Managing The Tension Between Safety And Performance

Life exists in tension.

Everything we do, is done along a spectrum of tension. Conflicting goals create tension. Leadership is about managing those tensions.

Managers want to create a psychologically safe environment.

Yet, there is a natural tension with the fear of failure and not performing. When you give a speech, prepare a bid or create something it could fail. That fear is at the root of what drives us to perform.

Some of the greatest sportsmen have spoken about the fears that drive them to success.

Managers don’t create this fear, but they have to manage the tension. At the end of the day we go to work to perform. And if we don’t perform jobs are lost and companies fail.

So Leaders can’t remove the fear completely or they lose the tension to perform.

You create the safest environment you can. You give people the confidence, competence and connection to take risks. But you cannot protect them from the reality of results.

In the end, we have to perform and that determines our results and career success.

And that is scary for all of us. But that’s life. From the Savannah to the boardroom.



Clark: [00:00:00] We’re overloaded with information, and while you were saying this, the weaponization of information, it reminded me of a book I read.

Clark: Quite a while ago by a guy called Cal Newport who talks about something called deep work. And he says if you’re operating in a state of distraction, you cannot take in the information efficiently. So we are constantly surfing the very surface of the information that we’re looking at.

Clark: And the reason for that is predominantly the way it’s presented to us. A pet hate of mine at the moment is this trend for talking about storytelling. Because, again, going back to the branding and the marketing and the monetizing, all the people that talk about storytelling don’t tell stories. It’s just another complete basket of bollocks to me that it’s a watchword that people use don’t actually do.

Clark: Tony was there talking earlier about people’s values, and you only find those out by listening to their story. And the thing I like about this conversation that we have is the very first time we did this, we had this conversation, we’re all being super professional. [00:01:00] Then Rob turned the recording off and we all just started telling each other stories about our professional career and I really liked that because to me that was where the value was.

Clark: That bit at the very end where we got to know each other a little bit. And the reason I’ve shifted across to the writing now is because instead of moaning about the fact that there is no real storytelling going on, start doing it. I feel compelled now to, and if you ever look at some of my posts, I don’t see that as storytelling as such.

Clark: It’s almost like poetry, in a way, but it does grab people’s attention. When you can say something, and we’ve talked about this in previous conversations. If you’ve got a group of hostile workers who don’t like the way you’re doing something, for instance, and then you start telling them a story, you’ve got them.

Clark: We are hardwired biologically to tune in to a relevant story. And we ask ourselves, where’s this going? And you can really capture people. And, everything that we do, whether we’re training, whether we’re marketing something, whether we’re just writing for the sake of the art, whatever it is we’re doing, if we can tap [00:02:00] into that idea of, we’ve spoken about mythology and archetypes and all that stuff before.

Clark: If we can tap into that, and that’s really where I’ve honed in on recently, because I was, I’m writing something at the moment. It’s a story. It’s going to be a work of fiction, actually, but there’s something underneath it. There’s a subtext that talks about the values that we hold as people and the way we treat each other.

Clark: I was trying to think of a theme, literally this morning, I was up at about six o’clock writing, and I’m thinking, this needs a theme to unify it. I had a lot of things I wanted to say. And I was struggling and as I often do, I procrastinate and I watch football clips, . And I watched an interview with sir Alex Ferguson.

Clark: And he was sitting with Ronaldo, the young Ronaldo, not the old Nazar one, and he was talking about when Christiano’s dad was ill. And so Alex Ferguson was saying that somebody had come into him not long before and said. Can I have tomorrow off? And Alex had said, what for? My dad’s died.

Clark: And he said for goodness sake, yeah, of course. And then he realized, he said, that when these guys who are true professionals ask for something like a day [00:03:00] off, there’s usually a really good reason. And he said, and now I just give it to them automatically. He said, because family is everything. And that was it.

Clark: That was a light bulb for me. And I thought, that’s it. I have this big work of fiction that I’m trying to put in about values, what it means to be a man, how toxic masculinity depends on the person that’s there’s engaging in it and all of the other stuff that, that there are big topics in the world today.

Clark: But the central underlying theme was family, and we can all understand that. We can all buy into that. And that narrative now, I started writing it out in my outline, and it just all links together. And I finally got a story. That I’m interested in, so I know other people will be interested in, and I think that’s really the key.

Clark: A lot of the stuff that we see online and a lot of the stuff that you’re looking at Thomas, it’s just not engaging you. You’ve got to do it, you need it, you need to get the information, it’s just, they’re just the big Macs of the information world. 

Thomas: Yeah, it’s actually quite amazing because these two words have actually got stronger and stronger as each person has [00:04:00] actually spoken and it’s connection in communities.

Thomas: If you actually think about the Sir Alex Ferguson example there, he actually made a massive play on the working class community, the shipbuilders, the values the work ethic, the struggle, the resilience that comes from the struggle and also the connection, he actually probably worked with, And I can’t validate this with data, but probably any modern manager, he actually worked with the smallest amount of players over the longest period because he had that core group.

Thomas: So the community and the connection that they were able to build. And even when you watch Unai Emery speak, or you watch these documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime, the sense of community that Pep Guardola has built at Man City, even in the physio room, they’ve got a bonsai tree. All the players are actually responsible for watering it and putting light on it.

Thomas: So they create this experience, they create this, we actually own this experience collectively, everybody’s in their lane, everybody respects, understands the [00:05:00] value, service and impact that they need to bring to the players. Cause they’re the ones ultimately that are the most important, but. Those two words were just starting to really illuminate for me as each person was speaking around, community and connection.

Thomas: I think that’s probably what we’re losing in modern society, but innately it’s what we need. Can I just ask 

Clark: Thomas, are you is it your plan? I don’t know how firm your your plan for the future is, but are you staying in football? 

Thomas: Yeah, that is very much the plan.

Thomas: I think the sabbatical was probably being a period of reflection, completing my pro licence. I found a kind of coaching and learning methodology that I don’t really speak too much about because it could probably seem a little bit wanky externally but I’ve really caught on to something that’s really captured my attention and is formulating like a lot of my work and aligning that and helping me having some brilliant conversations and Tony and I are on the journey with that and sharing things so it’s probably been an extended experience.

Thomas: Thank you. Sabbatical. But for me, actually going back now into [00:06:00] football, I feel much more ready, much more equipped, things that I had conceptually in my head before I’ve now got documented, which really doesn’t guarantee any sort of success. But I think just actually having that period to actually document everything, challenge things and almost ready yourself, I feel in a much better place.

Thomas: So yeah, that’s the plan. 

Clark: I’m really pleased, mate, because I was just thinking that simply because, when you look at the likes, you just mentioned Unai Emery and the connection he’s making there, not just with the players, but also with the fans, and that is all about the community, I come from in the city of Birmingham, and it’s a fairly deprived area, and I’m really pleased to see somebody from Spain, where obviously Spain have got similar places in Bilbao and Pamplona that are deprived, so he’s bringing an ethos there that I really admire.

Clark: And teams like Coventry starting to do well, another city that is in desperate, like so many places, so many communities are lacking any attention from the wider world. So the more people that can get into football is a unifying factor. The more [00:07:00] people that can bring these values that we’re talking about.

Clark: I was watching something recently where John Terry was talking about how Jose Mourinho had really got these guys at Chelsea working together. And, he was saying to each of Petr Cech, you’re the best goalkeeper in the world. John, you’re the best defender in the world. This, everybody knows that’s not true.

