What is “No Bullsh!t Leadership” and how is it different from the concept of leadership that’s being pushed today? Here to explain is Martin G. Moore. Martin is a leadership performance expert, author, and podcaster. His book, No Bullsh!t Leadership, is a Wall Street Journal Bestseller, and his podcast of the same name has achieved almost 2 million downloads, with listeners in over 100 countries. In this episode, he breaks down his take on leadership with host Adam Markel. Martin also defines resilience in the modern workplace and shares his thoughts on key business buzzwords such as “The Great Resignation” and the future of work with AI. Listen in for an informative and enlightening conversation and find out the one question Martin asks himself to practice resilience and keep growing.
00:00 Introduction and Martin’s Early Life
05:32 Martin’s Career in Leadership
10:32 The Evolution of Leadership
16:10 On The Great Resignation
20:44 The Gap in Leadership
24:21 What does No Bullsh!t Leadership look like?
30:00 Dealing With Change And Ambiguity
35:22 Listening as a Skill
37:44 The Future of Work
40:43 Contact information and other resources
41:35 Martin’s Ritual to Create Resilience
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
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No Bullsh!t Leadership: Filling The Gap In Leadership With Martin Moore
You’re going to love my guest on the show. Martin Moore is a Leadership Performance Expert. He is a guy who wrote a book called No Bullsh!t Leadership. I’m not bullshitting you when I say his title. More importantly than that, he has been sharing this message with leaders for many years all around the globe. He has an amazing podcast by that same name that has more than two million downloads in a hundred companies. Martin Moore is up next on the show.
Martin, you are a seasoned business leader and an author. We’re going to talk a lot about your new book and you have an extensive history, bio, CV and all that good stuff. What’s one thing that’s not a part of your typical introduction or bio that you would love for people to know about you?
The key thing is that I’m a university dropout. I don’t purport to be as famous a university dropout as Bill Gates or some of the others but I did drop out of law school when I was a young lad. What happened after that was most interesting because I bounced around the cocktail bars of Sydney for about two years, not doing anything much in particular to move my brain but I learned so much about people, human nature and relationship interactions in that context. That’s when you see people both at their best and worst. That two years that I didn’t study were one of the best educational segments of my adult life.
I spent a semester in York, England studying while I was at the University of Massachusetts and got to ten-bar, which was a pretty unusual thing to have a Yank behind the bar. I was a novelty at first and I don’t know if they wanted somebody that could be a punching bag for the rugby guys. I managed to dig myself in under the skin there a bit and became quite tight not just the innkeepers but the other folks that were regulars as well. I loved it. Now, I have a funny enough daughter, our youngest daughter who’s in London getting her first pub experience.
I want to go back to what you said that you spent two years bouncing around in that scene and learned a lot about human nature and the like. I’d love to get a sense of maybe some of the things that you did learn, even one thing from that time. How it translates either to the work you do or the things that you speak about in this brand-new and awesome book called No Bullsh!t Leadership? I would love to get your take on it from the pub perspective to start.
There are a couple of things that strike me immediately. Most important from my personal perspective was that I’d led a very sheltered life. I’d been brought up in a very stable and favorable environment in a middle-class family in Sydney, Australia. I’d been to one of the top schools in Sydney. My parents weren’t wealthy but they believed in the power of education. My brother and I attended one of the top all-boys schools in Sydney. It happened to be a full boarding school. When I came out of that, I was incredibly advanced intellectually, academically and stunted socially. I was like a 13-year-old in an 18-year-old body.
I spent those couple of years learning about what was going on in the world and it never occurred to me that people didn’t follow rules, wasn’t polite and all of these things that you see when people are at their worst at 2:00 on a Saturday morning in a nightclub. I got to observe that firsthand and what that taught me was number one, I was shocked into thinking, “Not everyone’s like me or the people that I’ve been growing up with.” Number two, “How do I know how to handle these things? How can I read people better to see what they’re going to be like? Are they going to be fun? Are they going to be happy? Are they going to be angry? Are they going to be a problem?”
To be able to read that in people by the way they walk, body language and the expression on their face was important to me developing my emotional intelligence, my ability to see people for how they were feeling as opposed to looking at them and look through them. That was an incredibly important part of my growth for both human relationships and my leadership career.
