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A manager works in the business and a leader works on the business. A leader always takes an organization from where it is today to somewhere different, they always try to take the business from where it is today to somewhere different, they have a vision. And they communicate that vision.

In this episode

How do you think outside of the box and why is it a leadership superpower?

Paul Sloane is a leading Innovation Consultant and author of over 20 books (including The Innovative Leader).

In this episode, Paul tells us about being an open-minded leader and how open-mindedness can break thinking patterns in order to become more innovative

Paul shares how leaders can think laterally, rather than vertically, in order to keep up with a world that is constantly changing. And he even gives us some tips on how to run a successful brainstorming session with your team.

Tune in to learn what the difference between a manager versus a leader is and how transformative thinking will help problem-solving. 


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


06:00

When you receive feedback, don’t get defensive

07:30

Ask your team these 2 questions

10:50

Embracing open-mindedness

16:20

Be an arsonist and a firefighter

21:00

Lateral vs. vertical thinking

25:00

Brainstorm and idea-generating techniques

31:00

Innovate or die

35:00

Difference between a leader and a manager


Resources


Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:15

Paul, welcome to the show. It is really nice to have you Where are you dialling in from today?

Paul Sloane  03:23

Camberley in England to near London.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:26

Cool. That’s awesome. Well, it’s, it’s very, very good to have you on the show. There’s a lot of stuff that we want to talk to you about today. I know that you’ve had a pretty extensive leadership career, you’ve been the CEO of inactive, you’ve been a leader at math soft, and you’re in innovation consultant. And obviously, you’ve written over 20 books. And today we’re going to talk a lot about the innovative leader, amongst other things that you’ve written. But before we get into all of that, I just wanted to kick things off and ask you Do you remember when you first started managing and leading teams and what some of the early mistakes would have been that you made back in those early days? 

Paul Sloane  04:05

So I went through sales training with IBM. And then I got promoted to marketing manager with IBM and I went to IBM management training, which was very good. And then I got headhunted to join a database company called Ashton tape. This is way back in the PC days. And we were selling database software database to and framework and things. And I came in as a UK marketing director to a pretty chaotic setup. And I brought a lot of IBM disciplines there are so I thought, and I was organizing the marketing department running all the programs. And one day the managing director Kerry Hobbs was a wonderful Managing Director, wonderful mentor for me. He put me on one side, he said, Paul, he said, he said you’re too tough on your people. I said, What do you mean? He said, Well, you tell them what to do all the time. I said, Isn’t that my job? And he said, No, you let them make some of their own decisions and make some mistakes and It was an epiphany. For me, it was a sort of road to Damascus moment that I was far too tough on them, and authority, because I was experienced a relatively, and I thought I knew better than them. And I was told what to do all the time. And that’s not a great way to lead a team. And I hope that over a period after that I mellowed, and I stood back a little, and I gave people more freedom to succeed. And when you give people the freedom to succeed, you have to give them the freedom to fail as well. So if somebody comes to you with a challenge, rather than saying, do it this way, my way. The lesson I learned was the thing that says, Well, what options have you considered? What are we trying to achieve? Here? You ask some questions. And you get them to think of various possibilities, you might gently suggest one or two possibilities. But if they then think it’s their idea, and they go away with it, they’re much more likely to implement it. Well, then if you give them your idea, and tell it to get on with it.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:57

That’s amazing. I think this is one of those lessons that hopefully many people end up learning, it’s one of those almost necessary lessons for people to learn. I’m curious, was this an overnight thing? You just, you know, realize that and then the next day, you were the super manager? What happened?

Paul Sloane  06:13

Oh, well, I don’t know about that. But it certainly made me stop and think. And, and I’ll tell you another thing I learned. And it’s this when someone gives you some feedback or criticism. The tendency is to be defensive and negative. And say, No, that’s not true. I’m not like that. But here’s a piece of advice. When anybody says anything critical to you, at any time, say this yourself, there might be something in what they say. And just open your mind to the possibility that even though they are not as clever as you and they’re coming from the wrong standpoint, they don’t see all the things you see, they’ve still got an input, which is useful to you. And there’s something valuable in their feedback. So whenever somebody criticizes, take something from it.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:02

