Engage, Empower and Educate Your Team

Engage, empower and educate!

That’s Chris Cotter’s strategy for getting teams to work together. Chris visited Japan as a Graduate and never returned. Working as a language teacher he ended up running a language school.

Then he moved to a tech startup building a language learning app.

This was where he developed his thinking about developing teams. Coming from the United States to Japan, from individualism to a collectivist culture. Chris believes if you engage, empower and educate your team they’ll perform at their best.

In this episode he shared his thoughts.

Listen in to hear his story and philosophy of getting teams to perform.



Chris: [00:00:00] I started my career in Japan as a language teacher and moved into administration at some point.

Chris: I was working at universities. So I’m very much focused on education. That means, building up the people in my team so that they can meet The challenges that they have ahead of them, that they can continue to grow and develop. And then also, the market changes, there’s new opportunities or like in 2009, 2010, when the stock market crashed, you have to be prepared for those unknown unknowns and by educating the team, they’re able to meet those challenges.

Chris: Empowering the team. You’re giving them the tools, you’re giving them the resources, you’re giving them the trust in order to be able to work independently. There’s still accountability, of course, but they don’t need me telling them do a, B, and C. You can just say, okay. The goal is D and tell me how you’re going to get there.

Chris: Check in with [00:01:00] me a few times. If you have questions, I’ll be able to answer them and let them, go how they feel best to go. Cause there’s many different paths in order to reach the goal. And then in terms of engagement, if you’re getting the training, if you’re getting the support, you’re getting the resources, generally you are engaged.

Chris: You have the chance to come in and do what you enjoy doing. You have the chance to come in and do what you do best. On a daily basis and those are the three pillars that, in my teams, I’ve always focused on and what it would look like, whether I was in customer success in my last role or running a language school and the role before that, or designing curriculum and training teachers and a few roles before that they’ve all had those core components. 

Rob: So the three pillars are to empower I don’t know if there’s a 

Chris: specific order, but empower and get educate and engage. 

Rob: So it’s very much about building people up to be best prepared. Yes. 

Rob: So what brought you to Japan?

Chris: Like most [00:02:00] people you graduate university and you don’t really know what you want to do. I did know that I wanted to travel Before going back and doing a master’s and starting your career and getting a real job. I had done a working holiday junior year abroad in the UK a few years before that, and I thought, where can I go?

Chris: What can I do? 

Chris: I need to earn some money for bills and loans, and then also to pay for graduate school. I had studied Japanese my first year at university. So I found the program where the government brought new grads to Japan. I think at the time they had 5, 000 slots that they were in public junior high schools and public high schools.

Chris: Went through the interview process, got accepted, got flown out here with everybody else in July of 97, I think it was. And that’s what started and it was going to be a year or two. Like most people who end up being in Japan or in another country for a long time. And then two years became [00:03:00] three years and it became five years and now it’s become 27 years this July.

Chris: So I’ve spent more than half my life here, which is weird to think, but yeah, that’s how I ended up coming here. Met my wife here. We raised our kids here.

Rob: Japanese is one of the hardest languages 

Chris: to 

Rob: learn.

Chris: Level five language, I think it is, which is, yeah, the most difficult it’s up there with Chinese and Finnish and Hungarian.

Chris: I think there’s a few languages that are level five. If I remember off the top of my head, I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong here.

Rob: So what made you pick Japanese? 

Chris: I don’t remember exactly, but I think that when I was in elementary school in fifth grade there was a transfer student from Japan.

Chris: His dad was sent over here with the family working at some business in Chicago. And he came to my elementary school and we were really good friends for two years, and then he came back to Japan. I think maybe that was the start of my interest in the country. I remember writing, letters to him, like pen pal, and there was a [00:04:00] dictionary at the library in elementary school and it’s Oh, okay.

Chris: You say Konichiwa for hello. Okay. And so I would write that down in Roman and Roman characters. I think that’s what started it. And interested in, the history and the culture as well. That’s why I studied for a year. And then I switched schools, switched majors and decided that Japanese really wasn’t going to fit with what I wanted to do.

Chris: So it stopped studying, but I still had that interest in the country. Still had the interest in the language and the culture. And I don’t think like I wanted to travel a lot and let’s say there was the same program in some other country. I don’t know if I would have been as interested. Going to that country or even maybe staying as long if I didn’t have that initial interest.

Rob: What was it about Japan that you obviously fell in love with the country to, to stay that long? What was your initial experience? 

Chris: It was a good experience. I got lucky. So I remember going through the orientations [00:05:00] that they would set up for you before you came here.

Chris: So there were maybe like a hundred people leaving out of Chicago. Everybody would arrive at the same time from, from everywhere in the U S and the UK and elsewhere around the world, and there were orientations before we departed and then while the first few days while we had just arrived and everyone kept saying that each person’s I think it was the jet program.