It develops your instincts on some level. I grew up in the city, I was a kid from Queens, which is a little suburb of Manhattan. I had to learn pretty early on to be able to assess the danger in a situation fairly quickly. You walk on the wrong block. You give somebody the wrong look. It could be any number of things that could trigger a threat. You grew up in Sydney and got rid of the accent a while ago because you now live on the East Coast of the United States.The problems are pretty much the same. If you can see the patterns and recognize them and bring forward solutions, you can make a big difference. Click To Tweet
I know, I sound like a true Bostonian. Unfortunately, Australian isn’t too far from it. We drop our Rs as well. Not too far off.
I want to maybe get a little bit of history for people before we dive into the current body of work. Where was your first pivotal change? You came out of school a little green with a lot of knowledge and information as you said but not quite worldly at that point. You took these two years and you did develop emotional intelligence, your instincts around people and the like. Where did that lead you to at that point?
At that point, I realize that even though I was having a lot of fun doing what I was doing, my brain was turning to porridge. I had to think about what I was going to do with my life because I knew what I was doing was dead-end. Funny enough, I got into the burgeoning field of Computer Science and I became a software developer. This was in the days long before coding and tech were cool.
This is when it was still a geeky thing. I got into that. I was very good at Math and the logic of programming which I used to enjoy. I went to one of the big banks because in those days the employers with the very big banks and companies like American Express and so forth had large mainframe systems that required heavy processing. I was one of those programmers back in the mid-’80s.
From there, I got into consulting work. I learned to move between a lot of different organizations through this consulting work. It’s because my superpower is being able to see patterns and how it affects different circumstances, I very quickly worked out that the problems were common between these different organizations I was working for. They were the same everywhere, even though everyone says, “We’re different.” No one’s different. The problems are pretty much the same.
If you can see the patterns and recognize them and bring forward solutions to that necessarily, the solutions that are inherent or systemic in that industry, you can make a big difference. I enjoyed that work. I was working as a Project Manager mainly in the software industry and it wasn’t until many years ago in the early 2000s that I got serious about having a career. I was bouncing around doing interesting work but no real career path.
To some degree and you and I talked about this briefly, among the people that have leaned into your work are mid-career folks. That’s a big audience these days, people in transition, maybe we can determine a little bit about what it is that hits a person at a certain point in their career. I had a similar transition out of eighteen years in the practice of law and then complete pivot and change in my direction. I didn’t feel terribly empowered at that point in time. I was a little embarrassed if I’m being honest about it. I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t know what the next part of the journey might look like for me.
I’ll never forget at a family gathering sharing what I was planning to do with somebody like my wife’s cousin and he’s a kid from New York as well. He looked at me and said, “Are you out of your mind? You’re going to give back the ticket? You have a license to make money.” He might’ve said steal money at the time but he says, “You’re going to get back the ticket. What are you thinking, man?”
That comes with the maturity of having worked and bounced around for a few years in any industry or profession because when you think about it, it’s not until you start getting a few setbacks and disappointments, aware of your work on resilience. It’s not until you start to see those things and respond to them that you know what you’re made of and you start to work out what you want. The reason we’re targeting that mid-career leader is that they’ve been in the game long enough to know that not everyone becomes a millionaire before 30. Life is harder than it looks. Leading other people is much harder than it sounds.
When you have to worry about people other than yourself, it’s not your own individual brilliance that takes you to where you want to go then you’ve got some soul searching to do. “Do I really want to do this? Do I even like what I’m doing? What everyone else tells me, which is a success is to go up that ladder, make more money in bigger roles and get the prestige, status and rewards of a large corporate career, am I prepared to do that? What am I going to sacrifice to do that?” All of these questions start to arise.
As much as anything else, the content that we put out there through our business you said in the intro and certainly through the No Bullsh!t Leadership Series is all about testing people and giving them a line in the sand to think about what they’re doing. “Do you want to be a leader? If you want to be a leader, here’s what it takes. Here are the obligations you have and what it takes to be great. If you want to do that, awesome, get into it but if you don’t, don’t kid yourself you’re a great leader because you’re not.”
It’s a good time to dive into it. What is No Bullsh!t Leadership? We don’t have to bullshit each other. Let’s go right at it.
Let’s start with what drove me in this purpose. What I see is a dearth of strong, capable leadership. I don’t know how long ago it started happening but it’s evolved over many years where the role and function of leadership have been almost completely disconnected from the need to get results. It’s become about virtue signaling. Great leaders are humble, transparent, fallible, have integrity and all of which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. In fact some of these attributes are essential in a great leader but there’s no instruction book.
