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Transcript: The 4 Practices of Change-Fit Leadership Teams: Part 2 (EP8)


Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.


Brendan Rogers:  Hello, everybody and welcome back. I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast and this is Episode 8, Part 2. This episode is the second half of my chat with Bernie Kelly. As a reminder, Bernie is an experienced executive who has led a number of turnaround and transformation periods across logistics, consumer products and food and beverages. He has worked with approximately 100 leadership teams across Australia, New Zealand and Asia and is known for setting up leaders in leadership teams for success.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to go back and listen to Episode 8, Part 1 before listening to this episode. If you have already listened to Part 1, let's dive into this episode as Bernie shares the other three disciplines of change-fit leadership teams.

We pick up the conversation where I asked Bernie about the second practice, EXPLORE.

Bernie Kelly: The explore is the second practice. In my mind, I brake the explore place into two parts. The self-awareness stuff and that actually is, I think from a leadership point of view, just exploring the gaps of your own awareness. You probably played with the Johari window or those sort of things in the past, but just, you know how there's so many things that there's the known knowns that you, you know about me and I know about you, but then there's also just these things that maybe you know about yourself, but I don't know about you that are open for exploring in the Johari window. And then there's stuff that actually even I haven't realised and you haven't realised about me as well and sort of, you know, pushing out that biggest sort of self-awareness is a part of the explore.  

Then, confronting the reality, the 5 Whys sounds so simple but I've worked on many jobs where that, digging deeper than those base assumptions, you know, why, what's behind it? What's behind it? Why, why, why? Digging in really so many breakthroughs happen when you have, when you really explore reality. And I think a lot of the work that I sort of encourage in the practice of that is actually to reopen the curiosity. You know, curiosity of children isn't to be found in many large organisations. And you think about we have amazing curiosity as humans and that’s as evidenced by anyone who has ever been a child or seen a child. We have amazing curiosity, where if you work in many institutions, a lot of that curiosity has been institutionalised out of us. In the explore practice, in many ways, it's actually reigniting the natural power of curiosity. And I love this practice because it does actually, you know, it really gets people engaged and a bit excited when they start to work on the explore. The reality, because quite often in many workplaces, the busy, busy business just doesn't give you the space for that. We’re giving people permission and getting them to use their natural inquisitive nature is just such a really, it reignites teams.

Brendan Rogers: Linking back to the self-awareness, and I just want to reiterate, I guess from what I'm understanding, so I hear that that explore side is really uncovering what I would call blind spots in your leadership or in, you know, what people are seeing, so uncovering blind spots. Now, when you talk about the 5 Whys, and I agree it's a fantastic tool to really drill down when used well to get to the root cause. Does that also sit on the, if we think it back to self-awareness, do the 5 Whys and that real exploration and asking the question and digging down, does that apply to both behaviourally in that self-awareness piece and also, an issue that this team is trying to solve for the company?

Bernie Kelly: Definitely it does. No, no, that's a good, that's a really good pickup. So, if you think about some of the wisest people you've ever met, they dig deep on what's going on around them. So, one of the things that I think is quite fascinating in the study of curiosity, that there's actually different types of curiosity and there's people who avoid curiosity, right? But then there's also people that are very curious around technical matters and there's people that are curious around people matters and social matters. And I actually sort of in the book I sort of talk about, you know, fascination is the combination of both the technical and the social curiosity's. Looking at both of those is that there is that heightened level of curiosity that is what I'm talking about here. So, it's that combination of the deeper for myself as a leader, the dynamic in our team as a leadership team, but also, other social factors about how are we actually being aware of what others need from us at the moment, as well as, you know, how we come across to others, as well as, you know, digging into deeper, more systemic stuff about how our systems work, and challenging assumptions everywhere.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, the conversations I've had with you pre this interview, I was pretty excited about getting your book, which is why I made sure I ordered it before this conversation. But I have to say, I'm super excited about getting it. I mean, what you're explaining to me, and it just resonates, hopefully resonates to a lot of other people, a lot of leaders, but it just resonates so clearly with me. And I love that word curiosity that you keep referring to and is in the model because I just think, and I'd love to hear your opinion, there seems to be so much judgment in the world today as opposed to curiosity. What's your perspective on that? 

