Timothy Bradshaw is former British Army Intelligence Officer and graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. His work as a Covert Human Intelligence Officer and Target Acquisition Patrol Soldier saw him recruit and run foreign agents worldwide and influence the outcome of extremely sensitive and dangerous situations. Recently, he’s been running aid missions to the Ukraine. He’s a keynote speak and author of the book, “because I can”.
This is packed full of leadership lessons including:
- Leaders need to make decisions under pressure, how different was that in the military and what can we learn from that.
- The secret sauce to resilience and overcoming challenges.
- Why wanting to quit is normal and how can we overcome that.
- Why is the military approach to leadership is a good blueprint for business.
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: Leadership is about us everywhere. And I wanted to dive in to find some funny, and innovative ways of us, bringing some of those leadership lessons to life. So, if ever you’ve watched a movie Star Wars or any of the Star Wars Trilogy, you’ll find loads of leadership lessons packed within there. Yoda is one of my favorites. He has this great saying that said. Do or not do, there is no try. And I’m often using that lighthearted analogy with any of my coaching conversations, but a long time ago in a galaxy far away, the leadership lessons were created amongst this epic series of films.
So, here’s a few, it’s been proven that being born with talent is not enough. As we all know, Luke Skywalker is born with a natural talent to be a Jedi. Yet when, we watch the movies. We know that was not a given. He had to work hard at that. We watched Luke come to grips with putting himself in challenging situations and homing in on that force. And there are traits of good leadership, but true leadership takes place, self-reflection and mentoring, which we also saw through their relationship with Yoda. Adaptability is also a key leadership lesson throughout the Star Wars movies, all of those Star Wars movies demonstrate that life does not always go to plan. And if you are rigid in your plans are stuck in your ways, you’re not going to win. From Han Solo, adapting, a broken hyper drive by hiding by the rubbish shoot instead of a surprise alliance along the way. If you’re able to adapt and think quickly, you’re able to lead a team through any surprises. We know it’s okay to ask for help as leaders. Sometimes you can’t get yourself out of a situation without calling on someone else. When Princess Leia was in a bind, she’d always know the right people to call and ask for help without hesitation. Some good leaders need other good leaders to advise them on their journey. And the one thing that is really true across all of the movies that chasing power is the path to the dark side. Leaders undeniably have power and authority, but leadership is much more than that. Once you begin to be at attracted to power and to chase power, you are heading to the dark side. Good leadership is all about sharing power and authority and creating more leaders. It’s about people with good ideas and evolving those good ideas so that everyone becomes more powerful. So, the next time you hear yourself saying, I’ll try, just think you’ve been Yoda. Do or don’t do, there is no try. Let’s get into the show.
Start of Podcast
Steve Rush: Timothy Bradshaw, is a special guest on today’s show. He’s a former British Army Intelligence Officer and graduate of the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst. His work as a Covert Human Intelligent Officer and Target Acquisition Patrol Soldier saw him recruit and run foreign agents worldwide and influence the outcome of extremely sensitive and dangerous situations. Recently Tim’s been running missions to Ukraine, delivering really, really important aid. He’s a keynote speaker and he’s also the author of the book, Because I can. Tim, welcome to the show.
Timothy Bradshaw: Thanks Steve. Thanks very much for having me on.
Steve Rush: Really looking forward to getting into the diverse world of Timothy Bradshaw. And remember from the first time that you met and how you described what you did in the army and in your work as an Intelligence Officer, I think I might have called you the James Bond [laugh] at the time.
Timothy Bradshaw: I mean, that’s very flattering and unfortunately every time somebody says that I caught so much flack off all of my friends, but.
Steve Rush: [Laugh].
Timothy Bradshaw: I’ll take it Steve. I’ve definitely been called worse things.
Steve Rush: I think your response to me at the time, Tim, if I remember rightly was, and you might have had the work of James Bond, but you certainly didn’t have the dinner suits and the expense account.
Timothy Bradshaw: No, absolutely not. And I’m still waiting for the Aston Martin as well.
Steve Rush: That’s it, yeah. So, tell us a little bit about you Tim, your early backstory and give that listens a little bit of a spin through to how you’ve arrived to do what you do.
Timothy Bradshaw: It’s not that exciting, Steve really, which I think is almost kind of the point. You know, we talk about resilience and all this sort of stuff and actually I haven’t done anything that essentially anybody else couldn’t have done if they wanted to. I did my A-levels. I finished school. I kind of looked at university alongside everybody else and realized that I was doing that really, because that was kind of what everybody else did. Not really what my sort of passion was, and maybe there’s a bit of a theme there that’ll continue. So, I was offered a place to go to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. I literally just turned 18 in the October and went in the January. So was really very young. I quite often laugh when we talk about leadership.
