Making Business Matter
E24 - How to Define Values with James Kerr, Author of the Legacy Book - Expert Interview
E24 - How to Define Values: Interview With Author, James KerrJames Kerr is a highly experienced brand and business consultant, and advises clients, including KPMG, Raffles Group, Adidas, Heineken, and The Economist, to establish a compelling vision, values, and purpose to effect transformational organisational change. Combining how he grew up submerged in the traditions of New Zealand Maori culture alongside his studying the All Blacks, working with elite military forces, and prestigious sporting organisations you get a unique perspective of indigenous thinking, leadership philosophy, and practical action. All of this set him apart from your run of the mill Leadership consultant and make him a highly sort after thought-leader and change maker. In this episode, we talked about all things 'Values'; How to define your values? What are great examples of values? How to use values to pull teams together? James gave key questions to help provoke leadership and also to help "get words off walls and on to floors" Get a fresh pad and pen - James does not hold back on this and each little narrative in itself held 4-5 keys takeaways. His international bestseller book, Legacy - What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life identifies 15 fundamental leadership behaviours that create success and explores the culture of the New Zealand rugby team, the most successful sporting side in history.
You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:Nathan Simmonds: Welcome to Sticky Interviews. I'm Nathan Simmonds, senior leadership coach and trainer for MBM, Making Business Matter, the home of Sticky Learning. We are the provider of leadership development and soft skills training to the grocery and manufacturing industry. The idea of these interviews is to share great ideas, great concepts and great ways these skills are being used to help you be the best version of you in the work that you do. Welcome to the show. Nathan Simmonds: Welcome to this Sticky Interview with me, Nathan Simmonds, senior leadership coach and trainer for MBM, Making Business Matter, the home of Sticky Learning. Today's interview, it's difficult for me to explain because there's so many crossovers in ideas, concepts and necessary learnings from what I get from this man from his content, the crossover of indigenous wisdom of timeless leadership skills and the necessity for values in businesses and organizations. Nathan Simmonds: The content that is shared from James is phenomenal and worth the time to invest in the listening to the understanding and the deployment of is phenomenal. He's a highly experienced brand and business consultant. He advises clients including KPMG, Raffles Group, Adidas, Heineken and the Economist which in itself is staggering to establish compelling vision, values, purpose and positioning and to affect transformational of organizational change. Nathan Simmonds: Even with that on its own, when you then go and look at his literature book, Legacy, the case study that was done with the All Blacks and his 15 behaviors of leadership and other books that are coming out and the talks that he does, those two elements separate are phenomenal. You put them together and you get an incredible career to date with some phenomenal changes that have come out of the back of it. Nathan Simmonds: Today, I'm going to dig into some personal interests of mine into this man's mind in order to share with you. There is going to be some deep wisdom shared for sure. I'm looking forward to this conversation massively. James Kerr, welcome to Sticky Interviews. Welcome to this conversation, and thank you for being here. So, very appreciate it. James Kerr: Thank you very much, Nathan. It's great to be here. Great to [inaudible 00:02:27] Nathan Simmonds: I didn't even know of you before and I've had a deep interest in spirituality and indigenous original wisdoms and culture for a long time. All of a sudden listening to your content. I think it was the Do Lectures I first picked up and talking about some of those mindsets and approaches just blew my mind. Jaw on the floor, absolutely, for 25 minutes of content. Thank you. James Kerr: Thank you. Thank you for listening. Nathan Simmonds: The first question that I always ask, I guess, is why do you do what you do? James Kerr: Well, why not? Why not? I think, we talk about indigenous culture, we talk about one of the pioneers and some of the writing around that is a guy, Joseph Campbell, who is a comparative mythologist. He tries to get to the bottom of what makes cultures tick, what are the mythologies of great cultures? He comes down to one phrase, which is follow your bliss. Find that things that gives you the deepest satisfaction. In whatever you do, in whatever format you do, find the joy, find that thing that drives you because it's that passion, and that connection that will give you the resilience you need, give you the focus you need and all of that. James Kerr: For me, it's always been about a crossover between writing, between speaking and between working with environments, with teams with culture. On the list, you're very kind list as you introduced me, the other aspect I work with a lot of elite, high performing teams. How do the best in the world become and retain their level of excellence? James Kerr: There is a small spiritual dimension to this. I think it's anthropological innocence that where these things come from and the processes and the practices and the values we talked about values really of the great teams now have been the same values really have been handed down for millennia, for centuries, maybe thousands of years. Because I think we're hardwired to an extent to work together as a team and the teams that have worked together really, really well have survived and thrived and their genes have carried on. James Kerr: There's a certain kind of values base that I think applies to all great, certainly all great elite teams that extrapolate out with all great organizations. I think I'm really interested in those transferable principles. One of the things that one domain can teach another domain about how to operate and how to operate at optimum effectiveness. That's my sweet spot. Nathan Simmonds: I did not expect you to say the words Joseph Campbell right at the start of that, phenomenal. This is the thing when you get into the values and whether it's at the individual or the team or the organizational level or sports team or whatever, there is that testing of those values. There is that, these are my values, this is what I believe true. There has to be that testing in order to create a testimonial. There has to be that hero's journey. There has to be the young Luke going through the process and finding out and then breaking down and then finding out his father is Darth Vader and going through and then finding out. Okay, actually which side of the Force do I want to stand on? Which side of my values do I believe in? That galvanization that teams go through, that elite forces go through, elite sports individuals go through, that trial by fire that we have to go through that says these values are true. James Kerr: Yeah. I think that's... I'll come back to the hero's journey in a second. But I think in particular, right now, I don't want to get too COVID heavy here [inaudible 00:06:19] data. But right now, we're in a time of reevaluation, profound reevaluation that we've really had to as a society as organizations, we've really had to revisit what it means to be human, where our values lies, is it about the economy, is it about health. How do you get that balance between the two? James Kerr: A lot of us have spent a lot of time at home living a simpler life, a slower life. Do we want that corporate rat race? Do we want that commute into work? There are a huge number of questions that are very values based questions. What do we value about life? We tend to move in the directions of the things that we value. That's where we put our attention. James Kerr: I think for any leader now, there is a definite process for that leader themselves to reevaluate, and for organizations to reevaluate, to be looking at their deepest values. Now, if we talk about in a time of crisis, the organizations that really survive and thrive tend to be those that really have a strong values foundation. James Kerr: Now, it's going to be