally do it if you know that you’ve got their best interests at heart.’

Tip 2

DH:  ‘The second tip I’d give is, this idea of starting from the premise, when you’re good why are you good? Because I find that that’s an inclusive exercise rather than exclusive. You’re not looking to punish anybody, you’re looking to involve everybody in answering that question. You’ll find that most people have got an opinion on why success happens, so it’s worth listening to them and involving them.’

Tip 3

DH: ‘And then the final quality is courage. What do I mean by that? I mean, it’s just a willingness to actually do something different. So not just following the herd and doing what others do. It’s having the courage to ask questions without knowing the answer or go and explore something without necessarily knowing the result that you want to get. Because it might take you into an area that has some real value for you.’

DH:  ‘So they’re the three things I’d say, Jo. First of all, be kind. Secondly, look at you’re good, when you’re good, why you’re good. And thirdly, just have the courage to act on your intuition and your understanding.’

Thank You

Jo Palmer: ‘Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I resonate with all of that, absolutely.’

Damian Hughes: ‘Well, thank you.’

JP: ‘Damian, thank you so much for your time today, it’s been really nice to speak with you.’

DH:  ‘Yeah, likewise as well. No, thank you, thanks for inviting me on.’


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Leadership Skills and our Leadership Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Leadership Skills Tips and articles.

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clean no 00:33:48 Jo Palmer
E11 – Don’t Be a Cabbage Butterfly – Stop Task Switching for Better Time Management https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/task-switching/ Wed, 20 Mar 2019 11:56:18 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=33063 full 11 1 E11 – Don’t Be a Cabbage Butterfly – Stop Task Switching for Better Time Management

You start a task and another one comes up. You do that, and another one comes up. So, you then do that. Until – you guessed it – another one comes up! You are task switching.

This, according to the time management gurus, adds 50% to the original task. In short, by switching concentration and having to adapt your thought processes from task to task, you are adding 50% of the time to it. This is because your concentration needs to adapt. Different skills are required to complete different tasks. It will take time to adapt your thinking and understand the new task.

According to the Harvard Business Review, task switching can take up to 20 minutes. Managing emails being the biggest culprit for creating distractions.

We are losing vital minutes from our already busy days.

Task Switching, Cabbage

Listen to this podcast to stop task switching and losing these vital minutes. Focus on what is really important. Remember why you’re on the payroll and consider the seven big things that help get your job done.

Read the Transcript Below:

“You’re jumping from one task to another all day long, switching between this and that and the next thing to do. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at the Home of Sticky Learning. We’re going to talk about Short and Sticky Stories.”

“When I was about six years old, I remember my dad took me into the garden every Saturday. He was very proud of his garden. We only had a small garden and it had a veg patch. Two levels to the small garden and we’d go out there and on a Saturday it was that father-son bonding time. I remember I had those red wellies on that I think you bought from Woolworths called ladybird. Anyway. My dad and I are in the garden and he’s proud of what he’s achieved in that garden. I guess for him it was a way of reducing stress from what was quite a tough and demanding job.”

Cabbages

“His veg patch was something he was particularly proud of. Imagine a six-foot by three-foot veg patch and it grew carrots, runner beans, cabbages. Now, don’t tell him, but the runner beans, you could have used them for dental floss. They were stringing and every Sunday we would have those runner beans because dad had grown them and the kids would eat them on wait mode because they were stringing. But let’s come back to the cabbages. The reason I wanted to tell you this story was because in time management, we have a term that we call the cabbage butterfly.”

“Imagine my dad’s got on his cabbage patch 12 cabbages and he grabs me, grabs my hand, and he says, “There you go.” Well, we used to dig around the cabbages. So I’m digging around the cabbages with my plastic little fork, my plastic little spade. What I said to him is, “Dad, these ones have got holes in them.” And yeah, of course, the white cabbage butterfly had eaten the cabbage.”

“Now, what it tends to do is it eats a leaf of the cabbage and there are holes of see-in-it and then it looks up and sees another cabbage and flies over to that one and it’s the next cabbage. And whilst it’s chewing on that tasty morsel, it then looks up and sees the next cabbage. And this is the metaphor we use through time management because it’s very, very similar to what we do as knowledge workers, as people in offices. We start a task and then another task comes up and we do that. We start that one and then another task comes up. Them, we do that.”

Task Switching

“Now, the biggest problem is that task switching, according to the gurus, costs us 50% of that task. By switching from task to task, you are adding 50% of the time to it. This is because your concentration needs to move from one piece of skill of a task to another where you might need a different skill and you need to understand that task in a different way. Harvard Business Review did a piece of research where they’re talking about the amount of time from switching from one task to another as being up to 20 minutes.”

“Now, I’m sure that’s right because they’re Harvard Business Review, but let’s say even for you and I, it’s only a few minutes. It’s still a vital few minutes we’re losing between each task in what is an already very, very busy day. So why are we doing this? Well, we’re doing it for the endorphin rush. We’re doing it because we like starting something new, getting our teeth into it. But then something more interesting comes along, and the biggest culprit that drives this behaviour is email.”

Email Management

“I’ve talked long and hard about other ways you can deal with email management in other podcasts, so we’ll not tackle that for now. For right now, all we need to know is that task switching consumes a lot of our time and we call it cabbage butterfly. That’s eating one cabbage, looking up and seeing another one. You’ve got email management, which is something we need to fix. And the Hare and the Tortoise Tool, which you can read or hear about, will help. My purpose here is to help you focus on what’s really important.”

“Putting the emails to the side, what we need to do is start with a blank sheet of paper and that blank sheet of paper, we need to write the seven big things that will help us get our job done. Now, as a piece that comes just before this, which is, why are you on the payroll? An easy question to ask, and in my experience, 99% of people cannot answer it. Maybe that’s one for a separate podcast, just for now you need to be able to answer, why are you on the payroll? And if it’s not something to do with the bottom line, then I’m going to challenge that you’re probably wrong. And then that target you come up with needs to be smart.”

Projects

“So let’s move on to projects and having the seven big things that will make the biggest difference to why you’re on the payroll. Take a sheet of paper and list down maybe more than seven to start with, but certainly, put a list of the big things. Now, you all know what they are because they’re the things that you’re putting off. You’re busy doing the shallow work, which is moving from one task to another, getting some almost superficial things done, largely email. What we’re trying to do here is help you focus on the big stuff, the things that really make a difference to your job.”

“Those things that when you walk into your appraisal, should you have one, in the year you can say, “I’ve nailed this. I’ve nailed that and I have nailed some other things.” And they are big things that will make a difference because no one’s going to thank you for getting through your emails all day long. Now, there might be some people that chase you and some people who shout or maybe if you’re in line manager, but the thing that they’ll really thank you for, particularly your line manager, is nailing while you’re on the payroll. And that has to be done by doing the big work, the deep work, the project work.”

Back to the Piece of Paper

“Let’s come back to our piece of paper. You’ve written several more big things that you need to get done. We’re talking about a horizon of three to six months maybe, depends on your job. Let’s then filter that into seven big things that we need to get done. You’ve got number one, project ABC, number two, project DEF, and so on. All those things that you’ve been putting off because they’re too big and too ugly and you’re busy, but you’re busy getting all this other stuff done, which is shallow work, and this is the big stuff.”

“Now we’ve got our seven projects, the big things that will make the biggest difference to why we’re on the payroll and what people pay us to do. The second piece I’d like us to do is under or next to each one of those projects, I’d like you to write a simple practical action, i.e., what are you going to do next? Let’s take number one, which is project ABC. The simple next action might be, book a meeting with Bob, or review the Excel spreadsheet or my map, the objectives of this project. What are we trying to achieve?”

Rolling a Snowball

“Now what we’ve got is our seven big projects and a simple next step for each, and that will begin the snowball. Rolling a snowball down the hill, the actions will start to build because as you go to that meeting until you have that chat with Bob or you write the objectives, the next step will come to you slightly easier, and then you’re on your way with your projects. The third and last step is that you need to incorporate the projects into your time management system. And yes, a lot of people say, ‘But I don’t have a time management system,’ but you do, because you turned up for work and you’re getting stuff done. So you do have a system, whether it’s effective or not, only you will know. All I can say is it can a lot more effective than it currently is.”

The Last Piece…

“The last piece that I want you to incorporate into your time management is to review your seven projects at the end of the week. This is probably lasting on a Friday. It could trip over and be the first thing on a Monday. It doesn’t matter as long as you do it, and it should only take about 20 minutes. And what you’re doing is going through each of your seven projects that are the deep work that makes the big difference to why you’re on the payroll and you’re looking to see whether you have nudged them forward. And we’re talking about a nudge, not a huge amount of work at this stage, but you are nudging them forward, which is a big difference to what you were doing before, which was trying to do almost anything else and task switching.”

“This is the big stuff. So on a Friday afternoon or a Monday, I’d like you to take 20 minutes, maybe book a meeting with yourself for those 20 minutes. The Pomodoro Technique is really good for this. I’ll leave you to look up Pomodoro Technique. And what you’re doing is reviewing and assessing whether you are moving forward each of those seven projects. And if you’re not, why aren’t you? What are you going to do next? We’re not going to accept stumbling blocks of you just don’t know, because if you don’t know then you should have asked someone for some help. These are your seven projects that will make a big difference. You’ve written them down and identified them. That’s a big step forward. You’ve written a simple and practical next step for each and you’re reviewing them on a weekly basis.”

Final Thoughts

“In summary, the metaphor we use in time management for people who move from task to task is cabbage butterfly. We know that this has a huge cost to it and we know that the biggest challenge is getting the big stuff done, the things that we put off because they’re big and ugly. As Brian Tracy would say, the frogs. Eat That Frog is an excellent book to read.”

“You now have incorporated into a time management system only 20 minutes, but an excellent 20 minutes a week where you’re going to see whether you’re moving these things forward. This will be your prick of conscience where you are pushing and poking yourself to say, “I know I need to get this big stuff done in these 20 minutes.” Hopefully, you’re putting a tick against the small steps that you’ve done for each of the seven projects. This was Short and Sticky Stories by MBM. My name is Darren Smith, and I look forward to creating the next podcast for you. Take care.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more time management tips.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:11:43 Darren A. Smith
E10 – Learn How to Build Confidence and Re-Write That Post-It Note on Your Head https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/build-confidence/ Mon, 24 Dec 2018 10:16:13 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=31799 full 10 1 E10 – Learn How to Build Confidence and Re-Write That Post-It Note on Your Head

You’ve spent months preparing for that date with destiny. The presentation that will make or break your career. You know you are ready, yet somewhere deep inside there’s a voice that says you’re not good enough. You don’t belong. In short, there’s a metaphoric post-it note on your head saying, ‘FAIL’. You need to learn how to build confidence and change that voice.

