The art and science of Leadership with Dr Jeffrey Hull

Dr Jeffrey Hull is an author, educator, and consultant with more than twenty years’ experience partnering with C-suite executives on issues of high-performance leadership, change management, organizational strategy, structure, and culture. He’s the CEO of LeaderShift Inc and also a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School. In this inspiring show you can learn about:

  • What is organizational anthropology?
  • Why leadership really is an art and a science.
  • Learn about the age of the post-heroic leader.
  • Jeffrey’s F.I.E.R.C.E. leadership model.

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: As generations as pass through the workforce, they become more transient and no more so than Gen Z. Gen Z has had enough, according to a recent Adobe survey, 5,500 workers found that 56% of those aged between 18 and 24 in the workplace say they’re planning to switch jobs within the next year. Research from Microsoft and Bankrate back this up reporting that 54% and 77% of Gen Zs respectively are thinking about quitting in their organizations. Sometimes these statements don’t always line up with actions, but across the globe, a record number of Gen Z quit their job in April equivalent to twice the number of the previous April.

Anthony Klotz, a business professor at Texas A&M University has deemed as the great resignation. The term that’s caught fire in recent months, Klotz explained that many employees only stay at their jobs because the cost of leaving is higher than the cost of staying. And this ratio has shifted for many workers in the past year. He goes on to say, “The costs of staying have risen due to burnout while the costs of quitting have decreased due to unexpected pandemic savings.” So how as leaders, can we avoid this Exodus? Here’s a few ideas that will get our Gen Z workers wanting to stay. Ignite their passion. We all have differences and gap have recently concluded that the great resignation is actually just a great disconnect. So rather than being an issue with pay or industry or working conditions, the pandemic has changed the way people work and how they behave. So, reversing the tide in any team or organization requires leaders who care, who engage and who give our workers a sense of purpose. Really find what it is that turns them on and makes them successful and energetic and aligned their work to that Passion.

Banished the busy-ness syndrome. One of the real issues ushered by the pandemic was a need for newly remote workers to look busy, particularly for those who were young and relatively unproven in their careers, trying to make a name for themselves. Half of remote workers in a recent study showed they were worried that their manager had doubts about their productivity leading to 44% to work longer hours and 37% even skip breaks, which of course naturally is going to impact on productivity negatively. In the Adobe research suggested that 86% said that their task would now becoming more mundane and repetitive. And therefore, as leaders, we’ve got a real opportunity to strive to banish the busy-ness syndrome and find things that are purposeful, meaningful, and give people the opportunity to be creative.

And the last thing that comes out in this survey is get rid of the nine to five mentality. Of the workers in the Adobe study, who planned to switch jobs in the next year, 61% said they wanted more control over their schedule. And this applies particularly to Gen Zs as only 62% say their most productive hours fell between nine and six. It’s time for our leaders to banish the idea of that mandatory nine to five, just exploring why people can be more productive outside those hours can really unlock talent, unlock ideas and creativity. The rules for leading people have changed. Even in turbulent times. The key particularly to retaining Gen Z employees is not a mystery. Retention requires an intentional commitment as leaders to understand to their unique needs and demands. We can’t expect Gen Z to behave like Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers.

They’ve been born into a different world and have different perspectives. And the war for talent is definitely putting pressure on organizations and teams to provide the next gen employees, the opportunity to be successful. So, the leadership lesson here is create some awareness here and understand how our Gen Zs are thinking, feeling, and behaving and make sure that you can adapt and provide them with the opportunities to grow, notwithstanding, maintaining great standards and expectations. That’s been The Leadership News. We’d love to hear from you, if you have any insights, stories, or quirk things that we’d love to get on the show. So please get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Joining me on the show today is Dr. Jeffrey Hull, he’s the CEO and founder of LeaderShift, Inc. He’s a Director of Global Development at Harvard Institute of Coaching, and he’s also a faculty member of Harvard Medical School. He’s a speaker and the author of the book Flex. Jeff, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Good to be here. Thank you for having me.