Clark: Maybe it’s true on one day, who knows? But the fact that he’s saying it to them. And that you could tell John Terry in this interview, just recalling these conversations getting very emotional. It taps in to the emotions of, and these are working class guys, most of the, you see very few middle class footballers.

Clark: So these guys, you’re tapping into something there that’s feeding back into the communities. And it’s it’s so important to, to explicitly state. the intentions of the manager and of the team and of the organization because it helps people in the wider community to buy into those same values and, the world desperately needs that stuff.

Clark: So I’m really pleased at you. Getting back into [00:08:00] it. 

Thomas: Thank you very much. It’s probably something we can actually, speak about because I think we’ve all actually seen that same podcast with John Terry and there was a number of takeaways for me on that and probably one of the most profound ones was how and where the modern game is actually developed to with sporting directors or multiple different stakeholders and the diminished leadership elevated status that a manager has, because I think John Terry touched on, the charismatic Jose Mourinho, who’s on this massive upward trajectory when he first came to Chelsea, he was powerful, he was in control, he was impactful. And then when he came back the second time, he actually probably had to deal with being undermined and maybe not quite having the authority that he had before.

Thomas: I think leadership stock and leadership status is actually something that we’ve touched on before. But that was a really nice example for me that the managers of yesteryear, your Sir Alex Ferguson’s, your Jose Mourinho’s phase one, they would actually have to adapt and evolve in [00:09:00] the modern day to actually work with these multiple stakeholders and actually know that they’re actually they’re a central cog in the wheel, but they’re not the ivory tower manager of old.

Thomas: And that was a really strong takeaway for me and something that Tony and I actually spoke about as well. 

Tony: Yeah, and I think also to add to that, that, with an amount of currency, if you think about the West Ham situation, where it seems seemingly David Moyes has known for a while that maybe the contract that was offered has been taken off the table, whatever, but you get the played out in the media, the fact that The new sporting directors are not allowed anywhere near the dressing room like that, that I can just feel the, because I’m a feeler, I can put myself in other people’s shoes and think on both sides of that equation, whether you’re the manager or the technical director, what the hell is going on?

Tony: Who’s in control here? Who wants control? It makes me feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, it gives me a lot of a real sense that there’s so much to be achieved yet in the game. With regards to unity and alignment [00:10:00] and community and all the good stuff that we talk about that I know Thomas can facilitate and bring into a sporting organization.

Tony: I see that for myself. Part of my bridging of the sport and business landscape is really let me go and experiment over here, see what’s transferable to the business world from a sporting perspective and vice versa. So when I look back into the game from. Outside of the game and see these types of dynamics playing out.

Tony: I think, whoa, there’s some scope here to really help people to manifest a much stronger ethos within the organizations that they’re trying to build. They all want to be successful. None of them can guarantee it. Maybe Man City almost, but even they’re on the brink of who knows what with all of the charges.

Tony: So if there’s no guarantee of success, then maybe the focus needs to be shifted a little bit. To make every, everybody a little bit richer, not financially richer, but a little bit richer. 

Clark: The qualities of leadership, Tony that, that fascinate me. Again, going back to this the things that [00:11:00] you see online about marketing, branding, and all of that stuff we see a small sliver of what real marketing and real branding.

Clark: Real writing, real storytelling is all about, you just see the bit that comes on, on, on the television, on the internet. And, I’ve worked with leaders as a leadership coach for a long time. I don’t like to talk about that side of things too much on LinkedIn because everybody’s talking about it.

Clark: But I always, in my mind, when I think about leadership, I always refer back to an author that I’ve admired for years, a guy called Stephen Pressfield. He’s written books about the ancient Spartans from a very realistic perspective. But he wrote one book, he wrote a series of books about Alexander the Great, but one of the books he wrote was the, it was the Afghan campaign, where he talks about Alexander taking his Originally a Greek army, but obviously as they went they collected other armies and they got bigger and there was a point where there was a little bit of a mutiny and how he dealt with it.

Clark: But there was a paragraph, a couple of paragraphs that I read that really hit home. Ten years ago I read [00:12:00] this, and I’m constantly thinking about this, with regards to leadership, because the narrator is observing Alexander with his generals outside a tent on the eve of battle.

Clark: Everybody’s a little bit nervous, got all their armor and everything, their swords are being sharpened and stuff. And there’s about 10 of them standing around and all he’s saying is, as he looks at this group of guys, he can see the King Alexander bent over laughing, he’s in hysterics because one of the generals has just told him a joke and every time he starts to gain his composure, one of the guys will say something else and he’ll crease up again.

Clark: And these guys are just taking it in turns, creasing Alexander up and the bloke can’t get his act together because these guys that have known him most of their lives, they know this guy and he’s completely in fits and to me that’s leadership. Thank you. where your guys feel comfortable enough to take the piss out of you.

Clark: And I remember I worked in a factory in Coventry several years ago and I was organizing the cleanup of an assembly line. It was the end of the week, just before a bank holiday. So we’re all going to be off for a few days and we’re cleaning. And I’d got these guys putting solvents on the floor, cleaning all the grease and stuff big [00:13:00] assembly line.

Clark: And somebody walked across it. And I haven’t got a bit of a temper, and I shouted some really choice of words across the assembly line at this guy, but I called his intelligence and his parentage into question as I was shouting at this guy. And somebody heard it and took me to HR. I could have got in trouble, I was a senior manager, you don’t say stuff like that on the shop floor.

Clark: You should have seen the amount of guys that turned up in my defense. And said that this guy actually is all the things that Clark called him. But I had been vulnerable to these guys. I’d opened myself up to them. And so they felt able to speak on my behalf without me asking. And the point of that is that there’s more to leadership than just leading.

Clark: You’ve got to be a person, you’ve got to show the people that you’re working with that they have a part to play in your progress. And often, when I worked with leaders, I used to say to them, so what makes you a good leader? And they’d say something and I’d say, oh, that’s not leader. There’s this other thing, that’s not leader.

Clark: Manager can do all of those things. I do this that’s an admin job. And nothing they said pertained [00:14:00] to leadership. Because what does pertain to leadership? It is doing what needs to be done on behalf of the people, but that can be anything. And some of the things that people think they do as leaders is complete nonsense.

Clark: And that to me is really important because biggest part of leadership is being a human. Just talk about Mourinho with his charisma and Alex Ferguson with his family orientation and so on. But it’s connecting with the people and doing what those people need you to do on their behalf. And that’s not just the little bit that we see.

Clark: On the internet and there’s way, way more and you can’t just give somebody a formula for that. There’s much more to it than 

Tony: that. Let me ask this question because I think, listening to what yourself and Thomas have spoken about recently, knowing that all of this information is out there, right?

Tony: So everybody’s got way more access to all the greatest knowledge of the greatest minds that ever lived. In order to go and apply it healthily in the modern workplace, whether it be football or business or educational or anywhere, then why are we not better at doing what [00:15:00] everybody’s doing? Why are they still in the mess?

Tony: Why is mental health going through the roof? Why are all these things? In, in decline and deterioration. If it’s the case that everything’s more accessible now than ever was before, we should all be, if we’re in a leadership role, we should be great leaders. Cause it’s all out there. Just grab the book or grab the model, go and apply it.

Tony: And off you go because it ain’t working. So for all of this great knowledge and great vast amounts of stuff that, that we’re consuming, the workplaces that I go in are still fraught with human frailty. And people who need to be heard and understood and appreciated and accepted and all of those things that just by following a certain doctrine, doesn’t give you.

Clark: I was just going to say at the risk of hogging the limelight, I just want to very quickly say that the reason I started working for myself 18 months ago was that exact thing that you just said, Tony. I was working on a 12 month contract. The environment, the culture at the place was horrible.

