What's The Equation For A Winning Team?

Stories are inspiring and they can teach us lessons about what works. 

But they also have their limitations. Stories have specific characters and are bound within a context. Someone in a different situation with a different style might not be able to replicate that. 

Maths is the language of purity. 

An equation abstracts what is universally true. As soon as it doesn’t work in a given context, it is no longer true. So an equation can give us a frame of knowledge that empowers everyone. 

In this episode we set out to try to identify what are the universal elements of a team that any leader could use as a guide.



Rob: [00:00:00] The idea of the podcast is that somewhere in the mix of what we all get to bring and in our interactions and our friction between us, we can come up with a more refined idea and perspective than we had at the beginning. 

Rob: So the frame for today’s discussion is what would be the ideal equation for a team?

Rob: I remember John Gottman relationship researcher talked about how different him and his wife were.

Rob: And his idea of relationship research was to boil down relationships to a differential equation. And his wife had a deep therapeutic background. So actually he did about. 25 years of research, which was pure maths didn’t try and make anyone’s relationship better, just studied relationships.

Rob: And it was only when they combined that they came up with a shared house model and they actually started publishing the books and they actually started doing therapy themselves. 

Rob: It made me think that a lot of people have a strong preference between maths and English.

Rob: I think maths [00:01:00] and English are different languages. What people, who struggle with maths is they don’t understand it’s a distinct language.

Rob: When we tell stories like a iconic story or something that happened and we learn from that story, then we’re talking in English. 

Rob: Maths is the quickest, most direct, most pure way of describing what happens and what needs to be in place.

Rob: What I come up with is something like a clear strategy, capacity, the skills of the team to be able to do what they’re up being asked to do the flow of communication and the unity of the team.

Rob: Our mission for this hour is to try to add embellish and to come up with. A kind of frame that we can agree that any team could use as a basic framework to build upon. 

Rob: When we’re looking at a perfect team, I think sport is very clear cut. If you’re playing football it’s how many [00:02:00] goals have gone in the net, how many you defended is quite clear cut what a team is.

Rob: Building on that communication in a business team is like passing the ball. What we want is to be able to move the ball. Move whatever resources we need to the point that they can have most impact.

Matthew: I’ll start this way because I suspect I’m less analytical. about this than others. In my experience, when we were building teams or in our case stores, I always started with the culture. I had a culture and I looked for people that would fit that culture.

Matthew: After that people would find their own way to fit into it because If they fit the culture, then the culture will make room for them. And you didn’t have to go out in a specific, in my case, anyway, you didn’t have to go out and specifically recruit the ideal person because the ideal person is a person that fits the culture, right?

Matthew: And the [00:03:00] culture will police itself. I always found. So I started with the culture. I look for people that fit the culture. And then the culture looked after them, found them places.

Rob: You started a chain of 72 stores. So each of them had a team. 

Matthew: Correct. And I would call that a team. Some other businesses, they’d be departments or projects, but in my case, it was a well defined box with people in it. 

Rob: Over the first three to five stores was where you built.

Rob: The winning culture that the culture that was going to, you wanted to create a template for it probably took about that 

Matthew: long to develop. I was very young. I was 24 when I started and I thought I knew everything of course, but it took me a couple of years to figure out. I knew nothing.

Matthew: And so it was a learning process as we went along and we slowly cobbled together something that worked. And then the Project from there on in was to as I said, find people that fit it. [00:04:00] And then as you went store to store, you had to replicate it, which was the real challenge.

Rob: What were the things that were you were looking when you went to try and replicate a culture. What was, what were you looking to replicate? Where did you start? 

Matthew: Two answers to that. The first answer is if you’re doing another store locally, so you’ve got stores in Toronto, you’re going to add another local store. The ideal way to do that is just to take people out of the existing system as managers and leaders and put them in with the new people and they will show the way.

Matthew: Because they will carry the flag, right? It becomes more difficult if you’re trying to build a store in Rimouski, Quebec, which is about a thousand kilometers away, and an entirely different language and an entirely different culture, right? It’s French there. This is where we had real difficulties, because we couldn’t really transfer people.

Matthew: And we found what worked over time was to have a lot of what they call symbols and [00:05:00] totems and ideas and sayings and it’s just repetition and it’s just trying to build that feeling, that culture from the ground up, which is very hard.

Matthew: It’s very hard because cultures always exist. Like when you go in there with a brand new set of people, there’s already a culture. Every group has its own culture, right? It’s the culture of new people at a business, right? It has a culture. And so that was the real challenge. And we weren’t always successful at it to be honest.

Matthew: It was very hard, but the things that helped us was symbols, totems. Sayings, heavy management it was really important to have middle management that was bought in that, that knew and understood the culture and could carry it in there. It took a lot of time and effort. I must say,

Michalina: I think we’re already starting to look at things that are close to my heart. Rob, you really want to have a formula and an ideal, world in which [00:06:00] things will just work.

Michalina: And I can already see that we are only starting a conversation, but we already talking about the context and culture. And purpose. And what Matthew started talking about is that purpose and culture and being able to have that driven by the right leadership and the right elements and salient characteristics of what he wanted, what was the purpose of his business.

Michalina: You, Rob started talking to Tony about sports context, straight into context and purpose and culture and things you can’t really unify and separate from everything else. And I think for me, there’s a number of layers that we can say, Oh, these things could be fantastic ingredients to build the right team.

Michalina: But my immediate question is the right team for whom to do what? in what setting. So that’s to start with. And this could be anything culture characteristics, leadership. This could be people’s capabilities, experiences, and skill sets that [00:07:00] they employed for. But then in reality, wherever you look, there is always a changeable context where people come and go.

Michalina: Leaders come and go, middle managers come and go you inherit parts of the teams or they are dismantled if we took at if we look at technology context at the moment in any technology business, they are bought and sold all the time. Teams are bought together. for a purpose, for a reason, for a goal, and then dismantled afterwards.

Michalina: You’ve got people from the global village working together. It’s no longer about looking for people who fit. This is very much about diversity of thought and diversity of experiences. How can you put this into unified, lovely, clinical environment? I don’t know. So here’s my challenge to you, Rob. How would you do this?