Yeah, no, this is, this is very true. I think it’s always tough to process feedback, and do all the considerations in one shot. So even if it’s like an almost like repeating, so what I’m hearing that you’re saying is blah, and just like letting that sit, and then I almost need, you know, sometimes I need a full week to process what it was that was said, and then I may need to come back and ask some more questions and maybe do some more digging, it’s typically not a, an easy thing for me to on the spot,

Paul Sloane  07:34

Let me give you a terrific piece of advice that I was given which all leaders and managers should take on board, this is so good, I should charge you double for that. And what you do is you take your people one at a time into your office or a quiet place, and you say I want to ask you two questions. And whatever you say, I’m going to listen and just take it on board. And here’s the first question. What do you think I’m good at? And they’ll say, Well, you’re very good at communicating. And you’re good at giving direction, and you’re great communication division, and you’re always enthusiastic. And that’s always nice, nice to hear. And then the follow-up question is the key question, where do you think I could improve? And then you shut up and listen. And because they’ve given you the positive feedback, because you’re in a trusting, they’re much wise to give you something candid and let you get something well, to be honest boss, sometimes, you know, you tell us you’re too directive. And sometimes you’re not completely clear. And sometimes you’re too critical. And they’ll give you something which is really useful. And you deal with these. And if several of them say the same thing, then boy, you should really take that on board. So what but the key thing is you the only thing you could say is you can’t disagree with it. But if they say sometimes too critical, you could say, Can you give me a for instance, and they’ll say, you know that time when Joan was late, and you made fun of her? And you say, oh, yeah, I thought I thought that was and they say well, actually that that cut a little with Joan, and you didn’t realize it. And so if you can say can you give me a, for instance, give me an example. But But otherwise, you cannot disagree with them at all. Otherwise, clam up.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  09:15

I like what you said, which is to hear what everybody says. And then if there are some patterns, then you need to pay much more attention.

Paul Sloane  09:23

Yeah, well, everything we say is gold dust is really valuable. Because a leadership journey is a journey of continuous improvement. Every leader can be a better leader.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  09:31

Yeah, it’s never-ending. It’s one of those things that you never, you never quite finished.

Paul Sloane  09:36

Well. The funny thing is, you know, they did a study as to what is the optimum length of tenure of a CEO? What’s the optimum time forsee? And what they found was that if you set up a new CEO that he comes in, and he’s he or she is keen, enthusiastic, open-minded, they listen. They’re not experienced. So they don’t they’re not making all the right decisions. They don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of all their people. So So, they’re not that effective to start with, then they gradually become more and more effective. They learn more, they learn more. And then after a period, the peak. And they start they think No at all. They become complacent. They stop asking questions because they’ve been there before the solve that problem, do it my way. And they found the optimum length of tenure for a CEO was 4.8 years or less for between four and five years is about ideal. Because all that initial enthusiasm and open-mindedness gradually is replaced by complacency and arrogance sit to to exaggerate it a little.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:32

You use the word open-minded. And so I wanted to dig in a bit more on that you have an awesome TEDx talk about embracing open-mindedness? Why don’t we start with saying like, how do you know if you’re open-minded? Because I feel like if you ask a lot of people, they’ll say that they’re open minded, do you? Would they be right? Or are people good at classifying themselves that way?

Paul Sloane  10:55

You know, everyone thinks they’re a good driver, and everyone thinks they’re good at sex. And everyone thinks they’re minded. You’ve never met anyone who would say no, I’m quite close minded. But there’s a lot of evidence that we have unconscious biases, confirmation, bias, availability, bias, all sorts of bias. And one question if it says, Are you open-minded? Say, Yes, I am. One question I would ask is, tell me a major issue that you’ve changed your mind on in the last couple of years. Tell me anything, where you have received ideas and changed your position on any major issue at all, and very often are struggling to think of anything. And if you look at the discourse, the public discourse in America, between Republicans and Democrats is very divisive, very bitter, very entrenched, like this. You are what Boehner calls, I am right, you are wrong thinking. All right, so I’m right, and you’re wrong. And there’s very little compromise very little middle ground. And we need a middle ground, in politics and life and management. And in our social discourse, we need to find common ground instead of shouting at each other on social media, which should encourage more open mindedness because you’re encouraged to listen to more views, it’s had the opposite effect. And people go into that little bubble where they listen to similar views, or more extreme views that feed them, you know, that conspiracy theorist and all the rest of it, they just go to the same sites, and they hear more of the same stuff. And they’re not prepared to listen to opposing viewpoints. And we should be open minded and listen to opposing viewpoints. And a good way to do this is to read the newspaper that’s on the opposite side of the spectrum from you, if you normally read a very, very conservative newspaper, or guiltiness, try something very liberal. You know, if you normally watch Fox News, try CNN or vice versa, to just deliberately go to different places meet different people. You know, they say whether some of the six people that we spend the most time with and we tend to spend time with people who are like us.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  13:02

Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. So one of them, and tying this back to the CEO comment of, you know, somewhere between four and five years is the ideal time. This is probably like something that leaders everywhere should probably keep in mind, right? If someone has been doing the same role for a very long time, and they’re wondering why maybe there isn’t as much innovation in the workplace.

Paul Sloane  13:26

Yeah. So diversity. And bringing in new blood is helpful for innovation. So you should value experience, but you should move people around, give them new challenges. So as a leader, your job is to challenge your people. And you can type you can find a new challenge for most people, even a really good experience, people do the same thing over again and again, say, I want you to mentor this, this young guy, I want you to bring him on, I want you to find a new way for the department to do such and such a task. And I’m sure you can come up with some creative ways to do that. But I want you to look at how we’re doing it. How did they do it in Japan? How do they do it in Malaysia, I want you to look outside and bring back some different ideas for how we can tackle this week you know, we can’t get the lead times down. We need to be smarter and I want you to try and find ideas out so so challenge to people keep giving them fresh challenges sisters to stop them getting stale.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:22

And you know one other point that I wanted to make related back to the open mindedness concept is there’s this great phrase, which is being stubborn on the vision but flexible on the details. There are like I get the sense that from an open-mindedness perspective, people are probably have different levels of open-mindedness about different things. There probably isn’t like a truly open minded person across the board. I would think

Paul Sloane  14:48

Well, if you’re open-minded, you’ll never do anything because you’d still be waiting for other people, I guess. Nonetheless, you have to fight the tendency to be so sure of yourself. So certain that you’re right You ignore criticism and you ignore feedback and you charge your head. And sometimes, to be a great leader, you have to be humble, and you have to listen.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  15:11

[AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey there. Just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not a single-spaced font, you know, lots of tax. There are a lot of pictures. It’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to fellow dot app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one on ones. It’s there for you. We hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. [AD BREAK ENDS]  So you also have this great analogy, which is leaders need to be both arsonists and firefighters. I mean, I love the phrasing around that would love for you to elaborate on what you mean by that? Well, what

Paul Sloane  16:22

I mean by that I’m talking about leaders of innovation. So if you want, if you want your company to be creative, dynamic and agile, then what you do is you go around lighting fires under people, and you say, look, you’re doing a great job here, but always find a different way to do it. We need to find a new way to reach customers, the challenge for you is to try some experiments and do new things. I mean, this is working fine. But if we’re going to grow the way we want you, we need to find new ways. So I’m challenging you to find new ways. And you said someone else I want you to experiment with some prototypes, try these different things, see if the customers like them, bring me some feedback. And people develop their ideas and of the go. And then you say, How’s that going? And they say, Well, this one is I think technology is cool. But you know, the customers don’t like it, you say well stop, or have a strangle up, move on some just, it’s cool. I’m enjoying it, I put all this effort in no. And yet, sometimes you have to start a fire, and then you have to put it out. So there isn’t time to develop everything. There isn’t time. But you know this, you start 100 fires, and you put 90 of them out. And then there’s only the good ones that survive and it’s what Eric Ries talks about, in his book, The Lean Startup where he talks about a minimum viable product. And the minimum event with a minimum viable product, which is the smallest crappiest version that you can show to customers disproves as proof of concept. And when you show it to customers, you get all sorts of really valuable feedback. They say, Well, we like this and we like but this doesn’t work. And this is completely wrong. And then you go back and you do something else. So you don’t develop the whole product and secret. With innovation. You don’t do the whole thing, and then launch it, which is what they did with something like the Segway, for instance. And then it didn’t meet expectations and lots of other products. Similarly, the Amazon fire that also said, so what you should do is take something to customers, and choose the right customers, the intelligent ones, the ones who are ahead of the game, and say, Look, this is one of our ideas what you think. And if they say no, if, typically, there are three reasons why you should kill a prototype a, the customer doesn’t like it, or B, we can’t crack the technology, or C there’s no way we’re going to make money with this. If any of those, then that’s a strong reason to kill it.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:35

Are you being a firefighter on your own? Like the fires that you’re starting or just being a firefighter in general for?

