Connecting to Leadership ~ Episode 93 ~ My Conversation with Robert Re

Heart of Connection Podcast
Heart of Connection Podcast
Connecting to Leadership ~ Episode 93 ~ My Conversation with Robert Re

Connecting to Leadership 

Mark [0:00] I’d like to welcome Robert Re to the World Heart of Connection podcast. Robert is a co-author with Allan Meers of a book called “The business of Life; The proven pathways to personal and organisational effectiveness”. Robert has facilitated the Leadership at Work programme for many years.  I’m looking forward to having a conversation with Robert about organisations and self- leadership. Welcome, Robert.

Robert [0:25] Thank you, Mark.

Mark [0:28] Anything further to add to the conversation of your introduction there, Robert?

My Fascination with Leadership

Robert [0:34] Not really, I suppose might be worth mentioning that I’ve been fascinated with leadership for a very long time. I came from an HR background and seeing organisations that had extraordinarily good leadership and seeing organisations that had extraordinarily not so good leadership.  And I saw the contrast and the effect that that has on people. That’s been a fascination for a long time, and that has then eventually morphed into the notion of self-leadership is an important notion.

Connecting with Self-Leadership within ourselves

Mark [1:12] How do people connect to self-leadership within themselves?

Robert [1:18] Did you say how can they or do they?

Mark [1:20] How do they connect to the self-leadership within themselves?

Robert [1:24] Okay. Well, the first step, I guess is any type of development activity and that’s about awareness. Being aware of oneself and being aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses, there’s always got to be a starting point.  I was also very attracted to the Stephen Covey, “Seven Habits” and the very first habit there is the proactive you’re probably aware that many people are.

Mark [1:59] Yes, it’s a pretty powerful book.

Step One ~ Becoming Aware of Oneself

Robert [2:02] Yes, it’s an amazing book, even though people are thinking it’s a bit old hat.  But the seven habits, like all good principles, are I believe timeless. But that first habit of being proactive, really means, am I interested enough and aware enough of myself to my strengths and my weaknesses? And do I want to do something about it, basically?

Mark [2:32] And your experience through your leadership work? How many people do you find are interested in improving their weaknesses and converting them into strengths?

Robert [2:46] Well, I’ll probably take a leaf out of Carol Dweck’s research. Carol Dweck has done some amazing research into what she calls learners and non-learners. Her research and my experience are that the learners on the learner side of the equation are probably in the minority. When I was running my leadership programme and I’ve been running it for 30 years, all over Australia and indeed in Asia and Europe. One of the first things that I will do when I am running the workshop as part of the icebreaker is to ask people if they are volunteers or conscripts.

Connecting to our Voluntary Self-Enquiry

Robert [3:46] The conscripts quite often outnumber the volunteers, because they have been sent to be done.  To be inculcated with some sort of teaching on leadership etc. So, unfortunately, my experience and, as I said, Carol Dweck’s research shows that most people are in the non-learner category. But that has changed since we’ve turned our attention to more personal development. So, we’re running personal development programmes, and that’s now called the business of life, which is the same title as the book that you’ve mentioned.  I can guarantee you the people who come to that because they’re not necessarily being sent by their organisation. Some of them are, but they’re all volunteers and they are 100% learners, and they were an absolute joy to work with, because of that very nature. The fact that they have a growth mindset, they’re there to learn about themselves, how to be more effective in their personal life. How they’re likely to be more effective in their professional life. And to those who are running organisations on how to be more effective in their organisational work.

The Blocks of our Effectiveness

Mark [5:15] What are the threads that block people from being effective in their personal lives, do you think?

Robert [5:26] I think there are several factors, here Mark.  A lot of people don’t like to be exposed to workshops. Particularly I find that the senior management level, the senior managers, are more inclined to send more junior managers onto workshops.

Robert [5:48] Often quoting things like they’re too busy or they know all this stuff.  Or they’ve got a degree in business, so they’ve got their MBA. So, so they sort of believe that there’s nothing much more to be learned. So, there’s a barrier there.  There certainly a barrier about a CEO and an executive coming onto a workshop with people in the same organisation, at the lower levels. Being exposed to those other people in the organisation is not having all the answers to good leadership and good management practice. So, a lot of people seem to be not comfortable in exposing that type of vulnerability.