Michalina: I just fundamentally disagree with the perfect 

Rob: formula. 

Rob: It’s not so much that you’re fitting people into a perfect formula, but you’re [00:08:00] understanding all the lowest factors that you’ve got. And then you’re, putting the model together of what’s universal. So for example, Google’s project Aristotle, which was about.

Rob: It’s about how we interact. It’s not about who we interact, but what, so they talked about the main factor was psychological safety and it’s about people. Being able to all feel that they can contribute and share. So it’s those things rather than a formula for a specific team. It’s what are the ingredients that create the culture, and all the other context so that teams do thrive.

Saieed: I obviously admire Matthew’s story and obviously being that young to be able to do what he did and be able to see culture as something significant back then was in itself like an innovation because we’ve still got organizations and individuals who don’t understand culture as it is nowadays.

Saieed: The only sort of thing I mildly disagree with is the ability of being able to think how [00:09:00] you could replicate. a certain culture or fit in people to a culture because what we’re finding nowadays, which is more relevant to the times now, is there shouldn’t really be a culture zone. There shouldn’t really be a fit.

Saieed: And this is what I try to get in with organizations to say is like your recruitment process shouldn’t really focus on if a candidate is the right fit if they will feel good in a role that you’ve already set. The boundaries from a cultural aspect, whereas what you should be really thinking is will that individual be celebrated and valued and appreciated based on their diversity and based on what they can bring and add to the culture, rather than saying this is our cultural framework, and this is our boundaries.

Saieed: And if you fit, then fine, you come in, if you don’t fit, then I’m sorry, you go. This is what I fundamentally disagree with because culture is such a massive, comprehensive topic. Like Michalina said, you really can’t give certain context to it because it really does depend on the industry the company.

Saieed: What you’re trying to do, [00:10:00] product service, how you even define teams, how you define success, how you define productivity. So when you set an equation for say, an effective or productive team, my question, my first question would be, how would you define effectiveness and productivity? Before we get to the main question.

Saieed: So that’s all I wanted to add. 

Michalina: I think, Saeed, this is very valuable what you’ve said, but just going back to what Matthew mentioned, I think it’s still relevant actually. This is about company purpose and values. So regardless of where you’re from and what you bring in, yes, absolutely, you should have that inclusion dance where you should bring your whole self to work, you should be able to contribute and your contribution should be valued and celebrated.

Michalina: But actually there are certain principles that if we agree to come along and be a team, we should be adhering to. This could be integrity. This could be respect. This could be. Performance, this could be whatever it is that you want as a company value [00:11:00] and purpose, but it should still be there. So it’s absolutely still relevant that those things haven’t changed.

Michalina: We just call them slightly differently. 

Saieed: Yeah, no, I agree. I normally bring that under the value umbrella and say what are your core values? What is the mission and vision? One of the things I see as well is how companies. To have their own set of core values and try to instill that into their People whereas what I often encourage companies to do is Engage stakeholders engage everyone in that process because teams could have different core values.

Saieed: It’s not necessarily we’ve got core values sitting at the top and then everyone has to follow that it’s Your team could value certain things over other things. So while she say there’s integrity, honesty, respect, transparency, that sort of thing, that’s quite a common theme, but I tried to drill that a bit further and then I use that to intercross between those values and the culture that’s prevalent.

Saieed: So that’s why I meant it’s not [00:12:00] necessarily just. Diversity inclusion, because that’s a whole different ballgame, but it’s more to say culture is just such a massive subject that we don’t really truly understand it because now we’re mixing in values into it as well. What differentiates between what values are, what core values are, versus what is class as a culture or a cultural initiative or event.

Saieed: Versus what the processes are that are aligning to certain values, if that makes sense. Who makes that differentiation? How do you make that visible is what I’m trying to say. 

Matthew: Tony, this would be really fascinating from a team sport perspective, because a it’s a high pressure situation and people absolutely do have to work as a team.

Matthew: There’s no two ways about it. It’s win or lose every single, every week. So I’m curious to note Tony, how you look at this idea of culture or if you folks over in your world ever 

Tony: did at all. Yeah, very much and I think it’s important that, in a discussion [00:13:00] about culture, we almost have an agreement about what we mean by the word culture, because if we could be all talking about four, five completely different ideas of what culture means or says.

Tony: I look at it this way. The game doesn’t discriminate. The sports game says you need to score one more goal than the opposition. There’s no argument. And the coach or the manager of the team may have been engaged because his methodology, his playing style fits the iconic brand of the organization.

Tony: So they want a coach that plays a ticki tacka football, like Barcelona, it’s embedded in the culture of that organization over many years. And others just ignore it altogether. They just want someone that’s going to come in and get results. And he’s got a proven track record of doing that.

Tony: So regardless of how the individual that comes in approaches. That the demands of the game haven’t changed. So if I think about that from the hairdressing business, for example, what I love about your story is that the culture. [00:14:00] revealed itself through the practice of cutting hair in multiple different parts of the country, let’s say.

Tony: It evolved in all these different pockets of activity. As you were revealing for yourself, the principles that you thought were important, they reveal themselves and you would have. found and learned and all sorts of things like that. 

Tony: If I cut right back to Rob’s first question and tie it back, a team is more than one person pursuing one of these externally driven objectives.

Tony: So the demand of the game is to win. The demand of the business is to make profit. And there’s a set of principles that enable us to work together in the best possible way. It doesn’t need to be more complex than that because culture is complex. 

Tony: What tends to happen is people go this is the culture that we want.

Tony: We’ve got to really understand between us what that means, but they say that and they put that front and center before they’ve brought the people together to start finding out actually how are we going to work together here, because only then will we actually reveal what are the [00:15:00] ideals for these people?

Tony: They’ve all got different wants, they’ve all got different needs that need to be met, they’ve all got different values, different learned behaviors and beliefs and all these multi complex things. Same with football, I’ve got a group of footballers, some are really excited by the prospect of, playing in front of 50, 000 people.

Tony: And anything’s possible. I might score the goal that wins us the cup final, the person standing next to them in the lineup before the game kicks off is absolutely terrified of making a mistake, yet they still have to function because the game demands that they perform at the same level. And I think with all of those individual complexities, whatever the equation we come up with. How do we capture all of the unique individuality of everybody that’s involved and as a manager?

