ET-017: Unravelling Purpose from an Extraordinary Career
ET-017: Unravelling Purpose from an Extraordinary Career
by Wayne Brown on October 18, 2022
by Wayne Brown on October 18, 2022
Episode notes: A conversation with Prof. David Clutterbuck
Have you ever contemplated what you will be doing once you turn 75? I’m going to take a guess and say that even if you have, then your answer didn’t involve being actively engaged in more simultaneous projects than most active leaders are doing in their 30s and 40s.
Certainly, for someone like myself who is a self-proclaimed workaholic, I cannot imagine achieving even 50% of what our guest churns through consistently each week, month, and year.
This week following close on the heels of Dr. Marcia Reynolds our master Coach for the US, this week we have another world-renowned Master Mentor and Coach. In fact, I’m rightfully and passionately referring to him as the godfather of these professions.
Once you listen to our episode I’m sure you will be able to ascertain as I did that this gentleman has such rich experience.
An extract from our conversation and David’s answer to my question around that is how do you keep the energy? How do you find the passion and the drive to keep going at your age?
“I put it down to an intense curiosity. I put a lot of that down to a guy called Wilf. His name was Wilfred Tallis. He was a descendant of Tallis, the composer. And he was my English teacher, and we’d have English lessons, and we were talking about literature, and then suddenly, he’d go off talk about some algebra or architecture or arachnid, just for the A’s, and we’d go into so many things and what he’d show you were the connectedness between things. He was enthusiastic about every kind of knowledge. And that’s a large part of what’s driven me.”
LinkedIn profile extract – one of David’s many roles…
European Mentoring and Coaching Council
2008 – Present · 14 yrs 10 mos
My role here is to assist new countries to join the EMCC and to help existing countries expand their membership and influence. I also help liaise with bodies such as the EFMD and Government.
Today’s Guest: PROFESSOR DAVID CLUTTERBUCK
In our episode today, we visit the British aisles and the home of a true legend in multiple fields of business, leadership, mentoring, and coaching. It’s my great pleasure, therefore, to bring Mr. David Clutterbuck onto our show.
David is one of the early pioneers of developmental coaching and mentoring, and co-founder of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, author of some 75 books, including the first evidence-based titles on coaching culture and team coaching. Can you imagine 75 books?
And the latest one this year to celebrate his 75th birthday, he’s the visiting professor at four business schools and he leads a global network of specialist mentoring and coaching training consultants through the organization Clutterbuck Coaching and Mentoring International.
There’s so much that we could say about David’s achievements, and we’ll cover some of these in our conversation shortly. But among some of the less well-known perhaps are that he’s tried his hand at stand-up comedy.
He’s occasionally served as a travel correspondent, and he’s presently engaged in a mentoring program introducing the practice to schoolteachers and students.
♦ Prof David Clutterbuck | LinkedIn
♦ David Clutterbuck Partnership
♦ Clutterbuck Coaching and Mentoring International
♦ The Line Manager As Coach (training program)
♦ Global Team Coaching Institute
David Clutterbuck’s book – Coaching the Team at Work:
The full title of this book which was first released in 2007 and again in 2020 is “Coaching the Team at Work: The definitive guide to Team Coaching.” As you may have heard David has authored, co-authored, and mentored others about writing books. His research and evidence-based, no-nonsense approach does not always endear him to others with differing views, but it does mean that you are sure to be challenged to think before you simply agree.
Click on the links below to read more about one or more of the many books David has written.
Coaching and Mentoring Supervision
Building and Sustaining a Coaching Culture
What You’ll Learn @ The Global Team Coaching Institute
The future will need dynamic, agile, and collaborative teams, with the ability to adapt in uncertainty. This requires a continuous learning culture, new thinking, and a solid team coaching regime.
With groundbreaking pathways of thinking to study, the GTCI provides an excellent standard of tailor-made learning by bringing the world’s brightest minds on the subject of team coaching together in one place.
Final words from David: “We’re doing a book on coaching and neurodivergence. So, this is all about the experiences of people who are on the Asperger’s spectrum or HSPs, highly sensitive persons. So that’s a whole area that’s coming out. We are also doing a lot of work in reciprocal mentoring, and that’s… Many people have heard of reverse mentoring, where you take somebody from below, and they educate the executive about what it’s like to see the world as a Black person or a woman or whatever. But that only affects a small number of people, the people involved in the relationship.
And there is some reciprocally there, because the executive gets a bit of understanding and insight into their own implicit biases, and so forth. And the more junior person from a different background gets to understand the politics of the organization and maybe a bit of a boost to their career. But it is very, very limited in its impact.
