Colin Hunter is a special guest on today’s show. He’s an author of Be More Wrong, a mentor, entrepreneur and coach. He’s also the CEO of Potential Squared, but before we get a chance to speak with Colin, it’s The Leadership Hacker News:
The Leadership Hacker News
Steve Rush: In news today, we explored the world’s top female friendly companies of 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic is taken an especially heavy toll on women around the world. It’s estimated more than 64 million women around the world, lost their jobs with at least 800 billion in earnings lost last year in U.S. dollars alone. And that’s a result, the time it will take to close the global gender pay gap has increased from 99 years to 135 years, according to the world economic forum. And these issues are achingly familiar, inadequate childcare, managing work, home stress, lack of opportunities. And in many cases, COVID may amplified the burden to the point where many women just left their jobs.
Forbes Magazine recently teamed up with market research company Statista to help identify companies leading the way when it comes to try and support women inside and outside their workforces with an all-girl ranking of the world’s top female friendly companies. So which company clinched the number one spot? Well CEO Michelle Buck became the first woman to lead the chocolatier in its 127 year history, you’ve got it? Hershey. Today women make up 42% of the Pennsylvania based businesses board. By 2025, aims to increase the percentage of women working in its workforce to 50%. And then this leadership population to 42%, that’s up from currently 48 and 37% respectively. To reach its goals, Hershey launched a five-year plan called Project Pathways and it’s to help its workplace and communities become more inclusive. And the project is run by collaboration of human resources and The Women’s Business Resource Group and provides their teams with resources, such as, childcare, transportation, tutoring, and eldercare resources.
Another firm to meet the top 10, Zoom. Video Communications Team, Chief People Officer, Lynne Oldham said that the Silicon Valley tech company had redesigned this recruiting and hiring strategies, diversifying its pipelines, revising job descriptions that they feature inclusive language and introduce uniformity across its interviewing process in an effort to reduce bias and increase the number of female hires. Zoom has also sought to support women through partnerships with charities, such as, If Chloe Can, a UK Organization that hosts workshops and connects teams with mentors to prepare them for the workforce. When admitted stay at home orders were unable to continue with its usual impersonal operations. Zoom stepped in, offering to facilitate their programming through services free of charge. And there are many other organizations who are demonstrating great diversity equity inclusion principles when it comes to hiring female employees in their workforce. If you want to get a full list, go to Forbes and look for the world’s top female friendly companies and Statista surveyed over 85,000 women in 40 countries to curate this great report. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. Please let us know what you’d like us to feature in the news on our Leadership Hacker Podcast.
Start of Podcast
Steve Rush: Colin Hunter is a special guest on today’s show. He’s an author of Be More Wrong. He’s a mental, entrepreneur, coach and the CEO of Potential Squared International. Colin, welcome to the show.
Colin Hunter: Thanks Steve, it’s a pleasure. Real pleasure.
Steve Rush: So how have you been?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, well, good. Life is, and I hate to say this sometimes nowadays, but life is good. It’s busy, but the new startup business which we’re working on at the moment and yeah, we’ve got a lot of things, but I’m struggling to deal with sometimes with this new hybrid world. I’m sure everybody out there is. But starting to work with the new norm.
Steve Rush: It’s kind of ironic. We’ve tried to have lunch for six months and we’re like ships that pass in the night when it comes to London these days, because we’re in that hybrid world, right?
Colin Hunter: And I’m sure it’s nothing personal. It’s nothing personal from my side.
Steve Rush: Sure, likewise. Yeah. So Colin for the listeners that haven’t had the opportunity to meet with you, just to give us a little bit about the backstory and how Potential Squared came about?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, so if I go back, so I’ve been in leadership since 1996, but before that, if I go back, I was brought up in Newcastle, Northeast of England. Father was a pediatric cardiologist. And part of me telling you this, because there’s a story that I grew up with him working on looking at ultrasound for baby’s hearts and was an amazing doctor, saved many people’s lives. And I had a grandfather was professor of Theology. So my early part of my life was wondering how the hell do I actually compete and match up to my father and my grandfather. So I spent most of that time working, trying to be somebody I’m not. And then around about 30, 31. I had a moment which I’m sure we’ll talk about, which redefined my career. And since then I’ve been working in the form of leadership consultants, working on leadership, looking at leaders and how they work.
