Posted: 26th August 2022

Crescente on the Leading Remotely Podcast

Leading Remotely with Crescente

Leading Remotely Podcast Episode Five

Join John Chisholm, Managing Director at Crescente on the Leading remotely podcast. John is a leadership coach and accomplished facilitator, helping drive healthy productive and inclusive workplaces, and has extensive experience developing remote and hybrid teams across a range of sectors.

This episode covers:

  • The current state of professional development within remote organisations
  • Tips on how organisations can reinvigorate professional development
  • The obstacles to building a great remote first culture, and how to overcome them
  • How emotional intelligence and self awareness amplifies effective remote leadership
  • How remote working forces leaders to re-evaluate what great leadership looks like
  • How great leaders inspire their teams, and why so many leaders struggle with it

And more besides.

🎧 Subscribe to the podcast:🎧

Apple Podcasts


Google Podcasts

Amazon Music and Audible

Pocket Casts

All other platforms

Prefer to read? Find the entire transcript below.


Matt Hayman (00:28):

Hi and welcome to leading remotely. I’m your host, Matt Hayman. Thank you as always for taking the time to listen to the show and what a show we have for you today. My guest today is John Chisholm, managing director at Cresente. John is a leadership coach and accomplished facilitator, and he helps drive healthy, productive, and inclusive workplaces with extensive experience developing remote and hybrid teams across a range of sectors. John and I have known one another for nearly 20 years, and it was great to get his unique perspective on the critical challenges facing remote leaders. In this episode, we cover the current state of professional development within remote organizations, tips on how organizations can reinvigorate professional development, the obstacles to building a great remote first culture and how to overcome them, how emotional intelligence and self-awareness amplifies effective remote leadership, how remote working forces leaders to reevaluate what great leadership looks like and how great leaders inspire their teams and why so many leaders struggle with it. Thanks to John for coming on the show. It was great to have this conversation. I hope you’re gonna enjoy it as much as I did recording it. Let’s get straight to it with John from Cresente, John Chisholm. Welcome to the podcast. Great to have you on here. How are you doing?

John Chisholm (01:50):

I’m really good. Thanks Matt. Thanks very much for asking me on.

Matt Hayman (01:54):

Oh no, it’s a real pleasure. Really, really good to, to get you on. I’m sure there’s a lot of information you’re gonna be sharing with the audience that they’re gonna find super helpful. Why don’t we start in the usual place with a little bit of an introduction about you and the work that you

John Chisholm (02:05):

Okay. My name’s John Chisholm, I’m managing director of a company called Cresente. We develop leaders and teams and organizations. I’ve, um, I’ve got a bit of an interest in past, I think, started in a clinical role, um, way back when, and then didn’t really kind of gel with that, did a master’s in information systems design and worked in as a systems analyst and, and developing systems in, in large organizations. Didn’t really gel with that. Um, and then kind of identified a kind of unifying feature essentially, which was the only thing that all of the things I had throughout my sort twenties and in common was learning and developing me and developing other people. So once that kind of penny dropped, I was a bit like, right. Okay. So I think it’s all about developing people so fast forward, scary number of years, 18 years, something like that. That’s how long I’ve been developing people in that time. I’ve also worked in, in senior management and executive OD roles and looking after diversity and inclusion and that sort of stuff. But I kind of see myself as a practitioner of just developing leaders, teams and organizations, really. I think the style of that is, um, sort of creative men and just what works pragmatic, creative.

Matt Hayman (03:19):

I’m fortunate with the podcast to speak to a lot of remote first leaders. And one of the things that seems to come up more frequently than I think it probably should is the idea that during COVID personal development amongst a team may have taken a bit of a backseat as everybody tries to maintain business as usual. Is that something you are seeing and, and how do you think about that challenge?

John Chisholm (03:40):

What I’m seeing is that people have put on the back burner development because there’s been a focus and a need to get work done and get through stuff. So I think any kind of individual and team, you know, when we become task focused, then you sort of squeeze out learning, you know, that, that kind of development time, whether it’s professional development, personal development, whatever it kind of does get pushed back a little bit. And I think that’s okay when you’ve got a job of work to do and you need to kind of get through a period. But I think also you need to understand when that’s going to end and when that comes back again. So I think the theme for me throughout probably our, uh, the, the different conversations we are gonna have in this session is, is probably that really, which is that, that we need to bring some businesses and organizations need to start being deliberate again, in terms of developing people and, and understanding what people’s needs are and, and what the, the shape and the look and the feel and the vibe is in that business and the future.