very tempting for people to take the expedient view now, rush after the next opportunity, panic and do this, but my experience and my belief is that the organizations that really, as I say, survive and thrive, it's a bit of a catch phrase, but it really encapsulates that sustained success, the ability to build something for the future, are those that are able to come back and look at their values. Then a process of reevaluation that we're going through now, to be able to come back to the values set, what do we fundamentally stand for? What is our solid human foundations is more important than it's ever been. James Kerr: It's also a fantastically powerful prism for leaders, particularly of large organizations that are maybe being buffeted by the winds of change, to really go, "Well, what is it that we fundamentally stand for here?" Rather than chasing after the expedient solution going, "Well, what is it that... " Because from values comes value, really. If we can establish our values, we create value from that place, that's where we are valuable for other people. If we're valuable to other people, they will give us their valuables, they will give us cash. Nathan Simmonds: Exactly right. James Kerr: Trying to integrate that through line of who we are and how we act, and what we deliver, I think is in turbulent waters is an extraordinarily important factor in sustainable success, and it's also a very easily understood framework for an organization to understand itself and what the military will call VUCA times, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times. They're very complex times, no one quite knows what's going to happen in the future. James Kerr: Coming back to values and just being values based is a tremendously powerful way to navigate some difficult times ahead. Nathan Simmonds: Nice. You hit the nail with the values thing, because I talk about this a lot with clients about who you add value to, how that makes you more valuable. The Jim Rohn quote that I paraphrase is that you can get $6 an hour for sweeping the floor at McDonald's or you can get $6.50 if you do it with a smile on your face. You just add more to it. Nathan Simmonds: Having a conversation a few days ago where I was being interviewed, and he said, "Yeah, but it's all about the values, this values of comfort." I said, "It's not the value of comfort. It's a false value of security. We think we value certainty, we think we know we're creating this bubble. But nothing in nature is certain. Actually, what we're valuing is distraction. This situation right now has put everything under such a lens where it's forcing people to reevaluate that actually, what do I mean? Nathan Simmonds: We say that, we throw it out very frequently. Do you see what I mean, do you hear what I mean? Well, actually, what do you mean, what do you stand for so that you can bring more of you rather than the other stuff? James Kerr: Absolutely. If we go back to the ancient wisdom thing, and you talk about San Mandela's, which these Tibetan Buddhist, Mandela circles the Circle of Life made out of sand. It takes days to do it. It takes days to build them and they're beautiful. If you like that kind of aesthetic, they're beautiful. Of course, the monks at the end of their practice, sweep them up, destroy them. James Kerr: The whole point of it is, we make something beautiful, but everything [inaudible 00:11:24] As soon as you start thinking everything will go on forever, that's where you start falling back on habits and formulas as an organization, as a team. There's a line that I use in my book that when you're on top of your game, change your game. You need to be a generative force, your culture needs to generate the future because as soon as you start living in the past, "Well, we've always done things this way. Well, that worked last time." That's when you get complacent. That's when arrogance sets in, and that's when somebody else sharper, faster and hungrier than you comes on in. James Kerr: This chasing time that we've been through is an incredible example of knock me down three times and I'll get up four. There are organizations that are able to reboot themselves, reevaluate, reconnect, repurpose themselves, reinvisage the future are going to be the ones that thrive. Those that are going yeah, but we've always got to make boots this way or whatever it is, are going to get left behind. James Kerr: Again, talking about ancient cultures. The book I'm working on at the moment is around Everest and Nepal. Of course, the great god of Nepal is Shiva and Shiva is the god of destruction in order to create. That you must tear things down in order to regenerate what's next. James Kerr: I think that is the cycle of life of course, that's one of the great cycles. I think we've been tested small spirituality if you like, these myths and legends have developed because they're pertinent way of understanding some of those cycles. But this is I think the challenge, taking on a difficult environment and then thinking right well, what's next? How can we reinvent ourselves? All the great teams, the elite teams, whether it's special force units, I've had the privilege to work with or World Cup cricket teams or international rugby teams, whatever, are masters at... The Navy SEALs have a great line. They say, what they're looking for in their people are expert learners, people who can learn very, very quickly and actually elite coaches, high performance coaches are fundamentally learning environments. It's how do you take on the new data, the new input and turn that into action quickly and well, in order to respond faster than the competition? James Kerr: In military, they call it the OODA loop. The OODA loop was developed in the Korean War by the US Air Force to improve decision making from their pilots. The OODA loop is simple. It's observe, orient or options, decide and act. You've got to see what the world is, you got to see what your options are, and you need to make a decision. Even if it might be the wrong decision, you got to make a decision, then you get to act and then you observe again. James Kerr: Going through that decision making process is a place of fail fast, learn quickly, be expert learners, put it out there and make stuff happen and be a generative force because you can always alter your pathway, but if you're sitting there waiting for stuff to happen, it never will. I think there's a lot of different aspects and distinctions that can come from many different domains and start to inform some of the situational decision making that has to happen for leaders today, given the context that we've just found ourselves living in. Nathan Simmonds: There was a lot in that. Dan Pena, he's a very much a Vegemite, Marmite kind of guy. You either love him or hate him. He says, "I may be wrong, but I'm never in doubt." It's having that certainty and is when you take the action, and which I do as a coach, and I learned to do through my coaching qualification is even when I'm having the conversation, I am reflecting on what's being given back to me. Okay, did I say the right thing? Did I ask the right question? Am I going in the right... I'm constantly creating that loop for myself to make sure that the conversation is moving in the right direction. It's just that 1% improvement that compounds over time to make that difference. James Kerr: Without sounding too highfalutin, Hegelian dialectics, thesis. Nathan Simmonds: [inaudible 00:16:07] James Kerr: Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The way that decision making works is quite binary. In some way it's either this or that and then a combination of. He would argue and various philosophical schools would argue that that is the core decision making thing. There's an either or and then a combination of or the result of that decision. James Kerr: If you take the OODA loop, the ability to churn through that loop, to make those decisions never sit on the fence, but to make those decisions, see what happens, make a new one, adjust, adjust, it's like sailing, adjusting. Sometimes the sail is going to be too tight, sometimes it's going to be too loose. Sometimes you've got the keel in the right place, sometimes wrong, but you're always adjusting. You're always adjusting that and sometimes you need to tack in a different direction. James Kerr: But the ability to be moving forward, making decisions, not sitting there like a rabbit in the headlights becomes