My first ever job out of school was sort of leading 37 soldiers aged 19, by the time I got to that point. And frankly probably wasn’t very good at it. Who’s very good at their first ever job out of school, but I had a lot of training, and a lot of backups. So, made the best I could really. I’ve kind of never really done anything else. So very much experienced based career, I guess. And I did that and that was the kind of the mid-nineties. And I went out to Germany. Ironically, it’s really funny looking back now, I say funny, slightly tongue in cheek, but obviously we were very much kind of the end of the sort of cold war doctrine and everything we were looking at was very much basically about the Russian Army coming across the Eastern German planes which with what’s going on now, obviously out in Ukraine, seems a little bit surreal, to be honest.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: But anyway, and I sort of did that for a bit and it was bit of a lull really, an activity, certainly for the sort of regular army at the time. And then I pursued a career in training after I served out my commission and subsequently once sort of Iraq and Afghanistan kicked off, I looked to go back to the military. I felt as though I had kind of unfinished business and hadn’t finished serving yet. I’ve always had quite a strong desire to serve rightly or wrongly. So, I decided to go back and a friend of mine had said to me, oh, you should look at, you know, look at reserves and I said, crikey you’re joking. You know, to me, the TA sort of, as was, was dad’s army. And, you know, that’s absolutely not the case anymore. So, I went through a patrol selection course, which is a particularly arduous sort of running over the Hills, big ruck sacks, small teams, very much becoming self-reliant, self-sufficient, relying on your teammates in small groups as a buildup, really to go towards Afghanistan. And then I kind of thought to myself, well, if I’m going to do this, I want to do something that perhaps my interim years as a civilian brings something to the party rather than putting me behind the curve. So Human Intelligence is, is exactly that, it’s about building relationships and influence. And actually, you know, we always sort of joke, but if you having to use the cars as the guns, you’ve kind of got it wrong, essentially. It’s absolutely about building relationships and influencing people. So, bit of a sucker for punishment, really, I put myself through yet another grueling selection process.
Steve Rush: [laugh].
Timothy Bradshaw: Its theme isn’t it, really. And we did that. I passed a course and then what ensued was a fascinating few years working with some truly inspirational people on all sides of the divide, really. Some of those obviously worked for essentially terrorist organizations. Some of those were people that absolutely keen to help their communities. But the theme was always the same. It was always about relationships and influence. And I was doing some keynote speaking the other day and I sort of laughed and somebody ask, how could you sum it up? And I was trying to think of a sort of corporate analogy. And I said, well, imagine trying to lead or influence somebody that not only do they not work for you, but in fact they work for your biggest competitor. And that was about the best I could come up with really. Obviously trying to persuade somebody who has very strong views of their own that actually there might be a different way or a better path and to give you, essentially feed you in intelligence.
So yeah, so that’s what we did. Did that for a few years, which was truly fascinating. Couple of tour Afghanistan. I did point out to somebody recently whose head went down a little bit talking about lockdown. And I think I calculated that I have actually spent more time in Afghanistan than I have in lockdown.
Steve Rush: Wow, yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: And I don’t actually know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, to be honest with you, but it is a fact. And then I think having left the military. Again, I have a very low boredom threshold Steve, which I think is, probably the theme. But actually, for me, I’ve always been quite a big advocate of mental health. I’ve always struggled a little bit with sort of depression and anxiety. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just the way my brain works really. And you know, it’s a bit like a bank account in some of the respects. You take out, so therefore you have to pay back in. Anyway, we decided as a team must that we try and climb Mount Everest and shout from the highest point on earth that it was okay to ask for help. So, we did, we picked the wrong year. We did it in 2015, which those of you that into mountaineering or the region will know was when all the sort of major earthquakes hit. So, we found ourselves in the middle of one of the biggest natural disasters sorts of ever to happen, certainly in that region, really. So again, it kind of turned on its head our whole outlook on what was going on and certainly tested our resilience in a very different way to the one we perhaps spent two years planning and training to do.
Which again, I think we talk about leadership aren’t we Steve really. For me, that’s one of the themes is, it’s that ability to flex, adapt and overcome actually, rather than when it’s all going perfectly.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: And then, yeah, and then having done that, we’ve transitioned into doing this and we do all sorts of wacky stuff. And then we now run a company. And for me it’s about, can I share my lessons as accurately as possible? We were joking, weren’t we Steve, just before we went live that there’s a lot of self-help stuff around, you know, and it’s like, yeah, get a growth mindset, do this and do that. And you kind of think, yeah, I’ll do that, how?
