Leadership Choices with David Wheatley

David Wheatly is the Principal and Chief Question Asker at Humanergy, he’s the author of “What Great Teams Do Great” and “50 Dos For Everyday Leadership.” You’ll love listening to David talk about his journey from England to the USA with lessons including:

  • The components and elements of leadership choices
  • The common themes that set great teams apart
  • The red path and green path (which one are you on?)
  • What makes great questions “great.”

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: When the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi was asked by Fortune magazine, what’s the most important leadership advice she’s been given. She said, whatever anybody does or says assume positive intent. And when you follow this advice, your approach to a personal problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re often angry or annoyed. If you let go of this anger or annoyance and assume positive intent, you’ll be able to listen generously and speak straight and more effectively. And this advice is not insignificant from a leader who has made one of the boldest moves in their industry in recent years.

Nooyi was featured in 2015 issue of Fortune for her bold move of taking PepsiCo in an audacious strategy shift beyond unhealthy snacks and drinks. Despite her critics at the time, PepsiCo has had positive year on year organic growth and has crushed the shares of rival Coke. Assuming positive intent is clearly a powerful leadership move. However, to get good at it, you must first recognize your automatic tendency to sometimes see the negative intentions in people. And then you must deliberately practice looking for positive intent. When you look for positive intent, you automatically give people the benefit of the doubt, and you give yourself a chance to learn about what could have caused the situation you find yourselves in. In fact, you might even be surprised something you hadn’t expected might come out of the woodwork. Maybe in a few cases, you’ll learn that the person had positive intent, but it just landed negatively.

Allow yourself to learn this rather than jumping to conclusions without clear information and doing so you can take action. And of course, by assuming positive intent, you’re also practicing great leadership. You’d like to avoid many of the embarrassing situations that come with having negative connotation. So, the leadership lesson here is when you hear or see something that feels negative, reframe it and ask yourself what could have been the reasons behind the action behind the event. And you’ll find some positivity in there somewhere. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. We’d love to hear your stories and insights. So please get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: David Wheatley is a special guest on today’s show. He’s the Principal and Chief Question Asker at Humanergy, a leadership development consultancy focused on helping people transform themselves along with those who work with them. David’s a co-author of What Great Teams Do Great and 50s Dos For everyday leadership. David, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

David Wheatley: Thanks for having me on.

Steve Rush: So really keen to get into your backstory that helps send us down a little bit about why you do what you do now. So how did that go from Leeds end up working for The Met Police in London?

David Wheatley: I’ll try and give you the short story of this, but I put it all down to whitewater kayaking and I taught whitewater kayaking when I was a kid, I’d spent most of my summers in the lake district. And I was looking at different times to go in the Navy. I thought about Dartmouth. And then I’d always said, well, I don’t get in there, then maybe the police. And I saw an advert for the police in London that had a guy kayaking on the front of it. And I thought that’s the one for me. And so, I applied and got in and spent five years with what’s known in England as the met, which is the police force for greater London. And so that was the easy story of how I ended up moving 200 miles south of my hometown to go seek my fortune in the Capitol.

Steve Rush: So how long were you at the met police?

David Wheatley: I was there for five years in the eighties, which was an interesting time to be in London.

Steve Rush: Because London bit like most cities, if you look back in history and certainly some of the big cities in the U.S. and around the around Europe and the world actually. The eighties was kind of their revolving or revolutionary years where they went from what they were to where they are now. And London was definitely one of those cities, wasn’t it?

David Wheatley: Yeah, it was definitely in transition. So, there were places that you would feel safer than not. And there were definitely communities that were in transition at the same time. So, and now a few riots thrown in during my time too.

Steve Rush: And when you look back on your time with the metropolitan police, were there lessons that you learned then that you now carry forward to the work that you do now?

David Wheatley: If you look at anything, right. There should be a lesson that you can take out of it. And there were thousands of when I was in that place and I was a cop on the streets of London at twenty-one. And the advice I’d give myself is to stop being so fully yourself and arrogant and being an ass, start growing up a bit quicker and paying attention to what’s going on around you. And I think that’s one of those things, isn’t it? That the great quote says when I was eighteen, I couldn’t believe how stupid my dad was. And when I was twenty-one, I was surprised at what you’d learned in three years.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s a great quote, isn’t it?

