Thinkers50 in collaboration with Deloitte presents:

The Provocateurs:

podcast series

EPISODE 9

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ben Fanning: Peanut butter and jelly leadership

What is peanut butter and jelly leadership? And why does every business leader need a podcast? Ben Fanning is the host of the top ranked Lead the Team podcast, where he interviews world-class CEOs about their everyday success strategies that can apply to businesses of 1 to 100,000.

In this fascinating episode, Ben, who is also a professional speaker, #1 bestselling author, and corporate trainer, explains the unique power of podcasts to communicate a leader’s authentic self. By showing vulnerability and intent, podcasts allow the leader to get the ear of followers in a new and exciting way that is ideally suited to today’s challenges. Listen and learn.

#TheProvocateurs

Guest starring:

Ben Fanning

Ben Fanning
Host, Lead the Team podcast

Hosts:

Des DearloveDes Dearlove
Co-founder, Thinkers50

Steve GoldbachSteve Goldbach
Chief Strategy Officer, Deloitte

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Inspired by the book Provoke: How Leaders Shape the Future by Overcoming Fatal Human Flaws; Wiley, 2021.

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EPISODE 9

Podcast Transcript

Des Dearlove:

Hello, I’m Des Dearlove, and I’m the co-founder of Thinkers50. I’d like to welcome you to our podcast series, Provocateurs, in which we explore the experiences, insights, and perspectives of inspiring leaders. Our aim is to provoke you to think and act differently through conversations with insightful leaders who offer new perspectives on traditional business thinking. Now, this is a collaboration between Thinkers50 and Deloitte, so my co-host today is Steve Goldbach. Steve is a principal at Deloitte, and serves as the chief strategy officer of Deloitte USA. He’s also the co-author, along with Geoff Tuff, of Provoke: How Leaders Shape the Future by Overcoming Fatal Human Flaws. Steve, welcome.

 

Steve Goldbach:

Great to be here. Des, great to see you on Streamyard this morning. I had to start by saying it was great to actually see you in person not too long ago in London. It’s great that we’re all getting out and traveling again. I’m super excited to be here with our guest today, Ben Fanning. Ben is the host of the top ranked Lead The Team podcast, where he interviews world class CEOs and their everyday success strategies that can apply to businesses of one to a hundred thousand people. Ben’s a professional speaker, a number one bestselling author, and a corporate trainer. I had the distinct pleasure of being on Ben’s podcast, where he was slumming it with me from his usual guests. I will say Ben was terrific at getting me to tell stories that I’ve never shared before. He’s so inviting. We had to invite him on this podcast, and we’ll put a link to that podcast in our show notes. So Ben, welcome. It’s great to have you here.

 

Ben Fanning:

Yeah, thanks Steve. Thanks Des. Glad to be here. Man, you rocked it Steve. Hopefully, I can do half as good a job as you did on Lead The Team podcast.

 

Steve Goldbach:

Well, before we get on to talking about your work, maybe you can start by explaining your backstory a little bit. How did you become who you are? How did this all start for you? What provoked you to start this particular quest that you’re on?

 

Ben Fanning:

Yeah, I mean, great story. I love to tell this story. So I’ve depended on speaking from the stage and working and training with small groups for a lot of my career. My greatest sort of feel good moment was getting off the stage and connecting with people one on one, just like a lot of leaders do, right? Where you’re traveling around, and you talked about it, traveling around, meeting with people in person, doing quarterly town halls and things like that. But during the pandemic, literally things changed overnight, and that was one of the most frustrating experiences that I had, where not just speaking engagements dried up, but also the ability to meet with people one on one. A lot of CEOs and C-suite leaders, you’re used to doing quarterly town halls with your people, getting that feedback.

It’s so much easier to communicate your vision as a leader when you’re in person. It’s frustrating when you don’t see people in person because, one, you don’t know if they’re paying attention. Two, it’s harder to connect people, right? We saw disengagement go up. And while being isolated may be fun for a while and help your productivity, over time, it really frays at the very fabric of the team and communication. And then we saw the pendulum swing, where it seemed like senior leaders were over depending on email. We saw… Actually, a Microsoft study out there, that shows how much email escalated during the pandemic. And then we saw people just depending on Zoom. And while Zoom and Microsoft Teams can be a great medium for communication, you’re missing so much when you’re cramming everybody’s face into a little bitty square, and so you’re missing that. And so for me, as entrepreneur and business leader, man, I knew something had to change or else I wasn’t going to be around very long in business.

