In uncertain times, leaders face the challenge of guiding their teams through change while inspiring confidence and maintaining accountability. In our latest episode of Peak Performance Leadership, guest speaker Leah Mether sheds light on the importance of clarity, communication, and emotional intelligence during times of uncertainty.
Leah emphasizes the need for leaders to acknowledge the uncertainty that their teams may be experiencing, while also expressing their commitment to leading them through it. By setting clear expectations and having conversations about baseline behaviors, leaders can create a foundation for accountability and navigate potential conflicts that may arise during change.
Understanding the human experience and caring about the emotions and feelings of team members is vital for effective leadership. Leah highlights the role of emotional intelligence in achieving results and discusses the significance of genuinely caring for employees and supporting them throughout change. This approach leads to smoother transitions and more resilient teams.
The episode also delves into the differences between leadership and management, debunking the misconception that they are interchangeable. Leah explains that while management is task-oriented and hierarchical, leadership is about empowering people and investing in the “people part” of leading. By focusing on building strong relationships and creating a culture that promotes accountability, leaders can unlock their team’s peak performance.
Additionally, Leah shares insights from her upcoming book, “Steer Through the Storm,” which explores the art of leading through change that is not necessarily within the leader’s control. Whether it’s responding to government decisions, adapting to new regulations, or navigating shifts imposed by the parent organization, leaders at all levels can benefit from the strategies shared in this invaluable resource.
With more than 15 years’ experience working with thousands of clients, and two acclaimed books to her name, Leah knows what it takes to communicate under pressure. Like you, she knows the challenge of conflict, personality clashes, and difficult conversations.
Winging it in communication simply won’t cut it and avoidance only makes problems grow. There is a structure that works, and it starts with you.
Leah is renowned for her practical, engaging, straight-shooting style. Utilizing her Five Cs® model of communication, she helps leaders and teams shift from knowing to doing, and radically improve their effectiveness.
Her clients represent a diverse range of industries, government agencies, and businesses across Australia – including AGL, Optus, Latrobe Community Health Services, and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
[00:06:40] – Importance of Providing Clarity and Confidence:
Leah highlights the significance of clear communication and expressing commitment to leading teams through uncertainty. Discover how leaders can maintain confidence amidst change and prepare their teams for potential challenges and conflicts.
[00:09:12] – Accountability During Times of Change:
Addressing a question about the need for accountability during stressful situations, Leah explains why setting expectations and establishing baseline core behaviors are crucial for successful leadership. Explore how leaders can foster accountability within their teams, even during times of high pressure.
[00:13:18] – Caring for People’s Emotions and Feelings:
Leah emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence and genuinely caring for employees during times of change. Learn how investing time in understanding and guiding the emotional experiences of team members can lead to quicker and smoother transitions.
[00:16:45] – Creating Desired Experiences:
Discover how leaders can shape the workplace experience by actively involving team members in discussions about what they want the working environment to be like. Leah explores the actions required to achieve the desired experience and employing the 80/20 rule for maximum impact.
[00:20:32] – Understanding the Human Response to Change:
Leah delves into the fight-flight-freeze response triggered by change and the natural inclination towards comfort and certainty. Uncover how leaders can empathize with and guide their teams through this instinctual response to facilitate effective change management.
[00:23:58] – Leadership vs. Management:
Leah distinguishes between leadership and management, often a source of confusion in many organizations. Gain insights into the differences between the two and the importance of prioritizing the “people part” of leadership for optimal team performance.
[00:27:10] – Modeling Vulnerability and Encouraging Growth:
Discover the strength in vulnerable leadership as Leah recounts a personal anecdote and explains how modeling vulnerability fosters connection and ownership within teams. Learn why self-awareness, humility, and acknowledging personal mistakes are essential for effective leadership.
[00:31:05] – The Importance of Soft Skills:
Leah’s book “Soft is the New Heart” emphasizes the significance of soft skills, particularly the challenging aspects of peopling and leadership. Delve into the balance between warmth and strength, clarity and curiosity, necessary for successful leadership during times of change.
[00:34:22] – Leading Through Change:
Explore the core concepts of Leah’s newest book, “Steer Through the Storm,” focusing on leading through change that may not be within our control. Gain invaluable insights on navigating unpredictable circumstances and guiding teams towards success.
If you are interested in learning more about Leah and her resources be sure to check out the following links:
- Check out her website
- Connect with Leah on LinkedIn
- Follow Leah on “X” or Twitter
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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode.
