Episode 92 – Dave McKeown | Self Evolved Leadership

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In this episode I speak with Dave McKeown, the CEO of Outfield Leadership and author of The Self-Evolved Leader – Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People in a World That Refuses to Slow Down. Dave helps individuals, teams, and organizations achieve excellence by doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.

We discuss some super practical tips on how to actually run a meeting through a facilitator’s lens, why right now it’s important to still be flexing our long term strategic planning muscles, how over-communicating with clarity is essential in times of crisis, and why we need to take stock of the lessons from the last 12 months and make them transferable to other situations.

Key episode highlights include:

  • Craft the intention for your meetings. Share the intent behind why you are speaking about something or why it is up for discussion.
  • Keep the horizon of focus the same throughout the meeting. It’s very hard for folks to switch context.
  • Re-engage each other around the core guiding principles of the organization – who are we, who do we serve and why, why would people want to work for us, what sort of an impact do we want to have. This is what can give you some motivation and momentum right now.
  • View your meetings as an experience that people are going to go through. See your role as one of designing an experience that gets to the outcome that you need to and in a way that makes people feel good about it.

You can check out Dave’s work over at Outfield Leadership, buy his book at The Self Evolved Leader, or connect with him on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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Murray Guest  12:56

Once again I’m lucky enough to have the awesome Dave McEwen, from the USA, except he doesn’t have an American accent, he’s got a beautiful accent. I love talking to Dave and Dave is the author of The Self Evolved Leader, and I’m going to be really open here and say when I read the book, we’re going to talk about the book very briefly, because when I read the book I was excited for you, and slightly jealous because it is so cool to take everything that you’ve learned over the years and put it in this great book so great to be talking to you, Dave.


Dave McKeown  13:30

Murray it is just great, fantastic to be back again, love, love speaking with you.


Murray Guest  13:36

Tell me, obviously, releasing Self Evolved Leader early last year, you would have had some big plans for that book, and then COVID hit. What happened to those plans and the book? How did that all pan out?


Dave McKeown  13:52

Have a nice little garbage can, all plans just got swept into there. The book came out January 20th, we had a really good February, everything started to get a little shaky around March and you know I was hoping to use the book to help get onto some more keynote stages and help sell it to wider audiences and, you know, use it in person with my clients and all of that, slowly got sucked out. Funny enough, having said that, given the year that we had, I’ve been really really happy with the outcome, with the reach that it’s had and the impact that it’s had. Actually just heard the other day that it’s being picked up by a university in Holland and they’re going to use it as their central textbook in a course around authentic leadership so that’s really exciting. But yeah, it was definitely the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray and that one definitely took a sharp turn right.


Murray Guest  14:57

Yeah, and for those that haven’t checked out the book. Check out the link in the show notes. It is a fantastic book, it talks about as Dave just referenced, being an authentic leader, I would say a conscious mindful leader, how you evolve as a leader, and what I love about it too is some real practical tips in the book, and at the back of the book there’s some real great frameworks to help people take what you’ve got in the book and apply it. So yeah, please check it out, read it, and let Dave know what you get out of it, is a great book. And that’s so great to hear that the, that university in Holland is going to use it in that course, and that is awesome. That is fantastic. How’s life for you at the moment?


Dave McKeown  15:43

It’s pretty good. You know, it feels like over the last 12 to 14 months there’s been a lot of back and forth and adjusting and pivoting, and let me say this, the one thing that in our world, I think, has been positive on all of this is the degree to which it has forced all of us to get truly good at virtual delivery. You know it’s been one of those things that we’ve talked about in terms of training and consulting that, you know, people are like ‘oh yeah we can do that virtually’ and, you know, you go and attend a webinar and it’s just drivel for 60 minutes, somebody’s showing PowerPoint slides, we’ve not got the point where people are realizing, actually, let’s create a really compelling virtual experience for people. And so what one of the big things that I’m taking away personally from the, from the last year is just growth in my own ability to craft an online experience for a group of people, and deliver that really well and feel good about it.


