Tim Arnold has spent over two decades helping leaders manage complexity, increase resilience, and deliver results, with clients that include The United Nations, Royal Bank of Canada, Allstate Insurance, Compassion International, Toyota, and Siemens.
After running both a for-profit business and a homeless shelter, he leverages his real-world experience to help organisations pursue both profit and purpose. Tim’s work focuses on helping leaders unleash the superpower of Both/And thinking in an Either/Or world.
Beyond leadership and team development, Tim is an avid fisherman, world traveller, and really bad hockey player. His biggest accomplishments are being dad to Declan and Avryl, and husband to Becky.
What you will learn
- How Tim discovered his calling and developed his leadership skills
- Leadership Fundamentals: Why identifying and managing key tensions is essential
- Tim shares more about writing his book, ‘Lead with AND’
- Discover six unavoidable tensions that will make or break your overall success
- Learn how to understand paradox and leverage tensions in your workplace
- How to embrace and understand complexity and simplicity
- Tim shares some tips for leaders looking to become more effective
- Why practicing the art of active listening is important for leaders
- Plus loads more!
00:00:03 - 00:01:31
Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today, I have with me, Tim Arnold. Now we have heard of Tim Arnold, but he was an actor, but Tim is not an actor, he's actually a leadership guru. So a little bit about Tim, he spent over two decades helping leaders manage complexity, increased resilience and deliver results with clients that include the United Nations, Royal Bank of Canada, Allstate Insurance, Compassion International, Toyota and Siemens.
After running both a for-profit business and a homeless shelter, he leverages his real world experience to organizations pursue both profit and purpose and attention between those. Tim’s work focuses on helping leaders unleash the superpower of Both/And thinking in an Either/Or world.
Beyond leadership and team development, Tim is an avid fisherman and I'm curious about that. I did fly fishing for the first time a couple of years ago in Montana. Well, traveler, okay, I identify with that. I'm just back from Lake Como and I've been to Canada, which is one of my favorite places on the planet. And that's where Tim's dialing in from, just outside Toronto. And he says he's a really bad hockey player. I don't know what that means. Anybody can't skate on ice or he just does it without skates. His biggest accomplishments are being dad to Declan and Avryl and husband to Becky.
Welcome to the show, Tim, it's an absolute pleasure.
00:01:31 - 00:01:34
It's a pleasure to be here. I'm so glad this worked out. I'm looking forward to our conversation.
00:01:35 - 00:02:10
Yeah, we had a little challenge organizing this because I was in Lake Como. And then you got to set your schedule of your software to make sure it matches a schedule in the future, which was Australian time because I'm now back in Sydney, but we managed it. So really good to have you here. So Tim, before we talk about fishing and bad hockey playing. No, let's just go straight to fishing. Let's go fishing, I'd rather like fishing sometimes. Yeah. As long as people actually unhook the fish for me and I love a fishing assistant.
00:02:10 - 00:02:16
I love it. That's a profession I would be open to.
00:02:17 - 00:02:20
So what sort of fishing do you do? Is it fly fishing?
00:02:20 - 00:03:24
Whenever I can, it's interesting, you know, a thread throughout my life that I've always found joy and I just feel like I get re-energized is when I'm on the water, specifically fishing and as work became more and more and more demanding part of my life, even though I love work, I realized I needed to kind of manage this work life tension a bit more effectively. So, a number of years ago I said, I am going to schedule fishing once a week and I'm fortunate because I live near the water. So that can be as quick as 20 minutes in a week. But I feel like if I put it on the calendar, it's gonna happen and I don't make every week, but I make most. And right now in Canada, we've just switched to ice fishing. So it's a whole new season here. Tons of fun. But yeah, I know, when I travel, I always integrate fishing into it. I don't live in an amazing fly fishing area. So when I can make that happen through travel, I am all over that. And it's always an incredibly humbling experience.
00:03:25 - 00:03:48
Well, my dad brought me up. Well, Dad bought a boat when I was about nine and we used to go out into the gulf just off the coast of Adelaide, South Australia. And if I didn't catch a fish within about 30 minutes, so I grabbed the book and went out the front of the boat and read and dad said, what are you doing? And I said, I'm reading, there's no fish here. So we moved a lot.
00:03:48 - 00:03:49
I bet you did. That’s fantastic.
00:03:50 - 00:04:41
But yeah, and my latest fun fishing expedition was going to Montana for an influencer conference where I spoke there and loved Montana and million people in one state. It's very nicely uncrowded. So I had a fly fishing coach and I caught nine trout in about an hour. So I obviously had a very, very good coach. But next to me was a tech guru out of New York and he was all fingers and thumbs and was constantly getting his tackle tackled and needed a lot of untangling. But so anyway, I digress. It's not about me. It's about you. Sorry, I just digress about fishing.
00:04:41 - 00:04:44
I could talk about fishing any day, all day.
00:04:45 - 00:05:01
Okay. So let's put fishing aside now, what was the call for you to say, I'm going to be a leadership consultant. That's really what I want to be when I grow up. What, how did that happen?
