Self Evolved Leadership with Dave McKeown

Dave McKeown is the Founder and CEO of Outfield Leadership, He’s the author of “The Self Evolved Leader,” a sought-after keynote speaker, leadership coach and business growth advisor. In this episode hack in to Dave’s leadership lessons including:

  • Why every organization needs to be in a position to rethink what’s coming next
  • The three steps of the Self Evolved Leader
  • Drag folk out of the weeds to think strategically
  • Let silence do the heavy lifting in your conversations

Transcript:Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

The Leadership Hacker News 

Steve Rush: We’re going to turn our focus on having a lighthearted bit of News today! If you’ve ever missed the bus or the train or hit the snooze button, many times? Well we asked some of our listeners about the funniest and craziest excuses for being late for work. This list of funny excuses is not exclusive and we certainly haven’t validated it, but it’s funny, nonetheless, so join us in listening.

So, one of our listeners we’ll, call her Sally; was invited to a birthday party and Sally and her colleagues have an hour for lunch usually, but on this day, asked her coworker asked if they’d cover for her as she was off to a third birthday party. “Sure”, she replied, “but just be back by 1:30 PM.” On returning late back to work, her response was, the third birthday party was my best friend’s dog and he got out and we had to find him, Hmmm, interesting one!

Our next guest and we’ll call him Allen. He’s an I.T. manager responsible for 36 programmers in a billion-dollar company and Allen in his spare time raises Llamas – apparently! Allen’s excuse for showing up late was a fact his Llama gave birth last night. Now even funnier, he didn’t even seem to think that this was a problem. Sick kids, funerals, they can’t be avoided; but when mentioned to HR, “my Llama gave birth last night,” I’m sure that would have been an interesting input into the data system!

The strangest yet, honest email that anybody has ever sent to their boss is from one of our listeners called Michelle. Her response to her boss was, “I love heavy metal music so much,” her email read, “Hi boss, I was waiting at the bus stop, waiting to go home yesterday evening after work, when I bumped into a lost Lithuanian heavy metal band with a create of cider. After walking for several hours to help find their destination, I got a little bit more tipsy than usual, and I’m very sorry, but I won’t be able to make it in today. I hope this is okay?” Can you just imagine how the boss might have responded in that situation? The reply was, “okay.” I wonder how that panned out overall? So, if you do have any stories, insights that you’d like our listeners to hear, please get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Dave McKeown is the CEO of Outfield Leadership. He’s the author of The Self- Evolve Leader: Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People in the World That Refuses to Slow Down. Dave, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Dave McKeown: Steve, it is great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

Steve Rush: Is my pleasure. So, for folks that haven’t met you yet, and haven’t got into your work, which they’ll have an opportunity to do through our connection, how did then Irish lad end up in Laguna Beach, California?

Dave McKeown: I think I just got on the wrong plane one day and it landed, and I was like, this is [Laughing ] You know what? I think growing up in Belfast where it rained every single day, I knew that there was somewhere in the world where the sudden sun shine a little bit more and I had a great opportunity about 10 years ago to move over to the States. First of all, the Massachusetts to join, actually funny enough, a family business. And then just as part of my own personal journey, met a wonderful girl, who is now my wife, called Paris. And at some point, about six, seven years ago. We decided to trade in the snow of Massachusetts for the everlasting sunshine of Laguna Beach.

Steve Rush: I can’t think of what the driving factor was. But I have been on the East coast of the U.S., when it has snowed and it’s been minus 15 degrees centigrade and understand that!

Dave McKeown: It’s funny, the very first time it snows, you get really excited and you think this is brilliant. And then you realize that this is your life for nine months and you have to dig your car out every morning, it’s not so fun.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it doesn’t snow much in Laguna Beach though, right?

Dave McKeown: No, not at all. I don’t know if it’s ever been snowed in Laguna Beach.

Steve Rush: So, what was the backstory in business that caused you to end up leading Outfield Leadership?