Murray Guest  16:46

Yeah, I totally echo what you’re saying there I feel like I was driven to make that pivot online, and it’s something that my wife was saying to me in the years prior to 2020, and maybe I should listen to her more often Dave I don’t know, but it was like, Ah, this is what I could do thanks honey. Yeah. Okay, now let’s do this. But I’m proud to say I’ve gotten better, obviously, through the practice and delivery and feedback through last year. And you’re right there it’s not just, let’s throw up 600 slides with 400 words on each slide and put someone into sleep. There’s some really great things we can do now, using platforms and and styles to really engage people online. I’m going to share a vulnerable story and maybe create some space for you. One of my earliest sessions, I think I had 20 people mid session, two hour session, and was jumped into a breakout room to see how the conversation is going. And then I thought, okay, that conversation going great, go to another breakout room, instead of clicking leave room I’ve clicked end session for everybody. So, that was great. Thanks everybody, just kicked everyone out yeah. Luckily I did that back in like March last year so I learned pretty quickly. Hang on. Before you’re rushing, just check which button you’re clicking on, but that was okay, that was a client I knew and we could have a bit of a laugh about it but, yeah.


Dave McKeown  18:21

Yeah I mean, I’ve had some pretty terrible experiences I mean, you know I’ve tested every technology under the sun and some of them are just terrible and you’re just kind of stuck there going, why am I doing this. The funniest one I had was, was pretty early on and I was, I was doing a virtual session for a client, the very first one, I was hoping it would be a long standing engagement, and it was in the middle of the summer which in California is pretty hot, and we don’t have central air conditioning, we have little window units that make a lot of noise. And so you don’t want to run that during a virtual session because it just can be very very off putting. I made the mistake of, I got a stationary bike when all of this happened and I, and I had a workout in the morning, and I just have this terrible propensity that about 30 to 45 minutes after I work I just will continue to sweat even if I’ve had a shower because my body temperature is just elevated. And so I go in and do this session I’m like I’m feeling okay I’ve got the lights on the air conditioner is not on, and then I start to think, Gosh, this is like I’m getting super, really hot in here, and I just start getting beads and I’m like, What do I do, so just you know like I said vulnerable moment I just said, Hey guys, just to let you know, I explained the whole story – I just worked out, I’m super, it’s super hot in here. I’m just, I’ve got this towel and I’m dabbing myself, I just want you to know like I’m not like wilting under pressure here, this is just my body temperature being far too high than it should be. So that was my lesson – don’t work out within about an hour of your about to go do something.


Murray Guest  19:58

Nice, nice lesson, but I actually think you’re you’re highlighting another one here which I’ve heard from clients, and I’m sure you’ve heard and seen and that is another benefit through the last year has been, how it’s created opportunity for more vulnerability, more realness. I’ve heard of a story from one of my clients where the CEO of 2000 people was doing an update, which you would normally do face to face, doing it online at his dining table in a T shirt and tracksuit pants and then his daughter walks past and says hi. And everyone was like, okay, yes it’s professional, and it’s real we’re getting the data we need but I’m getting to see this person as a real person.


Dave McKeown  20:44

Right. I think it’s just as beautiful, that aspect of it never goes away. I mean I’m sure you remember seeing that old from about four or five years ago maybe not that long ago, the BBC clip where the kid comes in and it’s like everyone’s like oh my goodness it’s the worst thing in the world to happen, like yeah here’s your kid, you know you want to get them up and and say hello and you know I do hope that that continues in the whatever world that we emerge into in the next 12 to 18 months, you know Murray that, that’s a big part of what I teach, and what’s in The Self Evolved Leader, you know, just this ability to be able to come into a room and just talk the way you and I are talking, rather than having to feel the need to put that veneer of, I don’t wanna say professionalism because you can be just as professional, you can be authentic and professional at the same time, but yeah zero like, you know, corporate-ness maybe is probably a better word.


Murray Guest  21:41

So can I ask the question here, and what your thoughts are and I was having a conversation with a coaching client the other day, because she said, I actually want to know what it means to bring my whole self to work. And it was just that question generated some really good exploration for us but what are your thoughts on how we balance authenticity, and the real you, and professionalism.


Dave McKeown  22:04

I think that it’s maybe there’s maybe less of, if they don’t sit on opposite ends of the seesaw it’s probably more of a Venn diagram. And you know, I think, where, when we go wrong, is when we feel like we have to put a front up or engage in something that we wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in our own home, you know, like when you feel like you have to be a little, a little less than who you are and maybe in in conversations with somebody afterwards you would think you would sort of say, well, I probably should have done this or shown up in that way instead. It’s not about being the same person that you are on a Friday night at the pub with your friends, because then we’re losing a little bit of professionalism, but it’s also not that you know that that example of somebody comes in and, you know, they talk to the folks in the room and they’re like hey how are you how are the kids how was the weekend and there’s this degree of you know social connection, and then they kind of clear their throat, they go, Okay, well thank you all for coming today, and, and this is what we’re here to talk about. You sort of think, well, you were just talking to them like you were like good friends.