Acceptance of Vulnerability in Organisations

Mark [6:47] Yeah, I was glad you used that word vulnerability because that was my follow up question. How much are the people then exposing their vulnerability within the organisations?

Robert [7:01] Well, what we try and do when we work inside organisations create the culture, that it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to expose yourself as not being perfect, not having all the answers. So, the challenge to us as consultants, facilitators and change agents in that field is to first try and create a culture of trust and vulnerability.  We use some well-known diagnostics, Patrick Lencioni, with the “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” etc. There are so many good diagnostics out there to assess the relative health or dysfunction of an organisation or a management team. If we can get through that barrier, then people are much more likely to be comfortable enough in saying I don’t already know this stuff. So, it’s such an important step in the process. Where we have the most, I guess, success in our interventions is where usually the top person, the CEO has that mindset that I’m here to learn. I’m here to receive feedback. I might not always like the feedback that I get.  But I’ll expose myself and we really applaud that approach and it has such an impact on my organisation and its ultimate effectiveness.

Have Organisations Lost their Hearts to Profit?

Mark [8:51] Robert, I’m wondering, I’m very simple I guess, in my approach to life. I’m wondering in organisations, how much organisations lost their heart of the organisation. And have come up more into the KPIs? It’s simple ~ it’s, profit-profit-profit. Yeah, the other bottom line. Can ~ if organisations come back to more of the heart, more of a connection to the community, connection to the human being within the organisation, how would that then make a difference to leadership?

Robert [9:36] Well, it certainly can happen. And there’s been some very well-known proponents of looking outside the pure bottom line. They have been talking about this stuff for the last 30 or 40 and probably longer years. So, you hear people talk about the triple bottom line, people-profit-planet is one way of doing it. There’s an organisation called B corporation. I’m not sure if you know of them who also look at assessing the health of an organisation. Looking at a range of factors, not just the bottom line.

“Spiritual Capital” is Good for Business

Robert [10:24] And probably one of the people that I’ve learned a lot from a woman called Dahana Zohar has written several books, one called “Spiritual intelligence“, another one called “Spiritual Capital“.  The more recent one, the “Quantum Leader”. She put some pretty good evidence for it that looking after stakeholders other than just the owners, is good for business. And that’s the message we try and get across to organisations. It’s not either profit or community engagement or environmental awareness or customer satisfaction.

Robert [11:11] It’s all those things.  It is, in my opinion, good for business, for organisations to look beyond the bottom line is the only measure of success.  One of my earlier mentors by called Dennis Pratt who wrote a book called “Aspiring to Greatness” and he taught me many things in the leadership space.

Connection Across All Stakeholders

Rod [11:40] He maintained very early on that an organisation has six key stakeholders or stakeholder groups. Now it’s a bit of a management buzzword, but it’s true.  Outside of your owners or your shareholders, you have the supplier, of course, you have customers, you have your own staff, internal people, you have the community, etc.  The industry, and you need to balance the needs of all those stakeholders. Because any one of those stakeholders can shut you down if you don’t meet their requirements.  The community through government regulation and government agencies can shut you down very quickly. Suppliers can shut you down if you don’t pay them. Customers will shut you down if you meet their needs. Employees can shut it down if you don’t treat them properly. So, it’s not just a nice concept to look outside, just the pure profit and the bottom line. It’s good for business and that’s a message that we’ve got through to a number of organisations. Whether most people have gone that way. Whether people have lost contact with the heart or becoming more in contact with the heart of the organisation. It’s really hard to tell Mark.  Our experience is – simply this, that the good organisations, the ones that we really love to work with, and they usually run by an enlightened CEO or an enlightened leadership team. They get this and they are very values-driven, that they are purpose-driven. So, they understand their vision, they understand their mission, their purpose, they understand their ethos. They understand the values of the organisation and how those values are going to lead the organisation to achieve its vision and its mission.

Mark [13:56] How do you – go on?