00:05:02 - 00:08:33
That's a great question. I feel like there's two chapters to that. The first one is, I kind of stumbled into this field. I went away to school to be an accountant and, you know, studied and did just fine in school. But after my second work term, I started to think, I don't think this is for me, my colleagues were loving their work and I just wasn't. So I thought, what am I gonna do now? So I decided I was going to just take a break from my trajectory of becoming an accountant. And during that time, I had a lot of experience working outdoors, I spent a lot of time rock climbing and this kind of business degree that I just acquired and my climbing experience ended up having me do a lot of outdoor adventure guiding with corporate groups. And I kind of just found that as a way to pay rent for a while as I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. So, you know, doing high ropes courses and mountain climbing trips and some fishing trips. But, you know, it was probably about a year into that, that I went, gosh, I really like this. Now, I was in my early 20s, but I just started to recognize that, you know, this actually may not just be a short term gig. And I just love working with groups and specifically with professionals and this idea of leadership development. Now, at the time I had, you know, next to no experience. So I was a sponge to learn and, you know, I did a lot more facilitating experiences through adventure. But as the years passed, I realized more than ever, I was so fortunate to have kind of stumbled into this profession. So that was kind of how I got into it. What was interesting, I guess the second chapter is, you know, 3, 4-5 years and doing a lot of kind of team building and leadership development often in the outdoors. I was a little bit troubled by something and that was a lot of the answers that are programs led people to seemed a little bit too easy. You know, we're doing these adventure retreats with executives and CEOs and they're doing these outdoor simulations or trust falls, you name it. And at the end of the day they're like, oh, we just need to communicate more. Or, oh, we just need to trust each other. And I'm thinking to myself, I don't think they needed me to tell them that. You know, so I was taken by the fact not that that's wrong, but there's gotta be something missing. And you know, that's actually what got me studying and researching and almost fascinated by this idea of, you know, a lot of the real success that we have as leaders in our teams isn't just choosing one thing. We just have to communicate or we just have to trust or we just have to embrace change. Instead it actually is holding two value’s intention. So yes, we do need to embrace change and we got to hold on to stability. Yes, we do need to collaborate more. But you know what, we also need to hold onto competition. And I started to realize that gosh, the leaders and the teams that really seem to have a competitive edge, don't settle with just the easy answers that are a little bit too easy, but they learn to hold some tension, some value’s intention. You know, I use the word tension sometimes that's referred to as polarities or paradox or dilemma, call it what you want.
00:08:34 - 00:08:38
That was the term I was gonna use, you’re talking about constant paradox resolution.
00:08:39 - 00:09:45
Absolutely. I mean, the analogy that I think we all can resonate with is breathing. You know, inhaling and exhaling as a package deal, I can't wake up tomorrow and say, I think it's an inhale day because the moment I over focus on that, I'm blue in the face and, you know, what we learn both as professionals, leaders and our teams is that there's a lot of things that if we just pick one side, it works for a little bit, but it won't work too long. You know, going back to, we can embrace change. But if we don't also embrace stability changes, chaos and confusion, you know, we were talking a little bit before the show about pursuing profit and I've ran and now sold a couple for profit businesses. But I also realized that if I pursue profit, but I don't pursue purpose, it's not very fun. And I lose my energy and my zeal for my work. So there's certain things where you realize this is a package deal. You know, this is a paradox and effectiveness isn't choosing one side or the other. It's learning to actually hold those value’s intention
00:09:46 - 00:09:51
And it's managing that tension between the paradox, yeah.
00:09:52 - 00:10:33
it's interesting because it is, I mean, and I'd love to say it's just as simple as that, just manage the tension. But gosh, I don't know what things are like right now in Australia. But I can tell you here in Canada and a lot of countries I spend time working, we just like to pick sides. We live in a world that's becoming, you know, more and more polarized and divided, which means just give me the right answer. I just want to know my answer. Be good with it, find my people who support it. So, actually learning to get comfortable with tension and realize that some things aren't right and wrong, they're right and right. It's becoming a lost art really.
00:10:33 - 00:12:06
One of the things you talk about paradox and the tension between the two opposites, inhaling, exhaling, reminds me of the Dao and the Dao is very much, the truth lies in the middle. And who, you wouldn't enjoy a journey unless there was enough comfort and stability. But you also don't want to know too much because the adventure is an adventure, right? So you want to be able to discover unknowns, you want to go around the corner and I love the term flaneur. In other words, to wander aimlessly and just stumble upon something. And I, yeah, so what you talk about is very dear to my heart. I just don't want to plan a trip. I want to stumble into something I don't know. But also I want to have, I want to be able to still have enough comfort, stability to hang on to what I do know and what worked for me in the past. So, all right. So, you've gone taking these, obviously, when you take me this adventure trips, you've got CEOs and leaders that are with you. And so, and what you mentioned too is about the aha moments when we're just simple, but you believed much more lay beyond that. So when did you move beyond sort of like leadership training, consulting that was wrapped in a forest to a more formal setting? Does that what happened?
