Transcript: How to Be an Effective Leader (EP58)
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Brendan: Hello and welcome to The Culture of Things Podcast. I'm your host Brendan Rogers and this is episode 58. Today I'm speaking with a fellow Liverpool supporter in Tom Lawrence. Tom's over in the UK at the moment. Tom, how are you, buddy?
Tom: Not too bad, thank you. How are you?
Brendan: Very well. I'm going to give the listeners a bit of a view on your bio in a second, but you were just holding up a photo. What is that photo? Hold that up again.
Tom: This is me holding the Champions League trophy, the Liverpool one in 2005.
Tom: The reason I'm holding that in 2011 is because we actually get to keep that trophy. We won it five times. Are there any supporters of this who's won the Champions League trophy five times? I don't think there is, is there?
Brendan: I don’t think there is at all, actually, so great point. It’s a fantastic way to start the podcast. Well done, mate. You're a champion. I've got my Liverpool scarf on here as well. All your stuff is here in London, but all your stuff is back at home in Liverpool, but it's in your heart no doubt definitely.
Brendan: Mate, good to have you on. I’ll go through a little bit of your bio and we'll get into our topic today. Tom gained his career in 1999 as an apprentice mechanical engineer with an automotive company in Liverpool in the UK. He moved into the train operator industry and earned his degree in mechanical engineering, his master's degree in maintenance engineering, and started his first leadership role as a project manager in 2009. Tom moved from Liverpool in 2011 and took on roles in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London where he now lives. Tom became a chartered engineer 2013 and is a mentor for new and upcoming engineers working towards their chartership.
There are hundreds of books that teach us how to be a leader. Most of them are good and teach the right things. But Tom has seen very few that teaches how to influence people or take up personal growth seriously or even lead if you're not in a leadership position. Tom wants to help people who are not in a leadership position but are aspiring to become a leader, current managers who want to take the next step and become highly effective leaders and to help senior leaders enhance their leadership skills. The focus of our conversation today is how to be a highly effective leader. Tom, officially, welcome to The Culture of Things Podcast.
Tom: Thank you. Great to be here.
Brendan: It's fantastic to have you here. I didn’t mention the book in the intro at all. You’ve written a book. Do you want to tell us just a little bit about the process of this book? What's the book called? What is it about?
Tom: Well, it’s basically what you've just read out in the bio. The book is called Manager to Leader. The subtitle is How to be a Highly Effective Leader. It's basically me writing my own story of how I started in a leadership position. But it's also teaching the principles of when you do get that leadership position, are you a manager or are you a leader? It’s how to influence your people to want to follow you because they want to not because they have to. That's basically what a highly effective leader does. They lead by example. They build trust with their people. Without trust, as you say, you can’t influence or lead people. It’s impossible.
Trust is the foundation of leadership. That’s actually chapter four in the book. If anyone is listening and has got the book, make sure that when you reach chapter four, you read it again and again because without trust there is no leadership. That’s basically what a manager does to become a leader.
Brendan: Yeah. Once again, a great point is absolutely around trust and the foundation of so many things around leadership, isn’t it? Why was it so important for you to write a book like this, something with a bit of a practical take on leadership?
Tom: As you mentioned, I've been in leadership positions since 2009, but obviously since 1999 I worked with supervisors, managers, people who are in leadership positions. Most of them—this is when I was living in Liverpool—were very old school–type leaders. They're very dictator-type, tell-you-what-to-do, didn't really listen to you, basically just do the bare minimum just to get the job done, then go home, have the weekends, come back on Monday, and do exactly the same.
There's not a lot of trying to develop you into a leader yourself or to develop you into a better engineer. It was just to give you the right amount of training just to get the job done. At the end of the day, it wasn't about how you felt at work. It was just getting the job done. That was all it was about. After a while, when I took my own leadership positions from 2009 up until 2018, I was trying to teach myself leadership and follow a certain style of leadership which was to influence your people.
When I first read John Maxwell's book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership that was in 2010, that was what turned me on about maybe I could become someone like John Maxwell. Maybe I could do that in the future, but what I needed at the time was experience to do it. It's always been a dream of mine since (I’ll just say) 2010 to become a leadership coach or leadership teacher, whatever you want to call it, and to help people with their leadership skills, because I don't like people going through the same journey as me—especially in the engineering world where I'm from—being dictated to and being told what to do every single day, coming to work with a feeling of I don't really want to be here, and waking up in the morning thinking, do I really want to get up this morning to go to work?