Scott McCarthy [00:00:00]:
Leah Mat, welcome to the show. So good to have you here.
Leah Mether [00:00:04]:
Oh, thank you so much for having me, Scott, and thanks to everyone who’s listening.
Scott McCarthy [00:00:09]:
Oh, that’s awesome. So today, we’re talking about leading change, which is a awesome topic. I thoroughly And, 1, I I enjoy because I find it so important because I don’t know how often I’ve said this on the show, but it still holds true, changes the ever constant. Like, we can get off this podcast and something massive can change in the world. You just never know. Right?
Leah Mether [00:00:31]:
Scott McCarthy [00:00:32]:
Now, yes, so many leaders out there, I shouldn’t say wine or gripe, but they effectively kind of complained that change is so hard. Like, Oh my god. It’s so hard to get these changes. We gotta go down this rabbit this route. We got to go this direction, but I just can’t get my team to come with me. Why is that in the 1st place?
Leah Mether [00:00:58]:
It’s a really good question because you’re right, there is change all around us, we’ve all probably heard that quote, the only constant is change, and as a species, humans are actually Really adaptable, we’ve seen that through things like COVID. However, our brains are wired for Comfort and certainty, we like predictability, we like patterns, so this is why we create habits, and this is A really primitive part of our brain in action, it’s the amygdala kicking in and when Change happens to humans. Our very first instinct is to perceive it as a threat. So it does our very first instinct, that base human instinct is usually, and we’ve all heard fight flight freeze. Okay? And So when the change happens, the challenge for us, this is at an individual level in the first instance, is to go, okay, I’m having this very human Instinctual response, but now what’s my next step? Where do I go from here? And that’s hopefully, as evolved humans, we are starting to get better at that. But I think the reality is when we are leaders and we’re leading people through change or leading a change, We actually have to understand that that is the instinctual response and not this a big part of my work Is around how do we understand how humans work and deal with those feelings to support people through change So they’re less likely to resist it. I do still come across a lot of leaders who, similar to what you said, will say things like, You know, why can’t my people just get on with it? You know, why can’t they just get on with it? Why are they resisting? And it’s because Those leaders aren’t understanding the human experience, and that’s often what holds them back.
Scott McCarthy [00:02:58]:
So what I’m hearing from you, it seems to be a serious gap in the good old emotional intelligence sphere, which we hear a lot of talk about these days. I like to refer to EIs just like, hey. Just don’t be an a hole. You know, just right? Just Yeah. Listen to your listen to your people and be kind. Now I’m sure you might have a little bit deeper explanation to that, from your standpoint, but that’s kinda where I sit.
Leah Mether [00:03:29]:
I’m a big fan for Just Say It How It Is. Right? And, yes, there’s the depth that goes behind it, but you’re spot on. I still do come across, like I said, a lot of leaders who say, is this the soft fluffy stuff? I don’t do emotions, Leah. I don’t do feelings. They don’t belong in the workplace. Can’t people just Get on with it. And my response to those leaders, and there’s still plenty of them around, although I would suggest they’re not leaders at all. They might be managers, but Leadership’s about people.
Leah Mether [00:04:00]:
So if you’re not caring about this stuff, you’re not really a leader. But Brene Brown has a great quote and, you know, paraphrase it here, but, essentially, she says, if leaders don’t invest time dealing with the feelings and emotions of their people, Expect to waste a considerable amount of time dealing with their problems and resistance instead. So when I’m working with those leaders who maybe are a bit old school, they don’t understand or I have that awareness of emotional intelligence and why it’s important to actually care about your people’s feelings. What I say to them is if you wanna get results, this isn’t just the right thing to do because it’s caring for your people. Although there is that element too. If you want to get results, if you want a chance of getting your people through change more smoothly, more effectively, This is actually also the smart thing to do. If your people feel like you genuinely care about them, That you’re taking interest in their concerns during a change and then you’re supporting them through. They’re going to move through it a lot quicker than if you just pull at a gate trying to try to steamroll a change through.
Scott McCarthy [00:05:22]:
You, at the beginning there, highlighted the tagline of this show, which is lead, don’t boss. Mhmm. Right. And that’s effect you you you effectively highlighted that because that’s kinda like those people are what I refer to As bosses. You you said it eloquently, like, these aren’t even leaders. I’m like, yep. Bang on. Those are what I refer to as quote, unquote bosses.