Steve Rush: So, you really have a fascinating story and loads of experience, and I’d love to just start with a bit of a summary if you like, of how you’ve arrived at leading the organization you do now?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, I think it’s probably the easiest way to sum up my career is in three phases. Early phase after college, in graduate school, was in HR working for the consultancy based in New York. Global strategy firm called Booz Allen Hamilton that many people know. I worked my way up early in my career to a director of HR role where at that point I discovered my favorite part of that job was mentoring and coaching the up-and-coming leaders. And it was really kind of early in the coaching profession. So, I don’t know that I had the option to become a professional coach at that point, but I knew I liked that part of my work. So, when I had an opportunity in the second phase of these three to jump into an entrepreneurial stage of career, a good friend of mine who was an investment banker, we were in New York.

At the time we got together, we started a company to do leadership development consulting. And over the next five to seven years, built a pretty successful practice with leadership training, customized seminars and retreats, and with financial organizations, software companies you know, we worked back and forth between Europe and New York. And over that time, I’ve kind of honed my training and development skills, but also started doing more coaching. And that led to the third phase, which I guess I’m still in, which is eventually really kind of honing in on executive coaching. And so, for the last 15 years or so, I’ve really developed a pretty wide-ranging practice of executive coaching in all different industries, whether it’s still in the financial space, but also software, tech, pharma. And then more recently doing a lot of work in healthcare where I got connected to Harvard medical school and the folks at the Harvard Institute of coaching. And that’s kind of where I kind of give back, give back in my career. I work part time as one of the leaders of the Institute. And it’s really an opportunity for me to get involved with research and education around scientific or evidence-based underpinnings of this profession that we call coaching, which these days, I think it’s safe to say as a profession, but, you know, it’s still, it’s still the growth phase. I mean, it hasn’t been around that long.

It’s still quite a relatively new notion, isn’t it? In an organizational sense. Of course. Exactly.


And you’ve also as part of your work and your studies as an organizational psychologist over the last 20 years have kind of really developed an interesting spin on things. And you have this notion of organizational anthropology and I’d love to learn a little bit more about what that means and how it differs.

I think that that’s just my euphemism for going below the surface and being a bit of a detective of what is going on within an organization that may not be explicit and may not be visible. It may not be seen, but may actually be having a huge influence or impact on the organizational success or on the leaderships way of interacting with their people. So, I was trained originally in my doctoral program in Jungian psychology. There’s another quick phase I went through earlier where I want it to be a psychotherapist. That’s a long story we’ll do for another day. But out of that training came my recognition that a lot of the time, the way things are really happening in organizations are sort of implicit or unvisible or invisible. And so, the anthropological part of me is looking at my coaching opportunities with clients to dig under the surface.

Like what’s not so obvious that’s going on in the dynamic with the team or the way you interact with your people as a leader and having an opportunity for people to feel safe in a coaching dynamic, then they can reflect on some of these blind spots where they’re not even aware of the way they’re coming across or the way they’re interacting with their people. And that can be helpful I think in two ways. One it can help the leader become more self-aware and then secondly, it can also help with the culture building aspects of organizations.

Steve Rush: Right?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Because a lot of the aspects of culture, as you know, are more implicit, they’re more kind of the way things we do around here. And, you know, this is the way we put our offices, or this is how we operate in virtual calls these days or whatever it is, but there’s sort of the unwritten rules. So that’s what I mean by kind of the anthropological lens, like looking under the surface and getting into the shadows, so to speak.