It’s about aspiring to these noble virtues. We listen, absorb the content, identify with it and we become motivated and inspired and then we do absolutely nothing. Leadership was not improving patently. I saw this disconnect between leadership thinking, leadership education and leadership content and the results that weren’t being achieved.
This is a reconnection of saying, “If you want to be a leader, let’s face one fact. The number one job you have is to deliver value for all your stakeholders. I’m not talking about the narrow financial value sense. You can create value from great environmental products that are up to your sustainability index. You can create value through having better competitors and customer intelligence.
You can create a safer environment for employees. It’s a whole range of ways to create value but you need to know what are these and you need to go after them. A lot of organizations have fallen into the trap of activity for their own sake. “We do what we did last year and the year before.” It’s the rusted-on activity of the business that we go through the motions on. The opportunity for value capture is almost completely lost.
I’m going to skip to something that it’s implied by what you’re saying but I want to dig into it a bit more. What blind spots do you think leaders have now? Are they different? Would you say that the blind spot that a typical leader has is similar to the blind spot they had many years ago?
I don’t think the blind spot has changed because I don’t think our fundamental nature has changed. This is the core thing about leadership. We convince ourselves that we’re good leaders in our heads because we look at our intent. We don’t look at our actions, choices and behaviors. Internally, I’m saying, “I’m trying to do the right thing. Therefore, I’m a good leader. I’m aspiring to be humble and transparent or whatever the case may be but the experience of the people around me and the people in my team that I’m leading is sometimes wildly different from that.”Life is harder than it looks and leading other people is much harder than it sounds. Click To Tweet
We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and we have the human power of rationalization and that can blind us to so many things. Let’s talk quickly about resilience as an example here because a lot of people think they’re good under pressure but how many are? When I say good under pressure, I don’t mean they’ve mastered game face and they can put their game face on so they don’t collapse in front of their teams. I’m talking about that deep, consistent, grace under pressure that you’d be aware of the complete consistency between what you say, think, how you feel and what’s in your heart.
You look at a guy like Tom Brady there, he runs out for his first offensive set in the Super Bowl last 2021, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I reckon his pulse rate wasn’t above 55. That guy went out there. He could have been playing a pickup game in his backyard with his son. He was so relaxed and in control and in command of that situation.
That’s grace under pressure because you don’t get overwrought, hassled or thrown off by the circumstances that you find yourself in. Now, having said that a lot of people feel as though they’re very resilient but they’re not. We can observe that. It’s like the Dunning-Kruger effect, unskilled and unaware of it. If you do a survey of people about their driving skills, how do you rate yourself as a driver?
Everybody thinks they’re a great driver like everybody thinks they have a sense of humor.
They’ve done these surveys. Allstate did a survey a number of years ago on drivers for their own self-perceptions. Almost 2/3 of drivers rated themselves as being either excellent or very good, yet when they were asked that same question about their peer group, “What do you think your friends and family like as drivers?” that dropped to under 30%, that thought their peer group was good or excellent drivers. It’s the, “I’m okay, you’re not okay,” concept, that we have. This drives a lot of the thinking in all people but it’s most obvious in leaders. This is a long and roundabout way to get back to your question about blind spots and say, “Rationalization and self-deception is the blind spot of the leader.”
I wrote down my answer to that question and it was three letters. It was EGO. We all have egos, we need them and they’re important to us. Leaders have to have them and anyone that has the audacity to say, “Listen to me, look at me, follow me. I have the plan and all that,” requires an element of confidence, esteem and ego. The things that you’re describing for me when it comes to that blind spot have to do with this lack of humility. I want to only use that as a way to leg into The Great Resignation.
I want to come back to resilience, in a moment but to widen the lens a bit, we’re talking about corporate resilience in a variety of ways. Not because of the supply chain issues, COVID, tech disruptions and every other imaginable thing that are colliding at the same time. The greater existential threat that is presented by people, workers, leaders themselves deciding, “I’m out of here.” Garry Ridge is the CEO of WD-40 was on the show. He calls it The Great Escape.
I want to talk about the fact that people are leaving. We can connect they’re leaving to the quality of the leadership within those organizations and it’s not one. We’re not talking about a single bad apple or one bad company. We’re not pointing to WorldCom, Anderson or whoever and saying, “This is the reason why.” This is collective across the board, this map or this Exodus. I’d like to get your take on that. Specifically whether ego in the highest levels of leadership now, do you see that as an issue? What is leadership at those levels is the issue that’s creating this Exodus?