00:12:06 - 00:16:50
Yeah. And it was over years, I spent a good part of my 20s more on the outdoor adventure side. And, you know, as that guiding season of my life was happening, I really started to dig into the research around paradox and intention and I started to do a little bit of writing and publishing around that and I found that, you know, there's a lot of amazing theories and models out there and leadership in business and in teams. But this is one area that a lot of, there's just not a lot of conversations around it, you know, actually getting comfortable with tension and leaning into key tension. So both just out of personal interest, like, you know, again being trained as an accountant, you know, being raised in a very restrictive religious household where everything was right and wrong, this idea of right and right and getting comfortable with tension, it was life changing for me. So, you know, I was fascinated with it on many levels. So I spent a lot of years researching, you know, as you talk about the Dao, Lao Tsu is onto something. I'm not the first person to talk about this. I mean, this has been around forever. And the more I dug into it, the more I realized that, you know, this idea of identifying and managing key tensions is just so foundational to leadership. And, you know, I started to do a lot more work with emerging leaders. And, you know, one thing I noticed often if you're working with emerging leaders, usually, you know, they're so excited when they're at the beginning stages, you know, they're just overwhelming joy and excitement and the world is theirs. And sometimes you would kind of do a follow up program 6, 7-8 months later. And man, some of that excitement has been lost. You know, some of that excitement turned into this discouragement, even sometimes even cynicism. And I found often it wasn't because what they were doing was wrong. They just treated every challenge like every challenge they faced with this either/or approach, everything was right or wrong, good or bad, they didn't have the ability to navigate these tensions. So, you know, I spent more and more time creating, you know, both writing and speaking and training folks to again if something is right and wrong, choose the right answer, be done with it. But to go beyond that and recognize that the more you lead, the more you tackle the hard stuff, you know, the more you're trying to launch something innovative and new, you'd better be comfortable with tensions and you better have some skills that can allow you to manage those tensions well, you know, I took a ten-year break. It started to be just a few years where I sold the business and I thought I'm gonna just change this up. So I started and ran a 40 bed homeless shelter. And I was gonna just kind of provide some help to get it off the ground and I ended up staying almost a decade. And I recognize this isn't just for profit, this isn't just leadership. This is any hard challenge you take on, you're dealing and wrestling with these tensions all the time, you know, in our shelter, all of a sudden, we recognize that every day we have people come through our doors asking for help and support. And we knew as a staff on one hand, we had to be unconditionally accepting, you know, no matter what you do, no matter what you have done your accepted here and we hold, had to hold people accountable, you know, that it's that tough love, general love, we had, you know, a staff, a small staff that would say, you know, my managers who kind of ran the shelter, they'd say, okay, for this place to be a fair place. We've got to be consistent, no favoritism. We've got house rules, everyone knows them. You know, that's a safe, fair place. Well, I have my coaches who worked one on one with our homeless friends saying, wait a minute, what you would ask of this resident, you'd never ask of this person because of their experience of trauma or mental health, fairness is that everyone gets the same thing. So everyone gets what they need. It's about individuality and you need to see this wrestling matches that consistency or is it individuality until one day we went, oh, it's both and if we want to live out our mission and vision, it's not gonna be picking one side of the other, it's both. So, you know, Jeff, it seems like wherever I'm working or whoever I'm working with, there's always a few of these just unavoidable tensions. So, you know, I am probably based just on the stage of life. I'm not guiding expeditions these days, but I am spending a lot of time on stage and in training rooms helping folks. Yeah, embrace this gift of tension in new ways and it really allows folks to kind of go to the next level of effectiveness.
00:16:51 - 00:18:38
Yeah, look, you mentioned so I don't normally talk about religion, but I'm going to actually open that little crack in the door because you mentioned restrictive religious practices that you were brought up with. I totally get that. I was brought up with restrictive religious practices as well as a conservative Christian, fundamentalist Christian. So, I recently read Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth. It's a story, very graphically written and complete, it just up into the publishing world back in the 50’s because he talked about all sorts of forbidden things. And he, it's a story of him battling. Well, it's a novel but I'm sure it's 90% of its biographical. But he talked about the fact that Phil Rock was a Jew. So he was brought up in a very restrictive Jewish religious background and it was managing this tension between what he believed, nonsense rules, other rules. So, and for me, I just think, wow, he's talking about rules and how do you let go of some of them and how to apply some of them because they make sense. So I, it just touched me, Portnoy's Complaint by Phil Roth, incredible writer, Pulitzer Prize winner. So very graphical novel but very much about attention he had between him and his family, the age of 14 and beyond managing this rules based environment.
00:18:38 - 00:18:41
I think I just found my next read. I'm very intrigued.
00:18:41 - 00:19:10
It's graphical about sex and he's upbringing as a young man and of course, the restrictions that surround any fundamentalist faith of any type, almost, it's often very rules based. Rules that maybe God, old man made up. We're not quite sure which sometimes but it's interesting.
00:19:10 - 00:20:34
Yeah. Well, what's interesting as well is, you know, the, and I want to be really clear with your listeners that this kind of either/or right, wrong, that's not a bad thing. I mean, you know, they say in terms of the stages of development, like we need to learn that first that some things are right, wrong. Some things are good and bad. You know, some things are safe or unsafe that either/or ability to navigate life is foundational, but there's a point where it's no longer helpful. So we have to go to that next level, which isn't right and wrong, but right and right. We've got to navigate nuance and mystery and complexity and, you know, what makes it sometimes hard if you were in more of a reel, you know, fundamentalist religious household or restricted religion is that right, wrong is also linked to like heaven and hell. So, that need to be right is fine tuned and hardwired into literally your eternity. So, it's not easy to go beyond that and recognize that, oh, there are some situations where it's, it's actually both and this idea of complexity and mystery. It's not a bad thing. It's a gift, you know, but it's a challenge. And I think this is probably why I ended up in this area because it was life changing for me.