Steve Rush: And that’s a skill, and a massive skill to get below those couple of layers because we all come with our lenses and we all come with our layers. What are the things that you’ve noticed that really help you to be able to get really deep and underneath those kinds of layers?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, I think a lot of it is being an observer of the dynamics between individuals and their teams that they don’t even notice. You know, I look for, and I wrote about this in my book as an example, I look for the somatic or the energetic dynamic that’s going on between a leader and their people, not just what they say by that, I mean, you know, in live space and example would be how they handle the energy of the team dynamic in terms of where they sit, how they set up their office, the timing, who participates and who doesn’t, power seats and, you know, presence, you know, how do they hold their body as a leader? Do they lean in or do they lean back? Do they look at people directly or do they often kind of look distracted are they on their cell phone being, you know, texting and things like that. So, some of the more subtle physical elements are ways to detect kind of what’s really going on underneath the surface, despite what people may be saying. And I would add that that shows up even more, or explicitly, in these virtual situations where we’re now like on Zoom calls or Microsoft teams or whatever, and all of those things, my clients are often surprised when they hear from me that some of the more non-verbal physical presence dynamics are actually even exaggerated in the virtual space.

Steve Rush: That’s really fascinating, most writing or articles I’ve certainly read in the last 18 months to two years as we’ve been going through this crazy world, suggest the opposite. How have you managed to fine tune your skills and your acuity to find that in what you do?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, it’s a great question, but it starts with some of the basic scientific principles. And I mentioned, I wrote about some of this in my book too, which is, you know, we’re learning more and more about how people operate when they feel a sense of psychological safety or how they build trust or what it takes to operate at high performing levels. And these things often trace back to physical or somatic energy issues such as eye contact and feeling like your being listened to, you know, this sort of a subtle thing. Like when you ask someone, how do you know when you’re being heard? You know, that’s kind of a subtle question. How do you know? Right. So, when you think about that question in the virtual space, it becomes quite granular. And the studies have shown that things like direct eye contact and smiling and on a virtual call showing, your hands occasionally. Not just being, you know, the talking head from the neck up, those small gestures, those small things actually make a lot of difference. People feel more connected. They feel more heard when you look directly into your camera, rather than looking distracted. Now that’s true in the real world, but it’s even more exaggerated in the virtual space.

Steve Rush: Right., yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: So, a lot of what I do for my coaching around how to become more effective in those Zoom calls or those Microsoft team calls is to pay attention to the way you’re paying attention, right?

Steve Rush: Conscious, consciousness

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Exactly, and know your habits. We all have our little bad habits, you know, like looking down and taking notes or occasionally glancing at my cell phone or, oops, I got a text message better read it. That’s all, you know, even in the real world, that’s a little bit distracting, but in the virtual space, it can come across as downright rude.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it can, can’t it?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yeah, exactly.

Steve Rush: Thebook that you’ve written, Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World, if ever there was a time to have written a book, right? now, is it. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the book and maybe some of the key themes it covers?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, the inspiration for the book was really more on a sort of macro level, which is that in my executive coaching practice and in my work with the Harvard Institute where I get to interact as part of a community of hundreds of coaches around the world, you know, there was a sense that the demographics and the dynamics of what it takes to be successful in a leadership context were changing rapidly in the last few years. And I think it’s now become pretty well known that organizations are becoming flatter, more networked, more democratic, more interconnected, more multicultural, more multi-national. I mean, the whole thing with the pandemic and virtual work is just exaggerated all of that. But what that leads to of course is you have a new generation of leaders stepping up that don’t always come the same way as the ones that I coached early in my career.

For example, they’re not all white men and they’re not all charismatic and they’re not all authoritative leaders. So, there’s a lot more variety than there used to be. And what I’m called on to coach around. Things like emotional intelligence and building trust and getting high performing teams to be cohesive and work together in alignment with a vision, you know, these things are more complex and the good news is there’s some good research on how to make that happen. And so, what led to the book was basically my recognition that, you know, we needed to kind of move on from what I considered to be the paradigm of, you know, probably 2000 years of leadership, you know, the white guy coming in on the horse to lead the troops with the vision and the directive style. Not that that’s really not appropriate when I’m under the surgeon’s knife, I definitely hope he’s a nice authoritative directive person, or when I’m sitting on an airplane, I expect my pilot to be authoritative and directive. But, you know, in most situations these days, there’s room for a lot more variety. And sometimes in fact, there’s a benefit to bringing in the more consensus driven collaborative maybe the leader who leads by following or building a coalition. And so that’s really what led me to want to describe in the book, case studies and coaching examples of a really much wider, diverse range of what I considered to be sort of the next generation of leadership.