Dave McKeown: So, I started my career many moons ago, back in the UK, working for Accenture, which I’m sure you and your listeners are familiar with, huge global I.T. and services company. And really enjoyed it, enjoy understanding what business was all about and how consulting worked and what leadership was about and what strategy was applied and very good initial start to my career, but always felt that it was somewhat of a very, very, very, very small cog in a huge machine. And want to get the experience of actually working more closely with leaders and leadership teams to help them really drive through change. And so, I had a great opportunity to join an organization called Predictable Success, which was started by my father many, many, many years ago, and Predictable Successes is an organizational growth consulting and leadership development company. And I worked with him for about four years or so, really got an opportunity to see what it meant to work very closely with leadership teams, particularly a fast-growing business to help them scale. I have decided that was the sort of work that I love doing and wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, about five years ago or so, step out of the family business and into my own and set up Outfield Leadership, and I’ve been doing that ever since.

Steve Rush: Awesome, and what’s the focus of the work that you and your folks Outfield do right now?

Dave McKeown: At the minute we’re doing an awful lot of work of really trying to help leadership teams reset their strategic growth plans, you know, the last year or two months have thrown, out ripped up pretty much everybody’s growth plans, no matter how hard hit or well, a particular organization or industry is done, as a result of the health and economic crisis, we’re all in a position where we’re trying to essentially rebuild from where we’re at. So, I’ll be doing a lot of work with leadership teams, helping them to essentially start from the ground up, which is to say, look, given the circumstances and the situation that we’re in, who are we as an organization and where do we want to go? What is our vision for a better world? And then how do we actually begin to start to take steps to get there? So, it’s this type of work that I enjoy doing the most. And so, I’ve been fortunate and blessed to be able to do that right now.

Steve Rush: And since the pandemic it’s fair to say that any strategy that was in place prior to January, February of last year has got to be rewritten, right?

Dave McKeown: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think there’s a single industry or organization that hasn’t been forced to rethink what they were doing. You know, there are some industries for last year, 18 months has been that great boon. You know, you look at companies that offer software as a service or virtual meeting software, Amazon, you know, there’s a ton of organizations for whom it’s been great from a business perspective, but most of us have really struggled to get a foothold on what’s coming next. But even for those organizations, for whom it’s being all things considered a year of growth for them, every organization is in a position to rethink what is coming next and who we want to be and where we want to go. And so, I kind of imagined there’s a single organization for whom their strategic plan from last January is remains untouched. I think everybody’s doing some massive rethinking.

Steve Rush: I agree, yeah. And as part of that, rethinking, you know, you and I had a business that would have involved being with clients on their sites, being shoulder to shoulder and then having to pivot that online, and you’ve done a perfect job of demonstrating how you can pivot a business model entirely online. So, my hats off to you firstly! But how challenging was that for you, if it was, and what have you learned from that experience?

Dave McKeown: Oh, thank you. I don’t think it’s perfect by any means, but it’s certainly doing okay. You know, I think I was fortunate enough that I had about a quarter of the work that I was doing was online anyway, before the pandemic. I was not flat-footed I guess, in needing to make the shift. And funnily enough, I think that, you know, you take the devastating nature of the cause of it actually just take the problem of how do we translate in-person learning to an online environment. I actually really enjoyed that challenge. I’ve always in all of the work that I’ve done, being very intentional about creating, crafting really compelling experiences for people. Because it’s one thing to come together and, you know, have a day or a day and a half together and feel like, hey, that was a good session, but what did we really learn?

And so just starting from the ground up and saying, well, how do strategic planning in a virtual world, or how do you do leadership change in a virtual world? How do we craft and experience that really takes into consideration both the limitations, but also the tools that we have at our disposal? And I think it’s been positive in that it’s caused most, if not all of us to elevate our game in a virtual world. And it means that from here on out, the excuse of, well, you know, we can’t get our people together, virtually it just doesn’t work. I think is no longer valid, and so I think that being intentional about crafting that learning experience is just the starting point, no matter where you are, and we’re going to have to do this again, probably in 5 to 10 years, whenever we’re put into much more of an augmented reality, a virtual reality scenario for training and development, we’ll have to re imagine what that looks like for that environment. And we just approached that challenge with the perspective.

Steve Rush: And it’s that thought around the experience that’s most important, which I know you put an enormous amount of effort into. And I remember the old days of, you know, overhead projectors and we had to move away from those to then PowerPoint slides, that was kind of seen as amazing at that time.