And so the really defining moment for me came from a moment where I was sipping my coffee like I always do, and I decided to text a senior leader at a company where I hadn’t talked to them for a while and said, “Hey, let’s jump on a quick call today. And if it’s okay with you, I’d like to record this. If it goes well, maybe we can share it and help scale your vision a little bit. Maybe you can share it with some of your team.” Thankfully, they said yes, and we got on the call and I recorded it. And then we created a little podcast episode out of it and shared it. And I’ll tell you, Steve and Des, that… You can probably hear that buzzing.

 

Steve Goldbach:

Well, we’re recording this right in the middle of Hurricane Ian, so Ben needs to watch that.

 

Ben Fanning:

Right, I’m back. It’s over. All right, let me just explain what’s happening here. So we’re in Charleston, this Hurricane Ian it’s coming into Florida, we’re going to get some weather, not as bad as our friends in Florida. Hopefully they’re doing okay. But anyway, I want to weave that into this too specifically because podcasting, which we’ll get to in a minute allows for a lot of vulnerability and a lot of humility and the real leader, the real person to come out and these opportunities are opportunities to connect. And what ended up happening was in this moment… So I sip my coffee, we got on the phone and recorded this. And when this leader shared this podcast, it shocked us all. Number one, we got feedback from their team that this interview had actually humanized them and allow them to take off their leadership corporate armor in the moment, set it aside and connect on a very human level and they just loved it.

Number two, previous employees really resonated with this and were giving it good feedback and even leaders and employees who had not even worked for the company, it resonated with them. But the best part was, one of the best parts is that clients, customers, and even suppliers to the company really resonated with it in the moment. And I knew from my perspective, that was the moment I saw the possibility of podcasting. And it allowed me to channel my speaking background, my PR background, communications and coaching all into the power of podcasting and working with leaders to help communicate their vision on Lead The Team podcast and also creating podcast for organizations to help them get this message out. And one of the coolest parts is that a lot of times when a senior executive comes on a show, maybe they’re the CEO, but there’s a big difference in being the CEO where you have authority to becoming the leader of choice.

And when you get your message out, it allows people to really understand you as a human being in a way that really defines the vision for yourself and for the company and it can resonate and amplify on a podcast really in no other medium. And so from a provoking standpoint, that was the moment where I was provoked into really jumping into podcasting on Lead The Team and others and also helping leaders do the same.

 

Des Dearlove:

I think that’s really interesting what you just said because I think one of the things with Zoom, as you say, we all had to switch over and learn Zoom, but I think we were shocked at how tiring it was. And I talked to people at the time and I said, “Actually, the human beings are working over time because we are trying to pick up all the cues that we normally can pick up in the room and you simply can’t do it because there’s a slight delay as well.” So our brains are fried, but I’m trying to do too much Zoom. It’s a real thing. Whereas I think a podcast is probably because it’s a different format, you can listen, you can enjoy hearing the story because the folks who are talking are bringing the story to you. I mean, what do you think was a special quality to podcast that makes it effective as a leadership communication tool?

 

Ben Fanning:

Oh man. I listened to podcasts and enjoyed them for years before really diving into the science of why it worked so well to communicate your message as an executive leader. And a lot of it is because you’re in someone’s ear for a longer period of time. People can do it also while multitasking. And people may say, “Well Ben, it’s not good if your employees or your team’s multitasking while they’re listening to you.” But they stay attuned for a longer time. So for example, on a video, people don’t have much of attention span because they’ve got to really dedicate their focus there and the written word, people sort of scan it and often times… God bless corporate communications teams, there’s a place and a need for them, but a lot of times they sort of sanitize the message and so someone’s personality and the tone of their voice doesn’t really come across.

And so people will listen to it longer because they can listen to it while doing other things. And the intimacy of being in someone’s ear, I know that may sound weird to some people out there, is really a powerful, powerful thing. And that’s why when you look from a business perspective, advertising on podcasts has a much higher conversion level than print media and even point and sort of clicking on ads on fake and things of that nature because it builds trust.

And you can imagine how as an executive that building trust is really a key component of leading your team. And so podcasting is an effective medium for that and so we’re seeing this grow. I think the real sort of nuance is for everyone to think about, the problem with podcasting is people have to listen to it and so they only have so much time in the day. And so what can you do as a leader to make your message so compelling and encourage your team and your customers and suppliers to go and listen to it? And that’s something that we’ve really been focusing on on our podcast.