Clark: It was poison to me. I just detested being there. Really. I [00:16:00] got the job done in seven months and got the hell out of it. Because nobody listened, nobody at the top listened. And I spent the seven months that I was there saying to the guys in the lower tiers of the organization that they needed to learn how to manage upwards because these guys at the top are not going to listen unless you make them listen.

Clark: And the only way you make them listen is to start implementing the things that we’re talking about and then not moving because bosses by and large, with all the good intentions can be a bit lazy. They’ve got a lot on their plate. When I say lazy, I just mean that they, there are certain things that require an enormous amount of effort, like being authentic and vulnerable and open and listening to your people, but they haven’t got time.

Clark: They’ve got so much other stuff to do. So they revert to default. And I got to the point where I just thought. These guys are fobbing me off. They’re not listening to me. And I said, you can see I’m not the sort of person to be fobbed off very easily. So we have some really interesting discussions.

Clark: But exactly as you’ve just said, that it’s not working. People don’t apply it. And it takes, I think, enormous strength of character. This [00:17:00] is why I asked Thomas whether he was going back into football, because he would put it Excuse me for talking about you in front of you, Thomas, but I honestly believe that you will make yourself uncomfortable to get done what needs to be done.

Clark: You talked about going and having cups of coffee And that with the guides, those things are not necessary, but they’re massively important. 

Rob: To Tony’s point. From a background in relationships, I often looked at Why, like in relationships I used to get couples, but I would often get people after a relationship or wanting to get into a relationship.

Rob: And I would look at why in a time when there’s more single people, more access to single people than ever before, were people saying there’s no one decent out there. And it’s patently not true because statistically we’re grouped in, like in the old way, there will be a village of maybe three or four potential matches, and that would be it.

Rob: So I’m been taking thinking about all of what all of you been saying, and it really comes down to what Thomas said. Which was two elements was the community and the [00:18:00] connection, but it was also about the digital world. So I think all of, and I think one of the things about social media is the platform was set up in a certain way. And so my. So I used a blog and my blogs would be like 3, 000 words and it would be, like a full rambling thought, whereas social media is, you’ve got like a minute. So I think the, so what I’m really trying to say is, I think the nature of community has changed.

Rob: And so the industrial revolution was a big rupture in the way that humans went from being in a village of a few people to being in the cities, which is overwhelming for it doesn’t suit our biology. And I think. In work that whole model that we’ve based every other organization on is the factory.

Rob: And that is hierarchical. The leader is in charge. And I think when Thomas was talking about we’re spreading the role of football director and where the manager is becoming more specialized. So I [00:19:00] look at so once, so I look at Liverpool, so Brendan Rogers wanted to be in control and he was fighting with the transfer people and he was wanting to sign Clinton Dempsey instead of, I can’t remember, Lewis Suarez or someone like that.

Rob: Whereas Klopp came in and said no, if they can help me make better decisions, that’s better. And recruitment was a big key and a lot of that was the backroom stuff. And I think often managers maybe try, like Brendan Rogers maybe try and control everything, and there were certain aspects that he wasn’t good at.

Rob: But I think, about the connection, I think we have to move beyond. leaders being the source of everything. I think a leader is one who organizes and supports and keeps the group together, but that’s a specific role. But equally, I think the old role of the hierarchy means that It’s like everyone else was passive, whereas I think now, if you’re evolving and football’s becoming more professional and work is becoming more specialized, [00:20:00] we have to have everyone as a more equal and it’s more like the prime minister, like first among equals, rather than I’m the leader and you’re a rundown.

Rob: But I think it’s, we’re changing from, we’re changing from being analog to being digital. We have to live online as well as offline, and that’s changing the way that community is. It’s changing how people are, it’s changing relationships. And also the richer we’ve become and so the more competitive things are, the more we have to focus on a specialism, and then we have to be able to bring that all together within the team.

Rob: So I think it’s raising the level of the team more than, because I think you see all this stuff on LinkedIn and it’s like a leader has to be a super person. And we’re asking for a different breed of person, so someone to be aware of everything. Whereas I think if you up level the team, you then the leader has more time to focus on their specific tasks.

Thomas: That’s definitely something that’s actually transmitted [00:21:00] to, to, to coaching and coach education as well. And I think a lot of young coaches these days, I’m sure we’ve all got like Twitter and such and you see some of the detailed analysis packages that These online tacticals do of, your top teams and even considering the level that I’ve operated at and Tony’s operated at, I’m sure you’re the same Tony, I still look at their analysis and think, wow, even I don’t see the game like that.

Thomas: Their attention to detail, their ability to theorize is unbelievable. And without generalizing too much, these people, in general, acknowledge that they probably couldn’t stand in front of a dressing room and actually convey that message and engage and actually unite the players. To that message, but they’ve absolutely got a part to play.

Thomas: But if you actually look at it from an evidence perspective, the first team manager role is now the head coach. There’s been an evolution. And something I introduced to Tony recently, it’s actually a really basic model. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it before, but it’s called [00:22:00] the scarf model. It’s actually really simple.

Thomas: I was introduced to it by the sport director at Dundee United. And again, as a reflection tool for me, it was actually really interesting. The SCARF model involves five domains of human social experience, status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness, right? Really simple top level stuff.

Thomas: And when I hear what Tony said about, David Moyes and his journey as a manager, That’s now a head coach and probably at the back end of his career as well. The dressing room is probably the last inner sanctum that your old fashioned typical manager has and if you actually think about David Moyes’s leadership traits that we see externally You would imagine that status, certainty, autonomy, these things would be quite high on his list, to actually have the leadership presence that he needs to manage.

Thomas: So I would expect, without actually knowing all the details, but I would expect a sporting director to respect the need for his space to command and to control the last frontier [00:23:00] of football management. And there was another word that kept coming to my head as you guys were talking, and it’s a word that I’d never really heard before, but it was about edifying, where we always talk, Other people up and Brendan Rodgers in his first spell at Celtic was really good at this.

Thomas: And it was very subliminal because in all his pre and post match interviews, he would talk up the assistant manager, the set piece coach. He would talk up the captain and the players. And I know it’s easy to do that when you’re winning very consistently, but the players actually started to adopt it as well.

Thomas: The physio done great getting me back ahead of schedule. The analyst actually told us to focus on this. So all of a sudden the perception of this club is that wow, they’re aligned, everyone’s actually working together, there’s community, there’s connection, and you can actually paint this picture of it being more rosy than it actually really is because in any one season, Leadership stock rises and falls, which is why when you actually listen to the John Terry podcast about [00:24:00] Vela Boas making them sit at the back of the, or the front of the plane, in economy it’s leadership suicide these decisions because In pre season, as an example, your stock as a head coach is super high.

Thomas: Why? Because you’re not playing competitive football. So there’s nothing for the external fan base or, the online judgment or even the players. So your stock is high. So you may actually fall into the trap of thinking I’m actually going to show a real show of leadership here, and I’m going to show who’s the boss.

Thomas: But the reality is that over the course of a season, you need the players to show you as much humility and forgiveness as much as you need to show them. So to actually take advantage of them, and actually to take that leadership authority. David Moyse would never do that as an example, because he actually knows how and where to use his status and authority, which is actually in the dressing room.