Tony: Navigate that towards a cultural ideal, or, we want to win. Yes, that the game demands that we do that. But let’s, how do we agree on the intention of how we’re going to do it? 

Tony: For me, I like to think about aligned intention as [00:16:00] the first port of call. If I can get Three people aligned to the same intention, and they can then start to understand other people well enough to say, okay, I can work with you.

Tony: Let’s, do we agree? Let’s try and do this. You can slowly build what may end up being, in retrospect, the culture 

Tony: It is very complex, but as complex as it is, the demand doesn’t change and people have to participate within a team and pursue that objective.

Tony: And there’s only one winner. Everybody else fails to varying degrees in the pursuit of that. So we could be here for days. Couldn’t we talking about this 

Rob: stuff? We could. In terms of football, some football clubs have a strong identity. So Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, their fans won’t tolerate anything less.

Rob: When you get someone like Blackburn or Leicester, when they won the Premier League I don’t think the fans were too worried about the culture. They just wanted the success. 

Rob: What you’ve talked about is the goal. So for me, in my analytical way is the goal is part of the equation.

Rob: The culture is part of the equation, dropping aside the [00:17:00] equation so that we can talk, my background is relationships I got into teams when I realized that a great relationship is a team. It doesn’t matter if it’s a couple or a multinational organization.

Rob: A team is combined and it’s united by its purpose. And I think it’s the purpose of why we congregate together that gives us our, the meaning. Then it’s about people being able to be included and accepting diverse perspectives But it’s about how we go about that. It’s about meaning that everyone has a voice.

Rob: Everyone is accepted everyone is able to contribute and then it’s about Communication and somewhere someone has to lead that change.

Rob: For me, a leader is someone who can listen to everyone taking all the stakeholders perspectives, and they’re able to articulate something that people resonate with. 

Rob: A key element of [00:18:00] culture and teams begin with a leader because there has to be someone who starts the fires every morning, someone who starts the discussion, someone who has the spark, the intent, the vision. So maybe that’s a place to look. 

Tony: Yeah let me pose this, Rob, because that’s prompted at the thought, I do a lot of work with a high level.

Tony: Football manager. We’re thinking partners in a way. And this is a question I posed to the group.

Tony: Let’s assume that, we take over a new team in whatever sector that we’re in. And the assumption is that nobody’s being who they really are. They’re all being who they think they need to be in, in order to fit in order to Do what they think should.

Tony: They’re externally driven. They’re behaving in a socially desirable way, but it’s not their true intent. Their true intent is to serve their own purpose and their own needs. Let’s say there’s ten people, they’re all independently ambitious. And they’ve come together to meet somebody else’s objectives, an [00:19:00] organization’s objectives or a team’s objectives.

Tony: I suppose the question that I’m interested in discussing is, let’s assume that’s the case that the independent ambition is always one step away from

Tony: negatively impacting the group’s collective objective.

Tony: I almost think that’s the challenge that leaders face. How do we, get close enough to the individuals to reveal for us and for them these things that have got the potential to derail what the group needs to do to be successful. So I’m interested in what the group’s perspectives are on that.

Rob: Okay. So what I understood is, you’ve got a group of people that they’re have all, they’ve all got divided goals. They’ve all got their own agendas. And what you’re asking is how does the leader identify all those different agendas and stop that from derailing the core purpose? , 

Tony: yeah. How do we integrate, how do we serve everybody’s needs in delivering the group’s objectives? I think the 

Matthew: [00:20:00] answer to that is that back to culture, if you have a culture with an idea that’s bigger than the people themselves, then they can buy into that. And we talk about a place like Premier League football team with it, with a culture and it, and, I’ve never done it, but surely it’s, it doesn’t, it’s, take an enormous amount of effort for people to understand the idea of Manchester United, right?

Matthew: That idea is clear to anyone who joins the team and it’s an idea that’s bigger than them when they join. Hopefully, sometimes it isn’t.

Matthew: And so everyone’s got at least that in common. And it’s as long as that idea, stepping away from Premier League football into the mundane world of business, as long as there’s an idea that’s bigger than them, and they can buy into, then it’s less likely you’ll have problems with individual ambition, because there’s always an individual ambition And ambition isn’t just making a bunch of money [00:21:00] and ambition is having the schedule you like, or the lunch hour you like, or there’s a hundred different ways that ambition manifests.

Matthew: But all that can be melded together as long as everyone can buy in to this one large idea that’s bigger than them. And I think looking back in, in history. This was the magic of the great leaders. They could take people to places. They didn’t know they wanted. They wanted to go.

Matthew: They had big ideas. They had, that were bigger than the people and you look at, something like an an army, a military army. Here’s a place of high discipline. Nobody has any say. You do what you’re told. There’s no freedom at all. And yet, throughout history, millions have been pe people have marched to and fro, dying for ideas so much bigger than them.

Matthew: So that, that big idea, Is really critical in it, and a big idea is relative [00:22:00] to a premier football league team as it is to just a small retail store, right? There’s still a big idea. 

Michalina: I couldn’t agree with this more Matthew it’s about that purpose and the shared purpose that you buy into and then you individually decide this works for me and so I will work for this thing, not just myself.

Michalina: And I think, Tony, I’m thinking about your context of high performers, high achievers, highly ambitious people coming together to do something together and how do you. How do you almost tamper that to be able to have that bigger culture, bigger purpose? I think there is an element of psychometrics that we can now leverage and really look at what are people’s talents and strengths and personalities and preferences and how to harness that power of each individual to, to get them to then work for your shared purpose.

Michalina: You’ve got people, there are so many psychometrics, but you’ve [00:23:00] got people who are goals and achievements orientated. Give them the task that fit with your purpose and your goals that will help you harness that passion and that drive and that ambition and determination to achieve those goals. Then you’ve got people who are peoples and feelings orientated and they will do whatever it takes so others around them feel included.