Learn how to build confidence: Man with word-on-head post-it note

Consider, for a moment, how that impacts upon your approach, your tone, your body language and your confidence.

Listen to our latest podcast to learn how to build confidence by using the ‘word-on-head’ influencing technique. Take back control, write your own metaphorical forehead post-it notes, and change that voice to something more positive. Change the script to ‘SUCCESS’.

Read the How to Build Confidence Podcast Transcript:

“I’d like to share a sticky story with you about putting a Post-it note on your head, on your forehead. My name is Darren and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning MBM, Making Business Matter, Trainers to the UK Grocery Industry. I used to work for one of the top four supermarkets in the head office. Worked there for many years, thoroughly enjoyed it. I had started as a deputy assistant cottage cheese buyer. I have reached the lofty heights of buying cottage cheese, so that was my first job. That gave me a good understanding of buying off supermarkets. I guess I was always destined to go into that role because my father worked there for 40 years. Also, my brother worked there, my uncle, it was almost the family business.”

The Big Job

“I travelled four hours a day on the train, commute, and Tube and walk. Travelling from where we lived in Oxford into Stanford Street, London. As I’ve progressed through my career, various buying jobs, there was the big job that everyone looked for, the one just below the senior manager who reports to the director and they called it C6. C6 was, I guess in nowadays terms, it was a senior buyer or trading manager or a category manager. They were the sort of people who would look after the whole of fruit and you could be responsible for buying a billion pounds worth in a team of maybe 12 or more.”

“I was a C5, I was looking to get my promotion and for this promotion, what the company had put in play was that you had to pass a panel. And that panel was about gathering evidence in the six months to that panel and then presenting your case for why they thought and you thought you to be worthy of a C6, this role, where there weren’t that many in the business and it was a higher profile role and only the best and most successful people would go forward. So, my date was set, six months time, I think it was about November and that will make it about May, so around my birthday. I’d been busy gathering evidence from people around me asking the open question of, “What could I do better, what do I do well?”

KPIs and Metrics

“They were telling me some good stuff and some things I’d work on and it was important to get the things that were good that I could share with the panel in six months. And it was also important to get the what could be better so I could show that I was developing and improving. That was one of the key things that I needed to demonstrate. As well as, of course, delivering the business KPIs and metrics. I built a very large lever arch file, one of those the things, the lever arch files, and I had evidence. Projects I’ve done, my team were behind me, how I change, my personal development plan. I thought I’d had enough.”

“Now, not everyone passes that panel and they get one more chance, one more opportunity to try it again a month later. I thought I was ready, I’d asked my boss, I’d taken him through my evidence and so I was ready for my pitch to the panel.”

“I didn’t get it. And there wasn’t a huge reason as to why I didn’t get it. There was good evidence, it just wasn’t enough and I was okay with that. I hadn’t majorly failed in any particular area, they just wanted a bit more convincing and give me a couple of pointers, and that was okay. The date was set for a month later. Could I go and find this, ask some people about that, get some more evidence here, prove a couple of things? Yes, of course, I could do that.”

Moral of the Story

“Now here’s the moral of the story. I stood outside that meeting room and I could see inside the panel of six, where I’d stood before. I had under my arm the lever arch file and I thought I was ready. I’d answered the questions that had come up in the previous panel four weeks earlier. But there was an overriding thought that was going through my head, “Last time you stood here and you went in, you failed.”

Post-It Note on My Forehead

“What I didn’t realise then, but I realise now by working with some very great trainers on soft skills is that I had a word running through my head. I had a word, a metaphorical Post-it note on my forehead with a word on it, and that was ‘fail’. Even though I had the evidence, even though I’d spent four weeks gathering it and answering all those questions and checking in with my boss, my overriding behaviour was ‘fail’.

“I’d walked in, I did that stuff really matter. Well, I know now that it does, and back then I didn’t even understand that I had that word in my head. I walked in to the panel, Post-it note metaphorically on my head, the word ‘fail’ written on it.”

“How did that affect my body language and my tone on my words? It did because I failed again. I know now what I need to put when I go into those pressured, challenging, important situations. I need to write the Post-it note for my head, I need to write the behaviour. So what would I have written on my head had I had my time again? Well, I did get an opportunity another six months later, which is a whole other story. This time I was successful, but what I would have written on my head is ‘success’ or ‘win’, building my confidence. 

A Positive Post-It Note

“And when we train with suppliers and the accountant has just talked about negotiating with buyers and we share the story of the Post-it note on your forehead and we actually get them to do it because it’s a safe environment in the training room, they have subconsciously written on the head fail, battered or one guy wrote murdered, because they are all going in knowing, believing that they are going to fail, get battered, get murdered, as one guy put it. And what if we changed that language? What if we changed that program, that script that runs through them? Will it change their behaviour?”

“All the research set it, well, all I know from 16 years plus of understanding this talk and the research behind it, it absolutely works. Because for those that don’t believe it, I said, “Okay, I am going to program you by talking with you for a few minutes before you go into a very challenging pressured situation. I’m going to put fail in your mind. Is that okay?” And they said, “No, no, no, you can’t do that.” Why? “Well, because I’ll fail.” Okay, so if that’s true then is the opposite true? Well, it could be then. What’s the downside of trying it or not? And then what we hear back later after the training, in months to come, from learners is, “Do you know that pink and fluffy stuff that some of you guys teach? Actually works,” and it does.”

Final Thoughts

“So my top practical tip is next time you go into something that is important, a buyer meeting, a presentation, somewhere where you might be promoted like I was, my question is what word do you have on your head? We call this influencing technique Word on Head. When you practice, maybe just between you and the meeting room around you with no one in it, when you’re practising have the Post-it note with the word on your head and look in the mirror. How does that change your content, what you’re going to say? Your behaviour? Do you find you’re more confident? And your tone? Because those things will change according to the script that’s running through your head. So next time you go in, maybe build your confidence and go in with the win Post-it note firmly stuck to your forehead. Thank you.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Presentation Skills and our Presentation Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more Presentation Skills Tips and articles.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:08:48 Darren A. Smith
E9 – Procrastinating, Frozen Peas, and the Snowball https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/stop-procrastinating/ Mon, 24 Dec 2018 09:41:57 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=31797 full 9 1 E9 – Procrastinating, Frozen Peas, and the Snowball

Do you have a looming deadline that still seems a long way off?  Do you occupy yourself with ‘clearing the decks’, convincing yourself that you’re being productive anyway? After all, you still have plenty of time… Yet you still feel the stress of it weighing on you. Do your health a favour, do your best work and stop procrastinating!

Stop procrastinating: Snowball being thrown

Perhaps you tell yourself that the looming deadline isn’t urgent or important enough to make a start. You simply put it off.

In fact, you know that you have too much time. If you got a jump on the deadline and made an early start on that presentation you will undoubtedly tinker with it until the last minute, wasting more time!  Listen to our podcast to learn some useful tips to help you stop procrastinating and start learning to trust yourself.

Read the Stop Procrastinating Podcast Transcript:

“I’d like to share with you a sticky story about being so stressed on the topic of frozen peas. You’re at the home of Sticky Learning, MBM making business matter. I’m Darren Smith and we’re trainers to the U.K. grocery industry. I worked in the corporate world for many years at the head office of Sainsbury’s, I was the frozen veg buyer and one of the things that the buyers were asked to do at that time was to present as a subject matter expert on a topic. And it was a bit about presentation skills, a bit about raising your profile in front of senior people and a bit about sharing what you knew about your category. And that was fine.”

The Presentation

“So the schedule was published, there were about three, 400 buyers and a few of us got chose to go first. That’s great. And the schedule said that in six weeks time I was due to speak about my category or one of the frozen peas. I did what most people do. I put it off, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t put off the stuff that they just don’t like doing or they consider isn’t urgent and important. That’s if they’ve gone through that conscious decision-making process to arrive at is this urgent and important Eisenhower’s Boston Matrix well worth looking up. I hadn’t done that.”

“Subconsciously. I think I’d gone, Hmm, that’s not as hard as this stuff I’m doing right now at work. I need to negotiate prices, have supplier meetings and so on and so on. Manage the category that can wait and I did what most people did and put it out of my mind.”

Days Go By

“Coming up to the six weeks and a few days before the thoughts wore of, Oh, I must do that presentation. I really must get that done and my days in the run-up to that went like this. I’d arrive in the office, let’s say 7:30, 8 AM. Grab a cup of tea, coffee and then go to my desk and I just have a quick look at my inbox. I’m looking through my inbox. Someone would come over that just joined. Hello. Hello. Good morning and I was still looking through my inbox, just getting a sense of what’s going on. But then I’d look up probably an hour and a half later. I had a couple of people at my desk and answer their queries. I’ve done a lot of emails or so thought I had time. And then into my half, nine, 10 o’clock meeting.”

Running Around Like a Headless Chicken

“That would last an hour and a half, a couple of hours I’d spin out of there and just have another quick look at my emails knowing that I must get this presentation done. It was coming to the front of my mind and someone, my boss had asked me about it. Are you ready for Thursday’s presentation yet? Yep, yep, I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ve just got to do these meetings and get this done and clear the decks. I even think I said.”

“So I’m checking my emails. This is just before lunch. Okay. And then I’ll have a sandwich with one of my team. We’ll talk about our project. Good. We’ve done that. We’ve had a sandwich. I’ve just had another check of my emails before I go into the two o’clock afternoon meetings. If I can just get that out of the way. Then I know I’ll get stuck into this presentation and of course, I came out of the meeting. My boss called me into another one, so the half-past three just ended. I then go into one at quarter to four.”

No Time, Leave It to Tomorrow

“I was in there for an hour and a half knowing that I must come out and just get this presentation done. Spun out of that meeting, went and checked my emails again, got stuck into a problem that had come up on email and before I know it, it’s half-past six. I must get that presentation done, I must get it done. It’s on my mind now. Okay, it’s tomorrow. Must get it done. It’s 4:00 PM tomorrow.”