Thomas: So for me, there’s a lot of really interesting things that have come through, different things that people have said here today [00:25:00] that really remind me of that edifying people. Maybe something I can actually throw up here, again, on the pro license, we, we had to come up with our one word equities, again, I don’t know your thoughts on that, whether it’s limiting, but again, it’s a reflection tool, and my one word equity was enabler, I actually, I like to solve problems, I like to see where I can help breakthroughs, whether it be process, whether it be resources, whether it be a dynamic thing and I’m actually still quite comfortable with that, that one word equity, and I suppose you should always be looking to maybe reflect and see if you can push it on, but again, guys, just thank you for all the different, thoughts and ideas that are rolling around here because it starts to really crystallize your own thinking.

Tony: Yeah, I love that one word equity thing. I think, and that reminds me of reading a couple of recent posts of yours, Clark, and let me explain, there’s almost like a cadence to the way that they succinct one line after another that’s really punchy. It’s almost, you’re saying, [00:26:00] You’re making a real clear point in as few words as possible.

Tony: And it lends me to a little exercise. We could actually try it here if you wanted to, but maybe for another time. If we each thought about what’s the purpose of these conversations? Why are we having them? If we think about who we might be serving by having these conversations publicly.

Tony: So who is that group? And then to describe it in two words, and the only two words you’re allowed to use. The first word is a. An I N G word, a doing, a being, a wanting, a giving, a supporting, whatever it might be. What? So we serve this group of people by something X. How would you describe it? So that’s the exercise.

Tony: Normally, you would give a group five minutes to come up with a really concise purpose statement. And then, of course, as a collective, we would work together to try and meet in the middle and find out what the purpose of these Football position conversations are it’s an unbelievably powerful and simple way to help people [00:27:00] attach themselves to what they’re doing with more meaning straight away.

Tony: You’re you’re getting under the skin of well, what’s their purpose? Who did they think the business? I did it with a new company that I’m working with and they found after 20 minutes, they couldn’t come up with something concisely. They’re all over the shop. It’s brilliant.

Tony: So maybe we go away and think about what our independent purpose statements are and write back to each other, unless you want to do it publicly, but I haven’t even thought of it. Just because Tom has talked about one word equity, and I’m reading Clark’s things that are, they’ve got really distilled and take that, I hope it’s positive feedback but I get a lot out of going for, wow, that’s, oh, there’s another one.

Tony: Oh, there’s another one. There’s another one. It’s so this is another way of thinking about, and you’ve used the term elegant simplicity, Thomas, which I’ve latched onto. I like the idea of distilling it down to the most meaningful and easily understandable perspective.

Clark: Milton Erickson. Years and years ago I read a lot of books about this guy called Milton Erickson, who is considered the father of [00:28:00] hypnosis. Again. Apologies to anybody that is into that sort of thing and NLP and all that stuff.

Clark: But I think hypnosis isn’t a lot of bollocks.

Clark: It’s a thing. I know it’s a thing, but it’s not as much of a thing as people think it is, I believe. We’re all open to suggestion. And but it’s not as mysterious as people make it out. But the reason I mention him is because when you just mentioned that, the way I write, I often find when I have to speak to a team of people or to a leader or whatever, the first thing I ask myself is what am I trying to accomplish here?

Clark: And you just mentioned that two word exercise and for me, it came straight to me. The first word for me would be challenging because I’m all about challenging people. Why are you doing it that way? What’s the point of that? How is that going to help anybody? And who am I challenging? It’s anybody.

Clark: It’s future me and it’s future everybody. I’m trying to help future us get better. But, Milton Erickson said that when people said to him, he was a master of hypnosis. He would just say things like, maybe you won’t get hypnotized, maybe you won’t fall into it. And they did. [00:29:00] They fell straight into a trance.

Clark: What he said was, I’m not doing this for my benefit. I’m not trying to look good or anything. I’m trying to help these people change. And that for me is the absolute key. Even if you have to get in people’s face and be rude and be a bit challenging and be disruptive. If it accomplishes the thing, maybe they even hate you.

Clark: And I’ve been disliked on many a shop floor, but the thing got done and the people got better and they became happier as a consequence. And to me, that was the thing that mattered. And talking about what Thomas was just saying there about the nature of management change. And I watched Xavi Alonso having just won the Bundesliga.

Clark: And he went to the crowd at the home end and he brought the team, I don’t know if you saw that, but he invited the entire backroom staff off the bench to go and, all the players were already down there taking all the plaudits and everything. He got the entire backroom staff onto the pitch.

Clark: And I just thought that was wonderful because it showed that as both Rob and [00:30:00] Tony have just said, that the leadership is no longer the top of a hierarchical structure. When I was at that place I’ve just mentioned that I left. early. I was trying to push the idea that a leader is the hub. He’s not the top of a pyramid.

Clark: He is the center of a wheel, if you like, where there’s information feeding into him, that he’s also feeding back out to little hubs, wheels within wheels, so that every person that works there has a circle of influence. And that circle of influence feeds into other circles of influence.

Clark: To me, it was very organic. But It implied that everybody within that circle was important, whether you’re a physio, whether you’re the psychologist, whether you’re the coach, whether you’re the set play coach or whatever it is, you have a role, otherwise you wouldn’t be there.

Clark: But the thing is, we’re all there, not only to do our job properly, but to challenge each other to do better, to make ourselves better. And I think when when you look at somebody like Milton Erickson, he used what he had, which was his words. The guy was disabled, he was in a wheelchair, he had nothing else.

Clark: But he used his [00:31:00] words to change people. And for me, that’s the most, that’s why I’m doing the writing thing. Now, if I can say something, that will make a person’s life change. Honestly, the feeling I get from that is overwhelming. I’m getting old now, so I well up a little bit from time to time when I see people making those sort of changes.

Clark: I’ve turned into a soppy git. But if you can do that, and if you can encourage people to start to form this wheels within wheels thing and become the hub around which people start to circulate. That’s what, to me, is what communication and community is all about. And, stop seeing yourself as the top of the tree.

Clark: Just one circle of influence around which other people circle. And if you can encourage people to make that change, all of us, we’re all in a position to do that, then I think the world will start to become a better place. 

Rob: There’s two points really that you said there Clark that really come to mind.

Rob: The first is Milton Erickson. He was a genius but and I recognize this, I was about early in in the time of coaching, which was Thomas, what’s his name, [00:32:00] Thomas, I’ve forgotten his name now, but he was the father of, they called him the father of coaching. And so early on, I listened to.

Rob: Thomas Coates, father of football coaching. Yeah, father of football coaching. Yeah Thomas, whatever his name was anyway, but he founded the ICF and all of that. And I listened to him and I thought, you’re a genius, but I couldn’t do that. It’s not my style. And I think what’s happened. I think it’s an age old thing.

Rob: If you look at Jesus, Buddha, all of them never set up a religion. Other people looked at them and said, okay, what they did is religion. And they tried to make everyone the same. And I think that’s what hypnosis has done. And they’ve made this, the unconscious is just the things that we don’t look at. And particularly American motivational speakers or whatever, they’ve made it into this mysterious thing that if you buy my subliminal tapes, yeah, I’m going to program you for, it’s not, it’s, we always have access to it, but he had a certain way in a perspective of the world and he was able to make, change people through that.

Rob: And then [00:33:00] the other thing is about. So it’s about respecting your individuality and what you’re about and becoming more you rather than trying to be uniform. And I think traditionally we fit roles. And then the other part is how the source of your status. So I think too often people have become leaders for status.

Rob: Because we’re all seeking status and maybe it needs to change that leadership is a role and it is about being more of you. And if that’s, if what you have is that becomes part of the group it’s not a badge of status and we can get status from being ourselves more as being so that the team works from the sum of its parts and if each of us is performing the best we can.