Michalina: And feel comfortable and they’ll show empathy and care and all the things that we could call a glue in a team. So there you go, Rob. Here’s one for you. You can note this down. There’s one for your equation. But then you’ve got people who have absolutely data, process, clarity. There are Rob’s out there who wants equality.

Michalina: They want equation and they want maths and they want everything crystal clear. Those people are needed to give them the tasks that fit with that shared purpose. So each of them is ambitious in a different way, harness their powers and talents for their greater good, if you [00:24:00] like. And then they will be happy, everyone in a different way, but ultimately happy or fulfilled or included and cared for.

Michalina: That would be my view. Has I got you thinking? Sorry, have I got you thinking 

Tony: there? 

Tony: I do a lot of work in psychometrics. I look at individuals and try and divide them up into many component parts as possible. So psychometrics would be one, basic needs would be another, how are they motivated?

Tony: What their goals are how are they are they naturally independently driven or are they more socially oriented, for example. Do they love to win or do they hate to lose? That’s a massive question. I’ll ask groups all the time and I’d ask you guys, have you thought about it?

Tony: Do you love to win or do you hate to lose? Because depending on your, your outlook has a big saying. How my approach as a coach or as a manager of the team, and I’m using myself as an example, highly optimistic, big picture. Anything’s possible. If I’m with the group, that’s the opposite, [00:25:00] who are very reserved and very risk averse.

Tony: I’m the further I go down the path of shining a light on this great vision that I’ve got the further away they. They become so, I do agree Michalina that those individual understanding them and applying an approach that affords them that the opportunity to express themselves independently, I think is very important.

Saieed: I like to take it a step further and I know we don’t always have the right environment or the time to do it, but I always say If the individual doesn’t understand themselves, how are you going to understand them? So it’s like that my philosophy has always been, and this is again because of my personal experience, how I learned the hard way and was forced to go on to a journey of self discovery.

Saieed: Of sorts, it’s can you take another person on that journey or can you guide them throughout that journey? And if you can, and you can help them understand themselves, you’ve got a half decent chance of understanding them. It’s easy to say, [00:26:00] let’s find out what motivates someone. But if that motivation is right, it’s done in the right mindset.

Saieed: Is it sustainable? Is it short term? Is it long term? Everything comes into effect. So the way, if I have a, say an individual coaching client, for example the reason I mentioned well being, self awareness, self care and all those aspects is because I want to take them, I want to guide them through this journey of self discovery to truly try and understand what their values are, because often you find what they think their values are and what their true values are very different.

Saieed: Being able to understand their values after a certain amount of time. patience, kindness, everything else that’s involved that helps you clear their lens and their perspective on how they see it. And that could really help with that question, Tony, of do you love to win or do you hate to lose?

Saieed: Because that is a great indicator of that. And once they get to that point, then it’s all about alignment for me. So that means. We’ve got this vision. We’ve got this [00:27:00] purpose that’s already predefined. There’s two ways I see organizations, for example, do this. Some are very adamant to only hire the right talent because they think that if I’m not going to hire the right people or the right talent, and this is the equivalent to football teams, Tony, which I’m not going to name names.

Saieed: You just go out and buy the most expensive players they can find because they feel that put them together on everything else. will sort itself out, which is often not the case. And then you’ve got other organizations who say higher on skills, attitude, competencies, that sort of thing. I’m not going to argue for and against, but I’m saying depending on what your vision and purpose is, you have to see which one’s a better fit for your situation.

Saieed: But regardless of which one you choose. You have to break down those walls. You have to be able to get people to see themselves in a new light to be able to then fully understand them. And then once you’ve done that, you have a better idea of how you can align the vision, the purpose, the [00:28:00] goals to what their true values and motivations are.

Saieed: And that necessitates the right culture. So again, culture comes into the mix. So for me, it breaks it down into stuff like culture, expectations, communication, empowerment, and then leading that by example, because despite your best intentions, if you’re not leading by example, you’re going to lose it very soon.

Saieed: So that’s my two cents or 

Rob: two pennies. 

Rob: I think you’ve raised a really important point., what we think will make us happy is not the thing that will make us happy. 

Rob: I learned this back when I was studying happiness. Part of it is that we’ve got a flawed idea.

Rob: And then in working with conflict, what I learned was, so say you’ve got a couple. And they’re both, one wants this, and they go almost everything’s right, if they would just do this, and then the other one’s trying almost everything, if they would just do this, and they’re both pulling each other, and they end up pulling each other apart.

Rob: And what their conflict is based on is not actually themselves. It’s a lot of their conflict is based on the [00:29:00] assumptions that someone else has given them somewhere that they’ve learned that they’ve misinterpreted or some dogma that they’ve been given by someone else. 

Rob: When you actually boil down and you look for a conflict, what actually happens is you’ve got two points, but it actually becomes a triangle because the thing that they really thought that they wanted wasn’t.

Rob: There was a deeper need. People basically are looking for just a few things. Some highly ambitious normally means they want status, they want respect, they want recognition. And it’s something like that. And we fixate on one way of getting it. And through the process of trying to achieve it.

Rob: You refine your idea. In the beginning we meet with a purpose, but I think that purpose gets shaped by the people and in the same way the culture gets shaped by the people. It is alignment, it’s the ability to have those discussions and, as it says, people often aren’t aware of, what drives them and what they really value, [00:30:00] until they meet enough friction so that they become aware of it.

Michalina: Very interesting what you’ve just said. Rob, and I’m reflecting on this. What comes to me is the size of the team that I would add to this conversation. What you’ve just mentioned is very much around two people, three people, four people, small team, where you can go this deep and you can analyze the values, the behaviors the beliefs the context, the cultural conditioning, economical conditioning and everything else that comes into it.

Michalina: And then if we scale that up into teams of 10 and 20 or 200, that’s impossible. You need to know what you’re there for, what are your objectives and crack on and what are the general rules so we don’t kill each other. And we somehow police that what’s right and what’s wrong and when are you in and when are you out.

Michalina: So I think size of the team comes into play here for me. 

Rob: When I think of someone who led a change, I think of martin luther king, He led a change of a huge amount of [00:31:00] people and I think it was because his work forced him to listen to so many disparate people, who all felt there was like a general zeitgeist.