Scott McCarthy [00:05:47]:
Right? And Yeah. Those
Leah Mether [00:05:51]:
I was just gonna jump in and say there, I often have to spend time in the training programs I run, in the workshops, actually Explaining the difference between leadership and management, 2 people in leadership positions. A lot don’t actually even understand that there’s A difference, but the way I explain it is management’s about tasks, leadership’s about people. Management relies on a hierarchy. Management relies on more of that. I’m gonna tell you what to do and expect you to follow because I am your boss And you will do it for me. Whereas leadership, empowers people and to be a true leader, people need to want to follow you, Not because they have to, but because they want to. And again, I still get some resistance to this idea from some of those old school bosses or managers. And my if they say, Leah, why should I get on board with this people part? Why should I, you know, invest in this? I say, well, do you want people to do their best work for you or not? Because it really comes down to that.
Leah Mether [00:06:58]:
If you are a good manager and just tell people command and control, focus on the tasks. You’re not so much Into the people bit of leadership, you might be able to do the management piece, but people will do what you say out of maybe fear and obligation or because they have too. But they will never go over and above for you. They will do baseline. We do our best work for leaders that we want to do great work for. So again, it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the strategically Smart thing to do if you want to be a high performing leader who gets high performance results.
Scott McCarthy [00:07:40]:
And ironically, this show is called Peak Performance Leadership. Imagine that. Right?
Leah Mether [00:07:45]:
Imagine. Imagine. And and here’s the thing, Peak performance leadership is not just about getting the peak performance out of your people, it’s Modeling the behavior you want to see in them. You cannot lead other people effectively unless you first lead yourself.
Scott McCarthy [00:08:06]:
You actually have hit, my structure of of, basically, my entire ecosystem almost completely on the heads because I refer to my 3 domains of leadership. So leading yourself, which you just talked about, leading your people, which we’ve been talking about. And I’m sure we’re gonna go down this this whole rabbit hole as well. And as leading your organization, I e, the institution in which You you lead. Right? So those are to me, that is the complete, you know, picture of leadership because, Yeah. Yeah. You can lead you lead your team, but guess what? There’s plenty of examples out there of leaders who failed to lead themselves and watch, you know, their companies crumble Or leaders out there who fail to lead their organization. Maybe that’s a cultural thing.
Scott McCarthy [00:08:54]:
Right? They failed the, you know, the the proper culture inside the organization. Uber, for example, had huge problems for quite some time, you know, and crumbling. So, yeah, we gotta lead across the spectrum. It can’t just be 1 isolated pocket.
Leah Mether [00:09:09]:
Yeah. And I very much have a similar, Three domain structure in the work I do. We’re obviously really aligned in those ideas because I talk about leading self, leading others, and leading together, which is that organizational piece. And you do need all 3 to lead effectively, but it I what I find is it’s amazing how many leaders Wanna start with everyone else. They wanted to start with everyone else and they will often come to me and say, Leah, I really need help dealing with this Tricky person in my team. Can you help me out with them? And I always say, yeah. Absolutely. We can get to them, but let’s start with you.
Leah Mether [00:09:49]:
Now you can imagine, Scott, there can be some resistance to that from some leaders. Leaders who say, oh, no. This isn’t about me. This is about That other person, that problem person, that may be the case, but let’s start with you. We have to lead from the inside out. And we have to start by really getting conscious about how we’re showing up. And if we are modeling the behavior we want to see from others, you can’t lead People through change effectively. If you’re telling people how you want them to show up, but you’re running around like the sky is falling down, modeling behavior that’s totally at odds with that.
Scott McCarthy [00:10:33]:
You, are reminding me of a I don’t know if funny is the right word here because it’s actually a bit of, it’s actually kinda disgusting story at the same time. Well, I’ll go I’ll go down the rabbit hole anyway, because I think it fits into this this topic. So I I run a free Facebook group, Called, leadership skills friends. You just want to be leaders, not bosses. For the listener out there, you can always, jump in. If you’re not there, Just go to leaddoposs.comforward/group, and they’ll bring you right to it so you don’t have to go searching for it. Anyway, so I threw up a question. I like to throw up questions every now and then, ask past the almost 11,000 people in there.
Scott McCarthy [00:11:12]:
It’s crazy. You know, what are they struggling with right now? And do you know what 1 gentleman replied with? What? My wife my wife won’t listen. I was like so it took me some time. I had all kinds of other things going on, the usual communication problems, just that, you know, all the other standard problems that you see. And it took me a while to Wonder. I’m like, how you know, 1, am I even going to respond to it? And 2, how do I actually respond to it? Not in a critical way, but in a, you know, a positive way. So I I I I sat on it for a little while, and then I finally said, okay. Yes.