Rob: then maybe that needs to become more the source of status than you’re the leader and therefore that’s how you get deployed. 

Tony: I think we’re dipping into the territory of power and authority versus leadership. I think that as soon as you’ve got a hierarchy, [00:34:00] there’s a distribution of power that’s given, but actual authority is given by The people underneath you, they will allow themselves to be led by you, or be authorised by you, regardless of status.

Tony: I guess for me the idea of, if I’m facing a challenge that I can handle on my own, I’m excited about it, just let me do it. Don’t come and lead, don’t come and tell me. How do you want me to do it? Just leave me alone. I can do it. Now, if I’m working with Thomas and we’ve got a challenge and we’re uncertain about, geez, we haven’t tackled this before Gaffer how do you think we should tackle this?

Tony: Then maybe I can come in and we’ll work together to try and mobilize ourselves towards meeting this thing that at the moment we can’t see what the answer looks like. So I think leadership is about mobilizing people to meet objectives that they can’t meet without leadership.

Tony: Don’t go and lead them if they can meet the challenge without you, that ability to It’s a step back. Call it reading the room if you like, but it’s more than that. [00:35:00] It’s more nuanced than that. People need leaders when they can’t meet the objectives on their own. 

Clark: Can I just say what I think is when you say it’s more nuanced, I cannot tell you what I think it is.

Clark: I had to develop a training program at a previous with a previous client. It was quite a large organization and they wanted. They had a lot of managers that were not managing the way they want, the organization wanted. So I put together this thing called a leadership roadmap. And it was, again, not your average training.

Clark: It was designed to challenge what they thought about themselves. And the very first, there was an introductory class that we said, this is how it’s going to work, et cetera, et cetera. But the very first actual session with the managers was about servant leadership. And I said, what is it?

Clark: Nobody knows because it’s just, it’s an Americanism that nobody can explain. The guy that invented it can explain it. He’s probably the only person I’ve ever heard say it reasonably well. But we talked about it for a little while and I said, look what servant leadership really is just a modern posh way of saying humility.

Clark: And when you say, what is it? It’s more [00:36:00] nuanced. It’s about being humble. It’s about knowing when to divest yourself of this urge to lead the charge. As you quite rightly say, if you know what you’re doing, why do you need somebody to lead you? And a humble person stands back and says no, you’ve got this.

Clark: Even 

Tony: Celebrates it. 

Clark: Yeah. Acknowledges it. Respects it. Even if the person thinks they haven’t got this, but you’ve got faith in them, you say no, seriously. Again, I was watching Cristiano Ronaldo with is it Joe? Who’s the guy that missed? The penalty, and then at the next Euros when Portugal won the Euros, the same guy didn’t want to take a penalty, and I watched a clip of Cristiano Ronaldo saying no, you’ve got this.

Clark: If we lose. And I just thought, that’s brilliant. You put your entire country’s final hopes on this one guy. What did that do for, and he scored an penalty obviously, but to me that’s humility that’s saying no, you first, please, you I’ve got complete and utter trust in you. And when I said to these guys, how would humility manifest itself on the shop floor?

Clark: And everybody said, Oh giving people, [00:37:00] empowering people. I said why is that? What are you going to do? What are you going to give them? I said, how about you say something and then say to them, what do you think? Get their opinion. You literally just said to them, I value what you’ve got to say on this subject.

Clark: And that’s really all it isn’t it? It’s being able to say no, I think you’ve got this.

Thomas: That was a frame of mind that I felt really comfortable in when I had my first professional head coach role, because I actually respected the players being the 1%, if you like, because what we know in the academy system is that only 1 percent make it professionally. I always took the viewpoint that in terms of my area of impact, it wasn’t necessarily on a Saturday as the game is actually happening live.

Thomas: And I like to be quite calm on a match day because 95 percent of what the players will do is what they’ll have done for their previous 100, 150 games of their careers. And if we’ve planned well, If we’ve delivered and executed well in terms of the preparation, then enjoy the match day and find your area of impact either to remind them, to show them a [00:38:00] clip at halftime, to redirect them.

Thomas: But this whole, up at the tactics board and actually orchestrating and playing PlayStation is not something that I’ve ever wanted to get involved in as a head coach, because that servant humility leadership is, Me recognising that, look guys, you’ve actually done something that I aspired to do.

Thomas: Either didn’t have the physical, technical, the technical, the mental qualities to do it. I’m obviously saying this in my head. You guys are professionals, you know what you’re doing. And I think that edifying again, either subliminally or quite directly, it builds a real sense of mutual trust and quite A strong sense of comfort in the relationship and even simple things like after training.

Thomas: And it just, it’s just innately in me to do this. We as a coaching staff would never eat before the players. Even if we were absolutely starving and I’m the head coach who should essentially in the old fashioned way be in the ivory tower. I would never eat before the players. And I know at other [00:39:00] clubs that after games, there’ll be members of staff, which you can almost claim to be quite low ranking members of staff, eating food off the table.

Thomas: And I know Simon Sinek talks about leaders eat last and that kind of stuff, but I really genuinely feel like there’s moments as a leader where you can actually tip your hat to those on the battlefield and say, Hey, I respect you. This is your space to actually take more off the table than actually us.

Thomas: And I think there’s little moments like that during the course of a week where you can absolutely take status and authority and power and control as a head coach. But then there’s other moments where you can actually be quite, self serving and or serving to other people.

Clark: It’s interesting that you say that, actually, Tom, so I was just thinking, and you, I’ve not thought about this before so I’m I’m literally thinking this out loud, but quite apart from the humility, a good leader also needs to have a sense of the dramatic he has to have a sense of theatre, or you’ve just said there about tipping your cap I, now looking back on my military career and my work [00:40:00] in factories I can think of lots of times when either myself or another leader that I admired did something and you thought, Oh, that was really clever.

Clark: It was just a little spectacle, a little moment, but it changed the entire dynamic of the group. And it really is about elevating other people, but at the same time, because I already remember one particular boss who may took the opportunity to elevate somebody and the guy was really, but the very last thing was… still, you’ve got to get your work in on time. And I just thought, yeah, that, he just put his little stamp on that. And I just thought that was so good because he was saying, and I admire you, I trust you, but you’ve still got to do the work. And that sense of theatre, whilst being humble, you’ve also got to have a little sense of the dramatic as well, which is actually, Never thought about that experience 

Thomas: and what it does do is it actually creates the space for being authoritative, so there’ll be a moment even when the players least expect it and it might actually be after a 1-1 where in the previous two weeks we’ve underperformed and you’ve [00:41:00] protected the players internally, externally, then they get that win and they think yeah the manager is going to come in and be really happy and proud of the players.

Thomas: And you just come in and you go after something. So they’re always in this kind of, I’m talking about actually making them comfortable in the relationship, but you actually constantly keep them uncomfortable from a performance perspective because you are very predictable in how you deal with them on a personal level, but professionally there’s a level of unpredictability and that just keeps a nice creative tension and and in the relationship and in the room where, They absolutely do know you in terms of your values and your principles on a personal level.

Thomas: But there’s a sense of crazed unpredictability where the professional senses and it’s, you’re talking about kind of theater and it’s all very intentional and people have seen me lose my temper and they think, wow, cause I’m quite a tall guy and I can be quite intimidating. But honestly, see in terms of my biology, I’m so calm inside.

Thomas: So again, I don’t know if that’s another share, but it’s we’re now talking about, I’m on the spectrum of [00:42:00] something, but I actually think when it’s intentional and planned and you’re actually calculating the impact, I think over the course of a season, you have to control that energy in a dressing room, and really take control and command it.