With a reciprocal mentoring program, both parties are mentors to each other, and they have the responsibility to identify and want together to find ways of addressing the whole system. And what we do is put the whole cohort of these co-mentors together, both senior and junior, to come together and address the causes of discrimination and bias in the organization. The systemic causes. For me, this is so much in tune with what we’re trying to do more widely as coaches. We need to step away from a single interaction to a much bigger impact on the world.”
0:00:02.0 Wayne Brown: Hello. I’m Wayne Brown and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. In our episode today, we visit the British aisles and the home of a true legend in multiple fields of business, leadership, mentoring, and coaching. It’s my great pleasure, therefore, to bring Mr. David Clutterbuck onto our show.
0:00:33.7 WB: David is one of the early pioneers of developmental coaching and mentoring, and co-founder of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, author of some 75 books, including the first evidence-based titles on coaching culture and team coaching. Can you imagine 75 books? And the latest one this year to celebrate his 75th birthday, he’s the visiting professor at four business schools and he leads a global network of specialist mentoring and coaching training consultants through the organization Clutterbuck Coaching and Mentoring International.
0:01:14.2 WB: There’s so much that we could say about David’s achievements and we’ll cover some of these in our conversation shortly. But among some of the less well known perhaps are that he’s tried his hand at stand-up comedy. He’s occasionally served as a travel correspondent and he’s presently engaged in a mentoring program introducing the practice to school teachers and students. For those listeners involved in the art and science of coaching and or mentoring that I’m pretty sure that you’ve heard David’s name before. But aside from these arenas, he’s also somewhat of a serial entrepreneur having founded multiple companies, some of which he’s sold, and others that he still runs today. So with that and in preparation for our 40-plus minute episode, please ready yourself to capture the lessons and the learnings from this conversation with Mr. David Clutterbuck titled Unraveling Purpose from an Extraordinary Career.
0:02:18.7 Speaker: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.
0:02:37.1 WB: Alright, so Team ET today, not unlike most weeks, but today, I have a very special guest, Mr. David Clutterbuck. David has been one of my idols, I have to say, for so many years. Not so much in the coaching. Coaching for me has only come in the last half a dozen years, but from a mentoring perspective where I’ve been more involved in mentoring for maybe the last 30 years, David, of course is like the godfather of mentoring and, [chuckle] I don’t know if you’ve been called that before David, but…
0:03:09.1 David Clutterbuck: Oh, I have a few times. Yes, yes.
0:03:30.5 WB: We’re in for a real treat because David is such a wealth of knowledge in all things, not only coaching and mentoring, but in business in general, but also in multiple disciplines outside of the business spectrum. And hopefully, we get a chance to touch on some of those. But welcome, David. It’s a privilege to have you here.
0:03:33.3 WB: Normally, I kick off and I ask our guests for a fun fact. And I know when we’re doing some research on what to talk about, you have so many, I’m a little bit hesitant to ask the question, but I will, anyway. So do you have any fun facts that you would like to share?
0:03:49.3 DC: Well, I try and do a new challenge, find myself a new challenge every year, and that’s involving everything from skydiving from the outside of a helicopter to sort of the adrenaline rush to learn to be a stand-up comedian. And the scariest one of the lot was being the stand-up comedian, standing up in front, graduating in a comedy store club with 200 or 300 audience, and a whole row of gay bikers at the back. If you can do that, you can do almost anything. I would never think of doing it as a profession, but it was a real good challenge. And that’s what I like to see going. Yeah. What can I challenge? At the moment, I’m not getting very far, but I am slowly learning to lip read.
0:04:33.7 WB: Really? I won’t test you today, but… [laughter]
0:04:37.6 DC: No, no, I’ve got a long way to go. It’s just another… It is a really strong challenge. If you were actually deaf, it would be easier because you can’t… You’re not distracted, but actually… But as somebody who’s still got their hearing, or at least some of it, it’s quite… It’s very stretching.
0:04:57.2 WB: I don’t wanna share your age, but if you want to feel free, but let’s just say that we’re senior gentlemen and…
0:05:04.3 DC: I produced my 75th book for my 75th birthday this year.
0:05:09.0 WB: Wow. My question around that is how do you keep the energy? How do you find the passion and the drive to keep going at your age? And I don’t mean that in a negative way. I mean, that’s fantastic, but how do you find that drive?
0:05:23.8 DC: I put it down to an intense curiosity. I put a lot that down to a guy called Wilf. His name was Wilfred Tallis. He was a descendant of Tallis, the composer. And he was my English teacher, and we’d have English lessons, and we were talking about literature, and then suddenly, he’d go off talk about some algebra or architecture or arachnid, just for the A’s, and we’d go into so many things and what he’d show you was the connectedness between things. He was enthusiastic about every kind of knowledge. And that’s a large part of what’s driven me.