Matt Hayman (04:39):

And what would you say are some of the first steps as they try and get back to that kind of development? What are some of the things that they can do to start to get that wheel turning again,

John Chisholm (04:47):

For me, there’s a number of different perspectives. So I think I would start with thinking about what’s the, what’s the perspectives here. I know we’re gonna go on to talk about motivation, but let’s think about kind of what’s the business need. Ultimately, you know, it has to be driven by what the business need is. And I think the big shift for me, and this may be very obvious to your listeners and, and maybe some people not, but, um, is that kind of triple bottom line, that idea of kind of people planet and profit. And I think, you know, businesses used to be a lot about profit a moment ago. We just said, you know, if there’s a profit motive and it’s very task orientated, then things get squeezed out. But thinking about wanting to bring back development is that kind of people bit. So I might be trashing our second part of our conversation here.

John Chisholm (05:31):

Um, but I would say, you know, what’s important. Um, so I would say what’s the business need? Where are people right now? And how are they feeling so individually? And from a team perspective, what are tho what are their needs? And then somewhere in all of that is a need to be deliberate. I think I just mentioned, but also to bring a bit of structure to that. So a lot of businesses are not gonna have the opportunity to stop and then review everything and then go again, which would be lovely, but it’s kind of not gonna happen. But I think some of that needs to happen as a rolling kind of review and reevaluation and then a, a rebuild, if you like. So I, I think I would start with that sort of, I guess, almost like reflective process, stopping figuratively to actually just take a look and, and I guess as well, a key thing for me would be to listen and tune in and it’s listen on all channels really, you know, so, so how are people feeling?

John Chisholm (06:33):

Are we checking in with people? And then I guess what I would say from a practical point of view is, um, I can give you lots of practical examples, quick, easy, little things we can do, you know, we can do check-ins or we can do kind of, you know, coffee time, break, time roulette. We can do, you know, there there’s, there’s kind of fun things that you can do, but actually if you’re doing those and they seem tokenistic, if they’re just kind of going to bounce off the surface, then actually you’ve missed the, the larger point here. Um, and I think that would probably have a negative impact on going for productivity, you know, employee retention or those kind of big things that we’re trying to achieve.

Matt Hayman (07:14):

Do you think there’s anything unique to remote and hybrid that makes this more of a challenge? And if so, what can leaders in those roles do to, to overcome some of those

John Chisholm (07:22):

For the fully remote businesses? And there are quite a number of those that we’re working with? Um, I would say development has definitely dropped off, certainly in terms of my experience of that. Uh, it depends on the nature of the business and the sector and who they recruit, but essentially I think the biggest area that that seems to be struggling in terms of development are school levers and graduates, uh, college levers and so on. So what we’ve seen is a shift from developing people face to face to, uh, for, for a lot of our organizations to developing people remotely for fully remote. Then if those organizations were fully remote before COVID, then I think there probably are that maybe they were used to having training and development already, uh, in with their work. So in that case, if it’s just a, a kind of workload issue, then, you know, that’s a, it’s a case of prioritization.

John Chisholm (08:21):

That should be a fairly simple situation. Um, but for a lot of the businesses that I’ve worked with, which have made fully taken the plunge to they’ve got rid of their office completely, um, and they’ve moved to a fully remote model, I think they’re the ones where they’re having to adjust and adapt all the different approaches to developing people. So putting it back on the table, in terms of it being a priority, a lot of those organizations had certainly slightly more mature organizations had got rid of ARA performance, appraisals and review conversations. And so on making it a little bit less formal in terms of checking in with people. And then just like I was going to go on to say F from our point of view, developing people, it’s all of the similar sort of approaches. So workshops become virtual workshops and coaching circles can, can move online or, or action lens sets or whatever you wanna call them and then, you know, peer reflective sessions.

John Chisholm (09:21):

So do you want to adjust what you had previously or do you want to kind of throw all of that out the window and start again? So I would say businesses that are transitioned to a fully remote kind of structure format, um, then I think they should ask somebody like me to come in and just do it from the Grammy. I’m bound to say that man, like do it from the ground up, but it’s a kind of creative process that doesn’t need to take very long. You know, if I need an expert in something, then you know, you get them in to just help you redraft a, a plan that you, you are super excited about and super inspired by. So, you know, if training and is, so what is it even achieving on, on our YouTube channel? I did a video a while back on what’s the point of training and is training the answer type of thing.

John Chisholm (10:07):

And it’s actually sort of coming from what’s the business need. I’ve already said this earlier on, I suppose, what’s the business need and, and what’s the individual needs. Are we kind of matching those up well enough? Um, so I would say thinking about a, a total refresh would be really good in a kind of creative way. That’s gonna engage and inspire people. Um, and then thinking about, uh, what motivates people. People still want to do a great job. They still want to develop. So it’s really, really key. And so we’ve gotta work out exactly where that fits in the kind of grand scheme of things, what drives individual people. My other concern that I would really like to highlight, and I’m probably gonna come back to a lot and it’s a real kind of passionate area for me is about diversity and is about inclusion and taking those separately and on a fully remote model, whether you’ve moved to that or whether you are that, um, is making sure that you haven’t got unknown kind of biases in there.