Bernie Kelly: No, you're definitely touching on it there. And it is fascinating how we all know that in our busy lives, having pre-assessed things, makes us more efficient, but it doesn't make us more effective. And that I think is actually, you know, the effective means doing the right thing. We're efficient means doing stuff faster. This point about judging, it reduces your own potential. It reduces the potential of all the relationships you ever have. It's just such a big liability when you stop and become, start to become aware of it. And then the thing that I love is actually humbly trying to not be prejudging is you actually, you learn so much more. And then all of a sudden there's people that you may have judged and you don't judge them and they are, you know, they're absolutely amazing humans and you go, “Wow, I would never have known that if I have had that sort of judgment being my default”.

And I think that that's the other bit as well, you know. And this conversation is challenging some of your defaults and assumptions, just opens you up to be a bigger human, which is the exciting part, I think, for a lot of this stuff in explore.  

Brendan Rogers: Can we move on to expand, which is the third part and there's a link between curiosity again as there is through this whole process and perspective. Tell us a bit about this expand part of the Four Disciplines.

Bernie Kelly: The expand part is about having worked or been brought into lots of circumstances where people are stuck. And it's not uncommon for any of us to get to a spot where you go like, you know, we've done all these good things, but the stuff going on at the moment, I just feel stuck. Having the realisation that actually finding, creating pathways, you know, the divergent thinking is just such a, gets so many people out of being stuck - either stuck at a level, stuck in a market, stuck in a sort of set of circumstances.

Actually finding, having practices that open up options, open up potential, open up pathways is a psychological part of that is actually anyone who knows they've got options just feels more powerful and better in themselves. You know, and people without options, that's almost one of the definitions of depression. So, there's a psychological part to it but, I think, intellectually as well, I mean sometimes you just cannot work out another way. You cannot, you sort of feel stuck with the mental model or the operating system that you got where in the expand, it is actually about practices that open up options. You know, simple examples of that include, if I've been sort of stuck in a, you know, we used before the sort of the functional silo and you actually get to have an end-to-end view where you can see what the customer wants all the way through to the suppliers and stuff like that.

That's an example of an expanded perspective. So, being able to zoom out. So, to zoom out to the helicopter view or the, you know, the 30,000 feet sort of jet-view or you know, Google, think about Google Earth, being able to sort of stand back and see the big picture of the globe versus being able to zoom in and see, you know, we've got so many analytics capabilities now. We can zoom in and that zoom in, zoom out can sometimes open up amazing insights using different visual tools to expand what we're seeing. Then also actually talking with others and back to that prejudgment point of view, sort of, you know, I think it's a, when you think about expanding perspectives, you know, for the last couple of hundred years, white males have probably had a fairly strong voice in the world of perspectives.

But it's when you look at the seven and a half billion people that it is in the world, it's absolutely a minority perspective. And so thinking, you know, even just thinking that that sort of bigger humanity perspective, there's so many angles to look at a problem. And you know, I think that we get caught in a paradigm and people can get stuck, where the expand exercises are, you know, what if I look at this from a customer's perspective? What if I look at this from the people down the roads, the neighbours perspective? What if I look at this from my partner's perspective? And it just starts to open up different angles on the world.

Brendan Rogers: I know, through your experiences in the workplace, you've got fantastic knowledge in that lean and continuous improvement space through the organisations you work with. Is that, I'm just trying to understand that, in my own words, again, is that span that really that mindset of continuous improvement, there's always things that we can do better. We've got to look at things from different angles and really that again, that curiosity bit that is heavily overlapped in here is, is that sort of where that comes from?

Bernie Kelly: Yes and no. So, one of my observations, like as you say, I've had the absolute good fortune of being coached and schooled by some world-class players in the lean place in my early management through world-class organisations like Kimberly-Clark and Diageo. But also, when we're doing the Golden Circle, having sort of leading global players, being able to coach us and stuff like that. Looking cross-organisational end-to-end industry-wide value streams and things. However, the expand is actually to look at it from other perspectives. And I think it is more that sort of the science, the science mind of actually looking at, opening up even bigger. And I think that one of the limiting, there's a limiting part to just following someone's view too hard on a book. So, like actually having that expert give you their view only and that the expanding is actually even trying to expand beyond one expert framework or another. Not getting stuck in one model of thinking is probably more where the expand’s coming from.