There's even next time when I think about what kind of excuse I think of [...]. There's a lot of people like that and there still are all around the UK, all around Europe, and around the world. I want to be one of those people who makes a difference in people's lives to change that. The thought of writing a book actually did come to me in 2010, but I just didn't have the experience to do it.
Then in 2018, I was working for a London rail company as a technical manager. The role that I was doing was the deputy professional head of engineering. Basically, the leaders who I work for had a similar view or very similar stance to the leaders I've worked for in the past. It was just do what you need to do to get the job done. It wasn't about being a great leader or anything like that or developing your people. It was just about letting the trains out the door. Let's get profits into the business, all that type of thing. Whereas I saw it differently. I just couldn't convince people.
After a while, I've bailed myself out in that job and came out of it. I took three months out of the job. Within those three months, I got a new job as a consultant which I'm working at now. That was when I decided to write the book because I’d have to have 10 years’ experience at that time. But also because I was at a stage where enough is enough. I need to do something to change my life and maybe writing the book is the way to do it.
I've been on that journey since February, 2019 and I'm still on that journey. Between February of 2019 and now, I've helped quite a lot of people, and people who’ve bought the book (and as you said to me), it's really helped them. Hopefully, I can expand on that and grow highlyeffectiveleader.com to become one of the biggest and best leadership companies there is.
Brendan: Well, you certainly have the drive. You’ve taken action on writing a book and turning some of your experiences into something practical that can help people. No doubt, you’ve got the work ethic to achieve all of those things that you're setting out to do. Well done in doing that.
We hear a lot about leader versus manager and we see all sorts of slides and often it's part of leadership development training. It’s all theory and a lot of practical, but I'm interested in your take in these terms leader versus manager. What is the difference in your own eyes?
Tom: A manager is someone who manages processes, policies, procedures, business growth, let’s say, little things. It's all things, it's nothing to do with people. Leaders lead people. Things like procedures, policies, all of those types of things, they don't have feelings. They don't have emotions. They don't tell you things that you need to listen to. Leaders lead people. They influence people. With people comes emotions. They come with frustrations, they come with excitement. It becomes all these different things.
To be a leader, you have to be a really good listener. To be a manager you have to be very practical and very good at time management, good at writing procedures, writing documents, business growth, profits into the business, all those things. Whereas if you take care of your people as a leader, all those things that I've just mentioned will take care of themselves. They become a byproduct of how good the people are.
If you’re a leader, you can help your people to be their best selves. First of all for themselves, for the friends and family, and for the organization, then all the things that managers are supposed to manage will become a byproduct of you leading your people well. Actually, the people become the managers, whereas you're the leader. Your team will become the managers of what you're working. They take on the responsibility of the job, whereas the leader takes on the responsibility of the people. That's the difference between manager and leader for me.
Brendan: Great. There are a few people in the live stream. You're getting a bit of a thumbs up but yes, leaders lead people and managers manage things. It sounds like there are aligned people on the call.
Tom: Very good.
Brendan: You talk a lot about influence in the book and you’ve mentioned influence a number of times in the conversation already today. Something that was in the book was the term false influence versus genuine influence. Can you explain that for us?
Tom: False influence is like what I've explained before is having a manager, supervisor, or a person in a leadership position who has his or her own team but gives the impression that you do as I say. You do what I say basically. There's no room for ideas. There’s no room for innovation. There’s no room for you to develop. It's all about me, basically.
In the beginning, I actually thought that was the way the world was. I was falsely influenced to believe that I’m here to be told what to do. Whereas actually, if I would've known what real influence was, which is real and genuine influence, is a leader who basically gives their power away. And that's exactly what empowerment is.
If you have a team who have ideas to share, want to be innovative on the job and want to improve the job, then the only way you can do that or the only way you can help your people be like is to genuinely influence them. If you tell them what to do and make them feel worthless, they're only allowed to do a certain amount of work to get the job done, they're not allowed to express their own ideas, then they're not really given 100%. They're not going to give their best selves for the team and for the organization.
It's not an easy thing to do. I'm talking about it like it sounds easy but it's not. It's very, very difficult. But if you can get to a stage where your people want to come to work, want to do their best, give their best for the team and for themselves, and want to share their ideas, then imagine what team you can be in.