Steve Rush: Yeah, exactly.
Timothy Bradshaw: And that’s really what the book was about. The book was a kind of user guide almost to dealing with some of these problems. So rather than a kind of conceptual you know, big yourself up and feel better, it was right, do this. When this happens, do this [laugh] and I guess that then led, I was sitting on the sofa, we were watching what’s happening in Ukraine. And my now wife looked at me and said, you could probably do something to help that couldn’t you. And I said, yes, I can. And she said, well, then you should. So, we put a team together and we’ve now delivered three quite successful aid missions. But I would think the point I’d like to make is, that we’ve built a network of people inside Ukraine. So, we’ve got live communications almost on a daily basis. So, we know exactly what people need and what challenges that they’re facing. And we are taking that aid specifically and delivering it directly to the people that need it. So, we met, appreciate we’re not going to share their names here, but we shared directly, we drove out to Kyiv, which is where we were last week. And we met with these groups, and we hand over exactly what they need. And fortunately, that’s captured the imagination of a number of large corporate businesses that have really helped us out actually.
Steve Rush: Right.
Timothy Bradshaw: But I think that’s because again, it’s not faceless.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: Steve, I think that comes back to our theme of kind of leadership and relationships, right?
Steve Rush: Does Tim, yeah. And homage to you genuinely. One of the things I know about you Tim, is that you see danger very differently to other people that I’ve, you know, come into contact with specifically in the business world. You almost see this as an opportunity, it’s alluring for you. And I just wondered to, I wanted to unpack a little bit about that with you, because it seems to me that you are almost attracted to that danger and ambiguity that comes with things like running an aid mission to Kiev.
Timothy Bradshaw: I think, I’m not I’m necessarily attractive to it, but I certainly see opportunity in it. So, we often at the moment sort of voker is quite a big thing, right? Vulnerable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, and we can use all the analogies you want. But for me, there’s always then opportunity because if everything is absolutely, you know, tickly, boom and perfect and jogging along then we often joke that’s the point that you need effective management rather than necessarily an effective leadership. And I think if you look at sport as an example, you know, if you look at rugby in offense, you’re trying to create a break in the back line, right. Or if you see a break in the back line, then there’s the gap that you need to get through for your Canadian and American listeners, that’s a real sport where you don’t wear armor and helmet and stuff.
Steve Rush: [Laugh], nothing like a little bit of counter finishing in the mix there.
Timothy Bradshaw: [Laugh] But by understand that the theory is probably very much the same, you know, you are looking for that break in the back line, right, to go through the gap. And I think that the same is true. I’m sure it’s true in ice hockey. But I think the same is true in business. If everything is the same, then you are unlikely to either improve or get a different result. And for me as an effective leader, really, you should be seeking out the change or the opportunity, but of course that’s uncomfortable for people. So, if you can create a toolkit that enables you to initially deal, I guess, with like the biological reaction to change and stress and then see clearly and find the opportunity. So yes, I mean, Steve, I do see it as an opportunity, but that’s because if something’s changing, then maybe it’s a chance to get in front, you know, if anyone watch the Formula 1 that was on at the weekend, the minute it rains, the teams down the back of the grid a little bit, see an opportunity, don’t they?
Steve Rush: Yeah
Timothy Bradshaw: And it’s the same theory.
Steve Rush: Absolutely, yeah. So, in terms of your experience of diving into Ukraine recently, you talk about resilience in your work a lot. What have you noticed about the resilience of the people in some of those war tone areas you’ve met recently?
Timothy Bradshaw: Oh, I mean, Steve. It’s phenomenal. I was trying to describe this to somebody the other day. It’s both harrowing and inspirational in the same breath. You know, you’re talking to people, some people have lost their whole homes, their families and everything else, but then those same people have a look in their eye, and they are not taking a step backwards. They are refusing to take a backwards step. And that would be enough for me to want to support them regardless of any benefit to the UK or anybody else anyway. Because I just always think that level of courage should be at least supported if not rewarded. But again, you know, when we go into businesses and we talk about clear communication and perhaps more importantly, a unifying purpose, you know, a focus and outcome that we’re trying to achieve, then that’s the ultimate outcome isn’t it, right? When somebody invade your country.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: That defense of your home or your family. I mean, that has to be the kind of ultimate unifying purpose I would think.
Steve Rush: And I suspect, and you’ll know this more than most. In war tone situations, period, you find a deeper, more meaningful resilience than you’d ever have anticipated in the world of business. I mean, the things that we get stuck up and worried about and stressed about in our world of business, pale insignificance in those situations, don’t they?
Timothy Bradshaw: Well, there’s no way-out Steve, which is what I think’s interesting, okay.