Dave McKeown: Yeah, at the end of the day we are the participants of our sessions. We are in a in a battle for their time and attention and, you know, merely bringing people together just because it’ll be quote unquote, a helpful experience, does not make it so. And actually, if you look at building, learning experiences for people, you’ve got to take them through a journey in much the same way that you would for another form of entertainment, whether that’s a movie or you know, musical theater or even a concert sometimes, you know, people often the big key questions that they need to answer for themselves, are why am I here? What am I going to learn? And what do you need from me to give into this session? And if you can begin to answer those stories for your participants and then start to take them on a real journey of their own learning, that’s how you get to the end of a session with a really positive experience for everybody involved.

Steve Rush: Absolutely, love that. So, congratulations your book. The Self-Evolved Leader has just had its first birthday. So, congratulations on that milestone.

Dave McKeown: Thank you.

Steve Rush: What was the inspiration behind the book?

Dave McKeown: One of the take the work that I’ve been doing with leadership teams and memorialize it in some way, I guess and build some, at least an initial starting point of a body of work. It’s the first book that I’ve written. And I guess there were two aspects of it. One was selfish, and one was less selfish. The less selfish aspect is, you know, it’s much more scalable in terms of the impact that you can have on people if they can partake in some asynchronous learning where they’ll just pick up a book and flick through it whenever they want, doesn’t require my time and attention to be in front of them versus, you know, a workshop with 20, 25 30 people. There’s only so many of them you can do at a time. And so, it really helped to increase their scale, the impact that I can have. And then the second part that’s like selfish one was just wanting to memorialize and start to build up a body of work. And also, you know, it gets to the point in the industry that I’m in, where funny enough people start asking you, well, do you have a book? Despite the fact that, you know, teaching and training and consulting is very different than writing. For some reason, we have kind of conflated the two together and said, well, if you’re going to come and work with us, you better written these thought down somewhere, so that was kind of another sub reason for getting the book.

Steve Rush: Hmm. It’s interesting dynamic though. I guess that what you talked about a little earlier around that constructing the story for people to go on a journey in a learning world or leadership development world. It’s probably very similar when you start to write that book, you still have that mindset of how do I involve people in my learning and help them on that journey, right?

Dave McKeown: Oh, very much so. And I think that the best nonfictional books have a narrative thread through them in just the same way that a fictional book would. And, you know, one of the things that I wanted to avoid was, you know, that old perspective on business books that it could have been an article, or it could have been a blog post, or it could have been, you know, a 12-page PDF where there’s one central theme and then the author just hammers it home in 12 different chapters with a slightly nuanced version of it. I want to do that, so I really did want it to take the leader on the journey and the reader on a journey and help them build their own leadership through each chapter in a positive way, rather than just saying, well, here’s my one point again, and again and again.

Steve Rush: And the journey that you take folk on through The Self-Evolved Leader has three steps almost, and you call it the Vision step, the Pulse step, and the Discipline step, maybe be useful for our listeners just to get a sense of what each of those steps mean?

Dave McKeown: Sure, happy to. Let me just peal a layer back or elevate a little bit to, I guess, set the context for why these steps are important. The overarching theme and thrust of the book is that tide line that you ran at the beginning of the episode, which is part of elevate your focus and develop your people in a world that refuses to slow down. And the reality is that our world is moving so quickly that our leaders are basically just going in and firefighting or putting on crises or just winning the day and barely keeping our heads above water long enough to really think about the long-term direction of their team. And so, what I wanted to do was to give some encouragement and some very practical steps on how to elevate your focus, how to spend more time thinking about the long-term direction of your team and the development of your people.

In order to do that. I’ve seen the best leaders walk through these three steps. The first one is to create a compelling vision with your team. And by the way, the book is written for leaders at any level of an organization from a frontline supervisor all the way up to a CEO. So, it doesn’t matter where you’re at. You can really guide your team using it. We often confuse vision in our teams in terms of assuming that it’s wrapped up or it’s bodied in the team leader, and that’s not generally the case or I think it’s certainly shifting. I think we’re getting more and more to a point in a position where we need to create with our teams a compelling vision of where we’re going, so that we’re all bought into the journey, the destination, the impact that we want to have, the value that we bring as a team.

Steve Rush: Definitely.