And more luckily I’ve started to recraft my career and our business around creating playgrounds to disrupt the way people are led. I started to realize I wanted to have some fun, Steve. I wanted to, to play with our work and I started one to experiment. And since 2007, I have set it out, whether it’s about the use of actors or VR, virtual reality. I’ve started to look at how we do immersive, but real experiential workshops and training for leaders to shift the way and disrupt the way they think about leadership. And that is where I am now. And I’m still experimenting, still learning, but there’s still suffering a bit from what I went through up to the age of 30 and how that’s impacted my career, yeah,
Steve Rush: Yeah, you comfortable? Let’s go in there, if we talk about that time. Because I think it’s a really important lesson for many people listening to this story because it really defined who you were at that time, but also how you ended up where you are now. Tell us about what happened that defining moment that you called it?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, So I spent my childhood exploring experiments, having loads of groups of friends and I loved my life. I was out, my mother and father used to say this, you know, many forms of communication, but one was, “go tell Colin” and he would go tell somebody else and then I’d have conversations, a startup conversations. So I spent up to a probably the ages, 17 of loving my friends, my life, and even despite school, enjoying the rest of what I was trying to do. But in the background, my father being what he was and my grandfather being a professor of Theology and, you know, I was known as AM Hunter grandson. Pardon he was an author a writer in the New Testament. And therefore I spent my life what I would do to reach the levels that they’d got to?
Steve Rush: Did that happened at quite an early age for you as well, that awareness of who you were and the indeed unconscious pressure that you felt from that. Happened at quite an early age, right?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, it did. I mean, if I go back to when I was 11, my grandfather sat me down and said, for those who know, Robert Burns. He said, Tama Shanta, I want you to be able to learn this and re-slate Tama Shanta. And I want you to do this over Christmas and I want you to learn. And so therefore I started learning. I realized I couldn’t, firstly I couldn’t learn it by road, Secondly, I didn’t know why I was doing it. And thirdly, they seem to be some sort of tests that I was going through and I don’t criticize my grandfather for it. He was an academic, he was looking for me to show that I could be logical. And that I could work in a principle in a way that could have constructed arguments in the right way.
All I cared about was relationships and emotions. I was in that space going, you know, I sat at his feet and I looked up at him. I thought, wow, this is great, but in no way could live and breathe what he was doing. He was just brilliant at constructing an argument. And I felt that in my depth. So that was at the age of 11 and 12. And then my father was in that space and he was working on ultrasound. Looking at how they diagnose and the baby’s hearts. So I used to go in and see him in the hospital’s saving baby’s lives and that tiny, small babies and how we had this care, but this ability to teach others. And I thought this, I can’t do this either. So, therefore I thought, should I be a doctor?
Should I be an academic? Should I stretch myself? And therefore, I always looked at others from an early stage with a degree of imposter syndrome and said, I’m not worthy. And I wouldn’t call it in those days, but what it meant was, I searched out areas that I could play in, but they tended to be away from my family. They tended to be away from those areas of logic and academia. And therefore I fought school, fought and in some ways, literally out a major argument with one of my teachers who suggested the age of 17. I leave school and go and get just a job in retail because that’s all I want to achieve in my life. So, therefore when it comes to how I started off my career, I took everybody’s advice. I joined and became a tax consultant. And I spent my life sat in a cubicle doing hand written computations attacks and wondered why I wasn’t happy. And then, so I went to Procter & Gamble and had a great career there, but I was doing a job where I hated it. I mean, I was successful, but the cost of my energy in that role was huge. So I ended up having a breakdown basically at the age of 30 where I went back up to my parents’ house in Newcastle in the Northeast of England from Nottingham. And I spent two weeks in tears. And I’m happy to talk about it now. And for many years I wasn’t, but it was this clash where I was walking in a house where my father only cried once that I can remember when our dog died and therefore I walked into the house and I was crying. And it was almost like, they knew how to deal with it, but they didn’t know how to do with it.
Steve Rush: So how were you received by them at that time? Because I suspect having that strong veneer of professional academia around success doesn’t come with showing much vulnerability. So how did that play out?
Colin Hunter: I was lucky that he was adopted and, you know, bless him. He passed away earlier this year and I’ve done a lot of soul searching and he dealt with it in the way he knew, which is he suggested that I go see the doctor, a local GP, a general practitioner. And so therefore it wasn’t a case of they weren’t unsympathetic, but they were looking for a cure for it. And my mother has laterally suffered from mental health issues herself. And therefore there’s more understanding in that space from that side, but I was lucky. They sent me to Gusto Silver, a GP and he canceled the appointments ahead of me and after me and he sat down and he did this brilliant thing, Steve. He told me the story of when he was in a car accident and how this card flipped over.