00:20:35 - 00:21:43
Yeah. And as humans, we say, give me the right answer, I want the answer. And I think especially the western world Christianity being the prevailing faith, but that's changing. I had this restaurant myself, like I was brought up in a world of black and white. This is right, this is wrong, the 10 commandments. And, so I got to a point at the age 27 where I no longer was working for me. And I'm a slow learner for some people at the age of 14 and maybe decided that's not gonna work for them. But I remember having a conversation, my father and I said, the God I've discovered is much bigger than the one I grew up with. And what I sort of meant by that was I discovered the world of gray, I discovered the world of paradox. I discovered that the perfect world of right and wrong didn't actually exist.
00:21:43 - 00:24:22
It's interesting that you say that because when I was again, really starting to dig into this new kind of world for me, which is this both and perspective. There was something that felt so right and freeing and liberating. But there was also so this kind of other side going, oh, this may be dangerous and you know what, you're starting to lose your foundations. And in those early years, a friend of mine actually, friend from our faith community, surprisingly enough gave me something to read. He says, I think you need to read this. And I was leafing through this and there was a page in this book that just, it was like, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It said, and if you don't mind, I'll read it to you because it's top of mind for me, it started by saying, living a spiritual life means that we live our life in total polarity. It means that we're at ease in between spaces. And the author goes on to say between traditional and progressive viewpoints, between rational and emotional responses, between taking action and just being there, between solitude and leisure, between fasting and feast, between discipline and wildness. And she ends by saying, if you're not living a spiritual life, you get stuck on one end of the spectrum or the other and you end up bland, lukewarm, mediocre and isolated. Last sentence is, the only way to live a spiritual life is to be able to touch both sides at the same time, becoming more aware of who we are, who we choose to be. And in challenging times how we show up. And I mean, the words hit me in a powerful way but what was even more fascinating, Jeff was, that was written by Saint Teresa in 1515. And, you know, I recognized, gosh, how did I miss that? You know, how have I only be able to navigate the world through this right, wrong, either or perspective. And, you know, it was things like that I think gave me the confidence to say no, I think it's almost like I'm stuck seeing the world in a very black or white way and there's a lot of color I'm missing. And, you know, that would be kind of how this work has impacted me. But, you know, I've seen it transfer all the way to the boardroom and to our organizational teams and how we approach our businesses. We still have this, you know, things have to be right or wrong or if something's wrong, just give me the solution. But the idea of saying, you know what, maybe it's attention to manage, maybe it's a right and right. That's hard for folks. It's uncomfortable.
00:24:23 - 00:24:39
Yeah. And I think understanding that life is a constant paradox is something that as humans we will always struggle with because we just like, give me the answer. I want an answer.
00:24:39 - 00:25:05
I want the plan, I want to know exactly how this is gonna play off. And, you know, and there's certainly, and I'm a fan and I believe me, I'm a planner. I've got strategy and kind of like you're traveling some of it, you figure out as you go and some of it actually that's where the magic happens. So, even that I think is a healthy perspective on, not only leadership but life, right?
00:25:06 - 00:25:16
Yeah, exactly. And there's a new technology to help us with right and wrong. It's called ChatGPT.
00:25:17 - 00:25:19
So, I've heard.
00:25:20 - 00:25:28
Artificial intelligence, it fixes everything. Well, that is another topic. We weren't quite sure.
00:25:28 - 00:25:54
We could spend lots of time there. But I will say, and I mean, you don't need me to tell you this. But, you know, one thing that has not helped, this default towards right and wrong and this movement towards polarization is the fact that, you know, once I do have views and opinions, I've got algorithms that are making pretty darn sure I see those views validated all day long.
00:25:54 - 00:25:56
00:25:56 - 00:26:28
It is scary because I'm no longer getting the other. I'm actually, you know, there's technology working to make sure I don't see the other side. So, of course, my mind saying, well, anyone who would see this differently just doesn't get it or they don't care. So again, we're getting less and less able to just wrestle with values that are there, sometimes even opposite, but they complement each other. And we're finding that to be less and less of a skill folks have.
00:26:28 - 00:27:30
Yeah, I think one of the technologies driven by social media, which was when I started my blog in 2009 and I started that journey with open, hopeful, positive. I am now a citizen of the world, we're all going to sing Kumbaya and hold hands together but what happened was the algorithms got in the way and I remember there's a couple of instances for me. And number one was, I got interviewed once by a reporter out of America and saying, what do you think about people getting their news via social media? And like a lot of young people get their news and that's where they got the news and read it from going, do they? I said, right, that's actually really dangerous. That is really dangerous. That was my initial reaction. And I actually hardly use social media myself now because I know what the fuck is going on with the algorithms.
00:27:30 - 00:27:49
Yeah, I mean, it's interesting. I found in, I've never been a heavy user but I did find in COVID when I was home a lot more my scrolling went up. So I had to just put the 10 minute timer on the phone and it shuts down because it's just not helpful.
00:27:49 - 00:27:51
It's not helping.
00:27:51 - 00:28:20
It's not helpful. And, you know, I remind myself and anytime, anyone asks for my opinion, I'd say no one changed anyone's mind on social media. So it's just, it really has become a downward spiral. Good can come of it, you know, I leverage it for work, I, you know, I definitely see the communication and marketing side but when you're talking about values, when you're talking about news, that wasn't the way it was intended.