extraordinarily important. Particularly on a small team level, but on an organizational level as well. On a small team level, if people don't think they're moving forward, they're preparing their CVS quite quickly. That this isn't going anywhere. Anyone who's been in a relationship and has been asked, Where is this going?" Understands the discontent, the cultural discontent for a lack of vision and forward movement. James Kerr: The sailing analogy again, but in choppy waters, you've got to keep tacking, otherwise, you will never get there. Nathan Simmonds: I think if you're in the middle of a crisis situation in a significant relationship with a significant other and someone asks you, "Where is it going?" I think you're already in more choppy waters than you expect to be. When you're starting that relationship, what is the analogy, you don't mend your roof in the middle of a storm, you make sure that you know where you're going at the start of it. So when things do get choppy, actually, you've got a point of reference that you and that person are moving towards. James Kerr: Absolutely. If we talk a bit about standards and expectations, I think it's really interested in that area. I work with a lot of teams really on ethos. What is the ethos of this organization? That's really what is the cultural framework? Cultural frameworks are made up of core values, what do we stand for, and what won't we? A clear vision of where you want to go, a driving purpose of why does it matter, and standards and expectations that we can hold each other accountable for in order for that to happen, in order to be true to that commitment that we've made to these values or this framework. James Kerr: That's really what creates a culture and the behaviors come after that, if you hold yourself to account. But what often happens in difficult times is that those standards drop, or people will see themselves as exceptional to those standards, and people will stop holding each other accountable to it. There are two aspects to that around the team. One is, have you had that conversation... In a business team, because business isn't really very good at this. Sport and military elite teams are really good at this stuff. There's a reason for that because they die either on the field or on the battlefield, if they're not. Its culture, its competitive advantage. James Kerr: When you're right at the tip of the spear, if you like, you don't take anything for granted. You get really good at this stuff. Business it's a little bit loosey goosey. We don't want to look too heavily in the rear view mirror in case we have to look too closely at why we didn't win that pitch or why something went wrong. No one really wants to take responsibility because it's politically... But elite teams are all about taking ownership and responsibility and accountability. James Kerr: I would argue that business teams aren't necessarily great learners for that reason. They don't take it on the chin and learn and, and do that. Whereas, elite teams are absolutely great learners, they need to get better every day, that's the commitment. James Kerr: But one of the questions I ask business teams is you expect people to live up to certain standards, to behave in certain ways. But have you ever had that conversation with them? A lot of the time you find they haven't, everyone's running on assumption. Everyone's running on assumption. Well, that's what we did in the last team. Or the last organization was, that Last company I was part of, that's what we did. We never rang anyone after five o'clock in the afternoon on a Friday, or we always did. Two very different cultural expectations set up from different cultures over different times, different countries, different, and so on. James Kerr: But it's very rare to have a leader who will take a grip on this and say, "Okay, guys, let's get together. Let's design the way we want to work together. Let's design our culture. Let's say, what are our values?" Or if the values exist within an organization, which usually they are, they're on the wall, how do we take them from the wall and put them on the floor? How do we go, what does it mean for us here in accounts? Or what does it mean for us here in sales and distribution? What does it mean for us here in head office or whatever your remit is? James Kerr: What does this mean about answering the phone? What does this mean about sweeping the floor? Do we do it with a smile on our face? What does that mean, guys? There are two aspects of that, that are really interesting. One is, all those assumptions go out the window because you've had the conversation. Three months down the line when things are getting tough, you can call people on it, because you've actually had the conversation, but the most important thing is that people feel that they have their standards. There's a lovely line, one of the former or black coaches users where he says, people will rise to a challenge if it's their challenge. I think that's probably the golden nugget for leadership. If it's your leadership challenge, well, that's one thing. James Kerr: But surely one of our key things is how do we transfer that challenge to everybody so everybody has common cause? Cohesion, common cause, collective action is really what gets stuff done. If you don't ask them, they never sign up to it, they never sign up. People rise to a challenge if it's their challenge. One of the key challenges that I would put to whoever's listening, if you're looking about re-galvanizing a team or galvanizing a team is have those conversations not about how are you going to up our work rate or da, da, da, but how are we going to live our values? What can we expect from each other? What's the operating system for our organization or for our team? Who's going to own those behaviors? Because it sure as hell better be everybody. You want everybody to do it. As a boss, you don't want to be talking down to people, you want their mates to be telling them, "Come on, mate, get a grip, pull it up, let's get going." You want those horizontal conversations, not the vertical conversations. James Kerr: The best way to do that is to create connection, is to create a sense of contribution to something. You need to have those conversations, and it doesn't happen afterwards. It doesn't happen when the distribution network is failed, it really has to happen when people are going, "Well, suddenly we're back at work and people aren't working from home so much. The new normal, how are we going to face this, and what can we learn from this, and what are we all going to do about it?" It's such a prime time now, or over the next few months or a few weeks or a few months for teams to really come together and re-galvanize. It's the same as a preseason, before a football season. Now is preseason coming up. In preseason, a lot of it is about getting to know each other, understanding what you can expect from each other, setting the standards for what comes. James Kerr: That happens very rarely in business because business tends to be a continuum and non-seasonal continuum. But now it's an opportunity for leaders to do that and to pull people together and say, "Right, this is what we want to become right?" "Yes. What about this? What about this? Now, what can we hold each other accountable for? Who's going to own this? Let's put our hands up." Because great teams aren't a team with a leader at the front, it's a leader in every position. James Kerr: The All Blacks joke about a CEO in every position. Special Forces, they talk about the strategic corporal. It's the corporal who is at the front line that make the big decisions about whether an operation is successful or not. Have you... The cliché term for it is empowerment. But of course in business that doesn't mean a whole lot, but empowerment is giving people power. Have you asked them what they think? Have you asked them what they want to do? Leaders confident enough to create that kind of environment really create... They attract and retain talent, they unleash discretionary efforts. They create clarity of purpose, there's huge cohesion within the team, all of the benefits that you want from a unit, come into that conversation. James Kerr: That would be my... I know, I've just held court for 10 minutes, but that would be a way to start to think and to look at a way to reboot, if you like, during these tricky times. Nathan Simmonds: Two things came up to me, two