Scott McCarthy [00:11:50]:
I’m gonna respond And here are how I’m gonna respond to it. And it was simple. Have you tried to listen first? Yeah. Right? Just what you just said. Right? You know, us as leaders, we have to listen 1st, the the disgusting part of that was the gentleman’s next response was which was, you know, the world would be a Horrible place if we all listen to our wives, and I’m like, that’s where this conversation basically went sideways, and I kinda ended it after that. But the role of the story is this, is that If you, as a leader, you’re finding problems now, I don’t know the actual statistic here, but it’s it’s it’s significantly high. I mean, like eighties, nineties ballpark where You’re actually the problem, and this is why it you need to start with yourself first. Yeah.
Scott McCarthy [00:12:42]:
Having a problem with one of your team members. You’re having problem with outcomes. You’re not getting the results you expect or need or want. Start with you first.
Leah Mether [00:12:53]:
Yeah. And that story captures it perfectly. Right? She’s never gonna listen to him if he never listens to her. And you can you can picture it. You can picture it in workplaces as well where it ends up with people just talking at each other and talking at each other. No one’s listening. Everyone’s just getting louder as they Spew their opinion at each other and we walk away everyone frustrated because no one’s listening to me. The other thing, Point I want to make here when we’re talking about lead yourself first.
Leah Mether [00:13:25]:
I think some leaders hear that and they They are scared of the vulnerability. They worry that, oh, but then people are going to think, I’m I’m not a great leader or, You know, I’ve got to put on this facade, but here’s the thing when it comes to leadership or communication, the, you know, the key things that I teach, No one gets it right all the time. No one is the perfect communicator or leader. Everyone can improve, and we have to have The humility to understand and know that we’re always learning. This is never something you can say, I did communication or leadership training this one time, so that’s my tick box. And, yeah, I’m done. I’ve I’ve done that. And it’s funny, I’ve I’ve been brought into organizations before by leaders who will say, Leah, I want you to train my team.
Leah Mether [00:14:19]:
And, again, I always say to them, let’s start with you or ask the question, will you be part of the training? Will you be sitting in on the training? And I have had leaders before say to me, Oh, look. I’ve I’ve done communication training before or I’ve done leadership training before. I’m not sitting in on this one. And the minute I hear that, it’s like a big red siren going off above my head going, oh, I’m pretty sure I know what the issue in this organisation is and on the feedback forms at the end of my sessions, one of the questions is always, Who else would benefit from this training or who else would you recommend participate in the training? And in those situations where even When I’ve tried to get the leader there, maybe they’ve said, no, they’re not being part of it. And I I’m even skeptical about working in those organizations. Everyone writes that person’s name because that’s the issue. So if people are listening going, Oh, I think I’m pretty good at this stuff. I think I’m, you know, I’m doing a good job.
Leah Mether [00:15:21]:
You might be and great if you are, but you can still do better because You’re human and none of us get it right all the time. I often say at the start of my workshops, I teach this stuff for a living. I’ve written 2 books on leadership and communication. I theoretically know all of this stuff. I still stuff it up all the time. I still get it wrong all the time because I’m human. I’m an emotion driven being like every human is. Some days I have good days and bad days.
Leah Mether [00:15:53]:
I do my best to regulate myself and live everything that I teach. But do I stuff it up sometimes? Yes. I do. And I need to have the courage and vulnerability when that happens to have an awareness that it’s happened and then take steps to remedy that. But, you know, thinking that We’re perfect, and we can’t improve here. That’s one of the biggest blockers to leadership development.
Scott McCarthy [00:16:22]:
Can’t agree with you more. I actually got a a another fire funny anecdotal story. So As I was telling you before we hit record, by day, I’m a senior Canadian army officer, and my current job role is that I, I teach at one of our One of our education institutions, I teach operational planning to our junior officers who are up and coming. And yesterday, I was actually giving, I chat to them after they had to do a presentation, and I was going over some, you know, points for improvement for our entire team. When a gentleman used the whiteboard, and he was drawing a picture, and he was explaining things. And, you know, he did the old, you know, fatal error. Right? Turn his back to his audience, Drew the picture and was talking as he was drawing the picture and so on. So I literally go up to the exact same whiteboard and and start and say, listen.