Ego plays a very big part in that. That’s a very succinct description of what I took to tell you about so that’s cool. When it comes to The Great Resignation, there’s a bit more going on. There’s the disruption of the personal changes that came through with the pandemic. The hybrid working and working from home, has changed people’s perception of what’s possible in terms of their life management.
I hate the expression work-life balance. There’s life and you deal with it. You prioritize different things at different times. You make your choices but you’ve got a bunch of competing demands on you as we all have at any given point in time. People haven’t experienced that. That’s given them some window into how their lives might be different.
If the resignation comes as a result of a complete change of heart, “I don’t want to do this type of work in this type of company anymore. I want to do something completely different.” Go off and do your own thing, whatever that happens to be. If it’s a case of, “The grass might be greener on the other side,” there are going to be a hell of a lot of disappointed people by the end of 2022.
As you said, this is widespread. If people are expecting that they can leave a company that has poor leadership, a bad boss or too many constraints around how they do their work to make them happy or satisfy them then they’ll find that they could be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire or they could at least be getting a similar representation in a different industry or a company.
I don’t think the alternatives of doing another job of the same type in a different company are going to pan out that well. As I said, you jump and you want to do a sea or a tree change or a complete life change. Sensational, good luck to you and I hope that works. When we look at the employment, we’ll see this over time, if it’s shifting from employment by large organizations through to more entrepreneurial ventures, I don’t know but I don’t see the percentage numbers changing about how many of those entrepreneurial ventures or startups are going to be successful.
There’s a percentage of businesses that are going to thrive, grow, bump along the bottom and survive and plenty of them going to go out of business. Like anything else, the markets haven’t changed substantially. The markets are still going to be very similar despite the supply chain disruptions that we’ve seen. A lot of people are going to come back with the tails between their legs within several months.
I want to go back to the moment that I asked you that first question. You brought us to this two-year period between the end of your formal education and then moving on with your career and your life as a point where you are learning about people and life, you were a bit green and this was a part of your maturation. I’m talking about companies these days that are new in the marketplace, startup tech and others. I’m going to use a company, which was in the headlines, the Better.com.
You know where I’m going with this. Are leaders green? Do you see that part of the issue here is that you think about a company that has an idea and incubate something gets massive amounts of funding and then all of a sudden within months or a few years, they’re being valued at numbers that start with a B? You’ve got leaders who’ve never led a Boy Scout troop before but now they’re leading hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people. Do you think that’s an issue?
It’s a massive issue. The transition from being an individual contributor to being even a frontline leader is a big transition. I talk in my book about the transitions between the different layers of leadership and what you need to do to prepare yourself at any given level. It’s the speed of this growth in these companies where the founder could be a tech-head with an awesome idea and a bunch of smarts and talent and they go and get some funding and before they know it, they’re leading large groups of people.
Their preparedness for that and the tools that they have to equip themselves with that are virtually nonexistent. We’ve seen a number of these founders, who’ve grown big businesses and we’re talking things like Uber and so forth, that have fallen out because they’ve never grown themselves at the same pace, they’ve grown the business. I believe there is a real need to grow yourself as a leader to handle the demands of leading that many people.If you want to be leaders, the number one job you have is to deliver value for all your stakeholders. Click To Tweet
Do you feel that your book also bridges that gap a bit as well? Would it help a young or green leader to develop a bit more of the insight, awareness or a sense of what their blind spot might be? It’s easy to say ego because it conveys a lot of things, but we know it’s the smallest of things within that frame of reference that we’re talking about.
How do you see compassion? What’s the place for compassion? Is there a place for compassion in your leadership? How it is that you give and receive feedback? Who holds you accountable? It’s a nuanced conversation. Does your book meet or bridge some of that gap for leaders?
I don’t think I’ve got a simple answer to that. The obvious answer would be to say, “Buy this book. It’s the best thing that’s ever written,” but that’s not the way it works. What I’ve done is to provide a framework that is a very practical hands-on implementable set of tools that say, as a leader at any level, if you do these things this way and you adapt them for your own style because we all have a unique leadership fingerprint, you will become a better leader. Anyone can become a better leader. Some people find it easier than others and have a more natural aptitude but you can pick this up and go start to finish across this book and you can make a difference to how you lead and the people you lead.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that people have left the workplace because of too much bullshit in the workplace. Working for a jerk or they feel like that the jerk somehow can succeed in this environment but a good, nice, kind person or team player is less likely to succeed, whatever those stories amount to. I’m going to put that all in the, “This is bullshit. I’m out of here.” I want to understand or I want the people reading this to understand, what does No Bullshit Leadership look like?