points of reference. One is that strategic, corporal, I think it was you said, that one of the front making the decisions and the CEO in every position. Now, knowing what I know about the Navy SEALs, which is very little, from a couple of books I've read about leadership in those spaces. The moment that person cannot make a decision, the next person steps up and makes a decision, because often when you're in first player mode, you can't see the wood for the trees. Nathan Simmonds: Sometimes when you're running down the pitch, and all you got balls coming towards your face, it's very difficult. Sometimes you get... You need that team to then back you up so that they can... Because they're seeing a slightly different angle, they step up, take over. The thinking process as a unit continues forward. Now, the CEO idea in every position is in rugby you pass the ball backwards, as far as I'm aware. James Kerr: Yeah. Nathan Simmonds: If you're in front, all you're doing as the leader who's making the charge is passing the ball back to the next person so they can make the charge, and so on and so forth, so that everybody wins as a unit. There isn't just the individual making the challenge on their own, it's actually is everyone passing the ball backwards and forwards and supporting people's development and progression. James Kerr: Absolutely. A, life is a team game. Two, the metaphor Alex Ferguson uses with Manchester United, but it's a metaphor that comes from the Maori, New Zealand, Maori, indigenous people stories and proverbs and narratives of flying via vector. Birds flying like geese and New Zealand's the native cormorant. The story goes, the bird at the front, the leader, if you like, the boss sets the altitude and the attitude, and the vector and all of that. Makes those big picture, strategic decisions. James Kerr: In doing so creates a narrative and creates uplift for those who come behind. Those who come behind honk in encouragement, "I got this, boss. What about this idea? Maybe we should do that or maybe there's something you're not seeing." In doing so, they help the boss but they also in their flight, they create uplift for those who come behind who do the same. James Kerr: If one of them should drop off out of the flock, a couple of birds will go with them to help them regain the flock, because care and compassion and love, brotherhood, sisterhood is incredibly important in any team, in any organization. We follow your bliss and one of the things that we want us to do stuff we like or love with people we like or love. That's one of our drivers. James Kerr: Most importantly, probably when the boss has done what he or she can, they've exhausted themselves in the effort, whether it's for a project or for a job or whatever, they know they can fall back into the formation, there'll be another bird there at that moment to take their place. One captain, but 15 leaders in a rugby team, leadership at every level, CEO in every position. James Kerr: That's an incredibly important visualization of a very important concept. I think it was Tom Peters who wrote, leaders don't create followers, they create leaders, they create other leaders. Our job as leaders is to create other leaders, is to create a space for other people to take ownership and responsibility. That is where empowerment comes in, because ownership and responsibility is the handing over of power. Interestingly... It's how people grow. People don't grow without having an opportunity to make decisions, to be thrown in sometimes in the deep end, to own projects. James Kerr: One of the worst things that we can do as leaders is because many of us have gone up the scale and we're good at the job we last did, and that's why we get the job that we got. The person who steps into that job, we're really, really quite good at criticizing them, of stepping in and changing the PowerPoint at the last minute, because that does irreparable damage to their growth as a leader. It means that your focus is downwards and not upwards. As a leader, you need to be thinking about the next thing. You're that generative force. James Kerr: It's the same fundamental structure as the military core mission command or a commander's intent, which is the fundamental leadership doctrine within the military. Adopted into greater or lesser impacts depending on skills really. But it really came from a small moment of history. It came from when Napoleon beat the Prussians in 1806, I think it was, and the Prussians were very hierarchical. Whereas the Napoleon's army was very distributed in its leadership. Still had him as a very clear vision setter, but the generals were able to make independent decisions and maneuver independently. James Kerr: The Prussians had to ride their horse to the top of the hill to ask permission to move their troops. Napoleon whooped the Prussians took them apart. The Prussians then became the Germans, it was the end of the empire, and they really started the German military academy, which started to look at well, how do you create a leadership formula or framework that can enable independent thought, decision making on the fly in a distributed way? Because of course, that's what any organization needs, you don't win or lose back in the general staff area, you win or lose out on the battlefield. That's the same within the grocery business, the international rugby business or the Special Force business. The decisions that get made out at the front line are the ones that define your business often. James Kerr: How do you create an environment that holds together? They call it mission command, and mission command becomes about select the right people, get the right people on board, train them properly, make sure they have the capability to do it. Resource them properly, make sure they have the capacity to do it, and instruct them in a certain way or communicate in a certain way. The US they call this the commander's intent, paint the picture of the future. What does the future look like? Then have the courage to get out of the way, then have the courage to step back, to allow the... As a leadership, top level leadership, you're setting the what and the why, the intent. But your subordinates are figuring out the how. They're doing the tactics, they're your strategic corporals. James Kerr: In allowing that to happen, first, it gives you as a leader an opportunity to see the big picture and to go forward and to be thinking about what's next, but it also is growing your team. Initially, it's a growth business from the inside, your team is getting better. They are becoming more capable, they're becoming more competent, they're getting more experienced, they're making the decisions, they are leading and becoming better. You've created a growth environment in which your teams are improving. James Kerr: But if you sit there and chop and change people's PowerPoints and disempower them all the time, two years later, same team's not going to be any better. You're not going to have grown that team at all. The final factor in mission command is what they call the directed periscope or telescope, which is just kind of take a look, but don't micromanage. Just check in. Just look for telltale signs that things are going well, how's that going kind of thing, but don't micromanage, because micromanaging kills initiative. Absolutely kills initiative. James Kerr: Just to finish off this, there are three things you want to create in a great team that comes from self-determination theory. People want mastery, autonomy and a sense of connection or relatedness. They want to be good at the stuff they're good at. Good people generally want to be better at what they do. They want to get better every day. If you can create an environment that people get better, they'll love you for it, they'll stay and they will get better. James Kerr: They want autonomy, no one wants to be micromanaged, "Don't tell me how to live my life. Don't tell me the decisions I have to make. Don't micromanage me, don't come down on me." Autonomy gives them a sense of freedom, and liberty and discretionary effort, and relatedness. People want to be connected to the people around them, and to a cause that makes a difference. They want to be part of something great. As a leader, if you can answer those three things within a team environment... The framework in mission command is uniquely designed, I think, to enable those kind of things to happen. You're encouraging