Stop Procrastinating

“Now what happens is we’re putting off, we’re procrastinating as the time management gurus would say. What my subconscious has done is it knew I had six weeks to do it, but here’s one of the reasons why it put it off because it knew if I’d started it, let’s say two weeks in, and that’s a Wednesday for instance, and it took me about eight hours to write the presentation.”

“What would happen is I don’t trust myself as we all don’t. Meaning that if I’d started that presentation four weeks out from the deadline and I completed it in eight hours. I know what I would’ve done and it’s what you would have done as well. You would have started to tinker with it, play with a format, put a few more slides in. Maybe we’ll get some dancing people on stage. Wouldn’t that be fun? Dressed up as frozen peas.”

“It’s because you don’t trust yourself to stop procrastinating. You don’t trust yourself that you knew it would take about eight hours to do. You wouldn’t finish at the eight hours. And you would continue. Whereas if you have a hard deadline as in it’s four o’clock tomorrow, I’ve got to stand on that stage. I’m then going to start it at 6:00 AM tomorrow. You’ve worked out in your subconscious. I will just get it done just over the line, ready to go.”

We Don’t Trust Ourselves

“So I want to raise that awareness with you. That’s why we put staff off, or at least one of the reasons I’ll come to another in a moment. But that’s one of the reasons we put things off because we don’t trust ourself, that we won’t continue to tinker with it, whether it’s a presentation or a meeting or whatever it is. So let me plant that seed for a moment. Let’s come back to the story.”

“So in a panic that night, I think it was about half-past six, seven o’clock, I had a very good friend, an account manager who worked for Birds Eye. And I phone. Mark.”

“Mark, I’ve got this presentation tomorrow. Great, great Darren. Would you lead from me? Well, I’ve got this presentation. I need you to write it. What is half six I’m out tomorrow? I’ve got, I’m seeing Tesco or whoever tomorrow, which you mean you seeing Tesco and then obviously that conversation happens. When did you know about this? Six weeks ago. Well, why didn’t you ask me then? Ignore that. We need to carry on. Can you help me? I tell you what I’ll do. Mark says, “I’ll try and get some stuff over to you. Some facts and information. We might have a couple of bits, but you know I haven’t got much time now.” Okay, give me what you can.”

Panic

“I go home. I check my emails at home. Mark sent me some things, but it’s not what I need. My brief wasn’t clear. It was panicked. Mark didn’t have much time and what I got was about 10 facts of peas. Panic, what am I going to do? And I did what everyone would do, I pulled an all-nighter. I knew I’d made things tomorrow that I couldn’t cancel. I hadn’t thought far enough ahead and I worked and I said to Gail, my wife, “I’m going to have dinner. Then I’m going to go into the study and I’m working all night.” And that’s what I did and I worked all night. And the pressure that comes with that and the stress is not good for anyone and we’re starting to learn more about that with wellbeing, now. Mindfulness.”

“Now some people say, “Ah, but you don’t know I work better under pressure.” No, you don’t. The research says you don’t work better under pressure. You just work faster and more stressed and it’s not good. It’s not good for your health and you won’t do your very best work.”

The Snowball Theory

“So I had a big presentation with some senior people. The audience was about 180 in our auditorium at Sainsbury’s and I had to present this and I’d been up all night and all I got was 10 facts from Birds Eye, not their fault. My fault, absolutely. Now the presentation went very, very well, but that’s certainly not the moral of the story. Yes, I can pull it out of the bag and wing it with the best of them, but that’s not how I want to work. That’s not how I want to lead. That’s not the example I want to set for people. I don’t want people who work for me to do that. So what am I trying to teach them? What am I trying to help coach them to arrive at? The Snowball Theory.”

Alan Lakein

“Alan Lakein said, and he was the original grandfather of time management back in the 60s. He said, “That starting something you’re putting off your procrastinating on. It’s a bit like Swiss cheese. You just need to poke the first hole in the cheese.” He’s other metaphor, which is more my favourite is, “It’s a bit like taking a small snowball and rolling it down the hill. Once you start the snowball will gather and before you know it you are making a huge hole in the cheese.” You’re making a big dent in this project. You are nailing it and you are nailing it without the stress and you’re perceived by others to be more in control, calmer.”

“Let’s give that project to that guy. He gets it, he’ll do it. He gets stuff done. We all want that reputation. We don’t want the reputation of, Oh my God, there he comes. He’s stressed out his eyeballs, it’s probably something he knew about three months ago, but he’s now starting on it now and the impact on his team or other people is that they’re now going to be stressed and working late because he hadn’t thought about it far enough out.”

An Example

“When I was training a few years back, I was talking about Alan Lakein’s example, metaphor around the snowball or the Swiss cheese, whichever one floats your boat better and one guy was having that reflective moment. His learning style was a reflector and I just said to him, “I get you staring at space. I do that hugely when I’m learning. I just wanted to ask what’s hit home?”And he said, “I’ve had on my to-do list.” He had a to-do list, which was great. He said, “Move house.” And then I went into sort of coaching mode. I said, “Okay, now you know what we’ve talked about in the last 20 minutes. What are you thinking?” And he said, “It’s wrong.”

Woolly Mammoth

“And he was right. What he’s writing on his to-do list is what the time management gurus called a woolly mammoth, something big and horrible that you’re never going to touch. And I said, “Okay, so what would you do?”

“He said, “Well, I don’t know.” And after a while, we got him there and he said, “Okay, this is it.” And he wrote two words on his to-do list rather than move house. He wrote phone solicitor and he said, “I can do that.” And the joy in his voice was amazing. So he said, “It’s been on my to-do this forever, but it was always so big. It was that big woolly, mammoth. He said, “But I can phone solicitor.” In fact, he’ll do it at lunch. I’ll phone them and see what mortgage I need or what legalities there.”

“He had something that had to do around that and he came back from lunch. He phoned the solicitor and he said, “Yeah, the papers were on their way. Then I can phone the estate agent tomorrow and they’ll no doubt somebody houses through the post all day long. And then I’ll go and see one. And that was it.”

Final Thoughts

“The snowball was rolling down the hill. So if you are procrastinating, it’s normally based on an emotion of fear, fear of getting it wrong. Fear of not doing my best fear of, I don’t really get this, I don’t really understand it. My top tip to stop procrastinating is to start very small, a very small practical action that you can do like phone solicitor. And what I should’ve done with that Birds Eye, frozen pea presentation is not wait to six weeks of course. The first thing I should have done within that week and getting the brief was to phone Mark and say, “Mark, can you help me with this? You guys have got all the data. I can turn it into a great presentation, but can you just get me the data?”

“And that’s the term we use. Get the hairs running. Just like in the greyhound where you want to get the hair out of the track first before the greyhounds come after it. So in summary, start small on the snowball we’re wrong. Thank you.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more time management tips.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:12:46 Darren A. Smith
E8 – Email Writing Is Not like DIY! We Simply Can’t Be Bad at It https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/email-writing/ Mon, 17 Dec 2018 10:55:04 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=31763 full 8 1 E8 – Email Writing Is Not like DIY! We Simply Can’t Be Bad at It

Unfortunately, email writing isn’t like DIY. We have to be good at it. We can’t put it off or avoid it altogether. Also, we can’t just pay someone with better tools and skills to do it for us.

Email Writing DIY

Each person receives about 87 of them a day. Emails are, therefore, a huge part of our working lives. We spend hours each day trawling through our inboxes.  They are an essential tool. Yet, we were never really trained on how to use them. Listen to our latest podcast to learn some practical email writing tips to help you improve your email effectiveness.

Read the Transcript Below:

“I’d like to tell you a sticky story about a house alarm and how I think that relates to your emails. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at the home of sticky learning. MBM, Making Business Matter trainers to the UK grocery industry. My name is Darren Smith. I worked in corporate for a very long time for one of the big supermarkets and then about 16 years ago I set up founded MBM, we do soft skills training.”

“Many years ago we lived in a house when we were a young family and we decided that we needed a house alarm. There weren’t any particular burglaries in the area, but we wanted to be safe so we didn’t get a guy in or we didn’t get one professionally fitted. I thought I’m in my early thirties I can do this. I should be able to do it yet, I know that my DIY skills are poor.”

The Alarm..

“Anyway, we move on. We bought a Yale alarm. Imagine a great big box turning up a few days later. Rip the lid off. It’s about the size of the kitchen table and it’s full of this house alarm from PIR detectors to the great big yellow box that goes on the front of the house that says Yale, hopefully, to deter any would-be burglars.”

“So I get up one Saturday morning and I know in the back of my mind that DIY is not my thing, but I’m quite determined and I’m motivated to sort this because I think I can. So I spend too long figuring out how to put this alarm together and getting it to work with the house. And you can imagine there’s me with a step ladder, a ladder, a drill, screws. It’s awful. The drill is probably 10, 15 years old. I still got it now.”

“The drill bits are broken, the screwdrivers are blunt. They are not the tools of a professional work person. So I’m there outside the house and the step ladder and the ladder won’t reach high enough to put this box where I wanted it to go at the top of the wall. But I’ve got one foot on the top of the ladder and I’m sort of dangling, hanging onto the window seal with my left hand and in my right hand I’ve got the drill held up as far as I can above my head about another three feet and I’m trying to drill the holes to put this alarm on.”

“I’ve done some of the other bits I’ve done the wiring and wireless wasn’t a thing back then and it’s taken me ages. I am hating the job. So I started at about nine o’clock and it’s probably now 7:00 PM”.

Terrible at DIY

“My wife is ‘Why is this taking so long?’ Well at the heart of it, what I didn’t want to tell her is, I’m rubbish with this, but I persist being quite motivated and driven. We finish, it’s dark. I’ve had enough. The stress was immense. I put the tools away. I’ve got a few spare bits from the Yale box left, which I’m sure ought to go somewhere, but the thing works, that night I have a few beers. I sort of half celebrate, but I know it’s not a great job done.”

“I should’ve got someone in but we couldn’t afford it and we go to bed. We’ve got one young child at the time. Then about how past one in the morning, this noise goes off and it is excruciating. I leap out of bed. My young daughter wakes up. She’s screaming, running around the house trying to figure out what it is, but of course, it’s the alarm.”