Scott McCarthy [00:17:10]:
This is what you guys, When you go and you’re drawing a picture, then I started drawing a random picture, and then I was caught myself mid acting, like, And here I am doing the exact same mistake I’m correcting you for. Yeah. Right? And I was like, listen. Basically said the same thing. Like, yep. We all don’t get a perfect point. Prove it. Right? And then I just showed up model digs the proper way.
Scott McCarthy [00:17:33]:
You know? But you gotta have I think you kinda gotta have the courage just to laugh at yourself sometimes. Yeah. To take yourself too serious.
Leah Mether [00:17:42]:
Yeah. To pull that out as well. Like, That can be the the light point, but also the real teachable moment in that session you ran yesterday because It’s when you’re doing the same thing that you can turn around to the class and go, oh my goodness. And here I am doing exactly what I just said not to do. Like, This is how easy it is, how we have to be aware of it, and it’s it’s when your team see you acknowledging Your areas of improvement as a leader or the things that you’re working on or the mistakes you made, you know, that old, again, that old school belief That leaders don’t make mistakes and you have to be right all the time and have all the answers and not get it wrong and not show vulnerability. It creates disconnection. And if you want your people to be able to own up to their mistakes and acknowledge their areas of improvement, We need to model that behavior as leaders. It doesn’t mean confessing all your sins to your people and and, you know, so that they don’t have faith that you know what you’re doing.
Leah Mether [00:18:44]:
But it is sharing with them that, yes, you might be their leader and, you know, obviously trying to do a great job, But you are human too, and you are working on this stuff too. And it creates so much connection, respect, but also gives your people permission to be learning skills as well.
Scott McCarthy [00:19:06]:
So I’m hearing the critic in my head right now. Mhmm. Because we start we started this conversation off about change and change management and right? And And you probably know where I’m going with this. So if I’m the leader and I’m supposed to be able to be vulnerable and humble and all this stuff and say, Oh, I don’t know everything. I don’t know how this is going to go, but still follow me. The critic would turn around and say to you, Well, how am I supposed to motivate, inspire, and get the team behind me when I’m supposed to be taken down this path where people are uncomfortable, we don’t know what’s next, Mhmm. But at the same time, I know we need to get there, but I can’t convince them we need to get there. But if I’m gonna do all this, you know, soft stuff And be humble and look vulnerable and not be strong all the time.
Scott McCarthy [00:19:53]:
They’re not going to follow me because They’re gonna be scared that I’m gonna be taken down the wrong path. What do you say to those folks?
Leah Mether [00:20:01]:
Well, first off, My first book’s called Soft is the New Heart, and that’s a play on the idea that soft skills are somehow this fluffy extra. They’re the hardest part. Right? This the stuff we’re talking about here, the peopling, the leadership, these skills aren’t the easy bit. The tech part The technical parts of our job are the easier bit often. It’s the peopling that is the tricky bit. So you’re right. There has to be a balance here of warmth and strength, of clarity and curiosity, of, you know, of being the person and who people have faith that you’re gonna lead them through change the best way possible even if you don’t have all of the answers yet. Now I wanna make a quick distinction for listeners in the work that I do around leading through change, And that’s the difference between leading through change and leading change.
Leah Mether [00:20:59]:
And this goes to the point you made about, You know, sometimes as leaders, we don’t have all the answers and how can we still get people to follow us when there is uncertainty? My new book is called Steer Through the Storm, How to Communicate and Lead Courageously Through Change, and it is about leading through change. How that differs to leading change is, and I was approached by one of my clients about that sparked off the idea for this book. He said, Leah, Have you got anything on leading people through change? Change that is happening whether you like it or not. It’s not necessarily your change. You’re not leading the change. It might be government’s made a decision, there’s new regulations coming in or your board or if you’re in an international company, you know, the parent organization has made this decision and you’re a leader somewhere in the middle. You might be the CEO, you might be a middle manager, And you’re the person who has to lead your people through it. The change impacts your team.
Leah Mether [00:22:00]:
You have to steer them through it, but It’s not your change. You don’t necessarily like the change yourself. There’s not necessarily a winner in it for your people, But you somehow have to get them to follow you through. So that’s where my work is pitched to. It is exactly as you said. It’s in that Space that’s hard where you don’t have all the answers, it’s uncertain, and you might not be on board as well. So how do We lead people more effectively through that space. There is a framework that I teach in the book, but in terms of what are some of the The quick pieces here, that we can do as leaders.