Dave McKeown: Once you’re able to create that with your team, that gives you somewhat of a fixed NorthStar, at least for a period of time that you’re working towards, you can use it as a rallying cry. You can use it as a touch point for making decisions and just an anchor point for where we’re going. And if you think about firefighting and being in the weeds and the tactical stuff that we fight every day, if you set a compelling vision with your team, that sets as an anchor point that kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum for that, always tries to help you pull up. So, once you set your vision, the next step is to do something that feel much less interesting and compelling, but it’s just as if not equally important, which is to build your implementation pulse to get there.

So, it’s fun to sit in a room and talk with our team about where we’re going. It’s less fun to sit in a room with our team and say, well, what are the specific initiatives and experiments that we want to try? What are the shorter-term goals we need that will help us build towards that? What is the meeting rhythm and cadence to ensure that we’re coming back to review your progress? What’s are our process for ensuring that we remain agile whenever new bits of information come in? And mostly leaders unfortunately handle that in a very reactive way. So, you know, customer calls that threatened to pull their business, or there’s a change in the market or something dramatic happens, and we’ll scramble to try to figure out what’s going on. So, I encourage leaders to build a proactive implementation pulse that kind of gets you a little bit ahead of that game.

You can see some of the leading indicators coming. So, you’ve got your vision, then you’ve got of where you’re going. You’ve got your implementation calls of how to get there with your team. And then the third part is really to build a series of key disciplines that you need as a leader to navigate the boat, to get there, you know, it’s one thing that get your crew along with you, set your destination, set all of the ports along the way, but if you don’t know how to steer the ship or put the seal up or clean the decks, then you’re going to struggle. So, I think that there are a series of leadership disciplines that are becoming more and more important for our leaders today. And that’s the final part of the book, just describing some of those.

Steve Rush: I love the simplicity behind those three steps, because actually one feeds the other then feeds the other.

Dave McKeown: Right.

Steve Rush: And you can’t operate without either of them, can you?

Dave McKeown: No, they almost all sort of fit together in a circle. They touch on each other and you work on one and then you’ll work on another and you realize, oh, I need to tweak that a little bit. Maybe I’ll tweak that in order to make that happen. Its close to a holistic model of leadership as I could express

Steve Rush: Sure, and one of the things that you work at as part of that discipline, and you intimated it a little earlier, it’s around dragging people out of the weeds and getting them to think more strategically. So, if I’m listening to this, what does that really mean?

Dave McKeown: So, one of the things that I think culturally we’ve got into which is a little problematic is this belief that a leader’s job is to know the answers, to show the way or save the day, and that’s come about for a couple of reasons. One we’ve just been rewarded throughout our entire life from school all the way up to first job, first promotion, or being the one that knows the answers or saves the day. That’s just typically how, you know, we get a pat on the back and secondly, it feels good, it feeds our ego. Whenever we jump in to save the day and help our team out of a pickle, you know, we feel wanted, useful and valuable and needed. So, there’s just a little bit of an endorphin hit as a result of that. The problem with that is that over time, your people end up developing, learned helplessness. Which is rather than trying to think for myself, or even begin to start to work out the solution to this problem. I’ll just go leave it at my boss’s door, because at the end of the day, they’re just going to step in and fix it, and they are going to telling me what to do anyway. So, I stopped thinking for myself, and then on the flip side of that, the leader starts to get frustrated because they’re the bottleneck. The more that they do it, the more they have to save the day. And eventually they’re looking at their team saying, gosh, what happened to these people? They used to be so competent. They used to be able to, you know, think for themselves and neither also dependent on me, to which my response is almost always, well, you go look in the mirror because you’re at least if not more than 50% of that equation.

Where I think leaders can be really effective is to break out of that cycle of mediocrity, move towards a cycle of excellence, which is all about focused on where a leader truly adds value.

We think we have value there, but we don’t. Where we truly add value is in the long-term direction of our team and the development of our people. So, thinking about what’s coming down the pipe next quarter, next year, and trying to help chart a course through that whilst looking at our team and assessing, okay, well, where are we strongest? And where are some of our development points? How do I grow this team? So that eventually at some point, if I wasn’t in the room, this would be a really high performing team that wasn’t dependent on me. So that’s the key behavioral shifts that I’m trying to induce here is away from that Day-To-Day firefighting in the weeds where we think we add value towards more strategic long-term thinking and the development of our people where ultimately in the long run will add the most value.

Steve Rush: And in order to do that, we’ve got a crate empowerment in our teams in order for them to start thinking more strategically too. How would you go about that?

