The Best of no bullsh!t leadership in 2018

Welcome to the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. In a world where knowledge has become a commodity, this podcast is designed to give you something more; access to the experience of a successful CEO who has already walked the path. So join your host Martin Moore, who will unlock and bring to life your own leadership experiences, and accelerate your journey to leadership excellence.

Marty: Hi there, and welcome to episode 17 of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. Today we're going to do something just a little bit different because it's Boxing Day and I know you probably all still full of Turkey and Christmas pudding. So instead of putting new content your way, we're going to do a best of episode and of course to do that I've got Emma joining me again.

Emma: Hello. I'm so happy to be back for the final episode of the year. Can't believe it. What are we doing today, Marty?

Marty: What we're going to do today is that Emma and I are going to talk through our favourite episode so far. We've released 16 episodes to the back end of 2018 and we think there's some incredible content there. So if you haven't listened to these episodes, we're going to point out the five best ones that we think you should either go back and listen to for the first time, or if you've heard them before, go back and review. Hopefully, if you're in Australia, you're lying around the pool. It'll be a nice welcome distraction for you. If you're in the US or the UK, you'll be hopefully sitting around a fire. But either way, this will just be a good way to review and reset for the new year.

Marty: Now, just remember the easiest way to get to these episodes is just to go into your web browser and if you're looking for episode four, for example, you go in and type in It'll take you to a player where you can actually play the episode, the show notes at the end, of course, any downloadable that you can take and use as a cheat sheet. All right, Em, since I've given the introduction, why don't you kick off and start talking about your favourite episode?

Emma: Sounds good. All right, so my first pick is Excellence Over Perfection: Laying the Foundations for Successful Execution. Now, I've got to say one of the things that I love most about doing this podcast with you is that I learn as I go. I'm constantly having epiphany's around the way I behaved in the past, or the way I've seen bosses or colleagues behave in the past. I'll start with why I think this episode really is must listen. It gives you not only permission to drop a perfectionist behaviour, but it covers why it's counterproductive to be a perfectionist. And I think wrapping your head around this is really important in moving forward in not being a perfectionist and kind of engendering a perfectionist culture.

I really liked the way that you talked through some of the excuses that we make, so as not to deliver "imperfect work." I definitely related to quite a few, especially things like, instead of saying to my boss, "I'm afraid that this won't be good enough." I'd say, "I'm making sure it's perfect." Kind of doing that old turning a negative into a positive thing. I'd often use perfectionism as a way to hide a fear of failure, which I guess now I know it wasn't healthy for me or for my team.

The final thing I'll say on this is that it made me realise how damaging perfectionism can be to team morale and team outputs. So being a perfectionist and working in that perfectionist culture, it kind of reiterates that nothing's actually ever going to be good enough and psychologically this is pretty damaging for people. It also messes with the accountability model, which causes a whole host of other issues. Getting a handle on this and living with an excellence over perfection outlook is going to make a huge difference to your team morale as well as work quality and speed.

I got to say, I do love your six strategies to engender a culture of excellence over perfection so people can download this once they've listened to the episode because it really reinforces this point. There are so many good ones in there and I've definitely gone back over the last few months and just scanned that sheet every now and then to remind me of why I need to not be a perfectionist and just really strive for excellence. So yeah, that's my first pick.

Marty: Yeah, thanks. And that's a really good pick and I really enjoyed making that episode because I think the essence over perfection culture is just so critical in keeping your organisation moving. When I was chief executive of CS Energy, this was an absolute mantra because everything that happened in the organisation was simply too slow and, of course, my immense frustration came through as it did with my executive team. Getting your organisation moving, it's like unblocking your arteries. It's awesome to see things move a lot faster than they otherwise would.

So let me come up with my top pick and I think I put a post out on LinkedIn at the time to say that this was probably the most important bit of content that I was going to release in 2018. And that's episode six, The Psychology of Feedback. The subtitle of that is Stop Avoiding Leadership Work. Now, I opened up the podcast series with the first episode which was Respect Before Popularity and that's all about getting over the need to be liked and putting that ahead of the work that you have to do as a leader. But I think the psychology of feedback is a really practical way of looking at how to overcome the fear of stepping into difficult conversations.

And as a first time leader, having those conversations is 90% will and 10% skill. You're not going to be good at it out of the blocks, you're just not. No one is. And no one could have been more terrible than me when I first started with these conversations. But fortunately I'm a little bit dysfunctional and I decided that if I was going to be a leader, I needed to get good at it. So I did more and more and more of it. And it's just like learning how to ski in powder snow. You've just got to do enough of it until it starts to feel comfortable.

But what episode six does, which is really important, is it unlocks the psychology of feedback and actually gives you the reasons and the rationale to run through in your head that's going to push you to actually overcome your fear and your discomfort and your misgivings to actually step into the conversations and hold them. Because making that positive step and moving into a conversation like that and holding it is the most important thing. The skill will come over time, and I think for the last many years, I have not had any hesitation, no matter how hard the conversation is, no matter how difficult the circumstances to walk straight into it and to be engaged and to be empathetic and compassionate and to say the things I need to say.

So this is a real key. If you can actually work this out, the earlier in your career, the better. This is going to free you up for everything else that you do because everything involves a hard conversation. And if you start with the feedback with your team, it's really going to take you somewhere. That's my top pick is episode six.

Emma: I've got to say I loved that episode too, Marty, but my second favourite podcasts for this year is definitely Working At The Right Level: What Got You to Here Won't Get You to There. This one's a bit funny because when I first heard you using the term working at level, I actually had no idea what you were talking about. Then when you started to explain all the symptoms of people working at the wrong level, it made so much sense. So micromanaging, dipping down, doing work below your pay grade, working excessive hours to get work done. And really just failing to move from technical expert to leader, it became so clear to me that so many people around me, kind of suffer from this.