Think of it like a football team. Think of it like the Liverpool team. Imagine Mohamed Salah. He only gave just the right amount of effort to put the ball in the back of the net. But he didn't help with leading the team on the pitch or speaking to a different player to say, you don't seem to be yourself today. They will want to give 100% because they are treated so well, whereas in a normal everyday job that I've been in the past, you're not. It's how you treat your people basically, is genuine influence.
Brendan: Let's unpack that a bit because you touched on the influence is a hard thing to achieve and a hard thing to work on. What are some of the things that leaders need to do or should be focused on in order to generate the level of influence they need in their role and to be successful in their role?
Tom: For a leader who has a team of (let’s say) 10 people, that leader needs to build a relationship with every single person. Obviously, there's going to be some better performers than others. There's going to be some team members who need more development in certain areas. The reason you need to build a relationship with every single person is because the first thing you want to do is you want to build trust with that person.
Without trust, you cannot influence. It's absolutely impossible. If that person doesn't trust you, they're not going to listen to you. They're not going to take on board exactly what you say to them. They're not going to believe what you say. So the first thing that you need to do is build trust.
The way to build trust is for you to listen to that passion. To build a relationship with your team members, the first thing you should do is not talk to them, not tell them who you are and what you think is best and all that stuff. The first thing you should do is sit down with this person and listen to them. Let them tell you what their background is, where they come from, what their views of the future are, what their feelings are for the job at the moment. What their views for the team are. Who they think are the better performers. Who they think they aren't. Then build that relationship.
From then, once you’ve listened to them, they'll feel heard, and when they feel heard, they feel cared for. When someone feels cared for, trust will build. Then once that trust builds, you can start increasing your influence more and more. You have to do that with every single person. If you’ve got a big team of (as I said) 10 people, that's a very difficult job to do. But it's a job you must do if you want to influence every single person.
You can influence the team as a whole, but you can't do that until you build trust with every single person and influence them as an individual first. As I say, if you’ve got a team of that many people, then it will take time and it will be difficult. Some of the things that you’ll listen to will be difficult to hear. Because if you're a new leader coming into a team, then what will happen is the people who you have taken over as a leader will have heard certain things about you from other people that may or may not be true.
They might be good things, they might be about things, but it's up to you to justify what they’ve heard of. For you to listen to them first and start building trust with them, once you start telling them about yourself, the trust will build even more. Then in the future once you want to start bringing change into the team and lead the change, it'll be a lot easier for you to gain the team's buy-in because you have that trust with the team. That's when your influence will grow even more once you start trying to change things for the better.
Brendan: It’s a lot of common sense stuff and practical stuff, those words trust, building relationships, and the individuals within the team, strength of relationships. Let's now focus on how you make that happen. My biggest question is, if it's so common sense, what's stopping more people doing that? Why don’t they do it?
Tom: From what I have experienced with the managers I've worked with and also alongside, they don't know. That's how to do it. They don't understand that leadership is influence. Leadership isn't telling people what to do. Leadership isn't micromanaging and being on someone's back every day saying, where are you with this, where are you with that, making people feel insecure and awkward in the job. Leadership is about making people feel good and wanting to be that best.
The reason that people don't do it, the reason that managers and leaders or people in leadership positions don't do it is because they don't know how to. They don't know that that's how to do it. They don't know that their position, role, or responsibility is people. They think their responsibility is results, getting the job done, business growth, profits, and all those things I mentioned to you before about what a manager does. They think that's their role when it's not.
Their role is the people. If you take care of the people, that’s [...]. If you take care of the people, everything else will take care of itself. But if they don't they take care of everything else. The people don't become the number one priority.
Brendan: What you're saying is common sense is not so common sense as far as leadership goes.
Tom: No, it’s not. Absolutely not. That's not their fault, either. People who are promoted into leadership positions are usually the people who are the better performing team members, whereas doing the job and being the leader are completely different jobs. They're absolutely completely different.
That's why sometimes, as I mentioned again, sometimes the best footballers aren’t always the best coaches, because it's completely different. In my industry, in the engineering industry, if you're the best technician or mechanical fitter, it will not make you the best manager or best person for the leadership or supervisory position.
That's where it’s all breaking down for me because people aren't given leadership development until they get the leadership position. Whereas leadership development should start when you're in an apprentice position or when you're actually starting the job. You don't wait until you start the job and then you get the developments. You get the development and then you start the job. That's how it's supposed to work, isn’t it?