00:28:20 - 00:29:42
No, I think any technology we get is the paradox again,any technology could be used for good or evil. Nobel created dynamite to do industrial mining. Instead it also got used for industrial killing, nuclear power, nuclear bombs. The list goes on and we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, which is a very cliche statement, but social media is great, but it's got to be, we've got to use it thoughtfully and one, the other tensions with social media was is we quite often judge out inside by the outside of others and you go into social media and you see this polished version of someone else and they're having the most fabulous time. They're wearing the best clothes, they're driving the right cars, they live in the right suburb, they're having the best adventures, but that's the outside. That's what's presented. They don't reveal the pain, the anxiety, the depression that's happening behind the scenes. Some people do good on them. But I quite often if I go in and watch a social media feed, I'm going, I'm not doing very well. ,
00:29:42 - 00:29:50
Yeah, it rarely makes you feel better about yourself. It's a fascinating phenomenon.
00:29:50 - 00:30:13
Alright, we digress but I do love these conversations. So, but let's talk about your book, Lead with And, and then I want to go a bit more about some of the challenges and things you help leaders with because I haven't really got to that. We have got to it in a way. But tell me about the book you've written called Lead with And.
00:30:14 - 00:33:53
Lead with And, so in a world that is really comfortable with either/or, but I am suggesting that the superpower of leadership right now is to be able to lead with and, and really, Jeff, it comes from research that I did and leveraged around unavoidable leadership tensions. So I don't care where you are in the world or what you're doing. If you're moving things forward, if you're really taking on hard challenges, there's a, and I've got a list of six unavoidable tensions that will be make it or break it to your overall success. I can list them for you if it's helpful. The first is you've got to be on one hand optimistic, you've got to help yourself and others see that the challenges will serve you well in the future is bright and at the same time, realistic, you know, you've got to face the car, the cold, hard facts of reality, not or but optimistic and realistic. The second one is, and I think this would be probably really relevant for your folks. You've got to be an agent of change and you've got to help people embrace change and you've got to take advantage of innovation. And at the same time, you gotta hold on to what's working and you've got to make sure that there's some element of your life that you're good at and that's known. So on one hand, you embrace change and at the same time, you preserve stability. The third one is, and this is, I use the term profit and purpose. You know, we want to run our organizations in a way where the bottom line actually is looking fantastic, we can grow, we can innovate, we can hire. And it's about the why, I mean, Simon Sinek was onto something a few years ago, meaning that, you know, starting with the why, how do I be both about profit and purpose? The fourth is, and this is one that's been really, really, it's kind of floated to the top of the list as people have worked more in a hybrid reality. A lot of the teams I work with are no longer face to face. How do I have high expectations on myself and of each other? How do we have high expectations and equally high levels of grace? How do we, not either or but when I say grace, I'm talking about empathy and understanding and factoring in life. How do I have high expectations and high grace? The last two, as I mean, you would know this leadership is another oriented job. You know, I'm taking care of my clients, my stakeholders, and my staff never mind taking care of folks at home and my community. How do I take care of others but still focus on what I need. You know, that's my fishing one day a week. Like what do I do to make sure that I'm focused on self and others? And the last one is how do I be someone who's confident? You know, at the end of the day, I'm helping people move forward. I'm helping, I'm serving people by what I'm offering my product, my service. So I need confidence and at the same time, remain humble. And humble, humility is not weakness, humility is the disposition and there's always something new to learn. So how do I be confident and humble? And my hunch is you may not use the words I'd use but those six tensions, you're wrestling with them every day. But if you get stuck in an either or mindset where with any of them, you just want to treat one kind of choose one side, neglect the other. Even if it feels good in the short term, it will undermine your business, it will undermine your leadership, it will divide your team. So how do you name those to say folks, this is the business we're in and then manage them well. So I don't know, pause there. Does that resonate with you? Thoughts?
00:33:53 - 00:33:58
I just thought of a new title for your book. It's called The Leadership Paradox.
00:33:58 - 00:34:03
I like it. Then the next title I love it.
00:34:04 - 00:35:17
Because you've just talked about six paradoxes, really. And I totally agree like we've got to live in this tension between the known and the unknown. Too much unknown creates anxiety, too much known makes you boring and not growing so, yeah, I, yeah, it's life is fascinating to say the least. I still wanted to continue to make it a journey. So part of my paradox at the moment is leaving the known and then go and exploring the world and working for two months in another place. And I think if we, as humans traveled a bit more and we're open to realize that everyone's got different ideas and, you know, and live different ways and they're neither right nor wrong. For example, in Italy, caught off in the stores are open on a Monday or they shut between 12:30 and 3:30. And that modern consumers know how dare they shut the shop, but they've actually learned to live.
00:35:17 - 00:36:14
It's so interesting. Jeff, I would say when people say, how do you get better at, you know, understanding paradox and leveraging and managing tensions and one of the, you know, encouragement I have to, people is to travel if you are in a situation where you can kind of get out. And I mean, that ideally would be, you know, somewhere outside of your proximity, but it could even be hang around with people different than you, you know, deliberately work to spend time with people who see the world differently. And you know, what you realize the relationship is that, you know, these different approaches and complexity and it's actually a great thing. It's uncomfortable sometimes and it's easier just to be around people and ideas just like me, but my favorite quote in the last few years is author, Susan David said, discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. And, you know, I've got that on my office wall because I'm like, that's where the, that's where the magic is, right?
00:36:14 - 00:36:17
Yeah, exactly. I love that. I'm just writing it down.