“I put some jeans on, I run downstairs. How do I get this thing off? The keypad doesn’t work. Nothing seems to work to fix this thing. I go outside, “Oh, it must be the yellow box on the wall.” I get the step ladder and the ladder. Then, I put it up against the wall and I reach for the yellow box, but of course, I can’t reach it. So, I run in, the alarm is still excruciating. The neighbours are now awake. I come in, grab the broom, go to the top of the ladder and whack the Yale box straight off the wall. All that hard work, the noise continues. I walk back inside the house and say, shout to go. What is going on? The noise is still continuing, but I’ve taken the thing off the wall and then we realize it’s the smoke alarm.”

We Don’t Have the Choice to Be Bad At Writing Emails

“All that work for nothing. Now, I don’t need to be any good at DIY. We can now afford to get someone in to do a few of these things, but, a bad workman blames his tools. I didn’t have the normal tools. I didn’t have the training. Nor the inclination. With email writing, we don’t have a choice. They’re a part of our working life. As any knowledge worker will tell you, they’re either working half their time in their inbox or they’re never out of it. How does this relate to emails? We never were really trained to use emails. Now the tool itself is probably quite good. It hasn’t changed that much in 20 years since it was introduced, but it’s not bad. I think it’s the operator. It’s us, but who can blame us when we were never really trained to use it.”

“Well, I want to share with you just three points that might make us use emails slightly better, make us more effective. If this is a tool that we need to use half or more of our time, then we’ve got to get better at it because it isn’t going to change as a tool. We’ve got to learn to use it better. Unlike DIY, I’ve got a choice. With emails, we haven’t.”

“So, here are my three practical tips of just many that you could use to improve how you operate your email. Number one, and this will sound like a theory out of a business book. What’s your objective? We’re going to move on from that really quickly from what’s your objective to what the hell are you trying to get from the email that you write. Now, I know from the research I’ve read as a time management trainer that people want to vigorously cross stuff off their list and they do that because there’s an endorphin rush.”

What Do You Want to Get When Writing an Email?

“The challenges, they quickly bang off a quick email scribbling off their list, forgetting that it’ll grow arms and legs, particularly the four or five people that are copied in who really shouldn’t reply, but they’re going to anyway because Hey, they’re stuck in their inbox as well.”

“So my first question is what do you want to get from the email? You either want someone to do something, I action this all you want to get some information there. Broadly, the two things you want to give, get from an email. The third one is, I just alluded two is to give some information, but email isn’t always the best format. So you either want to get someone to do something, you either want some information back or you want to communicate something and you wouldn’t be surprised the number of people who don’t know which one they want to do because they’ve just fired off a quick email. Move on to the next task. So what do you want to get from the next email that you write?”

“Aristotle had a great way of putting together speeches. He said, “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you,” then he tells them. And then, at the end of the summary, he tells them what he has already told them. Now that’s speeches and that’s Aristotle with emails. There’s a very good way of figuring out how you know what you want from them by writing it three times. Once in the subject heading, once at the start of the body of the email and once at the end, and I don’t mean repeating it exactly, but I do mean being really clear. I want five slides by Friday. The answer’s this objective. That will be the type of thing that you want to say. The second practical tip is using the subject heading.”

Use the Subject Heading like the Headline of a Newspaper

“Remember each person gets about 87 emails a day and whilst you spend hours possibly crafting a long email, they spent seconds reading it and possibly dismissing it and remember that a lot of emails are opened on mobile devices of course now. So the subject heading is really important rather than meeting.”

“What I’d like you to do is use the subject heading like the headline of a newspaper with credibility. I don’t mean Freddie Starr ate my hamster, which was an amusing The Sun headline some years back. But I do mean meeting Friday leisure expert and inputs, please reply by Thursday. So use the subject heading to really grab the reader’s attention to get them to read your email and do something about it. Either reply with the information that you want or to go and do some action for you. And my third and final practical tip is the layout.”

“No one likes to read a wall of text. It’s hard. You’ve open books in the past and they’re just a wall of texts. They’re not broken up with any white space. They’re not broken up with images. And they’re not broken up with anything bold or paragraphs. That’s what it’s like reading some people’s emails. Don’t give them the excuse not to read it. Make it easy for them. Paragraphs can act like a fog light in deep fog using bold, underlined a few words or a sentence can act as a signpost. White space between paragraphs can just give the reader a breather, particularly if it’s a complex or technical email. Try and help them to help you, get away from needing the endorphin, endorphin rush that comes with just rigorously crossing off your to-do list.”

Final Thoughts

“So in summary, DIY is not my thing. I’ll never be very good at it. My shed of tools is not something to be proud of, but thankfully I have no ego around tools and DIY, I do around cars. DIY, I can find a different solution. I can get someone in to do it, or I can do some of the small jobs or actually my son is starting to get very good at these things.”

“With email writing, we don’t have a choice. There are going to be 50% or more and increasing of a knowledge worker’s work. You’ve got the tool, you need to be able to use it better. So my final question is, when did you last improve the way you use the biggest tool that you use? I’ve given you three tips. There are many, many more, and we run a webinar of 21 mistakes most people make in emails.”

“Thank you for listening.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more time management tips.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:11:25 Darren A. Smith
E7 – You Do Your Best Work Under Pressure? You’re a Tight Deadline Junkie https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/tight-deadline/ Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:41:34 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=31239 full 7 1 E7 – You Do Your Best Work Under Pressure? You’re a Tight Deadline Junkie

Do you leave everything to the last minute? Do you find yourself burning the midnight oil time after and time to meet deadlines? Yet, somehow, every time you pull of a masterstroke of genius and deliver. You deliver, not just on time, but you deliver your best work. You might just be one of the many tight deadline junkies. Listen to this podcast to learn more.

Tight deadlines: Egg timer running out

Read the Tight Deadline Podcast Transcript:

“Deadlines are a fundamental part of working in business. Are you one of those people like a baseball player? Running for the home run, and you slide in on the last base just as the umpire says, “Yep, you’re home”? My name is Darren and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry, and experts in making learning stick.”

“Today I’d like to talk to you about tight deadlines. A lot of people are one of those baseball players that just slide in and get the home run, and you might say, “What’s wrong with that?” I’d say nothing, except the stress that it causes. Then people will say to me, “Ah, but I do my best work under pressure”. I’d say to them, “Research disagrees”. In fact, when we’re stressed scientists have proved that our IQ drops to that of a teenager. So when the adrenaline is running, when the cortisol is going around our body, what’s happening is we’re getting ready for fight or flight for the sabre-toothed tiger, but of course, they don’t exist anymore.”

Leaving Things to the Last Minute

What happens at work is when we really need to be our best, make our best decisions, what’s happening in our IQ has dropped. So, you think that you do your best work under pressure, it’s not true. What happens is you get very stressed under pressure and you seem to get a lot done, but let’s look at that a whole different way. A lot of people slide in, getting their deadlines done just on time. A bit like when they go for a train and they’re almost proud to jump on the train having run across the platform as the doors are bleeping. “I made it,” and yes you did, but let’s look at the stress that that caused, and was it really worth it?

“There is an alternative, and it’s not going to be an alternative that you’ll want to embrace, because part of you really likes to the rollercoaster ride of that adrenaline rush. Here’s my challenge. You’ve got a manager who is erratic, disorganized. Often sliding in at last base just to get the deadlines done. Whilst that’s quite exciting, is that really the person that you would want to work for? Would you prefer someone that’s more measured? That knows what they’re trying to achieve? Let’s call it strategic thinking, and has a really good understanding of what the plan looks like for the next 12 months or the next few days, but isn’t trying to hit deadlines just as they happen or passed.”

The Last-Minute Multiply Effect

“That’s exciting, but the stress is huge, and multiply that as a cascade from top to bottom in a company. The guy at the top is working on a last-minute tight deadline. Because he couldn’t think further ahead than a few weeks. That cascades to the next level down. The next level down. And by the time it gets to middle management or below they’re running around like headless chickens. Stressed, making decisions at last minute on something that’s probably pretty important for that company. This would not be the image I suggest you want to portray.”

Why Do People Just Hit or Just Miss Their Deadlines?

“So, let’s look at why. Why do people just hit or just miss their deadlines? Why not turn in a report a few days before? Well, the reason is they don’t trust themselves. Let me say that again. The reason is, they don’t trust themselves because let’s imagine a scenario. You’ve got to write a presentation for a customer in two weeks time, Thursday by 5:00. The meeting happens on Friday at 9:00 AM. Now, you’ve had this for a couple of weeks and you’re very busy. You’re working on emails, and voicemails, and meetings. And all those other things that you’ve got to do. So, you put it off and put it off.”

“Then what happens is you get to Thursday, you know this thing has going to be done, and you want to work on it but you’ve been taken off to this meeting, or that meeting or this sudden idea has come in that you’ve got to work on, or this project. So, you stay late on Thursday. You’ve missed your own tight deadline but you’ll stay late, and now you’re working on your own time. You’ve had a really long day, probably a nine, 10 hour day, and what’s happening is you’re trying to do your very best work when you’re most tired. When you have the least energy. That can’t be good. It’s an important customer meeting, yet you’re not giving it the energy that you should because you were busy.”

A Hard Deadline Prevents Tinkering

“Now, the reason you do that, you probably have a late-night or pull an all-nighter into Friday morning, is because if you had started that piece of work, which let’s say took six hours, if you had started it on the Monday previous you would have finished the piece of work six hours later.”

“Here’s what happens next. You start to tinker. You start to play with the font, you start to look at the images, you start to have some great ideas about other things that you could do to make it really, really powerful, and they’re great. That is the reason why you don’t trust yourself to do it beforehand, and almost subconsciously your mind has worked out that if you do start it Thursday at 7:00 PM and you pull an all-nighter, you’re constrained by the deadline of the meeting the next day. So, you can’t tinker with it. The tight deadline is a hard deadline.”

What If You Could Start It Before?

“What about if you could start it before? If you could trust yourself to only work the six hours or, let’s say the seventh hour, the last hour being something really fabulous because you’ve got the time. What you would end up with is a perception by others that you’re organized, you know what you’re doing, you’re not a stress head.”