Murray Guest  23:26

It’s like I now need to switch my persona to be the corporate person, or the, the, what I think a leader used to be, or a manager used to be versus I’m bringing my myself my style my preference my personality to the way I communicate and show up and talk to people, yeah.


Dave McKeown  23:47

Yeah, yeah. And I think the other thing that underpins it is the ability, I think that extends outside the workplace as well, but just the ability to engage in adult to adult conversations with people, adult to adult relationships, so the ability to come to somebody and say, look, here’s my particular perspective, here’s my set of beliefs, here’s you know what I would like in this situation, and to have somebody come and say okay I appreciate and I understand that, here’s my perspective and here’s what I, this is my set of beliefs and here’s what I would like to happen and, and to know that you get to say yes or no or to be able to walk away or will find something else, and to not have to feel that need to manipulate situations to turn out the way that you want them to be, because I think that that, that prevents other people from being their whole selves. And it also detracts a little bit from from you as well.


Murray Guest  24:44

And going back to the comments around virtual sessions, virtual meetings. One of the challenges, I think that I’ve been witness to when I’ve dropped in on team meetings for clients but also heard is, we have been very focused on oh we’re having a meeting, it’s online, let’s just be focused on business and we’re not including the check in on the how are you as a person today, what’s going on in your world and the banter that you’d have in a face to face meeting before the meeting starts.


Dave McKeown  25:16



Murray Guest  25:17

And I think that’s really important that people don’t lose that and bring that back in. 


Dave McKeown  25:21

I think it is, I think that the technology lends itself to a very transactional way of interacting with each other, unless we are very intentional about not letting it be that way. And funny, funny enough, I think there are two elements, that one, there’s just the intentionality around it and how you approach it. The second thing is, is just the quality of the tech, because if you go into a, you know, let’s say 8-10 person, whether it’s a Zoom meeting or teams or whatever. If you’ve got folks with, you know bandwidth issues that aren’t great or or folks with camera issues that aren’t great or mic issues that aren’t great, it stifles that natural flow. Part of the have the ability to be social with one another is the natural back and forth that happens. And if it’s all like, oh, sorry oh you go oh I’m talking over you. And and I think as we move likely more towards a hybrid setup. I think one of the things that organizations should continue to do is find budget for the folks that are working at home, to have quality enough tech, so that it removes that barrier.


Murray Guest  26:30

Mmm. And what I think is also an addition to that is just setting up some protocols in your teams. How are we going to show up for our meetings, how are we going to interact. A great example for me is I’ve ran some sessions for some clients, and I get there, and it’s like, 75% of people don’t have their video turned on. And I’m like, hang on. And I’ve just, I’ve actually said, this would be like us sitting in a room with a book in front of our face, you know, is that what we do and then all of a sudden the videos come on and you know, starts to light up, and I said, okay so let’s set some expectations how we’re going to work.


Dave McKeown  27:12

Or those old school, you know, joke glasses with the eyes on. I think that’s true and, you know, in general, your meetings get such a bad reputation. People hate meetings, let’s not have another meeting, and I’m kind of the opposite, I’m like meetings are great, you get some of your best work done in meetings, if you do them correctly and that’s the problem is it’s not that people dislike meetings, it’s like they, it’s that they dislike bad meetings.


Murray Guest  27:42

And they’ve had so many bad meetings, ‘I don’t find them valuable anymore so why should I bother.’


Dave McKeown  27:47

Why should I ever have another one ever again?! Well, don’t take that perspective just build a better meeting because it just, you know, there’s, there’s collaboration and creativity in the meeting of minds and creative tension and a whole bunch of really great stuff that can happen if it’s facilitated well. And I think that that is, is facilitation, from my perspective is one of the most underutilized or undeveloped skills in our leaders today and it’s one of the most important, the ability to really facilitate a good outcome of a group, I think is something that, you know, somebody out there listening thinking how can I make my meetings better, I would say, learn how to be a good facilitator and you’ll really get there.


Murray Guest  28:27

I think that’s such a great point of view there Dave because unfortunately I think a lot of meetings with all good intent, it’s like, I’m going to present to you some information and present to you an update on current business KPIs so where we are on our scoreboard or a project. And now who’s got questions. No questions. Okay, seeya. That as we know is not facilitation. Right. Yeah. If there was a tip that you would give a leader right now around facilitating what would it look like?