And he remembered in slow motion, the car sliding along on its roof. And he remembered the music going slowly on the radio, but he saw his life flash in front of him. And he said something which has always stayed with me. He said, I have a gift then to learn about my life and what I needed to change. And he said, you’ve been given a gift, might not seem at the moment, but you given a gift that life is about energy systems and your energy is at zero basically. And your mind is telling you, you can’t cope with it. And now is the time to think about your energy systems that feed your life and how you use them and be much more intentional about how you feed them and how you spend them in your life. And that was the most powerful thing somebody ever said to me in my life. And it’s changed the way I work now.
Steve Rush: When you look back on that time, do you see that as a gift now?
Colin Hunter: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s interesting when I was writing the book and I was thinking about it. I suddenly realized I had never gone back to see Gusto Silver. I’m not even sure if he’s alive now and I feel guilty about that. Because that was a transformational piece for me, but I also think it’s taught me, if I look now and how I’m bringing up my daughters who are 17 at 16, it’s taught me to realize that real connection with them is so, so important. But as a leader, it’s taught me so much more.
Steve Rush: Yeah, indeed. And one of the things that astound me about you, Colin is, you are incredibly successful, incredibly well presented, strong courageous leader, as I see you today, but you still suffer with this nagging imposter syndrome from time to time. And I knew that of you, but how do you deal with that?
Colin Hunter: I think the first thing is sharing it.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Colin Hunter: So I was doing a keynote last night to an American audience, and these are all my competitors, the learning and development professionals globally, we meet each year at this conference. And I was sharing in this webinar with them, this story, and said about the imposter syndrome. And what was amazing for me is that however many people suddenly started to share that they had the same thing. So I used to walk into this place, center for creative leadership, vital, smartest, crucial conversations, and just feel I wasn’t worthy, but so many people in that same space have the same feelings. And so therefore by telling that story, and I think this is where the humility and the humble nature of leaders. If you tell your story of where you have struggled, it’s amazing how many people suddenly go. Yeah, I’m the same way.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Colin Hunter: And that’s what’s happening now, but there’s other things I’ve been possibly to work on, but sharing the story has been one of the biggest, first steps.
Steve Rush: And I don’t know about you, but I think just having the label imposter syndrome, which, you know, wasn’t there sort of 10 years ago, it helps us to actually recognize that it’s a thing and that we can actually deal with it. Whereas before we might have dealt with it as something else.
Colin Hunter: I think the senior leaders, you know, work in this space, we work with senior leaders. I’m amazed how many of them senior leaders have imposter syndrome, one version, or the other, you know, wondering how the hell they got to the top of the organization. Secondly, wondering how the hell they’re going to lead this organization, because whether it’s intellect. I was chatting to a client friend the other day, and he’s been dyslexic diagnosed probably later in his life, but he’s been very, very successful in this career, but he’s always worried that somebody’s going to find them out. However, he’s used that positively because he leads with a humble nature because of that, it’s been a powerful piece. And I think that’s what a lot of people need to hear about the imposter syndrome is it starts you from a humility in a humble space, which is a powerful places that you needed to start rather than an arrogance and a belief in your own power and ability, that can be worked on. But listening to that voice in your head, not removing it, sometimes I described this as it’s the loudest voice at a dinner party. And all you’ve got to do is dial it down and dial up the other voices in your head and the other neural pathways that allow you to be successful.
Steve Rush: Yeah, great words. I often use the same analogy, but help people to think about, it’s the one voice you wake up with in the morning. It’s the one that you go to bed with and it’d be the last voice you hear before you die. So it needs to serve you well.
Colin Hunter: Also, my meditation headspace in the morning and my exercise in the morning is a powerful piece of me. As Jamie Smarter wrote a book, clarity said, when you fall out to your thinking, it allows you to come up with inspired action. And I find that really heavy in the morning and within my head space and something pops into my head and it’s just, oh, yep. That’s the answer. That’s the answer. But how often do you do that?