“A lot less stress for you. Maybe you just added that little something extra to that presentation too. Because you had a little bit more time. Not playing with the font or the image because they’re not overly important but there’s one idea, maybe this roleplay that you did with another colleague, to make sure that your messages came across. Because presenting shouldn’t just be about the slides, it should be about how you present, what body language you use, what tone you use. Anticipating the questions is more important than just the content.”

There’s a Better Way to Do It

“So, moving from being LastMinute.com because it’s very stressful and you are perceived to be disorganized and not really know what’s going on, yet you’re sliding in on the home run. Feels great. I’m suggesting that there’s a better way to do it, and that is to trust yourself. To trust yourself and become aware that if there is a deadline, you’ll start the piece of work way before the deadline, and you will commit to yourself not to tinker with it but only to work on really great ideas that help dramatically improve, in this case, the presentation.”

“If you do that, you will find you start pieces of work earlier, you can get more done, you’re more productive because you’re using a higher IQ. It’s less stressful, and you will rise up the ranks quicker. Because you are perceived to be someone who gets things done calmly, organized, and with an edge that makes your presentations in this case even more effective.”

Final Thoughts

“So, this is me leaving you with a challenge. Don’t be a stress head. Don’t slide in like the exciting baseball player because you like the rollercoaster. Instead, do what we encourage you to do, which is a term called get the hares running. Get the hares running is about, “I’ve got a presentation to do in two weeks. I need to get some data. That’s the bit that’s going to take the most time, so I’m going to get the hare running. Just like the hare at a greyhound race. And I’m going to ask Bob to get me the data for three days time”. That way you can begin the presentation with the data in three days time.”

“Give yourself a deadline of, “I’m going to do it all of this day, and then I will stop because I haven’t had any other great ideas, and the font is fine, and the images are great.” Then leave it alone. Trust yourself that you can leave it alone. Then move on with another piece of work. Knowing that piece of work is ready to go when you pick it up on Friday. So, get the hares running and don’t be LastMinute.com. Thank you.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more Time Management Skills Tips.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:09:56 Darren A. Smith
E6 – Not Having Effective Meetings? Are You Wasting Valuable Time? Answer: Have More Meetings! https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/effective-meetings/ Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:41:02 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=31238 full 6 1 E6 – Not Having Effective Meetings? Are You Wasting Valuable Time? Answer: Have More Meetings!

We spend most of our working lives in them. Yet, they are rarely an effective use of our time. In short, we simply aren’t making the most of them. In fact, the problem is we aren’t having enough of them! Listen to this podcast to learn how to have more effective meetings.

Effective meetings

Here, we argue, that shorter and more regular meetings will keep your team on track. This will allow your meetings to be more effective.

Read Effective Meetings Podcast Transcript:

“Meetings, you’re having them all day long and they’re not as effective as they could be. You know this. My name is Darren and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning, MBM, Trainers to the UK Grocery Industry. This is another short and sticky story about meetings. Along with emails, you spend most of your time doing either those or meetings and they’re not as productive as you want. Most people feel this, they could be a lot more effective and maybe in the past, you’ve reached for a book or you’ve done some research online to try and figure out how to make meetings more effective. And what you’ve probably found is that the advice is about setting objectives.”

Setting Objectives

“Objectives are good advice, it’s just not great advice and that’s because of how many people really set objectives for meetings? They do for the really, really important ones, but beyond that, the day to day meetings, they don’t. Smart objectives would be ideal, but for me it’s the difference between if you’ve seen the film, A Few Good Men, it’s the difference between paper law, as Sam says, when he’s fighting a court case with Tom Cruise, the difference between paper law and trial law is the difference between someone writing a book who was intellectually right. You should have objectives for meetings, but in reality, it ain’t going to happen. So let me see if I can share a story about how you might do it differently and I’ll follow up with some practical tips that I hope will help.”

Have More Meetings to Get More Done

“When I was a kid, we had maybe more changes of seasons than we seem to now. We had extreme summers, it seemed, and extreme winters, although maybe I look back at my old childhood with rose-coloured glasses. I remember going to school one day and it had been snowing all night. I’d woken up, I was probably about nine years old, and how excited I was that snow was on the ground, and walking to school was really exciting. You’ve probably had that feeling. And throwing snowballs at each other all day, going out to the playground, fabulous.”

“Over the next couple of days, the snow fades and it’s not as exciting, but playing with snowballs, the best place to get your snowballs to get them into a ball was at the bottom of a tree where the snow had drifted up against the tree. You probably know what I mean.”

“So you’ve got up to the base of the tree, grab a load of snow, make it into a snowball and throw it at the nearest kid. Fabulous. My point of saying that is if you were to look at a tree when it’s snowed, you’ll see that the snowdrift is on either side. I’m suggesting that to have more productive meetings, you should have more meetings. You won’t find that in any book. And if the tree is a meeting, then what happens is the actions, and the things that get done, are the snow to the right and the snow to the left of the tree.”

Making Meetings More Productive

“So if you want to get more done from the meetings, you want people to take more actions, you’ll find what they do is think, “Ah, I’ve got a meeting today at two o’clock. Damn, I should have done the action from last week.” And people do their actions either just before the meeting or they come out of a meeting and think. “Okay, I’ll get that done while it’s fresh in my mind.” So they get their actions done just before the meeting or just after the meeting.”

“So if you want more productive meetings, make them shorter and make them more frequent. So instead of an hour every two weeks, I’d have half an hour every week. Because what that does is hold people’s feet to the fire. They do it for themselves and you can do it. The meetings coming up, they’ll get their actions done or you hold their feet to the fire.”

“Why didn’t they do their actions in the meeting? Or they’ll come out with a meeting and think, either because you have said it, or because the action is fresh in their mind, they need to get this done. The metaphor is, imagine a whole row lined up with trees and the snowdrift either side, the snow represents the actions that people do just before or just after, and the trees represent the meetings. In summary, if you want to have more productive meetings, make them shorter and make them more frequent. So that’s the snow tree metaphor.”

ACE

“The other part I’d like to share with you is something called ACE, if you can imagine the ace of spades playing card. The books say that we should have objectives before we go into the meeting and they’re right. We’re unlikely to do that, although we know it’s intellectually correct.”

“My suggestion, if you’re meeting is typically an hour and typically six people, as you’d go into that meeting, take the role of chair. All that means is grabbing a piece of paper and taking the first 7%, seven minutes of a meeting and writing down the agenda points that you want to know in that meeting. So the first part is, what do we want to nail in this meeting? Agenda point A, agenda point B, and you’re writing them down and you write a full list. The second part of that is only once you’ve written a full list, do you then agree with the group what the top three that we want to get done and you start those, and it might be C, F and G. It doesn’t really matter.”

A: Agenda

“The important part and this is where your facilitation skills will be challenged, is when you write the list, don’t allow the group to debate the list. Just get a full list of what everyone thinks we ought to cover in this meeting. Great. You’ve written that down and made a full page in front of them. The second part is what do we absolutely need to crack? Take Pareto’s Law, the 80/20. What’s the 20% that will make 80% of the difference? And it’s normally three things, and make a star by those. Again, you must stop the group from debating and having the meeting. This is just structuring the meeting of what we want to get done. So the first letter is A of ACE and that’s agenda. Make sure you take the first few minutes of a meeting to write the agenda.”

C: Capture

“The second part is C and that’s capture. Absolutely make sure that someone captures the actions. We’ve all been in meetings, which were great and then come out of those, there are no actions, no one knows what really was supposed to be done, but you think Ron or Bob should have done it, and then guaranteed, you come back to the next meeting and Ron and Bob both look at each other and thought and say, “I thought you were doing it.” And the whole meeting was non-productive.”

“So the C is for capture. Make sure someone captures the actions and really, really simple if they capture it on a piece of paper, three columns. The first is the what. So the first column is what. What is the action? The second column is who. Who is the person that’s going to get it done and caught? The next column is when. When are they going to get it done by? So you’ve got the what, the who and the when.”

E: Evaluation

“Ideally for speed, you want someone to type that straight into their laptop. Bear in mind, there is a risk with that, that whilst they’re typing actions that maybe they’ll just have a glimpse at their emails. So you’ll need to be the judge of whether they can write it down or type it straight into their laptop. So that gives us the C, which is capture. And the last one is taken a few moments at the end for E, which is evaluation.”

“This is all about continuous improvement and making the meetings better for the future. It shouldn’t be a 20-minute debate, it should be a few minutes, a maximum of about three, four minutes. What one thing could we do from this meeting next time to make it more effective? Well, we should get Bob to attend, or we should make it 45 minutes, or we should hold it in venue B, whatever that thing is. You as the chair then take that, it gets added to the actions for next time, and what you’ll find is you’re continuously improving that meeting and it’s productivity output. So that’s ACE. So imagine the ace of spades, you’ve got A for agenda, C for capture, and E for evaluation.”

Number the Action

“When someone captures the actions, just the last point to note is to make sure that they number the action. So when you come back to them next time because remember this might be a conference call, we’re going through action one, action two, action three. And the very first thing we ought to do at the next meeting is to pull out the previous actions to see if they have been done. Let’s not create another 20 actions before we figured out whether the first 20 we created in the last meeting have actually been actioned.”

Final Thoughts

“So in summary, snow trees, because people do their actions just before or just after a meeting. So if you want more productive meetings, have more of them, but make them shorter. Remember, outlook defaults to either half an hour or an hour, but there’s no reason it can’t be 20 minutes or 45 minutes. And then the next part is, remember the ace of spades. A stands or agenda, C, capture, and E, evaluation. Hope you’ll have many more productive meetings. Thank you.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more Time Management Skills Tips.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:10:17 Darren A. Smith
E5 – The Annual Appraisal is Lost – Avoid the Surprises and Make it A Useful Business Tool https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/annual-appraisal/ Sun, 28 Oct 2018 18:13:36 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=31008 full 5 1 E5 – The Annual Appraisal is Lost

In this podcast, we discuss a simple technique to make the annual appraisal useful at work. One of the mainstays of business has always been the annual appraisal.

Annual appraisal: Effective business tool

Since time and memorial business people have struggled to use them as an effective tool for business. There is a better way.

Read the Annual Appraisal Podcast Transcript:

“Annual appraisals just don’t work the way you’re doing them. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at the home of Sticky Learning, MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry.”