Dave McKeown  29:02

It would be to view the however length of time that you have, as an experience rather than a meeting that people are going to go through, and to view your role as one of designing an experience that gets to the outcome that you need to, in a way that makes people feel good about it. It’s no different than, you know you ever go to a dinner party and you and you know the difference between a really well planned dinner party a really terrible dinner party, and on the really well planned one, it’s because somebody thought about it, they’re like okay well who are we going to invite, who works, who mixes well together, how long are we going to be together for, what’s the flow through you know the evening, are people going to come in and we’re going to give them drinks and then hors d’oeuvres. What time do you go for dinner. What do we do after dinner, and there’s just this natural kind of flow through it because the crafting an experience and I know kind of maybe sounds a little bit out there but meetings are exactly the same there, they’re an experience. There’s a great book that was released last year, it’s called The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, and it’s a fantastic just little guidebook for how to craft really compelling experiences and she uses examples like dinner parties and, and examples like meetings in the workplace and after I read that it transformed how I even view my own facilitation with my clients but you got to get really strong around creating those parameters and protocols that you talk to, whenever you do that.


Murray Guest  30:40

Yeah and so there’s a few things there that drop out for me. One is the preparation, get really clear in your preparation phase. And I think about the journey you want to take people on. So whether it’s a meeting for half an hour, a session for two hours, or, you know, in the work that you and I do, you know, what is the look like over a day or two days or whatever it is, we’re going to go from A to B and what does that look like how are people going to feel and how do you want them to feel when they finish that session. Yeah.


Dave McKeown  31:08

That’s huge. I’ve got a couple other pointers in there if you want to delve a little deeper.


Murray Guest  31:12

Oh no, no, I don’t have time.


Dave McKeown  31:15

So, a really important thing is to try to keep the horizon of focus the same throughout the meeting. So what what typically tends to happen is we come in and we’re and we’re there, you know, at our horizon focus let’s say it’s our monthly, you know, update meeting and we’ll come in and we’ll look at the, at the KPIs and we then have a tendency to go way down into the granular details of like what happened yesterday and why we couldn’t do that and finger pointing and blame and we’ve just taken a dive to the runway, or somebody brings up some big philosophical discussion about, you know our overarching direction of who we are and how this impacts that and those are great discussions that need to be had. But when you allow that to happen in a meeting, people, it’s very hard for folks to switch context because just thinking about what needs to happen this month is very different than managing the day to day which is very different than journeys in long term direction. So, you know, making really good use of, you know great facilitation till the parking lot, say, Hey, that’s a really good important point, we’re probably not at that horizon. Let’s let’s deal with that at our next weekly team meeting or, you know, we’ll do a one on one on that afterwards, or we’ll handle that at our quarterly review, whereas, sometimes, non facilitators or folks that are not particular well versed in it, it just feels like well we’ve got to let everything be talked about. Keep our eyes in focus.


Murray Guest  32:37

And then, can I just say I love that and I love that for additional reason and that is, it’s easy to for people to not acknowledge. But in that process of using the parking lot, it’s that I hear you. I can see that’s important, but let’s just capture that, but now’s not the time to talk about that, but I acknowledge you.


Dave McKeown  32:56

Yeah, for sure, rather than trying to argue against it or forget it or say that it’s, It’s not you know, we got to get nice, your job at that point is to make sure that that all gets followed up on because there is there’s more stuff that’s hit facilitators parking lot, it’s never dealt with. It’s like yeah we’ll deal with that stuff later on, you got to make sure there’s a next action assigned to it. Yeah. And the other thing then once you’re in there, is to think about the, the agenda. And realistically, something should only come onto your agenda for re in your regular meetings for one of three reasons one, it’s what you just said earlier, which is it’s just an FYI, you know, here’s just an update, you just need to know what, I don’t really, you know, there’s, there’s nothing else here apart from just something that would be good for this team to know. Second thing is, here’s something that I would like some feedback on. So there’s a problem or challenge here’s my perspective, I trust this team that is here with me, I would love to hear your thoughts and then I’ll take them into consideration, I’ll go do it. And then the third thing is, this is a, this is an issue this is a decision that we collectively as a team need to make, and just, just taking the small amount of time to make that distinction before you share whatever it is, help set everybody’s brain into then understanding what it is that the person who’s up there presenting that agenda item needs from me. How many times are folks sitting in the meeting going, I’m not quite sure what I’m saying, we’re gonna tell people what their what what they need to be doing. So getting really clear on that I think can be helpful.


Murray Guest  34:26

And I reckon it’s a common theme I’ve seen in leaders of skipping the context not providing the context of why are we talking about this in our busyness, of wanting to get stuff done. But what you’re talking about there and providing that context that bigger picture the, what’s my intent right now can only take sometimes maybe 30 seconds or a minute, but make sure we’re all on the same page. This is my intent, and actually want to share this with you because we need to, to actually come up with a decision, or whatever it might be.