Paul Sloane  18:43

Well, you should be a firefighter on your own as well. Yeah, there are some initiatives, I mean, you should look at the things that are on your project list and say, our which of these are of high value unlikely to succeed, and which should I kill, maybe I’m spending time on things which aren’t very productive and aren’t valuable. And we’re all guilty of that until I was unrelieved guilty of that as anyone. If I look at my activity and say, how much of it was valuable, that was a real return investment. It’s, you know, maybe 30% of my efforts off 40%. But I’m certainly spending time on things that I should have ditched, but I just like doing them, or I’ve invested so much time in them, or it’s a vanity project. You know, we’ve all got to be critical and prune on focus and focus on what works and that doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying new things. But you try new things. You discard the ones that aren’t really successful.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:41

Yeah, this is a super important one. I think like the challenges and maybe some of this is related to you know, being there too long doing the same things for a long time. It’s you start these processes, these habits that maybe made sense at some point, but you’ve never really spent the time to say Do they still make sense? Are they still optimal? Are they still the best way that we should use our time is wrong. Another concept that you also talk a lot about is the concept of lateral thinking. And if we were to just maybe start by defining what you mean by lateral thinking and why it’s useful, I think that would be a good place to start.

Paul Sloane  20:21

Well, lateral thinking is a phrase coined by Edward de Bono, in contrast to conventional thinking, and in conventional thinking, we go ahead straightforwardly, very logically, we build block on block on block in a standard fashion. And lateral thinking is coming at the problem from the side coming from an entirely different direction. So rather than doing the same thing, you try something completely different, and maybe a little bit wacky, a little bit crazy, what people sometimes called out of the box. So instead of being constrained by the current assumptions, you challenge those, and you look for entirely new ways to do things. And it’s a form of creativity. And I’ve developed a set of tools and methods based on some de Bono work and other work, which help organizations to employ lateral thinking, to be more agile, more creative, and more innovative.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:13

And so maybe is there an example of, you know, maybe a situation where we could talk about what normal thinking seems or feels like and then what a lateral thinking approach might look like.

Paul Sloane  21:25

So in the mid-1970s, is when a young film director movie director called Steven Spielberg, and he was given a commission by a studio to produce a film called with the tentative title of jaws, and it featured a huge mechanical shock, and they built this shock. And then the thing didn’t work. And they had all sorts of problems with it, making it work, and all of the mechanics with it. So they didn’t have computer graphics in those days. And that was the problem. And he was running behind schedule, and way over budget, and the studio was coming down very hard. Now, the conventional approach would be less fix the shock, let’s bring in more technicians, let’s spent a lot of money to get this shark working. But he took a lateral approach, he said, Let’s eliminate the shark, let’s imply the shark with music. And you use John Williams’s theme that does to imply a shot. And when they tested the rushes, with audiences, they found that imagining what was beneath the water was much more frightening than actually seeing it. And, and so with a person swimming along the top, you’d hear the music and you think, oh, no, there’s something underneath what’s going to happen to her. And the lateral approaches, don’t fix the shock, imply it with with with music, and that’s just an exam pill I like of lateral thinking in action.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  22:49

That’s awesome. And so I guess, like the end, you know, just thinking about a framework that you could use. So there’s a problem that you can solve, and then maybe state what the conventional approach might be. Yes. And then afterwards thinking about, like arriving at the solution unconventionally, there’s all