Chris: Each person’s jet program is unique and it’s different than the person sitting next to you. And I found that to be very true. And I got lucky. I was placed in a small school with 250 kids. It was a junior high school in a small town of 5, 200 and something middle of nowhere. And I could become a real part of the school.

Chris: So I was the softball assistant softball coach. I had a English club as well that I had put together. I could become a part of the town. So I had friends in the town. We went and we did barbecues. We went hiking and did lots of things like that. And [00:06:00] then also there were a lot of other friends that I became with who were either japanese or Expats who were on the same program and many of them had also stayed and I think that’s what kept me here and I met my wife the Second year I was here as well.

Chris: Probably if I had never met her, I don’t know if I would have stayed for 27 years, but that also, you know Kept me here. 

Rob: Okay. So What are the key differences between american culture and Japanese. 

Chris: Oh, that’s a lot. American culture, and to stereotype Americans and also Western culture, it is more self centered.

Chris: Where Japanese culture, it’s the group. Like every action or everything you say impacts the group. And so you have to think about. The group as a whole. And there’s these, there are like concentric circles where you have the family and then you have like the business or, friends and out and out.

Chris: And so you have to think [00:07:00] like. what you’re doing or what you’re saying, who is that impacting? 

Chris: How does that affect them? 

Chris: So there’s lots of little things which can be quite stressful. There’s lots of conversations in the background. They’re, reading the air where what you say and what you don’t and what you don’t say Conveys a lot of information and that’s something that Japanese people spend their whole life immersed in and me being the non Japanese, I’m fairly empathetic and I can get maybe 50%.

Chris: But there’s a lot of things where people say that’s too direct. That’s too forward. You can’t say that. Or how did you not understand that? They would never say how do you not understand it? Because that is too direct as well. But that’s the implication of what they’re saying.

Chris: So that’s a huge difference in culture. And then it’s also a huge difference in how business culture is run as well, where in the U S you have a meeting, for example, and people are there to decide on the best idea for the meeting in Japan, or at least more traditionally in Japan, you have the [00:08:00] higher ups, which have decided a lot of And then meetings are to sell you the information.

Chris: And get you on board, not for your input and it’s because you have the harmony and the group and everybody has to be aligned. Everybody has to be in agreement and working together, even if they’re not really. But that’s how business works. That’s how the culture works. 

Rob: Yeah. So it’s really the difference between America is probably at the peak of the at the extreme of self.

Rob: And then Japan is probably one of the countries that are the extreme of the collective. So it’s a fascinating dynamic to figure out where you are on the spectrum. 

Chris: Exactly. Obviously, I’m vastly generalizing, of course.

Chris: But, my experience is that people who have come to Japan who are not good at like the group dynamics, they really don’t enjoy being here and they really struggle. And conversely, Japanese who go overseas for work or for business, if [00:09:00] they are not more direct and more forward, they really struggle to find their voice and can’t participate.

Chris: And they feel very left out and separated. And then they don’t do well in their position or in their role when they’ve been sent to the U S or the UK or wherever it might be. And it’s even worse when they’re, when they’ve been sent over to in a management position and they’re leading a team of people from that aren’t Japanese from elsewhere the dynamic and how teams and businesses and conversations are run, they really struggle and they don’t do well if they don’t have that ability to, make changes of how they communicate and how they work together.

Rob: Yeah. It’s one of the things when you go to a different culture, often we assume every culture is like ours and that’s where people struggle because. You don’t know what you don’t know until you, you don’t know what you don’t know. Yeah. Yeah. 

Chris: It’s harder I think if you’re going to a country that is so vastly different. It’s [00:10:00] easy to remember Oh, this is a different place. This is a different culture. Things work differently here. But if you’re going to a kind of a similar, like a and a if you’re an American going to the UK or an American going to Europe, or then it’s easier to forget that there are differences in how people talk and communicate and cultural aspects and all those other points.

Rob: Yeah it’s on the one hand, you don’t want to stereotype people, but on the other hand, there are cultural differences where you need to appreciate those differences before you can really fit in and you can work and harmonize in that. 

Chris: You have to be very open otherwise, and receptive to any new idea or just accept that, okay, this is not the way I would do it, but this is how we’re going to do it.

Rob: I remember reading a lot of books maybe like when I was growing up, 80s, 90s. And it was, Japan was flourishing then and everyone was bringing over the Kaizen and the all the different techniques that the Japanese had brought in. But what they [00:11:00] hadn’t realized is the cultural differences.

Rob: There was a completely different culture like them though. Individual orientated, which meant that the whole process didn’t work. So it’s understanding the context from where from where you take an idea and being able to be sensitive to how that would impact.

Rob: There’s a, there’s 

Chris: an old movie gung ho. I don’t know if you have seen that with Michael Keaton. It’s about the peak of when, Japan was this big powerhouse of a country and economically they were very strong and they were moving into the U S and into like cars and factories.