Dave McKeown  34:54

And it’ll take 30 seconds to two minutes at the front end, it could save you, coming back into the room again and again and again again to have the discussion because people have haven’t quite figured out what you need from them. And again, there’s another reason why, why people say well I don’t, I hate meetings is because we have meetings about meetings and because I don’t want to have and it’s like, well, actually if you get really short and sharp if you craft the intention for the meeting you stay focused on that horizon, you’re really good at crystallizing that agenda you can get in and out in 30 minutes, and then you move on to implementation. Whereas what typically happens is we we dislike meeting so much we avoid them so much that we come together, we try to tackle everything in a big two hour slog session, four hour session, eight x six hour sessions that goes all over the map and you’re exhausted by the end of it, you’re not really quite clear on what was what was decided. You’re sure as heck not clear on what you’re supposed to do after no idea how you’re going to hold each other accountable for it and you go okay well let’s just go. Let’s go, just go to the local bar and have a drink.


Murray Guest  35:53

Yeah, yeah, I can feel the energy just when you talk through that of what that’s like and I’ve lived it in the past and I’m sure lots of listeners have as well and. But I think, as what we’ve just stepped through this and real simple things can change that and just getting really clear why are we here, what are we here to talk about and and how are we today.


Dave McKeown  36:14

Yeah, for sure.


Murray Guest  36:15

Yeah. So, it is May, 2021. I can’t believe how fast this year’s going, I don’t know, maybe when you get to my age, Dave, you’ll understand, but it’s going super fast.


Dave McKeown  36:30

Unbelievably so.


Murray Guest  36:34

What I’m thinking about is, in this, where we are right now people around the world are in a really varied situation, and you used the word earlier hybrid. What do you know, and what are your thoughts, at the moment around how we move forward in this hybrid situation.


Dave McKeown  36:56

I think let me talk about first of all from a planning perspective, because we’ve had a lot of conversations, particularly the last month or so as things in the US, seem to be progressing in certainly the right direction. A lot of my clients are saying, Do we even need to or should we bother returning to longer term strategic planning like do we, should we look at the next 12 months, knowing that things are still quite uncertain on a on a global scale. To which I emphatically say ‘yes, and.’ And I say yes because when all of this started, it forced us, it took a lot of stuff out of our control, and forced us really into survival mode on the day to day, week to week maybe month to month. And, and that’s runway level stuff. Yeah, and there’s a really strong gravitational pool on runway level stuff and the longer you spend in there, the heavier that pull comes, and we begin to lose the muscle of just thinking a little bit more long term a little bit more strategically a little bit more creatively and, and so, if only just to work that muscle a little bit more. I say yes let’s start casting out 12 months from now, with our best guesses our best assumptions no way that anything could happen. Let’s set a vision for if all things remain equal and we continued on a relatively positive path. What do we want to achieve in the next 12 months, and also actually just a, an analysis of how is our organization shifted in the last 12 months what of that do we want to keep what do we not want to keep because there’s been so much in there, like there’s there’s the opportunity to reset your organization like like no other time in history, should you choose to go down the path. There’s also an option to just not do anything and be exactly the same as you were. But that’s another discussion. But yeah, forecast, you know, begin to plan 12 months, and have a ruthless focus on the next 30, 60, 90 days because you still got to manage the quarter, you know, you’ve got to do that, but just start to rebuild some of that muscle of longer term planning on, again depending like you said on geography on industry, our leaders are tired. Really a huge number of places and getting them excited and revved up about longer term planning can be a little tricky so it’s it’s it’s not the easiest thing to do but I would I would say give it a go.


Murray Guest  39:17

I’m thinking, your analogy on the runway. And if you think about from a pilot’s perspective, we’ve got the what’s going on to the runway, to make sure that we can take off but we’ve also got that flight plan in place where are we going, what’s the weather going to be like. And where do we want to land. So we need to do that, we need to have that flight plan in place, and with the plan in place, we know where we can flex, you know, what’s the weather going to be you know if we, when we do take off, there’s birds that we’re going to avoid going to the engine or there’s a storm or that we’ve got to be a holding pattern, but we don’t just take off and go hey we’re gonna land in LAX, you know, like we’ve got a plan. So I think that’s where that balance of, as you said really well, let’s get clear on the runway and be ruthless and clear on the brutal facts for the 30 60 90 days, but where do we want to be flying, you know, what does that look like.


Dave McKeown  40:12

Yeah, I think so and I love that notion of being able to flex, you can fly around some bad weather, you know.