0:06:00.7 DC: When I do… I do a lot of coach supervision and what I love about that is the coaches bring to me the really crappiest issues. So they’re the ones that are most difficult to deal with. And we both get learning out of that. And then I start to write, or I’ll start to read. And I was going back this morning over some things about the phenomenon of loneliness at the top, and how as a coach, just asking somebody the question, how lonely is it being you in this organisation? And the flood gates that that opens.
0:06:41.1 WB: Yes, you’ve said you wrote 70 or you’ve written 75 books, I’m guessing 76. I’ve written one and it’s called “Solo Executives,” and that’s what it talks about. It talks about isolation, loneliness, not only, but about that topic, and so I fully understand where you’re going with just doing that questioning, how it opens up, as you said, the flood gates to a whole other world that you may not have uncovered otherwise. For the audience, they can’t… We’re only doing audio, so they can’t see your background, but you’re obviously sitting at home I’m guessing, and your backdrop is a wall-to-wall of books.
0:07:21.1 DC: Absolutely. [chuckle]
0:07:24.4 WB: I’m guessing many of them are yours.
0:07:26.9 DC: Quite a few of the shelves are mine, yes, [laughter] not all of them though. [laughter] And then it’s all the foreign translations that I don’t bother putting down, I put in the attic ’cause I can’t read them. And I can’t even, so I don’t even know what the book is, very old, but we get copies of those. The fascinating thing is in the 75th book, I was taking a retrospective look over 45 years of coaching and mentoring and leadership and talent management, and trying to get a sense of how things developed, my investigation of how dumb I used to be, which tells me how dumb I must be now.
0:08:00.9 WB: This must be a very thick book, [chuckle] not because of the dumb point, but going back 45 years over your career, it must be so much to unpack.
0:08:14.4 DC: Well, there’s over 80 just… Well, I could say substantial models and frameworks that have come out during that period. And it’s been fun to do this, and some of them like the Diversity Awareness data, which looks at various what the white… The internal and the external conversations we have with people who we perceive as different to ourselves.
0:08:38.4 WB: Right.
0:08:40.0 DC: They’re really quite fundamental in helping people to unpack the way that they think, but also then in the way they them behave towards other people. So I really enjoy creating ways to help people have really more meaningful dialog.
0:08:58.5 WB: Incredible. So looking at your bio and doing some research, you’re a visiting professor in three or four universities, you have, I don’t know how many companies, several but…
0:09:12.0 DC: I’ve built and sold two consultancies over the years, the first one to the staff, the second one to an American organization, and I currently have my own, a little company just it’s about me and what I do and the work that I do, and then I have Coaching and Mentoring International, which is a global network of coaching and mentoring, training providers and educators, and we’re in something like 100 countries and represented in 100 countries anyway, yeah.
0:09:47.4 WB: But that’s not all you do. [chuckle] In addition, you’re a special ambassador for the EMCC, the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, and you’re one of the founders, of course.
0:09:58.8 DC: Yeah, the two of us, David Megginson, who is no longer with us, unfortunately, and I dreamed it up at a conference back in 1991, so many of the first of the professional bodies in the field, and it’s growing and growing. I mean, we now are sort of 15,000 members, and that’s just signed-up current members. There are 55,000 students who’ve taken the programs and have been certified in various aspects, and so that’s substantial, and it’s… One of the things was letting go of it. So David Megginson and I got it going, we’ve been involved with it ever since.
0:10:42.0 DC: But essentially, we knew that other people had to take it over and shape it, and that’s what’s happened, it’s wonderful, all these amazing coaches and mentors who’ve taken part in this and shaped it. So we’ve got the competency frameworks, we’ve got all of the standards, we’ve got all of the ware with all. And I think, why the EMCC is so special is that it really does align it… So everything that it does to all of academia, to academic credibility, which is very different from the other professional bodies, which all have their own… Do things their own way. I think, if you can’t align to what’s happening in the higher education field, then that just says it’s a bit thinner.
0:11:26.5 WB: I understand.
0:11:28.0 DC: So there’s a rigor. I think about it, and half my time, I would say, when I’m writing, is spent demolishing nonsense, what’s the evidence base for this? And taking consultantees, these things that consultants have dreamed up and they have very little empirical underpinning, just questioning the whole thing. And that doesn’t always make you popular, but I wanna know, somebody said… Somebody claims you should be taking lots of notes as a coach, and I said, “Really? Okay, so where is your evidence for this?” And then we go and look for evidence, we find actually the evidence who points in exactly the opposite direction. If you are taking all the notes, you’re taking charge and you’re not really listening and attending to the client, and what we have to do is to stop every now and then and ask the client, “What would you like to capture?” ‘Cause it’s almost different from what you thought was important?