No Bullshit Leadership is doing the things that make a difference. It’s about habits and disciplines and doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done because it’s right. It’s about overcoming your fear of not being liked. It’s about focusing on things that are potentially going to make you unpopular. It’s about not following the path of least resistance but doing what’s in the best interest of the organization first then the team then you as the individual leader.
It’s about subordinating yourself to higher-order objectives. It’s about developing the habits and doing the things repeatedly that go against your very nature as a human being. It’s so ingrained in us to seek affiliation and approval. It’s part of who we are and in our DNA. When you look at our fight or flight responses, that we’re all programmed with, being able to overcome those to be calm, rational and level, to be a leader who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done with strength but also with empathy, that’s the key to it.
The No Bullsh!t Leader doesn’t make excuses about why they’re not doing things. The older I’ve got in my corporate career, every excuse that ever came across my desk started to sound like, “The dog ate my homework.” It didn’t matter what was coming out of their mouth. What was going through my head was, “The dog ate your homework. I’m with you.”
It’s about not compromising. It’s about taking accountability for what you do. Fortunately, one of the things about my very early upbringing was that was instilled in me very deeply. That wasn’t a huge leap for me to make but the seven pillars of the framework I have in No Bullsh!t Leadership was all about doing the things or taking the actions that make a difference to the people around you and a difference in the organization that’s paying your way.
I want to go back to resilience because everybody makes mistakes. When you were saying at the very beginning that one of the issues that you see in leadership now is that people are more interested in virtue signaling than they are in genuine leading. Having been a leader for a number of years, CEO and in other roles that impacted people directly, I find that my biggest mistakes were sometimes not owning my biggest mistakes and owning them more quickly, being more transparent about the mistakes. At the time, I thought I was being transparent and in hindsight, not so much. We’re not as much as we could have been.
Humility is a big component of what successful leadership looks like and that is sometimes saying, “We’ve done it, not gotten it right but we’re going to get it right and here’s how we’re going to get it right,” and all that thing. The mark of a resilient leader is one that grows from everything. Everything is net growth and positive.
Even the worst of things, the things you would never in a million years invite into your life or into your workplace or what have you. There are still opportunities for growth. I want to understand how you have been resilient and how you define it. If it’s similar or not, I’m open to learning from your example as well. Everybody has a different definition so I want to get yours.
Let me start with how I define resilience. For me, it’s that ability to handle whatever life throws at you in any context and to do it calmly without panic and with grace. The more you can acquire this state of grace under pressure and one of the key realizations for me over the years was that there are very few things that are fatal. Almost everything turns out okay in the end. Knowing deep down in my heart of hearts that whatever we’re going through now, “That’s okay. In a month, this is going to look like a blip on the radar. I won’t remember this in a month. Let alone worry about it.”
For me, the ability to preemptively do that perspective assessment is important. I can stand in the face of an absolute crisis when it’s going on and go, “We know that in a month’s time, this is not going to be an issue for us. There’s going to be no material impact on our financial situation. There’ll be no reputational damage. I’ve got a team of incredibly smart and capable people here. I trust you to sort this out.” When those words would come out of my mouth, people looked in my eyes and they knew I meant it.
They knew that I genuinely was relaxed because I trusted them because I had spent a lot of time selecting, grooming, mentoring, trusting, pushing and stretching these guys who worked for me that I had confidence. I knew what their limits were. I knew what the extent of their capabilities was and I knew that they would solve their problem. I have to lose one minute of sleep over it. That knowledge of the fact that everything is going to be because I’ve done the work already, gives you an incredible amount of confidence and for me building an enormous amount of resilience.
The future will always teach us something if we ask the future for wisdom. The wisdom is always that, as you said, the present is going to be a blessing in some way. The present will provide an opportunity for growth and we will be better even if it doesn’t feel that way at the moment. Many people now in particular are struggling with the ever-present uncertainty. Our book, Change Proof, is a book about how you work with, leverage and embrace uncertainty as a powerful tool but you have to see what’s happening in a certain way without judgment so that it can be accepted.