Like with an apprentice mechanical engineer. I learned to become a mechanical engineer before I became a mechanical engineer. Whereas with leaders and managers, you become the leader, but then you get the developments, so you're working backwards. That's another thing that we need to change as well.
Brendan: It's a fantastic point. What's your view on changing that? How do you change that? Because when you put in those terms, it sounds daft. Why would you put someone in a leadership position but not having developed them to be a leader where apprenticeships and like all the stuff that you're saying here, there's a whole process of becoming competent. How do we change that?
Tom: We need to talk to the leaders of the businesses. We need to talk to the head of the training departments and say, look, how do you set this up? If it's an engineering company where I'm from, the way you set up your engineering training department is that people get trained and then they do the job. Whereas your leadership department is not. You need to change that and then we need to explain it to them and as you say, it sounds daft, so we have to show them a daft example. If we have those daft examples, then they’ll see it. They're the people we need to go to and they're the people who need to listen and need to change their style of training.
As part of that leadership development, you need to find out who was trained the best and did the best. If they have to do any assessments or anything like that, who did the best assessments, and then we'll put them in the leadership role. They might not be the best engineer or the best leader, and they’ve practiced those leadership skills within the team because remember, you don't have to have a position to be a leader. Leadership is not about position or title. If you have a leader within your team, then promote them. Don’t promote the best engineer. Promote the best leader. That’s another way to look at it as well.
Brendan: So many common threads, mate. I'm just going to go back to you saying the word insecure. Once again, I know through the book, there is a specific area you talk about secure leaders versus insecure leaders, and there are various different behaviors around those. Could you explain those two terms, insecure versus secure leader and the behaviors that each one of those has?
Tom: For an insecure leader, basically in a nutshell, they're a micromanager. Everyone knows what that means. In layman's terms, that means somebody who doesn't trust their team. They don't believe that any of their team members can do the actual job as well as they can. They’re on their backs every five minutes saying this task that was sent yesterday is not being done yet. The way I've seen you do it, you’re not doing it right. The reason for the person's not doing it right is because the manager is on their back. They're not given the time and space to actually do the job, to make a mistake, to learn from that mistake and then move on.
Insecure leaders, as I say, don't trust the team and they won't give them the space to make mistakes and learn from them. Whereas, a secure leader empowers their team. What does empowerment mean? It means to give your power away. They give the free range to their team to go away to do the job, learn from their mistakes, and come back with either new ideas or new solutions that could benefit. What a secure leader will do then is listen to their ideas, ask open questions to dig deeper, and maybe come to a better solution.
But the leader will not give them the solution. They will not tell them what to do. They will ask open questions like what, how, why, and when, to help their team members think deeper within themselves and maybe come to a better solution. It's not giving them the task or giving them answers. It's just helping them come to the answers themselves. That's what a secure leader will do. Whereas an insecure leader will tell everyone what to do, but then don't trust them enough to do the job because they're on their backs every five minutes.
Most of the time I've worked with micromanagers and it’s not. I'm pretty sure you have as well. Most people do probably work for micromanagers all over the world. That's the thing we all need to try and change as well.
Brendan: What's your view around micromanagement? I guess I ask that because I have lots of discussions with leaders, some clients, some are not, but telling them that actually micromanagement is not a bad thing. It is if you define micromanagement as being on top of anyone and you're asking someone every five seconds or not trusting them like you said. But if you call micromanagement as being people being really clear on what's expected of them and leaders following up on performance related goals and progress, then if you call that micromanagement, that's good micromanagement in my book. Have you got a view on that?
Tom: Well, having clear expectations and having performance objectives and things like that. I do agree with that, but the micromanagement I'm talking about is somebody who doesn't even think about those things. All they want to do is be on your back every five minutes to get the job done.
The reason that they're on your back is because they don't trust you. That's the real micromanagement. Performance objectives and having clear expectations, that is a good thing. That's actually what a leader should do. I wouldn't call that micromanagement. I will call that a part of the leadership.
But there’s the practical side of it. It’s the thing that you measure yourself against. You have to be secure enough to let your team member go away, work on themselves and work on the job against these objectives and measurements, make mistakes, learn from them, and then come back and say right this happened. I didn't reach this performance's objectives at this period, but I've learned from working on myself that by next period, I'll exceed that.