00:36:17 - 00:37:43
Susan David. Dr Susan David, discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. Doesn't mean that we want to be unhappy and we're, you know, causing ourselves pain. But it's just, you know, recognizing that I gotta push myself, I got to experience new things. I want to be pushed. You know, there's an element of human nature often referred to as the, confirmation bias, which means that when I have viewpoints, when I have values, I want them affirmed. That's why, you know, if I'm leaning to the political right of the political left, I'll usually read magazines or go to news sources that support that point of view because it makes me feel better and yet what we need to do is actually fight that confirmation bias and say no, if I'm here, I actually wanna see things and expose myself to things on the other side. Not, you know, and it's this disposition, not that I'm wrong, but there's something I can learn. You know, I don't have to exchange my viewpoints for yours, but I can expand my viewpoints and, you know, I think I can, I think it was a neighbor that has the quote, our truth is never the truth. You know, if I can hold on to my values and actually have very strong values and principles and moral and viewpoints and, you know, ideas on how the company should be run and expose myself to resistance and to push back into different opinions. Well, then we just make better decisions, you know, then we actually, you know, experience life in a whole new way.
00:37:43 - 00:39:35
Totally agree. And that's, I think if anyone hasn't got a passport and hasn't traveled, go and get one tomorrow and go and get slightly uncomfortable on the other side of the world, we don't even speak their language. But it's amazing what you can do with sign language and a wink and a nod and a smile. But I do miss English conversations because that's my language. And I do love word wrangling and love dinner parties where you take a piece out of each other and play with words, you satire and irony, which some countries seem to struggle with. And it's, yeah, get yourself a passport and yeah, and the price of travel is a bit more expensive at the moment, but it's going to come down. But I feel grateful I've been able to travel so much and speak in different places around the world and understand that my point of view is not black and white. It's not right. I've still got a lot to learn. So let's lean into what we talked about before, we live in a very complex world, in fact, most of the things we deal with under the bonnet there is technology we just don't know how it works, it's called software. So, the biggest tool in the world is the Internet. It's only been around since, really usable for in, since 1995, 94.So what is the challenge you have with helping businesses manage complexity and how do they distill the inter simplicity, which is something very, I found very, very important. In other words, how can we help people make sense of complexity without dumbing it down too much? I'd be interested in your thoughts.
00:39:35 - 00:41:39
Yeah. Well, I actually think you named, especially in, you know, in your audience. I think probably one absolutely critical attention to be mindful of probably every single day is how we embrace complexity and simplicity. And, you know, I often say the complexity side often is the behind the curtain side, you need to embrace complexity to have the best product and service, to have the best customer experience. Like complexity should be your business. And yet, you know, somehow you've got to be able to get that to your client, to your stakeholder dear and user in a simple way as possible. Sometimes I would say it's even business complexity and communication simplicity. You know, can you make this incredibly complex thing in three simple steps, you know, I worked with author Donald Miller who does a lot of communication training and he said, I don't care how many steps there are in how it works, you'd better be able to boil it down to three. And if that means you've got to kind of truncate a bunch, that's great but, you know, our mind gravitates towards threes, we remember things in threes. It's not shocking that, you know, a lot of our phone codes and you know, safety measures are in threes. So, you know, I don't care how complex your businesses are. If I'm sitting next to you, you'll be able to say, hey, Tim, you know what? It's really simple. You start here, then we do this and you end up here. Oh, I get that now that may, there may be 100 other sub steps in the way. But now you've allowed me to lean forward as opposed to step back and by leaning forward, you can actually, I'll ask more questions, you know, okay, well, tell me more about that first step. Well, you can give me more complexity once I'm hungry for it. But if you overwhelm me with it, I tune out, you know, and I don't know if your listeners have talked much about the curse of knowledge. Is that something you've talked about before? It's not something I created.
00:41:39 - 00:41:43
I totally agree with the curse of knowledge because it gets in the way.
00:41:43 - 00:42:41
All the time, right? I mean, the essence is we know what we do at a 10 and a 10 level. And most of the folks that are listening today are dealing with very complex things. You know, your customer, your stakeholder, your client knows that at a 1-2. So we're like, oh, I've got to simplify this. So we're convinced because we know that buying happens or, you know, people engage at that 1 to 2 at a 10 level. So we simplify it were like, we've got it, we've got this complex thing down to that one or two and we think we're there, but we're still using a seven or an eight. And of course, that curse of knowledge is that gap between one or two and seven or eight. So again, the tension to manage and I don't even like to turn dumb it down because no, you keep embracing the complexity, that's your job. But you've got to be able to communicate it simply, you got to make the experience simple. And if you can, when you can manage that tension, well, your business stands out from the pack.
00:42:41 - 00:42:54
Yeah, I had an aha moment while we're chatting about this. And the front end is the simplicity, which is the UX for the customer. The back end is complexity.
00:42:54 - 00:42:57
Absolutely. I think that's a great way to put it.
00:42:57 - 00:43:42
Because the journey to present a simple product to the world is quite often a journey of years. That is a journey of complexity. But the UX and the front end is simplicity. That was my aha moment that I've never had before. And thank you for this conversation for to, yeah, and we always talk about UX, user experience and you said, you know, just give people three things don't try. And I think dumb it down is not a good term. I think I still like the sound of that word instead dumb it down [inaudible] is one that's actually.