0:12:29.5 WB: So there’s many directions we could go with our conversation. I would love to spend as much time unpacking your background, your history. Is there anything that jumps out to you across your vast experience that you think would be of interest for our listener base, which are executive talents?
0:12:49.5 DC: I think everything that I’ve done comes down to the quality of dialogue that people have.
0:12:53.5 WB: Okay.
0:12:54.1 DC: And that includes the inner dialogue. So our ability to reflect and to learn through our reflections. And what we’re noticing is that the world of leadership is radically changing. What constitutes a good leader now is not the same as 20 years or perceived 20 years ago. And today’s leaders are much more secure, more effective leaders, they are much more secure in themselves, they don’t see themselves managing anybody, they see themselves creating the environment where people can manage themselves, they have these four wonderful qualities of compassion, then that includes self-compassion, courage to ask the most difficult things and do what is right, a curiosity, really wanting to know, to gather information that does… Not necessarily just looking for information that reinforces what they already thought. Connectedness, being connected with other people and with the wider world. And those four… I think that those four elements are so important in the shaping of tomorrow’s executives, and coaches and mentors come in here as well. So one of my current projects is we’ve been experimenting with materials in schools.
0:14:35.6 DC: We have the objective of creating five million school-aged coaches and mentors over a period of time, and the idea behind that is either it’ll benefit them in their own career management, but it will also benefit the people that the companies that employ them, because so many companies spend… Someone joins the company, they work for a boss who’s got a particular style, leadership style. And then the company says, “Well, no, no, we don’t want that style, we want you to behave like a mentor or a coach.” And they don’t know how, and it’s much harder to learn at that stage. If you’ve got those skills from school from the age of 12 or 15, you’ve got that with you, and I think changing the world of work and this notion of what a talented leader looks like, that’s a great ambition.
0:15:06.5 WB: Do the school children in the program, do they have an opportunity to continue practicing?
0:15:13.2 DC: Yeah, so there’s a whole chapter in the accompanying materials on how to mentor your parents.
0:15:17.7 WB: Oh, really nice. I’ll make sure my daughter doesn’t get hold of that.
0:15:24.7 WB: That is very good. A question that came to mind while you were mentioning that was for the younger executives today, we talk a lot about vision and purpose, and if I look back to my career, I’m not sure that I had clarity when I was their age, just starting my career, or sufficient clarity to really have a clear vision and purpose. And I’m wondering whether you were different or if you’ve observed other leaders that seem to have that as a trait.
0:15:58.4 DC: When we look at the number of studies that are people who have been at the top of their profession and whether it’s music or arts, but so many of them have got there by trial and error. The identity, the person they want to become is not a straight line, it’s emergent all the way through. We experiment with things, we actually find that we are drawn towards some things and away from other things, and because we can’t really imagine the person that we will eventually become, perhaps we have to go along with it, but have a sense of… It’s a big difference, I think, between having a sense of purpose, which is about the difference you want to make in the world versus a goal, which is very much more specific and is highly likely to change. And we’ve done this experiment over 30 years now, and it’s fascinating how it shifts too.
0:17:00.6 DC: We give people four areas of their lives. So there is reward, money, there is status and recognition, there is job satisfaction and work-life balance, and then we say, “Okay, so what you’re gonna do is you’ve got to… You have 10 points to allocate, but you can’t have any fractions, so how important are each of those to you right now?” And people work on it and they come up with a outcome. And then we say, “What about 10 years ago or 10 years in the future?” And what they get is a sense of themselves as an evolving organism, and almost… So that means if you are working with talented people, where you are at in your definition of success may not be the same as where they are in their definition of success and being able to accommodate that is, I think, really important.
0:17:58.5 DC: What’s really useful at any stage is to have one’s critical question. And I first came across this in a corporate environment. I was visiting the shoemakers, Clarks, in a little village in the west of England, and we spent time going around the showrooms. It was a lot of money spent on the showrooms. Then we said, “Alright, let’s go to the board room.” So we go to this little cottage, and as we’re going up the stairs, I realize that the carpet is quite worn, and we get into this room.
0:18:34.0 DC: And yeah, it’s a lovely big room and the furniture was obviously once quite expensive. But there’s stuffing coming out the chairs, and I’m looking around and there’s a bit of plaster coming off the walls, so I’m thinking, “Is this the boardroom?” And the chief executive says to me, “You’re wondering about the difference, aren’t you?” He said, “You’ve got to remember the company question.” And I look stupid and he say, “Look. Company question is very simple, does it sell shoes?” He said, “Anything about the showroom, anything about employee welfare, all those things, they sell shoes. Yeah, they create an environment, but the boardroom, we’ve never been able to justify anything than keeping it clean.” And that notion, that critical question. And all the way through one’s career, you can reflect and say, “What is my critical question right now at this point in my career?” And one point, for me, it was, “Will this make me respect myself less or more?” Very powerful question.