David Wheatley: I wish I had the thought and the calm, the willingness to stay calm and question back then, rather than the energy and enthusiasm and excitement and arrogance of a twenty-one-year-old.

Steve Rush: So how did you end up then becoming from a place officer to leading a great leadership consultancy in the U.S.?

David Wheatley: Again, I put that back to whitewater kayaking, because I got to place in my police career where my colleagues were saying that’s five down, only twenty-five to go, and then I can buy a house in the national park and a sports car and do all my hobbies and my hobbies, where, like I say, whitewater kayaking and a bit of climbing. And I thought, well, 30 years’ time and a career of thirty years, maybe I won’t be able to do those things. So perhaps now’s the time to go. And I left the police and moved to the lake district of England, which is a national park in the Northwest. I went to a college in the heart of the lake district to get an education degree while I could still continue my kayaking. And across the lake from the college, I went to was another college that was doing management training using the outdoors. And they needed people with the right bits of paper. And so, I would quite literally paddle from one college across lake Windermere to the other college to go and work with these leadership teams whether it was building a raft or out kayaking, getting to know each other that way. And it evolved from there. We came away from the outdoors and it becomes much more about asking questions that people in their own settings these days. And I’ve been in the states now for twenty-five years and with Humanergy for twenty-one.

Steve Rush: So, what was the pivotal moment for you then to leave blighty and move to the U.S.?

David Wheatley: Well, it’s part of that college course. I did a six-month exchange to the U.S. and I went back with a wife and a three-year-old. And so, my wife spent five years living in Kendall in Cumbria and decided that she’d love to move back to the states. And so, I looked for some work over here and got a job here in 1996, or as someone told me the other day, the late nineteen hundred which makes me sound really old. And I was working with my now business partner and that company folded in 2000 and we started our own company, Humanergy, which has been around since.

Steve Rush: Awesome. Are you still Kayaking?

David Wheatley: I was kayaking this last weekend, although the water’s a lot less white around here.

Steve Rush: Yes, indeed. Unfortunately, I have the Thames, so I’m able to jump on my kayak and shoot up the Thames as long as it’s not going upstream after heavy rainfall.

David Wheatley: Yeah, so we have the Kalamazoo River just on our doorstep here and it’s a beautiful river, goes through the nature center. So, it’s all very wilderness, but it’s quite flattened, slow moving. So, my whitewater kayak looks a little out of place on it.

Steve Rush: I bet it does, yeah. You co-wrote the book, What Great teams Do Great. And in the book, you talk about leadership choices. I fundamentally believe that there are loads of those, but from your experience, what are the kind of key components and elements of leadership choice?

David Wheatley: Yeah, I appreciate you bringing that up because that’s fundamental to our philosophy of leadership. We believe that leadership is not about your title or your rank or the size of your office, the brass plaque on your desk or any of those things. It’s about the choices you make that influence the people around you. And if you think about it that way, then everybody, every day is making leadership choices. They’re making choices that influence those around them. And you break it down into that level of simplicity. I’m making a choice, that’s influencing you. Then I have some level of leadership and then we broke it into a couple of areas that we could focus on. One is, that choice focused on me or the greater good? And you can kind of draw a line between those two. So, if it’s a self-focused choice, then it’s about me at the cost of everybody else.

If it’s a great good choice, it’s about me and everybody else that I’m naturally connected to. And we believe that as a leader, you want to be closer to that greater good choice and of that continuum. The other continuum we identified as one of the levels of commitment, which kind of goes from a place of comfort to a place of impact. So, am I committed to my comfort or my committed to impact? And when you plot those two continuums, you end up with, what we’ve identified as four leadership choices that kind of show the different styles that go from destructive, which is I’m committed to impact, but it’s all about me. Passive, which is I’m committed to comfort, and it’s still all about me or the better choices which hit that greater good end of the continuum, which is a productive choice, which may be that I’m still committed to my comfort little bit, but I’m willing to help. And then a transformative choice, which is when I’m committed to impact. And I see the greater good and all the work that we do is trying to get people to make more choices in what we would call a top half of those four, which is the productive and transformative quadrants.

Steve Rush: When you hear people talk about choices, often that comes with a connotation that people have made a deliberate decision, but I’m looking at your research. Often, the choices that they’ve made are contributory to where they end up, right?