John Chisholm (11:05):

So thinking from a diversity point of view, if a person, um, you know, what’s going on in that individual’s world and what is an overreach from a management point of view, you know, my concern, a big conversation I would have about developing managers and leaders all the time is about, you know, boundaries, like what what’s okay. Like how far as a manager, can I look after my people and what becomes a bit too friendly or a bit too informal or a bit, or a lot too much of an ovaries. So then I think, I mean, have you got caring responsibilities and who’s more likely to have that and you’re working from home or, you know, and then other sort of just general factors, like maybe kind of backgrounds, maybe what’s going on in that person’s community or whatever. So that’s the kind of diversity bit it’s really, really key for me is that we are not, not, it’s not the people who are more visible who are getting the, the training or the development opportunities or getting the promotion opportunities or the more favorable work or whatever.

John Chisholm (12:04):

I mean, you know, how it works. So that’s the diversity bit. And then sort of separate to that is the inclusion stuff for me, which is just basically a sense of belonging. You know, it’s about humility and kindness, et cetera. And that’s in that kind of motivating factors and that’s that kind of people bit where people wanna feel like there’s some sort of social value that you’re expecting people to work in their community rather than, you know, a few years back the big corporates pre COVID did workplace as community. Well, rip that up, you know, as community as workplace now. So what’s going on with that? How, how does that work and, and what are we doing as an organization to fit into that community? Maybe. So I’ve probably taken us a little bit off topic, but it’s dead on topic in my mind in terms of developing people, giving people opportunity, promotion, development, whatever.

John Chisholm (12:59):

And so that’s gonna be varied. And then obviously this geography time zones, you know, there’s the, just sort of like the, the essential stuff in terms of calling people in to, to attend a training or not. I had to call yesterday from a company, uh, wanting to do a training and they are going to call people from all over the world to come together, to do a training, uh, two, couple of days on, you know, some, some project management stuff that they want, something quite specific, um, that’ll help them to, to meet their customer’s needs. You know, they’re seeing it as a bit of a sort of cheeky, little innovation and, and something that they can use as just as an opportunity to, to come together. So you said you are, you know, people come together once or twice a year. What is that for?

John Chisholm (13:41):

And what format should that take, et cetera. And I think if you do the learning bit of that, and so it’s partly collaboration, it’s partly building trust. It’s hopefully fingers crossed having some fun and just meeting your colleagues, but actually putting a learning component in there, I think can be really cool as well. So find some structure, be deliberate with it. Um, you know, kind of listen, tune into people, work out what is driving people to join or leave your organization, think about what the opportunities, just so secondary tertiary opportunities development can bring and so on. So yeah, I, I hope that answers the question a little

Matt Hayman (14:20):

Bit. It does. It does. So if we think about motivation and culture, things that you’ve touched on already, again, one of the things I’m hearing from guests on the show is that there seems to be a move towards a more commoditization of labor. In other words, if I don’t feel as though, uh, there is a culture that I’m aligned to, or if I don’t feel part of a team and I’m not bound by a physical location, I really could take any job anywhere and potentially earn more. So what do do you see as some of the main obstacles around building that culture, building that, that sense of motivation amongst the team

John Chisholm (14:58):

Labor’s been commoditized since people were doing jobs, you know, like actually, maybe that’s fine. If you’ve got a steady flow and, and your company has got a cool enough employee employer brand then fine, you know, just kind of chew people up, spit ’em out, give them the opportunity. They don’t pay them much. They clear off that. I mean, that’s okay to, to some, it’s not okay to me, but to some people that’s okay. If you’re looking at something that’s more like you want to retain people and build a sense of loyalty and, and the sense of belonging, then I guess that’s about investing in your, in your employer brand, you know, and, and making it a place that people want to be, cuz there’s only so many of those top tier kind of companies and opportunities. And I think a lot of people know that the experience is that they’re gonna get loads of experience and learn a lot very quickly, but they’re also gonna have a, you know, kind of mental health issue or something at the end of it.

John Chisholm (15:54):

So, but that that’s generally unknown, but I think for most other companies then, and to answer your question more, more kind of properly, if you want to develop that culture, then, then what is the nature of that? What do you want? So we talk about motivation of individuals from a kind of intrinsic and an extrinsic point of view, but what about an organization or a business what’s its intrinsic motivation? You know, so what are you, what is that business wanting to achieve? And what’s the balance. And, and you can read around in trade press and find the full range, you know, from people who give up their company leaders that give up their, their salary and share it amongst their employees and go almost to the level of it being a partnership or a cooperative or something like that all the way through to it not being that.