0:19:36.1 WB: Yeah.
0:19:36.3 DC: These days it’s, “How big a difference is it gonna make and is it gonna be fun?” But over the years, I can see that the evolution of that powerful personal question. And it’s a great way of focusing what you’re doing.
0:19:56.5 WB: As you look at your situation at the moment, as you mentioned, 75 years young, is there a change in the purpose?
0:20:06.2 DC: Oh, oh, it’s always evolving. There came a point probably 20 years ago when I realized there was a shift from doing things to creating conditions where other people could do things. So the European Mentoring & Coaching Council would be one of those things where we step in and enable other people to do this. Although I’m still producing several books a year and it’s always in collaboration with other people, or mostly in collaboration with other people. And there are a number of other books which I mentor the team doing it. So my role is to help them get the concepts together, make that whole thing happen. But I’m not playing the core role. I’m helping them to shape their thinking and the process. But I’m basically mentoring them. And I see this as a way forward in so many areas. And you can’t do everything and therefore it’s about having the greatest impact where you can.
0:21:07.3 WB: I have a couple of questions around the mentoring versus the coaching. We come into coaching, into the programs, and not in the program you and I are involved in, but as young coaches, we’re told there is this distinction, one tells, one asks, we have the EMCC, which is a union of the two. And I’m wondering what’s your thoughts around this?
0:21:34.9 DC: Basically, the whole confusion goes back to a bunch of coaches… Back in the early 90s, when a bunch of coaches came to Europe with their ideas about coaching as if it… And coaching was very new then. And they realized that there were lots of people doing for free what they were doing and trying to charge a fee for. And so they came up with nonsense, which had no historical base or any other base to say that, “Oh, coaching is non-directive, mentoring is directive.” Now, there is no historical value in that. The whole of mentoring has been a non-directive way of using questioning. In fact, all of the qualities that you see, that you would see in a coach that you’re looking for in terms of that stepping back and being person-centered, all that stuff comes from mentoring.
0:22:27.1 DC: And coaching, the word only appeared in 1851 as a joke. [laughter] And it was a dancing tutor. And then he got applied to academic studies, to sport. The whole history of coaching up until we started to see Timothy Gallwey’s work and others was all about telling people what to do. It’s a directive form of tuition. Full stop. But now, we’ve got this conflict and this, I think, very cynical attempt to try and downgrade what was being done mostly for free by coaches. So the EMCC pushed back against this very hard. And in our current researches around coach maturity, increasingly, we’re developing evidence that’s very, very clear, that the more mature coaches become, the more they meld coaching and mentoring in the sense that mentoring is coaching plus.
0:23:26.9 DC: So as a mentor, you bring relevant knowledge, experience, could be life knowledge, but you bring the capacity to empathize more, because you’ve been there. Or to ask better questions, again, because you’ve been there. But the big distinction between coaches and mentors is that coaches or mentors are far more likely to use their experience to craft great questions, and they’re more likely to be role models. So it’s a richer conversation. Coaches are much more likely to come with a portfolio of particular tools, but a professional mentor would do both. And the diagram that I use for this so often just to explain it, is that if you think of three concentric circles, the middle one, the one right in the center is about understanding yourself, getting clarity about who you are, your fears, your aspirations, your values and all that sort of stuff.
0:24:22.0 DC: The one on the outside is understanding the context, the world in which you live and operate. Now obviously, mentors would tend to focus a little bit more on that one and coaches more on the inner one, because the coaches can’t do the outer one.
0:24:36.3 WB: Yes.
0:24:36.9 DC: And the conversation… And the circle in the middle is the conversation that links that internal and external dialogue or sense of what is happening. So mentoring and coaching are all about creating clarity and this whole idea of advice giving, there is no distinct… No difference that we can find between when coaches or mentors offer advice. It’s always only in very specific circumstances when somebody is about to do something dangerous or stupid or it’s really needed. And it’s this confusion between giving context, which is information that helps you with the quality of your thinking and advice, which is doing the thinking for you.
0:25:18.7 WB: And I’m just, again, thinking now about our executive talent, part of their arsenal needs to be, as a leader, somebody who is competent in this area, whether it’s mentoring, you wanna call it mentoring or coaching. And I’m wondering which direction would they go, which would be the most useful for them? I guess, based on your answer, it could almost be their degree of experience, whether they leverage more mentoring style. But as you said, there is a very heavy connection between the two professions.