Steve Rush: Definitely, so. You state actually in the book that we’re in this age of the post heroic leader.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Right.

Steve Rush: So how might that have looked and what would be the stark differences?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, I think the fundamental theme is that the traditional archetype is that heroic leader, right? So, as I mentioned before, you know, the Knight that comes in on the horse to save the world, and that is a very individualistic definition of leadership, that it’s a particular person with a particular personality that shows talent, that has high potential. And they, you know, they need to be groom and then they run off and lead the world. And, you know, as you’re getting back to your question about anthropology, you know, that’s an archetype, it’s not a fact.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: And so, in today’s world, there’s much more space for a whole broad range of leaders to be impactful. And some of the most influential leaders that I work with are not like that at all. They’re actually more introverted. They’re actually more consensus building. They’re actually good listeners. They actually create an environment that more and more people can lead as a team. So, the fundamental shift is from an individualistic approach to leadership, to a team or community, or a group focused way of leading, and that sort of collective approach can be equally effective. So, I consider that to be post heroic in the sense that there’s no longer always just one singular individual leading the charge. And the best leaders, and I think I dig into this in the book are those that really understand the benefits of both ends of the spectrum, what I call the alpha, which is the heroic type, and then the beta, which is really more of a consensus builder.

Steve Rush: And equally they bring different skills and attributes to a team. I guess the key here is finding others around you that have different perspectives and more diversity, right?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Absolutely, and that’s probably where you’re pointing there is one of the fundamental themes of my book, which is this adage, that there are only a few people in any organization that are considered the high potentials that we should, you know, give extra training or extra focus. I really think that’s an outdated meme, that the best teams these days recognize that there’s leadership potential in everyone.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: So as a leader, your job is to uncover that talent and nurture and exploit or take advantage, or leverage the talent and all of your people.

Steve Rush: And that’s really massive for me when you played that back, because I instantaneously think back to when I was in leading businesses and I was working in HR. You have a typical talent grid, maybe a nine-box grid, and you identify those who are talent, and who’s not. I wonder how different the world would be today if all of those nine boxes were classed as talent, yet we just reframed it in a different way.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, you know, it’s so interesting you mentioned that because I too have come full circle around that dynamic. And one of the things that I do with my clients now that are like heads of HR or chief operating officers, or even CEOs, is I will support them to go through that exercise to identify those individuals in their organization, that show, you know, really what I would consider to be evident talent. Like they’re sort of a natural born leader, right? So, oh, those are the superstars. So, we create our nine box or whatever it is that we’re doing to evaluate for succession plan. And we create our list of the top tier of the next generation of talent, so that’s cool. But then what I do is, I throw a wrench in the mix, when I say, okay, I want you to go through your talent pool.

And I want you to pull out all the people you think are not high potential, top 10, top 50, you know, what are those people that you think are real questionable? And so we go through that exercise, and then I throw the second wrench, which is, okay, I want you to reflect on whether or not the people you just threw on the dust pile or on the trash bin are the most talented people in the organization.

Steve Rush: Interesting.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: What if you think of the people who have the least potential as the ones who have the untapped most potential, how would that change the way you operate?

Steve Rush: Really neat. I’m literally playing it through, in my mind as you’re describing it. What it really tells us is that there are lots that we just don’t know about people. There are lots that we just don’t understand about that capability. And ironically, we might never know if we exclude them from some of those conversations.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yeah, and I’ll give you two examples. I mean, what you’re really pointing to too when you go through that exercise is number one. If you’re in a leadership seat and you’re going through the list of potentials, you know, all the people on your team that have been working for you. Let’s say for a year, two years, three years, and you pick out the ones you think are obviously high potential. Well, guess what? They’re all going to be just like you, that’s the stereotype.