Brendan Rogers: Okay, I understand. Really that growth side I suppose, is that right?  

Bernie Kelly: Yeah, totally. And so, the interesting thing is that, and I think having been involved at different types of jobs I have been on in the past, we actually have, we, you know, we've written up some stuff that's been sort of leading edge and whatever. Quite often, and I know that, you know, people sort of look to role models like Toyota and places like that. Quite often by the time it's in a book that you're learning about it, it's actually they've already moved on from it. And I know, I know on leading edge work that I've been involved in by the time it's actually published, it's a job you did three or four years ago.

So, I guess more of the expand is for me is actually about being that real learner. Picking up from all schools of thinking and not being just stuck in one school of thinking is more where the expand stuff comes from. Because it's getting quite fascinating if you follow the worlds of sort of Science and Philosophy. The Science and Philosophy were really separate camps of thinking. And as both of them have progressed in the last probably 50 years, there's an even more and more overlap in that even people are sort of seeing more and more overlap. So, I think that actually being more of a Renaissance person, sort of looking at it from so many perspectives, is where the mind expansion can happen.  

Brendan Rogers: In a practical sense, how would you help a leader in this context expand themselves if they're not, I'm not sure what the opposite of expand is to be honest, but if they're not expanding, how do you help them expand? 

Bernie Kelly: So, one of the classic ways that I did a lot of was actually sort of big picture mapping, sort of end-to-end value stream mapping, and helping them see what was happening, you know, in other parts of bigger end-to-end sort of process deliveries, that way. That is a very common way of doing it. But I also think actually providing them with exercises and tools to start to sort of analyse things differently. It's amazing in this day of so much data how, even, you know, even really good executive teams can get trained into sort of looking at reports and board reports and management reports from one angle or another. So, you know, one of the other expand angles is actually getting, is helping people see their own data from the time or the different time perspectives. So, your past, present, and future.

And even though I’m actually sort of helping them see better, better real time indicators play with different time horizons in the forward and in the past and in the future. All of these things give us different pictures. So helping, so I've done a lot of work with actually like and that sort of analytical side but also then, the leadership side of just seeing other angles and a lot of it isn't really about, you know, sort of pushing the barrow. It is actually about giving people more pathways, getting people to see things from different angles.

Brendan Rogers: Let's complete the picture. The final piece of the puzzle, so to speak, is exert. What does that mean?

Bernie Kelly: For me, there's, maybe it's not profound for others, but it has definitely been profound for me is that actually how many really well-intended strategies never actually get followed through. Most of us can relate to this at a very individual level. If you think about New Year's Resolutions or that amazing habit that I'm going to start that I'm going to take up. But at an organisational leadership team point of view, how many leadership teams get together and there's this really positive buzz about them. They talk about all this sort of good stuff and you know, 12-18 months later, they really haven't got the traction. It just hasn't actually happened. And that puzzle for me was that, what is that about? That's been a part of the puzzle that I've definitely dwelled on a lot in this whole journey that we're talking about.

And fascinatingly, you know, so many teams give so much energy to one period but then they actually don't have the energy to go again. So, my early sort of reflections on this were, you know, it's actually, there's a respect for people part in this as well. But I think that actually, this is where it loops back to that self-accountability thing we were talking about before. If you actually are doing strategy with people and you act and you have not got into, if you have not hooked into their self-accountability, you never actually have the energy to exert and follow through.

You mentioned Jim Collins before with the study of the Good to Great and the comparator companies and all of that sort of stuff where they were looking at the organisations that were doing a good job in each industry versus the one that sort of stood, way higher.