Chris: And so they had moved into some Detroit or Ohio Car manufacturing plant, and they brought all the Japanese ideas with them. So they’re outside in the morning doing the group exercises and all these other things. And if that’s a perfect example, these ideas don’t necessarily translate. The idea is, okay, we’re all working together as a team and we want to be healthy physically and mentally together as a team.

Chris: So we do these exercises together in the morning to, come [00:12:00] together. But yeah, that’s not going to translate so well to. A manufacturing plant in the middle of, Detroit or Ohio or wherever the movie took place. 

Rob: You used to hear a lot about Japan being a, being one of the fastest growing countries economically becoming one of the most powerful countries economically.

Rob: I haven’t heard anything about Japan. It’s been supplanted 

Chris: by China a few years ago. So Japan had a Economic bubble, which burst around 92, 93, 94. And it’s never really recovered from that. So they’ve coasted along they’ve implemented policies and done different things, but nothing has really jumpstarted the economy.

Chris: And I think a lot of where we are now, it’s. Based on the momentum of Japan’s strength from the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, but now we’re starting to see for example the yen is very weak. It was a hundred, a dollar, 156 yen or 157 [00:13:00] yen to the dollar. Just a couple days ago, which is unheard of, it’s 160 something yen to the euro, which is unheard of.

Chris: Just to put it in context, the entire time I’ve been here, except for like 2008, 2009, the yen has been between about a hundred yen to 110 yen to the dollar. So it’s significantly gotten a lot weaker and everything at the store are much more expensive. But and salaries haven’t increased and the government recently said, to businesses, please increase workers salaries because they’re not able to Survive well enough and they’re not putting money back into the economy as well and businesses can’t because they just don’t have the money either 

Rob: So you decided to stick around, you were in the school, you were teaching foreign language.

Rob: What happened next? 

Chris: So the jet program at that time limited you to three years because the idea was internationalization. So they wanted people coming and moving and going and moving and so on. So after the three years were up, I moved [00:14:00] to Tokyo with my wife and started teaching here.

Chris: I taught for a few years and then that company moved into curriculum design and was building training programs for all the teachers to teach the new content that we were building. Some of it was conversational English, some of it was business focused English, some of it was test related English, and then I also started teaching at universities.

Chris: And that was, Easy, track education, stay in education, stay as a teacher. But I shifted around 2008 to 2009, somewhere around there. And I remember specifically thinking in Japan, if you’re a university teacher, it’s a great position but it’s contract it’s very hard for, at that time, it was very hard for a non Japanese to get tenured positions.

Chris: And they also could fire you. So you had a contract, but it was renewed every year or it was renewed every three years or was [00:15:00] renewed every five years and there weren’t any safeguards for ageism. There wasn’t any safeguards for a declining economy where if I had been hired in 2000, Eight, for example, and the university had less money in 2018.

Chris: I could have been fired because they could bring in somebody younger and cheaper and have them teach the same courses. So I made the decision to exit. teaching. And then I ended up working at a startup language school in the center of Tokyo, where, I was in charge of all the curriculum and all the content and all the programs, but I was also doing an MBA at that time.

Chris: Cause it was a small company, it was a startup. I worked with marketing. I worked with sales worked with the different universities that we were contracting with to teach specific and specialized courses for them. And then later, that’s the language school that I actually was in charge of and ran the business for three or four years.

Chris: So I made that, I made that [00:16:00] conscious decision to Exit teaching, because it seems safer to move into business. And also, if I decided to leave Japan at some point, it would be easier for me to transition to a role in the U. S. as, with a business background or, business experience than just as somebody who was teaching foreign language at a university.

Rob: So what happened After that, what I’m trying to get at is where’s the journey to the teams? 

Chris: I was at that company for nine years, I think seven, eight, nine years. And I was headhunted. For a tech startup in Japan. And that company had built a language learning app using an AI to deliver the right content at the right time based on your learning progress.

Chris: So if you were learning. English with this app, and I was learning English with this app, and another person was learning English with this app. Our user [00:17:00] experience would all look somewhat different. Because maybe you’re better at vocabulary, I’m better at grammar, and this other person, he studied or lived overseas, and his grammar and vocabulary is a mess, it’s all, out of context, but he can communicate really well.

Chris: All the data was, was put together so that you would get different tasks, I would get different tasks and another person would get different tasks. And that was the app was B2B in Japan. So I was the first person brought in for customer success, which Japan has been doing customer success, just under a different name for a long time and built the team from there.

Chris: And that was my most recent role where I was there for four and a half years. 

Rob: Like on the cutting edge of AI. 

Chris: That was very, It was really interesting and really exciting. 

Rob: So where was the jump then to Teams? 

Chris: So I was laid off. From that, like most of the CS team was laid off.

Chris: A lot of other people, a couple people from machine learning, a couple developers more than half the company was let go. So that [00:18:00] was at the. end of November, beginning of December of last year. And I thought, okay, I’ll start with LinkedIn. Need to network as they say apply for jobs. You need to also, contact other people.