Steve Rush: Thanks for sharing that story. And I think it’s really important to help people understand you actually as a character, because you are incredibly successful now, and you’re running a successful business with Potential Squared. And I think it just gives people some insights that we all come from different perspectives to arrive at where we’ve arrived at. And that journey is really important, isn’t it?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, it’s massive. Hero’s journey as they say.
Steve Rush: Yeah, so tell us a little bit about the work that you and the team are doing at Potential Squared at the moment?
Colin Hunter: We’re having fun, and I think that’s a key sense. Because we’re in a startup on one area of business and anybody who’s been involved in a starter, we’ll say it’s fun, but at the time it doesn’t feel like it’s fun quite a bit at the time. We’re doing a couple of things. One is, we are restlessly dissatisfied about our work. So we’ve got our P2 leadership side of the business, which is leadership development and working. We’ve got VR, we’ve got virtual reality in there. We’ve got the use of The Actors, which is a powerful piece. And the always gets most positive feedback about the work we do, bringing in actors to explore conversations, getting people to have a, almost a who’s line is it any way, if you remember the comedy program interaction and we find that that immersive experience of getting the conversations in leadership is the same as now, as the VR is allowing us to do where people are in the headsets, they are in this virtual reality.
And they suddenly find that they’re being themselves, you know, their true behaviors are coming out. So we’re doing a lot of good work in there, but there’s always been something missing from that work. And so therefore our new project is something called the 500 where we’re looking at saying so biggest challenges in this world at the moment is equity. Increasing equity for people when they’re young in terms of moving up in their careers. And if you look at where organizations are facing challenges at the moment is finding new talent, they’re all fighting for talent in the same pools, is costing them more. Most of them can’t afford that extra cost. And then we’ve suddenly realized that we’re probably only tapping into 25% of the talent pool. And the other 75% is set in places, either places where they’ve had a very difficult backgrounds.
So they’ve had a life story that’s, you know, I wouldn’t recognize even despite my stories, I’m telling you. Mine is trivial in some ways, compared to what others are experiencing. And therefore they’ve got newer diversity side to that where they’re challenged by that. So we’re, doing some work to say, so how do we train leaders and develop leaders to think with a wider view of life? To explore into different areas of the community? Exploring different areas of society and have a wider vision for that? Which benefits a couple of things Steve, which I’d never really thought about before. One is design thinking. You look at Procter & Gamble. You look at all the different types of organizations I used to work for. And you look at how they are trying to design for the different needs of different people and whether its disability or whether it’s [Inaudible 00:20:01] or whether it’s age or gender, all of these things need to come into play.
But then you’ve got this talent pool where suddenly people are realizing that in that near diversity pool, you’ve got some brilliant thinkers and brilliant ideas, so how do we tap into that? But you’ve also got these people, they come from those places that you’re trying to sell your products into. So why wouldn’t you tap into that? But the third thing, I think the most important thing for me is that if you look at where most leaders are now, and particularly with the pandemic, that said, most people thinking, how do I give something back? How do I tap back into society? How do I do some good for the wider population? And I see so many who are willing to spend their own money to go and do something for others. And this new project works along those lines. So that’s what we’re working on at the moment to get people into a wider space.
Steve Rush: Sound fun.
Colin Hunter: Wider vision, it is.
Steve Rush: And when it comes to your work, one of the things that I particularly like about what you do is, you called it at the beginning of the show actually. You have these equal playgrounds that you create to really tap into helping people unlock different behaviors. From your experience, by just having the notion of creating playgrounds, what behavior does that then unlock?
Colin Hunter: There’s two things, you can’t tell people to have fun. The old saying, well go have fun.
Steve Rush: That’s right.
Colin Hunter: It doesn’t help. But if you think about some of the best times you’ve had, it’s that stepping out of where you are now. Stepping out of the front door. And for some people, playgrounds is going off into the wilds and just taking some time by itself. Scotland for me has been through the pandemic because looking after my father at the time as allowed me to go on these coastal walks and experience nature, and that’s a playground for me, I gets inspired and some great thoughts. I have had an old collogue who used to work when they were doing the Marks & Spencer turnaround, his idea was working 14, 15-hour days doing the night shift in the marble arch store of Marks & Spencer. And his playground was discovering new ways of working.