The Traditional Annual Appraisal

“I worked in the corporate world for many years, commuting to London, working for one of the top four UK supermarkets. It was time for the annual appraisal, and what happened at this time where people were taken into rooms in pairs. The line manager took the report in for these long going meetings around the annual appraisal and the documentation was huge.”

Has it Changed?

“That’s probably no different to what you’re doing today. You’re either a report or a line manager knowing that the dreaded annual appraisal adds very little, yet they’ve done year in year out at most companies.”

“So let’s call him Richard. We’ll change the names to protect the guilty. I go into a room with Richard, my line manager at the time. I’m a cheese buyer. We sit down and we begin. The first few minutes of this is an annual appraisal. We’re here for maybe an hour, an hour and a half. We’re going to talk about your performance.”

Don’t Start With Feedback

“Now what we should have done at that point is taken the objectives that I’d been set and run through those. But Richard started with feedback. What he then did was pull out a book. Now, I’d seen this book over the last 12 months. But, I didn’t really know what it was apart from he’d written some things in it. I thought it was what some time managers call a daybook, where you just sort of jot down meetings and notes and so on.”

127 Things I Did Wrong

“Well, this book, he opened it, I think he was on about page 12 or so. He opened it on page 12 and my name was at the top. What he’d done and been doing over the last 12 months as he had captured 127 things that I’d done wrong. 127 things that he hadn’t told me until my annual appraisal that these are the things you could do better or you’d done wrong were his words.”

I was shocked. Now, in my early twenties, I didn’t know that this wasn’t the right way to do appraisals. I had no idea. And what happened over the next, I think it was an hour, hour and a half, he went through each of the 127 items and asked me why I’d done it wrong.”

Give Feedback Regularly

“Now that’s an extreme example, and you’re probably thinking, yeah, that would never happen to me or I’d never do that, and you’re right, it probably won’t or you won’t do it to another individual, to one of your reports. The point is still the same. You should not wait 12 months to give feedback.”

“Lord Mark Price, who used to be the managing director for Waitrose for many, many years before he became deputy chairman for the John Lewis Partnership, says that on average people get feedback once every four months. Now I think that’s really better than where it was back then in the early nineties, but it’s still not good enough.”

What the Objective of an Annual Appraisal Should Be

“The objective of an annual appraisal should be a summary of the feedback over the last 12 months to support the individual to find the themes of things that are good and could be better in order to improve that individual’s performance.”

“So I was sitting there. Richard opposite me, and we’re running through 59, 60, 61 of these things that I’d done wrong, and some biggish and some small. And what did I take away from that? Well, I took away that this was the way to do it, but actually, as I learned over time, I realized you can learn as much from a bad boss as a good boss.”

Best Practice in What Not to Do

“And the one particular learning I took from that annual appraisal was I knew how it should not be done. Every instinct in my being knew this can’t be right because the obvious, why didn’t you tell me these things 11 months ago when some of them had happened or 10 months ago when a few more because I could have improved my performance. I could be a better person. A better worker. A more effective employee for you and this company by now. But, you’ve waited 12 months to tell me these things. That can’t be right.”

“This is how the annual appraisal was set up. You give feedback at this time. Then you talk about how the individual performed against their objectives. You did not do it any other time. Crazy. Absolutely crazy.”

How it Should be Done

“Feedback should be given regularly, and feedback can be used as the F word, but if we can get beyond that to feedback can be good. Feedback can be constructive. It’s all feedback.”

“If you can let people know what they do right, what are they going to do? They’re going to do more of it. So let’s tell them when they get something right.”

Shamu the Killer Whale

“And that reminds me of a story from one of our trainers. Sally, who talked about Shamu the killer whale. When it was a baby and it was learning, you could imagine it swimming around its great big swimming pool.”

“What happened was every time that Shamu crossed a red line, which was a piece of rope on the floor of the swimming pool, they gave it a fish. And what then happened over time was they raised the rope. So what they were effectively saying to Shamu was every time you go over this thing, you get a fish. Okay, there’s the reward action circle going on.”

“Then eventually, what you see at Sea World is a giant killer whale, or just a killer whale, one of those big whales jumping over a rope.”

People Need Constant and Regular Feedback

“And we need to do more of that with people. Tell them when they’ve got it right and they’ll do more of it and yes, you’ve got the flip side of that coin. Tell them when they’ve got it wrong or it could be better and they’ll stop doing less of that stuff. We all want to be better at what we do. No one comes to work to do a bad job. They need that constant regular feedback. We don’t need to wait 12 months to give it to them.”

A Simple Tool

“So here’s the very, very simple yet effective tool. You can use as a line manager, but actually individuals can do it with each other. Let’s say you’re a line manager. The simple tool is you’re good because blah, blah, blah, you’d be even better if. So it might be an individual’s just finished a piece of work or a project, or you’ve come out of a meeting and let’s say maybe they’ve seen a customer or seen a buyer.”

You were really good because when you presented the slides, you had real enthusiasm. You would have been even better if you had prepared some questions that might’ve come our way so that you didn’t stutter. A simple piece of feedback.”

Try and Do a Piece of Feedback Every Couple of Week

“And over time, you’re giving that feedback. Let’s not say once every four months. But, let’s try and do a piece of feedback every couple of weeks. Or, at the very least once a month. Then by the time, we get to the annual appraisal, here are the themes that are running through the feedback for the year.”

“Number one, you’re presenting very enthusiastically on slides. Fantastic. Number two, you could prepare better and then what you’ve got is more of a summary of performance rather than the great big surprising reveal that often goes on. That shouldn’t happen.”

Neither the line manager or the report should come into that appraisal and be surprised with a big rabbit being pulled out of the hat. It should be more, we roughly know what we’re going to say to each other. Let’s work on what the themes are. We can figure out how we can help you to improve your weaknesses. Let’s celebrate your strengths and off we go.”

Final Thoughts

“So if you have to do an annual appraisal, and many corporate companies still do, although there are a bunch moving away from them. If you have to do the annual appraisal, let’s make sure it’s a summary of feedback over the last 12 months and has no surprises. And the simple tool is, you’re good because of XYZ. You’d be even better if ABC.”

“Thank you for listening to our short and sticky stories.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills and our People Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read more People Management Skills Tips and HR Management Tips.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:09:12 Darren A. Smith
E4 – Do You Attend 1-Day Training and Do Nothing with It? https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/make-learning-stick/ Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:31:07 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=30818 full 4 1 E4 – Do You Attend 1-Day Training and Do Nothing with It? Are You Failing to Make Learning Stick?

Have you ever attended a 1-day training course, returned to the office and done nothing different. You’re one of many who fails to make learning stick.

The return on time & money invested is therefore zero.

In this podcast, we discuss this common story; You work in the corporate world, you attend 1-day training courses. You come back and get on with your work. Nothing changes. We spend 10 years at school going to lesson after lesson. Yet, we then get out into the big wide world and expect to learn a skill between 9-5 in a training course. It simply can not happen.

Make learning stick: Time flies by and nothing changes

Similar to when you learnt to drive. The average person takes 40 driving lessons. And then they pass. In the science of learning, this is called, ‘Spaced Repetition’. It simply means that we learn, we take a break, we learn, we take a break, and so on. Also, we are applying what we are learning all the time, as we drive. In short, we are making the learning stick. Yet on 1-day training courses, we learn the theory, there is some practice, but not enough.

Read the Make Learning Stick Podcast Transcript:

“People go on one-day training courses, come back, and nothing’s changed. My name is Darren Smith, and you’re at home with Sticky Learning MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry. So I spent 15 years in the corporate world and I attended one-day training courses. HR would come along or you’d have your appraisal and there’ll be a list of courses that you could attend, my team could attend, and you’d worked through some sort of very complex process to arrive at Bob needed time management skills, or John needed negotiation skills, and the date was set with HR. These guys went on a training course normally with a bunch of other companies, but it could be internal.”

No One Questions Why Our Behaviours Don’t Change Following Training

“Now here’s the surprising thing. We go to school, we have double English every week, if not two lots, for many, many years to try and get us to understand that topic and then when we leave school, we go to the corporate world, spend a huge amount on training. I’d expect our behaviours to change and of course, they don’t and no one really questions it. You’d go on a course, you come back, your manager might say, “How was it?” That was fine. And you try and get on with the rest of your day, which was piling up. And that’s all you really thought about whilst you were on this one-day training course.”

“So for 50 plus years, who can blame anyone? The norm is you go on a one-day training course, you come back and nothing changes. Nowadays, the learning gurus understand about blended learning or 70/20/10, but what I want to talk about is really simple. It’s doing learning or training and then changing behaviour. Because if you’re not, all that’s happening is learning transfer. You’re going on a course or you’re talking to someone or you’re learning something and they’re passing on that information, but you’re not doing anything with it. As someone once said, information without application is just entertainment. And whilst the courses that I’m sure you’re going on aren’t that entertaining, that’s all that’s happening. You’re being entertained. Because we’re not achieving that crucial behavioural change. Aye, you’re doing something different when you’re at work.”

Three Simple Steps to Get the Most from Your Training Investment and Make Learning Truly Stick

“So I want to talk through three simple things that can be done in order to get the very most out of your investment in training, be you were learner or an HR manager and we talk to a lot of HR managers that are fried, frustrated because their people come back from training courses and nothing has changed. Yet they’ve ticked a box, and if ticked boxing is all you want to do, then this isn’t for you. If you genuinely want the learner to get a better return on investment from their time, and you for your company getting a better return on your money spent, then doing something different is crucial. Let me take you through these three steps.”

My New iPhone

“A few weeks ago I got a brand new iPhone, a seven. I’m not quite up to date with the kids, but a seven isn’t bad. When I opened that box, I’m excited and I’m turning it on, pairing up and I’m trying all these different things. I’m using the different apps, the bits of technology, the heart function on it. I’m interested. So I’m interested, so my individual learning objective, whilst not quite conscious, was I want to learn it because I’m excited, because I’m interested, because I think it will add some value to my life and also it’s a little something to talk about. So my individual learning objective, my ILO is I want to understand it for me. Everyone needs an individual learning objective. Now once we get to that point of people understanding I’m going on a course or I’m doing a piece of learning or it’s a seven-day course, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s a piece of learning. Once they understand that they need to know what’s in it for them, what are they want to get from it?”