0:25:53.9 DC: But what we’ve learned from our work inside many organizations is that the line manager is coach. Well, this is an evolutionary role, and that there’s a basic level, if you think about the vision of coaching into skills, performance, and the fourth one is transformation. No, no, the behavior, behavioral change and transformation. If you’re trying to work with somebody and help them at that basic level with their performance, that’s where most line manager coaching happens. But if you are trying to create a different kind of environment and culture in your team, then it’s not about you doing the coaching, it’s creating that environment where coaching happens, and that might be the team coaches you. So it’s that vulnerability and that openness. And we talk about BEAU teams, so Business Evolving As Usual teams, which are highly agile, and where the role of the team leader becomes one of curator, and so rather than just chief coach in the team. And in a BEAU team, we give the responsibility to the employee or the direct report, to go manage their own performance.
0:27:06.6 DC: And the starting point is that every six weeks or so, they go to go to their key stakeholders and they talk with them about what they’ve done over the previous six weeks, what they’d like, what they ought to be doing. And they come up with a plan for the next six weeks, which includes both task and learning goals. Then they go to the team leader and the team leader coaches them through how they’re gonna make those things happen. So this is… And then every three months, it all comes together in a team development plan. So this is the core of a whole… A much more agile, a much more effective way of being a leader. Now, the scary thing is that we did a report earlier this year for the conference board, on post-COVID leadership.
0:27:49.3 DC: And some of the HR directors there were saying, of their top 200 people, a significant proportion were unable to adapt. They wanted to go back to the way things were before COVID. They were unable to adapt to a world where they have to be more vulnerable, give up control, etcetera. They are basically from a people management point of view, obsolete. This is scary. And of course, what it adds up is they try and micromanage, they do more and more to achieve less and less. That’s one of the critical things that we found. The other big thing that we are finding is that managers are frequently still trapped in linear thinking mode, most coaches are still trapped in linear thinking mode.
0:28:31.7 WB: Yes.
0:28:32.8 DC: Yeah. Oh, client, problem, solution, not how it works. Only at the very basic level. Context is vital in all of this. And so there’s so many factors, which is why team coaching is so valuable and supports change, but also, yeah, the team leader and the team are a complex adaptive system. The way they work together is constantly shifting like the little pieces in a kaleidoscope.
0:29:01.3 WB: Yes.
0:29:01.5 DC: And so really understanding the internal systems and the linkages of the team with the external systems, that’s a really… That’s increasingly becoming important.
0:29:12.7 WB: That leads into a second question I had around mentoring, because we are in this complex adaptive environment now. My own observation is that mentoring is not only for the silverhaired gentry anymore, it’s almost flipped over in many areas, in certain fields in particular, and IT as an example. And it demonstrates what you were saying about the comments from HR and about their current leaders struggling with the environment today. And having to rely their team to be able to find a way through rather than rely purely on the leader.
0:29:52.9 DC: Yeah, it’s… And increasingly what we’re finding is that we have to redefine what leadership is. So in the past, what we’ve assumed is being the leader and leadership are the same thing. What we now realize very clearly is that leadership is something that people take within the team, that the leader doesn’t have to take, to do all the things you might ascribe to leadership. And there’ve been very few real studies of what leaders actually do in a modern environment. Loads of things about personal characteristics and traits and all the rest of it, but what do they actually do? We’ve been working on this around the world, getting people to say, “Okay, so what are the functions of leadership in this team?” And they would tend to boil down towards planning and execution.
0:30:50.0 DC: And if you think about leadership as identifying something that needs to be dealt with, coming up with a solution and implementing it, that’s basically all leadership is. And so we say, okay, so let’s list all the things that somebody needs to take accountability in leadership for. How many of those need to be reserved solely for the leader? And the answer’s only two, that we’ve been able to find globally. One of those is to get permission from above to do things, and the other one is to protect the team from interference from outside. Everything else can be distributed to some degree with the rest of the team, even discipline or bonus, allocation of bonuses. We can find examples of teams managing these, either with the leader or on their own.
0:31:31.9 WB: I interviewed a consultant in Denmark recently, and they have a extremely liberal, let me use the word liberal, hierarchy or approach. Every year, they put the vote to the employees who they would like to have as their leader for the year.
0:31:51.7 DC: Lovely.
0:31:51.8 WB: And it’s a totally unique, in my experience, at least totally unique approach. But he was adamant that it was so powerful, because of that…
0:32:02.0 DC: It goes back… There were examples in the 80s and 90s of this around the world, but very few. I think Haniwaker in Germany was one of the first to do this.
0:32:13.7 WB: I had heard of it before in Europe, but that was the first real example I’d encountered.