Clark: I don’t know if you’re on the spectrum, Thomas, and whether you are or not. I think you’re amazing. And it doesn’t matter anyway. However this idea of taking every opportunity to make a point I think is a really good one. And if you can take that step back. Personally I’m not able, I’ve never been able to be, control my emotions the way you’ve just described.

Clark: My emotions, unfortunately, they rule me to a certain degree. However as much as it’s got me into trouble, it’s also worked in my favor because very often, I can say something and I, I actually wind myself up as I’m speaking and I work myself up into a bit of a frenzy and I’ve thrown my glasses and I’ve done all sorts of things.

Clark: But. That thing that you’ve just said there that you, if you can gauge the moments and use those opportunities to make important whether it’s intentional or not is a real [00:43:00] opportunity to, and you’re really doing what we’ve just been talking about, this idea of making everybody an active participant in this wheels within wheels thing that everybody realizes that they have a part to play.

Clark: and that you, as the crazed nutcase in the middle that’s running the whole show, is actually devolving a lot of the responsibility onto everybody else to help each other. And that probably, whilst you’re doing that intentionally, I think you’re also doing it authentically. You’re still being yourself, and that is key.

Clark: People can see that, for sure. 

Tony: I think, yeah, that’s great, because you used words that I was going to tap into there, Clark, which was Thomas’s ability to regulate his emotions in critical moments is a real high level skill, and it’s not easy to attain. You’ve articulated yourself. The emotions drive you to the degree, the ability to regulate that in order to channel it somewhere different.

Tony: And it may work for you perfectly. Who knows? I think when you’re in a halftime environment where you’re feeling all sorts of [00:44:00] things, there’s the potential for all sorts of things to happen. There’s implications for what those things might be for me and for my family and for everybody else. And then all of these people are going through the same thing in their own way as well.

Tony: So this ability to I’m now going to address and re mobilize these people for the second half. or remobilize these people this week after that calamity that we had last week, whatever it might be. And you’ve got all these feelings going on that you’re either suppressing or allowing to come to the surface and you’re delivering with impact to a group who’s receiving it in immediately 11 plus the seven subs, different ways.

Tony: And they’re all taking it on board. And to different degrees feeling emotionally overcharged, undercharged, ideally charged. What it does two things for me. Is it reminds me how complex and almost an impossible task is to get right. We’re going to make more mistakes with more people more often than we think.

Tony: And also the amount of courage it takes to lead, the amount of courage it takes to stand up over and over again, [00:45:00] knowing that whatever I say is going to land better with some than it is with others. So I’m failing more with others than I am with others. It takes a lot of courage to do it. I often remind groups that I work with in business settings that I appreciate the courage they have for standing up in front of people every day and doing what they do, because it’s not for everyone.

Thomas: It’s interesting because usually the first thing that aspiring football coach who’s been a former player will say is, I didn’t realize how much work goes into this. I didn’t realize how much work you do behind the scenes. I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be to stand up in front of a group, that there were formerly my teammates.

Thomas: So you’re right, the courage that’s required. And I think there was a really good example of what you said there, on the recent Man City documentary on Amazon prime or Netflix, where. First Champions League final with Man City, Pep actually got really emotional and quite angry with the players because high pressure situation weren’t performing optimally and he wanted to [00:46:00] give them a push through the bottleneck but he actually, he straddled that uncomfortable line by going after them and actually heightening the tension.

Thomas: And they actually showed you the version one and version two. And he actually said the second time, I just wanted to support them and remind them and reinforce. And I think what, when you were talking there, that the thing that, that I can reflect on and my managerial career, when I’ve given team talks and held analysis meetings is that we get lots of opportunities to mess up.

Thomas: And I think as long as you actually read the room. Take feedback and critically reflect on yourself. There’s always a chance to get better the next time. And I think that Pep example is a really good one because there’s one really strong example for me. So if I actually tap into the dominant side of my personality, And I come after players at halftime, they’re actually under stimulated by the start of the second half.

Thomas: So that’s just something I’ve now got a critical body of evidence on. Now, where I need to be mindful is that [00:47:00] It’s not copy and paste, so it might be the next role that I go into if it’s a head coach position that I may need to trial, going after them, then evaluating what happens. Whereas so far in the three previous jobs that I’ve had is that Whenever I get the tone right where you’re communicating with impact, being objective, and actually giving them something to focus on at the start of the second half, because, in all honesty, when I actually reflect on my impact from a game plan and a communication perspective, I’ve actually distilled it down to 20 minutes.

Thomas: After 20 minutes, Because the game is an invasion sport, the players are actually on their own after 15 to 20 minutes. So again, in terms of actually reflecting on your area of influence, you just neurologically want them to be stimulated, that sense of community, that clarity, fit, fresh, clear, all these sort of buzzwords that we use but really, you can’t joystick them for the full 90 minutes anyway.

Tony: Yeah, that ability to relinquish the sense that I’ve got any control over this is really important. [00:48:00] I think coaches or managers that have an innate sense of a need to control environments that are fundamentally not in your direct control is puts people at health risk, puts people at risk of extraordinary stress and unnecessary anxiety.

Tony: It’s let it go guys. Anything could happen here. There’s only three things can happen, right? You can win, lose or draw. It doesn’t change. Five minutes before the end, or ten minutes before the end, but everybody’s going absolutely nuts about it. So true. 

Clark: That point that Thomas was just making there, though, I’ve just brought something up on my computer because you really touched on something there for me, Thomas.

Clark: And it goes full circle. It brings me back to what we were talking about right at the beginning about telling stories. Because I’ve just brought up my outline for the piece of writing that I’m engaged in. I think I’m about 15, 000 words into what I’m hoping is going to be about a 90, 000 word piece.

Clark: But my own I’ve got 130. I’d love to get my hands on them 130, 000 words. But in my outline, [00:49:00] it talks about the, there are certain events that take place. So for instance, there’s something called an inciting event, the thing that incites the main character to embark on the journey that he’s going to take.

Clark: And then certain things happen, there has to be an antagonist, the antagonist needs to be revealed so that you as a reader start to sympathize with the main character and so on. And there is a point at which the ally. Who the main character sees as the person he can rely on actually attacks him and that attack is to spur him into action.

Clark: And that’s what you did. That’s what you’ve just been talking about. You’ve been talking about how you engineer situations or adjust the things that you say or do to affect the story that these guys are telling themselves and that they take on to the pitch with them. You engage in something and you become a momentary antagonist.

Clark: To be the catalyst for change with these people. And it’s really, and literally, just this conversation has made me think about this. It’s, that’s one of the key aspects of leadership, is how you can change the [00:50:00] narrative. We’re all thinking, woe is me, the world’s ending, it’s all going to be terrible.

Clark: And you say something you may act as antagonist, you may act as ally, you may be You may, for instance, reveal the flaw of a particular character, whatever it is you do, but you’re changing the storyline. And from that point onwards, the story, and in my outline this morning, I was looking at it, I thought, no, that’s too tame.

Clark: We need to get the guy doing this. So I’m going to put this thing in. And all of a sudden, this person who you think is the enemy is not, is going to turn out to not be the enemy and so on. But it changes the whole direction. And that’s the art that you have. And it’s the reason why I was asking you earlier, are you getting back into football because very few people, so many people in leadership are one dimensional.

Clark: I’m just going to bang the table. I’m going to beat my chest. I’m going to swing my deck. I’m going to show everybody what a boss I am. And it really can work perhaps 20, 30 percent of the time, but you have to adapt yourself to the situation and to the people you’re working with. And that, what you’ve just said there is the ability to change the storyline and I’m pinching that.