Dave McKeown: Is it funny, I’d often ask question and we usually want to just tackle that. So, how do we empower our team? My perspective is always, well, I mean, we can start there, but you’re the empowerment of your team is going to last as long as, you know, it used to be, you know, depending on how good the launch was that we serve during the session. The problem is that the lack of empowerment that a team is a symptom and not a cause a whole bunch of other stuff. We think it’s a cause I, and so we actually need to start backing it up and say, okay, well, how do we begin to fix this? First of all, is you got to look at any behavioral shift. I’m going to make a mindset shift away from being a leader that stuck in the weeds and that cycle of mediocrity towards a leader that wants to focus on helping my team achieve our shared goals and in doing so to become the best version of themselves, we start there and then work through those steps that we talked about, building a vision with your team, building implementation pulse, building your own key disciplines as a leader. It’s only until, and unless we start doing that, that the empowerment will start coming back into our team. You can’t force empowerment into a team.

Steve Rush: Right.

Dave McKeown: Nobody can force somebody to take ownership and accountability. What we can do as leaders is create the environment in which people want to be empowered. They want to take ownership and accountability, but depending on the highly acute and how long we’ve sort of resided in that day-to-day firefighting that cycle of mediocrity, it can take anywhere from 6 to 12, to maybe even 18 months in a team to really restore a sense of empowerment. And it all starts with the leader taking those steps that we talked about before people start to realize, okay, that things are different, not actually I can. I do feel empowered now.

Steve Rush: Some of those behaviors also could be just unlearning and having a discipline of unlearning old behaviors and relearning new behaviors.

Dave McKeown: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, Marshall Goldsmith is a big author and executive coach out here in the States. Wrote a book called, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. And then one of the saddest things that I see is whenever a leader gets to, you know, a fairly prominent position, maybe it’s mid-level or even director level or above, but they basically draw a line under their learning and say, well, you know, everything that I did to get me here will stand me in good stead to get me to the next stage. And at some point, funny enough, all of those great things that did get us to a certain point in our career actually ended up becoming liabilities. And they started to track the value that we make. And I think that there are a number of key pivotal points in our leadership journey where we do almost need to unlearn everything that we had learned before. And, you know, at least just take a step step back and evaluate what’s working and what’s not working in order to be intentional about how we need to show up, to get to that next stage in our own growth and development.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I love that. And of course, part of us finding new ways of working and new behaviors is unlocking that creative gene that we all have. But for some reason that we seem to grow out of, or at least many of us grow out of. You call us out really as something that we need to focus on as part of those disciplines and creating that head space to get creative. Tell us a bit about how I might do that. If I’m a leader?

Dave McKeown: Thing I think I think to realize the point that you’re making, which is, but culturally we’re sort of assigned creativity to people that are just naturally creative or creative geniuses, and it’s kind of nonsense. You look at anybody that’s really creative and they’ll tell you, this is not something that necessarily naturally happens to me, you know, in fact Stephen King said, in one of his books, don’t wait for the news. He talks about this, not being in the spirit world. It’s just another job, and equates it to like laying pipe or driving long haul trucks and so many creative folks out there in a whole bunch of fields. Creativity is just a process that I go through, and so we’ve got to understand that we can all build a degree of creativity. We’re not all going to be Stephen King of course but it is something in there that we can develop.

Now the thing is, if our brain is filled with our most imminent to dos or whatever, the most recent thing is on the myriad ways that somebody can communicate with me, you know, I think we research starting to show that we have somewhat of a finite, like a mode of processing part in our brain to really handle stuff. David Allen is a time management expert, had a great quote, which was, “Our brain is for having ideas, not holding them”. And too many leaders just spend too much of their brain cycles, their psychic ram, just with whatever is front and center. And there’s no way that we can address the process of thinking creatively, whenever that’s the keys. And so, we’ve got to find a good way. One of the disciplines I talk about is managing your attention, got to find a way to deal with that in the appropriate forum so that we can free up some of that psyche ram, so that we can sit down and actually work through a process that allows us to think creatively, avoid the long-term direction of our team and development of our people.

Steve Rush: Yeah, the other thing that headspace gives us, as well. We’re able to face into the reasons why that intention gets stuck, you probably face into that quite a bit, right?