Leah Mether [00:22:41]:
Part of it is providing clarity to your people and you can provide Some clarity even in uncertain times. So thinking about how you want your team to navigate the change, How you want to show up as a leader through the change. So that can be saying something to your team, like, COVID’s a great example. No one knew what was going on or how we were getting through that. It’s giving your people the confidence by saying something like, you know what? There is a lot of uncertainty around us at the moment, but the commitment I make to you as your leader is I’m going to lead you through this with and whatever those key things are for you. It might be getting the team together and saying, This is gonna get hard. It’s gonna get tricky. There’s the potential for things to get wobbly and for conflicts to arrive.
Leah Mether [00:23:35]:
How do we want to Get through this behaviorally. What do we wanna do? What do we not wanna do? It can be using a framework, and I. This is a very simple 4 part framework for communicating during uncertainty where we say, here’s what I know. That’s The first point and number 2, here’s what I’m doing about it. Now in uncertain times, that’s where leaders often stop. They say, Here’s what I know, and here’s what I’m doing about it. And then we walk away going, and I don’t have those other answers people want, so I’m not gonna say anything about that. But here’s the problem.
Leah Mether [00:24:09]:
You can bet your bottom dollar that bit you have left out, the big elephant in the room, that’s what everyone in your team is talking about and getting concerned about and worried about and do, you know, do you have it together as a leader? So I actually encourage leaders to Name it. So the 3rd point in this structure is what don’t we know? And tell your people that I know a lot of you have got questions about whether we’ve got funding for the new financial year. The answer is, I don’t know that yet either. And the 4th step in this framework is what you’re doing about what you don’t know. So it might be, I don’t have that answer either yet. However, the commitment I make to you is that I am asking the questions, I am advocating for our team to the board, and as soon as I have more information, I’m going to communicate that to you. So again, just really quickly, what you know, what you’re doing about it, what you don’t know, and How you’re going to let your people know all the work you’re doing in the background to find out. So through all of this and, You know, how do we balance that the soft stuff with, giving people faith in us? It really is that delicate balance of doing both.
Leah Mether [00:25:32]:
It’s Doing the thinking and giving the reassurance that as a leader, you are here, you are here to steer people through them, you’re modeling the behavior, You’re doing what you can. You’re communicating as much as you can and being as transparent as possible, but you’re also Supporting your people and getting curious, you should care about why they don’t like the change. That gives you information to Lead them. It gives you information about the questions to ask, but it is that balance. And the other balance here, As I wind up this long answer, I appreciate. The other answer here is we do need to balance Empathy and accountability. Yes. You need to care about your people and support them And try to understand what’s going on for them and be compassionate and help them through.
Leah Mether [00:26:25]:
But you do still need them to do a job. Okay. That’s the reality. You still need them to perform and do a job. So you need the accountability piece there too. But what I find is if you don’t, if you go straight to accountability with no empathy, if you’re just saying to your people, oh, I know there’s a lot going on, but Forget about that. You’ve just gotta focus on doing your job and head down, bum up, and keep focused on on doing the work. If you don’t empathize, that’s when people, start getting louder and more, Set more challenging in their behaviors, it is that delicate balance of both.
Scott McCarthy [00:27:06]:
So many good nuggets in there, from the, you know, asking the right questions. That’s something I talk about a lot right now. I think we lead as leaders, you know, in the past I mean, past as in, like, ancient past. I think leaders are, you know, the, quote, unquote best leaders seen were the ones who had all the answers. I think that’s flipped on its head now. I think it’s all about the ones who asked the right questions. I like how you I I liked how you finished that last bit of empathy and accountability, and I got a little anecdote a whole story if you don’t if you’ll humor me.
Leah Mether [00:27:43]:
Yeah. From this.
Scott McCarthy [00:27:46]:
So I was in charge of a military unit 200 members. And as a senior officer, we had trained in our military judicial system. So we literally preside over trials, like, Literally trials of our members for very basically minor infractions so we don’t clog up the the true court martial system. So I I had a member, and the 1st time I met him was when he was standing in front of me during one of which what what I was referred to as the summary trial. He was he was late one day. In fact, he was, drunk in his bed, and his his Sergeant had to find them in his room and, you know, and he had showed up he showed up, like, 3 hours late for work. So he was charged. And between the time that that occurred and he was standing in front of me, he’d gone to AA meetings.