Steve Rush: Right?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Our affinity is for people who are like us, oh, I love Mary. She does a lot of the same things that I used to do when I was a child. Like, great, okay. So that’s just keeping the stream moving of everybody being the same, but the other side of the coin is the people that your kind of frustrated by, or, oh God, that guy, he doesn’t have a lot of potential. He works in the middle of the night. He never shows up at 9:00 AM like everybody. He has no potential, but he’s a maverick. Oh, maybe he’s super creative. Maybe he’s very, very innovative, but doesn’t toe the line. So, the people at the other end of the spectrum, as I said, that you, as a leader are kind of dismissing because they don’t fall into your stereotype of towing the line, the way you do to become a leader. May actually be the most creative, innovative, talented maverick folks in your whole organization. They may be secretly working at two o’clock in the morning on solving the problem that will make you millions.

Steve Rush: That’s right, yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: So, it’s worth taking a second look, I guess, is the bottom line, right?

Steve Rush: Definitely, so now you call the book, Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership. And I wonder for most people listening to this, they’ll get the science because it’s prevalent and we talk about Neuroscience; we talk about some of the tools and techniques and Jungian approach you talked about earlier, but what about art? Is leadership really an art?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yes, because I think there’s an intuitive, creative, almost really hard to put your finger on a piece of interconnectivity with people that is kind of poetic or musical, or if you think of the works of art that stand the test of time, they would be hard pressed to be created through scientific means.

Steve Rush: Right.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Right? They’re special, they’re unique. And, so I think that’s what I’m pointing at when I say, you know, the good news is we have more evidence about what it takes to lead a group, to build trust, to build alignment, to share a vision with communication strategies that really connect the dots for people. So that they’ll follow. I mean, we do know what it takes to do that. We’ve done studies, but on the other end of the spectrum, if you run your team all through data, all through science, you know, people are not robots.

People are creative, intuitive beings, and you want to tap into the imagination. You want to tap into that sort of unspoken, intuitive side. And as I said earlier, sort of learn to nurture the Mavericks. If people are acting a little crazy. And I gave you that example where I did have a statistics guy who was refusing to work during the day, because he was just super creative, late at night. And his boss was frustrated with him. And you know, I had a counterintuitive coaching discussion with my client because I said, instead of being mad at this guy, why don’t you dig underneath, what’s that creative impulse that shows up in him at 2:00 AM? How do you nurture that?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: So that’s the art side of it.

Steve Rush: I buy that and I wonder how much mindset plays into this whole principle of me being a leader and thinking of myself as “artistic” in my trade.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Oh, absolutely. I mean, that’s kind of what I get into when I talk about the anthropologic. I asked my clients, you know, when you think about blind spots, that’s sort of a paradox, right? Because a blind spot is something you can’t see. So therefore, how could you know what it is? And that is often an opening for a conversation with my clients around the benefit of, first of all, being open to feedback. And second of all, to see that the people that you’re getting feedback from, if they have your best interests at heart, are going to point out things to you that are going to be super supportive in expanding your skills, expanding your repertoire and that, you know, everything that you think you’re doing is great is not necessarily seen, not necessarily what’s you know. I mean, it may be some of your hidden talents that are showing up that people are taking advantage of or aware of. And so, learning about those sorts of unseen gifts, I think is a really important element of being an effective leader and doing the same thing with your folks.

Steve Rush: I love the way you framed that by the way, unseen gifts. Just allows us to receive it in a way of a gift, doesn’t it?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Because again, going back to the science, we now know that if you frame things positively, as opposed to problematically, then people can look at something that appears to be negative and reframe it with a mindset that turns it into an opportunity.