 

Steve Goldbach:

I mean, it is interesting because one of the things that we hear at Deloitte that we know that our people like about working in a hybrid environment is it allows for more flexibility, predictability to do the things in their lives that they need to get done. I think one of the great things about leveraging podcasting for leaders to deliver messages is that that can be paired with doing other things. If you compare listening to a podcast to joining a Zoom, there’s only one time for that Zoom. The podcast can exist asynchronously, you can do it when you’re doing your exercise, you can listen to it when you’re shopping, when you’re on the sub. There is a benefit to that. And as you said, it can be engaging. And then I’m sure that there are folks who like the fact that it can also be listened to at two times speed, but that’s another… We won’t go into that. What role do you think the context for that plays in that, Ben?

 

Ben Fanning:

You really hit the nail on the head there, Steve, because you can listen to it faster, you can listen to it when it’s convenient and you can also do it more than once. Sometimes there are those episodes where a leader gets their message out so clearly and so maybe they pair it with a great memorable story and there are ways to tell a story in a podcast or to get your message across. And that’s one of the things that I really focus on too is making sure that… Steve, just in your episode where you’re… When you started out with that great story with you on the golf course, those kinds of stories are so, so powerful and people want to listen to that again and again because it’s just so darn memorable. And so one, is the mechanism for how you listen to it and that’s why podcasting I think is working so well.

And then two is how you go about doing it and making sure that as a host, that you’re pulling out the stories, that you’re highlighting, the big ideas so the listener can easily follow it. And it’s just shocking to me where… I mean, it used to be… The history of podcasting was people sort of in their basement podcasting about Star Trek and people are like, “Why? Who would want to listen to a podcast?” But now to me… And I get to talk about it on this show is it’s such a huge opportunity for leaders, but it’s not being fully utilized. And I think now is the time, and I kind of stumbled upon it with this whole issue of the pandemic for necessity, but now we’re going back to hybrid environment, hybrid learning. It’s important that we just leave podcasting on the back burner that all business leaders right now are thinking about, one, what’s their message? And two, how can they leverage this meeting to get it out powerfully?

 

Des Dearlove:

Yeah, I think the point about authenticity. We talk about bringing authenticities to leadership and how important it’s to be authentic. And I think the podcast really does lend itself to that because the personal nature and the personal stories come out. So what have you learned about leadership? I mean, you’ve been doing this for a while. What are the really memorable things from your podcast?

 

Ben Fanning:

Well, Des, I’m glad you asked that question. Well timed, kind of segues into this thing about vulnerability and transparency because that’s one of the big things. I think one of the most memorable episodes for me and a lot of the audience is when leaders do strip away their corporate identity in some ways and say, “Hey, this is me as a person.” And one of the ones that comes up, there’s a big logistics company called DB Schenker. Hessel Verhage is an executive, a CEO for them. And when I brought him on the show, what I noticed was is that he had a significant stutter. And that’s something that you would think, a CEO with a significant stutter, the last thing they want to do is come on a podcast but it’s one of my favorites. Steve, so is yours. So is yours, Steve.

But when Hessel comes on, we dive right into it and he’s like, “You know what? I’ve really had to own my stutter.” And he explains how he addresses the board, how he addresses leaders and clients knowing that his stutter’s going to be so significant. In his episode, he stutters an awful lot but what he says is that it’s so true, is that it makes him more relatable. His employees love him, his clients do, because he’s just very vulnerable and him being willing to come on the show and participate in podcasting, tell great stories, but also tell it through this lens of, “Hey, I’m a senior executive with a stutter.” It makes a very, very big impact and he demonstrates the vulnerability so well. And another one that comes up for me, thinking about it, is Nigel Travis, who’s the former CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts, Dunkin’ brands. Now he’s CEO of his childhood favorite soccer team, Leyton Orient over in the UK – for all you soccer fans out there.