Dave McKeown: Oh, very much. So, I think also just attach finalities is so important. Because of the fast pace and the requirements in our leaders today, often a lot of the decisions that we make just very reactive. We’re not an actually intentional about a whole range of things, whether it’s sitting down to think creatively or strategically, or even just walking into a meeting. And one of the things that I talk about in the book is just the power of taking a pause, you know, we are just on this call and response mode in our organizations. And sometimes the best thing to do is just take a break and take a moment to silence. Don’t just go with the first thing that comes to mind, but actually take that silence, reflect on your intention and then respond accordingly to that.

Steve Rush: I love it, and also if we’ve got a habit and a discipline that says, this the way I operate and I’m going to react, then that whole taking stock is a new discipline!

Dave McKeown: Very much so, for sure. And then you get to separate yourself away from your ego a little bit. You get to reflect on, well, okay, how do I show up? And what does work well and what doesn’t work well, you know, maintaining curiosity about those sorts of things, about how you show up, allows you to assess in a much more objective light, just the impact that has without feeling the need to be overly defensive or even, you know, running through a lot of that negative self-talk that we often get ourselves. If we can remain curious about the impact of our behavior long enough to see that through, we can start to see some really beneficial behavioral changes.

Steve Rush: Of course, I guess creativity looks for solutions rather than anchoring into problems as well.

Dave McKeown: Yeah, very much so. And so often we don’t take that approach in how we view ourselves. We’re not trying to solve problems. We’re not trying to find solutions. We’re just trying to beat ourselves up or be the situation up or beat somebody else up because of the situation that we find herself in, rather than flipping that on its head, like you said, and said, all we’re trying to do here is, we’re just a group of people trying to make the world a better place or trying to, you know, find some solutions. So, let’s take that positivity. Let’s take that objectivity into our discussions in, in our decisions and our meetings and how we show up.

Steve Rush: So, Dave, this part of the show, our listeners are familiar with. This is where we get to spend a little and I get to hack into your leadership mind, then of all the years and experiences you have. I’m going to ask you to call out, what you think your top three Leadership Hacks might be?

Dave McKeown: Okay. So, number one, I alluded to which is, get ahold of your attention management. And I think that the best thing that you can do actually is narrow the amount of inputs that come into your day-to-day work flow. We have allowed too many inputs and it’s getting really, really difficult to manage and, you know, whatever has your attention is basically, where are you going to put most of your energy and effort? Second thing is to get really good at asking the question. What do you think? I think that it’s one of those powerful leadership questions that you can have in your arsenal. And it really helps bolster empowerment and reflection in your team and reduces the reliance on use. We get really comfortable just asking people, what do you think? And then third, they get really comfortable with silence, let silence do the heavy lifting on a lot of instances, don’t feel like it’s your job or your need, or your requirement to fill that silence. And that can range in a whole bunch of situations, whether it’s waiting for somebody to talk or share their perspective, or whether it’s giving some, you know, difficult or constructive feedback, just letting silence do the heavy lifting can be super powerful.

Steve Rush: Really powerful, that last one too, isn’t it? Because it is uncomfortable. I was on a Zoom workshop just this afternoon. And as a result of me just sat there, looking at the camera is just a matter of time before somebody is going to break and break the silent because nobody likes it. But actually, that’s where the great discovery starts to happen.

Dave McKeown: Very much so, and I think we fear as leaders that, well, number one, we feel like, gosh, the silence is lasting forever, which in reality, it’s not, it’s probably like three seconds, but number two, we fear that it reflects badly on us. If there’s silence for some strange reason, it’s the leader’s job or whoever’s in charge of that meeting to keep things going, then we’ve robbed ourselves of that room to just let things breathe a little bit. And I think it’s a really powerful skill for any leader to learn, to be able to sit and rest on that silence for a beat or too longer.

Steve Rush: Yeah, great stuff. Next thing we have is called Hack to Attack. So, this is typically where something in your life or your work, hasn’t worked out, it might even been an experience it’s been quite adverse in your life. But as a result of the experience though, you now use it as a positive in what you do, what would your Hack to Attack be?