Robert [13:59] I’m just saying it’s hard to get a gauge on whether that’s becoming more and more in the public domain, certainly, organisations talk about these things. But the ones that take it seriously, I suspect are not in the majority.

Leading People to Connect to their Self-Leadership

Mark [14:21] How do you lead people into connecting to their self-leadership?  What’s the process that you use to help people recognise their leadership skills within themselves?

Robert [14:37] Well, again, we go back and dip into the well of some people who have written some really good material around this area. I’ve mentioned Stephen Covey before and the Seven Habits. Just exposing people to some of these principles and practices is a good starting point.  Because there are people who don’t know what they don’t know. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that a lot of schooling and including the tertiary education seems to focus on these issues. So, people get into the organisation and get into their role, whether it’s accounting or engineering or whatever it may be. Or into their trades and they have three or four years of training and learning about that trade or that profession. When they get into the workplace and get into particularly when I start to get into leadership positions, they haven’t been exposed to a lot of this. So, the first step is to expose them to what are these Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Connecting to Emotional Intelligence

What is Daniel Goleman telling us about emotional intelligence? And the absolute importance of emotional intelligence and how emotional intelligence – highly emotionally intelligent people tend to be more effective. So, these are some of the so-called soft skills – that are quite hard to put in place. And so, the starting point is to just expose people, to what’s out there. And to then get people in a safe environment to make some self-assessments about their emotional intelligence or their self- awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management. Just exposing them to those concepts, those competencies and domains. And then getting people to self-assess is a good starting point. Looking at what does the element have self-leadership? Where do they and how would they rate themselves on those competencies. And of course, the next step is to engage in feedback on those competencies and again exposing yourself to being vulnerable but to achieve to receive feedback on how well you are displaying some of those competencies and behaviours.

Connecting to Change through Feedback Loops

Robert [17:00] And we might need to modify, change, etc. We use a very simple mechanism in the feedback field.  Where we must get again the CEO and the leadership team to be the role models for this.  They need to be constantly asking the people in their bits of the organisation, people that report to them and their peers. What is it that you want them to stop doing which is a pain to you? What would you like me to start doing, which would help you? And what is it you want me to keep doing, which you find useful?  Now, we didn’t invent those terms. I know they’ve been used by organisations like leading teams and others in a variety of footy clubs. But their powerful notions of how to get feedback on what’s working, what’s not working, what am I doing well, what could I do better? So, it’s about pausing, self-awareness and receiving feedback isn’t some very good starting point, I think.

Connecting to Organisational Flow-States

Mark [18:42] When organisations have it right ~ is there an organisational flow-state that makes the organisation a better place to be and working in?

Robert [18:56] An organisational?

Mark [18:57] Flow state.

Mark [19:00] Flows state – Flow-state?

Robert [19:10] I’m not sure about that question.

Mark [19:12] Alright. When an organisation is in harmony with management, they’ve got the right channels, they’ve got the proper feedback loops then the organisation can get in a much better flow together.

Flow-states are called Perfect Alignment

Rod [19:31] Okay, gotcha now.  It is about what we call perfect alignment. There was a study done in Australia by the Mount Elisa business school called the first 11. And one of the nine principles of organisations that got into that first 11 sphere – was an organisation that was perfectly aligned.  So, the organisation itself had people aligned to the vision mission, purpose and values. The strategic plan was aligned to the vision, mission and purpose. People’s business plans, people’s personal work plans, operational plans, were all perfectly aligned. And that certainly helps the flow in an organisation. The other thing that often is a barrier to this sort of flow, is the organisation structure itself. As you’d be aware, many organisations are set up vertically, which leads to that silo mentality. Because Patrick Lencioni I mentioned before he wrote the “Five Dysfunctions of Team“. Great, another great book called, “Silos, Politics and Turf wars“. I think the title speaks for itself.

Mark [21:00] It does indeed.

Organisation Vertical Structure Block Flow

Robert [21:00] Where organisations are structured vertically. So, people look after their own patch and there’s no flow across the organisation.  Dennis Pratt in his book, “Aspiring to Greatness”, talked about the supplier-customer flow in an organisation and he equated that with the grains in the wood. You know, how the grain goes through wood.  Well, if you start with an external customer and come back through the organisation to all of the various areas in the organisation – people start to see what is their contribution to the external customer and indeed what is their contribution to the internal customer. What’s the supplier-customer flow within the organisation.