Simple Individual Learning Objectives to Make Learning Stick

“And what I don’t mean is I want to be a better time manager. That simply won’t work because they’re ticking a box. It has to be truly about them. I want to go home at five every night. I want to be less stressed. Also, I want to manage this project so much better and deliver it on time. That’s what we want. Now they’ll learn a whole bunch of other things. What we need to make sure is that they have what they truly want and it has to be a problem. The problem is this. And it has to be specific, ideally a smart individual learning objective, but let’s just start with something specific to them that’s a problem. I don’t get this iPhone phone thing and how it works, therefore I’m going to go and fix that. I keep getting beaten up by my bar in negotiation skills and I don’t want to be beaten up anymore. Let’s fix that. So, part one is the learner needs an individual learning objective or put really simply, what the hell do they want to get out of the time that they’re investing in this learning?”

Learning to Drive

“Part two. I was 17. I’m at home. Mom and dad were excited. We’re in the living room. It’s my birthday. Now, as a surprise present, they said, “Look out the window.” And there it is. The car with the L on top. My heart sank. And I didn’t know then what I know now, the reason my heart sank. So mom and dad have bought me a present. Of course, I went outside. Talked to Dave, my new driving instructor. He said, get in the car in the driver’s side. He pretty much went through, there’s the steering wheel, these are the pedals, that’s go, let’s… Off we go.”

“I came back after an hour. Mum, Dad said, “How was it?” I just said I’d hated it. Now, I didn’t want to say that, it was my birthday present, but I did. I absolutely hated it. And what I understand now, but didn’t back then, is that my driving instructor was an activist. Now there’s a lot of research around whether learning styles exist or not. Let’s not get sucked into that. Let’s say there is something about how we prefer to learn with a particular activity and it can change. So my driving instructor was an activist, which was pretty much, there it is getting on with it. My learning style’s reflector, which means I want to have a think about it. I want stuff to be explained and then me to go slightly daydreaming and then I’ll come back. There is some science around the mnemonic, P-A-R-T, which is pragmatist activist, reflect to theorist, which suggests you go through all four of those learning styles, but you just join that roundabout at a different place.”

People Learn in Different Ways

“For now, let’s just say that people learn very differently and they need to consume the learning in the way they want to consume. So for you at your desk, if you’re teaching someone Excel, you might not get the best out of them if you show them how to do it. They might need to do it, which is an activist or you might need to explain it and then they’ll come back later and say, did you mean this? That’s a reflector. So allow the learners to consume the learning in the way they need to learn it best. And they may not even know it, but introduced an activist and reflector at least we start that common language.”

Ebbinghaus

“The last one comes back to some old research, we’re talking mid-1800s, by a German psychologist called Herman Ebbinghaus. Now broadly, what he said was that if you don’t use what you’ve learned after 30 days, you’ll lose it. Now, there’s a lot more to the science that you came up with, but we’re talking very old science that’s still very useful today. So, if you’ve go on a one-day training course and you don’t use what you’ve learned within 30 days, it will be gone. What a waste. What a shame. You will have failed to make your leaning stick. So, we need to use what we’ve learnt.”

Creating Habits for Long Term Change

“B.J. Fogg is a professor at Stanford. He’s the grandfather of habit formation. I’m introducing him because I want you to understand that you need to create a habit. So for me, I broke my foot some years ago playing volleyball, a fantastic leap in the air, at least eight feet off the ground, or at least I thought it was, came down, broke my foot. The doctor gave me exercises to get my ankle strength back. The best way to do that was for me to tack the habits, the behaviour onto an existing habit. So imagine me brushing my teeth every morning, toothbrush in my right hand, toothbrush in my mouth, left foot, swinging around for the two or three minutes it took me to brush my teeth.”

“If you want to change your behaviour because you’ve learnt something new, piggyback it onto a current habit. Like me brushing my teeth, I did my ankle exercises. For you, it might be time management. You need to write your daily to-do list. So before you open the lid of your laptop, and maybe your to-do list is in the lid of your laptop, and that’ll remind you to write your to-do list before you get stuck into your emails. Try and disrupt your behaviour. Try and add it on to a current habit.”

Final Thoughts

“So in summary, one-day training courses don’t work. They fail to make the learning stick. The science proves that. If you want to get more out of your learning, one, figure out what’s in it for you. Two, begin to understand how you want to consume the material. And three, do something with it within 30 days, ideally adding it onto a current habit that you do. Thank you.”


Read more about how Sticky Learning will make your learning really stick and improve your return on investment from training. Haven’t got time? Simply watch our short video.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:11:06 Darren A. Smith
E3 – Don’t Start with a Powerpoint Presentation! – Do More Effective Presentations that Achieve Your Objectives https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/dont-start-powerpoint/ Fri, 05 Oct 2018 16:54:57 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=30494 full 3 1 E3 – Don’t Start with a Powerpoint Presentation!

Do you always start with a PowerPoint presentation? Are they engaging?  Recent research says that audiences either go on their phones or fall asleep in presentations.

Powerpoint presentation: Man bored on phone

In this podcast, we discuss the fact we need to make our presentations much more engaging. Presenting is a key business skill. If we are not good at this skill, we will fail to engage our audience and sell, gain buy-in, or achieve our objectives.

Read the Don’t Start With a PowerPoint Presentation Podcast Transcript:

“Presenting and presentation skills are one of the key skills we need to have as a knowledge worker in the digital age. My name is Darren Smith and you’re at Short and Sticky Stories. We’re making business matter the home of sticky learning.”

“So I worked in corporate for about 15 years and commuted into London there and back four hours a day. Okay. Hey, it was what it was. I was a buyer for a large UK supermarket and the story I want to share with you is of frozen carrots. Yes, frozen carrots. They don’t turn over very much, but hey, it was part of the portfolio that I bought. So we had a carrot supplier, a frozen carrot supplier, and the meeting was coming up. So this was about consumer research. They had been out and done some work on understanding shoppers. So my ethos was around cash flow management and understanding shoppers, not surprisingly.”

Frozen Carrots

“They had taken this and run with it, not quite what I wanted them to do. I expected something a little different, but hey, good on them for trying. So the meeting day came. I booked a meeting room and there were about eight of us.”

“So eight of us in this room, teas and coffees ready. We just grabbed a brew and this guy stands up. So he’s in front of a screen and the first slide with the name of the supplier comes up. He says, “I’m going to talk about shopper research on frozen carrots and I’d welcome questions at the end.” Now I wanted to be a polite buyer, so I checked in. Okay, so you want questions at the end. So no questions during, no. And then what happened made my heart sink, because as he just was setting up a bit more of the tech, cause he’d forgotten something, which is fine.”

122 Slides

“I just saw that giveaway on the bottom right of the screen of PowerPoint. One of 122 slides. Yes, you heard it. 122 slides. 122 slides on shopper research of frozen carrots. Now I’m all for understanding the shopper, but that was ridiculous. So where had he gone wrong? Well to my mind, he’d done an awful lot of work and fair play to him. The challenge he hadn’t considered was making that stick. We’re not talking in this context about a learning stick, but we talking about a stick in terms of what actions we’re going to take away from this and implement.”

“Over the next two and a half hours, two and a half hours, this guy took us through slide by slide, shopper research of frozen carrots. He went into baby carrots, he went into wonky carrots. He went into the packaging. To his credit, it was exceptional.”

The Best Worst PowerPoint Presentation in the World

“It should be framed as probably the worst presentation in the world based on the best piece of work. And here’s the rub. We often do great pieces of work, but then let ourselves down in the execution, and that’s what this guy did too. He’d spent weeks pulling this together. He’d asked the shoppers everything you could ever want to ask about frozen carrots and then fall at the last hurdle because he wanted to share with us every fact that he found out and how he’d arrived at that fact. Now in the nicest possible way, we didn’t care. Even his boss didn’t care. Because as I looked around that room, people started to doodle, they started to fidget, and in body language terminology, there was leakage. Which means, people are tapping their table, they’re fiddling with their pen, they’re touching their ears, which means I don’t want to listen to this anymore.”

Don’t Start with PowerPoint for Your Presentations

“I was too young or too polite to stop him. Someone should’ve stopped him. Here’s the practical tip. Don’t start with PowerPoint. Yeah, I’ll say it again. Don’t start with PowerPoint. PowerPoint can be a fabulous tool and as the phrase goes, it’s a bit like a tramp. You don’t use a lamppost to lean on, you use it for illumination. Use PowerPoint to bring your presentation to life, not as opposed to lean on. But let me try that again. If you don’t start with PowerPoint, what do you start with? Well, we do have a download on our blog. The article is called, Don’t Start with PowerPoint. What essentially it says is take an A4 piece of paper and start with your objectives. What are you trying to achieve? Is your objective to sell five million pounds worth of product? Is it to convince the audience to do this one thing?”

What Do You Want to Achieve?

“What is it you want them to do at the end of this meeting? And then the page moves into, “Okay, how are you going to split your time up? What questions do you have? What questions do you think they have?” So you start with this one-page piece of paper, which is a template, which prompts you to think about this presentation before you open PowerPoint. One of the key things it asks to do is consider the format. Because I’ve seen presentations which have been fabulous, just using an A3 mind map, or an A1 board on the wall that everyone stands around, or maybe a handout of two or three slides. Because as soon as someone stands up at the screen, people lock their necks in a certain position and they’ll just almost listen for that time. But they’re just listening. They’re not interacting, they’re not engaging, they’re not adding value, and that’s what you want.”

Information Without Application Is Just Entertainment

“You don’t just want to give information. As someone once said, “Information without application is just entertainment.” So are you just there to entertain them? I doubt not. So what we can take away from this, “Begin with the end in mind,” that Stephen Covey said, who was the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. So what’s your end in mind? What do you want to achieve? And then work backwards. And our A4 template can certainly help you do that, or you can write it yourself. What are my objectives? What will their questions be? Will there be any barriers? What do I want them to do? What’s my format? What are they thinking?”

“Those sort of questions are the right ones to ask yourself before you dive into PowerPoint. Now here’s the crazy thing, it can actually take you a lot less time to do one engaging, interactive A1 board than it can to write a lot of slides. Now you’ve got to … if you are going to do slides, you’ve got to allow three minutes per slide. So if you’ve got an hour meeting with the buyer, there are 10 minutes at the start and you probably want 10 minutes, in the end, at least 10 minutes of Q&A, or maybe 20 minutes of Q&A, but let’s call that implementation and action.”