Not that you give up working on making changes to things that are happening but that you’re not operating from a place of fear of those things. I think so often it is that we operate from that place of fear about it becoming an annihilation. It’ll wipe us out that we miss the wisdom that the future would share with us. I want to find out, how has it been that you have dealt with change? Do you have a process for working with change?
From my perspective, I’m extremely change-tolerant. In fact, I welcome change. I love being in a state of constant challenge. I love the excitement and opportunity that change brings. When we see a very uncertain, ambiguous and complex environment, I look at that and I go, “That is laden with opportunity.” It doesn’t occur to me to be afraid of it. The reason for that is because, over many years, I’ve had the opportunity to push those barriers a little bit at a time in a safe way where I go, “That worked out all right.”
A few months ago, I was afraid about what might happen in this outcome. I was uncertain. I was nervous and anxious about it and it all worked out okay. If you can do that enough times, as I said, you get this sense of it’s all going to be fine. Without wanting to be fatalistic stuff, they say that everything happens for reason, I’ve developed this belief too that whatever happens by definition is the right thing because it happened.Rationalization and self-deception are the blind spots of the leader. Click To Tweet
This is a weird head spinner in a way but I remember a deal when I was in corporate life years ago, we spent a number of years working on this massive acquisition transaction. At the eleventh hour, it fell over. The team I was leading was distraught that this deal had fallen over and that we weren’t going to be able to do the deal. I smiled and said, “We’ve dodged a bullet.” They said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “If the deal was rightful, it would’ve consummated. It would have gone ahead. The fact that it didn’t go ahead means by definition that it wasn’t the right deal for us. There was something in there that we hadn’t seen yet or some circumstance that hadn’t cropped up that would’ve cropped up further down the track that would have hurt us and that’s why it didn’t happen.” That belief that whatever happened was the right thing is weirdly comforting.
It’s powerful to adopt the philosophy and it is in many ways a mindset. It’s a philosophy that everything that’s happening is required and therefore you can be comfortable. Comfort, not in the sense of not acting, being paralyzed or something but being calm, being easeful and being on grace instead of being on guard, which is an energetic shift. How do you exist in ambiguity? How do you be comfortable with ambiguity? If you’re going to interview somebody for almost any position but certainly one of high leadership that might be the first question, I’d ask them. “How comfortable are you with ambiguity?” That’s the world we’re living in.
One of my seven pillars of leadership is mastering ambiguity. The higher up you go, the less certainty there is. I’ve said for a number of years, that the older I get, the less certain I am about practically everything. Many years ago, you’d ask me a question. I go, “Here’s the answer,” and I’m convinced about it and I know it but these days, I get to see all of these nuances and shades of gray. I go, “I believe this but then there’s this thing over here and I can see their perspective. I can understand why people think like that. I might be missing something over here.”
All of a sudden, I’ve become grossly indecisive. You don’t need it to mess with your decisiveness but still recognizing how much greater is in the world and always maintaining curiosity, the ability to question everything and to question your most fundamental beliefs, which is where I’ve managed to get myself to. Funny enough, I feel much better as a person in not having stringent views about anything and not being strident in my beliefs but by always looking at the possibility that something else might be true.
I went and announced he’s leaving. The reason which I thought was very much what you’re talking about is he’s stating an inability to listen or has stopped accepting other people’s ideas as possible. Meaning that he stopped acknowledging that he might not have the answer or that he might not be the most knowledgeable person in the room about something.
To have the self-awareness to recognize, “I’m not listening anymore, I’m not listening the way I used to listen,” is quite a remarkable example of what self-leadership, self-awareness and emotional intelligence look like. I agree so wholeheartedly that the longer you live sometimes the less definite you are about things and less certain you are. I don’t feel indecisive as a result of it. I feel like there’s more humility and a greater willingness to listen. That’s a skill I’m still working on.
Listening is a skill we’ll all challenge ourselves with forever until the day we die because we’re driven to absorb, affirm and reprocess what comes into our sphere of vision. We’re doing that process all the time, it’s very difficult to listen to someone completely and intently in every single way, not just the words but to watch every single nuance in the facial expression and so forth and to not be doing your own processing to incorporate that and integrate it with your own belief system at the same time. That takes incredible discipline. It’s incredibly difficult to do and like you, it’s a journey for me. I could be a much better listener than I am. There’s no doubt about it.