Clark: Thank you, Thomas. 

Thomas: And I [00:51:00] think the final thing I’ll say is that over the course of a full season, that there will be moments where you will show absolute decisive leadership skills, and it will be so impactful, and it might be a strong is telling somebody that you have actually breached the behavior on the professional code of conduct of this football club and you’re no longer part of the first team dressing room.

Thomas: Now you hope and pray as a leader that never comes because I don’t think that you should go looking for that type of conflict. But once it comes as well, when you package that into the humility and the servant leadership and all of the things that we’ve spoken about, there has to be moments through the course of your tenure as well you.

Thomas: Where the players and the staff are like, Wow. That was almost like a samurai sword, where, there was elegant simplicity to the decisiveness, but by the way, it was decisive and it was final. And if I ever behave like that, I would Getting treated like that because [00:52:00] the actions would be the decision.

Thomas: Because players in a football context are smart. They actually know when, they’re pushing the boundaries and there’ll always be a route back for them. And they’re also smart enough to know that look, do you know something? I’ve probably made my position here untenable.

Rob: I think for me, that’s really what what you’re saying, Clark, about the narrative is the leadership. The leadership role is creating the frame and the narrative that keeps the group and moves the group to it. And then I think, like you were saying Thomas, it’s about the values, holding the values and the standard and I, it reminds me of sun Tzu’s The Art of War, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the beginning of that, where he took the concubines and he said I’ll make them and they all thought it was a laugh and he’s okay, I’ll tell you first time, second time. Third time issue, you’re not doing that. And he took the two leaders and he just, their favorite combines and he cut their head off.

Rob: Yeah, cause there has to be the consequences. I think we need to create trust and we need to create safety, but there’s an actual fear and there’s a move now to make so [00:53:00] much safety, so much trust that there is no fear, but it’s not creating fear. But there is a fear that I don’t perform.

Rob: There is a fear that we don’t win. There has to be that level of fear to have that performance. And it’s managing the narrative for the tension between them. And I think that’s why you spoke about reducing that tension or increasing it. 

Tony: That’s a good point, Rob. Really good point. I think, in going right back to the beginning of the conversation when we were talking about the proliferation of content coming out and, you get new terminology like psychological safety which we all probably agree is important showing vulnerability, allowing people to say what they want to say without fear of come back and all of that sort of stuff is really important.

Tony: However, and it’s what we alluded to in the previous conversation, probably after the call, more so than on the call. That’s tough enough as well, and I know you can’t say that in this day and age, but when you’re in a highly charged, competitive environment where the demands are external to what I say as a leader or don’t say, that the demands of the game [00:54:00] don’t change.

Tony: The player needs to go out in front of 50, 000 people and make independent decisions with irreversible consequences over and over again. It takes courage to do it. There’s no safety attached to that. I can allow them a soft landing if they get it wrong, if they make mistakes. I’m not going to hold it against them.

Tony: I want to empower them to go and challenge themselves against. an unpredictable, high quality adversary. When you really focus in on that, those multiple independent interactions that people are having in a game, it surely reemphasizes the point. We’ve got no control of that as a coach, several steps removed between us and that. The action that’s taking place over there is a whole plethora of complex, dynamic intention fear, anxiety, emotion, passion.

Tony: There’s a million things going on that five seconds later is changed again, five seconds later is changed again. Now someone else is faced with, do I, don’t I, should I, shouldn’t I? Where do I? Where don’t I? How fast do I do it? How hard do I [00:55:00] go? Jesus, what was I told ten minutes ago by the gaffer? There’s a million things going on in everybody’s heads.

Tony: Every second of every game. 

Tony: My point was, we want to create an environment, if we talk about a psychological safe environment, we’re normally talking about around a table and people say what they need to say, are we showing vulnerability so that we invite it back and all of those really great and important things.

Tony: But when Thomas needs to dial up his, Get this done and get it done now, or that the ruthlessness that is required in the moment at times like that, there’s no place for sentiment, and there’s no place for yes we have all the humility in the world, but right now, forget it, do this or we die. There’s critical things that exist in all of these environments that don’t allow for any of the nice stuff that we write about a lot or that lots of people write about lots has been really good practice.

Tony: I don’t know if that landed well or not. I can take some writing tips from you, [00:56:00] Clark. I could maybe articulate a bit better, but it’s part of my frustration is yes, there’s all of these great things, great tools, great models, important. Climates that we’re trying to create for complex, dynamic, moving organizations.

Tony: But, as well, it’s not for the faint hearted in here. We’re trying to mobilize people to meet really tough challenges. That takes resilience and it takes hard knocks and it takes failure and it takes, Capacity to bounce back and go again. And everybody’s got those, but to varying degrees, some people are not resilient by nature.

Tony: Some people grieve after a loss and take days to bounce back from it. Some people can laugh five minutes after they’ve lost, which drives most of the population crazy. But for them, they’re already thinking it’s okay. We can fix it next time. They’re already moved on. So depending on where you are on each of those spectra is going to depend on how you treat the person that can smile after a defeat and the person that’s got [00:57:00] to play again on Tuesdays doesn’t recovered from Saturday. Like, where do we 

Tony: see it? It’s fascinated by this stuff. 

Rob: I think something that we don’t make explicitly clear is that, in work, an organization or in a team, The relationships are transactional and I think too much we’ve taken the frame of family and it’s this whole idea of unconditional acceptance, unconditional love.

Rob: It’s transactional. It’s there for a performance and there’s the purpose and there’s a reason and we have to perform in everything. The psychological safety and things like that, when we take them out of context, they’re there as part of the performance. And we have to distinguish between there’s mistakes that we can learn from and then there’s the kind of sabotage, intentional disruptiveness.

Rob: What all of what you spoke to is really about being clear about the nature of the relationship and often companies aren’t. 

Tony: I want to piece on that once that actually resonates with me, Rob, like in terms of the transactional nature of relationships. So if I think [00:58:00] about. If you have a really positive shared experience as a football team, as you won something, you’re almost connected for life around that singular event that, that we all achieve something together.

Tony: Outside of that, if I think about, all of the football relationships I had over 30 years of coaching and managing various successes along the way. I’m not littered with close friends for any 30 years back. I’m not connected to all these, and we’re talking about tens and hundreds of people that I’ve worked with along these various journeys.

Tony: It really cements that point home to me that actually. Yeah. We are in somewhat, you’re immersed in it at the time you’re building something together and you’re, at the fulcrum of that hub as the leader, but then it’s gone. What does that mean? 

Clark: Shared experiences is I was just thinking as you were saying that, Tony there’s one person on LinkedIn who I have as a connection who was with me in the military 30 years ago.

Clark: We haven’t met since. But when we talk on [00:59:00] LinkedIn, It may as well have been yesterday. The shared experience is what unites people, isn’t it? The interesting thing, again, Thomas has nailed it again, that this idea of being willing to go there. Ooh, he actually went there. He actually said that thing, or did that thing.

Clark: And we’ve talked about humility and creating a safe environment and all of that stuff and curating the narrative by which everybody sees himself as part of the community. But that you’ve got primeval there. I think, haven’t you? We’ve gone really right back to our. cultural archetypes when you talk about the one person that’s willing to go that far.

Clark: In a, in telling a story, you’ve got to not be afraid to kill off the hero, if that’s what it takes to get the story moving along. And it reminds me of a little scene in Peaky Blinders. I don’t know if any of you guys watch it. I don’t watch it because I can’t stand the accents. They drive me mad.