Steve Rush: Right.
Timothy Bradshaw: So, I remember talking to somebody about special operations, special duties, special forces, selection processes, and the theme all over the world different, you know, every country has its own variance, but the theme is always one the same, it’s adapted and overcome and adapt and overcome. But actually, if you talk to the selection teams, a lot of them will tell you that the biggest dropout rate is in fact, not on the course, is the day before because people get the jitters the day before they go, because they are anticipating what’s coming. And they have an option. So, they don’t turn up, they talk themselves out of it or believe it or not, the vast majority of people that go through all these processes, they don’t get failed. They what’s called VW, they voluntarily withdraw. In other words, they quit because they have an option to quit.
Steve Rush: Right.
Timothy Bradshaw: And I think when we work with businesses, there is always an option to quit. And I think when we, you know, implement something new, push ahead with a new process or a system or a change, whatever that might be, there’s always the option to go back to where we were before or to opt out. And I think when the pressure comes on and when you get nervous that kind of opt out to your comfort zone becomes more alluring, right?
Steve Rush: Right, yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: When somebody has invaded your country [laugh] and it’s your home, you just don’t have that option. So, you have to keep marching forwards almost at all costs. And that’s why I think in these situations you see such, all inspiring levels of sort of courage and resilience because the option to sort of take the easier routes gone, is it’s been removed. So, people dig really deep and they find whatever it is that’s, you know, inside themselves.
Steve Rush: I love the whole notion of there is no get out. There’s no plan B philosophy. And that forms mindset that we talked a little bit about earlier. So, there’s an example where you can’t teach that, you have to experience it in order to shift and create the right set of mindsets. But I do wonder if we apply that level thinking, can that impact on our mindset, do you think?
Timothy Bradshaw: Yeah, because I think once you’ve done it once or twice and you’ve proven to yourself, you can, which is for me where the sort of, title for the book came, Because I Can. Then what happens is, you kind of build confidence and it’s almost like any new skill you pick up, you know, whether that’s a sport or learning to drive or whatever. You go, oh, I can do that. And then you do it just once and you go, I can. And I always say to people, not enough people debrief the wins, you know, we’re very quick to debrief the losses, but the problem is, we still don’t know what good looks like. Whereas actually I mean, you know, I’ve been a ski instructor and stuff like that in the past. It’s a passion of mine.
And if you’re teaching something to ski and they get it right, and you go, wow, that was amazing. Do that again, that was excellent. They can repeat it. And they have the confidence and the courage almost to repeat it, if that makes sense. And I think that’s super, super important. And then you can start to instill that mindset in somebody. So, we have this expression that if you can reward the behaviors that you want to see again, that is ultimately how you change a mindset. And I think certainly professional services businesses at the moment, we have this impression that performance is this kind of perfect thing all the time. And somebody does something 95% correct but we jump on the 5% that they got wrong, and you know, we call them out on it. And then we’re surprised when that person doesn’t come back to us for more feedback.
Steve Rush: Yeah, so what was the inspiration for the book, Tim?
Timothy Bradshaw: I think it was an idea I had in my head for ages. I’m certainly not academic in any way, shape, or form. For me, it was probably the furthest I’ve ever been outside of my comfort zone, to be honest. So, I kind of started it and therefore had to finish it. And I just wanted to have a little bit of a user guide for people. You know, you do seminars and you do keynote speaking and you kind of hand out notes and PDFs and it’s all bit old hat, isn’t it? So, I just sort of let’s do something a bit different. So, a lot stuff I talk about is in the book, but in terms of, don’t do that, do this type of a way. So, I guess a bit sort of, I don’t know, user guide, that was the idea
Steve Rush: And the whole notion of because I can, is that self-talk almost to say that anything is possible, right?
Timothy Bradshaw: Yeah, absolutely. The whole thing, because I think sometimes you just have to remind myself, I can do this. I can do this. You know, I’ve been through various selection processes. We’ve talked about before, down various big mountains and on a number of occasions, I’ve found myself having to remind myself like, you’ve got this, you can do this. And I think it’s also, it’s about finding ways to do something, finding ways to make something happen. You know, we were talking in the past about leadership and taking decisions under pressure. And how does the military impact on that? And I don’t think that the military necessarily guarantees somebody becomes a good leader. But it does guarantee that you become a kind of a good decision maker.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: But the one thing that is really interesting when you work with the military is there is never any question that we are going to do anything other than achieve the task, if that makes sense.
Steve Rush: Yeah, it does.