And you may remember that sort of whole chapter where they talked about it's, and this is going back to, you know, the Americans with their ra-ra sort of style of motivation. And the researchers and the research party were having their own realisation that it seems like the companies that are excelling are hiding from us how they're motivating their people and then the researchers having their own ‘aha’ that they weren't motivating their people. They had actually just aligned with self-accountable people who were doing what they wanted to do. And they actually are able to align that energy with the organisation's direction. And that there's something quite profound in that and that's actually something that I've, with that awareness of, I built that into sort of looking at organisations and you can actually build that, but if you are a leadership team that don't build that, you don't have the practices of exert.

Brendan Rogers: The way I see that, Bernie, and please correct me if I'm wrong, there's this exert piece and I want to pick up on what you said just before around, sometimes these leadership teams don't have the energy to go again. Is that, the way this model works and how you've explained it to me and I'm just trying to put it in something simple for me to understand, is that if they don't do this, expose, the explore, and the explain bit so well, then would that lead them to the fully exerted, and not wanting to go again? Is that how that comes together?

Bernie Kelly: Yes, yes. The sad thing is actually turning up at a place where they haven't been doing exercises to expose, yeah, or anytime it is exposed it’s exposed by external people. And unfortunately, that happens quite a lot in some of the bigger institutions where they haven't been actually exploring their reality. Where they haven't been expanding their horizons and they haven't connected with real meaning for the people and self-accountability for the people.

People are there just doing the, they're doing the job, but they're not actually living with deep meaning in their life. So a part, I'm sort of thinking in there, so like, is actually leaders getting in beside their colleagues and really understanding their dreams and aligning that so that they are actually fulfilling themselves while they're actually working in your team? That actually is sort of really at the nub of a lot of the exert stuff.

Brendan Rogers: Can I say the coaching falls in that exert stuff?

Bernie Kelly: I think coaching actually helps people to expose and explore and expand and exert. So, the other thing which is interesting around the four of these is that it does match up very much with learning pathways. Not just intellectual learning pathways, but any learning pathways that have, that more competency things. So, like actually sort of top-level sporting teams or a trade they actually sort of go through, you know, different words and slides from frames, but a lot of these same principles of actually sort of seeing the gaps, dig more deeply into it, expanding, understanding the different options and then sort of connecting it with your own meaning in life as well as accountabilities.

Brendan Rogers: Thank you so much for sharing that. As I said before, I really look forward to getting the book so I can explore this a little bit more.

On that topic, what was it that drove you that you just felt you needed to share this knowledge, these reflections, these learnings with others, and put this into a book?

Bernie Kelly: Yeah, so that's a good question. So, I was finding that there was things missing in the strategy execution space for me. And actually sort of trying to get clear on that. And then, I wanted to reaffirm some of the real fundamental principles. I think that a lot of people get wrapped up in wanting to brand certain packages of solutions where I sort of wanted to dig past that, what is more fundamental. But then also actually how to increase the, you know, sort of called it change-fitness, but it, so that we're actually able to adapt, to learn and as teams and as leaders of organisations more. So, and then sort of helping people to be able to do that. And I guess have my own clarity to be able to explain the message was where, you know, has been the value of the book for me sort of not just mumbling with someone about a point here or there, but trying to capture it in a more clear explanation so that they can take it away and own it rather than someone else rambling on for them. 

Brendan Rogers: Mate, if I'm walking into a bookstore and I have no idea what sort of book I'm looking for, I may be a leader, I may not be a leader. What sort of mindset does the person need to have who would be attracted to purchase this book?

Bernie Kelly: I think anyone is reflective of what's going on in the world at the moment, who has their own mission in life or their own cause, their own why that they want to pursue and some level of awareness that I need some enablers to be able to get myself and my team around me on that journey. So, I've really written this book for those leaders who want traction towards their own mission, their own cause, their own why. I sort of think a little bit like fitness. It is an enabler. People who are actually looking forward wanting to make things happen. And who are looking for enablers to be able to do that in a better way. 

Brendan Rogers: You haven't talked about these three examples in this interview, but I know you've used the terms conscious, subconscious and unconscious leader before. (Bernie laughing) Maybe, just really briefly just explain what those three terms are and what, which of those categories or only category that you would feel you need to be in as a leader to be attracted to this information and in that reflective state? 