So I’m talking to him and we’re talking about Dunkin’ and soccer and all kinds of stuff, but then I say, “Nigel, I understand your favorite thing is actually coaching your kid’s soccer team.” And he’s like, “Yeah, I love coaching kids soccer.” And I was like, “Well, I coached kid soccer too. What’s your bit of advice?” And he says, “Ben, my best advice for you, not just on the soccer field but at the company is, I never let them call me coach. They just call me Nigel.” I was like, “You’ve got all these young kids, they don’t call you coach, they don’t call you coach Nigel, they just call you Nigel?” He’s like, “Yeah, they just call me Nigel. Because anytime you put a label on something, you’re putting up a barrier between you and your team.” And so by the way, I went out immediately and tried to do this on my team and I’ll say about half of them did it.

I’m in Charleston, South Carolina and in the South it’s all, yes sir, no sir type stuff. So we haven’t quite gotten there yet but I did notice that the ones who would just call me Ben, came in at halftime and they would talk to me a little more freely about what they were seeing, about what they’d like to do and the communication changed. And so these are some of the ways that we’re really working on the show to separate the executive from the human being and knowing… And we highlight both but I think when you’re considering a podcast for yourself to listen to or maybe to have for your company, it’s important to pair the personal side with the vision and then find that right balance. So vulnerability as a leader, it is something that’s come up time and time again.

 

Steve Goldbach:

So in addition to vulnerability, are there other principles that you would highlight? And when a leader… Is there anything that leaders should do to help when they’ve got a big idea, they like… One of the things that many of the Thinkers50 and we at Deloitte help with our clients is helping a leader drive change. And often there’s like an idea and they need to convince a bunch of human beings to act differently because they’re seeing something go from a matter of if to when. How can they leverage this communication vehicle? Are there any other principles besides vulnerability that you would highlight for them?

 

Ben Fanning:

And one of my earliest interviews was with the chief people officer of Dollar General, Bob Ravener. And he’s like, “When I go in and I meet with the CEO, I’m not the chief people officer, walking into that meeting. I’m a business leader first, who happens to have an expertise in human resources.” And I think that’s so, so powerful. And this has come up time and time again too with leaders in technology.

So like the CIO of various organizations, they often get caught up in tech speak and when you bring that into the corner office or into board meetings, it’s hard oftentimes to advocate for change from a technology standpoint if we’re only speaking about it from the technology side. And so one of the key success factors that comes up in a lot of the show is, hey, if I come out of the IT part of business, I really need to become more knowledgeable about EBITDA, about profitability, and also about the other parts of the business, whether it’s HR or marketing. So I can really address the concerns and build alliances among cross-functional parts of the business.

 

Des Dearlove:

Yeah, that’s really interesting, Ben. I have to reference though back to the stammer point that you made earlier because of course, Winston Churchill famously had a stammer, which is why he had that very unusual delivery star. I think as well as the vulnerability, I mean I believe your current president also had to overcome a stammer as well, but as well as the vulnerability, what Churchill said was it also made him much more intentional about what he was saying because when he was young, he had to work so hard to get his message out that it made him much more focused on… And of course he delivered some of the great speeches of the 20th century. So leadership, I mean in the round as it were, vulnerability, we’ve talked about what are some of the other characteristics and do you think that the pandemic has changed us? Do you think it’s changed leadership? Has it left a mark on leadership? Do we need different sort of leaders now?

 

Ben Fanning:

Do we need… Man, that’s a great question and I love being on this with you all because I know you all have pretty strong perspectives on that. I think it’s too soon for me to say it’s changed, but I think that the mediums that we have available to us to communicate our message have. Number one, because it sort of forced us to meet into a technology space that wasn’t as effective as we really thought it would be. So it’s so funny, the ones that we were most familiar with, email and Zoom and Microsoft Teams, we naturally went into those spaces and we just overused them. I mean, it’s just incredible the amount of Zoom calls that executives are on. Going back to back to back to back and using overloading email. I mean it was so funny, people reduced their commutes or had no commutes for a while during different country lockdowns.

And it was like the whole world decided to write more emails. But I wouldn’t say communication changed anymore, but of bringing it back. I do think what we recognize is that one, that this hybrid work environment could work because it allows people to have a healthier lifestyle. But also if people are going to be… Let’s say people are going to do laundry during their workday, I know that’s blasting for some people or they’re going to work out during their workday. How can you as a leader take advantage of that? And the way you do is not necessarily by telling them, “Hey look, you don’t need to be doing laundry or working out, you need to be in front of your computer.” But what you could do is say, “Hey look, I’ve got a weekly podcast episode that comes out and I’m going to speak to you for 15 minutes from the heart about a challenge that our business is facing or I want to highlight some achievements that you need to know about, or I want to talk about the future and how you can be part of that.”