Scott McCarthy [00:28:38]:
He had Gone on the rehab program, he had letters stating how well he’s done and all this stuff. So Make long story short, I found him guilty of the charge. You know? He was late, but I was able to give him A, a a, fine not a fine, but a penalty. Kinda like a reprimand. I can’t use the word reprehend because that is actually A sentence, shall we say, of a caution. Don’t do it again. But what I said to him was, I said, okay. You you messed up big time, but I appreciate, you know, the work that you’ve done.
Scott McCarthy [00:29:18]:
So let let’s let’s see what you got. And that was my challenge to him, as in, let’s see if you stay on the right path And stick to it. So fast forward 2 years later, I’m at the end of my tour in this in this unit, and I sent 6 letters To parent members’ parents. Because often what happens is parents, they don’t know what their child goes through. And as as a parent myself, Like, I’m thinking, like, 20 years down the road now because my my my boys are still fairly young. I’m like, but wouldn’t it be amazing to actually, You know, know what my my boys are up to on, you know, work, which is arguably one of the biggest parts of their lives. And Well, I ended up writing 6 letters to some outstanding performing young members, and he turned out to be one of the 6
Leah Mether [00:30:06]:
Scott McCarthy [00:30:08]:
Because he had turned in to be such a outstanding member. So, yes, you accountability was held. Yeah. But at the same time, I saw where he was at at that moment, but more importantly, I saw where he came from.
Leah Mether [00:30:22]:
Scott McCarthy [00:30:23]:
Right. And and sometimes we just need to look at it through that lens.
Leah Mether [00:30:27]:
Absolutely. There’s so much I love in that. I mean, great awesome leadership from you in writing those letters. It the power that they have, often those small acknowledgments, but Specific acknowledgments of people, yes, for the parent, but also for those 6 people to know that their Leeta had gone and done something like that, which you did that off your own, but that that’s awesome. What I love is, you know, you’re spot on. Yes. You had to hold him accountable, but here was even the more important part there. He took personal responsibility because he went and took action himself.
Leah Mether [00:31:06]:
And that is so, so crucial. There might be some listeners who are thinking, okay, And the reason I suggest there might be is because I often get this question from people in workshops. They go, okay, Leah, so you’re saying I have to hold people accountable for their behaviour through change, even though it’s stressful. And because we can’t just have people, you know, going off the rails, yelling and screaming at people or treading each other poorly. So how do I hold them accountable, through change? And my response to that is where possible, success is in the setup. So if you know there’s change coming or things are getting a bit uncertain and you can do this quite frankly at any time with a team. And I was just out at a power station yesterday working with 2 teams together on this exact work. And it’s having the conversation about What are our baseline core behaviors that we commit to living by? It can sometimes do it in a general sense, but I actually like doing this.
Leah Mether [00:32:12]:
If you know change is coming or it might be the start of a new project, don’t Assume that people know how to behave under pressure because we’re all different and your idea of what it looks like might be different to mine. We can’t hold people accountable if they don’t know what they’re being held accountable for. So change is coming. Alright, folks, this is gonna get tricky. It’s gonna We’re gonna be under pressure for the next few months. During this time, what are the 3 to 5 Core behaviors we all commit to living by, and what I don’t want is a shopping list. I don’t want 20 things you’re gonna live by because you won’t remember them. And I also don’t want 1 word responses like respect because respect is a beautiful word, but your version of respect and mine might look very different.
Leah Mether [00:33:03]:
So I want actual actionable behaviors. So for example, one of The teams I worked with yesterday, that one of their, well, actually, 2 of their core behaviors were really simple things, but they said explain the why. That has to be one of our behaviors. So many of the conflicts that come up between our teams are because we are giving instructions or asking people to do tasks or making decisions, and we’re not communicating the why. If we all commit to explaining the why at any level, We’re going to take out a whole heap of the conflict. So that was one of them. And another one of them that they came up with yesterday was assume positive intent. So many of us, we’ve got a negative bias.
Leah Mether [00:33:51]:
We assume people are out to get us or they deliberately did that work poorly. So they said if we all assume positive intent in the first instance so it doesn’t excuse poor behavior, but we’re going to assume that People come to work to do a good job. Some people don’t do a good job, but is it their intention to deliberately do a bad job? Very, very rarely, folks. So they were 2 of the core behaviors that that team came up with yesterday. And what I love about this work Is an you know, they’re coming up with another one as their 3rd is they’re simple, to call that actionable. You’re in a room together, so everyone’s talking through what it looks like in practice. And then that gives you 1, it allows The group to hold each other accountable, so it’s not just up to the leader, but it also gives you a lever to pull as a leader because Your team were part of coming up with these core behaviors. So now it is so much easier to have a conversation with a person through the stress of change about their behaviour.