Bernie Kelly: Yeah, so I think, actually, there's a lot of really experienced transformational leaders around the place and the ones that are reflective and sort of doing their transformational work consciously, they're obviously the conscious ones and they, you know, they may have already done some amazing, amazing work. But they would, with the things that are going on at the moment in the world, the people that I know that are conscious are doing a lot of reflection on how do we make sure that we keep making the world a better place out of these sort of challenges and really grow our people and then be a really positive impact. Those conscious people, definitely, this is very much in this, in their sort of space because they would be aware of that. They'd have a lot of these things in their own head. But actually, hopefully, I've really made a section to speak to those people where adding further tools that they can use and sort of share with their teams. Because you know, if you are conscious, you know that you've gotta be actually, you gotta be building others around you, you know, no one of us can do this sort of stuff by ourselves. So, being a teacher, and hopefully, I'm providing sort of exercises for a lot of those people to be a teacher. The group sort of a semi-conscious. So, I think, there's a period of a bit of awakening going on for a lot of transformational leaders that we have to change some of the things that we’ve done in the past. And I think for them, this is actually, if they take the time to actually open it up and have a read, there’s actually a lot of stuff to really help them on their journey at an accelerated way.

And then there is chunks of the market that I don't think this book is for, to be quite frank. You know, people that are, that are not really wanting to transform business and transform the community and have big impact that are just in business, you know, making a dollar, making a living, you know, some of this stuff's probably just a bit more than they, more than they likely are going to be interested in. So, I'm quite comfortable with that. It is the people that are wanting to lean in and have a bigger impact than just making a living.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, just a little bit earlier, you talked about mission and this book and these concepts, these pillars, foundations enabling the leader’s mission. So, what's your mission? What impact are you trying to have through this book and through your learnings that you've had in bringing it together?

Bernie Kelly: Yeah, one of the things about being around the block a couple of times is you get to sort of think, well, what are the recurring patterns of where I’ve really thrived? Both in impact and that personal level of thriving. And there's been a recurring theme for me about, you know, you sort of getting in beside people, helping set people up for success, set teams up for success and sort of chip away at challenges in a way that builds their confidence and helps them see bigger potential than they would have ever seen before. And so, I think, increasingly thinking, that's probably where my life's works at and actually help you. So, my mission is about sort of, being an enabler for other people to be sort of having their mission and really spreading the word on that is where I think I'm sort of set to have a significant impact.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, I know you will and I've seen that mindset that you've got that real giving mindset and enabling others to do good things through your own experiences. So, I'm pretty confident you'll do something special in that space or you already have, but through this, this will expand that even further.

Bernie Kelly: Thank you very much, mate.

Brendan Rogers: Final bit of advice. I mean, again, it's a bit funny that I ask this question because you've given so much advice and so much insight in this interview. But if there was really one thing that you could say to, you know, a new leader or somebody who's in that transformational space that you refer to, what would that be?

Bernie Kelly: I think that actually, and this is why I've actually sort of differentiated change-fitness from just actually the current state excellence of your organisation, is that best advice would be to think about there's so much going on in this coming decade. Where are you in the ladder as far as change-fitness for the next period? So, totally respecting all the great work you've done, looking at forward, where is your change-fitness? And that's why I have been using expressions like match-fitness and change-fitness because really, it's actually about looking at the next season in sportsmen's terms. It's not, you know, respecting the great work you've done in the past, but if you're going to have that impact going forward, are you actually learning enough and that's where, are you learning? Are you actually teaching your team enough? And that actually is why the, you know, the four practices are so useful.

Building your team, continually exposing, exploring, expanding, you know, building the energy to exert and follow through. Getting those becomes a part of it. And I guess not actually being overwhelmed by this coming decade is my second bit of the advice would be not getting overwhelmed by this coming decade, but actually knowing and backing yourself that if you can actually be doing some of these practices and building up your change-fitness, you build up your threshold and you can take on more, which actually makes you a more resilient, more viable going forward.

So, a little bit like, if I was giving you a bit of advice, you know, if you haven't been playing, I haven't been running for a long time, I wouldn't recommend you sort of jump in and go do a marathon. I'd recommend you sort of come along with me and we do a couple of kilometre run and maybe I have a bit of a stretch and rest after that. And see just, in a couple of days, and sort of build it up, that would be my piece of advice. Don't be one of those people looking at the future saying it's too hard. Think about how can you build yourself up and be a successful part of it.

