What does No Bullsh!t Leadership look like in a business? Why is this leadership concept a fail-proof tool, and how can it ensure your company’s success? To unravel the mystical curtains behind this leadership concept is a leadership performance expert, author, and podcaster, Martin G. Moore. From sorting his principles on leadership, defining resilience in the modern workplace, and sharing his insights on the future of work, Martin brings so much value in this episode. So, let’s unwrap Martin’s secret to practice resilience and keep growing. Don’t miss this insightful conversation because one thing I can assure you: There’s no bullsh!t here!
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.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
No Bullsh!t Leadership: Your Fail-Proof Tool To Ensure Your Lasting Success With Martin Moore – Replay
In this episode, we have a replay episode of my conversation with Martin G. Moore. Martin is a leadership performance expert, author, and podcaster. His book, No Bullsh!t Leadership, is a Wall Street Journal bestseller. His podcast of the same name has achieved almost 2 million downloads with listeners in more than 100 countries. In this episode, he breaks down his take on leadership. Also, he defines resilience in the modern workplace and shares his thoughts on key buzzwords such as the Great Resignation and the future of work with AI.
Martin shares his journey from law school dropout, to working at a bar, to software development, to how working for two years in bars taught him more about emotional intelligence and instincts than almost any other thing in his life. Why do we see people making shifts in their careers even after they’ve made it? Also, the function of leadership in the present world and the main job of creating value. We discuss why our intention doesn’t always equal our results as leaders. We talk about the ego and leadership in a time of great disruption. We discuss the future of work. Sit back and enjoy this replay episode of my conversation with Martin G. Moore.
You’re going to love my guest in this episode. Martin Moore is a leadership performance expert. He is a guy who wrote the book called No Bullsh!t Leadership. I am not kidding you when I say it. 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 2 million downloads in 100 companies. Martin Moore is up next on the show.
Martin, I’m going to ask you something. You are a seasoned business leader and an author. We’re going to talk a lot about your new book. 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. 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 their worst. The two years that I didn’t study were probably one of the best educational segments of my adult life.
I feel like I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t follow the thread on that one.
No. We’re going to dig into the value a little bit. I spent a semester in York England and studying while I was at the University of Massachusetts. I got to ten bars there, which was a pretty unusual thing to have a yank behind bars. I was a novelty at first and they wanted somebody that could be a punching bag for the rugby guys. I managed to dig myself under the skin there a bit and became quite tight with not just the innkeepers but the other folks who were regulars as well. I loved it. 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, and how it translates either to the work you do or the things that you speak about in this brand new book, which I have right here. It is an awesome book called No Bullsh!t Leadership. Martin, 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 and it happened to be a full boarding school. When I came out of that, I was incredibly advanced intellectually and academically, and incredibly stunted socially. I was like a 13-year-old in an 18-year-old’s 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, weren’t polite, and that 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. What that taught me was, 1) I was shocked into thinking, “Hang on. Not everyone’s like me or the people that I’ve been growing up with.”
2) 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 or angry? Are they going to be a problem? To be able to read that in people by the way they walk, their body language, and the expression on their faces was incredibly important in developing my emotional intelligence and my ability to see people for how they were feeling as opposed to look at it and look through them. That was an incredibly important part of my growth in both human relationships and my leadership career.
It develops your instincts on some level. I grew up in this city. I was a kid from Queens. I don’t know if you know Queens but it’s a little suburb of Manhattan. I had to learn pretty early on to be able to assess the danger in the situation fairly quickly. You walk on the wrong block or 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 live on the East Coast of the United States.
I sound like a true Bostonian, don’t I?
You do. 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 but not quite worldly at that point. You took these two years and did develop emotional intelligence and your instincts around people and the like. Where did that lead you to at that point?
At that point, I realized 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. Funnily 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. The logic of programming, I used to enjoy. I went to work for one of the big banks because, in those days, the employers were the very big banks and companies like American Express and so forth that had very 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. My superpower is being able to see patterns and how patterns affect different circumstances so 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 are different, no one’s different. The problems are pretty much the same.