David Wheatley: I think that’s just one of the questions we ask is, are your choices yours to make? And when people say yes, most of the time. Although I had a class this week and somebody said no, not really. If I’m told I have to do this by my boss, I don’t have a choice. And then somebody else in the room said, yes, you do. You don’t have to work there. And she said, yes, I do. I have to work here because I have bills. And then they got into the discussion about how they were all choices.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

David Wheatley: And even the decision to choose, to work there, to choose, to continue to work there after a boss mandated, we’re all their choices. And it’s kind of interesting at the moment, especially in the states, we’re seeing a lot of people see that and make the choice to leave companies. There’s a bit of an exodus of companies because people are saying, I don’t have to put up with this anymore. There’s opportunities and I’m going to choose to leave and choose to go find somewhere that fits a little better with my values.

Steve Rush: In the U.S. actually, there’s this great resignation that’s going on at the moment where there is a bunch of people leaving in droves, their organizations.

David Wheatley: Yep, and in some cases, they’re not finding a role elsewhere. They’re doing something on their own and other cases that lost to the ether somewhere. But yes, that’s this mass exodus that people are making the choice to say, I don’t have to put up with this. And I think it’s interesting. I was just in a meeting before we came in here and people were talking about, they don’t have people, which means that the people they do have are being pushed to do twice as much work as they would do in the past.

Steve Rush: Right.

David Wheatley: And the result of that is some of them are leaving.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

David Wheatley: So, that’s a choice. It’s been interesting to see that that’s seems to be more comfortable choice for people at the moment.

Steve Rush: What’d you think the reason is that some people, even though they are making choices, don’t perceive them to be choices?

David Wheatley: I think people get stuck, don’t they? Especially over here, we could get a bit philosophical that if you’re motivated externally, then the choices you make are about how you look and what you have. And I see that the most centered, balanced leaders are motivated internally and it’s about who they are and doing the right thing and making sure they’re constantly on the journey inwards. And I think it was Dag Hammarskjold who said, “The longest journey of them all is the journey inwards.” I think half of my work are leadership coach is helping people take that journey inwards rather than to take the journey outwards. Because if you’re on that outward journey where it’s about how I look, how I’m perceived and the stuff I’ve got, then that can make us feel like we can’t make choices.

Steve Rush: All right, that’s back to that continuum of comfort and impact people feel comfortable. It comes with another load of emotions that make them feel secure or safe, but actually that sometimes can be holding them back, right?

David Wheatley: Yeah, over here in Michigan. It’s not unusual for families to have a cottage up north, on a lake somewhere. And you hear people say, oh yeah, I’ve got a cottage, but I’ve not been there this year because I’ve been so busy working. It’s like, so why have the cottage?

Steve Rush: Yeah, why not work from the cottage?

David Wheatley: Yeah, exactly. And these days you can, of course, but it seems like it, but then people get locked into this. I have to go and work here. I have to make this much money. I have to do this stuff in order to have the things that I perceive, but I don’t actually make the time to use them. It’s one of the things I try to do in my work is keep as much balance as possible. So, I take a lot of Fridays off in the summer so we can hit the water. My vacation for next year is already scheduled. I don’t know whether it’ll happen at precisely that way or not, but that’s important time to get, so I put that in first, before I start filling in the work around it, because it’s those experiences that happen on my vacation that are important. And the bigger question is, are you living to work or working to live?

Steve Rush: All of which, are your choices, of course.

David Wheatley: Exactly.

Steve Rush: Yeah, so you’ve done a lot of work with teams throughout your career and focusing on helping team performance as well. And I thought, what would be helpful is digging into the whole notion then that says, you know, what great teams do Great. Well, what are those things that set great teams apart?

David Wheatley: Funnily enough, I have a book on this. It’s available all at all good book store. There’s a couple of things that we’ve identified that really work for the book, if I break it into two things. One of them is what we call the set-up box and teams tend to skip around the setup to get straight into the plan. And when we talk about the setup, it’s about getting to know each other. So, who do we actually have on the team and what do they bring? Making sure we understand the environment that we’re in at the moment and what that impact is on us. Getting clarity as to what we’re trying to achieve and then establishing our non-negotiables. So, what are the small number of things that really, we want as our values or our non-negotiables, our behavioral expectations of each other, build that team. And the more time we spend there, the more we’re setting ourselves up for a successful experience. And folks can often jump through that because they think, oh, let’s just take that as read and we’ll get straight into what we’re going to do. And then they find issues occur later that require them to come back and spend the time though. So, it’s another one of those things that I know of find that time to do it right by always make time to do it over.