mastery, you're giving people space to make mistakes, but to learn from them and to get better. James Kerr: You also have an intention, you have a big hairy audacious goal to chase that people get into and that gives relatedness, and it means they love you more as a leader. They tend to be doing something together. That common cause, as you say, at the beginning of this, in times of adversity brings people closer together, and you get all the juice you want out of a team, and that's a tremendously powerful framework of looking at leadership and looking at team development and looking at organizational change and redirection that isn't just do it my way or the highway, which will work for anyone. Long speech, but hopefully ties it all together. Nathan Simmonds: A beautiful central long speech is, with a whole lot of value in each segment of that. When you're talking about natural succession planning in a vector of geese, when you're talking about how individuals can make decisions when they're at the coalface and then also the sole responsibility of a leader. When I say the sole responsibility of a leader is to create more leaders, I say the soul with U, not just about me. U as in the letter. It is the sole responsibility of us to create more leaders. Why? Because I'm not here to create followers, I'm here to create people that are going to supersede me. Nathan Simmonds: When I lead my teams, I treat those people like my children, not like a child, because I want them to outgrow me. When they leave the nest, do I want them to be equal to or less than me? Definitely not. But the important part is coming back to that beginning thing though, about the values. If they're going to be satellite teams distributed over a battlefield or distributed across a nation or whatever, there's got to be that lens that they can then make decisions through. So that when you're not micromanaging, you can turn around and say, "What was that decision based on?" Well, it was based on humility, challenge, blah, blah, whatever. They can say, these are the behaviors that we'd like deployed. For me that question then is how do we define our values? James Kerr: That's the question, how do we define... Well, I think a lot of organizations have values done already. They've been through a values exercise, and that's the problem, it was an exercise. The joke I make sometimes when I'm speaking is, one of Enron's values was in integrity, and look what happened there. How do you take those values... There are two questions, if you don't have values, I'll address that in the moment. But if there is a set of values, you don't need to reinvent the wheel. What it is, it's about taking those values from the wall and getting them on the floor. That's about that discussion. It's about okay, what does that mean for us today? Now, how can we bring them [inaudible 00:38:44]? How can we live those values? James Kerr: There's a phrase, live the values out loud. How can we make them real? If it's, I don't know, excellence, is a generic value, but it tends to be around... You take excellence down and you have a look at, you can apply that prism to just about anything. You can go, "Okay, is ordering a system really okay, or is it excellent? How can we make it more excellent? James Kerr: But it's not so much the decisions that you make, it's the making of decisions that make sense, connective that gives a connective tissue. That people will rise to a challenge if it's their challenge. A joke I've used is that it's a guided appreciative inquiry. You inquire, you want to know the answers, you appreciate the answers, but you're guiding it in a certain direction. But that process of doing it, somebody else called it once the illusion of inclusion, but I think that's too cynical. The real inclusion, is that what you're creating is a culture all the time. That culture, it doesn't exist. It needs to be organic and it needs to be generative. Otherwise, it just moves away. James Kerr: The process of having the conversations about, let's turn these values into actions, let's revisit them on a regular basis and go, "What does this mean for us now?" Becomes really hugely important. The values don't change, because some of the delivering the way that you deliver them, because hopefully you've delivered them a little bit better in the last quarter, so it's time to revisit how you're going to deliver them better in the next quarter? James Kerr: Those conversations as a framing device for more strategic or more tactical conversations holds a culture together very, very strongly. They become the immutable truth at the heart of what you're talking about. To your first question, how do you create cultures or how do you create values, over time, with patience, and usually with a degree of... The reality I think is that that tends to be generalship, it tends to be somebody setting an agenda. Why have we developed this organization, or what is this team for? There needs to be a degree of leadership in that area. This is what we stand for, who's in and who's out. But you do that 80%, you sketch it out, and then you create a conversation with your broader... The device I consider, is you've got where you are and where you want to go, you sketch that one out, and then you begin a conversation with your leadership group, with your core team. James Kerr: Then once you're pretty good on that, you open that conversation up to your broader tribe, a tribe around that. Now, that depends on your organization, your team and your challenge, and how big that gets. But in a large organization that could be an internet PowerPoint or an online poll of everybody, or it could be in a smaller team, it could go from the playing 11, or the traveling squad in an elite team, to the backroom staff. Then you might take it out to the wider organization, but the process is about having that conversation, connecting people around that common conversation. James Kerr: People get their fingerprints on it, they feel that they're part of it. It's not just something from space that landed on top of them, it's something they were part of. There are two truths. One, we're all little kids at heart and as little kids, we still walk into our parents and say, "Hey, I drew something, what do you think of this?" We still want to be seen and recognized and appreciated, and our contribution valued. That's really important. James Kerr: Two, if we've had an idea, and it's our idea, we'll die for that idea. Try changing somebody's opinion on the internet, an idea that they've held, it's impossible. They've got that idea. That's their idea. If it was their idea, they would die for that idea. That's tremendously powerful within any group that have... Oliver Cromwell said something, he said, "My men knew what they fought for, and they loved what they knew." I think that's a really nice way of thinking about it. You have to make it to be clear, you know what you fight for, and in the knowing, you love it. James Kerr: That's really, really important. Then from there in terms of if we just follow the diagram around, once you got your values, you then you start to establish standards and expectations. What does that mean? What does that mean for me? How do we answer the phone? How do we treat our customers? If somebody sends a product back, how do we treat them? All of those kinds of things, the way we do things around here, the operational things. James Kerr: Then you want language around it, you want to have phrases for it. You want to make it, what in the Vedic Chronicles, they call Sutras, small little aphorisms. In my book, I write about sweep the sheets, no dick heads, I'm sorry. Go for the gap. Not because they're slogans, though they are, but because they're hooks to hang ideas on. They're shorthand for behaviors. James Kerr: Any great organization has what I call that uncommon language. They have a common language within the organization, but it's unique to that organization. Once you've established that, then you can start to establish symbols, the what does it look like and that might be the color, it might be a flag. But I think most importantly, then you get on to the area of ritual. What do you do regularly? What are the regular behaviors that you bring about? James Kerr: If service or contributions say, is one of your values, do you really contribute to your community or do you just sell them stuff? Do you actually once a year everybody downs toes and goes