Robert [21:55] These are some of the techniques that organisations can use, once they realise how important the flow is.  From a structure point of view, from a cultural point of view, from an alignment point of view.  And again, some organisations are aware that and many organisations are not. Because of their structure in organisations. In organisations like local government so there will be – the bit of the organisation that looks after the finances and ratepayer’s collection etc. There will be another bit of the organisation that looks after external of the Shire. Or the communities, they look after roads or the pavements, etc. You have another group that looks after the environmental bits of the locality. You’ll have another group that looks after say child welfare, for example, on social welfare.  And they tend to an operator as a quite independent bit. And of course, that leads to again silos, politics and turf wars. The ones that I’ve been working with recently, which is a great organisation that understands that.  There’s a lot of flow and interaction between those departments and people work out how they can help each other. When one bit of the organisation is in difficulty or under the pump – then like, immediately, get some people coming in from other bits of the organisation to help. So, there’s that possibility in organisations.

Six Practices to Improve Effectiveness

Mark [23:53] What’s the best ~ so far in your journey over the many years you’ve worked in this field? What’s the best-proven pathway to personal and organisational effectiveness in a nutshell?

Rod [24:10] I don’t know if I could put it in a nutshell (Laughter) – but I’ll try. I can use a couple of nutshells?

Mark [24:19] Yes, sure go for it.

Robert [24:21] So, without necessarily trying to flog the book – we’ve identified that there are six practices that an organisation needs in order to be effective. Just as we’ve identified that there are six practices that help people become effective in their lives. Lo and behold, the same six practices apply.

Finding our Organisation’s Purpose

Robert [24:46] So, it’s not easy but if I can quickly just run through that practice. The first one is the understanding of the current situation, the current reality.  Again, we’re talking about the individual. What’s my current reality? If I’m talking about the organisation, what is the organization’s reality? What are our strengths and weaknesses?  The good old SWOT analysis stuff which much-derided because it’s old. But boy, is it an effective diagnostic tool for working out the internal strengths and weaknesses of the organisation. And d the external factors and impact on the organisation. So, that’s the starting point there.  As Jim Collins talks about in, “Good to Great.”  Face, the brutal realities don’t resolve from that term, we need to do that as a starting point. So, the second one is the vision bit.  What is the future we want to create? So, we need that. And again, you can use that at an individual level or as an organisational level. So, as an individual, what is the future I want to create for myself and for my family? What does that look like? Start getting some ideas, and eventually some vision of what would look like. The third one, which is a crucial part of the process – is the purpose stuff. Now, why am I doing – the big question? Why am I here?

Mark [26:21] The Simon Sinek?

What is our Organisational Why?

Rod [26:22] Why are we here as an organisation? Why am I here as a person? What is my purpose? What’s meaningful to me? There at an organisational level, you can look at organisational values. At a personal level, you can look at your own personal values. And what we find there, Mark is a lot of people haven’t been exposed to and given the opportunity to really examine their own values. I mean, everybody has a set of values, but they don’t always know that, or they don’t always are able to articulate it.

Mark [26:56] Simon Sinek does a lot of work that – the asking the Why?

Robert [27:01] Yes, the big Simon Sinek stuff.  Asking the why stuff – that’s a hugely important thing for self-leadership as it is for organisational leadership. You know, why do we – what is the meaning?

Rod [27:19] As you’d probably tell – I do a fair bit of reading over the years.  I had a stack of books by my bedside table at one stage, which I called the leaning tower of books.  You really got about 12 books stacked up on the bedside table. I remember when I was going through my own sort of crisis, I was reading like crazy. My cleaning lady came in as a little feather duster. She’s sort of dusting off the leading tower books. And she said, I don’t read a lot of books, Robert, and I said, Yes, I’m trying to find the meaning of life. And she said you won’t find it in books, love. (Laughter)

Implementing the 6 Proven Pathways into My Life

Mark [28:03] Robert, when you’ve put those six proven pathways into your own life, can you describe how it changed your life?