Steve Rush: Yeah, exactly.

David Wheatley: And teams that spend the time in that set up box will save lots of time later on because they did the work. The second piece is that comes back to the choices we make and we break it into green path and red path choices. So that productive and transformative choices I talked about earlier will be green path. The passive and destructive will be what we call red path choices. And it’s when we have issues and red path choices, or when we see people be defensive, attack, avoid, accommodate, make excuses, whine, all of those things make the team worse. And we actually put them up there and labeled them so people can see if you’re doing any of these, your part of the problem. The flip side of that of course, is the green path is, means I have to be caring, honest and direct. I have to be willing to listen. I have to take in all the perspectives and engage people in a way that drives us forward to a solution. And if I’m doing that, I’m part of the solution. And now that’s significantly harder than the whining or the excuses or the attacking, avoid, but it builds the team and it builds the credibility of the team.

And it sounds simple but putting it out in front of people and saying, you know, is this a green path or a red path choice, or in other words, is this building us or is this degrading us over time? Is the other thing that all too often, we see teams that have got problems and that could have been resolved six weeks ago if they had just had a good conversation about it, but they didn’t. And then, it started to fester and they neglected things. And next thing, the teams falling apart and the results, aren’t where they need to be.

Steve Rush: So, for those teams who do follow the green path, what’s the reason that they’re able to keep laser focused and follow the green path and not be distracted?

David Wheatley: And the reality is we’re all human. So, we all make choices on the red and the green path consistently. The better leaders make more choices on the green, but they don’t necessarily make none on the red. What I find is that people are making more green path choices, it encourages and emboldens more green patch choices. So, if you come back from lunch and there’s a piece of lettuce between your teeth, and I tell you, there’s a piece of lettuce between the teeth in a way that’s caring, then you will appreciate that. You might be slightly embarrassed, but you’ll appreciate it. And then when you see me with something so good like that, you’re more likely to let me know that so that I’m not as embarrassed later on, those are simple green path choices that help us build the relationship. But then that relationship helps us deliver the results that we need when we need it. Because when we build that relationship, we have that level of trust. We’re more willing to do what it takes to get us to that that result. And if it means digging in a bit deeper, I’ve been a bit more creative or working on some things, I’m willing to do that because we built that connection. As simple as you were willing to tell me, I had a piece of lettuce between my teeth.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s the small things that make the big differences, right?

David Wheatley: Yeah, and if I don’t do that and you get home five o’clock tonight, and you’re looking in the mirror and you say, wow, I’ve still got a piece of lunchtime lettuce in my teeth. How many people have I passed that didn’t tell me that?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

David Wheatley: And then you go in tomorrow morning with a completely different attitude about those people, and you’re right. I just was in a meeting where I said, I think I used the phrase, it’s driving me crazy. And someone put it in the chat box, but we’re really trying to lean away from using the word crazy because it cannot not always be inclusive to people with mental health issues. And I thought, wow, that’s kind of cool. And, but rather than have the conversation in the chat box, let’s have the conversation in the meeting so that we can get this out here and understand what you’re saying. And I can learn from it as well as everybody else can learn from it. And if that’s turning some people off, then we need to know it, but we need to be willing to have those conversations so that we can align and make it better as we move forward.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I love that. Now, all teams, including high-performing teams have an achilleas heel, having your experience of working with many teams, what do you see as the biggest achilleas heel for teams?

David Wheatley: Ego.

Steve Rush: Okay, tell me more?

David Wheatley: I wanted to see what would happen if I just said that and nothing else afterwards, but I think ego gets in the way, because we’re not willing to see ourselves as being wrong or not perfect. And all too often that trips teams up when somebody or some people in that team let their egos get the best of them. If you think about my continuum going from self to greater good, in some ways I have to manage that ego to be part of the greater good, because if it takes over then that drives me back to the self and of the continuum and makes my choice more red path than green path. And that’s when senior leaders don’t want to be told that they might be wrong. When people aren’t open to feedback, when people aren’t learning from the folks who are operating machinery, for example, and I was talking to a client this week and the folks who operate the machines, keep telling the engineers that there’s some better ways of doing it, but the engineers aren’t interested because the folks who operate the machines don’t have engineering degrees. In my mind, that’s an ego issue that is negatively impacting that team.