You can do that in a podcast and they can listen to that instead of other podcasts – or in addition to – during those moments but you got to be intentional about it. Got to be one to take a risk as a leader to do that and get crystal clear on your mission and your vision and then find ways to get that out. And you really got to sell it to your team and employees. And again, the good part about this, this works if your team’s executives, it works, if they’re convenience store workers, if they’re truck drivers, if they’re working on an oil rig, if they’re flying in the airlines or there are a lot of ways that this medium can reach and it can expand your leadership and it can ultimately expand your impact as a leader.

 

Steve Goldbach:

 

Ben, it’s interesting, I’d love you to react to the following provocation, which is I’ve noticed that it’s… We’re pretty quick as businesses to say, hybrid is good for flexibility, for working out during the day, for doing laundry during the day, and for productivity, but it’s not good for all the things that we value, like serendipity in the office and connections. And so I guess the thing that… The question that I’d ask is, to what extent do you think that that conclusion that seems to be being drawn is universally true or do you think that we haven’t figured out how to use the tools we’ve got to accomplish the goal of connection? And then, I’ll challenge it by saying I feel like I’ve got a connection to you. I’ve never met you in person. We’ve had a couple nice engaging conversations where neither of us are multitasking. We exchanged some nice text messages after. I just met Des in person for the first time last week.

I think relationships can be built on Zoom, we just haven’t learned how to do it yet. And I think some people are saying, let’s not even try. So what do you like, any reactions to that provocation?

 

Ben Fanning:

Yeah, well, Steve, that’s a great thing for us to be considering as leaders and not just leaders of our companies, but how’s the world interacting with us? And you’re right, part of my… And I’m glad you asked this because I’m thinking about this all the time, how do I build trust with Steve and Des even though we haven’t met a lot in person? And I think one of the things that I think that you’re getting to here is this intentionality of connection. And without the intent we could just be on Zoom, chilling out, listening one directionally, not fully interested in the other people, not really interested in having conversations that mean that much. And when I showed up today on this cool podcast, with you all, my intent was to think about it, what could I add of value? And also to learn more about you all.

And I think if we as leaders, if we start showing up in a remote world with that intention, I do think we’ll be able to leverage it and get a lot more out of it. The problem is, ultimately this happens more naturally in person. The three of us, I mean we plan this for a month, right? I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking about you guys, I’m thinking about Steve and Des. A lot of people just aren’t taking that kind of level of attention. So I think when you bring people together in person, that water cooler conversation builds trust. I learn about you on a more personal level, but when you can’t do that, having that level of intention and planning, whether it be through a podcast or through more of just a more casual conversation can be very, very effective. But again, you got to layer in the intention.

 

Des Dearlove:

Yeah, that makes sense. You used the word selling ideas earlier, Ben, when you were talking, I don’t know if you were aware of it, but selling ideas of course is what leaders do. Selling people on the convincing people that they should follow, they should come on this journey. I mean, I remember doing some work with Professor Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones and when they wrote their book with the fantastic title and it was the half a business review article, Why should Anyone Be Led By You? Which was just brilliant. But one of the things they found in their research was that a lot of CEOs who were really effective had really early experience as sales people. So they’d had sales jobs where they were frontline facing and they had to probably sell to people in order to get the commission to make a living. But this was an unexpected finding is that people often had this sales background and they said that was really important to them as they developed in their career. Have you observed that? How do you react to that? And what is it that leaders do to sell?

 

Ben Fanning:

Yes, that’s another great question there. Every leader faces this because eventually following a leader becomes optional. Even no matter how high you are, you may be CEO, you may be the chairman or chairperson of the board and following will eventually become optional, even from your own family. If you’re trying to lead your kids, just because you’re the parent, it does not mean they’re going to follow you. So I definitely see this theme emerging in the podcast where leaders do have a sales background, they understand this idea. And one of the big things or that there are really two big ideas that they share. One, is they bring WIIFM into the equation, which WIIFM, for those of you that are not familiar with is W-I-I-F-M, which is what’s in it for me. And the idea is that we’re psychologically very self-centered. We’re thinking about survival of the fittest.