John Chisholm (16:42):

And it’s still being a, a normal, fairly kind of, you know, kind of hierarchical sort of structure, which works perfectly well. And everybody knows what they want to do, but actually it’s a great place to work and people wanna stick around. So I think you’d have to kind of engineer that, the stuff that gets in the way, and I think the shift is, and I think you already used the word alignment. The shift is in that align the degree of alignment in my opinion. So I decided to move out of the big city and go and live somewhere kind of cool, you know, like I, I like certain kind of leisure activities or whatever, you know, and a lot of people did that. They, they took the risk, they took the plunge if they even saw it as a risk. And so individuals are looking to kind of live their lives.

John Chisholm (17:27):

And I know, uh, again, another of your previous guests talked about this in a really, really brilliant way. And so I don’t wanna kind of repeat that, but actually the alignment is what’s important to that individual. You know, if we just kind of take some kind of values criteria what’s important and what’s most important. And to them, it’s not about the job. You know, I would rather take a sort of much lower salary in a company that I enjoy or do they want to, and all individuals are different, you know, just kind of bouncing on from the inclusion idea. Then it really does depend and it, and individuals are all different. You get very career minded people, people who want a bit more of a balance. So culture to me is measured by the language and the behavior, uh, and the values. It’s the way people show

Matt Hayman (18:12):

Up. We recently had an offsite, John, and I wanna get your thoughts on this. We were really looking as a company to start to think about what kind of a remote culture do we want. And we were starting to just think through ideas around what do we want this culture to be? And the input that I gave was around us having a sense of understanding of what each of us wants as, as a remote culture and then for that to be respected. But I also wanna be stretched. What are your thoughts about that? About actually designing a culture from the ground up, respecting what people want, but also stretching them so they don’t become complacent and just exacerbate their own preferences. Any thoughts around that?

John Chisholm (18:50):

Yeah, sure. I don’t think cultures exist in a vacuum. You know, I don’t think there would be like an absence of culture at any point. I think if you are not deliberate with it, then essentially you’re just going get, however people show up. And, and so it’s going to be fairly random, I guess. And I think my in a kind of quest to want to have things balanced, you know, thinking about a kind of natural world for a minute, that the kind of balance between order and chaos, then I think that’s the answer to the question really. So if we’re going to be deliberate about culture, what I would da, I mean, I’ve already said about listening to be, you know, I would ask you like, what do you want the culture to be? How should we show up? How do we want to kind of do this, this kind of work and how do we wanna be together?

John Chisholm (19:38):

So, yeah, I think a lot of work is done on culture. I think if you don’t do anything to it, it just will, it’ll just be whatever it is. Do you want to, I mean, I guess people tend to go with values, you know, kind of an expressed sense of, of some values. Uh, I think a more modern approach on top of that and developing that idea a little bit around kind of developing cultures is about valued behaviors. Um, and again, I think that’s a little bit more kind of speaking to what you are talking about, which is then trying to put some reality to that. Like what does stretch look like? And I just think you’re just going get, you know, you said about stretch as an example, so yeah, we want respect. Um, I want kindness and I want fun. Like, you know, that’s my workplace.

John Chisholm (20:25):

If we, if yeah, maybe it’s not everybody’s culture <laugh>, I dunno what it says about our business, but, you know, just actually I would rather lose the piece of work or I’d rather, my staff were kind of healthy and well than, than be driven down by a particularly tricky project or tricky client or whatever you wanna call it. But equally we want to be conflict competent, competent. We wanna be really good at difficult conversations. And, you know, I’ve done a throwaway statement that somebody’s kind of got upset with. Obviously that’s tricky remote wise to make sure we tune into that. And that’s a whole nother conversation, but from a culture point of view, then choose the things and then define them behaviorally and linguistically. Um, and then kind of expect people to, to do that. Um, how do you, how do you kind of pull people up on that though?

John Chisholm (21:12):

You know, and again, I kind of, how, what, what do people wear when they, you know, when they’re on the screen? Like how do people present themselves physically to, to, to colleagues or to customers or what have you just, cuz it’s remote doesn’t mean to say that it shouldn’t be professional. So it’s usually around a, a, a sort of guiding set of values and principles. But then I think the more modern kind of approach is to put some, some kind of meat on those bones and things that people can actually say and see. Um, so I dunno if, to answer the question, but does everybody want stretch? And you said, no, it’s kind of like different, you know, but what systems, so the order to that would be what systems and measures and metrics do you want to put in place for that? So from a leadership point of view, and I know we’re going to go on to talk about inspiration, but mainly my job is about developing managers and developing leaders.