Steve Rush: Agreed. And it happens in every business, right?

David Wheatley: Yeah, it does. If those engineers actually got on the floor and talk to those folks, they’d probably find out there as smart, if not smarter as their engineering degree, because they’d been operating that machine for twenty years. Now, they may not have the ability to draw it or to capture or do all the technical stuff they learned in college, but they know what that machine is doing and they know how to get the most out of it. And yet it’s ego that gets in the way of that.

Steve Rush: Agree. So, one of the things I wanted to kick around with you is this whole notion of failure versus success. So many teams that I’ve worked with or work for often spend quite a bit of time debriefing what went wrong and getting stuck in the moment of failure versus elevating themselves into success. What’s the reason that that happens typically?

David Wheatley: I think that’s fits with the red path, green path idea because when we’re looking at failure, we’re really looking to blame and we’re looking backwards. I think that failure can drive opportunity. The American army have a process called the after-action review. And it’s a simple learning cycle, you know, what did we say we were going to do? What did we do? What did we learn from this? How can we apply it next time? And so, you could pull that out. And so that’s a simple learning cycle. One of the key differences is, the attitude they want, when you go in, this is not about blame, this is about learning. This is not about rank. This is about what we did. And if you had a part in this, you’ve got an equal say in this conversation. And again, that comes back to our ego conversation, doesn’t it? If I’m willing to say all of this could have been wrong, but we’re going to learn from it and apply it next time, then people are more likely to follow you then if I’m trying to scapegoat and looking backwards at failure, and I don’t know why people spend so much time on yesterday because they can’t do anything about it.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s interesting. I had this the same conversation, not so long ago about performance management in so much, as many people get stuck in looking at historic data and past performance. And actually, you can’t manage performance because it’s happened. You can do is manage the performer when it’s going forward, which is your green path way path.

David Wheatley: Yeah, and the green path said, we’re forward focused on a solution. And that should be the attitude all the time. I might use yesterday to help educate me, but I’m educating myself to make tomorrow better. And leaders who drive that way, are a lot easier to follow than those who want to spend a lot of time on failure.

Steve Rush: Aren’t they just, yeah. Now you’ll known at Humanergy as the Chief Question Asker. So where did the Moniker come from first of all? And then let’s get into the concept of asking some questions.

David Wheatley: Because some of your listeners are in the UK. I probably say this a little bit easier. We’ve never had titles in our organization. We’ve always said to people use the title that will get the job done, whatever title you need, you have that title if you needed to get the job done. And a few years ago, my business partner, I noticed on his LinkedIn, it said chief insight officer. And I thought, that actually fits with him. He’s the kind of deep thinking one on the team. And so that fits, but what am I going to put now? Because if we’re going to this, I should have something. And my first thought was chief humility officer, but I figured I might be the only person that thought that was funny.

Steve Rush: That’s right, yeah.

David Wheatley: And then I started thinking about, when I’m doing my best work, what am I doing? And it keeps coming down to this. I ask a good question. And if I can ask a good question that unlocks that thinking of other people, then that’s where, you know, where I have my value. And so, this idea of being the chief question asker was just a different way of looking at how I want to lead and the work I do at Humanergy.

Steve Rush: So, if you ask a good question, how do you know if that’s a good question or not?

David Wheatley: Usually because people stop and you can see the cogs whirring as they think. And the key to a good question as well in my mind is to leave a lot of space afterwards, because if it is a good question, you can literally see it having its impact. And as people stop and think and their eyes, you can see them adjusting as they going inside their brain. And they’re applying that straightaway. It’s literally unlocking their head. You can see it happen in front of you. And when that happens you can just sit back as a coach and that warm feeling and say, I probably don’t need to talk much for the rest of this meeting because they’re going to come up with everything. I just had the question that unlocked their thinking, and now they’re ready to go and primed. In a good coaching session, the less I say probably the better the coaching sessions been.

Steve Rush: Yeah, and great questions also should be informed by the conversation not pre-ordained, or I see some sales teams having the top fifty questions to ask clients. And, you know, for me, if you’re pre-loading your questions like that, you can’t be then listening to your responses because listening is a sidekick to great communication when you ask great question, right?