Timothy Bradshaw: So, the whole theme is focused on achieving the aim. And that’s probably the biggest takeout and and that’s a theme that runs through the book is, this is what we’re going to do. So how do we make it happen? Accepting we’re perhaps going to change course a couple of times and you know, it might evolve a little bit, that’s okay. But fundamentally, how do we make it happen?
Steve Rush: I’m pretty sure it was you in the past Tim, actually, that taught me that in the military, the first thing you get to learn as a leader is, you have to make a decision.
Timothy Bradshaw: Yeah, that’s right.
Steve Rush: Tell me a little bit about that because I think that’s a really interesting frame of mind that, you know, when you are still in a relatively young leadership position or indeed you’re running a global organization, is that making the decision is key, right?
Timothy Bradshaw: So, yeah, I think it wobbles. It’s really funny. It’s a great analogy, right. We’ve all done it. Imagine you are driving your car and you approach a big roundabout. And I live quite near the A9, the key roundabout, which is, anybody’s ever been here near Scotland will know, because they’ll have sat there for 40 minutes trying and get across it. And you approach a roundabout and the person in front of you kind of half goes then stops then goes to go, then stops.
Steve Rush: [Laugh], yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: And chaos in ensues, right? Because you kind of go then stop. And then you hit the brakes, believe or not. It’s the most common cause of accident, people hitting the back of each other and what’s caused all that chaos is indecision. Now, if that person was either waiting for a huge gap, it’s frustrating, but you can see what they’re going to do, so you work with it. If that person, I swore then, says, I’m going for it anyway, drops a gear and goes for it. Scary as that might be, you can see what they’re doing, and you can react to it. It’s the indecision in the middle that causes the problem. And certainly, my experience at Sandhurst was, you don’t fail Sandhurst to making a wrong decision. If you make a wrong decision, you learn from it, you evolve, but it’s the indecision, it’s making no decision that will make you fail. Because when you have sort of this sort of wobbly indecisive, that’s when the wheels come off, that’s when morale drops. That’s when the good ideas club get together, that’s when people start going off and doing their own thing in opposite directions. And me certainly, one of the biggest things I’ve learned across everything that I’ve done is, in high pressure situations, particularly when you’re working with educated people is, you can need to provide reassurance and then direction. And that direction is where, you know, the decision-making is, part of giving that direction because you then get forward momentum. And to me, if you can gain forward momentum, then actually, everyone starts to move in that same direction together. And sometimes it’ll be quicker than others, but essentially it does work.
Steve Rush: Yeah, now you’d have been faced with a bunch of challenges throughout your careers. And I say careers because they’ve kind of, whilst it is still one career, there’s been number of different facets to what you do. What’s been your secret source to overcoming those challenges and turning it into a positive outcome?
Timothy Bradshaw: I think sometimes firstly, understanding it kind of all things must pass, you know, at various situations throughout my life, I’ve, made mistakes, I’ve been impetuous, I’ve done stuff. And I think, oh, why did I do that? And you think the world’s kind of ending around you, but as you get older, you kind of realize that actually, okay, it’s mistake. It’s going to be okay. And these things have a tendency to write themselves somehow and you come out the other side of it. So, I think, you know, accepting that you’re going to make mistakes and get it wrong, take whatever lessons you can out of it. It is super important. I think at the moment, particularly we’re quite vulnerable to people having huge opinions about things that they know very little about. And I think that’s largely down to the ability for kind of social media, for people to kind of take a swing at you, if you like, actually without, you know, people you’ve never even met [laugh] essentially, and I think that can be quite damaging. So, I think accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes, focus on the bits you can control which is, which is your own performance and the way you react to staff and take feedback from the people you trust. But don’t worry too much about the kind of naysayers or the people almost. I think we sometimes come across people, and I think it’s a bit of a UK disease at the moment where we almost want people to fail and I think I find that a bit strange, but you see it quite a lot.
Steve Rush: You do, yeah. Where do you think that comes from?
Timothy Bradshaw: I don’t know really. I honestly, for me, it’s a bit of a complete anathema that is really, I don’t really understand it, but whether that’s a kind of jealousy thing or whether that’s just, I think it’s very easy. I can’t recite the whole poem off the top of my head, but it’s Roosevelt’s poem, isn’t it? Where he says, it’s the man in the fight. You know, don’t chastise those that try and fail. And I think sometimes people just, when we’re outside of comfort zone or perhaps people are attempting something that somebody else hasn’t wanted to try, they almost don’t want them to succeed. I personally find that a bit strange, but yeah. Try to override it and get past it.
Steve Rush: Yeah, I think business is becoming more receptive to failure in the old world of what failure might have been and most businesses that I certainly work with and know of, recognize that it’s part of success, making those steps and pivoting to something else.