John Chisholm (22:05):

You know, we develop teams and organizations too, but it, you know, 90, 80, 90% of it is managers and leaders. So as a manager then, or as a leader, same sort of thing, I’ll use those interchangeably and that’s okay then like what vibe are you creating? You know, am, if I’m your manager, am I stretching Matt? Or is he just a bit kind of switched off? Or, you know, if I say, uh, oh, I’m, I’m back from leave whenever, you know, if you need me and you want to just check in it’s like, is that your version of being available? You know, like just however you think you are doing basically where I, where I’m seeing the world of, of developing people in remote organizations going is needing to be way, way better at managing and leading way more tuned in everything you were doing before is the answer, Matt, but with more refinement, more focus, more care, more sort of diligence, more precision, all of that.

Matt Hayman (23:05):

And is that because you’re not face to face, you are not picking up on those subtle cues, what is it that’s unique to remote that’s making that situation occur?

John Chisholm (23:13):

Yeah, I think it is. It it’s that lack of kind of, of enough trust and enough awareness. Like, you know, it’s hard enough when people are in a building to actually then go, uh, you know what, I might just get that conversation or, you know, I might just kind of conveniently not be available for, you know, like when that person walks past or, you know, I, I guess a lot of us know how that goes and what that actually looks like. So I would say, yeah, I, I think it’s a lot to do with just kind of missing information. So anything, you know, including great tech products that can kind of give people as much information as possible and then, and then giving opportunities for people to actually check in with each other or whatever. And if that feels a bit, if it feels a bit sort of wooden do, is it wooden and is it tokenistic and bad?

John Chisholm (24:06):

You know, is it just sort of NA or calculus or whatever, or is it, or is it that it just it’s awkward and a leader needs to hold the awkward, you know, as a facilitator and mediator as my main aspect of my job, really with groups anyway, it’s just about holding the space. You know, I know that sounds a bit kind of NAF, maybe it’s that kind of dialogic kind of holding the space and just allowing, you know, and enabling and, and creating a sort of, uh, natural world metaphor in my mind anyway, rather than a machine metaphor. So, you know, kind of industrialization is very much management as a, as a mechanism and very task orientated and process orientated. And I want all of that and all of the best of that. And now we are focusing back on trust and people and whatever, the, the huge trend that we’ve seen uptick based on remote and, uh, changes in culture that have essentially just happened is about what people like me are now calling lifetime learning core skills.

John Chisholm (25:09):

It used to be soft skills. I’m old enough to remember like soft skills are, oh, no, people used to kind of roll their eyes and be like, oh no, gotta go and do like a communication skills workshop that I’ve done five times before. Well, I’m not doing the same communication skills workshop, but actually we need it, but we need the new version of it. And it’s different. So all of the same things you had before, but completely different basically. So I, I, there’s so much in there that I need to unpack and qualify, but actually the emotional intelligence communication skills consciously kind of leading have a clear sense of kind of values and purpose and, you know, really, really living and breathing that as a manager and leader, knowing how you are showing up, knowing what availability looks like and, you know, just, yeah, just, oh, don’t yeah, just all of those things. <laugh>

Matt Hayman (26:02):

Do you lead a remote team, but struggle with spontaneous communication and collaboration? If so, I’d like to invite you to check out our platform, a virtual workspace where teams connect, collaborate, and grow working side by side from anywhere for a limited time only podcast listeners can use the discount code L R P 30 to get 30% off your first three month subscription or annual plan head on over to, start your free trial today and use discount code L R P 30. Now back to the interview. So I just wanna circle back for a second, John, to this idea of culture and something that I’ve certainly encountered speaking with other people in, in leadership positions who leading remote teams, and that’s a focus as they try to develop a remote culture, a focus on outputs rather than outcomes. They think that the way to develop the culture is to do what has worked so far. So a certain type of check-in a certain format and not necessarily seeing those as a byproduct of a relationship of a way of working. Talk, talk for a little bit about that, because I think especially when there is a blank slate, people will look to replicate what seems to be working elsewhere or seems to be working inside, but they’re not, they’re not really seeing the outcome they’re focused on the output. What are your thoughts around that?

John Chisholm (27:23):

That’s a really interesting question. I, I just don’t think we can do the same staff. You know, I think leadership and management needs to be about all of the things that it was before, but completely different. So I think the focus for me then would be on, on getting the detail, right. You know, if you’re kind of managing and leading people, then what works for one person is not going to work for another. And I’ve been manag, uh, developing, managing leaders for whatever it was. I said 18 years or something. And actually I thought people were already on top of that idea. <laugh>, you know, even like in a building or whatever, I thought the idea was that we need to kind of be flexible and think about people’s levels of motivation and people’s different kind of values and so on, but in a, in an individualized way.