David Wheatley: Yeah, in my mind, that’s the foundation for a great question, is the listening piece and not only the listening, but also being able to summarize what you’re hearing. And sometimes you don’t need to go to a great question. You just simply summarize what you just heard and that’s enough for the person to say, oh, I guess that is what I said. And now I hear it back to me, this is what I’m thinking. And you’ve unlocked their thinking again, but absolutely it’s in that order, you first have to listen, then you summarize well, and then potentially you ask a good question that unlocks their thinking. And so absolutely you’re right. It’s all part of a set.

Steve Rush: Yeah, so this is the part of the show where we get a flip a little bit. So, I’m going to think about your leadership experiences, leading others and coaching many, many leaders throughout your career and ask you to try and distill them down into the top three. So, if you could, what would be your top three leadership hacks?

David Wheatley: One of them we’ve already talked, about the powerful question and knowing what makes a powerful question. And it’s quite often, it’s usually a question that can’t be answered yes or no. And it’s not a question that’s advice, disguised as a question. So, if you can stay away from those things, then you’re probably leaning closer to a powerful question. The second thing that goes with that, and I’ve already alluded to this too, is what a friend of mine shared. This comes from some of the work of Humble Inquiry. There should be ten seconds that you leave after a question, because most people’s thinking doesn’t really kick in until about second seven. And I actually have a group that I’m working with at the moment, and they have a lawyer in the group and I have to wait till twelve or thirteen seconds for them because that’s when his question kicks in, but it’s kind of funny to literally count.

And I count to ten and there’s silence for ten seconds. And then I keep a little bit longer just for this one individual. And his question usually comes at twelve seconds after, or his thought comes twelve seconds after my question, because he wants to think about it. All too often, we’re not comfortable with that silence for that length of time. But if I ask a question, I should give the space and the time for people to truly think about it before they respond. And then the third one in my mind would be assume positive intent. And this is something we use quite a lot in our work that all too often people’s problems are because they assumed that somebody had ill intent about it. And if I go through life, assuming that people don’t mean me ill, then my life will be so much more fruitful, better and enjoyable than if I worry about all the possibilities that could be happening when I see two people in the distance talking, or they’re talking about me? I assume positive intent. And if they are talking about me, it’s for good reasons. So, then I can let it go and not have to worry about it anymore. So those are my three, the powerful questions, leave ten seconds, at least after your question and then assume positive intent,

Steve Rush: Great hacks, great advice. Interestingly, the last one. There’s been some scientific research done quite a few years back. That’s actually proven that 99.9% of our actions are with a positive intent. They might not often land positively and they may have a different impact, but the intent is positive. And I think just reframing that even when people screw up and do horrible things and you feel bad about it, if you can reframe that and allow yourself to recognize that it started out with a positive intent, it can often help you deal with different, right?

David Wheatley: Absolutely, yeah. And that’s green path thinking in my mind, I’d love to see that research too, because that’s been my intuitive assumption. And yet half the time we’re working with people who see something and they do what I call conspiracy theory thinking. Where they think about every bad possibility that could be going on in that world, and then life gets depressing. And just switching that off and saying, well, if we assume a positive intent, what could be going on? And you start to see them say, well, I guess they could be thinking this way or that way. And night and day switch people’s perspective on a situation.

Steve Rush: Yeah, you’re right.

David Wheatley: But it’s hard.

Steve Rush: Yeah, next part of the show, David, we call Hack to Attack. So, this is typically where something hasn’t gone well. It could be that we’ve royally screwed up at work, whatever the case may be. But as a result of it, we’ve learned from that experience that we now use it as a positive in our life or our work. What would be your Hack to Attack?

David Wheatley: Well, it’s to take feedback. And I think when you’re younger and people give you feedback about how you could be better or something that’s going on or something that you haven’t done quite as well, it can be very easy to resist that feedback and for your ego to get in the way. I’ve found that the more open I am to feedback, the more life is enjoyable and I get better at what I’m doing. It doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it, but at least about process it, then there’s usually something valuable comes out of it. And that, you know, I can be mad about it for a while and I can be frustrated by the fact that I got the feedback, but usually that frustration is based on the fact that I didn’t like my performance and the feedback is accurate, but I don’t necessarily get there straight away.