out and sweeps up some little old lady's front yards? Do you really serve your community, or do you just serve them food? How do you dictate those values and take them a little bit further and become something exceptional, extraordinary, extra ordinary, not just ordinary, where you serve them food, extraordinary, where you do something really unbelievable. That's where organizations really people fall in love with organizations that do that, that push it to that level. James Kerr: Then just to finish my trajectory, how do you reward and recognize or endorse and enforce? How do you reward and recognize the right behaviors? Not financially, you can do it financially, but it's not about a bonus, it's what are the small little chivalrous, the small moments of rewards that you can get? At McDonald's, it might be employee of the week or whatever, or of the month, but there are always ways to recognize. We do it instinctively, we have prizes at the end of the year to booze up or we do all of that sort of thing, but how do you reward people? How do you make people feel that they are acknowledged and recognized and how do you enforce it? If you see somebody who's not doing it, are you prepared to fire your star employee because culturally they're a misfit? James Kerr: Are you prepared to draw a line? Otherwise, you've got a pretty sloppy edge to it. Then finally, how do you measure and monitor it is an aspect. How can you set into place aspects of measure and monitor whether your culture is on track? Clearly, there are technologies around it. Sometimes it's human judgment. Then I think the final aspect is how do you keep the drum beating? How do you... I call that induction. Induction is new people, but it's telling the same story in a million different ways, and bringing people on board and on board and on board all the time. James Kerr: If you can go through that process from making a strategic decision, understanding some values, having the conversations on a leadership value, opening up those conversations, getting by and setting some standards, giving words to that symbolizing what that looks like, ritualizing it in a profound human way, rewarding great behavior, being prepared to enforce it when it doesn't happen, measuring it in a way that's accurate and the measure but doesn't become the thing. Then keep on beating that drum, then you're able to create a culture that regenerates and takes itself forward all the time. That's a very powerful way to look at one significant aspect of leadership. It's clearly not the only aspect of leadership, but it's a very significant one. How do you create a competitive cultural environment that keeps taking you to the next level? Nathan Simmonds: Amazing, because there's that induction piece of where you're bringing people into that culture, which has already been created here that keeps that flow in that momentum, it keeps people coming on board and growing it. But then I think there's a revisitation of what does that actually mean? What does that look like? If that value was written in 1920, how does that look in 2020? What does that mean to people now? Nathan Simmonds: The analogy that popped in my head was the right to bear arms in America amendment. That was written- James Kerr: [inaudible 00:49:11] Nathan Simmonds: I'm not sure which number it is, but it was written when men were carrying these seven foot muskets that took three hours to load not an AK47. Actually, these things need to adapt and shift these things that we hold dearest to us, need to grow with our people so that people can grow inside that as well. James Kerr: You'll have some NRA members out there listening to us now going, "No way should they change." But I think it's exactly that. It's one of the issues that I'm just going to shift the screen up and become probably overexposing for the lights streaming in, in the afternoon. Nathan Simmonds: Not [inaudible 00:49:48] James Kerr: They're not a [inaudible 00:49:50] Fundamentalism tends to be stagnation in any social grouping, and it's one of the main issues that I have around that idea of fundamentalists that it is written. Well, A, it's just a piece, cultures are behaviors, they're social organizations based on agreement, common agreement within that social group. James Kerr: Rather than, well that's always the way we've done it around here. It's like no, what does this mean now? If you were running a restaurant at in January, and it was about connection and sharing food around the table, and that's your only offer, well, that's not going to cut it for a while. People aren't going to want to share food and tables particularly. Social distancing is going to become a thing. But you need to adapt, and maybe underneath that, your value is actually conviviality might be the value. James Kerr: You go, "Okay, well, it's no longer long tables we're unsharing, it's about independence, tables that are separate from each other. The question then becomes how can we deliver conviviality in a new world? The emotional connection and exchange is the same, the delivery is different. That's really if we come full circle is back to the values thing. That if you come back to that value thing, that's really, if you've got your values right in the first place, which if you've been reasonably successful pre-crisis, chances are you're providing something of value that people value, what does that look like for people now? James Kerr: Those, I think are going to be the key questions for organizations over the next however long. There is no magic bullet, there is no instant vaccine, there is going to be risk, there is going to be fear for quite some time. We've really got to go, "Well, what are the values that we hold most dear, and how can that be translated into a new environment?" James Kerr: I think that's a really key question, because it's an important question in terms of maintaining the brand if you like, or the offer, but it's going to be really, really critical internally for organizations, because how dare we ask people to come and risk their life, coming in to an open plan work environment with their conditioning? If things go south for just one of those people, that's a problem. James Kerr: A lot of these things are going to have to be really well thought out, and if those values which are fundamentally human, humanist if you like, first and foremost, I think the decisions will be better ones, not all decisions will be perfect and it will be tacking and changing, but there'll be better decisions, and they'll be human decisions. James Kerr: My belief is that the good guy wins. That good guys win in the end. Not just in the movies, they win in business too. That there's a mythology that you have to be hard and cutthroat and ruthless. I don't see that, I see the people who are human and vulnerable and allow people to be vulnerable and allow people to be authentic and take care of their people are the organizations that by and large, there are exceptions, but by and large, are the ones that have longevity that is sustainable. James Kerr: I think as a legacy, if we come back to the idea of legacy, what kind of organization would you rather leave behind you, when it's time for you to get your gold watch and teaser off the stage? The thing that we tend to be most proud of is the difference that we've made in the lives of others, the contribution that we've made. Not the number of times we hit our numbers. That's important, that's part of it, but it's not the whole thing, and it's not motivating for people. Nathan Simmonds: I was going to say, that legacy piece, I use that word in the different demographics of people, and it means very little. I find to the younger generation, I say that as a 42 year old man when I'm speaking to people in their 20s, when I say the word legacy, they look at me like I've got three heads. I don't think it's until we hit that middle point and we suddenly start to feel like maybe there's less years in front of us than there are behind us, or we have children, that the majority starts to think like this. Nathan Simmonds: One of the questions I say to people is having worked in production and finance, on my deathbed, am I going to be concerned about, I didn't renew enough car insurance policies on July 14th, 1999. No one is going to give two shits. It's going to be about the conversations that you had with individuals and how you change people's lives are the things that you're going to