Dave McKeown: So, it was pretty tough and difficult moving away from the family business. So, it was a particularly rough period of time for a whole bunch of reasons, which I’m sure you can imagine family businesses difficult enough it this. And it was definitely a soul-searching time for me. And I was definitely trepidatious that by taking what I had learned and try to build something on my own. But I was also excited about doing it. I knew that I could, and I was just talking to my wife about this the other day that I learned a whole bunch during that time of my life. But I’ve also learned a whole bunch more since then. And I think I’m better at what I do as a result of some of those challenges. And also just some of the experiences that I’ve had in the last three or four years where I have been on my own. And I think that it has helped me enormously. Professionally. it’s also helped me just personally get a true understanding of who I am and what I hope to achieve in this life. So, negative situations are not always, not often going to stay that way. And it’s really about how you approach it and those lessons that you want to glean from.

Steve Rush: It’s the old adage of not the event, but how you react to it, right?

Dave McKeown: For sure, very much so.

Steve Rush: And the last thing we want to do, Dave, is take you on a bit of time travel.

Dave McKeown: Alright.

Steve Rush: So, we’re going to get you to bump into Dave at 21 and you get to give them some advice. What would you advise be?

Dave McKeown: Funny enough, I don’t think 21-year-old Dave would listen to the future. Probably take one, look at me and go, where you go? I was a little too cocksure at that point in my life, you know, funny enough, I do think it would have been hard for me to take anything really transformative of my life or how I showed up or how I approach things, because it was very obstinate just in my own worldview at the time, which has thankfully things changed. One thing, funny enough, I think I would have said or would have encouraged me to do at 21 would have been to keep playing the guitar. I played the guitar as a teenager right up until it was about 20 or 21, I really enjoyed it. And then I put a done for 15 years and didn’t really pick it up again until about six months ago. And I’ve spent the last six months on one hand, really enjoying the journey of trying to relearn everything that I’ve forgotten. On the other hand, really frustrated that 15 years where if I had been playing for 15 years, I’d be some sort of [Inaudible 00:33:48]. So, I would just encourage myself that creative endeavor to not put a down for so long and just to see where I could have got to.

Steve Rush: I love that. And also, the whole principle of having stuff that is not your work stuff that is helping you learn new things, create new practice, disciplines and stuff. There’s always a parallel that you can lead back to how it’s helping you in the core way that you show up.

Dave McKeown: Oh, hugely. And I think probably just a lesson that I’m just scratching the surface of, I think from 21-year-old Dave, up until probably six to eight months ago, you know, the sole focus in my subconscious and what I was striving for was all work-related. I don’t know whether I would necessarily have voiced that in that way during that time. But looking back on a now, it’s really clear that that was the case, you know, back to that old conversation was great. Because it got me to some really good, powerful places, but I reach the point about eight months ago where it was starting to become a hindrance and the liability and just exploring some of those other areas of life that won’t necessarily quote/unquote amount to anything, but you just do it for the sake of doing it. So, picking up the guitar and learning a new scale or a new song, or, you know, practicing something over and over again, it allows you to, like you say, apply that to just a whole bunch of other different areas of your life. And I mean, I hope from here on like that I’ll continue to pursue some of those creative endeavors, even if it doesn’t the amount to anything thing, because it does round out your perspective and being in the work that you do.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it definitely does. So, for folks listening in Dave, wants to find a little bit more about the work you do, and indeed maybe get hold of a copy of The Self-Evolved Leader. Where should we send them?

Dave McKeown: If you want to find out about what I do around strategic planning, leadership development, go to, And if you’re interested in the book, go to and there’ll be a link to everywhere that you can buy it.

Steve Rush: Awesome, and we’ll make sure they’re in the show notes as well.

Dave McKeown: Excellent, thank you so much.

Steve Rush: Dave thanks for coming on the show. I love talking with you and every time that I do speak with you, I just get a sense of energy, which is awesome in what you do. So, thanks for sharing that with our listeners and thanks for being part of our community on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Dave McKeown: Thank you so much for having me on Steve. Really appreciate it.

Steve Rush: Thanks Dave.


Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others, and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers.

Finally, if you would like me to work with your senior team, your leadership community, keynote an event, or you would like to sponsor an episode. Please connect with us, by our social media. And you can do that by following and liking our pages on Twitter and Facebook our handler there @leadershiphacker. Instagram you can find us there @the_leadership_hacker and at YouTube, we are just Leadership Hacker, so that is me signing off. I am Steve Rush and I have been the leadership hacker.

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