And there’s a great English comedian, Sarah Millican, who has a rule that she calls the 11 o’clock rule that applies to her comic stand-up that if you had a bad stand-up gig on the night before. She has till 11, o’clock the following day to whine and mope about it, and then she has to stop and let it go and move to the next one. And the same goes for when she has a great stand-up gig. She has till 11:00 AM the following day to celebrate it. And then she has to stop and get on with the next one. And I’ve actually used that a lot with people that are in leadership roles. If you get feedback, if somebody didn’t go right, if something’s really making you mad, then you’ve got till 11 o’clock the following morning to fester on it and then stop and move on.

Steve Rush: I think it gives you some boundaries, doesn’t it?

David Wheatley: Yeah, I like that fact that it’s saying, yes, you can mope about it, but only for a very limited time. And so that’s the Millican rule or the Millican war is my Hack to Attack.

Steve Rush: Awesome, and I never realized that we’d ever get Sarah Millican even by reference on the show, on a Leadership Hacker Podcast.

David Wheatley: There you go.

Steve Rush: So, you alluded a little bit to this earlier on in the conversation, when you were reflecting back on your days in the Met, we kind of always close out around giving some advice at twenty-one, but thinking back on all of your experiences, if there was just one kind of opportunity to bump into yourself and say, right. It’s just this one thing, David, what would it be? What would you change?

David Wheatley: I said some of it earlier, but I guess it can be summarized in don’t take yourself too seriously.

Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s easy said than done that, right? So, it’s an academic. You don’t take yourself too seriously. I think has been said to me many times. And I have also probably said it to many associates, children, the family, right?

David Wheatley: Yeah.

Steve Rush: How do you go about doing that though? Because it’s easier said than done.

David Wheatley: I think it’s one of those things that we again get stuck in ourselves, especially when we’re younger that, you know, the world revolves around us, whoever you are, the world revolves around you. Someone once told me that we’re all extras in everybody else’s movie. And so that sense of, you know, you Steve sees the world revolving around you because you can’t suddenly step out of your body and be somebody else. And it’s that realization that everybody else is in that same spot. And the older you get, the more you realize that everybody has a backstory, everybody has issues that they’re dealing with. Everybody has a broader sense of life that you’re not aware of. And it’s getting out of that that place that said the whole world revolves around me and understanding that everybody’s got a little piece of it, which, you know, don’t take yourself too seriously. Because we’re all in this together kind of thing, is easy to say.

The recognition, the realization that everybody is in the same boat and they have their issues and a backstory is the difference maker in my mind. And so, getting people to think about that and explore other people’s perspectives can sometimes get you out of everything’s about me.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I like it. So, what’s next for you and the folk of Humanergy?

David Wheatley: Well, I continue a book, What Great Teams Do Great, which was released just in time for the pandemic. And so, we couldn’t get out and physically advertise it. So that’s still ongoing and we’re constantly looking for what’s next. At the moment, we’ve got some training that we call our high-impact leadership training, which is a twelve-month leadership adventure which takes four hours of classroom time a month. We used to do that. Face-To-Face in different locales, but COVID took it virtual. And there’s been some fun doing that on Zoom with people that are coming in from all over the country, in some cases, all over the world to participate in a leadership journey that lasts for twelve months and continues to build, that’s the fun project that we’ve got expanding at the moment.

Steve Rush: Awesome, and wish you every success with it too.

David Wheatley: Well, thank you.

Steve Rush: So, our listeners might want to get hold of a copy of What Great Teams Do Great, and some of your other work and indeed find out a little bit more about what you and the firm are doing. Where’s the best place for us to send them?

David Wheatley: Well, humanergy.com and that’s humanergy.com is where you can find everything about us and contact us and What Great Teams Do Great is available. All good bookstores and Amazon.

Steve Rush: Awesome. We’ll make sure those links are in our show notes as well for you.

David Wheatley: What I’m encouraging folks to do. When you think about that greater good continuum is, if you can hold off a little bit, then go and order a book from your local bookstore that’s been struggling for the last eight-teen months. It might take a little longer to get to you. It might be a little bit more expensive than it is on Amazon, but at least we’re sharing some of the wealth with some people who’ve been struggling. And Jeff doesn’t need any more money.

Steve Rush: That’s a great, call, love it. David, thanks ever so much for coming on the show, loved talking about the journey. I can really see the value that you talk about from red path, green path. I can see how teams can adopt that language super quick to really help them focus on the right things and thanks ever so much for being part of our community on the podcast.

David Wheatley: Well Thanks, Steve. And I look forward to continuing listening to this journey.

Steve Rush: Thanks very much David.


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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