Rob: And I think when Matthew’s talking about great leaders through history, what they had picked up on is like a general zeitgeist, a general feeling that they tap into. Martin Luther King had been talking in many small groups of, about a dream and his, I have a dream speech was completely unprompted.

Rob: It was someone yelled to him Martin tell them about the dream. And he launched into this, but he’d obviously built up through years of talking and listening. 

Rob: And as you piece together all those different bits, you get those things like people at their core want the same thing. They want to be happy.

Rob: They want to belong. They want to be valued. They want some status. They want respect. They want to feel important. They want to feel that they’re contributing. So all [00:32:00] of those things, there’s, they’re fairly human, fairly common human. Dynamics and when we can like a visionary is someone who can articulate a way of okay, this as this group, these are our significant problems as a group.

Rob: This is the common thread. This is the common solution. So I think in that sense, we can, we can’t do it as specifically. But someone can identify a problem. And a vision for a solution. And I think that’s what Steve Jobs did. Steve Jobs was able to somehow say, this is what we want.

Rob: Let’s make it simple. Let’s make something that everyone’s going to love. Steve Jobs 

Matthew: had an idea, he had a really big idea that people bought into before they bought into the actual gadgets. His idea was freedom. He believed that technology would free people, it would be the ultimate freedom, individuals.

Matthew: And this is what he was selling. And these iPhones [00:33:00] and other gadgets were just tools to get people there. So again, we come to this idea of the idea. And in, in the sense of Jobs or King, they were big ideas as Michalina says. You get down in a group of 5, 10, 15, 20 people.

Matthew: It’s still the idea. And I think the word she used was purpose, right? There still has to be an idea, a purpose, an overarching purpose. Umbrella under which everyone can get under

Michalina: and we’re very firmly in the zone of massive changes to, in societies changes to our ways of thinking and we can look at how communism ended. We can look at how apartheid ended. We can look at all the historical changes and I always believe that we don’t look. We tend to look back often enough to learn from those things to then utilize them and bring them forward.

Michalina: We tend to just reinvent things rather than look [00:34:00] back and learn. We tend to forget that we’ve got people who are a lot older than us who have the wisdom and experience and they’ve done it all. And we just disregard all of that and we think that technology and new discoveries will help us. And then we say that we just need to fail more often and celebrate that.

Michalina: Pop style psychology, but that’s the other side. What I want to say is that if we bring all those visions and societal changes back to reality of a corporate world, we’ve got one large business with different business units in a different services, different product, different functions, and they all compete.

Michalina: And they have microcultures and they all have VPs and managing directors wanting different things and pursuing different agendas within the business. And then you’ve got hundreds of people just going in for all sorts of reasons to do the jobs. Some of them buy into purpose, some of them just want a pay at the end of the month.

Michalina: They want to do 9 to 5, feel good about what they’ve [00:35:00] produced, close the day and be with their families. So it’s a bit about Back to the motivations and what encourages to do certain things But I still think that when it comes to bigger teams, there is no place for such in depth Individuality and if you do go for your life unconscious, you don’t really know who you are You’re just a collection of beliefs you’ve acquired for your life.

Michalina: That I’m afraid is your problem That is your responsibility to dig deep, analyze all of this, raise your own awareness and decide whether or not you want to do something about it. That is not a business’s problem. That is not the company’s problem or a leadership problem. A leadership problem for a leader who deals with a team, These are different problems to your own responsibility, your own self discovery and everything else.

Michalina: And if you are misaligned to your point, Said, if you’re not doing the right thing that you should be doing, that is your responsibility. You can earn money somewhere else. Just [00:36:00] go and find a place where you will feel that belonging, where you will buy into that shared purpose. And I think we don’t talk about this offer enough.

Michalina: We tend to think nowadays that. We choose the company for great money and great benefits, great working conditions. We all want to be working hybrid or just be at home. And then we go, Oh, but my values are not aligned. You’ve chosen the job for a paycheck. So what did you expect? So I think there is a bit about your own personal responsibility and bringing this down to e things start with you.

Michalina: If you live unconsciously for your life, that is your responsibility, not corporate, not leadership, not company values. So yeah, sorry. Just a bit of a rant there. Saieed you’re laughing. Go for it. 

Saieed: I completely understand what you mean, and you’re right when it comes because a business is there to be a business, basically, it’s not, you’re not there for therapy.

Saieed: So I can understand that. But when you take it to a [00:37:00] leadership position, and this is my own personal thinking and my personal belief system, I often see a leadership position as a privileged one, instead of a title and position. I don’t know whether it’s not so much, it’s your responsibility.

Saieed: It’s more what can I do as a leader to develop you and create a future leader, if that makes sense. So as part of that, I have to try and look at taking people on that journey of self discovery. Regardless of it being the right opportunity or the right setting or the right person, I’m still going to give it a shot because I think it’s worth it.

Saieed: Because I think that’s, and that’s because someone took a shot on me when I needed it the most. And for that reason, it’s instilled in me that I can make people, if I can, okay, let’s, we’re not going to get into the whole, if you can change people discussion. But if I can provide or guide or coach or consult or catalyze.

Saieed: Someone to take him [00:38:00] on that journey, then, by all means, I’m very happy to do that. But I do agree with you, Michelino, when it comes to a large team size, you don’t have the time. And that’s why I said it really depends on if you do have the time and the setting. To be able to do that because of large organization, you just don’t have the time to be able to do that with everyone.

Saieed: So I think you have these certain knobs that I like to see when it comes to expectation, empowerment, and then it’s like you turn it either down or you turn it up depending on the setting that you’re in. To suit the environment. As much as you can, but the intent and willingness to be able to do that.

Saieed: I tried to think a bit differently. So it transcends the it’s your responsibility. That’s your problem. Go and figure yourself out. And this is my, sort of me with my recovery hat, accountability coach hat talking to say some people just need that push and they need to be able to test because they can’t figure it out by themselves.

Saieed: They need someone to help them with [00:39:00] that. But the willingness needs to be there. 

Michalina: I love that. I love what you’ve just said. And I think these are two different conversations. One is the personal responsibility and the other is creating a culture that allows you to enable you to do things.