0:32:18.7 DC: I don’t know if it still exists, but there was a company in Australia back in the 80s called Dynaback, I believe, and there, everybody got together to decide everybody else’s salary.
0:32:34.8 WB: That would’ve been an interesting conversation.
0:32:37.3 DC: You can do that as a small company. I think they had about 30 people. You can do that in a small company. It’s amazing how much if you trust people they can do.
0:32:44.0 WB: Yeah. And I think that’s really the core of it, right? Is we have this misconception, that we have to follow a certain structure, a certain hierarchy of thought and approach. And it seems to be incorrect.
0:33:00.0 DC: And HR, human resources, has not helped in many ways.
0:33:06.2 WB: I’m conscious of the time, David, so I don’t wanna keep you talking for too long. I don’t wanna put you on the spot here either, but we hit a lot of questions from our listener base around, can you give us some suggestions? Can you give us guidance? And I have a couple of scenarios. So I’ve chosen three, we’ve kind of addressed one of them, so I’ll skip that one. But the first scenario is, imagine that I’m a mid-level executive and I’ve been nominated as a talent for the last 12 months, but I seem to be having trouble making progress in my career. Is there an area in today’s world, in what we see today, post-COVID, where you feel it would be better to channel your efforts from a five year horizon, I guess?
0:33:57.2 DC: Oh gosh, there are so many things that we could go into here. But there was some work, quite some years ago into plateaued managers, plateaued talent. And there were a number of things that came out of that. One was your mental attitude. If you’re waiting to be discovered, it ain’t gonna happen. Basically. So you have to create the waves that are gonna move you on. And that means, getting much better at networking and authentic networking. Intriguingly, the next job that people get, when people make significant transitions, it’s frequently not from the people that they know well, it’s from the people further off, people they don’t know so well. So those distant contacts are important.
0:34:52.3 WB: Been a study about that from LinkedIn or something in recent times.
0:34:57.2 DC: Yes, we’ve done some work around women, and there was a study from the States that said that when women are giving project teams to run, they get half the budget and a third of the people, or the other way around. I can’t never remember which. And that partly reflects the size of the projects. But what we determined was that women are more likely than men to think that just doing a good job gets you noticed. And it doesn’t. That’s a hygen factor in terms of getting promoted. What actually matters is people who recognize that you are operating at a level above your current role, or you’re capable of doing that. And there is a study we did in the 90s, we tracked this, and we found that when people were promoted to a next level, they were typically already doing a number of activities which belong to that next level. And so getting that recognition. Finding the right project teams to be on, that are noticeable, particularly high profile ones, using sponsors in the organization to get put onto those. That’s some of the key things to. Finding a mentor, finding a sponsor, not the same person.
0:36:11.2 DC: A mentor helps you think through what you do, a sponsor actually takes an active role. The two roles are not compatible. So I think all of those things. And the last thing that we found is actually really coming to terms with yourself as a political animal. It’s so easy to say, “Oh, I don’t… Politics, no.” That’s nasty and messy. In Australia, you’ve got politicians almost as bad as ours, but… [laughter] In some cases. In fact, ours are so bad, they’re running around stabbing each other in the front at the moment. The whole thing about politics is that we actually have to engage with it.
0:36:51.9 DC: Most decisions in organizations are political decisions in one way or another. And there’s a wonderful book from South Africa, it says, “If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” And so we’ve got a books in press at the moment on coaching in a politicized environment. As part of the work on this, we did try and do a questionnaire on how balanced are you in being able to be politically aware, but authentic. So think politically act, act authentically. And it’s that’s what gets people noticed. That’s what gets you promoted. And so a lot of things powered into that answer.
0:37:30.4 WB: Sure.
0:37:30.7 DC: But if anybody wants to play with it, the questionnaire is free. We’ll give it to anybody. And hopefully, you’ll get a sense of where you are on this. We had a bank we did this, well, I won’t say where, just a couple of months ago. And the scale goes from politically naive to near psychopathic. And most of the people were right towards the psychopath end. [laughter] And yeah, that’s fitted with the culture that we’d observed.
0:37:58.9 WB: Where does value creation sit in that whole mix? Value creation is something I hear a lot about, you need to be creating more value than the next person to be able to move forward. Does that fit into your studies or what you’ve seen?
0:38:13.6 DC: Yeah, clearly you have to define what do we mean by value. But one company that we worked with realized it needed… It wanted to double its size organically. And it realized that if it was gonna do that, the top three or 400 executives were all gonna have to move up a few gears in what they were doing, but they were also comfortable doing the jobs they were doing that they wouldn’t let go of all these tasks, so they couldn’t actually move into these whole new areas. And so they didn’t just wanna appoint people to positions and just move the chairs on the Titanic. They said, “Okay, look, if you’re gonna be promoted, you’ve got to get rid of 25% of your job every year, by either making things not needed or by delegating it to other people.” And of course, not everybody could do it. Those that did, freed out all that time, to be able to focus on things that were more important. And it’s just as a discipline to thinking about you, “How do I stop doing a quarter of what I’m doing every year?” Because then you move into other areas that are gonna get you noticed and gonna get you promoted.