If you can see the patterns, recognize them, and bring forward solutions that aren’t 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. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that I got serious about having a career. I was bouncing around doing interesting work but no real career path.If you can see and recognize the patterns and bring forward solutions to the problem, you can make a big difference. Click To Tweet
To some degree, among the people who have leaned into your work are mid-career folks or professionals. That’s a big audience, people in transition. Maybe we can determine a little bit about what hits a person at a certain point in their career. I had a similar transition out of eighteen years in the practice of law. It was a 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. He looked at me and he’s a kid from New York as well. He 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, frankly, at the time. He says, “Are you going to get back the ticket? What are you thinking?”
That comes with the maturity of having worked and bounced around for a few years in any industry or profession. When you think about it, it’s not until you start getting a few setbacks and disappointments. Being 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 because 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 just your brilliance that takes you to where you want to go. You’ve got some soul-searching to do. “Do I want to do this? Do I even like what I’m doing? What everyone else tells me is 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 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 here’s what it takes to be great. If you want to do that, awesome, get into it. 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-nonsense leadership? We don’t have to BS each other. Let’s go right at it.
No, we certainly don’t have to. Let’s start with what drove me in this purpose. What I see is a dearth of strong and capable leadership. I don’t know how long ago it started happening but it’s evolved over the last few years where the role and function of leadership has been almost disconnected from the need to get results. It’s become about virtue signaling. Great leaders are humble, transparent, fallible, and have integrity.
All of which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. 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, become motivated and inspired, and then do nothing. Leadership was not improving patently. I saw this disconnect between leadership thinking, leadership education, leadership content, and the results that weren’t being achieved.
This is a reconnection of saying, “If you want to be leaders, let’s face one fact. The number one job you have is to deliver value for all your stakeholders.” I’m not just talking about the narrow financial value sense. You can create value from great environmental products that up your sustainability index. You can create value through having better competitors and customer intelligence. You can create a safer environment for your employees.
There’s a whole range of ways to create value but you need to know what it is and go after it. A lot of organizations have fallen into the trap of activity for its sake. We do what we did in 2021 and 2022. It’s the rusted-on activity of the business that we go through the motions on. The opportunity for value capture is almost lost.
I’m going to skip to something that is implied by what you’re saying but I want to dig into it a bit more. What blind spots do you think leaders have? Are they different? Would you say that the blind spot that a typical leader has now 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 are 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 aspire to be humble and transparent.”
The experience of the people around me and the people in my team that I’m leading is sometimes wildly different from that. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We have the human power of rationalization. That can blind us to so many things. Let’s talk quickly about resilience as an example. A lot of people think they’re good under pressure but how many really 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. It’s the complete consistency between what you say, what you think, how you feel, and what’s in your heart. I hate to bring up the New England Patriots at this time of the interview but look at a guy like Tom Brady. He runs out for his first offensive set in the Super Bowl in 2022 playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I reckon his pulse rate wasn’t above 55. He went out there and could’ve been playing a pickup game in his backyard with his son. He was so relaxed, in control, and in command of that situation.
That’s grace under pressure because you don’t get overruled, hassled, or thrown off by the circumstances that you find yourself in. 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 anything. It’s done in 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.
Allstate did a survey a number of years ago on drivers for their 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 are 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 are 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. Rationalization and self-deception are the blind spots 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. Anyone who 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 for sure.
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 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 just because of the disruption, supply chain issues, COVID, tech disruptions, and every other imaginable thing that’s colliding at the same time.
It’s the greater existential threat that is presented by people, workers, and leaders themselves deciding, “I’m out of here.” Garry Ridge who’s the CEO of WD-40 was on the show. He calls it the Great Escape. The Great Resignation, he’s referring to as the Great Escape. I want to talk about the fact that people we can connect with are leaving due to the quality of the leadership within those organizations.
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 exodus is collective across the board. I’d like to get your take on that. Specifically, whether ego is in the highest levels of leadership, do you see that as an issue? With leadership at those levels, what is the issue that’s creating this exodus?
Ego certainly plays a very big part in that. That’s a very succinct description of what I took a number of minutes 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. 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 just 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 like 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 like, “I don’t want to do this type of work in this type of company anymore. I want to do something different,” awesome. Go off and do your thing, whatever that happens to be. If it’s a case of, “I think 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.