Paul Sloane  23:09

sorts of ways to do it. Yes. So I mean, if you were working for Encyclopedia Britannica, in the 1990s, and you said, you know, what’s the future encyclopedias, people will say, well, they might be a little bit smaller, and maybe a little bit cheaper. But we still need a lot of experts and editors, and we still need printed encyclopedias. And if somebody has stood up and said just a minute, maybe it’s a completely different approach. Maybe we could have a free encyclopedia done by volunteers, with no paid experts at all. That would have ended your career, that idea, probably, you would have been laughed out of the meeting, and ridiculed and so on. But that’s what Wikipedia was, it was a completely lateral solution to the same problem. And so for years, we’ve had printed encyclopedias, very, very expert, very high quality, and then come along come something whose quality is, at times not proven, but generally, it’s worked out pretty well. And it’s just swept the market.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:06

Yeah. So this makes a lot of sense. And certainly, there are a lot of examples in history in terms of how you can maybe encourage that type of thinking across the organization. I would love to know your your thoughts and ideas around getting that idea generation getting like great brainstorming meetings, like what are some best practices?

Paul Sloane  24:28

Well, there are all sorts of ways of doing it. And I use a variety of tools and methods, most of which are explained in my books. And then I also have online courses on these advanced brainstorm techniques. And but one way is a thing called What If where everyone has to write down a crazy WHAT IF statement, what if everyone had two brains? What if there were 48 hours in the day? What if we only had one customer? What if we had a million customers and you write down crazy thing and then you just see where it leads? And sometimes, you know What if we didn’t have experts paid experts on our encyclopedias? You know, what we’d have to use volunteers? How would that work and the only tip over the web? And so starting with a what-if where you just challenge all of the assumptions there’s, so every situation we bring assumptions to bear. And there’s a current model. And then most brainstorms, were trying to tinker with the current model and expand it. But you know, if you were running a taxi company, you couldn’t develop that into Uber, you have to start again and re change all your thinking, to come up with Uber. And if you’re looking at a conventional hotel chain, you couldn’t conceive of Airbnb by just extending the current method, you have to start with a what if, what if, instead of building hotels, we harnessed all of the rooms that people are prepared to sell around the country? What a crazy idea. And yeah, off you go. And that’s why most creative ideas come from startups rather than established companies because they’re so wedded to their assumptions and their framework and the vertical thinking that they can’t do the lateral thinking to conceive of an entirely different approach.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  26:08

In your experience. Are people generally able to succeed at those sorts of brainstorming sessions? Or is it very often, you get disrupted from the outside? Have you seen organizations that actually do a really good job of this type of idea generation? Yes.

Paul Sloane  26:25

So I do a lot of that. And they bring me in as an external expert, and I external facilitate, it’s very hard for a manager to do it with his team because the manager has his or her mindset, and persona, and style. And it’s very difficult for them to step out of that and become a brainstorming facilitator. Because a brainstorm facilitator, their job is to encourage ideas, no matter how crazy to avoid criticism, and initially at least to use divergent thinking to create a lot of ideas. And then to use convergent thinking to to find the best ideas, and there’s a structure. And that’s a good way to run a brainstorm. But most brainstorms are ruined by early criticism, well, that idea wouldn’t work, we can’t afford that, the customers would never go for it. All of these things kill off earlier ideas very, very quickly. And it’s the crazy ideas that lead to the good ideas, and therefore you’ve got to let them run for a little bit, to see how well they develop and then let people develop them and kick them around. And eventually, you might get something useful.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  27:30

So having an external facilitator makes a lot of sense. And you’re right, that sometimes you have to start with a crazy idea. Most ideas, a lot of great ideas start by being very bad ideas, but you actually need people to build on top of them. And so there’s an I’ve heard, you know, people talk about this during brainstorming sessions, which is the Yes, and so that people can end up building on top of everything else. But what do you think about, you know, post idea generation kind of meeting or session, you probably don’t want to like converge on an idea, like all in the same session, it probably benefits from having some time in between, you could do

Paul Sloane  28:13

but when I run them, typically, we use the same group to do both divergent thinkings and then the convergent thinking. And we select the best ideas using some broad criteria. So we will set some criteria, we’re looking for ideas, which are novel, attractive and feasible. And then you go through a novel to retain the new ideas and the more creative ideas. Yes,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:36

yeah, that makes sense into one of the so once you have these, these these concepts put into place, then obviously, the idea is that you’re going to, you’re going to put some of these into place, and then iterate on them. And over time, they get better. Do you have maybe an example of how you would think about implementing some of these new processes or, like how you can encourage organizations in general, to implement new processes?