Chris: So I started that and I started posting as well. Cause that’s something I had wanted to do during COVID around 2020, 2021, maybe it was I started posting on LinkedIn. But just didn’t really have enough time with working full time. And also it was also fairly early into COVID or not so far into it that, it was a bit of a struggle. The kids were home studying at home. Everything was up in the air. Things were really weird, a lot of stress just from the whole situation. So I started, but I stopped and I just couldn’t carry on with it. And. Earlier, like as a teacher and as a content developer, I was more active.

Chris: With the international community, but it was just teaching related. So we would share ideas. We would share information. We would [00:19:00] share resources. I had a website with content on there as well. People from all over the world were coming and downloading the content or, I wrote a couple of books for people buying those books.

Chris: And so it seemed okay, I wanted to do this with LinkedIn. But now for language teaching, do it for business do it for leadership because I’ve been leading teams for more than 20 years in Japan. And the team has been international as well. And so that’s where it’s grown from that idea and it’s just taking up more and it’s a good thing, but it’s taking up more and more of my time as I find more value in it And I see more possibility in it of maybe doing my own thing coaching or other services instead of getting the traditional nine to five job And that’s where I am at the moment. 

Rob: What i’m Interested in this is your the philosophy so I work with teams, my basis is relationships.

Rob: My philosophy is that the relationships between team members determines how well they’re going to work [00:20:00] simplistically. So what drives your philosophy? 

Rob: We’ve got the engage, educate and empower, isn’t it? So they’re the three pillars.

Rob: So tell me more about where does that come from? Cause I, I think all of us have a different shade based on our individuality. So I’m interested in, Yes. Digging into that. 

Chris: I do think, the strongest teams are teams that work together. And I think maybe that philosophy comes from my experience in Japan where, we do, there’s the, as going back to what I said initially, there’s the collective where you work together as a group and you think about the people around you and taking that idea and marrying it with, a more Western viewpoint of leadership Yeah.

Chris: And teams where, we’re working together, we should work together, but then also we’re empowering each other and educating and making sure that the team is engaged, there’s the collective and supportive culture that you’ve tried to create. So I don’t think that if you work independently, [00:21:00] Or if, if you work, let’s say, if you work independently you’re not as strong as if you’re working together as a whole if you are going into meetings and you’re fighting for your idea or you’re fighting to, to be recognized.

Chris: You’re not working together as a collective whole. So I think that’s very much important, an important component of teams and how they work together, but in order to achieve that, you also have to create this psychological safety where everybody feels comfortable. Everybody feels valued.

Chris: Everybody feels supported. And so how do we achieve that? And for me, it’s going back to, educating them it’s engaging them and it’s empowering them so they feel comfortable they’re learning new things, so they feel engaged. They feel supported. which means they feel psychologically safe, which means that they’re more likely to share ideas and share resources with other people on the team.

Chris: They’re more [00:22:00] willing to ask one another hey, I’ve got this idea. Can you take a look at it? Or I’m having trouble with this client. Can you help me? Or do you have any ideas? And going back to what I’ve done, like real world examples at the language school that I was running, I was in charge of the sales team and we would have a monthly sit down where everybody brought in one win or one client that was doing well and one client that they were struggling with or that they had lost.

Chris: And then they would share. And so the more experienced sales members. Would be using like sharing their knowledge and their ideas for the less experienced but even if you had 10 years of experience and somebody else had five years of experience that person with 10 years of experience would Still walk out of the room going I didn’t know that or that’s a really good idea I can take that put that in my pocket and use that again at some point in the future and That wouldn’t happen unless they felt psychologically safe if they had all those other components, if they were missing those other components as well.

Rob: That’s, I’m curious about that [00:23:00] because that obviously I’m got quite an ignorant view of Japanese culture.

Rob: Based on the stereotype that seems the kind of thing that they feel uncomfortable with. My understanding is there’s like a shame of admitting that to the group and feeling that you’ve let everyone down and that.

Rob: So how did that work? What, were there any barriers to that? 

Chris: One person didn’t like that so much. But he was also the person who was the lowest performer. So for him, it was, you’re putting me in the spotlight and this is not all okay. And we had a few conversations where he said to me, a foreigner should not manage Japanese people.

Chris: And I think this was Probably part of it as well. Cause I would push them. I would say, look, I have the data and you say that you’re doing it. You’re selling as well as other people, or you’re meeting as many prospective clients as other people, but you’re not so and so met this many close this many, so and so met this many and close this many and so on.

Chris: So we need to find ways to support you and get [00:24:00] you, producing a little bit more. And then we would have to work together. Whereas he didn’t like that was a bit too direct for him. So he really struggled. But other people did pick it up pretty quickly. They saw the value of it. There was one woman who was the top performer and she had lived overseas for a few years.