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. They could at least be getting a similar representation in a different industry or company.
I don’t think the alternative of doing another job of the same type in a different company is going to pan out that well. You jump and want to do a sea change, a tree change, or a complete life change. It’s 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 to more entrepreneurial ventures, I don’t know but I don’t see the percentage numbers changing about how many of those entrepreneurial ventures as startups are going to be successful.
There’s a percentage there of businesses that are going to thrive, grow, and bump along the bottom and survive. Plenty of them are 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 their tails between their legs within twelve months.
I want to go back to the moment that I asked you that first question and 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. It was at a point where you were learning about people and life, you were a bit green, and this was a part of your maturation. I’m talking about companies that are new in the marketplace like startup tech and others. I’m going to use a company that was in the headlines, the Better.com group. 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 incubates something, gets funding and I mean 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 any Boy Scout troop before but now leading hundreds and thousands of people. Is that an issue, do you see?
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. They go and get some funding. Before they know it, they’re leading large groups of people as you say. Their preparedness for that and the tools that they have to equip themselves for that are virtually non-existent.
We’ve seen a number of these founders who’ve grown big businesses. We’re talking about 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.There is a need to grow yourself as a leader to handle the demands of leading that many people. Click To Tweet
Do you feel that your book also bridges that gap a bit as well? Would it help a young leader or a 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? There are so many nuanced conversations. 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, “Of course. Go buy this book. It’s the best thing it’s ever written.” However, that’s not the way it works. What I’ve done is provide a framework that is a very practical, hands-on, and implementable set of tools that say, “As a leader at any level, if you do these things this way,” and you adapt them to your style because we all have a unique leadership fingerprint, “If you adapt these tools to your style, you will become a better leader. Anyone can become a better leader. Some people find it easier than others and have more natural aptitude. You can pick this up and go start to finish across this book. 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 BS in the workplace. They’re working for a jerk or they feel like the jerk somehow can succeed in this environment but a good person, a nice person, a kind person, or a team player is less likely to succeed. Whatever those stories amount to, I’m going to put that all in, “This is BS. I’m out of here.” I want to understand or the people reading this to understand what no-BS leadership looks like.
No-BS 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 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, the team, and then you as the individual leader. It’s about subordinating yourself to higher-order objectives. It’s also about developing 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. It’s in our DNA.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. Click To Tweet
When you look at fight or flight responses that we’re all programmed with, being able to overcome those to be calm, rational, and level and 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-BS leader doesn’t make excuses about why they’re not doing things. The older I 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. All that 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. The seven pillars of the framework I have in no-BS leadership are all about doing the things and taking the actions that make a difference to the people around you and a difference to the organization that’s paying your way.
I want to go back to resilience for a moment. Everybody makes mistakes. I’m going to try to connect these things and let me know if I’m off base here. You were saying at the very beginning that one of the issues that you see in leadership is that people are more interested in virtue signaling than they are in genuine leading.
In my role, having been a leader for a number of years, CEO, and other roles that impacted people directly, I find that my biggest mistakes were sometimes not owning my biggest mistakes and owning them more quickly, honestly, being more transparent about the mistakes. At the time, I thought I was being transparent and in hindsight, not so much as could have been.
Humility is a big component of what successful leadership looks like. That is sometimes saying, “We’ve done it. We’ve not gotten it right but we’re going to get it right. Here’s how we’re going to get it right.” To me, the mark of a resilient leader is one that grows from everything. Everything is net growth and net positive, even the worst of things.
The things that you would never, in a million years, invite into your life or workplace, are still opportunities for growth. I want to understand how you have been resilient, how you define it, and if it’s similar or not. I’m open to learning from your example as well. Everybody has a different definition. It’s funny enough so I want to get yours.
You might need to redirect me here a little bit. 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 and without panic and with grace. It’s the more you can acquire this state of grace under pressure. 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, 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 pre-emptively 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 guys to sort this out.”
When those words would come out of my mouth, people looked into my eyes and they knew I meant it. They knew that I genuinely was relaxed because I trusted them. I had spent a lot of time selecting, grooming, mentoring, trusting, pushing, and stretching these guys who worked for me. I had confidence. I knew what their limits were, what the extent of their capabilities were, and that they would solve that problem. I have to lose one minute of sleep over it. That knowledge of the fact that everything is going to be okay because I’ve done the work already gives you an incredible amount of confidence and for me, building an enormous amount of resilience.