Whereas if I micromanage it, testing against these new metrics, they'd be on your back every five minutes saying, how are you against these objectives? This last period, where are you with them? I want to know. Come on, tell me. That's the micromanaging I'm talking about. We all need to sort of measure ourselves against that performance, but a leader needs to let the person have the free reign and the empowerment to go away, work on themselves, and try to reach those objectives and those performance measures.
Brendan: I've got the driving in the car as apparently kids in the back micromanagement is, are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Right?
Tom: Yeah, that's exactly it.
Brendan: The other single word that's popping up in my head quite a lot as you're talking since the start of this interview is mindset. Again, so much of what you're talking and spreading is really clear, practical. In our view, common sense sort of stuff that's not so common as we spoke about.
How do you help change a person's mindset around this stuff, to start to get them to think more like what you're explaining? To me, it sounds like if you can help them change their mindset, even if they don't know some of the stuff you're talking about, they'll be far more open to it.
Tom: If I was to have a one-to-one with a person in a leadership position today, the way I would go about changing their mindset is to ask them questions, questions at the start of empowerment. I would ask questions, like how do you find your role as a leader at the moment? What do you think your responsibility is?
If they come back to me saying, the responsibility is I need to get the job. I need to get a certain amount of work completed by the end of the week. Every single week we need to turn them into profit. We need to have this much business growth by the end of the year. Then I would basically be blunt with them and tell them, from a leadership point of view, your responsibility is people. Your responsibility isn’t business growth. That's your people's responsibility. That's the team's responsibility. I will tell them and give them examples.
An example for me would be my first leadership position when I moved to London. It was only a small team. I helped change the whole outlook on the team, whereas all the leaders in the company and [...] that I worked in, we're all talking about, it's all changed. Change has to be out the door by a certain amount of time to get in service and all that stuff where no, you're the leader. We are the leaders, our responsibilities are to the people.
I basically encouraged them to start thinking more about people. Put people as your priority in the [...] having. We're always talking about training performance, but we never thought about people's performance. Why don't we talk about the people? Why don't we give the people the development that they need so that they can be the leaders not the ones who are responsible for the trains and getting the trains out the door, and getting the business growth going and the profit? Why aren't we doing that?
A leader's role is people. When we have meetings, we don't talk about trains. We talk about people, unless the people who were in the meeting are the people. If we have our teams in the meeting, then yeah, we'll talk about performance because that's their thing. Training performance because that's their thing. Whereas if we are all leaders in the meeting, then we need to talk about people and that's the mindset we need to start having.
My number one priority is my people, not business growth, trains, whatever you want to whatever your business is. If you're in a leadership position, and you have a team of 1–10 people, however many people you have, then your number one responsibility and priority is your people.
What are you going to do to make your people the best that they can be? What are you going to do to help your people be their best selves for themselves, for their families, for the organization, for their community? How are you going to develop your team into a team of leaders? That is what I would be saying to a manager or a person in a leadership position, if I was having a one-to-one with them. Why aren't you doing that? What reasons why you're not?
Brendan: I love what you just said in that, just went back to a note I took from your book and you just basically explained that and lived what you've written. You said, as a team member, your job is to have the answers. As a leader, it is your responsibility to have all the questions. You just framed that answer to that question that I put to you around. I would get them in a room and ask the right questions and really poking and prodding through questioning.
Again, it's so much in your book. You just write really clearly simply, which is really, really effective. It was probably authentic, the fact that you've written a highly effective leader book, and there are some highly effective simple language in there, right?
Tom: Yeah, if you think of a leader's mindset, leaders have the most simple minds ever. You think of the best leaders in the world like Nelson Mandela, when he spoke, he spoke very simply. It's the easiest thing in the world to make something simple complicated, but it's the most difficult thing in the world to make something complicated simple. That's what leaders do. They make things simple.
People like managers, they like to make simple things complicated. That's what sometimes enrages me because some of the people that I work with do that, and I try to stop them. I'm saying, look, we don't need to make it so complicated. Can we discuss this in a much more simple way so that everybody who's listening to us understands what we're talking about? To be the most effective team or to be the most effective person, wouldn't it be better to know things in a simple way than to know things in a complicated way?
Brendan: Absolutely. There are a couple of comments on the chat, which are really fantastic from Joe and Sonia, a recent one about meetings. I know you talk a lot about meetings in your book as well. The comment is, it’s deflating to be in a meeting where you don't feel valued. As a leader, how do you have more effective meetings?