John Chisholm (28:14):

So I, you know, to, to answer your question directly and ensure, I thought we were already doing that and what works with one person absolutely. Doesn’t work with another and, you know, do we need to then go off and as a manager be like the world’s expert on people or motivation or whatever. No, not really. I don’t think so. It’s about kind of noticing the feedback that you’re getting. So I think it’s just about being tuned in really, I would say, and I don’t think that needs to, you know, don’t pull a funny face when you’re doing it, you know, <laugh>, it’s not like where you sort of have a conversation and you, you try quizzically try to work out whether, whether it works for the person and it’s about, I think there’s enough knowledge in, in leading and inspiring people. You need to know what your natural style is and how to flex and, and what’s working, but then equally be able to individualize that.

John Chisholm (29:06):

So it’s partly about the work itself. It’s partly about like kind of projects and, you know, workloads and all the rest of it, but actually it’s gotta be on an individualized basis. I think there’s some details in terms of how teams work together as well, um, that people often find quite useful in terms of the level of sort of interdependence required in a team. You know? So is it a team where I’m reliant on you, sequentially, you know, like a, like a production line or something I do my bit, you do your bit, and then we pass it on to the next person to do this, or is it, it truly like a, like a field sport where, you know, a big number, 11 people or however many people come together and have to work perfectly together in order to kind of score the goal and get it over the line.

John Chisholm (29:53):

And I don’t think works, I think works rarely like that, to be honest. So what are, what are people coming together for and how does that work? But to go back to your question, I think, no, don’t, don’t do any of the things you were doing before. <laugh>, I’m gonna go categorical on it, just be like, no, don’t do any of that. Think, be deliberate. Think about how you want things to be, and what’s working and not working. And if you don’t do it on an individual basis, don’t be surprised when that person gives you their resignation letter, you know, and as a manager in the past, I’ve had that occasionally, rarely, but like, you know, the first I ever found out about it, that somebody wasn’t happy was when, when that happened, you know, and actually that is like a total and worst, you know, so for me, the worst failure of my career, okay.

John Chisholm (30:39):

I was probably two or three levels of management higher up than that, but it’s still, I take that personally because I, you know, that I wasn’t aware that that was even a thing. And so the difference of people, how they feel, how they show up, how happy they are and therefore how productive and so on they are, is really subtle. It’s subtle. You’re gonna have to tune in. Yeah, it’s gonna have to be different. Um, and it’s, you’re gonna have to be deliberate with it again, I think the other thing that Springs to my mind is where if you are using certain pieces of software, so you are a depending on your level of maturity as a company. So where if we focus on fully remote, for example, again, the, in terms of level of maturity, like how, how embedded are your practices and so on.

John Chisholm (31:29):

So thinking about culture, just from a ways of working and, and all of that, do people know what they’re doing and so on. And then if you bring in certain pieces of technology, like I worked with a, an organization recently who brought in a piece of technology, they are really well thought of as being, it’s a huge law firm. Um, and they are really thought of as being, they don’t pay as well as everybody else, but it was happier and nicer and friendlier. And people kind of wanted to work there. People would tend to work there more in the middle of their career, which means they, which is great, you know, cause you’re getting kind of experienced people and people would stay a bit longer. They then implemented a piece of software, which is a time tracking piece of software. And then not only that, but they were, were given.

John Chisholm (32:18):

And, and it’s an unintended consequence just to be clear. My point is, you know, it was intended as a billing tool and it turned into wrecking the culture to cut a bit of a story short because they then said, oh, well, there must be X amount of billable hours per day per lawyer. And I just think even in, in our small business, we implement the thing, what did that do? What, you know, what impact did it have? So it is really, again, it’s not just about tuning into people. It’s about tuning into changes that you’ve made maybe in tasks and processes as well. Um, so yeah, it’s not always obvious at all, unless you are paying attention. So yeah, I would take kind of look out for, for the, for those sorts of consequences with softwares too. And it might be communication stuff, but it might be like a time tracking piece of software. It might be a database or it might be a, you know, it could be anything at all. And this integration seems to have done what exactly.

Matt Hayman (33:18):

Okay. So John, for the last section of the podcast, wanna talk about inspiration, massive topic. People have written books on it and will always write books on it from your perspective, why is inspiration such a critical component of leadership?

John Chisholm (33:33):

Wow. Where do I even start with that? <laugh> um, do you know, we run leadership programs that are, you know, like mates to manager all the way through to like execs and you know, like everything in between that that’s our job, that’s what we do. And regardless of years of experience or background personality type, what, whatever it is that you, you know, that makes a, a person on one of these programs themselves, it’s inspirational leadership that like most people struggle with. I, I don’t know why, and I don’t even know if that kind of helps, but like it, it is the biggest one. And then you can go into, well, what is it? Is it because it’s about, you know, philosophy or is it about personality or is it about, I don’t know, spirituality and faith. Is it about storytelling ability? Is it about your, the clothes you wear?