00:43:42 - 00:45:07
That works, I would say, you know, I've worked with, you know, small businesses with single products to literally rocket scientists, so different levels of complexity. But if you've got a website and there's on the home page how it works. You should be able to say how it works in three simple steps, even if it takes an incredible amount of time to distill it down to that. It's, we do this, we do this and we end up here. Now, I'm leaning forward now. You've got my attention. And again, that doesn't mean that we're not, as you say, behind the curtain, incredibly complex, but I've just, I've actually done the hard work of taking that complexity and made it incredibly simple from a user experience. And, you know, I'd say if you're in a team and you're like, we got it down to seven steps, keep going, keep going. I'll give you four at the most. But three is ideal. It's interesting. There's research that would say when you give that client experience, if there's like, here's how it works and it's two steps, people don't feel it's good enough. That's too simple. But once you're at four or five buying goes down. So there's something about that 3 to 4 at the most. And again, if you can't sit next to me on a plane and say, oh Tim, you know, here's what I offer, here's how it works in three simple steps, you're losing a lot of people.
00:45:08 - 00:45:11
And also if you can't say it in one sentence.
00:45:11 - 00:45:58
Yeah, absolutely. It's always interesting to say that I was working in the US just earlier this week and I was working with someone who was very high up the kind of head office at Apple in the very early years. And she said everyone just would dread getting on the elevator with Steve Jobs because it didn't matter who you were. And again, the company was small at this time, if you were the only person, he would look here in the eye and say, explain what you do for this company in five words or less. And if you couldn't do that, she said there was hell to pay. So she said everyone had their five word sentence and I thought, oh, that's fantastic though, that you better know your value and that clear simple of a statement. Now she had other things to say that weren’t as fantastic but that was I thought pretty cool.
00:45:59 - 00:47:02
Yeah, cool. Yeah. One of the things, one of the reasons I write is to actually try and manage complexity to simplicity because when you write, you've actually got to get to a point where you deliver the message in words that are on a page or on a screen that makes sense. It's not a noise in your head, wooly thinking, it's gonna be put on a screen, it's gotta make sense. And I remember my cousin when I was the age of 12 or 13, he said, Jeffrey used two big words to use it too big. He was a simple farm boy but he was right, I was trying to impress with big words. I think the thing I learned as I wrote and watched that other writers did was write for a five, write for a grade five person and single syllable words are good.
00:47:02 - 00:48:22
Absolutely. And, you know, it's so fascinating you say that because there's something about the moment I have a pen in my hand or I'm on a keyboard all of a sudden, I feel like I need to be Shakespearean and often I'll read, you know, and my test always is whatever I'm writing, then read it out loud and I'll do that. I'm like, I would never say those sentences. So why am I writing that way? And, you know, I think the more, you know, the litmus test for me is keep reading it out loud. And if you wouldn't say that in a podcast or to a friend, don't write it because it's not helpful, you know, it should be as simple and conversational as possible. And I would say that too about folks, you know, if you're working on web copy, if you like, it's not helpful to sound incredibly sophisticated and complex, be conversational, make it simple. And, you know, if I've had people push back sometimes and say, well, we have a very sophisticated technical audience. Yeah, but what if their cousins come across your information and they want to refer you to that technical person. It should make sense to everyone. So don't just feel like you only need to speak to this one, incredibly technical avatar that is your customer, make it work to their second cousin. The more accessible the better.
00:48:23 - 00:48:35
I totally agree and that's the fun of writing for me is trying to make it, trying to distill it. And we've used distilled way too many times, but that's okay.
00:48:35 - 00:48:36
It's the word of the day.
00:48:36 - 00:49:19
Yeah, we're gonna call this podcast Distilled. Well, we could call it the Paradox of Leadership. So, maybe before we wrap it up, I'd like to understand your process before you used to take them into the woods, scare the shit out of them and get them to learn something like get them on the edge of a cliff, get them before the river. So, what's your process for leaders now? And I'm sure it's different in every way but you must have a sort of a way. In fact, you go okay, we've got a problem or because you're called in to solve problems. Is that correct?
00:49:19 - 00:51:37
Yeah, I'm often, that's what there's issues, people are stuck, they're not breaking through the team's dysfunctional. And again, often people want that solution, just give me the solution and we'll do it. I quickly let folks know that I wish that I had that solution. But if someone offers you a simple silver bullet solution to a complex ongoing chronic issue, don't trust it because it will only work for a while. So what I will do with organizations or with leaders is to say, you know, you're not working with me or listening to me to start managing tension, you do this all the time. But what we're gonna do is name a few of them and you know, I use the term just seeing as relieving once you're like, oh it's complexity and simplicity. Or oh, you know what I need to lead with both profit and purpose. There's a bit of a, okay, so I'm not picking one is even though I love the answer doesn't exist, but I can wrestle with that and that's a good thing. And then we work on skills like what are some skills that it takes to manage tension and paradox well? And there's some basic skills, you know, learning to step up your curiosity. There's some communication tips that, you know, really trying to obliterate the word but from your vocabulary and replace it with and, you know, there's actually learning to at times choose courage over comfort when you're in meetings or you're working with folks making decisions to say, oh, I'd like to just kind of walk away from this. But you know what? This is a good conversation. So, you know, I'd say for anyone and I can certainly help you find a list for your folks to look at. But there's always one or two make it or break attentions to any business, you know, to anyone's leadership journey, there's gonna be a couple, make it or break attentions and I'd say you need to name them and then you got to learn a few skills to manage them well. And if you can do that, you've got a incredible competitive advantage in a world that's actually becoming more polarized and divided and just wants the right answer.