But the idea in my head was, how do we create a place where it makes people think they’re going to have fun? They’re stretching themselves, but it’s almost like they’ve got a safe place with a soft landing if they fail to try something different, rather than sailing their ship around the Harbor, as we describe it and doing the same thing safely all the time, why not seek rougher seas? Why not get barnacles on your butters as I described it and go and stretch yourself. But if it’s in a playground where the highest risk is that you might get it wrong and somebody who’s going to give you feedback, you going to learn. And why don’t we do that? And just take a simple thing, like having a conversation now about race, skin, color diversity, wouldn’t it be great to have a safe place, to allow people to have conversations, to learn and grow, but as soon as you say something wrong, you’re hammered for it. So that’s what we’re talking about. Playgrounds, safe places to land, where people can explore.
Steve Rush: Yeah, it’s a great metaphor and the reality as well, I guess, if you were allowing yourself to think that way.
Colin Hunter: Yeah.
Steve Rush: Yeah, and did that help you then start to think about using that notion to write your book, Be More Wrong? Was that kind of a trigger that led you that way?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, it’s ironic that the title is be more wrong and it took four years for me to be comfortable to publish it.
Steve Rush: So, let’s talk about that because actually I recall when we had a conversation about this before the whole notion of calling a book Be More Wrong is an oxymoron for most people, isn’t it?
Colin Hunter: Yes, the title was probably the first thing I put down because I was starting a thing. So I’ve had so many screw ups in my life, but I’m still here and being successful. So surely there’s something rich in this. But I think the biggest thing that helped me was in writing the book was I was introduced to IDEO through a Canadian company experience point where the whole principle of failing early, failing fast and learning first was introduced to me. And I started the think that all the work we do is around that. So to write the book, I suddenly realized we need to find using the hero’s journey, metaphor, stepping out of your house, going on a journey, gathering your team together, carrying your followers together, having an inspiring story, a quest, a purpose, going and failing, facing good evil and failing and succeeding in equal measure, but learning and having a guide to do that was what we’d be doing for years. And actually the only bit that was missing was this design thinking piece, which is getting out there and experiencing and having a go at something, observing people in the real world. So therefore, the be more wrong philosophy is embedded in that fail fast, learn fast philosophy and give it the juice for the book, yeah.
Steve Rush: And of course, if you reframe being wrong and failing to actually that’s a learning experience, it helps you to grow from it. Doesn’t it?
Colin Hunter: It does. I mean, it is fascinating in our culture, that one failure and make somebody a bad person. Whereas actually, if you look in many different aspects of our life, these failures are learning and they are spaces where people can start to work on different ways of living. I still a big fan of Mandela and the sessions he had, the conversations he had after apartheid and he didn’t let it go. He brought those people who had diminished the rights of people to understand and work on. So you could learn. And there’s a classic example of a mistake of failure in many people’s eyes that had to be learned from rather than just finishing it and getting on. We had to learn from the lesson. And some cases, some days, I actually feel that we haven’t learned from those times or those mistakes and therefore, how do we create that environment to do it more again?
Steve Rush: And do you think there’s a lot to do with mindset and how people have perceived the event? So if you take Mandela as a perfect example, right? This is a guy who was imprisoned in Robben Island for decades, who could have been really bitter, twisted, and angry, and the people that imprison him. He then subsequently taught, educated and encouraged to think differently. And that’s got to be down to mindset and other behaviors. What’s your experience with that?
Colin Hunter: I think it is. I think it is mindset. But I think it’s a gift of mindset because I think if he hadn’t that experience, a tough experience and he hadn’t had the time to reflect and be really, really clear. And he was very intentional about his learning from that. And he was very intentional, but how he treated people around him, even his wife in terms of how he works in there. And I think there’s leaders who, you know, they almost celebrate failures in the workplace as learning pieces, as long as there’s learning and there’s movement forward.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Colin Hunter: What is a mindset?
Steve Rush: One thing you said that specifically kind of, I think, was also being intentional.
Colin Hunter: Yes.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Colin Hunter: I think purposeful practice is a classic piece. You know, I’m not a sportsman, but I love my sport. And when you look at all the workers in here, having a purpose towards something whether it’s being a top tennis player or competing at a particular level. And then there’s purposeful practice, intentional practice of small, small things that can be. So, what we call practices. So how do I make a practice to become a habit habitual that feeds the system that makes me successful? And Brailsford with the Sky Cycling now, and he did it with British Cycling. Now critics always have these things, but if you look now in all sports, soccer, you look at American football, the small incremental gains that people are making intentional failure towards something, stress testing, working with exactly what this is about
Steve Rush: Exactly right, yeah. And ironically purpose is one of your three enablers of leadership. So you have purpose, identity and presence. And I thought it’d be useful just to kick that about.