It’s interesting because the future will always teach us something if we ask the future for wisdom. The present is going to be a blessing in some way. The present will provide an opportunity for growth and we will ultimately be better even if it doesn’t feel that way at the moment. Many people 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.
Ultimately, 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 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 becoming an annihilation that wipes us out. We miss the wisdom that the future would share with us. Before I ask this other question, I want to get to how it is that you have dealt with change. Do you have a process for working with change?
From my perspective, I’m extremely change-tolerant. 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 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. I know that a few months ago I was afraid about what might happen in this outcome. I was uncertain, nervous, and anxious about it and it all worked out okay.”
If you can do that enough times, you get this sense of, “It’s all going to be fine.” Without wanting to be fatalistic about stuff, they say that everything happens for a reason. I’ve developed this belief too that whatever happens by definition is the right thing because it happened. This is a weird head spinner in a way.
I remember a deal that we’d spent a number of years working on when I was in corporate life a number of years ago. We’d 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 been consummated and 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’ve hurt us. That’s why it didn’t happen.” That belief that whatever happened was the right thing is weirdly comforting.
It is. It’s powerful to adopt the philosophy. It is in many ways mindset. It’s a philosophy that everything that’s happening is required. Therefore, you can be comfortable. Comfort, not in the sense of not acting or being paralyzed or something but being calm, being easeful, being able to be on grace instead of being on guard, which is an interesting 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.
This is why one of my seven pillars of leadership is about 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. If years ago you’d asked me a question, I’d go, “Here’s the answer, bang.” I’m convinced about it and I know it. Now, I get to see all of these nuances and shades of green. I go, “I believe this but then there’s this thing over here. 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.One of my seven pillars of leadership is mastering ambiguity. The higher up you go, the less certainty there is. Click To Tweet
You don’t need it to mess with your decisiveness but still, recognizing how much greater there is in the world and always maintaining that curiosity, the ability to question everything and also your most fundamental beliefs, which is where I’ve managed to get myself to. Funnily enough, I feel much better as a person not have stringent views about anything and not being strident in my beliefs but by always looking at the possibility that something else might be true.
Iger announced leaving. The reason which I thought was very much what you’re talking about is his stating an inability to listen or has stopped accepting other people’s ideas as much 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 and recognize, “I’m not listening anymore. I’m not listening to the way I used to listen,” is quite a remarkable example of what self-leadership, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence look like. I agree 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 perhaps a greater willingness to listen. That’s a skill that I’m still working on frankly.
Listening is a skill we’ll all challenge ourselves with forever, hopefully, until the day we die because we are driven to absorb, affirm, and reprocess what comes into our sphere of vision. Just because we are 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. Doing your processing to incorporate that and integrate it with your belief system at the same time takes incredible discipline. It’s incredibly difficult to do. 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 because 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, “Hang on, 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 see those little nuances in body language and facial expression is incredibly valuable in the communication quality that we have.
Nonverbal communication is a big deal. There are so many things that are being lost as well as gained. It’s a mixed bag when it comes to remote work or hybrid work environments. It’s a broad question but I ask you anyway. How do you answer the question, what is the future of work?
Work itself will change naturally through technology. It’s been changing since the Industrial Revolution quite rapidly. The acceleration probably in the last several years has been unbelievable in terms of what’s possible. In my iPhone, 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. I don’t think that’s going to stop any time 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, “2/3 of the jobs that will be available in the next 10 years haven’t even been invented yet.” I shake my head at that and go, “Yeah, but the human capacity for thinking, abstract reasoning, and processing isn’t changing as fast as the technology enablers. Are we going to see a left behind underclass of people who are outstripped by the need for them to do the sorts of jobs they’re doing now?”The human capacity, thinking for abstract reasoning, and processing aren't changing as fast as the technology enablers. Click To Tweet
I hope that’s not the case. Historically, we have seen that people have been able to retrain and reequip themselves for different types of roles but this is one of those places where there’s going to be massive opportunity and massive disruption. There’s going to be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth between now and 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 in greater collaboration that this retraining or retooling of large groups of people that maybe haven’t had the kind of training thus far that 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, I want to be clear about that. 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. I just think that the training of teachers as well as the curriculum has not changed nearly with the times. It’s a different topic. I have so enjoyed this conversation, Martin. 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?