00:51:38 - 00:51:56
Yeah, it's in this complex world that gets increasingly complex. But we do have the tools to help us manage that complexity. And I'm just thinking about the title Lead with And, really the and is the bridge between the paradoxes, isn't it?
00:51:56 - 00:52:31
It really is, that's just that. So, you know, in a world that would like to use or, or, but you know, you realize that, oh it's change and stability, oh it's competition and collaboration. Oh It's confidence and humility. Well, you know, by having that paradigm, seeing it through that and lens, you recognize that, yeah, this isn't a pick aside again, going back to breathing. This is like inhaling and exhaling, it's a package deal and if I can treat it like that, well this is actually now starting to work for me instead of against me.
00:52:31 - 00:52:54
Yeah, I love it. So just to wrap it up and what are some of the top tips you would say for leaders to work on? What have you observed along the way that you think leaders should embrace? How would we just still, what you've learned along the way that leaders need to know?
00:52:54 - 00:56:07
Sure. So I'll give you a couple that I think can be really simple and helpful at the same time. I think one thing that leaders need to remember is that I don't need to agree with someone to learn from them. And in fact, if I put myself in situations where generally I agree with everyone, my learning disappears. So I've got to seek out opportunities for resistance and pushback. And, you know, if you're in a positional leadership role, that actually is something you have to look for. I want people to push back. I want to have conversations with people who see things differently. I don't need to agree with you to learn from you. And that's a belief that you have to remind yourself over and over again. I think the other, you know, I'd say that Jeff, a sentence that you should get really comfortable with starts with just the simple words, help me understand, you know, when you see it, you sense a little resistance, you sense a little polarization. Just say, hey, Jeff, help me understand, you know, and sometimes I'm a candidate. I don't see it that way, help me understand where you're coming from or this matters to you, what are the values that you're fighting for there? You know, and the other thing I would say around that is and again, a world that is becoming very divided, really seek out connection. You know, I'm not gonna delve into politics and social issues. But again, going back to algorithms, it feels as though if, for example, politically I'm on this side and you're on that side, we have nothing in common. Our values are nothing. Well, you know what, we probably have 95-97% of our beliefs and values in common. There's only a short list of a few that aren't so rather than focusing on those actually being that person who finds common ground. Hey, you know what, I don't feel like we're aligned there, but I bet we agree on this. Or you know what I think we're both, sometimes I say fighting for the higher purpose, you know, we both are looking for this. And, you know, I often say you can tell a real connector by the parties they throw because they're the most eclectic group of people, you know, in terms of just you almost go, how is this? How is this group together? But I think this gift of connection and making those connections is a huge piece. And I mean, again, super simple, but be very mindful of how often you use the word but, and every time you do try to replace it with and, you know, and what happens is sometimes if I'm feeling a little bit of resistance from you and I'm like, oh, but Jeff, instead of my, and, and sometimes it just makes me say and Jeff explain it a bit more because I'm still not there or I use the word and, and I realized, oh, wait a minute, we're seeing this from different perspectives, but there's a lot of common ground between our ideas. So, you know, again, going back to lead with and if you only from this conversation, take away, I'm gonna be really skilled and deliberate about integrating the word and in my conversations a lot more, especially when I feel resistance, especially when I sense a little polarization, it's game changing.
00:56:07 - 00:56:39
Yeah, I think what you've described as skills for a leader is when you said help me understand is you're actually invoking the practice of active listening. The problem with the ‘but’ means I heard you, but I'm actually not listening to you. In other words, I, in other words, I'm not listening to you. I'm imposing my thoughts on you because the ‘but’ tells me your statement doesn't mean anything. And I love the use of the words ‘and’.
00:56:39 - 00:57:21
It just slows down your thinking because if you're telling me your point of view or something, and I say, oh, but Jeff, that means halfway through you talking, I actually stopped listening and my mind was working in my response and the moment I use the word but, you know, it, you feel it if I use the word and, you know, it's interesting. There's a lot of evidence that would say most people don't always get to know you have to have their way. But we all need to know that our way was heard and factored in. And, you know, a lot of times again, I've seen people who are very polarized that they don't need to get their way, but they do need to be heard, legitimately heard. And is usually that's where that active listening comes in for sure.
00:57:22 - 00:57:55
That's one of the most powerful things I think any leader can use. And so I really enjoyed our conversation Tim, it's been an absolute pleasure. I've learned a lot as I normally do from interviewing some of the smartest people on the planet that have learned a lot along the way and you certainly have learned a lot along the way. And I'm honored to have you on the show and I have just been an absolute pleasure. Thank you very much for sharing your insights and experience.
00:57:56 - 00:58:04
Thank you. This has actually been just a total delight for me and maybe we can do a part two on the water someday, we'll get the fly rods out.
00:58:05 - 00:58:23
I would love that, I really would. But as they say in Northern America, okay, buddy, we'll do that together, buddy. Here, over here, we say mate. So, it's great. Thank you very much and enjoy the rest of your evening. What's the time there for you?
00:58:23 - 00:58:28
We are, it's 5:10 PM. So we're just getting on to dinner time.
00:58:28 - 00:58:44
Okay. So it must be about 9:10 here, I'd say so. Have a great evening and I look forward to catching up in real life or as they use in the modern 2030 something they go IRL.
00:58:44 - 00:58:47
00:58:47 - 00:58:48
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