Michalina: But it’s not a leader’s responsibility to be a coach mentor and a therapist when it’s needed and a business mind and everything else. Yes, leadership is situational and you. You’ve got leaders who are this way inclined and those who are not and they’re expert in other areas. Let’s not glorify that role either that we need to make sure that we play to our strengths, whether we are leaders or not.

Michalina: But I think there is a piece around organizations being equipped to signpost you to employee assistance. Program to all sorts of insurances and support and network and experts of being made available to you when you need those. And yes, sometimes there are those moments when someone just has the right conversation [00:40:00] at the right time and that changes your life, but still your responsibility to do something about it.

Michalina: So I would split those two as to what is the good leadership. About really, and we could spend hours and hours talking about this and understanding back to context and everything else, but also personal responsibility. 

Matthew: In the words of the great American philosopher, Facebook it’s complicated.

Michalina: Correct. I actually studied philosophy. I love that. I love that joke here.

Rob: I’ll just 

Tony: pick up on it. Said on the, I think when there’s the perception that nobody’s got any time because we’re busy, these things are the first things that get pushed away. People talk about soft skills or they’re labeled as soft skills. They’re actually the first things that get avoided because they’re actually difficult to deal with.

Tony: Having difficult conversations is challenging for people. It needs training. It’s trainable, quite easily trainable to help people get. Better quickly. I’m not trying to teach anyone how to do their jobs here, but I think [00:41:00] when people use the objection that we just don’t have time to do this is the time when they need to start doing it the most and to find little pockets of meaningful time each week, to have a different set of conversations than the typical conversations that are being had around the square tables that are held every day and every week in these big complex organizations. I think there is a way to help, equip many more managers. And leaders, and you can cross over the whole leader management debate, is fine to have a conversation about that, but you can equip people really simply.

Tony: Going deep with everyone and taking them all on a personal journey clearly is not possible, but taking the masses on a more educated and, fulfilling journey, that’s going to help them reveal a little bit more about themselves. Is massively achievable and it doesn’t take a lot of time to do it.

Tony: I think the upside. I was thinking of it this way. [00:42:00] If I’m, if I take my management style into every situation and expect everyone to respond in the same way, which is what happens in football all the time. They go and hire a manager that failed last week and got sacked. They’ll hire him in a new job this week.

Tony: He’ll bring exactly the same approach into the new role. And let’s just see which way the wind’s blowing. And sometimes they’ll get fortune will favor them, and other times not. And that’s not to discredit anybody. It happens a lot. I think to, for me to expect as a manager that everybody must just follow the way that I do things.

Tony: And this is the way I lead you, you follow me. I think there’s a big piece of work that we can do to change that dynamic. Because the small adjustments that I make towards these people that I’m. Responsible for helping or supporting or leading or managing, might be a little bit uncomfortable for me to step outside of who I am just for a minute, but it might be a game changer for you.

Tony: It might change your world just to know that actually that little just that one shift that you [00:43:00] made the way you approach me differently. It’s just set my world on fire. I’m now, wow, this guy understands me. He’s he heard me. He sees me whatever it might be. I think there’s no shortcuts.

Tony: I think leadership’s a practice and you have to be immersed in it all the time and make tons of mistakes. But there are shortcuts, I think, to help more people in big, complex, dynamic organizations have better conversations and beat. Very quickly, better equipped to navigate these really complex situations that they find themselves in without it.

Tony: Wow. It’s difficult, right? It’s, young managers who step up from being a high performer is suddenly managing with. ill equipped to manage the dynamics of the team. I just feel for them. It’s a tough gig. 

Michalina: And Tony, I couldn’t agree with you more on this. I’ve spent 10 years dealing with the dark side of people, dealing with all the problems the wellbeing problems the sicknesses, the absences, the performance improvement side of things, the [00:44:00] grievances, conflict, mediations, employment tribunals, all that kind of.

Michalina: Stuff that we don’t really want to talk about and absolutely in every single case, in every single situation, you could trace it back to leadership capability. You can trace it back to managers conversations, the right conversations at the right time, and you can trace it back to an employee being.

Michalina: entitled to certain things being done for them and then taking responsibility or not taking responsibility for the actions. You can literally trace every single problem back to those moments and I’ve seen this time and time again. And would you say about feeling sorry for managers? Absolutely.

Michalina: This is such a. Ungrateful job when you step into that arena and suddenly you have to be everyone you have to be a business analyst and a business head and you have to be great with people and you have to be great with numbers and you have to Somehow be a time magician to squeeze all of [00:45:00] that in and look like you’re not tired And doing the right thing at the right time and spot someone whose life is about to change, that is hard.

Michalina: And I think there is a lot around that capability and support, but when you say that you can help on a bigger scale, yes and no, yes, you can have coaches on hand, you can have training campaigns in place, but at the end of the day, it’s about that personal responsibility, whereas you do something well or you don’t, and whether you gel as a team or you don’t.

Michalina: And it’s back to something bigger than just you two, or the three of you, or the four of you. 

Tony: We could pick up that conversation because I do think there are Easily applied tools that can equip unskilled people to become more highly skilled very quickly. No, absolutely. 

Michalina: Absolutely. To some extent. To some extent.

Rob: Part of the culture and part of it, part of the whole onboarding needs to be a clarity of what are the responsibilities of each. And I think what Tony’s talking about [00:46:00] is I, there’s a threshold, and typically most organizations, most managers spend somewhere from two to 10 hours a week on dealing with conflict, directly or indirectly, 

Michalina: Oh, not dealing with it, running away from it.

Michalina: Yeah. 

Rob: Yeah. And that’s part of the problem. Because there is a lack of skills and a lack of, confidence, which I really think for a new time manager, it’s really a change in identity. And I think most of the struggle is around the pressure of what other people are thinking of them and feeling do I, am I living up to it?

Rob: Am I good enough? And all of that fears get in the way. You can’t fix everyone’s problems. You don’t do that for everyone, but when you are in that position is say HR or your, or a leader and you’re dealing with sometimes that can be incredibly costly to where you don’t want to lose someone or you have to lose someone.