Timothy Bradshaw: Yeah, no, Steve, I actually agree with you and actually if you want to push the boundaries, if you want to learn a new trick, so to speak, you’re going to get it wrong a couple of times first, right. But if you want to adapt to overcome, and if you want to grow process, then by definition, you’ve got to develop and change. And if you’re going to develop and change, you’re going to do stuff differently. And sometimes that’s not going to go quite to plan, I think, sort of accepting that and then also creating a structure within a business so that when that happens, we are supportive of each other. Yeah, we have this expression, covering each other’s blind spots.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: You know, so actually we are supporting each other rather than kind of going, oh my goodness me, look at that. Steve made a right mess of that. You know, we should be thinking to ourselves, actually it was brilliant that Steve had to go at that and actually that bit were quite successful. So, if we take those two bits out, support Steve, make sure he’s okay. And then let’s build on those two elements that work really well. To me, that’s much healthier.
Steve Rush: Super, now you mentioned a little earlier on you’d suffered with depression and anxiety in the past. Are you comfortable? Let’s go there Tim.
Timothy Bradshaw: Yeah, I don’t mind at all Steve. I think it’s important that we do talk about it.
Steve Rush: Thank you. So, I know that this is a driving force for you now and you use it as a force of good to push you into other activities. But I wondered if you might just share with our listers a little bit about the journey you’ve been on and what some of your coping strategies are?
Timothy Bradshaw: Yeah, I mean, for me, it’s interesting, right. So, my brain works at speed, as you already know, rightly or wrongly, and I have an ability to latch onto something to focus on that, to not necessarily see some of the boundaries that perhaps other people see and to therefore drive towards achieving that. And that enables me to think very laterally, to get to a location that we need to get to. But that same way my head works if you like comes with a price and the price is that occasionally I then latch the things that I don’t need to latch to, or I overthink people’s reactions or I overthink the way people come back to me, which then causes me to go into a, we call it, like a negative spiral, sort of catastrophic thinking spiral which is not uncommon with other people. And I face people. I don’t suffer from it. I live with it. I don’t particularly want curing if that is a thing. Because I am me and the bits of that that make it very challenging. And my wife’s amazing at helping me also made me really good at other stuff. So, to me, you kind of can’t have one without the other.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: But what I’ve tried to do, in 2018, we did a year of challenges, which was another terrible idea. And we essentially did an endurance challenge a month, every month for a year. We did like a half iron man triathlon. We climbed the Matterhorn amongst other things. I cycled L’Étape du Tour, which is a terrible idea for any people, in your audience that are mammals, middle-aged men in Lyra and who have push bikes worth more than their cars that they perhaps haven’t told their other halves about.
You know, it’s the ultimate challenge. You get to cycle the mountain stages like Tour de France. And I was definitely not ready for it and not prepared for it. And it put me to a really dark place. But one of the reasons that we did all these challenges was almost a bit of an experiment on me for me to try and work out, you know, how’d you get through these things and how’d, you cope with it and kind of consciously deal with it. And I think for me, it’s about momentum. So, the first thing, we have this expression, it’s in the book actually, called fear, false expectation appearing real, and any bits ever suffered with a bit pressure anxiety, one often leads to the other will find the clouds kind of roll in and you start to think, oh, this is going to happen and that’s going to happen.
And Steve’s thinking this off me, and if Steve’s thinking that of me, then this is going to happen and now that’s going to happen. But the reality of that is, although that feels quite real to me at the time, the reality is actually not real. It’s a perception of what’s going on around you. So, what you have to do or what works for me, I’ve never tell any what they have to do. What’s worked for me is, focus on what’s real. So almost list the facts. And our company strap line is intelligence, not information. So, list out the facts. This is what’s real. This is what I know. And what you’ll find is, I find is, that starts to then sort of push the clouds back because now I’m dealing with the reality of a situation, not my perception of a situation. And once that started to happen, you start to gain a little bit of traction.
And then I have this other expression, which is, remember for your big goal. You know, why did I get out of bed this morning, essentially. Ignore the dangerous middle ground and get there by taking small steps. So, in other words, using the tour as an example, two mountains in terms of two of the four we had to cycle up. I was, you know, flat out, done, finished, couldn’t do it. But I reminded myself, I was doing it for mental health charities. So therefore, I wasn’t going to let them down. That was my big picture.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: On mountain two, if I tried to think about mountain three or mountain four, I would’ve talked myself out of it, if that makes sense. So actually, what I did was then focus on the next aid station, the next peak, the immediate target in front of me, and we call it micro goal setting. And at one point I could have told you how many lampposts [laugh] were up the final street to the final climb because I was literally going one lamppost at a time.