Tom: You've got to make sure that everybody who you invite to your meeting is involved. They have something to say. They've been away, they've done something, then they’re coming back, and report back what they've done. Also, as Sonia said, how do you feel valued? The first thing you need to do as a leader is to value everybody. Is everybody in your meeting valued? Do you value them? Do you help them feel valued?
First of all, what you should do is make yourself valuable. You can't add value to people unless you make yourself the most valuable person you can be. Leadership is about others, but it starts with you. That will always happen to you. You need to be the most highly effective leader you can be for your people. If you have a meeting with 10 people, you need to understand it's not just about inviting people for inviting people's sake.
The biggest currency that we have is time. If we're wasting people's time by being in an hour-long meeting just to talk about something that they're not even involved in and they haven't said a single thing in the meeting, then what's the point? The leader who's calling the meeting needs to make sure that everybody who's in the meeting has something to say, or has an action to do or something like that.
If the person in the meeting doesn't have all the answers, then that's not the time to shoot them down or anything like that. To keep the meeting going, you help them and ask them more questions, open questions, to dig deeper into themselves to find a solution, to find the answers.
If you can be that effective in the meeting, you'll lead them by example. Everybody who's in the meeting will go away, start on their own meetings, and do the same thing. Behavior breeds behavior at the end of the day.
Brendan: Absolutely. Well said. Again, you said in that statement, leadership is not about you, but it starts with you. It's such a really important statement. Can you unpack that a little bit? What do you mean when you say that?
Tom: If you want to be the most highly effective leader you can be, then the first thing you need to do is work on yourself. You need to learn about leadership. As I mentioned before in 2010 or 2009, I got the leadership position of Project Manager, but in 2010 I discovered the book by John Maxwell. That was the time when I thought I need to become the best leader I can be, but I can also be someone who can help others be the best leader that they can be.
At that time, I didn't have the experience and I didn't have the know how. What I did was I treated my leadership positions as new experiences to learn from now. Each position that I've had, I've gone into that position with a view to learn. It's not about going in there to get the best results. All that stuff, that is important, but the first thing that I need to do is learn from it. Obviously, become the best leader I can be for my people.
Me working on myself and being the most valuable leader I can be, the byproduct of that is adding value to my people, because I'm putting my people first. It comes out of me. It's a natural progression. If you look at it like that, if you look at it like, okay, leadership is about other people, but I can't add value. I can't help my people be their best selves on this. Am I my best self? If you want to add value to people, then make yourself the most valuable you can be.
Brendan: Absolutely, mate. What do you suggest? Have you got a maybe top tip for you that has helped your own journey working on yourself, developing yourself? What would you suggest for other people that maybe haven't started that journey? What would you ask them to do to help them develop themselves?
Tom: What helped me with writing the book and also starting the website was to write down your experiences, create a journal. It doesn't have to be every single day. If you have an experience in your career with either you're leading somebody else, or influencing somebody else, or you're being influenced by somebody else and you've seen them as an example, write it down. Write down what they did and try not to forget it.
I try and use that, to use what you've learned from that person in your own leadership journey. Leaders are learners at the end of the day, and leaders are readers as well. Another tip would be to read books like this book, Manager to Leader, my book.
Brendan: Manager to Leader. I've seen that somewhere before.
Tom: Yeah, it sits in Waterstones—I’m joking. The big tip I would say is read books, watch YouTube videos, watch podcasts, and listen to people. Also, with your own experiences, write them down. Don't forget them and share your experiences with others as well. It doesn't have to be in a blog, or a video, or anything like that. Share your experiences with the people. Try to help your people become the best leaders they can be. Imagine how a team of leaders, imagine how that team will be. Then when you move away from that team, do the same. Keep sharing your experiences with others and helping people you know.
As I say, leaders are learners and there's not one person you can't learn from. Leaders aren't just in leadership positions as leaders. I've worked with some amazing leaders who have never had a leadership position. They were just in the team as a technician, but they're managing directors or even that engineering director because of how they behave, how they think of others, how they put others first, how they do their best for the team and do their best for the organization.