And we’re always processing information, including our leader’s message, through the lens of what in the world is this message? What’s in it for me here? And too often we as leaders leave it open to our employees to figure out, well you all figure it out. I’m telling you what to do. And you all got to figure out the WIIFM for yourselves. And some of the top leaders out there are just really, really good at communicating this to them. Is it your career development? Is it an inspired future? Is it more money? I mean, some people sort of thrive on that. Is it something about being included in something exciting for the future? So that’s the first one. And the second one is a vision. And people might be saying, Ben, of course a vision, but really, and I work with companies sometimes on this and I’ll tell you, you’d be surprised there might be a company vision, but the leaders don’t necessarily have an inspired vision that they’re communicating from their standpoint.

And if you go one to two to three levels down in their company, they have not really crafted a vision. And so what happens is they’re managing not leading. To lead you have a place of course to take them to.

And so a podcast is a great place for a leader to share their vision, their personal vision for what they’d like to see in the world. And then of course, a company vision for where they’d like to lead it. So if you pair those two together, that’s the secret sauce. You have the vision and then you give those other people the WIIFM, the what’s in it for them for following that vision. And I mean it’s like peanut butter and jelly on a podcast. It’s classic, it’s yummy and it’s got a little sweetness to it and you’re going to want to follow it. So that’s one of the ways. And yes, I just made it up on the fly. I’ve never used that peanut butter and jelly metaphor. But again, I mean, it’s amazing to see those two things come together so well when you’ve got the vision and you’ve got the WIIFM.

 

Steve Goldbach:

That’s terrific. I love the concept of WIIFM. There’s a concept in strategy that I’m particularly fond of, which is something called management systems where it’s all the things that we do as organizations to promote and change behavior. And I’m often struck by everyone saying that or quoting to me Peter Drucker, that culture eats strategy for breakfast. And that’s become so ingrained in it. And I just think, no, that’s actually kind of BS. Culture is a strategy choice. We have to choose to give people the WIIFM that is going to make them behave differently, which changes our culture as opposed to taking it as a given. So I love the role that communication can play in that. I’d love to just… Maybe we could, as we start to close the session, Ben, as you look back on all the interviews you’ve done, what are the more… I mean, you’ve shared a few already, but are there other colorful interviews that you’ve done? Any fun stories that you want to share with our listeners that they should check out as they think about listening to stuff that you’ve done?

 

Ben Fanning:

Well, there are so many. By the way, I knew when you said that quote, and I know you’re chief strategy officer, Steve, I knew that was going to be a thorn in your side. Yeah. It’s like, oh, we don’t need strategy, we’ve got culture. So I’m glad you flipped that. I like that and it makes a lot of sense to me.

One of the funnier ones. So when I asked a question a lot with what’s a colorful story of when someone quit or was fired, I have a couple of these questions that I often weave into the episodes and one of the craziest ones was from Jim Weaver over at the Onin Group. A smaller company based out of Birmingham, Alabama may not have heard about it. So I mixed in sort of fortune 50 companies and smaller companies. But Jim says, “Ben, listen, we had one guy, he wanted to get out of work so badly that day that he started a fire in a trash can at the office.” Just like in the episode, The Office has probably actually happened that, but this actually happened, but the fire got out of control, burned the entire office building down and the guy had to serve three years prison time.

This is what… Shocking, appalling.

 

Steve Goldbach:

You can’t make that stuff up.

 

Ben Fanning:

Yeah, I mean, my gosh, man.

 

Des Dearlove:

What does that tell us about the culture of that company, I wonder? If he went to those ends.

 

Ben Fanning:

You want to get off, you want to get out of work, okay, call in a sick day, but don’t start a fire. Right?

 

Des Dearlove:

Absolutely. Hey, listen, I’m really excited about this new book you’re writing Peanut Butter and Jelly Leadership. I think you’re onto something with that. What would you put in it? What would be your kind of leadership thesis? What have you personally learned from? I mean you’ve had great exposure to some of these people. What are your sort of takeaway lessons?

 

Ben Fanning:

Yes, I mean that’s a great question. So one is going back to the vulnerability piece, I think we really underplay that and it requires us to be more humble as leaders. And humility doesn’t always go easily with leadership because it feels like as a leader, you need to have all the answers. And especially if you’re getting interviewed on a podcast, you might be thinking, they’re interviewing me for my subject matter expertise. But there’s something that allows us to resonate really deeply with someone’s message when we can relate to it a little more. And if we’re in the ivory tower, if we’re sort of this great position of authority, it makes it really difficult. Another one that’s come up for me as a leader in podcasting, something that I knew before, but I think I underplayed it, which is the power of networking. And networking is something that really I think gets a bad rap sometimes.