John Chisholm (34:32):

So many things, so many different aspects of, uh, of a person and of, of a context inspire people. Um, and yet from a development point of view, which is always my kind of, you know, go to for obvious reasons. Um, it’s the one that people seem to struggle with. I don’t know what it is. You know, the, there is a small-ish I wish I had the numbers, but there a small percentage of people who are naturally just kind of really good at that stuff. And then everybody else is like, I have to learn this <laugh>, you know, is like we do so even team leader trading for a lot of, a lot of companies, you know, it’s about personal brand and you know, your, your online presence, your presence in the company on, on kind of, you know, internal social medias and stuff like that.

John Chisholm (35:17):

So it it’s become a real thing, but you can inspire people to leave by the way as well. You know, you can inspire people the wrong way. I think it’s kind of positively connoted, isn’t it, you know, like I’m gonna inspire you and it’s like, you inspired me to run in the opposite direction, mate. <laugh> it’s just, it’s not what we’re looking for. I don’t know. So yeah. Be careful in terms of the sort direction of inspiration, I suppose. Um, but I would say, ah, inspirational leadership is about empathy. You know, it’s about understanding people and understanding how, you know, what drives people and understanding yourself. And I think that’s why that’s my best guess as somebody who’s been doing this a lot as to why people find it intimidating to learn, because it’s not some kind of task stuff you can learn out of a book in the week, over the weekend, it requires introspection.

John Chisholm (36:15):

It requires self knowledge, et cetera. So I think to be an inspirational leader, uh, you need to have a enough of a sense of yourself. And let’s take another idea if, uh, if we’ve got time, which is like vision. Now you can have a vision for your team and your team could be two or three people. You could have a vision for your project or whatever. And actually in simple terms, that’s you just being able to articulate an output, you know, or an outcome like, you know, or, or just a, a, a vibe, a tone or fun, fun project, this one or heavy project, this one, you just set the tone for the next, however many months, just by saying that don’t say it then, you know, or, or what vibe and what kind of emotional energy you bringing to a particular thing. So I think there’s that kind of effective stuff.

John Chisholm (37:05):

The, the kind of emotional energy bit. And then I think there’s the cognitive empathy, which is just sort of bit more like a vision, but we’ve gotta build insight down the road from us. And on the front of the build site construction site, there are loads of kind of safety banners. You know, I, if you don’t have your boots, goggles, high visits, et cetera, on don’t even walk on site. Well, that’s a vision, you know, it’s a notice, it’s not even digital signage. It’s just a bit of PLA plastic that, you know, or metal or whatever that that’s kind of screwed to the front gate. It’s still sets a tone. So I think vision wise, where do you, how do you want to show up and how do you want people to show up? And I think inspirational leadership for me in simple terms is about being able to do it and maintain it when you need it.

John Chisholm (37:56):

We don’t need leadership and inverted coms like strong leadership. Don’t need leadership when it’s plain sailing, you need leadership when you know, it’s blown GA. So I think, and how long is that blowing for? And, and how bad is it gonna get, you know, sticking with the metaphor from a minute? Are we gonna wreck the mass? Are we gonna you’re like, how, how just how bad or, or just how good maybe, but, so I think that leadership, and so a lot of that then for me, again, that kind of cognitive stuff about kind of mindset, what mindset do people need, what vision, and if you can’t articulate it in a way that people’s face gets it, you know, and that, again, that’s that listening sort of visual information sort of listening, which is being able to understand that when you said the thing, the person didn’t go, yeah, yeah.

John Chisholm (38:44):

Awesome. And then just click kind of end meeting, you know, actually the person, like they tuned into it, they got it. And then obviously there’s all of that then background stuff, which I mentioned earlier, which is just actually, how are you doing availability? So if somebody decides they, they didn’t, they don’t understand it anymore. Uh, and again, another of your guests talked about vulnerability. It’s like, are you able to then create a culture where people could say, I thought I got it, but I don’t get it. And now, and I’m able to feel stupid. I’m always the guy that looks stupid in front of the corporate clients. I’m the person who sits there because I’m hired help. I’m sort of somehow allowed to be the stupid one who goes, I’m not fully getting this and you can see, you know, as cliche as kni scenario, but you can see other people in the room go like, yeah, we weren’t really sure either because it’s, it’s not articulated well enough or it’s just not formed well enough yet.