Chris: So she was a bit more on board with doing things differently. And I think that probably helped as well because she would help mentor some of the newer and less experienced sales reps within the team so that they looked up to her and she said, this is good. We need to do this. This is why we need to do this.

Chris: And so they would. They would put down their guard and accept okay, I feel a little uncomfortable, but after doing it a few times. they saw the value in it because Oh, I, this was like an hour mastermind session where I can go do my job better. And the company’s paying me to do this fantastic stuff.

Chris: And so after that, it was more or less. Okay.

Rob: Okay. So when you talk about [00:25:00] engage, so you start with engage is that. 

Chris: They all circle together a flow. You can’t just engage people and say you’re engaged, go do it. I trust you. And, but if you educate them, if you’re giving them resources, you’re giving them advice, if you’re coaching and mentoring, then they feel valued.

Chris: And if they feel valued, then they’re engaged. And if they’re engaged, they’re more willing to take on risks and try new things, which is empowering for them. And as, as they’re learning and failing and trying those new things, then you have more opportunities to engage or educate and train them and coach them, which then makes them more engaged.

Chris: So it’s this, it’s this virtuous loop. I feel it’s not one or the other first, second, third it all fits together. 

Rob: Okay. So what typically do you see as the biggest problems? What are the biggest barriers, challenges? 

Chris: Every person comes in with their own history and their own baggage.

Chris: And sometimes they’ve come from a good organization where they had a team [00:26:00] leader who, supported them, who cared about them, who, who built them up. And then other times they come from the opposite or, or somewhere in between, which is not such a positive environment. They might come from a larger organization where they have to really play politics.

Chris: They have to be careful with what they say. They have to be careful about appearing vulnerable. Because other people are going to pounce on them and take advantage of that, generosity or those other positive aspects. And bringing somebody new onto the team, that’s always you have to erase that negative past history and start them afresh.

Chris: When things are difficult when there’s, a lot of challenges, like for example, at my last company being the first CS hire and then bringing on a team the company was not customer centric whatsoever. They said they were, but then every decision they made would be like, okay, we can only do this.

Chris: How can you make [00:27:00] sure the customer doesn’t complain too much. That’s not being customer centric. So in times like that, then even if you’ve tried to erase like that past history, it can still be a default. And then they, they revert back to, they, the old style that they were first, the first company that they worked at for five years where it was cutthroat or they were on their own and if they opened their mouth and they were, their ideas were stolen or they were attacked, that can rear its head every now and then, especially in difficult times.

Chris: And you have to be aware of, okay, that’s so and so’s default and be aware of that. Circle around it so that, they don’t or ask those right questions and engage in active listening so that you can understand and then support them and say, okay don’t worry about that. I’ve got that.

Chris: What else can you do for a, b and c and so on?

Rob: I went to work for a little while in a cinema. And what I noticed was the customer service was terrible. It was like, there was constant complaints because we obviously you have to deal [00:28:00] with complaints and the complaints were just basically there was a basically really sorry that you had this here Have a free ticket.

Chris: Yeah. 

Chris: Yeah, I worked in the movie theater in high school. That was the same thing Oh, we’re really sorry here. Here’s a free movie pass. 

Rob: I was on the management team and managers would sit in the office. So I was there learning initially. And you do all the different bits and I’d watch and the managers would sit in the office and then they come out and they bark at someone and go back in.

Rob: I’m like, this is the problem. It was like a really young manager. I think she was like 20, 21. She’d been a usher, like worked in the cinema and then got promoted and made the house manager. And Yeah, there was a lot of the managers were going with the last manager to a new site.

Rob: And she was just like, I’ll just let these go and I’m not going to stand up and say anything. So they would just basically sit around bark at the young kids. They were only like, high school or just finishing college, all that. And it’s where I first realized that you have to look after the people if you, before you, that you’re going to get customer [00:29:00] service.

Rob: And so I went to the manager and the area manager and said, look, this is what we need to do. Okay, yeah, this is great. And I remember the other managers and first off a lot of the managers it was like. Here he is the new kid thinks he knows better. And so while I was still learning stuff, they would set me up, it’s tell you, you think you should go and do that.

Rob: And, like trying to put me in situations where I would fail. Yeah. But anyway we sat down and there was a couple of other, I worked with another one to go through this process and but even another one of the new ones were like, there’s no point doing this. You say you’re just going to set up, they’re going to moan about what they want.

Rob: They’re going to want more money. We can’t give it to them and they’re going to be more unhappy. And it was, and so we sat in and we did run through these and we go every problem that you have, and they listed out 23 problems. And yeah, money was one of them, but it was way down the list.

Rob: A better uniform was another one, but that was down the list. And so we basically took all of these things and most of them were really simple. And it was like, how do we schedule? How do we [00:30:00] basically being treated with respect And it made such a difference yeah, people were so close minded that, oh, if you do anything different, like people prejudge and most people don’t want money, most people want respect, but you have to tap into what it is that they really want in order for it to work.