This is why in my view, we lose a huge amount with virtual communication and not having this face-to-face stuff. As a senior leader, I used to rely on being able to see the smallest changes in facial expression when I was having serious conversations with the people who worked for me to be able to say, “That looks like that hit a raw nerve for you. Can you tell me what’s going on for you? You seem proud of that achievement. Tell me about it.” To be able to say those little nuances in body language and facial expression are incredibly valuable in the communication quality that we have.
I agree. Nonverbal communication is a big deal and there are so many things that are being lost as well as gained. It’s a mixed bag when it comes to the remote work or hybrid work environment. It’s a broad question but I’ll ask you anyway. How do you answer the question what is the future of work?
Work itself will change naturally through technology and it’s been changing since the industrial revolution quite rapidly. The acceleration in the last several years has been unbelievable in terms of what’s now possible. In my iPhone now, I have more processing power and storage capacity than I had on the mainframes I used to program in the mid-’80s for a bank. That in itself is mind-blowing and I don’t think that’s going to stop anytime soon.
When we talk about artificial intelligence, the process of automation has caused a lot of change in the types of jobs that we do and how we do them. That’s only going to continue and potentially accelerate. I’m no futurist but I do hear quotes like, “Two-thirds of the jobs that will be available in the next several years haven’t even been invented yet,” and things like that. I shake my head at that and I go, “But the human capacity thinking for abstract reasoning and processing isn’t changing as fast as the technology enablers.”
Are we going to see left behind underclass of people who are outstripped by the need for them to do the sorts of jobs they’re doing now? I hope that’s not the case and historically we have seen that people have been able to retrain and re-equip themselves for different types of roles. This is one of those places where there’s going to be a massive opportunity and also massive disruption. There’s going to be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth between now and when we see this play itself out.
There’ll be an even greater need for collaboration but we’re going to collaborate differently. Maybe it is in that greater collaboration that this retraining or retooling large groups of people that maybe haven’t had the training thus far would enable them to succeed in the world that is ahead of us. That’s where that shows up.
Public education has failed in so many ways. Not because teachers are doing a poor job. My wife was a teacher for 17 years and my mother-in-law for 35. Most private and public-school teachers are doing a phenomenal job with what they’ve got. The training of teachers as well as the curriculum has not changed nearly with the times. I have enjoyed this conversation. I’m going to make the assumption that as a follow-on to the book, there are other resources for people as well. Is that true?
Absolutely. For anyone who wants more of what you’ve read, the No Bullsh!t Leadership Podcast is probably the way to go because whatever your favorite podcast player is, short sharp episodes 15, 20 minutes max, how to do the practical things that make a difference as a leader. We don’t worry about the virtues. We talk about what you need to do differently to make a difference to the people you lead. That’s it.
My last question for you for the moment is to share a ritual. Our book, Change Proof, has a lot to do with ritualizing resilience and how we do that moment-to-moment in our lives. My life is very much a product of rituals. I’m guessing yours is not a lot different in that respect. What’s something that you have ritualized and/or habitualized to create greater resilience for yourself?
What I got into the habit of a long time ago, was finding a way to keep myself honest and to hold myself to account for the things I did as a leader. In my early days as a leader, I was as bad as any of you could have been any worse than most but I did have enough self-awareness to realize I was bad at it. I held myself to account for doing those things on a daily basis that I knew needed to be done. I’ve always been fortunate enough to live within a relatively close commute from where I’ve worked. Driving home 20 or 30 minutes, I’d sit in my car and I would reflect on my day. The key question was, “What did I avoid today that I know I should have done that?” Everything else flowed from that.Resilience is the ability to handle whatever life throws at you, in any context, and to do it calmly without panic, and with grace. Click To Tweet
The willingness to ask me that question every day and hold myself to account and say, “I avoided that conversation. Why did I avoid it? What was at stake for me? What were the things that forced me to get myself busy with other stuff that is completely justifiable but I know I used as tools to avoid what I needed to be doing? When’s the next opportunity I have to do it? Who’s suffered because I didn’t do it?” All of those questions enabled me to keep myself honest and to grow as a leader.
It resonates with me. To me, questions are so powerful. In fact, the three-part process to our Change Proof Model is about the pause, ask and choose. The ask part, in so many ways, is the most powerful. I don’t think we ask enough questions. We’ve been trained from the time going back to early childhood or school days. If I didn’t have the right answer, I was made fun of. If you ask me a question, you “should know the answer” to a silly or intelligent question, whatever it might be. You are quickly shown how hazardous that was.