Paul Sloane  29:06

Well, there’s a method called transformers that I use where you, you take a choice of verbs, and you draw a block diagram of the current process and then you, you apply verbs to it and the verb might be subtract, it might be eliminated, might be divided might be compressed. There’s a whole 50 different verbs, and then you apply them to different parts of the process. And you come up with a whole bunch of ideas. This is for service or process improvements and innovations. And it works really well. And basically, once you get chosen the best ideas then you get assigned actions to people. Joan, I want you to develop a model for this and bring it back to us in a week. Jim, I want you to prepare a spreadsheet showing the costs and how they turn the plan. Mary, I want you to check with legal what would be involved in this and what disclaimers we would need to try this. Fred, I want you to go and check with somebody Customers, these three are Falkor to test this idea. So most managers are good at things that go on to-do lists, once it’s on your to-do list, and then it comes tends to get followed up. And, and that’s how innovation happens. You take great ideas, a lot of ideas, you select the best ones, you turn them into actions immediately. And this is you’re not saying we’re definitely going to do this, we’re going to change the whole company, what you’re saying is we’re going to try it, we’re going to see where it goes, we’re going to develop it to the next stage. And you give those actions to different people. And then you follow up in a week or a month, and you see where they are. And then people believe in the brainstorming. If you have a whole bunch of brainstorm ideas, you get 100 ideas. And the bank manager says I’ll look at those later. And then he or she is involved in other things doesn’t look at them, nothing happens. People become cynical. What’s the point of the brainstorm meeting, not every change is round here. Nobody listens to our ideas anyway. And so it’s very important if you have a brainstorm that you do it properly, and that you implement some ideas. Because even if a little tiny things, people say alright, at least he or she is listening to us. And Chet prepared to change this.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:09

And do you think that people should wait until there’s a problem that needs a creative approach to start implementing some of these practices?

Paul Sloane  31:17

No, the problem is that the world is changing so fast, and you can’t wait for the truck to arrive before you get on. You’ve got to start running right now. Because everything’s Chet. You’ve got to innovate or die, that, if you don’t innovate, someone else will you know, with innovation, you’re either diner or you’re the dinner, somebody is going to eat your lunch, this guy is sitting in Malaysia right now, or Philippines or Vietnam, or Ukraine who wants to run your podcast better than you, Aiden, and he’s got much better ideas for how to do it. And he wasn’t he wants to eat your lunch. So you’ve got to improve, you got to change, you got to find new gas, you got to find new formats, you got to try different things. You will try it on YouTube, maybe we’ll try it on Instagram, we’ll try on Tik Tok. We’ll keep trying new things. And everyone has to do this. Because otherwise, you’re going to be left behind. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:11

I like that approach and bring it on, I say to that person trying to compete. But But yeah, separately from that, what I wanted to say is that it’s almost like you have to constantly be asking, like, how can we disrupt ourselves? And if we don’t, and can we disrupt ourselves is a good question. Yeah. And it almost seems like I mean, this is a great material for, I would say any sort of off site, you know, and just have to be with leaders. But this is the sort of thing that should probably be programmed into the culture. And there are various forms of this, you know, for example, we, at fellow, we have this thing where we run hackathons, like multiple times a year. And just something that is you can actually program this into the culture. So it doesn’t have to be a thing that you know, happens some of the time, you can program these sorts of events so that they can happen regularly.

Paul Sloane  33:08

There’s a method I use called them who killed our business, what we do is, everyone divides into your divided into small teams of four or five people. And then the challenge is, you’ve been fired by the company. But you’ve been hired by a venture capital company. And they’ve given you a large amount of money to create a competitor, which is going to kill a bit your business, the existing business. And it’s going to kill it by doing things, not just not by spending more money on advertising. But by finding a smarter, better way to reach customers and meet their needs. What’s the fundamental thing we do for customers, you’re going to find an entirely different way to do it. So it’s like Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s like Uber and the taxi companies like Airbnb and Marriott Hotels. So what are you going to do? So you send them away? And they could come back? And they pitch and they say, Well, we do it this way. We change the distribution model entirely. We’d go direct to customers, we bypass John, we did. All right, we got a completely different approach where we would get rid of this and focus on this. So everyone has to reimagine a completely new company, which would kill the existing company through lateral thinking through new approaches.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:21