Rob: And there’s a lot riding on that. If there is a mapped out, path of what you can [00:47:00] do, then it may only be. Going back to start Manchester United, yeah, Manchester United is a bigger idea than most players, but they had this problem with Cristiano Ronaldo who believed he was bigger than Manchester United.

Rob: And if in that kind of situation, it all depends on how valuable the relationship is, and if you’re dealing, with what’s Ronaldo. 20, 50 million a year. That’s a, that’s worth a lot. And having a mapped out route of where you can go can help in the, it’s not going to be used for everyone because it doesn’t need to be used for everyone, but it’s a threshold of where it’s necessary to be needed.

Rob: That’s what 

Tony: I mean by aligned intention. So let’s say a new manager comes into that scenario, which is what happened. So in that scenario, this situation was already playing out and a new manager was brought in to that situation to now navigate, try and get the team performing better and as managers are [00:48:00] charged to do.

Tony: And no doubt, 

Tony: Took all that responsibility on his shoulders to try and tackle that the best way he thought possible. Now, if there’s no clarity around aligned intention about that, so if we’ve got two fundamentally different beliefs that the owner is selling so many Cristiano Ronaldo shirts that he wants that player to play and the manager doesn’t, if they haven’t had that conversation at that level to align on intention, then it’s Failure by design.

Tony: Now we, none of us know whether that those conversations took place, but from the outside, looking in, you can see the impact of division within the ranks on pitch, off pitch, media commentary, fan commentary. So aligned intention. So forget culture, which is this big, ever evolving, moving feast of people coming in and going out.

Tony: Fundamentally, let’s decide. Are we a club that wants to win or are we a [00:49:00] club that wants to make money? And if it’s both, then how does that? What is it? What are the nuances that were actually agreed on so that we can make really clear decisions that fit that? Because until we’ve got the capability to do that, people’s.

Tony: opinions about how it’s going are going to matter way more than they should. And you just get this noise and it’s just an impossible, it’s an impossible job under those circumstances. It 

Matthew: just runs, it runs out of anybody’s control at that point. Yeah, there’s it’s out of control, right? As they found out.

Tony: Yes. And they’re still finding out chaos. 

Matthew: And they may, and they and they may have damaged their brand for a generation, right? 

Tony: It is a really complex and, interesting to be looking at it from the outside in. 

Tony: There are clearly players that have bought into the big idea of Man United. Absolutely. It’s this big thing that they know the history, they know the heritage, and they’re either comfortable with the demands on them to live up to that heritage, or they’re not. [00:50:00] They’re massively challenged by it and need a load of support to, to be nurtured through it to become who they could possibly be, bigger than they ever thought was possible, let’s say.

Tony: And you can see all these people fighting with themselves to show themselves in the best possible light under these extraordinary complex circumstances, with all the scrutiny of the world on them. Real match pressure as I would call it. And I think sometimes we forget that these are

Tony: players between, let’s say a large chunk of them between 18 and 25 years old. So they’re not even fully matured. male adults yet. They’re under extraordinary amounts of, self discovery. They must be learning so much, so many things as they go through this. 

Tony: I look at the individual and go this guy’s 23 years old. And because the game demands a certain level of performance in order to succeed, The 23 year old who’s trying to find his way in this murky world is getting treated by the external people exactly the same way as somebody [00:51:00] that’s been doing it for 10 years successfully.

Tony: Because the game doesn’t discriminate, it says you must be able to do this, and for Manchester United you must be able to do it this way. And if you can’t, we don’t care how old you are, on your bike, not good enough. And it’s a fascinating thing to behold, but it’s also a, quite an uncomfortable watch as well for me.

Rob: I think there’s a there’s a, we can look at Manchester United and Liverpool have alternated as the big teams. So you had Manchester United in the sixties with the Busby babes, or the fifties and the sixties. And then after Matt Busby retired, they just drifted off, got relegated.

Rob: They were in the shade for 10, 20 years until Sir Alex Ferguson came along. The the seventies Liverpool took over and then dominated football for the seventies and the eighties, and then suddenly they haven’t won a title until 30 years later.

Rob: So Juergen Klopp took over and he took over. What? When Liverpool were like, man United are now, [00:52:00] and. For me, he’s the poster boy for unifying the team. And what he identified was. Liverpool had this big reputation, and players felt, overall, they didn’t feel they were good enough. They were continually being compared to the 80s and the fans were like, they’d lost faith and so as soon as someone made a mistake, they were on their back.

Rob: So there was all this pressure that they were a big club, but they were a big club that had lost their way, and the players had become more average. And what Jurgen Klopp did was he recognised He was offered the job of Man United, but he didn’t want it. And he didn’t want, because they said to him, we’ll buy all these players.

Rob: We’ll make you, we’ll make the glamorous team. And he’s no, that’s not what I want. I want everyone to be a family. And he looked at the team and he said they just lack belief. And they were all for, okay, there’s a new manager coming in. They’re going to get rid of me because I’m not good enough.

Rob: He’s going to buy a whole load of new players. And he’s no, you’re good enough. He worked to unify everyone in the background. [00:53:00] He worked to get the crowd over. So there was a, an instance in against Stoke where Liverpool drew with Stoke and Stoke is like a low team who wouldn’t be expected to be in the same league as Liverpool.

Rob: And. He brought all the team over to applaud the crowd and everyone was looking at him. So what’s he doing? Applauding mediocrity? That’s they shouldn’t be Applauding that and what I didn’t understand was he was building the bond with the crowd and he was saying to the crowd You he was getting the players to say look we are one And his work was saying everyone, we are one, this is, Liverpool has a culture, this is the standard of Liverpool, we are Liverpool, we work as one.

Rob: And he built the team up. So now with Manchester City, they challenge mostly for everything. They’ve won the title again. And they are, one of the best teams in the country. And it was by giving the players confidence by building that culture around them. And it [00:54:00] was by unify everyone as one, that everyone had one goal and everyone, the backroom staff, and it was, it meant his job was to unify people to make people feel included, but also to take where, like other managers, like Brendan Rogers had been fighting with the transfer committee.