Brendan Rogers: What advice would you give me mate, I’m due to go for a beach run tomorrow with a mate. (Bernie laughing) It's been about two weeks since we've had a beach run. So, what do you suggest I do?

Bernie Kelly: Enjoy, but don't go too hard. Make sure you, and I think my other piece of advice would be have a chat with him about how you're not going to leave it two weeks between runs. Give yourself some habit-forming thing to maybe catch up in a couple of days.

Brendan Rogers: Great advice, mate. I think I'll take that well on board. Mate, how can listeners get hold of you?

Bernie Kelly: You and I connected and met each other through LinkedIn. So, you know, I just love to hear, hear from people and sort of connect with people from all sort of different angles. So, probably the most obvious one would be connect on LinkedIn. My website, pretty easy to find. It is www.berniekelly.com and I've kept my email also very easy and I'm really, you know, very happy to have an email from anyone who's interested in sort of talking more about this stuff. And it is simply bernie@berniekelly.com so I'm trying to make it easier to catch up with others.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, thank you for sharing and look, I second that we did meet through LinkedIn as you said, and all of the things you've spoken about today and all of the behaviours, you demonstrate that. We have fantastic conversations. I've really enjoyed the conversation today. What you've done and how you're bringing those learnings together through these disciplines and practices is fascinating. I can't wait to read the book. I have to ask, you know, we're in the middle of May now and it's due for release in June, but are you going to make us wait until the end of June or is it coming early June?

Bernie Kelly: No. At the moment, the book is off with the printers who are promising me by the end of May. So, I expect early June I will be in the full distribution process when I'll have to take that extra effort to sign your copy mate. That's what I need to do.

Brendan Rogers: Fantastic, mate. I'll look forward to it. Bernie, mate, thank you very much for your time today. I really appreciate it. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep encouraging, keep guiding leaders so that we can keep improving the capability in the leadership levels around the place. Keep doing great things, mate. Thanks for your time. I really appreciate you coming on The Culture of Things podcast today.

Bernie Kelly: Thanks a lot, Brendan.

(Music plays)

Brendan Rogers: That concludes my two-part interview with Bernie. It was a privilege to speak with him and learn some intimate details about his impending book. It is due for release in June 2020 and I can't wait to get my hands on the signed copy, which Bernie promised me in Part One of our chat.

Through the book, I look forward to learning even more about Bernie's journey of discovery in bringing together the Four Practices of Change-Fit Leadership Teams.

These were my three key takeaways from Part Two of my chat with Bernie.

My first key takeaway. Leaders must be curious. Bernie mentioned how curiosity is critical in the explore discipline. You have to challenge your default assumptions. If you aren't a curious leader, how will you seek feedback and uncover your blind spots? Bernie mentioned something that particularly resonated with me. He said, “Pre-assessing things makes us more efficient, but it doesn't make us more effective”. There is too much judgment in the world today. We all need to be focused on being more curious.

My second key takeaway. Leaders must have a growth mindset. Bernie refers to this in the third discipline of expand. This growth mindset involves looking at things from different perspectives, not limiting yourself to one expert framework or school of thinking. It could also be considering time perspectives like past, present, and future. Bernie used two words that summed it up for me, mind expansion.

My third key takeaway. Leaders must be reflective. Throughout this two-part interview, Bernie shared some of his reflections over the last 25 years. These reflections are what has culminated in his book. Bernie described three types of leaders: the conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious. We should all be striving to be conscious leaders, meaning we are reflective, we lead transformational work, we constantly ask questions, and we focus on how we keep improving. Reflect on how you can be a successful part of the future and take action.

So in summary, leaders must be curious. Leaders must have a growth mindset and leaders must be reflective.

If you want to learn more about Bernie or order his new book titled, TRACTION: The 4 Practices of Change-Fit Leadership Teams, visit www.berniekelly.com.

If you have any questions or feedback about this episode, please feel free to send me a message at brendan@brendanrogers.com.au.

Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time.


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.