Chris: So there, there’s actually two things I want to say. One, like every study you look at, Money is important, of course. People don’t work for free, but it’s not the most important, doesn’t top lists if you want an engaged team, if you want a team of high performers, money is less relevant than a lot of other key components.

Rob: So If you were gonna, like you, you’ve written a book in, in, in your language work, you’ve written a couple of books, you said, 

Chris: yeah. 

Rob: If you’re going to write a book on teams or you’re going to give a TED talk on teams, what would it be? 

Chris: I would want to write or talk about something a little bit different.

Chris: Everybody talks or writes about the [00:31:00] importance of psychological safety and resiliency and working together as a collective whole. Okay. And those are all Extremely important, of course. But I feel that the approach of, okay, if you’re focused on education if you’re focused on engaging the team, if you’re focused on empowering the team, then it leads to all those other things that you want to see for a successful team, for a high performing team, and it’s, maybe it’s a unique spin maybe it’s somewhat new, somewhat different approach.

Chris: Then say, okay here’s a laundry list of all the things that you need to do. Instead, you can just say, okay spend time coaching them spend time empowering them. How do you do that? 

Chris: Make sure they have the right tools. Make sure that you trust them make sure that they’re engaged, but how do you engage them by making sure that you’re giving them training and learning opportunities by trusting them?

Chris: It solidifies a lot of other ideas into more digestible and more actionable nuggets, which someone who [00:32:00] doesn’t have much experience as a leader or someone who’s struggling to get the most out of the teams. They can say, Oh, okay. I can understand that. You want to educate them. You want to spend time training them.

Chris: Got that. Okay. You want to empower them. Okay. You want to make sure that they have the right tools or they have the right resources. Okay. I can understand that. I got that. Easier to understand, I think, and that might, I don’t know if it’s a book, but it could be a Ted talk.

Rob: Okay. So my whole thing is unified is that where you talked about the concentric circles, it’s ironic because that is the logo I use for unified because I see that we are a self. And then we are a couple, and then we’re a family, and then we’re a work team, and then we’re a social group, and then we’re a nation, and so on and so forth, like the universe.

Rob: That’s very 

Chris: Japanese. That’s the Japanese concept. 

Rob: What I see is you could have engaged, you could have educated, you could have empowered, but in a self like an individualist culture. What I’m not seeing is how that knits them together as a team, [00:33:00] which is where I think is 

Chris: that comes down to, I think the leader, and there’s lots of small things that the leader can do which fall under those three ideas, but a lot of small actions that they could take, which over time create a collective cohesive whole I don’t think it’s any if you do this.

Chris: Then everyone’s gonna say, Oh, we want to work together. I don’t think things don’t work like that. And I don’t see that happening, but for example we did this in my last company where we had something simple, made a Slack channel and in the Slack channel, people talk to one another and people talk to one another, but it didn’t have to answer right away.

Chris: You could answer when you needed to answer because you’re doing other things. I trusted you to do those other things. So people would ask questions like, Oh we got this one customer asking, or this one client asking da. I don’t know what to do. And I would see it and I would wait and wait for somebody to answer.

Chris: And somebody would eventually pipe in and say, Oh yeah, take a look at this and this. And let me know if you have any questions. [00:34:00] And little by doing those sorts of things that they started to come together and trust one another and rely on one another. But it started with me having that expectation and providing the framework for them.

Chris: That’s what someone would have to do if they worked in a team or in a company in the U. S. or elsewhere. You can’t just dictate, we’re going to work together. You can’t just pull out one idea and say, this is the action we’re going to take and now we’re going to be a family. Family is the wrong word, I know, but we’re going to work together as a whole.

Chris: It’s a lot of small actions. And then, okay, putting them under the idea of educate or under the idea of empower or engage. Thank you very much. 

Rob: That’s an interesting because you corrected yourself from saying family, but yeah, I don’t know why I said that. Have you seen the Netflix? No. Idea.

Rob: Yeah. So I wrote a

Rob: post some time ago about a family isn’t a good model for. No, it’s terrible. Yeah. Because it brings in a lot of dysfunction. It makes, it’s like the [00:35:00] idea of. It’s like the idea of unconditional love the floor to relationships and people become stuck in like abusive relationships and they go, Oh, but I love them.

Rob: So Netflix has explicitly said, a couple of people have shared it and I’ve seen it, they’re not trying to be a family. They’re trying to be a high performing team. 

Chris: Makes 

Rob: sense. Which I, yeah, which I think is a a great model. 

Rob: You probably don’t know soccer, but I’m a Liverpool fan, which is a soccer team in England.

Rob: And they have a German manager came in actually he’s leaving this year, but he’s been there nine years and Liverpool were a great club when I grew up, they were the best perhaps in the world and. for 30 years, they’ve dropped down. He came in and his whole thing was unifying everyone, the teams, the fans, the behind the scenes and he’s had huge success that would be my example.