Leah Mether [00:34:59]:
If you’ve had that clear conversation about expectations at the start. Now you can do this. It doesn’t have to be at the start. If you’re listening to this podcast going, I’ve never had that sort of conversation with my team, you can do it. You can do it at any time. Hey. We’ve been working on this project for a while. We’ve never really talked about what that looks like and what Our expectations are of these team meetings, for example.
Leah Mether [00:35:24]:
Let’s talk that out. These are the conversations that matter, and they allow you to hold people accountable when the going gets It’s tough.
Scott McCarthy [00:35:32]:
And I always say when a team members hold each other accountable, that’s when your team is achieved peak performance because no longer do you have to worry about it. They’re gonna take care of each other. And I hate how everyone looks at accountability and and looks at it through a negative lens. Oh. And it’s act it’s actually a positive lens. You know what I mean? Like, it it’s not like, hey. How come you didn’t do your job? It’s like, Hey. Do you need help? I noticed you haven’t got the TPS report done, and it was and it’s due at 3, and it’s 250 right now.
Scott McCarthy [00:36:01]:
Do do you need help to get this thing done? That’s accountability. Right? That is accountability. You’re checking in with the you know, there’s something that needs to get done. It looks like it’s not gonna get done on time. How might I help you? That is still credibility, and that’s how your team hits peak performance.
Leah Mether [00:36:17]:
Yeah. And, you know, the the leading question that I ask Before I get into that conversation about core behaviors, I ask the team, what do you want the experience of working in this team to be like? You know, we spend so much time at work whether it’s now what do you want the experience of being in this team to be like? And we start there with the conversation. And then we go, okay, to be known for that and to have that experience, what do we actually need to do? What are a couple of the and It’s not a coverall. It’s just what are some of the top things that if we all did this, it would make a big difference. The 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle. If we did these 3 things that had solved most of our our issues, and you’re spot on when you frame it like that And they’re in that positive space of this is the experience we want in our teams and in our workplace. And, yep, if we do these things, It shifts accountability from on being, you know, I’m being told I I’ve been negative to people or I, You know, I haven’t been communicating properly and saying that is a bad thing. You realize that your behavior contributes to that culture of the team, and If we’re all striving to achieve that great place to work and that great team to be part of that has peak performance, then, Yeah.
Leah Mether [00:37:36]:
We all wanna be onboard in behaving in this way.
Scott McCarthy [00:37:40]:
So amazing. So many great nuggets. Leah, this is such a fantastic conversation. I feel like we could keep going all night for me, all day for you. But, unfortunately, all good doing 2 things All good things do come to an end. But before we wrap up here, I got 2 last questions for you. The first one is, According to you, Leah, what makes a great leader?
Leah Mether [00:38:03]:
Leaders who lead themselves first. Yeah. Leaders who lead themselves first and leaders who care about their people. If you don’t care about your people, you should not be a leader.
Scott McCarthy [00:38:20]:
Yeah. I would argue you’re not even 1.
Leah Mether [00:38:22]:
Yeah, absolutely. Maybe in title only, but you actually are not 1.
Scott McCarthy [00:38:27]:
Correct. And then the final question to show, how can people Find you, follow you, be part of your journey. It’s all but you right now.
Leah Mether [00:38:35]:
Excellent. Thank you so much for that opportunity. So easiest way to find me is if you just plug into your search engine, Leah Methart. My name will be On the podcast episode and in the show notes, head to my website. I’ve got a YouTube channel where I answer people’s questions every week, But I’ve also got 2 books to my name that you can find on all online platforms. So the 1st book is Soft is the New How to Communicate Effectively Under Pressure. And the 2nd book is With That Change Leadership Lens Steer Through the Storm. Find that.
Leah Mether [00:39:10]:
I’m on social media as well, under Liam at the speaker, come find me, tell me that you heard me on the podcast, and I’d love to have a conversation.
Scott McCarthy [00:39:21]:
That’s awesome. And for you, the listener, it’s easy as always. All the links, all show notes are always in, Are all the links are always in the show notes, every single show note, and we have the same structure. So go to leaddopeboss.comforward/theepisode number, And then you’ll be taken right there. So there we go. Again, Leah, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule. I truly appreciate it.
Leah Mether [00:39:44]:
Thanks so much for having me.