Murray Guest  40:20



Dave McKeown  40:20

The other thing I think that we’ve got to start doing or we’d be foolish not to is really take stock of the lessons learned from the last year and have some sort of a safety net for crisis from, for emergency, you know, not necessarily around a global pandemic, you know, let’s hope that that doesn’t happen again in our lifetime, but it may well.


Murray Guest  40:48

And building on that though, like it might not be another pandemic, but it may be another crisis that impacts your business. And what’s the lessons you take out of this, right, that are transferable in a dissimilar situation.


Dave McKeown  41:03

Yes, absolutely, because that was the interesting thing. Now, when this happened. You know, I’ve lived through a couple of financial crisis not a huge number but a few. And you know when that when those sorts of things happen, business leaders, by and large have the skill set and the tools to deal with that. When this crisis happened that was the first thing that you started to hear people were saying, I’m just not equipped, because we’ve never been through anything like that. So how do we track now I began to transfer those lessons, you know, we’ve clearly learned that we’re very resilient as people and we can do that. So, you know, we will we know that the next time a crisis hits we’ll have the resilience to do that but what are the more tangible skills that, that, that we have to be able to make that happen.


Murray Guest  41:51

What’s your thoughts around one of the biggest lessons for leaders around communication through this experience.


Dave McKeown  41:58

Over communicate with clarity. Clarity, just absolutely simple messages with vulnerability. This is what we know, this is what we don’t know, this is what we think this is our best guess, this is what we’re going to try. What do you think. You know, I just don’t, I didn’t, I didn’t think before and I definitely didn’t think over the last 12 months that communication with certainty was helpful at all, I just, you know, it was, it was so, particularly in those first stages those first days is just this certainty from certain camps, and it’s like, you cannot be that certain, so yeah, our clarity and vulnerability, I think, won the day really.


Murray Guest  42:42

I actually think what you’re saying there is communicating with vulnerability, right, like you’re saying, I can be clear on this, but I actually don’t know about this. We don’t know. Yeah and that’s that’s that vulnerabilities, as opposed to with that certainty of Hang on, am I setting myself up to fail here by putting all my eggs in a basket of, you know this virus would be gone in two weeks time, you know.


Dave McKeown  43:08

Yeah for sure, and I remember getting some emails from some organizations in the first two, three weeks, and they were like, You know what we are going to make this our best month ever and this is going to be fantastic and we’re doing more sales and then, like, just, you don’t know that, like we want to take stock, we’ve got to take stock and that braggadocious attitude is just don’t think it’s gonna work so yeah the, you can be, you can not know and be clear. Right there’s those two things are not necessarily the same. You can also really know and not be clear. So be clear on whatever that message is, yeah, vulnerability is the important one, recognize and point out clearly those areas that you don’t know, but this is what we’re doing to try to find out or this is hard. We’re trying to hedge against that. Over communication, simplicity of communication, intentionality of communication. I think we’re also just culturally societially moving into a position where it’s no longer enough for me to say, Well, my communication, the way that I wanted it to come out my model in my head. If it wasn’t perceived in that way, then that’s really your issue and that wasn’t, that wasn’t what I had intended. And so therefore you shouldn’t really be taking offense or or worrying about the way that you’ve perceived because that wasn’t how I was supposed to be. I think there’s a lot more kind of like that old the old modem noise that would make it was like I’m a modem I’m trying to connect another modem I can kind of hear you Ttttt, I think there’s a little bit more of that like, here’s what I’m trying to say like, are you hearing that that way.


Murray Guest  44:48



Dave McKeown  44:50

Because again it’s one of those items that you slow down a little bit in that, and then your your implementation so much quicker because there’s just lack of confusion there. I think that’s positive, it’s positive for a whole bunch of ways it’s, it helps us get aligned, it helps people ensure that they are heard properly it ensures that people have the the option in that out of, out of way to say hey, the way that you communicated that with me didn’t land, particularly well with me. Can we talk about that so that we can work well.


Murray Guest  45:22

Yeah, yeah. And the thing that I’ve been picking up with some leaders, which I think you’re reminded me of beautifully here is the other thing that’s come out through this time is the importance of removing assumptions or validating those assumptions like here’s what I’m thinking right now, or here’s what I thought I heard I just want to check that, or I’m saying this did that land, but let’s just not be, you know, throwing messages out there and hoping they stick, put a sign on the side of the freeway and you’ve read it, you know.