reflect on. Nathan Simmonds: When you get to that point, is it a movie, is it a film that you've created, that you actually want to watch all the way through, or is it going to be a film that you walk out halfway through when you're remembering your life? That's what legacy is about. It's about the gift, the giving and the cherishing of others that you're leaving it to. James Kerr: There's Pericles, the Athenian statesman, he said something, paraphrased, but something like, it's not about What's written on stone monuments, it's the difference in the fabric of the lives you touch that really matters. Somebody else talked about it as, it's the difference between a CV life and a eulogy life. The CV life is I did this, I did this, I did this, I did this, a eulogy life is what people are going to say about you when you're gone. James Kerr: That's really about values. He was a kind man. She was an intelligent, an astute woman. That he or she made a huge difference to me at a critical time. Was a great teacher, was a great father. The giving back. I think there's two sides of it. I think you're right on the age group thing. But often, and I think you're right in terms of parenthood, I think changes with people. There was a... I remember getting a text when we had our first child, which was just, "Welcome to the human race." Although that was... Well, all of a sudden there is now those clearly that's a joke but there is that sense of representing of handing over, of what you're doing with your time here on Earth. James Kerr: That is a more profound question at any age than what can I get out of this? Because it's a more profound question, because it's actually creating value for others, that you tend to be more successful thinking like that. Jim Collins called it Level 5 Leadership. Most successful in some of his studies were those for whom the cause is the important thing. What we're doing here is really important, not what can I get out of it? James Kerr: I had a really interesting conversation with a psychologist at the Navy SEALs training at Coronado and they Have a thing called Hell Week. Hell Week is brutal. Five hours sleep in a week, hyperthermic, crawling over sand, horrible. They carry boats above their head. Horrible, difficult, really challenging. About 200 of them start, about 30 finish. James Kerr: The question is who survives? Who gets through? What they say is the people... It's paraphrased again, but on Monday, the ones that drop out... Starts on a Sunday, on the Monday the ones that have dropped out by end are the Friday Night SEALs. They're the guys who wanted to be able to say, "I'm a SEAL." In a bar on a Friday night. James Kerr: The day two that drop out, they call the daddy's boys. Their father was an Admiral, so they're doing it for their dad. They're doing it for somebody else. Day three is local heroes. They're the quarterback for the football, and they've been marching band out of town, "Go and represent us." But they're still doing it for somebody else. James Kerr: The guys that survive, and it is all guys at this point, there are two kinds. There are the ones who have just set a standard for themselves, I am going to prove it to myself that I can do this. They've set an internal value, an internal meter. But the ones that they're really looking for, that the leadership are really looking for, are the ones who really thrive in that environment, and they're the ones who when you're running along the beach at three o'clock in the morning, no one's had any sleep and you're hypothermic, they're the ones saying, "Come on, guys, we can do this." They're the givers. They're the contributors. They're the ones who are giving to something, "We as a team will bring something about." James Kerr: That sense of contribution to something bigger than ourselves, the All Blacks say, "No one is bigger than the jersey. You're a steward of the jersey, and your job is to leave that jersey in a better place." Not showing what a great footy player you are, not get famous and get the girls. That might happen, but your core purpose is around contribution. What difference can you make in the world? James Kerr: Now, there isn't a higher purpose than that. That's a contribution of love and compassion and commitment. It's the hero's journey. I said, we'd come back to the hero's journey. The hero's journey is you're called to a task that's bigger than yourself. Out of nowhere, you're selected, out of nowhere and you have to step up. Then you have to overcome challenges both internal and external. The external ones are a metaphor for your internal challenges. Get over yourself, to face the big battle, to face your nemesis, the thing that scares you the most, success, whatever it is, to bring home the boon, to bring home the holy grail, the prize, the Olympic medal, the Employee of the Year, whatever it is to those you love and who love you. James Kerr: That's the story, and it's a story of sacrifice and contribution. It's a purposeful story of giving of yourself of... Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, hugely successful basketball franchise in the states says what they're looking for is athletes who have gotten over themselves. They're not doing it for them. They are doing it for them. Of course, we do it for ourselves. Of course, we do. That's not the primary motivation. It's what difference can I make? James Kerr: Living in that way as a leader to create other leaders, living in that way as a human being to create a better world of some form, to make a positive contribution. It's not the altruistic way of doing things, it's the successful way of doing things. It's what winners do. Winning is a selfish act based on selflessness. That contribution that you can make beyond yourself to others creates the value. From values comes the value and people pay for value. My challenge to the people listening is what of yourself are you giving? What contribution are you making? How are you leaving that jersey in a better place? James Kerr: The Greeks have a great proverb. They say, "Plant trees, you'll never sit in the shade off." I think that by lifting your eyes to that... The Maori have a lovely proverb, they say, "Aim for the highest clouds, because even if you come short, you'll hit a lofty net." Now, the highest cloud must be, it's world peace in mung beans, it's out there somewhere. But the highest cloud isn't a new BMW or a corner office. That's a byproduct of that stuff. James Kerr: I think that's the real essence of a purpose driven way of looking at things. I talked about it earlier, values based. Know what you stand for, know what you want. Have a clear vision of where you're going, what's your intent? What's the commander's intent, and why does it matter? What contribution are you making, what's your contribution going to be? James Kerr: If you can create a framework, an ethos around yourself that enables that to happen, then you're way, way ahead of the game and your game will keep on lifting. Just one final coda to that, the word ethos is a really interesting word. It is analogous to the word character. The word character in the ancient Greek, which we saw slightly different than we see today. Now, we see it as a one side, our attributes, our personality, our values and action, if you like, that good stuff. James Kerr: The Greek word is that's true, but it's a two sided coin and the other side of the coin, it's character that's the same route as a typewriter character, makes an impression, it has an impact. The story you tell yourself, I say the story, you tell yourself, the character you develop, the values that you live out loud will turn out to be the story that others tell about you. Will turn out to be the story of the impact that you have on the world. The impression that you make, the impact you have. James Kerr: That's greatness, that's leadership, really the New York Times when they do their obituaries, their criteria for Who they write about is those who have made the biggest impact in their time. That sense of having an impact and making a difference to others, I think is leadership, really. It's taking responsibility for the impact on other people and taking that forward and making your contribution literally in life with your time and the team. We're not here forever, what are we going to do with this time? James Kerr: If you can live like that, and if you can think like that, your game will lift and all of the trappings