Rob: That was Ted Lasso did that if you watched that TV show. 

Chris: Yeah, I’m sure it was based on, a lot of real life examples. But, yeah, he came in and, a dysfunctional team which wasn’t doing well and unified everybody. [00:36:00] Small gestures, small words, small actions that stacked little by little over time.

Chris: To create a team, which functioned well together. 

Rob: Okay. What would be your example? What would be the model that you would aspire to recreate? 

Chris: Oh, Ted Lasso was a good show. It was interesting to see how he did that. 

Rob: Would that be the model, like the shining example of your, 

Chris: Oh, it’s probably a model that everyone, or A lot of people have seen the show or at least have read about the show that they could relate to it.

Chris: But I don’t know, real world experience. If you are in education we often say being A manager or a leader in education is a lot like herding cats. Everybody has their own idea of what works for them in the classroom. Everybody has their own idea of what’s important for them and what they want to focus on.

Chris: And for them, they’re in the classroom, they’re responsible for the success or the failure of their students in the [00:37:00] class. And that’s all that’s important for them. And so if you have some guy behind them saying, we need to come together, we need to do this, we’ll be better. It’s less relevant or less important because they’re responsible for their class. They’re standing up in front of 20 students or 30 students. And if what they’re teaching doesn’t work, if what they’re saying, goes off poorly, then they look stupid. They look unprofessional and then they lose, they can lose some of the respect of the students.

Chris: So for them, that’s the most important thing. Being a manager and a leader of teachers for quite a while, it was Bring them all together and having them realize that if you shared ideas, if you shared resources, that you, your classes would be better because this other person has more experience doing this other thing, or has insight on this other thing is he went off and did a conference.

Chris: Last year, he was gone for a week and did a international conference in San Francisco for language teaching. [00:38:00] And he comes back and he’s got these ideas. He can share those ideas, facilitating that little by little where there’s there’s, sharing resources where everyone can use. You make the teacher’s room a place where Ideas are being thrown around.

Chris: And, as a teacher myself, I would be the one instigating what are you doing in the class? How’s it going? Have you thought about this? Oh, and someone else say, Oh, no, actually do this other thing. I did this the other day almost the same resources and it worked really well. The students loved it.

Chris: And the guy goes, Oh, okay. That sounds great. I’ll try that. And it works. And it’s real world where you’re bringing these, Teachers, you’re herding cats and getting them all together to work as one where they’re sharing ideas and sharing resources and asking questions to one another.

Chris: So that’s my model. Ted lasso, okay, probably more famous, more familiar. Everyone’s seen the show. But it works on the same principles, I think. And then also in Ted lasso and my real world experience as well, it’s stepping back and okay, I have the answer. I have a great idea, but I’m not going to say anything [00:39:00] because I want someone in the team to pick up the conversation or pick up the responsibility.

Chris: And it happened in Ted Lasso, happened in, my teams as well, where I don’t say anything. I, earlier I talked about Slack where someone would ask a question. I had an answer. Of course I have an answer. I wouldn’t say anything waiting for somebody else in the team. To make a comment or give a suggestion and if it’s wrong, okay, then I would pipe in and say okay, why don’t you do this or check that, but I would wait for a while to see somebody else picking up the baton and running with it rather than them relying on me that would be my, example, I 

Rob: guess that must take some What’s the word?

Rob: Patience. Maturity. Patience is the right word. Yeah. Patience is really the right word. And I guess for many leaders it would be difficult to, yeah it’s about, yeah, growing in maturity, isn’t it? To be able to lead in that style. 

Chris: Going back to your example of the movie theater.

Chris: [00:40:00] Why people act like that when they’re in positions of authority, to be honest. They’re newly promoted and suddenly they’re, strict and intolerant. They would never act. They were never, raised like that. So if you think about what’s your first experience of being in a team, you could say the family, your parents are, they’re supportive.

Chris: Yeah. They listen to you. They ask you questions and engage in active listening and give you suggestions so that you discover things on your own. They let you fail sometimes all the stuff that we talk about as, ideal. leadership, your parents did, or hopefully they did. But then when we are promoted, suddenly we don’t do these things, we go out there and bark orders, we complain, we say, Oh we can’t do these things.

Chris: Because if we do, then they’re going to want more money. And we’re not going to give them more money. So just better to, keep expectations low. I never understood that. 

Rob: It’s funny, because that’s exactly the response that I had. At that point it was, [00:41:00] because the people that were barking were often people that had risen up, they’d been an usher or front of house and then they’d become promoted.

Rob: But I think that, that is how a lot of Leaders behave because they’ve seen others do it and I think if you go back to the factories, like 100, 150, 200 years ago, the factories, it was like literally cracking a whip and get on with it, get on with it because that was what was needed.