0:39:15.6 WB: Right. It ties nicely to the phrase unlearn, not only stop doing, but how do I unlearn some of the habits, or the things that I do almost unconsciously, subconsciously.
0:39:27.7 DC: A great question, coaching question is, whose job are you doing apart from your own?
0:39:32.6 WB: Well, that ties nicely into the second scenario, which is partially answered in your answer there. The second one is talking about senior executives. So somebody looking to move into that top 1-2% of the organization, but has really hit the wall. And they don’t seem to see any advancement opportunity on the horizon, so should they stick it out? Should they look for an alternative or, as you mentioned, look to how they can create their own future?
0:40:05.4 DC: Well, that’s the rub, is it gonna be within the organization? If you’ve… What we notice is that when executives get to that point, and they feel frustrated they’re not making progress, unconsciously they make it worse by the way that they respond to that.
0:40:24.4 WB: Right.
0:40:24.7 DC: And so we have a program in the UK for the HR profession. And we call it the Aspiring HR Directors Program. And in that program, we take people who are on the cusp of getting to become a director or getting to that next vertical role. But they would expect to be there in a year or two years time. And then we link them with a very experienced mentor from another company. And basically, that helps them to think through their positioning of themselves in the company they’re in, or it helps them to actually see, now I know how to go out and apply for a more of a directorship role elsewhere. And having that person, that more experienced HR director is great.
0:41:20.5 DC: We did a study to support this, with primarily European and Australian HRDs. And we asked them the question, “What do you know now that you’re an HRD, that you wish you’d known before you got there?” And apart from one person who said don’t do it, they were wonderful responses. And some of the key themes was really learned to be a strategic thinker, really step back and do less to achieve more. Really understand all the other disciplines around the table, the boardroom table. Yeah. So be able to speak the language of marketing and finance and so forth. That’s what gives you your credibility. And it is a major shift of identity becoming a senior functionary to becoming a director.
0:42:08.9 WB: Definitely. Definitely. Very nice David, again, conscious of the time. So I’ll move towards the final questions, but are you engaged in anything at the moment that you’d like to share? Are you doing anything exciting? New books coming up, new programs you’re writing? I’m sure there’s a million, but…
0:42:28.9 DC: There are so many. We’re doing a book on coaching and neurodivergence. So this is all about the experiences of people who are on the Asperger’s spectrum or HSPs, highly sensitive persons. So that’s a whole area that’s coming out. We are also doing a lot of work in reciprocal mentoring, and that’s… Many people have heard of reverse mentoring, where you take somebody from below, and they educate the executive about what it’s like to see the world as a Black person or a woman or whatever. But that only affects a small number of people, the people involved in the relationship.
0:43:13.3 WB: Yes.
0:43:13.7 DC: And there is some reciprocally there, because the executive gets a bit of understanding and insight into their own implicit biases, and so forth. And the more junior person from a different background, gets to understand the politics of the organization and maybe a bit of a boost of their career. But it is very, very limited in its impact. With a reciprocal mentoring program, both parties are mentors to each other, and they have the responsibility to identify and want together to find ways of addressing the whole system. And what we do is put the whole cohort of these co-mentors together, both senior and junior, to come together and address the causes of discrimination and bias in the organization. The systemic causes. For me, this is so much in tune with what we’re trying to do more widely as coaches. We need to step away from the single interaction to a much bigger impact on the world.
0:44:16.4 WB: And I can imagine that would feed the knowledge management topic as well very nicely, not losing all of that knowledge as people leave the organizations is very nice. You may not want people to find you, but if people were to try and find you, where would you suggest they go and look for you?
0:44:35.4 DC: Okay, so there are two ways, one is on LinkedIn. And very happy to connect with people on LinkedIn. [laughter] I usually say yes, except the young ladies from Russia who say how handsome I am. I usually say delete those quickly. And the other way is through the website, which is is clutterbuck-cmi.com.
0:45:01.6 WB: We would link to those in our notes. Very nice. David Clutterbuck, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me, fantastic for our listener base to be able to have this time with you, and to just tap into just the smallest fraction of what we could have spoken about probably for the day. [laughter] It’s been a great pleasure and honor, and I’m extremely grateful. Thank you very much for being on our show.
0:45:26.4 Speaker: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, eBooks, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.