It really was one of my biggest epiphany moments. Just wrapping my head around the fact that the higher up you go, the more you lose your original career identity. It gave me a real understanding of why even when people get promoted, which is, obviously, kind of the aim of the game, it can be really challenging and confronting, especially for those who self-identify and worth is wrapped up in their professional expertise.

This episode hits the mark for me because it addresses the transition of going from a technical expert to a novice leader, which I really don't think it's spoken about enough. I've actually had a lot of friends and past colleagues call me and say, "Wow, now I understand why my boss micro-manages me. They just haven't transitioned to the next level properly." Or they've said, "Shit, I've been working at the wrong level for years and it's obviously why I've been overlooked for promotions." So it's a pretty big issue that is often overlooked.

Now, we've had quite a few people write in and say how helpful that your five-point plan for transitioning to the next level successfully has been for them. So even if you don't listen to the episode, which I recommend you doing, you should definitely download the five-point transition plan from It's totally free and it's worth keeping on hand for the next time you're promoted or changed roles. All right, Marty, last one.

Marty: Thanks, Em. That's great. Yeah, I'm a big fan of episode seven as well because working throughout levels is what kills many, many careers. So last one. We've done three, haven't we? So we've done episodes three, six, and seven. I'm going to wrap the last two together to make five because they're sort of related.

So the final two episodes that I think are really important are tied together. The first one is episode two, which is Building A High Performing Team. Now, the subtitle for that was Weak Team Equals Poor Results. And this is really all about doing what you need to do to put together the best team you possibly can. Now, in episode 12, I think it was The War For Talent. We do talk about how to attract the best people to your organisation so you've got the best pool to choose from. But this is really about taking the difficult steps to make sure that your team excels and you can't do that unless you have the best individuals you can possibly get.

But I think most people in leadership roles, they look at their team and they say, "It is what it is. I've got what I've got," and then you try and push people to do things they don't necessarily want to do. Just remember it's a hell of a lot easier to reign in a stallion than it is to flog a donkey. And you'll have some people here who are good people, but they're just not going to cut it. And as a leader, you need to set the tone, the pace and the standard for your people and for your organisation. So this is all about what you need to do to set up your team for success in terms of building the right capability.

And I'll reference back to Jim Collins, Good To Great. Who talks about getting the right people on the bus and getting the wrong people off the bus. Because before you work up what's your strategy is or where you're going, that's a critical step. I talked to a lot of leaders who, late in their career, their one big regret is they didn't move quickly enough to move the people on who simply we're never going to cut it. They gave them too much time, too much latitude, and the result suffered because of that. And so if you want a high performing team, you need to do that work. If you don't want to do that work, that's okay, but just don't kid yourself you've got a high performing team because you're not going to have it. So that's why episode two so important because the higher up you go, the less impact you have individually and personally and the more you rely on your team for results. So that had better be a pretty decent team.

Emma: I totally agree, Marty, and I think kind of going back to the episode that I just spoke about, your whole team needs to be working at the right level for them to be able to work together successfully. So I think all of these episode's kind of help one another.

Marty: Yeah, they absolutely do, Em. Yeah, I couldn't agree more. Look, a fun one for me is episode eight, Happy Workers Are Productive Workers a.k.a what really drives your people? Now, one of the basic things here is that there's a whole lot of "conventional wisdom" around about leadership and this is stuff that gets pushed out and we all accept it and you've got to be looking for ways to challenge that conventional wisdom. And so great book if you get a chance over the holiday period to read called The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig. And he actually critically examines the research methods that underpin books like Good To Great and In Search Of Excellence, which are iconic books, there's no doubt about it. But he talks about the flaws in their methodology and why it's not necessarily supported by the empirical evidence that would have us believe.

So always keep questioning because research of late tells us that happy workers are productive workers, but it's not necessarily the case. In episode eight, I go through a bunch of examples where you can see why happy workers are sometimes simply just happy workers. If you want your workers to be happy and productive, then these people have got to have impact. And to enable them to have impact, you've got to stretch them and you've got to challenge, coach and confront all of the individuals in your team to give them the ability to be their best. If you don't have those skills, they simply won't get there.

So this ties back into episode two because first, you've got to get the best people who are going to take to being challenged and confronted and coached. And then you've got to bring out the best in them. So this is really important. And one of the best listener comments I had a whole year actually was from [inaudible 00:13:06]. So shared out to [inaudible 00:13:07]. He actually took this episode eight, Happy Workers Are Productive Workers. And he likened it to his experience in the military and he spoke about the morale of a soldier. And he said, "Soldiers with high morale are not happy. They are confident, secure, and enabled to perform. They're not well-fed, rested and kept out of harm's way," and I think that really summarises it really nicely. All right, Em, over to you. Why don't you close off?

Emma: Okay, so that brings us to the end of this episode. I hope you get a chance to go through some of these episodes over the holiday break. They'll put you in really good stead for the new year. I'll put all the direct episode links in the show notes and on the website. Just head to to grab all of them. Thanks for having me today, Marty, and thanks to everyone who's listened and supported us this year. We love making this podcast. Our purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally and this podcast is just one step in making that happen.

If you liked any of these episodes, please share them with your leadership network, you might really change someone's career. Next week's episode is Setting Yourself Up For Success In 2019. This is a must listen, so make sure you're subscribed so that you get the notification when it's live. Until then, I know you'll take every opportunity you can to be a no bullshit leader.

Marty: Thanks a lot. See you guys next year.