We just stopped asking those questions. Many of us have been trained out of questioning and asking deep incisive questions. That question is what I’m going to remember. That’s a question I’m going to share with other folks and give you credit, “What do I avoid now? Why did I do that?” That’s a powerful inquiry right there. I thank you for that.
It’s a pleasure. Do that for enough years, it will shape the way you are.
I’m committed to being a no-bullshit leader.
Thank you so much for having me on. I enjoyed it.
If you love this episode, please feel free. In fact, we’d invite you to share it with a friend, subscribe, and let us know your thoughts. Your comments are valuable and I am the one that answers those in case you wanted to know.
I so love my conversation with Martin Moore. I hope you did as well. Anybody that writes a book called No Bullsh!t Leadership is definitely somebody I’m interested in chatting with. This conversation was not predictable, and it was enjoyable on so many levels. One of the things that I loved was the question that he asks himself.
My final question to him was, “What’s one thing that you do to build your resilience each day? What’s one ritual or habit that you have to build your resilience each day?” He said that he sits in his car for 30 minutes before he reenters the house. He goes out to work and then comes back and sits in his car to consider how the day went some things that he might even want to learn from and he asks himself a specific question.
That question is, “What did I avoid today and why did I do that? Why did I choose to avoid that thing whatever that might’ve been?” It could have been a difficult conversation that was supposed to be had. It might’ve been other communication and email or something to be written, some other action that he wanted to take or that was to be taken but he avoided it.
This is one of these powerful questions that in many ways can reveal our blind spots. He and I, during the conversation we did talk about, “What is the single biggest blind spot for leaders now and even several years ago is it the same or different?” I loved our discussion of that and how a leader’s ego in many ways is that blind spot. That humility in many respects is the solution to that.
Humility without losing confidence in one’s ability to lead, make decisions, be decisive and yet, humility is this superpower when it comes to dismantling at least at the moment, the ego and the ego’s desire to be right and get exactly what it wants at the moment, etc. This question is very much a question that plays the string of humility. It’s the theme of humility. That’s resonant in this question. “What did I avoid today?” That word avoid is an indictment. It says something about our intention. Not, “What didn’t I do today?” but, “What did I avoid today? What did I avoid doing, saying and why?” The inquiry is twofold. It’s a what and it’s why.
I love the conversation that we had about the future of work. I thought that Martin’s answer to that question also was quite incisive in talking about how important it is that as leaders, we are able to embrace the unknown and ambiguity. The world is so uncertain. There is so much massive uncertainty that’s creating anxiety in people’s lives that we have to be able to develop our own process to be okay with that. Not just to tolerate it but to utilize and leverage it.
That’s what this new book of ours, Change Proof, is all about. How is it we are leveraging the power of uncertainty to build our long-term resilience and growth? In so many ways, it is developing a comfortability with ambiguity. Our capacity to accept change without judging it as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair are made-up concepts that we have come up with. Inherently, nothing is good or bad, right or wrong or true or false, it just is.
If we’re able to see the lack of certainty as something that isn’t necessarily harmful to us, it gives us access to greater resources and the opportunity to seize the creative opportunity in that uncertainty or that ambiguity. I loved having Martin on the show. I’m looking forward to many more guests talking about what it means to be change-proof and be resilient in a world of great uncertainty and adversity even.
We’d love to get your comments. If you’ve got guests that you suggest that we invite onto the show, we’d love to hear from you. If you have comments, suggestions, feedback, it’s all welcome. We love you for doing it. Please, if you have questions for us, let us know. If you’d like to share what you’ve experienced here, our content or this particular show with other people, please do that. That’s our invitation and even our request. I’ll say ciao for now. We’ll see you on the next episode of Change Proof.
- No Bullsh!t Leadership
- Martin Moore
- Change Proof
- No Bullsh!t Leadership
- Garry Ridge – Past Episode
About Martin Moore
After dropping out of university, I went into software development, eventually becoming a successful and sought after project director. Living for several years in Canberra (Australia’s capital) during my early career, I raised two beautiful daughters, Emma (my business partner in Your CEO Mentor), and Olivia.
This was a carefree time, where my career bumbled along while I focused on family and health. I was in peak physical condition, and my marathon running exploits provided me with a fun story for the book!
In 2001, I decided to get more serious about my career, so I moved to Brisbane to take up my first C-Level appointment as Chief Information Officer for an ASX Top 50 mining company. The move coincided with a number of key events: separation from my first wife and the commencement of study for my postgraduate MBA.