Colin Hunter: Yeah, again, it’s funny when you put something out there and Simon the snake put his work on purpose out there, you know, his Ted talk, which has been watched by many people and I loved it. And then you look at other people like Tom Peters, who said, well, purpose, it’s great to say, you can just find it. But a lot of us don’t find our purpose immediately. We stumble across it. But there is an intentionality about what motivates me. What is my passion? What do I want to do? And even when somebody says, well, my purpose is to be a good father, a good mother. There’s that question afterwards, what type of a father or mother do you want to be? And so, for example, if I take the person identity for me, my purpose is to create playgrounds, to disrupt the way people are led.
That’s the mantra that I worked on to do that. But my identity I also have, and I hold as a father of daughters. So, my whole being and the identity of father of daughters is to start to think about how I disrupt the way that people lead and recruits and give opportunities so that women and my daughters have equal opportunities in the future. And therefore, my personal identity, then every day when I’m looking at things, not only for gender, but for race, and I’m starting to say, so how do I get more equity in society from that? So that purpose and identity. Now for most people, it’s a tough one to establish a purpose. And that’s why we do a lot of work on stories, getting people to tell their stories and working out their stories. When she listened to your stories and you realize, how have you crafted your life, what you’ve hated and what you’ve loved, you normally can find an underlying purpose that you can work on, but it’s an experiment. In my work, it might be rejected. And then you move on to the next one. So, purpose and identity and the identity piece, I love this, which is, do I cycle or am I a cyclist? That’s the classic piece. And if I’m a cyclist, I suddenly take it professionally. And I take it with great importance. So if I’m a father of daughters, I’ve suddenly put an identity. I need to work at it to be proud of. So those are two elements we’ve got. But I think the bit that I love the most is the presence piece that we have. In which if you think about it, we have to learn to dance to the music as a leader. We need to be agile. We need to go on a crazy train through the pandemic, and we’re on an even crazier train next year. So how do I dance to that music?
But the piece I love is, why not dance to other people’s music and learning to do that? So rather than bringing the music I would have as a leader, how do I learn to be agile in the moment with other people’s music? We’ll be able to adapt and move to that music. And therefore we do a lot of work around gravitas, prominence, executive presence, and teaching people from an early age, how to have more impact in the vocal, physical, and also mental in terms of how they come across. So those are the three things. Purpose, why we do stuff, how we do it, and then the presence is how we show up.
Steve Rush: I love it, yeah. Really simple. But actually, they’re all aligned, aren’t they?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, if you get one of them wrong, it has a knock-on effect, like all systems on the other ones.
Steve Rush: Coming back to your identity piece, that kind of sits in the middle because it gives permission, I suppose, to delve into purpose and also permission to how you show up. And we can change that identity by the shifting label that we wear, right?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, I’d love that. I mean, it’s a bit of, “Tonight Matthew”, Matthew, for those, you know, there’s a program in the UK where people go on and say, tonight, Matthew, I am going to be, but actually with the use of the Actorsis given me a lot of work to say, how do I adopt an identity and how do I live and breathe it? And how do I learn to be authentic in that new version? And I think that’s one of my other biggest challenges is authenticity is normally given as an excuse by somebody who say, well, this is how I am. I’m not going to change, but authenticity, Herminia Ibarra, London Business School says, authenticity is something that adapts and dresses, different circumstances you face. And therefore tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be this to try and develop something. That’s going to be my future identity and my authenticity.
Steve Rush: Yeah, very much so. So, one of the things I’ve seen about the work that you’ve had is that you’re not afraid to challenge some of the traditional status quo of how we perceive leadership and leadership styles has been written about and quoted about for many years in different guises. You’ve reframed some of those, and you have your own full leadership styles now. And I wonder if you could share those with our listeners?
Colin Hunter: Yeah, and I love this because it fits into the hero’s journey. So, whether you’re a Lord of The Rings fan or everything else that goes into Harry Potter, whatever your choices is. We talk about leaders, need followers, followers need leaders. So, the first system is, we describe it as how do I get engaged connections? How do I get followers to follow me? And how do I be impactful in that? And we call this the host. So, if you imagine a host at a dinner party or a host in terms of relationships, most of us only worry about our relationships on networks, our teams, either we’ve lost a job or we need to recruit, we need to hire and we don’t pay attention to them. So, the first one is, about how I creates psychological safety? And how I create real difference diversity, inclusion, in my network? So that I’m not sitting in an echo chamber listening to my own thoughts.