Their example is something to be followed actually. The person I'm talking about, I'm still friends with now. He still lives in Liverpool, but I still stay in touch with him as a friend. Also to learn from him because there's absolutely nobody you can't learn from as a leader. You can learn leadership from your parents, from your brother, from your family, from your friends, from your colleagues, from a person you meet in the pub one day, from a person who meets in a coffee shop. You can learn from anybody. So always have that mindset of leaders and learners and don't stop learning.
Brendan: It's a great perspective. If you do have that perspective, then like you say, you see it everywhere. The learning opportunities are everywhere. We focus a little bit on just there on the self and your leadership, about focusing on your own learning to start with. Have you got any other couple of tips? You've spoken about a lot of stuff today and there's a lot of stuff in the book as well. What would be two other tips, you would say that you want to give listeners a chance to say this is what I can start to continue to focus on or to progress to become a highly effective leader?
Tom: As I said at the very beginning, if you're in a new leadership position then the first thing you need to do is build relationships. But if you're in a team and you're not in a leadership position at the moment, then the tip that I would give is the relationships that you have with your team members, and even your other colleagues, other teams, and departments strengthens your relationships. There's never a sort of limit of how far you can go with a relationship, that sort of thing.
The tip I would give to your listeners is when you go back to the workplace, or when you go back home, or when you go back to wherever it is—‘it’ not about just being in the workplace, it's about all of life—start listening to people to understand them. There's a difference between listening to understand and listening to reply.
Now most people listen to reply. I sometimes do that myself as everybody still does it, but I try my best to listen to understand and then respond. Once you listen to understand the person, like I said before, the person feels heard. When they feel heard, they feel cared for. That's when trust will build.
If you go back to your workplace, if you go back to your team, and you're wanting to build and strengthen your relationships that you have with your team members, then the first thing to do is listen to understand them. Don't always listen to respond. In the conversations that you have, if you sit down with a team member and you have, not a one-to-one but a one-on-one conversation, then let them do 80% of the talking and you do 80% of the listening so that you do 20% of the talk as well. I do 80% of the listening and they do 80% of the talking. That's how I listened to understand my people.
Brendan: Love it. How am I going with the ratio of listening to understanding as I'm interviewing you? Am I doing okay?
Tom: Yeah, my mouth is killing me. I think I’ve done 90% of the talking.
Brendan: Have you got some water? Feel free to grab some water if you like. Good on you, mate. I want to go into once again another part of the book and you refer about leading up. Can you explain what leading up is about? Once we understand that, how can we lead up? What are some suggestions to help us in that area?
Tom: It's basically how you lead anybody. If you have a leader who is sort of leading, making a dictatorship way, or a micromanaging way, then if you have that confidence to go back to your manager or your supervisor and ask them open questions, basically why are you thinking that? What would you say if we tried something this way? Ask them empowering questions.
Help them to think within themselves. The way a leader will ask their team members, okay, you've got this far. What if you tried something else? What would be a different way you could do that? What would be a different way you could try that?
Asking open questions, empowering questions that will help the leader to think within themselves and maybe come out with something better. It's basically the same way a leader would ask their team member. You just ask the leader the same types of questions in the same way.
It's basically seeing everybody but in the team as an equal. In the past, I've worked for different sets of supervisors and managers where if I said that to them, butterflies would be going in my stomach. I'll be nervous and so scared because I'll be afraid of how they will react.
If you have a leader who is a secure leader that empowers you, treats you well, treats you the way that they would like to be treated, then anybody within the team can be the leader to a certain extent, as long as you're not talking about hierarchy, positions, and all that stuff. You can empower your leader just as much as you can empower your team members.
As I say, empowered questions are the start of empowerment and helping your leader think a bit deeper within themselves, maybe they've delved into that idea deep enough, or thought about it long enough. Maybe you could help them to do that and help them come to a better idea, or a better solution, or a better thought. That’s basically how I am with the leaders that I've worked with, who I've been able to lead. That's how I've done it. It's basically treating them the way they are treating me.
The leader who you're leading not to, they know that as well. They feel that you're leading them and that's the great thing about it. They don't feel threatened or they don't feel, hang on a minute, I'm the leader. No, he should be leading me. We're all one team. We're all equal and having a team like that is the best team working for me.
Brendan: We just had a comment on the chat, more about the difference between an insecure leader and a secure leader is like night and day. Fair comment?
Brendan: I'd like to start to wrap this up a bit. I know we're under a little bit of time pressure with yourself as well this morning. I always like to ask my guests, what's the one thing that has had the biggest impact on your own leadership journey?