For anyone who wants more of what you’ve read, the No Bullsh!t Leadership Podcast is probably the way to go. Whatever your favorite podcast player is, it’s a short, sharp episode, 15, 20 minutes max, about 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, at least for the moment is, 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 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 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 and probably 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 for 20 minutes or 30 minutes, I’d sit in my car and reflect on my day.
The key question was, “What did I avoid that I know I should have done?” Everything else flowed from that. It’s the willingness to ask myself 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 are justifiable, that 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 suffered because I didn’t do it?” All of those questions enable me to keep myself honest and grow as a leader.
I so love your answer to that. That resonates with me. To me, questions are so powerful. The three-part process of our Change Proof model is about pausing, asking, and choosing. The ask part is, in so many ways, the most powerful. I don’t think we ask enough questions. We’ve been trained from the time going back to early childhood or early school days that if I didn’t have the right answer, I was made fun of. If you ask a question, you should know the answer to it.
If it’s a silly question or an intelligent question, whatever it might be, you were quickly shown how hazardous that was. I stopped asking those questions. Many of us have been trained out of questioning and asking deep incisive questions. This is the question that I’m going to remember, share with other folks, and give you credit. “What do I avoid today and 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 and it will shape the way you are.
I’m committed to being a no-BS leader.
Fantastic, Adam. I love it. Thank you so much for having me on. I’ve enjoyed it.
Ciao for now. If you love this episode, please feel free. We’d invite you to share it with a friend, subscribe, and let us know your thoughts. Your comments are valuable. I am the one who answers those in case you want to know.
I so love my conversation with Martin Moore. I hope you did as well. Anybody who writes a book called No Bullsh!t Leadership is somebody I’m interested in chatting with. This conversation was not predictable. It was enjoyable on so many levels. One of the things that I loved was the question that he asked 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 re-enters the house. He goes out to work and then comes back and sits in his car to consider how the day went and some things that he might even want to learn from. He asks himself a specific question, “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’ve been a difficult conversation that was supposed to be had. It might’ve been in other communication, an email or something to be written, or 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.
During the conversation, we did talk about what is the single biggest blind spot for leaders now and even many years ago. Is it the same? Is it different? I loved our discussion of that and how a leader’s ego in many ways, that blind spot, and humility in many respects is the solution to that. It is humility without losing confidence in one’s ability to lead, make decisions, and be decisive. 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.
It’s the theme of humility that’s resonant in this question, “What did I avoid today?” The word avoid is an indictment. It says something about our intention. Not, “What didn’t I do today,” but “What did I avoid today and why?” The inquiry is two-fold. It’s a what and a why. I love that. I also 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.
There’s no question that the world is so uncertain. There’s so much massive uncertainty that’s creating anxiety in people’s lives that we have to be able to develop our process to be okay with that. Not just to tolerate it but to utilize and leverage it. That’s what Change Proof, this brand new book of ours, is all about. How is it that 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 potentially 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 resilient in a world of great uncertainty and adversity. We’d love to get your comments. If you’ve got guests that you suggest that we invite to the show, we’d love to hear from you.
If you have comments, suggestions, and 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, and this particular show with other people, please do that. That’s our invitation and even our request. I’ll say ciao, for now, everybody. We’ll see you in the next episode.
- No Bullsh!t Leadership
- No Bullsh!t Leadership Podcast
- Garry Ridge – Previous Episode
- Change Proof
About Martin G. Moore
Martin G. Moore 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.
A former corporate CEO, Moore worked his way up from an entry-level position in software development to become a CIO, an SVP, and a Head of Strategy. This led to his defining role as CEO of CS Energy, a company that was saddled with massive debt and debilitating commercial issues. During his 5-year tenure, Moore grew earnings from $17 million to $441 million, a compound annual growth rate of 125 percent. He also developed Leadership Beyond the Theory, an online training program geared toward sharing his insights and wisdom with leaders globally.