Rod [28:16] Up until that crisis I had probably 25 years ago. I was drifting. I had a good life. I just started my business a few years earlier. I enjoyed what I did but I just went along with things. I didn’t know, in my own mind, I didn’t know what my values were. I knew what I didn’t like. I knew I had decent values about being a decent person and law-abiding and the rest of it.  But I’d never really given a lot of thought to – who I am and why I was here. So, that really helped me to connect with, who I was, and maybe what my purpose was. And I didn’t realise at the time, what was missing. But I think in hindsight, I think that was what was missing for me was – who on earth, am I? What the hell am I doing here? These are still big questions and I don’t say I’ve got the answers but I’m going to spend the rest of the hour exploring those deep questions.

Connecting to my Purpose

Mark [29:38] As you connected to that purpose, how has that changed your life?

Rod [29:49] It’s given me a belief that what I’m doing is worthwhile. So, what I do and up until then, was the purpose. My purpose was to survive in business, basically. To do my best to help organisations etc. But my prior, my main purpose was survival. And that worked for a while as a purpose, that once you got to that point, you know, you when you look at the hierarchy of needs, etc, you start to look for something more. And as you start to define more your purpose and what you can really contribute to people – then you’re starting to get into the higher order of self-fulfilment, and, of course, self-actualization. Not that I’m saying I’ve got there yet. But that’s the area that I’m striving towards. And it’s a good feeling to be on that journey.

Mark [30:49] And its lovely connection, isn’t it ~ when you hit that space?

Connecting to the Ikigai Concept

Robert [30:53] Yeah and we also subscribe and we’re using it in our book.  We’re using it a lot in our self-leadership workshops. The Ikigai concept – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that. I’ll just explain that briefly because that’s such an important concept is.  I think there are doing some research into islands off Japan where people are living for over 100 years.  It was originally put down to diet because they’re eating fish and healthy food, etc. But when they went into a little bit more deeply, it was discovered that there’s a lot of very tight-knit community. There was a lot of respect for each other. There’s very much in the alignment of what you did as an individual how that contributed to the community. And that seemed to have a big impact on people’s health and longevity. So, the model we use now – there are four bits to it. And if you get these four bits to coincide – then you really are on purpose.

Robert [32:05] So, the first thing is, what am I passionate about? The second bit is, what am I good at? The third bit is, what does the world need or what does my community need? Or what does my family life need?  The fourth bit – well what’s in it for me? Can I sustain myself and my family? Or do I – is the reward not necessarily financial reward – is the reward, a feel-good – a satisfaction that I’ve helped other people. So, when you get those four things coming together, then I think you’re in the flow as an individual. And if people can start to identify what they’re passionate about, what they’re good at what the world needs, and what’s in it for them – I think that’s when an individual can be in flow with themselves.

Where Can I Buy Robert’s Book?

Mark [33:06] Well done. Robert, where can people get your book?

Robert [33:11] They can get the book if I happen to live in Ballarat. Any of the book shops here. I haven’t really tried to get into Geelong. If they contact us at Leadership at Work or I can put a phone number out, is it possible?

Mark [33:32] I can put that in the show notes. Please put the phone number in. What’s your phone number?

Robert’s Contact Details

Robert [33:37] 0418 518 667.

Mark [33:43] And what I’ll do – is I’ll put in the show notes, I’ll put your webpage – backlink to the web page. And wherever people can buy the books I’ll put that in the show notes as well.

Robert [34:00] Thank you for that.

Mark [34:00] Robert. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity. Sorry, I’m trying to keep the conversations to about 30 minutes for drive time. Robert, I really appreciate your leadership, wisdom, your knowledge and the skills that you’ve bought to yourself and organisations to make organisations much more effective for their businesses, but also humankind.

Robert [34:34] Well, thank you Mark for the opportunity. And I appreciate the opportunity and you can see I am passionate about this. So, I haven’t worked a day for last 30 years because I’m in that flow situations. I’m very lucky and I’m very grateful. I give gratitude every day for it.

Mark [34:52] Well done. Thank you very much, Robert, nice to talk to you.

Robert [34:56] Thanks, Mark.


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