Tom: As I mentioned before, it was in 2018. The biggest impact was getting to a stage where I just couldn't go on anymore. I was being told, no, why would I let myself get to this level? Why have I let this happen? Even though I was being treated by the leaders in a certain way, I let that happen and I shouldn't.
That was basically the reason why I started writing the book, creating the websites, and the things that I'm working on at the moment. That was the sort of switch on moment where I need to help people who have been in this position, because I know I can. I've been in it before and I know how I can get out of it.
That was the biggest wake-up call for me was don't ever let yourself get to that stage. I will not let myself get to that stage ever again. If I can feel anything like that happening, I'll stop it. I'll make sure that whatever we're talking about, either we change the subject or I say hang on a minute. I'm being spoken to in a certain way and I don't appreciate this. We're all supposed to be speaking to each other as leaders and as professionals. Come on, let's try and change this around the bit.
Whereas before I wasn't as strong. I didn't have that in me, if you know what I mean. That was the biggest change for me was letting myself get to a stage where I had to take a few months off and I don't want that to ever happen again.
Brendan: Really important question this next one, mate. How confident are you feeling about Liverpool in the season coming up? We're going to win it?
Brendan: Don't need to say any more. I love it. We should just finish there.
Tom: I think club's got his eye on a few things and then I'll leave it at that.
Brendan: What are your thoughts on West Ham? I thought I mentioned West Ham because there's a chap I know who listens to the podcast, Andrew. He's a crazy man, a West Ham supporter. Have you got any love for those guys at all?
Tom: I've never heard of them. Where are they based?
Brendan: I don't remember, mate. I've just heard the two words he's mentioned a couple of times. I don't know a lot about them, either.
Tom: That reminds me, I'm having a ham sandwich today. Is that what you're talking about?
Brendan: With some west sauce or something.
Tom: Western ham, it's called.
Brendan: It's been an absolute joy to talk to you today. Again, we'll put the details of how people get in contact with you in the show notes. Also a link to the book as well. Thank you very much for spending the time with us. It's always good to have a chat with a fellow Liverpool supporter as well, mate. Once again, thanks for coming on The Culture of Things podcast. Fantastic to have you, buddy.
Tom: No, thank you. It's been an absolute pleasure. It's a really good interview and it's actually brought a few things out of myself and it's making me feel, it's nine o'clock in the morning here in the UK, and it's given me a good start of the day. Thank you very much.
Brendan: Pleasure, mate. Like we joked before we went live, didn't we say that I'll go and have my beer now and you're just going to have your ham sandwich.
Tom: Yeah, coffee.
Brendan: Absolutely, mate. Once again, thanks again and look forward to catching up soon, buddy.
Tom: You too. Thank you very much.
Brendan: “I want to make a difference in people’s lives.” These are the words of a leader. They were Tom’s words, and this underpins the mindset of a leader, as opposed to a manager. Managers manage things. Leaders lead people. How often does someone get trained to lead people? When it does happen, it mostly occurs when the person is already in their leadership role.
Most companies don’t seem to have a leadership apprentice program, where people can learn and develop into becoming a leader. What a difference an apprenticeship in leadership could make for the leader, and the people they lead.
These were my 3 key takeaways from my conversation with Tom. My first key takeaway: Leaders build genuine influence. How is genuine influence built? By placing other people’s interests ahead of your own. You can only do this by building strong relationships, which will develop trust, and trust will lead to influence. In other words, invest time in your people and this will build genuine influence.
My second key takeaway: Leadership isn’t about you, but it starts with you. Leaders are learners and leaders are readers. You need to always be working on yourself, learning about leadership. You have to become the best leader you can be for your people. After all, if you aren’t being your best self, how can you help others to be their best self? Leadership starts with you.
My third key takeaway: Leaders embrace simple. They speak simply, behave simply, and always seek simple solutions. They are skilled at turning the complicated into simple. Managers embrace complicated, as it makes them look smart. To be a highly effective leader, you must embrace simple.
So in summary, my three key takeaways were: Leaders build genuine influence. Leadership isn’t about you, but it starts with you. And leaders embrace simple.
If you want to talk about culture, leadership, teamwork, or have any questions or feedback about the episode, leave me a comment on the socials, or you can leave me a voice message at thecultureofthings.com. Thanks for joining me, and remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation.
Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.