John Chisholm (39:39):

And actually we can turn that into a creative process. If the person, the leader wants it, the, the client, the customer wants it, or maybe not. So, yeah, I dunno where to start with inspiration, look inside, you know, kind of know yourself well enough and, um, and, and just observe other people and see what it’s doing and, and create like, decide what you want the vibe to be, and, and kind of go with that. It has to transcend geographic, like physical body location. It has to go through a computer screen because otherwise you, you, you know, like you’re capping your culture, aren’t you, at that point, you’re, you’re stopping it being totally awesome at awesome, you know, like is awesome enough. Or do we sort of need to push through that? And I think it’s competitive world. Of course, we need to push through that.

Matt Hayman (40:28):

When you were talking about people’s reluctance to really embrace the kind of inspirational leadership role. It made me think a little bit about sales. So I used to work for a startup that worked in the sales space. And one of the things that often came up in conversations is how early on in their careers salespeople would typically project what they thought a sales persona was like. And the reality is they were doing the absolute opposite of what they needed to do to re be really effective in effect and their career in a sense, became a process of unlearning all of that and tuning into the empathy. And I wonder when you were talking about people’s reluctance to embrace it is that perhaps they feel as though they then have to change and become an inspirational leader, they have to become one of these names that we see on YouTube or trotted out on LinkedIn every other day. Do you think that’s part of it is that they feel that there’s, that they need to project of an image that actually they don’t really need to?

John Chisholm (41:22):

Yeah, I definitely there’s definite truth in that. I think, I, I guess we can all relate to that, you know, it’s that sort of emulating or copying, I dunno what, you know, necessarily what the, kind of the best word for it is. And it’s kind of funny, isn’t it, again, certainly in our early days kind of management and leadership, um, you know, people who are just looking for the fundamentals, uh, it’s a kind of classic joke in my, my head, like just don’t develop a evil laugh and start wearing a Cape, you know, but people do <laugh> and it’s Ty <laugh>, um, it it’s typically when you are kind of new in a role, I’m not gonna say at a particular age or something like that. Cause it sort of depends, but yeah, you, you think you need to be a particular thing. Um, certainly see that in executive development people and people who are, you know, kind of stepping into much more senior roles, it, it’s no different.

John Chisholm (42:18):

I think people think like, well, I’m, I’m 40 something now or, or whatever age, so I’m got 20 something. So I should kind of know it all. It’s like, it’s that classic thing of, oh, you know, imposter syndrome and all those sorts of kind of ideas where you just think, am I in the right route? Do they know who I am with all that kind of self talk or that chatter in your head? So yeah, I, yeah, don’t do any of that, but that’s that kind of introspection, that’s that authenticity be? You just be you and actually, if you are a bit annoying or a lot annoying, then don’t be, you <laugh>, you know, I don’t be those things. A lot of there’s a lot of work done these days. Again, going back to your culture idea around sort of values and value behaviors to think about on an individual basis, but maybe also in a kind of workplace level, what we don’t want.

John Chisholm (43:10):

So you said about unlearning, but actually I might be a stickler for this, or I might be, you know, the, these are usually termed, you know, things like sort of derailing behaviors or, or things that you and I do that we just need to cap off. We need to do a less of, or we need to smooth the edges off a little bit. So they’re not quite so, uh, prevalent. They’re not, not quite so sort of pointed. Maybe you are prone to be in dramatic or you’d be flippant, or you are this, or you’re that, and it’ll be very context sort of specific. Well, I think a big part of leadership, big part of being a great person is, is being able to manage those bits. So develop the authentic, your authentic self, but you should be authentically. I just got this job. I have no idea what I’m doing.

John Chisholm (43:54):

There’s something authentic about that. You know, you need a little bit of, of how do I kind of convince people that I’m, I’m legit, but actually equally I think, yeah, don’t overdo it. Cause it’s just odd. It’s just really odd. So the surface level that the, the, the dynamics here are that the surface level doesn’t match what’s going on underneath, you know, and, and it just jars. And I think most people can pick up immediately on that, um, that you are faking it or you are trying too hard or whatever. And, and most people just kind of smile and think it’s kind of cute or something <laugh>, but whether they give you the sale on that basis or not, I dunno, which is the important bit, I guess,

Matt Hayman (44:37):

Brilliant John we’re up on time. Wanna say thank you so much for taking the time to, uh, to come on today. Slightly different episode, really enjoyed it. Got huge value from it. Before you go, though, how can people find out more about you and the work that you do?

John Chisholm (44:51):

Thanks, Matt really enjoy being on the podcast. You can find us online at Cresent with an E on the end at KK. And, uh, you can look me up personally, John Chisholm on LinkedIn, uh, and you can find the company on there and we’ve got a YouTube channel on the usual socials as well.

Speaker 4 (45:09):

Let’s go.

Voiceover (45:11):

Thanks for listening to leading remotely for show notes, resources, or to discover how you can make remote work for your team. Head over to That’s