Dave McKeown  45:22

Yeah absolutely. And doing that on not just the first initial transfer of information pieces but updating your priors, you know, we were, we were together last week, last month we had this great meeting this is all what we what we talked about, time has passed since then, the world changes so are those assumptions still valid. And look, no. You know, there’s always a tension between taking the time to do that and and progress, and we can’t let perfection become the enemy of progress we can get so sucked into that that we never emerge and so, yeah, there’s always a, there’s always gonna be a tug towards forward motion, but just taking a little bit of time to clarify and and reset those joint assumptions is really, really helpful.


Murray Guest  46:11

So I’ve got a question here it’s been buzzing around in my head as we’ve been talking I want to just check in with your thoughts on this one and I think it’s a challenge a lot of leaders are facing at the moment and that is through COVID people have started to experience a lot of different ways of working, and it might be, I have now greater flexibility, I can work from home more when I want to or when I need to, I can be in the office sometimes and not, I can work remotely, I can actually work from the back of my car at times because that’s what I’ll choose or in a cafe or, you know all of the options. And as organizations are moving forward with people coming back into offices, how do you think we navigate this moving forward about delivering on what we need to, and at the same time being considerate of people’s needs and those new habits of ways of working that have developed.


Dave McKeown  47:42

I think if I knew the answer to that, I could do it lots and lots of good. I think that’s that’s the, that’s the question, the challenge of our time, certainly of the next few years. And I think we’re gonna see multiple I don’t think there is one answer to all of that, I think we’re gonna see multiple ways of working spring up, I think some organizations will will will say you know what this worked. Let’s just stay remote as much as possible. There will be some organizations that say there are certain rules that really do require on site, presence, deal with that. And then I think there’ll be some organizations that are, are really good about looking at what’s, what’s the, what’s the type of work that needs to happen so back to the conversation that we had earlier about, about technology. I think the virtual calls are really, really good for transactional stuff and flows of information and we can get stuff done. I still don’t think it’s quite there yet for longer form brainstorming and really getting into the wrestling and kicking around a problem and, and dealing with the sometimes the interpersonal dynamics that happen with that you know something about you get a, you know, facilitating a session in a room with a team and you get the sense of the energy of who’s up and who’s down and who’s excited and who’s not and side glances and people shaking their legs and, you know, the, sometimes the best thing you can do is just say look, let’s take 10 minutes, and and just, you know, just give everybody a chance to reset, you don’t pick up on that as much hard much harder and it requires a lot more of an individual opt in to say hey I need to take a break here. I think it’ll be some organizations to say we’ll keep all of the transactional stuff, but if you know we’ll be it will, everybody will be in the office on a Wednesday and we’ll do our collaboration, our brainstorming, then I think that’ll, that’ll certainly happen. I think it’ll be some organizations who go, Nope we’re done we’re over everybody back in.


Murray Guest  49:46

Yeah and but I think the link here back to our discussion and meetings and setting up meetings effectively is applying that also to the ways of working for the team and not just letting it evolve organically, but actually have the conversation, how are we going to make this work, how are we going to meet, when are we going to be in the office. And let’s actually take the time out to really discuss that and explore that. Right.


Dave McKeown  50:11

Yeah, and I think and I think that the, that the good leaders, again will think through that and be intentional about it and I think that one of the tools that we don’t use enough, is a synchronous communication. So, how can I find a way to write a daily memo or emails that is just information that my team needs but they don’t need to respond to me and I don’t need to hear from them, you know it’s just a flow of information. How can we use our ‘I am’ platform in a way that’s less disruptive and just a constant pool, you know I think we overvalue availability and response time, and we undervalue time spent to do quality work. And, and so I think that, that we need to start thinking not just about how do we get results, you know, because that’s what typically leaders are, how do we make sure that we get results, but how do we, again back to crafting experiences, how do we craft a, a interchange of information between me as a leader and you as my team and in, in a way that protects your time to do your best work, whatever that is, whether it’s coding or graphic designing or being on the phone with your customers or selling stuff, like I need to be able to find a way that I can minimize your time not doing that, so that you can concentrate on doing that, while still making sure you’ve you’re part of the team that your wisdom is there that you’re part of key decisions that you’re, you know, bought into the direction that we’re going in. Yeah, all of that good stuff.


Murray Guest  52:00

Yeah, and if there’s some action I’d really invite people to consider at this point and that is taking the time out to have the conversations with their team about what that looks like for them, and how we work that out.