will come with it. You just go for the trappings, you're just another chancer on Instagram trying to sell their wares. That's my rant of my speech, but hopefully that that adds to the debate, somehow. Nathan Simmonds: That's huge. We're conscious because we haven't even got into some of those indigenous wisdoms that I really wanted to get into. We've hit the nail, we've really hit some core fundamental points about values, integrity, those sorts of things that go with this, and that stewardship to the jersey. I've heard it said before, is we don't own the world, we are just looking after it to give to our children. Again, it's that stewardship idea. Actually, that ethos running through the All Blacks coming from that Maori culture in New Zealand, even from that Earth wisdom of we want to leave it in a better place so we can actually give it to our children because it's not belonging to us, it belongs to our children. They can give it to them, and they can give it to theirs and so on. Huge. Nathan Simmonds: The other interesting thing I've picked up on was that eulogy piece. Actually we write a CV of I did this I did this, I did this, but a eulogy is we have these characters. My challenge to the people listening to this is take those two ideas, A, you can do it as a really good exercise and write your own eulogy. But B, have a look at your resume or your CV, and start writing it as if it is your eulogy, so people can see the character you're made up of, and the value that you bring when you're on point and when you're in your zone of genius, so that they actually want to employ you and give you a job or a pay rise or whatever. Take those two things together. James Kerr: Absolutely. Character... John Wooden, there's a basketball coach from the '60s UCLA, the Bruins. He said something along the lines of, "Talent will win games, but character will win tournaments." By working on our character, by putting our character first and by understanding that in the military they say, "Do the right thing on a difficult day." Do it right. James Kerr: Steve Jobs, his father, I think was a carpenter or his stepfather, I think was a carpenter and taught him, "Put the good wood where no one can see it." No one else necessarily will ever see it, but you know it's there. You know it's there, you know you've done the job right. I think it's a characteristic that I've discovered, certainly within elite teams of all the great performance, there's no shortcuts. There's really no shortcuts. There's no, "Well, I can get away with this." James Kerr: The All Blacks, recently, famously in the book I wrote, I wrote about how they sweep the sheds. They compete, and there's thousands of people around chanting their name. After the games, they don't leave it to anyone else, they take care of business, they sweep the sheds. That's like getting their feet on the ground, doing it right, being humble before the crowd, because as soon as you lose that humility, it's all over. But by keeping your feet on the ground, showing character, not for anyone else. I revealed this story, but it wasn't a story, they weren't doing it for anyone else, they were doing it for themselves, because it was just the right thing to do. James Kerr: By doing things right the first time the right time, you're sending a huge neurological signal to yourself that that I am solid, I will be depended upon, I can depend on myself, I'm moving in the right direction. That is the way to sustainable success. You can take shortcuts, might look good for a little while, but you're not building character, you're not building an ethos, and you're not building a team and you're not building your cape capacity if you're taking shortcuts. I think maybe it's a final thing about bringing it back home on an individual level. Hugely important. Nathan Simmonds: For me, I wanted to talk about mana, I wanted to talk about the haka. When you're an All Black and you're working at that level is like you say, your emotions and your spirit and your energy goes up, up, up, up. It's just that grounding sensation. It's not a belittling or lower than thing, it's a grounding. It's almost like a meditation process. James Kerr: Yeah. You have to be confident not to be arrogant. Arrogance isn't confidence. Arrogance is an insecure, fragile place. But genuine humility... Just a word on humility, one of the All Blacks values, the British SAS, their ethos talks about, interestingly might be worth going through, they talk about a relentless pursuit of excellence. The equivalent of... I'm paraphrasing again, but personal discipline in every domain. What they call rank, but no class. The best idea when hierarchy doesn't matter, so a culture of respect and humility and a sense of humor. Humility in there again. James Kerr: The Navy SEALs, their insignia, their trident, their badge of belonging has... The American Eagle has its head bowed in humility. Three elite teams, three of the best teams in the world, one of their essential values is that idea of humility. Don't get ahead of yourself. Don't think you're special. Practice like you're number two. Be number one, but practice like you're number two, stay humble and stay hungry. James Kerr: I think that's a great thing, particularly in a corporate environment for people to remember that the BMW or the salary or the business class flights or whatever it is, don't really mean that much in a scale of things. You can make it mean all you want, but there's plenty of that. But there are true leaders of great character, and there are true human beings who have gone beyond... There are precious few human beings who have gone beyond the superficial to something that is really deeply authentic, and is a contribution. James Kerr: It's those that do that tend to... It might take longer to get there, but it's those that do that when they get there, they really know themselves, they are strong, they are centered. They are, as you say, grounded, and they're able to therefore be true leaders, not just of a business or a thing, but in life. I think, a lot of the time we tend to think about these things as what would make you better at business? I'm really interested in what makes us better in life? What takes us beyond that? James Kerr: Because business is one small part of our life. As we've seen, people have gone from earning great billings to unemployed in the last six or eight weeks. We have to have more than that, and we need to be able to stand strong in a great place. I think coming back to your first question around values, it becomes around that. Nathan Simmonds: Now, of course, I'm conscious of time because there's a whole ream of avenues that we could- James Kerr: Have to do some editing or ask for the patience of your listeners, maybe you'll be able to. Nathan Simmonds: Do you know what, they're going to get the hold of this because they need the entirety of it. I think that some way we need to make, and you've got another conversation, a new conversation with this indigenous wisdom and shared that thinking for me- James Kerr: Yeah, we could do that for sure, if there's some desire for sure. Nathan Simmonds: I have a desire for it. I don't know if that maybe that's selfish, but I do. I'm going to dig into that for sure. My last question for you right now then is where can people find you? James Kerr: Well, Google is tremendously powerful. I'm on LinkedIn. I have a company called Fable Partners, and we do organizational change. I'm not so hands on with that. But Google James Kerr Legacy, All Blacks, and you'll track me down on one of various avenues that you can get in touch. The easiest is probably just to get to me individually is through LinkedIn. Feel free to find me that way. Nathan Simmonds: James, you're a legend yourself. Thank you very much. Really appreciated all your credits and as many of your links will be below in the show notes on YouTube, and wherever else we share this. I just want to say a huge thank you for me, a huge thank you from all our listeners that are paying attention to this. I hope you've taken extreme notes because there is extreme value in what has been shared. What a phenomenal Sticky Interview. James, thank you, and see you on the next one. James Kerr: See on the next one. Thank you very much. It's been great talking. Cheers. Nathan Simmonds: Firstly, massive thank you from the MBM team for tuning into this Sticky Interview. 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