Steve Rush: Yeah, love it. And you have a model that you help your leaders with called Fierce, F-I-E-R-C-E. Love you just to spin through how we might use that as leaders in our work?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, that was simply a distillation of a lot of the research and interviews and focus groups that I did with my clients and with many, many coaches that I work with to discover what are the areas that leaders need to really hone in on and today’s world to be effective. So, there are six dimensions that just keep coming up over and over again, one is decision-making and developing a flexible style. So that gets back to the core of what we talked about before, which was, you know, are you authoritative and indecisive or are you flexible and being more democratic and consensus building and both are valuable, but they’re two ends of a spectrum. The second is the acronym and fierce is the letter I, which is intentional. So being more intentional in your communication style, and we’ve already talked a little bit about that. Looking really closely at not just the words you use, but the way you communicate. The tone, the eye contact, the gestures, the use of humor, all the different components of effective persuasion and influence. The third, the letter E is emotional intelligence and becoming aware of the key side of human beings, which is emotions is crucial, you know, developing your own emotional intelligence is like a muscle that leaders these days cannot avoid developing. The next one is R in the acronym, and that’s building up your integrity and your credibility through authenticity or what I call realness. And that connects to being more humble and knowing when to be transparent and open and vulnerable. So, a lot of leaders tend to focus on competencies and strengths, which is great, but at the other end of the spectrum, you also need to be humble and vulnerable and connect to your people as a human being. And that’s kind of the other end of the spectrum. So, all of the different components of being an authentic leader are absolutely crucial today.

And then the final two components have to do with collaboration. You know, the letter C for me, I started to dig into how do we effectively become coaches for our people? You know, it’s great to have a coach, but you also need to become a coach. So, I dug into some of the science that we use at the Institute of Coaching around becoming an effective coach for your people. Listening, asking good questions, creating a sense of safety, confidentiality, knowing the difference, for example, between mentoring and coaching, because they’re not the same thing. And then finally the letter E is about how to engage with your team. And we spoke a little bit about that in terms of how to create an environment that gets the best out of everyone, whether you’re in a virtual space or in a real office or in a hybrid. And that focuses on the energy that you exude as a leader, your nonverbal communication, how you create the space for people to show up, how you facilitate introverts and extroverts. So, it’s really sort of stepping back and looking at some of the key principles of creating and motivating an environment where everyone can operate at their best.

Steve Rush: I love the model; I love the framework. It really helps people get into that space of ask yourself some questions around each of those six acronyms.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Right, exactly. That was my intent.

Steve Rush: And yeah, you’ll start to find out then what you need to. kind of pull the leavers on, right?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Exactly.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: And, you know, and what I did is, then I brought a lot of case studies in, so that as you’re reading through some of the science or some of the themes, there are lots of different examples of people sort of at different ends of the spectrum in all those categories. And so, the idea was to be able to reflect on your own leadership style, whether you’re early in your career or whether you’re the CEO and say to yourself, oh, I recognize myself.

Steve Rush: Exactly, yeah. It starts with us as leaders. Doesn’t it?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Exactly.

Steve Rush: It starts with us. And in terms of leadership, I’m going to spin the tone a little now. Trying and hack into your leadership brain.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Okay.

Steve Rush: Having led businesses and teams over a number of different years, I’m going to try and ask you now to take all of that learning and distill it into your top three leadership hacks, what would they be?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Top three? Well, my top one is to own your blind spots. Like as a leader, one of the most humbling aspects is to even recognize that you might have blind spots. So, if you have a starting point from saying to yourself, okay, I’m a human being. I must have a blind spot. What is it? So go on, you know, like almost an architect, what would be the word? Archetype dig into your own blind spots, ask your friends, ask your spouse. Don’t be afraid to find out what it is that gets in the way of your operating at your finest, that’s number one.

Steve Rush: That’s a big one too. And I’ll tell you, I have a funny story about this. When I was coached by my coach a couple of years back, and we were talking about blind spots and I had this really crazy moment of going. No, I just don’t see it. I just don’t recognize it. It’s a blind spot.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yeah, oh yeah. Okay. Just starting point of being aware that you might have a blind spot is a really important step as a leader because it’s humbling and it gets you going onto an investigation where you may be open to feedback.