And people say, “Yeah, I know I need to network. This is important.” But going back to technology and the tools of podcasting, LinkedIn and texting, these are the big three that didn’t exist that… I just remember getting my first text on a qwerty keyboard from someone back in the day and it kind of blew my… I was like, what in the world is happening? I’m getting this text. And now it’s just everywhere. But texting, LinkedIn, and podcasting, these are the three networking tools that I leverage. Okay, three each and every day as a leader. And I even help my executive coaching clients leverage more because number one, LinkedIn gives us access to almost every leader in the world and also our employees and it allows us to connect with them in a different way, in a much more engaging way than email. That’s the first thing.

Texting is much more effective than email. It can be more annoying and or getting spam bots through texting. But texting is much more personal and it’s a great way to engage with other leaders, other people you know on your network and your employees. And of course, we’ve been talking a lot about podcasting today, which allows your message to get communicated more clearly. And it’s also, I mean, like when I have had Steve on the show or I’m going to have a leader on, I’ll go and listen to their previous podcast that maybe came out years ago. And I mean, I’m leveraging that in lots of different ways to be a more thoughtful interviewer but your employees and your network also listen to this. And this is leadership legacy building and this is going to help people understand you more. It’s going to help… It can help attract people in your network to you. So it’s no longer… Networking is no longer about the business card, it’s about how you’re leveraging these tools that are fairly new and probably the last two years.

 

Des Dearlove:

It’s interesting. Again, humility. I mean Jim Collins famously, when he did his big study, he said humility plus will equals level five leadership, which was the very highest form of leadership as far as he was concerned. But don’t you think, I mean that thing about not knowing all the answers too, I think we’re beginning to realize that actually that’s a strength. To be able to say, I don’t know, but I’m going to figure it out with you, is a strength. I don’t know why for years and years we wanted leaders who pretended they knew it all when they couldn’t possibly. I think we understand now.

 

Steve Goldbach:

And they also were scared to flip flop on a decision that they might have made in the face of new data. I mean, I know that that has a political origin and I don’t want to use it. It’s like flip flopping is not a bad thing, if presented with new facts and data that support changing a decision. It’s like you can’t say, I don’t know, you can’t flip flop. You’re stuck as a leader. And I think we’re figuring out finally that we should be able to do both of those things.

 

Des Dearlove:

People respect the leaders that will do those things. Absolutely. Yeah. Sorry, Ben.

 

Ben Fanning:

Yeah, no, I think that’s great and I want to build on that. One of the questions that I often ask on the show. So I have a couple of questions I ask because I like to sort of hear the pattern and theme, which: is what’s the one trait you’d like to instill in every employee and why? And there are two that come up more than almost all the other ones. But one is curiosity. They want their teams to be more curious. And I think this, when you don’t know, well what next? And get curious, ask the question because otherwise you’re just taking everything at face value and that’s no way to provoke the future, that’s for sure. You got to ask those questions. And the second one, is a little bit of a deviation, but I think it’s important for a leader to think about if you want to provoke a different future, is they want their teams to take more ownership.

Ownership’s the second trait, meaning that they’re really going to own the problem and seek a solution A to Z, even if someone’s changed their opinion or they’ve got to change something. They want to see… They want their team to see it through. And I think this is a big trait that we need to instill, not only in our teams, but in ourselves because if we’re going to provoke a different future, provoking ultimately gets the ball rolling but you got to have a team that’s going to see the thing through and follow through on it because otherwise we’re just leaders with a bunch of half done change initiatives. And is there anything more annoying than that as a leader? So having that ability to provoke ownership, I think is a key success factor for leaders.

 

Des Dearlove:

I love that, provoke the future. I mean, that’s what this podcast is all about. And I think some of the things you’ve talked about have kind of brought it home to us. We knew there was a reason why we started this podcast, Provocateurs. Now you’ve given us some of the answers, but that’s really… We’ve run out of time, I’m afraid, Ben. So huge thanks to our guest Ben Fanning and to you all for listening. This is the Provocateurs podcast and we’ve been Des Dearlove, and Steve Goldbach. Please join us again soon for another episode of Provocateurs.