Final Thoughts

“Then you’re probably only doing about seven slides, but they’ve got to be a rich, good seven slides. So three tips to take away. One, don’t start with PowerPoint. Two, begin with the end in mind. What do you want to achieve? And three, leave enough time in the meeting to discuss how you achieve what you want to achieve. This action, this piece of behaviour that you want to happen, make sure there’s time to make that happen and discuss it. Thank you.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Presentation Skills and our Presentation Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog to see more Presentation Skills Tips and articles.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:08:34 Darren A. Smith
E2 – Putting Off the Important Stuff? Identify the Important Stuff & Get it Done https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/putting-things-off/ Tue, 02 Oct 2018 09:11:26 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=30489 full 2 1 E2 – Putting Off the Important Stuff? Identify the Important Stuff & Get it Done

Stop putting things off. Get beyond being just busy and be able to make the deep impact on your results that you want.

Putting things off: Asleep on a tree

You are doing shallow work only. Working as a knowledge worker in the corporate world can be tough. The danger is that you are busy. Busy doing the shallow work. The work that doesn’t make a big difference. This Podcast will help you learn how to identify important tasks. And know how to get them done. More importantly, it will help you to stop putting things off.

Read the Putting Things Off Podcast Transcript Below:

“I bet you’re busy, really, really busy. Well, busy nowadays equal to sjob. No one has a job where they’ve got a few hours spare to yeah, let’s have a look at that new thing.”

“My name is Darren Smith and you’re here at Sticky and Short Stories, the home of Sticky Learning, MBM, trainers to the UK grocery industry.”

My Commute

“I worked in corporate for about 15 years and commuted every day, four hours a day to London, two hours there, two hours back. Often, when I walked into my office and there were another 20 emails which I barely touched and yet another email from marketing with 15 attachments to get done within 48 hours. Of course, I hadn’t read the last lot, plus voicemails, plus back-to-back meetings. I could not get my head above water.”

“I was stressed, overwhelmed and it felt like the email monster was just growing.”

Putting Things Off, Procrastination

“Now having left, and run time management courses for 15 years, I had to learn and I learned the hard way. I learned what works and what doesn’t work. The time management gurus call it procrastination. We call it putting stuff off, putting off the big stuff.”

“So you have one of those days where you come in, let’s say eight o’clock. I’ll just have a quick check of my emails and you do. An hour later, a cup of coffee you’ve had, maybe a chat with a few other people that have come in and you’re off to your first meeting around half past nine, 10:00 o’clock. That meeting overruns. You come out of there about quarter past 11. A quick check of your emails, a quick catch up with Bob down the corridor and all of a sudden it’s time for a sandwich at your desk whilst you read a couple of reports, and maybe catch up with one of your team.”

The Busyness Continues

“And then you’re coming out of lunch, you’re into the two o’clock meetings. They’re overrun and you must get some of this important stuff done. That’s what’s in the back of your mind, but you never do because you’re running from meeting to meeting or email to email.”

“So you do the quality work at the end of the day when everyone’s gone home and at that time when you’re at your most tired and you have the least energy is when you start to do that work that makes the real difference.”

Brian Tracy

“Brian Tracy, the time management guru from the States wrote a fabulous book called Eat That Frog. The basic premise is that if you can identify the biggest and horrible thing, the frog and get that done first, then the rest of your day will be easier because you’ve got the worst thing out of the way.”

“Now, I never did this in 15 years in corporate, but I wish I had. Because what we’re trying to achieve is we’re trying to get the things done that make the biggest impact. Now that sounds easy.”

Why Are You on the Payroll?

“When I coach a lot of people, I ask them, why are you on the payroll? And they write very proudly a very long list of why they’re on the payroll. They’re there to manage people, lead people, run meetings, organize projects, manage projects, deal with customers and so on and so on, and they are all very true. I’m certainly not taking those things away.”

“What I am saying and my challenge back to them once they’ve finished their list, is if they work in a commercial organization, one that makes money, then they are there to make money. And the more connected, and the more steel chain link there is between the reason you are on the payroll to make 500,000 a million, whatever it is and the task that you do every day, the more successful you will be.”

Deep Work

“Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work, fabulous book and what it essentially says is that if you work on the deep impact task, you’ll make a bigger difference. Now, we didn’t need a book to know that, but he brings up a lot of research and a lot of examples which further push forward the thought that Pareto was right. 20% of the task will deliver 80% of the difference in your job. The trick is knowing what the 20% are and doing them when you have quality time.”

“So here’s the practical tip. When you start your day, write a list of all the stuff you’ve got to get done that day. Don’t be over-enthusiastic and write five days worth. Yes, I know you’ve got a lot. Put that on a separate piece of paper. This is just the stuff you’ve got to get done today. Then identify the biggest horrible thing that you need to do and put a star by it, a circle around it, highlight it, whatever you need to do and do it first. Don’t put it off.”

“Now here’s the other practical tip that will help you get started. The best way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time. Or as Alan Lakein put it, who was the grandfather of time management back in the sixties. He described it as a Swiss piece of cheese. You just need to poke one hole in it.”

Breaking Things Down

“So, someone, I was coaching a while back, they were talking about them trying to move house forever. They hadn’t. It was a big job and they’d written on their list, move house. Now that’s got a lot of tasks within it.”

“The very first thing they decided to write after some coaching was phone the estate agent. They phoned me the next day and said, do you know, I did that. And then what happened was the snowball started to run, started to go down the hill and gather speed because they’d done the first task. They poked the hole in the Swiss cheese and found that the next task was easier and the next task was easier after that.”

Simple, Practical Tasks

“So for your biggest horrible thing that you need to do, write a simple practical task, and it might even be open email x and read it. Just write that down and it will start. Don’t find every reason you can not do it.”

“What your brain does when it’s got something horrible to do, there’s almost this radar on the top of your head that says, someone, talk to me, anyone distracts me. This is horrible, and then all of a sudden you start talking to Bob down the corridor.”

“But actually you’ve got to get on and do this task. You’ve got to blank out everything around you, and you’ve certainly not got to look at other people to talk to you, distract you away from this task because yes, you’ll describe yourself as busy. It’s easy to be busy. It’s much harder to be busy on the stuff that makes the difference.”

Final Thoughts to Help You Stop Putting Things off

“So in summary. One, identify the horrible thing you’ve got to get done today. Two, write on your to-do list the first practical step to start it. And three, be aware that as soon as you want to start getting this thing done, your brain will go off and look for distractions. Don’t let it. Good luck.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read our review of ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:07:34 Darren A. Smith
E1 – Email Overload? Try ‘The Hare and the Tortoise System for Managing Emails’ https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/podcast/email-overload/ Fri, 28 Sep 2018 07:48:45 +0000 Darren A. Smith https://www.makingbusinessmatter.co.uk/?post_type=podcast&p=30430 full 1 1 E1 – Email Overload? Try ‘The Hare and the Tortoise System for Managing Emails’

Get on top of your emails, and get the deep work done with this new technique for managing emails.

Email overload
The email Monster is taking over. He is out of its cage. Listen to this podcast to find out about the hare and the tortoise technique. A new tool required in this digital age to manage the daily onslaught of emails. Tame the email monster once and for all.

Read the Managing Emails Transcript Below:

“I want to share a story, a story about the hare and the tortoise. But the hare and the tortoise are having a race about email. My name is Darren. You’re at The Home of Sticky Learning NBM.”

“You’ve all heard about the hare and the tortoise. Well, it’s about email overload. It’s fast becoming the main reason of stress and it’s overwhelming. Most people, they can’t get away from feeding the email monster. It just keeps growing. No matter how much you seem to clear the emails, they just don’t stop.”

We’re Not Getting the Deep Work Done

“The challenge is that we don’t get the deep work done. Cal Newport wrote a book called Deep Work, and it’s all about doing the stuff that makes the big difference. It’s very easy to skim across the day being busy in inverted commas getting stuff done, but just clearing the emails.”

“Now the problem with that assumption is that doing the emails delivers the biggest impact, and it doesn’t because whatever comes in on email, comes in on email and it’s not necessarily what makes the big difference to why you’re on the payroll. You’re on the payroll to make money for your business, and the emails don’t necessarily do that.”

About the Hare and Tortoise Method of Managing Emails

“So the hare and the tortoise is all about splitting up the clock face, and it’s deep work and shallow work. So imagine a clock face 12:00 around to 12:20. That 20-minute segment in an hour, that’s when you can do the hare work. Run really quickly, getting emails done, as many as you can and as effectively as you can 12:00 until 12:20. Now in the other 40 minutes of the clock, 12:21 right around to 12:59, that’s when you do the deep work. That’s when you’re like the tortoise. You’re making a big difference.”

How It Works

“So the clock face is split into two, the right-hand side, 12:00 to 12:20 is the hare, and from 12:21 the 40-minute segment back up to the top is tortoise time. Now what this does is a number of things. It gets you to consider that there is deep work and shallow work. It gets you to not check your emails as often as you do. Some people are checking them every 15 minutes, although I know some people who are never out of it.”

Turning It into a Habit

“In order to make this a habit, you probably need to draw a clock face on a Post-it note and stick it on your laptop. There are some images we’ll put on our website, so you can see this. Simply look up the Hare and the Tortoise System for managing the email overload.”

“And the third reason this works is that what it only could do is realize that by doing the tortoise work, you’ll make the biggest difference because this is the work that takes the time. It takes the thought. It takes you away from emails. And getting that stuff done is really important because that’s why you’re on the payroll. Delivering your job won’t happen through email. It just won’t. It happens by putting the thought and the time into the big projects that we all procrastinate and put off because they’re hard.”

Final Thoughts

“So good luck with the Hare and the Tortoise System. We’ll also help you by writing that up on our blog, so you can see it with some images. So again, just look up the Hare and the Tortoise System for managing email overload. Best of luck.”

“Bye.”


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Time Management Skills and our Time Management Skills YouTube Channel.  Also, take a look at our award-winning blog where you can read our review of ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport.


We are delighted to announce that our Podcast: Personal Development Tips told through Short and Sticky Stories was selected as one of the Top 10 Negotiation Podcasts on the web by Feedspot. 

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clean no 00:04:09 Darren A. Smith