Steve Rush: Right.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Number two hack is kind of along those lines. And I call that to know the strengths list of your people. Because if we’re going to move from this heroic style of leadership to a more group or post heroic style, then what you need to do is to know your people. And the best way to do that is to put together a short list of their strengths. So, I make all of my clients do this exercise, which is if you have 10 people reporting to you, or you have five people reporting to you, get out a notebook and write down the top three strengths of every single person on your team.

Because if you have that as a handy dandy available note, you’ll be able to use that when things get tight or there’s a crisis, or there’s an upset, because you’ll be able to say, oh, but Mary you’re so good at X, Y, and Z. I need to know what happened when this didn’t happen, right? So, knowing the strengths of your people is really important and you’d be surprised how many leaders don’t take the time. They’re like, oh yeah, I like Mary and Suzie’s good. I’m not so sure about Peter, but then when I dig one level below that, and I say, yeah, but what’s Peter’s number one strength. They’re like never thought about that question.

Steve Rush: It’s a great situational hack, isn’t?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Exactly.

Steve Rush: It looking for those opportunities? Yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yep, know your top three. No, the top three strengths of all your people. And then the hack number three, which I think is the real punchline of this whole line of questioning is know how the strength becomes a liability.

Steve Rush: Would that be an overplayed strength?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yep.

Steve Rush: Yep.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Exactly, know the strengths of your people and yourself, so know your own strengths and then ask yourself, when does that strength get me into trouble?

Steve Rush: Love that.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Because 90% of the coaching I’ve done in my life, we have ended up somewhere where wherever the big talent is of my client is also their liability. They overuse it. They rely on it too much. One trick pony, whatever way you want to articulate it. It’s incredibly common that the thing that we do super well often becomes the thing that trip us up when we want to go to the next level. It goes back to Marshall Goldsmith, who I’m a big fan. One of his 100 coaches. What got you here won’t get you there, right?

Steve Rush: Right.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: His best-selling book. And the theme of that book is really whatever it was that got you to where you are, is probably going to get in the way of getting you to the next place.

Steve Rush: Very, very good. Like that a lot. Next part we’ll show Jeff, we call Hack to Attack. So, this is typically where something in your work or life hasn’t worked out as you’d planned, may have been even that we’ve screwed up in the process, but as a result of the process. We’ve learned from it, and it’s now serving us well in our life or our work. So, what would be your Hack to Attack?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Oh, well that one is, I love that question because it’s actually really easy, but embarrassing, but hey, you know, that’s life, it’s a humble.

Steve Rush: Let’s do it.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: No, but the truth is I was very fortunate that I screwed up very early in my career, right out of college. I was hired as a recruiter for a tech company and I was only in my early twenties and, you know, got a fancy cube. I didn’t get an office, but I got a very fancy cube. And I got a secretary, I had an admin and within the very first few weeks of my job, what did I do? I asked my secretary to get coffee for me. I was like, oh, can you do this? Can you do that? I was like, oh my God, I have my secretary. She’s going to do things for me. And about a month later, my boss came to me and he was like Jeff, I have to sit you down and just discuss the way we work around here.

Because this was a tech company. And then even though it was quite a few years ago, even back then, it was really a more egalitarian invite environment. And he said, you know what Jeff, you really should learn to get your own coffee. And I looked at him and I was like, what? He goes, your administrative assistant is really there to support you to do your job better. Not just to be your lackey. Like, you know, she can get coffee. It’s not really a problem, but is that really the best way to treat people? And so, it wasn’t so much the getting the coffee that was the issue. It was my attitude, and that was humbling. And I was young and I was immature. But I have to tell you that advice treat people well, realize that even the person who takes your coat or the receptionist who welcomes you in the door or the administrative assistant, who’s just setting up the coffee and the bagels for the meeting. Those are human beings. And not only are they deserving of respect, but as I’ve learned over the years, they also have a lot of inside information.