Steve Rush: Yeah.
Timothy Bradshaw: But it’s quite a good analogy. So, when that starts to happen, you set yourself a micro goal. So, it’s like, okay, can I get this done? Yes, I can. Can I get to the next one of these? Yes, I can. And then gradually that builds momentum. And it sort of starts to take you forward. And I hope that, you know, I hope anybody listening, if that helps just one person, it’s not easy. But for me, that’s made quite a big difference. And the more times I do it, I now go into a little bit of a routine, and I can find myself start to deal with that
Steve Rush: Amazing insights. Love it. Thank you for sharing that, Tim. I really appreciate it. So, this is where we get to turn the tables a little bit now. So, you’ve been a army officer, you’ve led businesses. You now run a really successful consultancy business. So, I want to tap into that leadership mind of yours. So, I’m going to first off, start by asking you to choose and pick amongst all of the lessons that you’ve collected on your journey and narrow those down to your top three. What would be your top three leadership hacks?
Timothy Bradshaw: Have a toolkit, not a process. Everyone loves a process, right. Everyone, except me. Processes are designed to make sure you get the wing mirror on the car, in the right place at the right time on a production line. They don’t work with people. And I’ll argue that with everybody all day, so build a toolkit of skills and experiences and in the same way that if you had a problem at home, you’d go to the toolkit and go select the right tool for the right job, rather than blindly following a process, think to yourself, which tool is going to work, you know, for the job that I’m trying to. So, my first one would be, have a toolkit, not a process.
Steve Rush: Nice.
Timothy Bradshaw: The second one as a leader will be, pull not push. Somebody once said to me, always try and be a warrior, not a mercenary [laugh] so, and by that, what I mean is, empathy is an interesting concept, but try and put yourself in the shoes of the people that you are trying to lead and ask yourself, what is it they want out of life?
What is it they want to achieve? And you know, the motto Sandhurst is, served to lead. So, in other words, the leader serves the team, not the other way around. And I think at the moment we have a tendency to go, well, I’ve made it, I’m the partner, I’m the CEO and whatever. The millions will now run around after me and doing my bidding. Whereas actually, if you can create a pool so that you have a company full of warriors, rather than mercenaries, that are working for a check, then to me, you will achieve far more. And certainly, when crazy stuff happens, like the pandemic or whatever else, that team of warriors are much more likely to rally round and find a way out, rather than sort of simply take the paycheck out, if that makes sense.
Steve Rush: Love it.
Timothy Bradshaw: And then I think my final one would be of the three would just be simply sort of, don’t stop and keep reevaluating all of the time, keep reevaluating the situation. I’m a massive believer in John Boyd. The new Top Gun film is out, right. So, I’m about say it’s brilliant. I was very skeptical, but no, it was brilliant.
Steve Rush: Yeah, I’m with you.
Timothy Bradshaw: But a lot of people don’t realize is that the actual place, fightertown in Miramar came about because a guy called John Boyd who’s a Colonel in the American Air Force came up with OODA loop thinking which is, observe, orientate, decide and act, and it goes round in a loop. So, in other words, what happens is, you gather intelligence, you interpret that intelligence, you take a decision, you carry out that action, like your life depends upon it. But then what you do is, you instantly start to observe the reaction if you like that you’ve carried out and is it working and adjust accordingly? And what that does is it means, rather than having this kind of linear decision-making process where the outcome is, be all an end all. In fact, any decision is simply part of this kind of ever rotating process, where you’re constantly adjusting the course. And the best analogy I can think of is sailing. You know, you don’t kind of set the course sail for 10 days and hope for the best, then check the compass again. You know, you’re constantly checking the compass and constantly adjusting the course. And for me that would be it.
Steve Rush: Great lesson.
Timothy Bradshaw: So, that you’re always adjusting.
Steve Rush: Yeah, I love that. I love that last one as well, because the world isn’t as linear as people think it is, people are not as linear. Processes and organizations are changing intraday. And having that ability to be fleet of foot is, is really powerful, isn’t it?
Timothy Bradshaw: Yeah, totally agree Steve, absolutely. And we’re proving that more and more, you know, we kind think coronavirus, and thought, that’s done. And then the Ukrainian thing happened and there will be another one, you know, when this is sorted, there will be another one.
Steve Rush: Yeah, exactly. So next part of the show, Tim, we call it Hack to Attack. So, this is typically where something hasn’t worked out as you’d intended, it might be something that’s gone quite wrong, but you’ve actually taken that as an experience. And it’s now positive in your life and work. What would be your Hack to Attack?