That sounds like fun. That is, yeah, I think that that’s a super fun, fun activity and probably something that everybody here should try. One thing that I wanted to also ask you about is a lot of people have fun kind of telling the difference between these two. But in your view, what is the difference between a manager and a leader? So

Paul Sloane  34:41

yeah, it’s quite clear. I think a Manager works in the business and a leader works on the business. So a leader always takes an organization from where it is today to somewhere different if what your current doing is currently is making the current operation work well, looking after customers, trying to make the system work? Well, if you have two people solving all their problems, you’re a manager. That’s fine. And we need managers. But a leader is always looking at strategic things. A leader is always trying to take the business from where it is today to somewhere different, they have a vision. And they communicate that vision. And whether this is for a department a team or the whole company, they have a vision for change. And they say, look, we’ve done well, we’ve got here today, but in a year’s time, it wants to be somewhere different, we’re going to be in new markets, doing new things with maybe fewer resources, we’re going to find a smarter way and I need your help to get there. So the challenge that they throw down is a challenge. But a leader takes his or her team on a journey to a different place in some way. And that is what leadership is all about. You know,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  35:50

I think this is a very interesting point. Because tying this back into what we started talking about, and maybe one of the early mistakes that you made when you first started leading teams, which is, you know, telling people what they should do and how to do it. It seems like a leader’s job is almost to have a bold enough vision on some areas or things that can be improved, but then not coming in and actually solving and figuring out exactly how it is that you’re going to achieve those things. And then really working with the team and making sure that they can come up with the novel approaches.

Paul Sloane  36:24

Well, I prefer that approach. I think it’s a better approach. But having said that, some leaders are very directive or very authoritarian and have been highly affected. And I’m not just thinking of, you know, Stalin, or Erdogan or someone like that, I mean, yeah, Steve Jobs was a very directive, very, very tough guy to work by very strong views of his own, very critical at times. So although I would say that my preferred model is the servant leader, the humble leader, the leader who steps back and encourages people to fulfill their potential, there are some other people who just direct and tell you what to do. Do you watch succession?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:03

I do. Actually. It’s quick.

Paul Sloane  37:05

I Logan Roy is a leader. I mean, he’s got a whole company. But he’s, he’s an absolute psychopath. So there are different styles of leadership. And it would be arrogant for us to say, this is the only one that works. There are all sorts of different styles that work in different situations. But I think the if you want you to get the most out of your people, you’ve got good people, then giving them the freedom and space to succeed is the best approach,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:33

I think, yeah, you know, it’s very interesting when, when looking at it in that light, we recently had a common buyer who’s former VP of at Amazon on the show, and apparently, Jeff Bezos had told him that if you want to be a good leader, you should look to see who is similar to you, and try and mimic some of their attributes. Don’t try and be someone that you’re not. So anybody out there that is going to be directed, because they’re going to try and be Steve Jobs, you know, probably not the right person to copy for, for the vast majority of people. Paul, this has been super, super valuable, so many different lessons that we’ve talked through. One of the questions that we like to ask all of our guests that come on the show is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tips, tricks, or words of wisdom that you’d like to leave them with?

Paul Sloane  38:32

Well, yes, I would say, read, read. leadership books are my books, I would recommend the Leaders Guide to lateral thinking skills, the innovative leader, think like an innovator or my books, read other books, or read biographies of great people, and constantly look to improve every day, try something new. And every day, challenge your thinking and ask yourself this question. If I was starting again, if I was coming into this business fresh, well, you know, what questions would I ask? And ask those basic questions again, that the day you, you became leader, you asked a lot of basic, why do we do this? What’s the purpose of this? Go back to that immigrant viewpoint in your insider now, but sometimes you have to act like an outsider and say, What can we change it and how can we make things better? And how can I improve, and how can the organization improve?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  39:29

That’s great advice and a great place to end it. Paul, thanks so much for doing this.

Paul Sloane  39:33

It’s been my pleasure.

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