Steve Rush: They do, don’t they?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yeah, exactly. Like 10 years later, when I was the director of HR and I had learned my lesson and I learned to be respectful. I remember we were interviewing MBA candidates and what I would do at the end of the day, they would come in from Harvard and Northwestern and Stanford and Yale, and be very arrogant. And, you know, just as I probably was back when I was in that age bracket and I would say to the receptionist, okay. So, tell me who should I hire and who should I not hire

Steve Rush: First impressions?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yeah, exactly. Her name was Irene. And she said to me, you know, Jeff don’t that guy. And I’m like, yeah, but he came across really smart in the interviews. She goes, yeah, but he was really rude to me when he first came in, he basically threw his coat at me to hang up and, you know, that’s the fundamental lesson, treat people with respect no matter where they are in the organization, because they are part of the fabric of the team. And not only do they deserve to be treated well, deserve to be treated with respect, but they also have a lot of insights. So that was my big learning. And, you know, I’m not perfect. I probably still snap at someone once in a while, but I really took it to heart that, you know, it’s the people at the lower end of the totem poles that really, not only do they do the yeoman’s work in an organization to keep things humming, but they also have incredible deep insight into what’s really going on in the C-Suite or behind the scenes. And you can learn from them those people.

Steve Rush: Super lesson, yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Yeah.

Steve Rush: The last thing we want to do today, Jeff is give you a chance to do some time travel. So, you get a chance to go and bump into Jeff at 21 and give them some advice. What would your advice to him be then?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: My advice would be to learn from everyone. Don’t get into the habit of just being funding with the ones that have big titles or big paychecks, you know, look at every single person that you interact with in your community or organization, your network, and think of them as being able to offer you something

Steve Rush: Awesome advice. Every day’s a school day.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Exactly, you know, and I hopefully learned how to be a student along the way and I’ll never stop.

Steve Rush: Great stuff. So, what is it you’re working on next, Jeff?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: The things that most interest me now are taking leaders from sort of more traditional environments like finance and software and integrating them into the more eco sustainable world organizations that are environmentally more attuned to what’s going on with our climate change and the planet and all, you know, we need to integrate these things. And so, one of my passions is helping my leaders that I work with, get more in tune with broader impact that their organizations are having on the planet. Like if we look at, you know, all the crazy stuff that’s happening with the climate.

Steve Rush: Exactly, yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: And we just don’t have the luxury anymore of saying, oh, well, that’s all in the energy department, you know, I’m in finance. I don’t have anything to do with that. Well, you know, downstream, it’s all one stream, right? So, my passion is trying to get my leaders in all these different places to become more in tune with how they have impacts in the world. Not just impacts inside their organization.

Steve Rush: Love it, yeah.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: You know, and it’s a challenge, but we coaches we have a role to play. So, hopefully going to do my part.

Steve Rush: Good for you. So, if our listeners want to get hold of a copy of Flex, or they wanted to learn a bit more about the work that you do, Jeff, where’s the best place for us to send them?

Dr. Jeffery Hull: My own website under my name, Jeffrey Hull, H-U-L-L, We’ll have a lot of information and access to the book. Obviously, the book is available on Amazon and all the other, you know, outlets that we find our books these days. And then I would also encourage folks to look up the I’m there as part of the leadership team. There’s a lot of interesting resources. So those are probably the best places to go.

Steve Rush: Wonderful, and we’ll make sure that those links are in our show notes as well.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Great, appreciate that.

Steve Rush: Jeff, I’ve really enjoyed talking with you. I love the energy that you bring to the subject and I love the work that you’re doing. And I just wanted to say, thank you for being part of our community.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: Well, it’s my pleasure. It’s always good to spread the word on what kind of leaders we all want to develop into and develop into the world, bring into the world these days. because there’s a certain amount of urgency, I think.

Steve Rush: Yeah, definitely so.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: If we are going to save the planet and ourselves along the way.

Steve Rush: Well said -Thanks for coming on the show Jeff.

Dr. Jeffery Hull: My pleasure. Thanks Steve


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.

One thought on “The art and science of Leadership with Dr Jeffrey Hull

  1. Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!


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