Timothy Bradshaw: I think you’ve got to; you’ve got to seek out the positive outcomes from anything you can find to take the lessons out of it. And I think, you know, using an analogy and I guess this is not everybody can use it, but we can use the lessons that come out of. It was, we spent two years trying to pull off the Everest expedition and we got it all sorted. And we got to the mountain, and we thought, wow, this is it. We’re going to do it. You know, we all joke sort, you know, book, deal and TV show. And then, when all the earthquakes happened and everything else happened around you, I think the first thing that happened is you kind of feel quite sorry for yourself. And you think that this is outrageous. I put all this time and money and effort, and now this has all gone wrong.
And then you suddenly realize that the people around you have lost their homes and their families. So, whilst you can’t help the way you feel, it puts it into context, and I think you have to accept that. And at the time, I kind of walked away feeling like a little bit like of a failure really. Even though they were situations so far out of my control, you know, it’s not even fathomable to think you could have controlled that situation. But actually, now we use that experience to help school kids. So, we’ve spoken to over seven and a half thousand school kids about what it’s like when it doesn’t quite go to plan about how you adapt and overcome and about how you refocus and how you keep working the problem regardless of what’s going on around you. So, in fact, that very negative situation, what was that 2015? So, the best part of 10 years later. Now is providing a very positive input and outcome to schools as to how to overcome the challenge that they faced over the last couple of years. So, I think, like I said, to take out the positive lessons, you know, wherever you can.
Steve Rush: Yeah, definitely. And that was an extreme example of where learning happens, but sometimes the evaluation of the learning is sometimes afterwards, right?
Timothy Bradshaw: Mm
Steve Rush: Mm.
Timothy Bradshaw: Absolutely, yeah.
Steve Rush: So last part of the show, Tim, we get to do some time travel with you. You can bump into Tim at 21, probably just finishing or midway through Sandhurst. I suspect at the time, what would your advice to him be?
Timothy Bradshaw: I think [laugh] when we take decision making or when I teach critical decision making now, which I do a lot of with big corporate. The first thing we tell people is take a tactical pause, which is just take a deep breath for a minute. You know, when you in an airplane, there’s a reason why they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first. And I think it would be, take your time, you know, just pause for a minute and respect the experience of those people around you. And kind of let it happen a little bit, let it come to you rather than necessarily instantly try and force every situation. So just take a minute, take in what’s happening to you and have faith that whatever is, you know, is going to come to you at some point, don’t necessarily sort of instantly try and force it
Steve Rush: Very wise words. Indeed. So, then Tim, what’s next for you?
Timothy Bradshaw: So, we are busy at the moment with keynote speaking and we are currently talking to companies about kind of mindset development programs. I think we are really passionate at the minute. I think there’s a huge opportunity at the minute for businesses to really reevaluate how they lead, how they make decisions, how they motivate their workforces and make a change. And I think probably now more than ever, there’s a window for people to seize that opportunity and go, we’re going to take lessons out of this. The workforce is up for it, we’re up for it. And let’s see if we can make a difference. So, we’re quite keen to kind of be a part of that wave. And then the next mission, we’re planning our next trip to Ukraine. The boys and girls that we were talking to the other week have got a massive problem. They haven’t got enough vehicles to bring casualties back from the front line to the hospitals. So, we are talking to a few people at the moment, we’ve set up a charity called the Sandstone Foundation, and we are working to try see if we can’t get some four by old fours out to these guys to help them and bring back casualties. So that’s the next project, I guess.
Steve Rush: Awesome, brilliant news. And for those folks that listen to this, Tim, I’m pretty certain, they’re going to want to know how they can get a copy of, Because I Can. Find out a little bit more about the work you do with Sandstone Communications. Where’s the best place for us to send them?
Timothy Bradshaw: Two things, really. The book is on Amazon. Just simply search either for me or for Because I Can or Waterstones, I think have it as well. And the best way to find out or get in touch is via LinkedIn. So, Timothy Bradshaw on LinkedIn and I would love to hear from anybody. I love learning. I love talking to people. And particularly as I said, if you’ve got a lot of listeners across, you know, further up field, America and Canada and all over. I’m always fascinated to hear how, what we think resonates elsewhere. So please, yeah. Drop me a line on LinkedIn and then I’ll always do my best to respond.
Steve Rush: We’ll make sure those links are in our show notes as well, Tim, but I’m just delighted that we’ve managed to get you on our show. You’re an incredibly inspirational guy. You’ve got such a lot of experience that we can learn from in lots of different parts of our lives and work. So, Tim, thanks for being part of our community on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.
Timothy Bradshaw: No, thank you very much, Steve. Really enjoyed it.
Steve Rush: Yeah, thanks Tim.
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