Rob: In a different context there’s a breaking point where that no longer works, but also I’ve worked in the school, so I can appreciate the, how difficult it must be to get teachers as a team because it is very individualistic. 

Speaker: Yeah.

Rob: And there’s A rule that you can’t, that within their classroom, the teacher is the boss and you and so they all have their own styles. The school I worked in was quite a deprived area, catchment area, and many of the examples were shocking of parents and parents did [00:42:00] talk like that.

Rob: So sometimes. But I don’t think that’s really the problem with a lot of leaders. I think the real problem is a lot of them see this old throwback and. It’s the lack of knowing anything else to do the lack of the self consciousness of I’m supposed to lead I’m supposed to know this, maybe a little bit of imposter syndrome, which makes leads to that and which I do think I agree with you.

Rob: I think it is about, we have to engage with to educate and we have to empower for people to grow through that. 

Chris: I think people that are promoted also they’re thinking about the movies that they saw. There’s always the classic Hollywood. The writers of Hollywood, they’ve never been in the business.

Chris: They have no idea how business works, but it’s just this trope that the manager is this, horrible boss and, he cracks the whip and that’s what they think. If you’re lucky enough, if you graduate, for example, and you get your first job, and you work with a team where the leader Supports you and helps you and guides [00:43:00] you and that becomes your baseline, then, you’re set.

Chris: You can go anywhere and you become a great leader because you’ve got the you have a firm foundation and you know what you need to do. Otherwise, yeah you’re promoted. You don’t really have a model with which to work. People should go to the bookstore or, buy a book or read online a list of some podcasts, but we all know that they don’t necessarily until they’re really struggling take those actual steps and companies don’t put enough effort or, incentive.

Chris: They don’t train people ongoing to become better managers and better leaders here. Okay. You’ve been promoted and okay, go to this training. It’s, two hours tomorrow afternoon, and then you’ll be all set. Let me know if you have any questions and that’s the extent of their training and they’re just left to figure it out for themselves.

Chris: And it shouldn’t be like that because again, studies show like when people, when new managers are developed [00:44:00] and trained ongoing before they actually are promoted after they’re promoted, that they’re more likely to be successful. And if they don’t, then I know something like 40, 50, 60 percent of people fail as a first time manager within the first year and a half.

Chris: They don’t cause they don’t know what to do and they’re not getting the support and the training that they need. 

Rob: And often it can be a leader is constrained by their personal growth, personal evolution, and if they’re worried about competition, if they’re, whatever personal things can be that sometimes leaders don’t, they don’t help up the next level.

Rob: They don’t empower. 

Chris: It does depend on the company culture as well. You should think that, okay if I’m supporting the team and the team is doing well, we’re going to hit all our targets. We’re going to hit all our KPIs. But if the company is solely focused on numbers and that’s what they’re measuring, then you start to crack the whip and focus just on, The numbers doesn’t matter if these numbers are, impossible to achieve.[00:45:00] 

Chris: This is what I’ve been told to do. My boss is barking at me, so I have to go bark at my team. Cause if I don’t hit those numbers, if the team doesn’t hit those numbers, then then I’m in trouble. 

Rob: And it just perpetuates the more stress there is, the less 

Chris: capacity people have. Yeah, definitely.

Chris: That’s a hundred percent correct. 

Rob: Typically what kind of person would be, or company would be looking to engage you? 

Chris: I think for a person for people somebody who is. newer to management somebody who maybe has been managing for a few years and wants to get more out of it.

Chris: Those sorts of people there, there’s so much room for growth. There’s so many opportunities that they can achieve so much. And I think that at the moment, that’s where I could probably help people the most, or I feel more confident, most confident with helping people the most in that area. In terms of companies again, same you have new managers, you have new leaders, you need a workshop with these people for these people, [00:46:00] then I’m someone who would be able to come in and build the right training program. So that they’re not just getting an afternoon’s worth of education. It’s something that’s. Ongoing so that there’s different modules, for example, over a course of X amount of time, and each time you come back, there’s more opportunities to review and reinforce again.

Chris: So that it’s an ongoing process because as I said earlier, companies make the mistake of, okay, we did an afternoon together. Good job. You’re all set to go, go lead your team. You’re all set. And that’s not the case. 

Rob: Yeah. It needs to be embedded. Okay. And where should someone reach out to you?

Chris: LinkedIn, I think is probably the best place at the moment. I’m on there several hours at a minimum each day. And I, yeah, I’m responsive. I answer my DMS and I don’t know if people can see my email address, but it doesn’t matter because you can DM me and I’ll answer. Yeah. 

Rob: Yeah. Yeah. LinkedIn does take time, doesn’t it?

Rob: Yeah. Okay. I’m 

Chris: only 

Rob: four. [00:47:00] I’m only 

Chris: four months in or so. So yeah, it’s definitely takes a lot of time. 

Rob: Okay. Thank you for your time. 

Chris: This was enjoyable. 

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