So that’s the first one, the host. So, if you think about Frodo and Sam, a dwarf and an elf and Aragon, there was real diversity and different thinking and different views that came to that. And once you’ve your followership and you’ve got your hosts and you’ve got your team together, then the second system is the Energizer or what I call inspired energy in there, which is, how clear is your story? How clear are your inspiring stories that allow other people to see a part of your story as the leader? And therefore, we talk a lot around storytelling. We talk a lot about points of view around how we work and crafting that story and crafting the future story you’ve got is important in that, but the other part of energy is personal drive. So how resilient are you? How anti fragile, and a lot of my work at the moment, particularly in the pandemic is about poaching people to be more resilient, to put systems, whether it’s meditation, fitness, diet, breath, other works in there, to have the energy by osmosis, give it to your team, but also spend it on the right thing.
So that’s the Energizer. And then the third area is disruptor. And this was given to me by IDEO, but how do I get fresh ideas through experimentation, but also how do I get ruthless and narrowing choices in there? So, we always believe that 80% of your experiments will fail, 20% be successful. Every day, I’m thinking, what are the two to three experiments I’m going to start running that could succeed, could fail. But as long as feeding, the system of fresh ideas, we’re going to run in the team. And then when you think about Gandalf, you think about Dumbledore, there’s always a guide. So as a leader, how strong is your mentoring and coaching and growth of capabilities? So the final style we talk about is catalyst. So as a mentor, having points of view and almost lighting fires under backsides for people to get them in the right direction, giving them points of view and direction, and then the coaching, which is lighting fires in their bellies by coaching and spending time. So, host, Energizer, disruptor, and then the catalyst of the four styles that have been use.
Steve Rush: Great. I love the descriptive nature of them as well and brings it to life for folks listening to this, hopefully too.
Colin Hunter: It’s good. I love it.
Steve Rush: Next part of our show Colin, we get into turn our leadership focus and hack into your leadership mind, which has enormous experience, not only leading the businesses you’ve led, but also having worked with some of the best leaders around the world. So first place I’d like us to go tap into your top three leadership hacks.
Colin Hunter: So, the first one is pay it forward. So I was given a gift by a gentleman called Mike Taylor. And this is about network. For the last probably seven, eight years. I’ve practiced the principle on that for a leader, which is, I work my network, not wondering what I can get out of them, but by thinking about what are the three things I can do for people that I have connections with? So, I very rarely say no to a connection, very rarely. I’m going to a great club. That’s celebrates massive mistakes in lives. And it’s called the Cock-up club in London. I’ve never been to it, but I got an invite. And it’s about leaders who go in and celebrate that. But I’m already going into that meeting by saying, so what are the three things that I can give to people I’m meeting there that night? What are the three things that I take? So that’s my first leadership hack.
The second thing is a very simple one. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Churchill’s prayers, but during the war, Churchill did something very simple with all his leaders every day. He got them together for a very short space of time. We now call a pulse, a daily pulse. And in that daily pulse, we talk about what did I do yesterday? What am I doing today? What am I doing tomorrow? And we started to do that in our business. And it gives a really clear idea about what people are working on, what gaps we have, but it’s amazing how we identify resource issues and work in there. So, it’s a very simple hack to give people, 9:50 in the morning, till 9:45 each day, we meet as a team for half an hour and we do that. And it’s a breath of fresh air in terms of communication.
Final hack. I was going to put something down here, but I’m going to change it. It was one given to me by an ex special forces gentleman. And he talked about brief back, check back and brief back, check back is the most simple thing in some ways, but we avoid it. So once I’ve given a brief to somebody and I’ve said, this is what I’m expecting, this is the project. We very rarely asked the question, which is what we tend to ask the question is like clear. And everybody goes, yeah, yeah, that’s fine. Go away. But what we tend to not do is ask the question. So repeat back to me, please, if you could, exactly what you’ve heard. And in that brief back, it’s amazing how often the articulation of the idea is different from the receiver than it was from the giver. So that’s the first bit, what that allows you to do is correct any miscommunication or misguidance of the expectations you’ve given, but it also allows you with confidence for them to go off and just allow yourself to check back in. So it’s a core part of empowering people and giving people accountability in there. So that’s the final one
Steve Rush: Love that last one. And we’ve had a couple of major generals on actually. This has come up in the conversations we’ve had with them too, because it’s rooted in when you’re about to send somebody off to war.