Clark: But I do watch little clips of it. And there’s one scene that I particularly liked where there’s a guy. Who’s going around a scrapyard in Birmingham and he’s saying to, to Tommy Shelby in the hearing [01:00:00] of the guy who owns this scrapyard and has worked his entire life to build this business up, I’m going to have this, I’m having this scrapyard.

Clark: One way or another, I’m going to take this and it works for me because I’m a gold dealer. I work in precious metals so I can convert this stuff to gold and I could work it here etc. And the guy said, but it’s my livelihood. And the guy said I’m taking it. And he said, what have you got to say about that, Tommy?

Clark: And Tommy really completely flips the narrative because he said, so he’s going to take your scrapyard, is he? He said, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’re going to flip a coin for your scrapyard. He said, and if he wins, he gets your scrapyard. And the bloke’s looking at him. And this is like the baddest of bad men looking at Tommy Shelby.

Clark: He said, but if I win, I can’t say what he said, but he said, I’m going to do something evil to your daughter. He went there, he went to this dark place. And I just thought, so here was a guy threatening this person, taking it as far as he thought it was possible for anybody to take. Tommy went a step further.

Clark: And I just thought that is a true sign. You never want to go there. Obviously, you never want to put yourself in a position where you have to do these things, because people look at you [01:01:00] like a monster that you could be if you really had to be. That’s the point of all stories. Whilst we all want a happy ending, we understand at the same time, there’s a dark monster.

Clark: There’s a troll lurking under the bridge. And the fact that you’re prepared to go there and say no, you are not going to push me into a situation. This is what we’re going to do. That, when all is said and done is the true sign of a leader, is that he’s the person who says, look, kill me.

Clark: Whatever happens, I will go that extra step further and really, when the manager walks into a football club, he’s only there for one reason, to win, whatever it takes. Obviously he wants to do so in an honorable way and to think of the people that he’s working with and serving us on.

Clark: But at the end of the day, there will come a point when he says how bad do you want this? How badly do you want this? Because I’ll go there, if you guys will come 

Tony: with me. I love Peaky Blinders, by the way. There’s a lot of strength in knowing that darkness exists, and having the capacity to know it’s there and keep a lid on it.

Tony: Because it, it [01:02:00] gives you that, it gives you that sense of, I know it’s there. If I need to pull this out, I will. But for now, let’s do it this way. I’m a nice guy. Am I

Clark: Would that be would that be a good conversation for a fu for a future discussion? This whole Machiavellian impetus to to do whatever is necessary, and say that the means justify the end and really when it comes down to it.

Clark: Leadership is it? It’s very much a judgment call. 

Thomas: How 

Clark: prepared are we? Yeah, I’d be 

Thomas: quite interested in that. Because I was quite stimulated, Clark, when you gave that example when you were actually, shouting and swearing in the manufacturing environment because I actually love situations and scenarios that come up.

Thomas: Cause ripple effects and the ripple effects actually came from that one encounter was really quite interesting to me and I wanted to know more and I felt that would have actually. It would have actually inspired me, or it would have evoked an emotion, and I think in modern society, whether it be dark humor, whether it be everything that you’ve actually been trained to do in the military, [01:03:00] everything is now suppressed and diluted, and we’ve actually probably, if we’re honest, I certainly have, we’ve now got guilty pleasures on social media of people who still apply critical thinking, are prepared to actually, Give dark humor to really sensitive subjects and actually call it bullshit, so that there’s still this need for us as probably as males as well, but certainly as people who are interested in leadership where to actually be accepted, we have to conform and we’re not only conforming now, we’re almost selling our soul to the devil.

Thomas: Where our own authenticity is actually being diluted and diminished. So we’ve actually got an inward conflict of who we actually are. And we’re not challenging ourselves, we’re not challenging other people, and we’re allowing new initiatives and things to come into the workplace or the football environment that, quite frankly, we actually know at our core is not designed to actually help [01:04:00] engender performance.

Clark: You say that, Thomas. Actually, there was a situation at the same factory where I’d taken over a particular assembly line. It was chaos and I was there for quite a long time. But there was a point as it started to go well where a senior manager, One of the top guys came and started giving my line, my team, this guy came and he started telling people to do stuff.

Clark: And I’m, I looked at this guy and I saw somebody looking at me and I thought, I’ve got to do something here. And so I shouted across, Oi, can I say the word? Fuck off my line.

Clark: He stormed off and all the guys were laughing and I got pulled before the boss and I said, look again, you put yourself in a situation like that where you’re literally challenging the management setup. And these were difficult. It was a difficult area that we work with.

Clark: What they consider to be problem workers, they were very heavily unionized. I actually really liked them. I said, but these guys will take advantage of if they see any disparity between the senior team. I said, they’re only there for the money. I said, and you’ve put me in a situation where I’ve had to do that.[01:05:00] 

Clark: I said, and I’ll do it again. I said, because we’re not working in mothercare. This is not a nursery. It’s not a library. It’s a factory. And, it can be quite cutthroat out there. But it was really all about exactly as you said earlier, Thomas, creating a little bit of drama.

Clark: Can I get away with this? I think I can. I’m going to go for it. It’s a risk, but I’m going to go for it anyway. See what happens. And because of that, All the guys, they all said, Oh, we’ve been waiting for somebody to say that to him. You’re changing the storyline, aren’t you? And the thing is I’ve always had this underlying tenth man philosophy.

Clark: The tenth man is the guy that sees what’s really going on. What’s really happening, you’re in a bar and a woman starts acting coy. What’s actually going on here? Can I talk to you? Are you looking for a bit of conversation, some friendship maybe? What’s actually happening? Or are you just setting me up so you can reject me?

Clark: What’s the actual underlying story here? Because the 10th man is the guy that calls it out and says no. This is what we’re here for. We’re doing this and we’re going to do it this way. And all that other stuff that you just said is absolute bullshit. That 10th man philosophy is really about acknowledging the dark side of all [01:06:00] situations and asking yourself, can we use this?

Clark: Is this something that we can get some value from maybe, and then you have to take that little bit of a risk. Anybody that calls himself a leader should either have a 10th man mentality, or at least have somebody around him that he has explicitly said, I want you to tell me what’s at, like the court jester to the king.

Clark: And yeah. You’ve got to tell me what’s actually going on. If somebody’s taking the piss, I need to know and, I think that’s a brilliant vein of conversation because the, as you said, Thomas, we’ve been tamed to a certain degree. We all push the boundaries as much as we can. But, there are environments where if you break outside of that box, it wakes people up, it snaps people out of their trance.

Clark: And they start to realize, shit yeah, this is, I’ve only got this one life, and it’s messy and I literally went for a bacon sandwich this morning and somebody was asking me about a particular situation and I said he’s just a scruffy minger. And it was, I just, it was colorful language because I wanted them to look at this character that I was talking about in a new light, because they were pointing them out.

Clark: I said, hey, he’s a scruffy minger. Because we’re all [01:07:00] scruffy mingers, we’re all sweaty, smelly, striving against our own personal demons to get ahead in life. But at the end of the day, again, going back to what you said, it’s all about community, right?

Rob: Brill. Okay. That’s 

Tony: a good topic for next time, Rob. 

Rob: It’s a balance, isn’t it? It’s a balance between strengths and weaknesses and dark and, 

Tony: What was it, I saw a quote, the the darker the, I can’t remember it, I’ll have to try and remember it.

Tony: Something like the darker the, no, the brighter the light. The brighter the light shines, the darker the shadow it casts.

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