Rob: One of the one of the ways they turned it around was their recruits and they were able to bring people in and make them better. Because they were part of a system and no Liverpool player has gone away and been better anywhere else than they are within that team and that structure. So I think it’s when you can unify everyone and you give people belief on when people are divided and they don’t see a purpose and they don’t feel part of things.

Rob: That’s when supporters are, like getting on the backs and there’s division in everywhere. And that’s what I look at. Manchester United is under Ferguson. They were united. He, and sometimes the culture comes from the leader where he has such a [00:55:00] strong personality and a strong set of values that they create that.

Rob: sense of purpose and mission. That’s 

Matthew: the that’s the idea of vision again. And it’s, and you see it in business all the time where the company or the leaders of the company have a have a vision that’s not connected to the people. that work under the vision. They can’t buy into it.

Matthew: It’s too grandiose or it’s something they don’t believe in. And this disconnect happens and it just becomes cultural chaos. So you need a vision, as you were saying about Liverpool after the Busby era. You need a, you can’t let the vision get away from you. People have to be able to believe it and buy into it or it’s all it is vision.

Matthew: It’s not an idea anymore. It’s not an idea people can understand, believe, or buy into. It’s just you yapping away about something. Or your culture yapping away about something and you see it all the time in business and it’s the difference between really, you may notice a new [00:56:00] product or a new service or a hot new thing enters the market.

Matthew: And there’s 20 competitors. Suddenly they’re on every street corner. And then within about 3 5 years, magically there’s 3. Where did everybody go? Those 3 had a vision. And something to unify in an umbrella under which everybody could get under and the others didn’t. They’re all selling the same thing.

Matthew: I don’t know what it was like in Europe, but the big vape craze hit North America here and there was vape stores on every corner. And they’re all gone now. Except for one or two, because they had a vision, they had data they had a they had a culture that could hang on through the competitive nature of it.

Matthew: And that all the time. 

Saieed: I think me and Rob had this conversation not long ago when we were talking about Elon Musk and his, and the way he has this grand vision. Basically, which is normally spawn about as well. But another key component to that is the leadership team who take that vision and translate it into, [00:57:00] objectives into stuff that’s tangible into process, into method and how they then lead people under that to be able to.

Saieed: Align everyone toward that vision, because like you say, Matthew, it’s having a vision is not enough. You need that support. And I think that’s where that example is relevant to football teams as well. Because all we see from the TV screens or the stadiums is. a manager and 11 players on the field.

Saieed: A lot of people don’t know what the names are of the assistant managers and all the other staff that are working behind the scenes and what they do, which could be very, obviously is significant. It could be as significant as well, a lot of the times. I would add that to the mix where.

Saieed: Not only the vision is important and the culture is important and the alignment, you need that support network or that support team to be able to take that and then translate it and make it into something that’s measurable and achievable.

Saieed: I 

Michalina: think from [00:58:00] my perspective. I’m sorry. Sorry, Michalina. 

Tony: Please. No, please go on. 

Michalina: There you go. Thank you. I actually wanted to suggest that we take this conversation out of football and make it a little bit more inclusive because this is not about football. This is not about one set of culture and one setting of how do we make the perfect football team.

Michalina: We talk about variety of teams. We talk about those ingredients that Rob needs for his equation. We say there are different ones, but they don’t come up to equation. I think there is a there is a piece around shared purpose and shared goals and buying into what we are all here to do at the lowest levels of our organization, team, a smaller business, medium business or a large business.

Michalina: I think There is so much around diversity of thought diversity of expectations and mixed mixed backgrounds and mixed ways of thinking of what these things mean for us, that we’ve got a [00:59:00] lot of work to do at this level, and a shared purpose for a mother who’s returning from maternity leave. And coming back to the workplace, it’s very different to a VP who’s worked in the same organization for 20 years or to someone who’s just come in on a contract to do a specific piece of work.

Michalina: It’s very different to someone who’s disabled or has mental health problems and needs that support and reasonable adjustments, for example. It’s very different to someone who’s going for menopause and needs to deal with a lot of things that are very personal and very difficult to deal with while still performing at the professional level.

Michalina: So for me there is this element of a shared belief that we’re part of the team and what does that vision strategy and culture mean to me at this particular time of my life. But also there is a moment of that support and understanding And holding space for each other [01:00:00] to, to go through those different stages, whether this is having a young family or just starting out as a graduate or going through life changes, divorce or, tragic death in the family and dealing with that.

Michalina: And then still being able to contribute as a team member. There are so many more. Complexity still to, to talk about what this means to be a unified team. 

Rob: It’s complicated. 

Tony: It is complicated. Yeah. And I was sorry to take it back to football. No, it’s just, it’s important. I think in relation to the, because what struck me when Rob was talking about Klopp’s approach to taking the players to the fans when they lost a game that they shouldn’t have lost, there’s a humility in that and there’s a normalization of.

Tony: Of humans, we lose, we don’t always win. It’s actually real. We’re in it together. And I think

Tony: the business demand doesn’t discriminate. We need to be able to perform at a minimum level to deliver success for the [01:01:00] organization. Now, some days I’ll feel I’m up for that. I’m ready to go. And other days circumstances will prevail that make it more difficult for me to step up and be at my best. When I need to be at my best, that happens in sport.

Tony: It happens in business at every level. And I think that the biggest challenge I see between the sporting arena and the business arena is in sport to be at your best. It’s once a week and everything’s geared up to preparing for that. So after you’ve performed, whether you won or lost, you then get to analyze it, you get to recover, you get to train, you get to retrain, you get more information, you get supported.

Tony: If you’re not feeling great or you get the psychology, it’s all there. And then you need to go again a week later. Whereas in the corporate world, in the business world, there’s almost an expectation that every day. We’re back at it, and we need to be at match pace again and again.

Tony: There’s a relentlessness to it. And I think we need to, picking up on [01:02:00] all of those things that you were saying, Michalina, is to normalize those moments or those periods of time when people are just not at their best. It’s normal. But, under the umbrella that the business needs you to be able to deliver a minimum.

Tony: It’s like you say, Matthew, it is indeed very complicated.

Rob: Thank you all for being here. We’ve all brought different opinions, different strengths and different visions and ideas. But hopefully we’ve all learned something and refined our thinking in the process

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