Colin Hunter: Yeah.
Steve Rush: Asking somebody, if it’s clear, it’s just not enough. Asking somebody if they really get it and understand it is absolutely essential, great hack. Next part of the show we call it Hack to Attack. So, this is where your be more wrong principle starts to play in really well. So, this is definitely where something in your life and your work has it worked out at all well, but there is an overall learning experience form them. You shared one that was a pivotal moment for you, but what would another Hack to Attack?
Colin Hunter: So that the act for me is the need for a business partner. I’ve spent most of my life and it’s probably related to the imposter syndrome, worried that if I didn’t have a business partner, my business would not be successful because my level of capability and intellect and decision-making was not enough to drive it. So, you know, I had probably more business partners than I would care to admit, but when I look back, it gave me an insight that what I needed was less of a business partner and more of an advisory board. And so, I took on an advisory board in the last two to three years, three people, different skills, one in innovation and design, the other person more on the sales side. And the third one tended to be around more of the strategic direction and what are summarized by getting their noses into our business. But in most cases, fingers out, you know, as an advisory board, I had all the benefits of a business partner without needing to end a relationship that certain points, they could do that. And that’s been my amazing Hack to Attack that I’ve deployed. And now we’re seeing it as a proving ground, a playground for some of our advisors have never done advisory board roles before, never been non-execs. So they get to play and practice with us before they go on to bigger and better things afterwards. So that’s, my Hack to Attack.
Steve Rush: That’s a great attack because what I’m hearing is exactly that and non-executive director role, who provides you with the counsel and direction. And then there’s not that awkward. You know, this isn’t working out for us when we have the tie, you know, equity, stakes and all the mess that comes with partnerships.
Colin Hunter: Exactly.
Steve Rush: Yeah, great.
Colin Hunter: We pay them.
Steve Rush: Yeah, of course. And the advantage, I guess, in doing so still is that when that time has served and the mutual value has got to its natural kind of capacity, you can switch them in and switch them out as the business starts to pivot and change directions as well.
Colin Hunter: Yeah, and it’s interesting on the latest business venture for the 500, we started to think that the advisory board we’re going to have for that is I’ve got a contact who runs a business mentoring ex-convicts coming out of prison. And I’m starting to think, so that would be a great person to have it as an advisory board member and maybe somebody of your diversity area. So you can play with this in a good way to get different voices in your head and different points of view. So, it’s a great process.
Steve Rush: Definitely, yeah. So, the last part, the show Colin, you get an opportunity to go back and bump into Colin at 21 face-to-face toe-to-toe and give him some advice. What would your advice to Colin be at 21?
Colin Hunter: It’s interesting because I struggled with this at 21 because I look back to 21 and I struggled to work out what it is. And I had one thing that goes through my mind, but just mentioned before, but I would say to him, go find your own music to dance too. Find out what the music is that you want to dance too and then go dance with it, but also find other people whose music interests you to go dance with. And the key thing here, and I think Amazon web services have, this is one of the core values, which is natural curiosity, be curious enough to explore other people’s music as well and find out what you like and go with it.
Steve Rush: Super stuff. So, Colin for folk, listening to this, wanting to get a copy of, Be More Wrong, or learn a bit more about the business that you lead and the work that you do, where’s the best place for us to send them?
Colin Hunter: So, Be More Wrong, @bemorewrong on Instagram, be more wrong on Twitter. Website is bemorewrong.com, go explore that. For the business itself, potential2.com and go find out more about that. I’d love to connect with any of the listeners and explore more with you, but they can find out more information and connect with us there.
Steve Rush: And they have to jump into the show notes and find all of that information in there as well.
Colin Hunter: Lovely.
Steve Rush: Colin, I’ve loved chatting and always do and wanted to say, thank you ever so much for being vulnerable, sharing your stories and being part of our community on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.
Colin Hunter: It’s been a pleasure, Steve, looking forward to that lunch when we can finally get it right.
Steve Rush: Indeed, yeah, exactly. Thanks Colin.
Colin Hunter: Cheers.
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