Dave McKeown  52:14

Yeah, yeah, and not have that you know the worst thing that things that are one of bad things that this shift to remote has done is it’s blurred people’s work life balance. Yeah, in some ways in in a negative way and I know that some organizations just culturally they haven’t got that piece right and so there’s just this sense that like, so long as there’s a technology device near me I have to find a way to be always on and having those discussions to say, You know what, response time for this, you know, I’m making this up, response time for an email is three hours, you know, as long as you respond three hours not not a problem, response time for an imessage is probably 90 minutes, unless you’ve got a little, I’m out of the office status update and the discussion around that, you know I’m making this up, but, but having that specific conversations that folks understand, you know I’ve had conversations with people and they’re like I’m, I’m afraid to step out to go to a doctor’s appointment lest somebody ping me and know that I’m not at my desk and to me that’s a failure of leadership.


Murray Guest  53:16

And and I think, again, that’s a good link back to let’s create a psychologically safe place for people to work and turn up, be at their best, to talk about these things, to raise that and to say how does that work, how does it look for me. Right, unless the place is on fire. It can wait, you know.


Dave McKeown  53:35



Murray Guest  53:37

So, question Dave. One of the things I’m talking to a lot of people about at the moment is the, the mental emotional impact on these past 12 months. And one of the key things I know helps is having that positive anticipation. I was talking to a leader recently and they said look I had all these plans. And those plans now out the window because and there have been for some time because of travel restrictions and everything else. So we’re just talking about what does that positive anticipation look like at a smaller level to generate that excitement and energy moving forward. So I actually want to know what are you looking forward to at the moment, that’s given you some positive anticipation and what are your thoughts on this with the leaders you work with.


Dave McKeown  54:28

So me on a personal level. Interestingly enough, the book came out, all the pandemic hit and it caused me to feel a little lost in that I’d achieved this thing, my first book, I wanted to do for a number of years, have poured my heart and soul into it, and it came out and it was like, that was great. I’ve achieved that goal. Awesome. And now what, I had sort of kind of hit a plateau. And so my, what was it, positive anticipation. So then it took me a while to just sort of think through, well, what is next, what do I want to do next. And so then I started to personally just cast a three year horizon for myself. Somebody once told me you can do, really, you can have one theme of your life every five years and that’s sort of the chapters, and so I finally came to realize that actually the release of the book was an end of one chapter which is not a bad thing, but I just got to figure out what the next chapter to go so I’ve, I’ve got a three year kind of plan for me funny enough, which culminates in another book coming out, that’s what it’s based around, but but I’m excited about using I think there are times in our life when we are just go go go go go and there are times in our life whenever we’re growing and developing. And there are times in our life where we’re rebuilding with the tools that we have and, and the three years before COVID I was really developing and growing and honing the craft and just kind of getting into it, and I really I feel like I’ve reached a point where I’m like okay now I get to push that out a little bit stronger, and not have to worry so much about the growing, the growth will happen. It’s kind of the season that I’m in, second half of that was about how then do we apply that to our organizations. I think that it, it’s got to come in this instance, from the top, I think our most senior leaders, whether that’s CEO or president or even better the whole senior leadership team has, doesn’t have to, no-one has to do anything, but I think it’s positive, it would behoove them to find a way to re engage each other around the core guiding principles of the organization, who are we, who do we serve, why, why would people want to work for us, what sort of an impact do we want to have, really take a look at that. I think for many organizations, a lot has shifted in the last 12 months for the long term, and they haven’t even been able to sit down and actually evaluate that. So just bringing people together and say well what did we learn over the last 12 months, that was positive, that was negative, what do we want to put back, what do we want to put back, we recast some of those guiding principles, it’s exciting to get to get it’s easy to get excited around those things and that’ll give you a little bit of momentum and motivation. And I think that folks up and down your organization are then I think people are starting to look for some clear, clear and vulnerable communication about what the, what that future holds.


Murray Guest  57:43

Wow, I like that link back to what we talked about earlier, a couple of my favorite topics. Dave, thank you. Thanks for your time, thanks for your inspiration, and you know a plethora of tips for leaders in this conversation. I only have one wish, and that is that we don’t leave it so long till we chat again.


Dave McKeown  58:04

Absolutely, let’s do it again. I always love talking to you, you facilitate a very good interview.


Murray Guest  58:10

Thank you, appreciate that. So, everyone listening, of course, I am confident that you got something out of this conversation, as I said Dave is so full of insights and knowledge, check out his book, it is a fantastic book. And if you got something out of this conversation, you want to tag Dave and myself online, on LinkedIn, on Instagram, and let us know that would be fantastic. We’d love to know the impact of these conversations. Keep well, keep having conversations with clarity and vulnerability, and we’ll talk to you soon. Thanks again, Dave.


Dave McKeown  58:46

Thanks Murray.


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