Leading with Heart: How Courageous Leadership Drives Success
w/ Constance Dierickx
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Transcript - Leading with Heart: How Courageous Leadership Drives Success
Rich: On this episode of Team Building Saves the world.
Constance: Nobody’s shooting at you. So let’s you know Yeah, let’s very, let’s clock up the truck a little bit. Here. You start, you the next time you’re out in the field. Mm-hmm. And you learn something from one of your employees. Let it be known that you’re learning.
And then they shut up and they look at me like, I have 14 heads.
Rich: Why didn’t we hire you, Constance? This is what we needed.
Constance: Yeah. Like what? Wait, how much should we pay you?
Rich: Hello team. It’s me, your old friend, rich Rinisland host of team building saves the world, the show where I speak to thought leaders from around the world discussing variable strategies and tools to help you and your team build a better work environment. And today I hope you’re feeling brave cuz we we’re discussing courageous leadership with a contributor for both Forbes and Harvard Business Review and author of such books as High Stake Leadership Leading Through Crisis with courage,
judgment in fortitude and the soon-to-be released Meta leadership, how to see what others don’t and make great decisions, Dr. Constance Dierickx. But first, I need to share some love with the rest of my supporters at Team Bonding. If your team is ready to experience teamwork to the Power of Play, and visit team bonding.com to learn more now.
Team, join me in welcoming my guest, the decision doctor herself. Constance Dierickx. Hello, Constance.
Constance: Hi there. Nice to see you Rich.
Rich: Nice to see you too. Thank you so much for coming on board. Let’s jump right in quickly here. Let’s do then start out like I always do. Can you just tell my team out there a little bit about yourself and what it is that brought you into this kind
Constance: Sure. Uh, so way back when, when I was a youngster, um, I was a stockbroker Oh. At Merrill Lynch. Pierce Vener Smith, which is now part of Bank of America. Mm-hmm. Um, I just sounded like a commercial, didn’t I?
Rich: Little bit. That’s okay. Little bit. Little bit. Hopefully if they want to give us some money towards the podcast.
We will not say no.
Constance: Yes. Well, yeah. Get ’em to be a sponsor. Absolutely. So I was a stockbroker and I, uh, I really enjoyed my relationships with my clients a lot, but I was so perplexed about one thing that just haunted me and haunted me and what perplexed me was how smart people. Who had been successful, who had accumulated a certain amount of wealth, could be so stupid about their money decisions.
Okay. I was like, really? How what? And I tried to get my colleagues to talk to me about this, and they were all. Kind of bored by my questions, to tell you the truth. Um, I got a reputation for being a little intellectual, which I didn’t think was a bad thing. Right. But, you know, they weren’t interested in these conversations.
So I took refuge in a bookstore. Now I wanna put a plug in. Uh, this was in Asheville, North Carolina. And the bookstore I retreated to was and is called Malaprops and it’s still there. So I would scurry down, I have four or five blocks downtown, and I would go in the bookstore and I would go to the decision science section.
Mm-hmm. So the business sections like, what is this about decisions, and at the time, A lot of economists and decision experts talked about man or humans as a rational actor, and I was like, well, that doesn’t square with what I’m observing. So then I would like go over to the psychology section. But that was all about, therapy and self-help. And you know, I was like, well, okay. So, but I began to build a, an understanding of what drives people motivation and things like that. And how the people around individuals affect our decisions, whether we like to admit it or not. And I remember sitting in the bookstore with a cup of coffee one day thinking, why doesn’t somebody combine what psychologists know with what decision scientists.
Hmm. And guess what somebody did? And it was Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tki.
Rich: Oh, okay.
Constance: Who were professors in Israel at the time. And Kahneman later would win the Nobel Prize, uh, for his work. And so that, and I hated, oh, I, I left something out. I hated my job, so I quit my job. And went back to school risking my family’s financial security.
Constance: Uh, you know, probably made my kids a little crazy. And I went back to school and, uh, I finished my bachelor’s degree, which I had abandoned a few years before. Mm-hmm. A little scary, right? Stockbroker? No. College education. Yeah. Yeah, a little bit. Yeah. So, um, Went to finish my undergrad degree and I switched my major from PolySci Psychology and it just launched me.
I loved it. I spent 10 years in school, got a ba, an MA, and a PhD, had to move to Atlanta for the doctorate, and just thought, how lucky am I? I am a grownup and I get to be a student. Um, and from there, Doctorate is in clinical psychology, but I also studied organizational and, uh, decision science. I would s uh, sneak in or audit classes in the business school and in anthropology.
Hmm. And ever since, so tw for 25 years, I’ve been an advisor to CEOs and boards on high stakes decisions.
Rich: And can you tell everybody why is it they call you the crisis?
Constance: Because I’ve been involved a lot of crises, and I just wanna assure your listener, I didn’t cause them. Ok. Let’s be really clear. Um, my phone rings sometimes.
I’ve done a lot of work in mergers and acquisitions. Okay. Uh, c e o transitions, strategic shifts, um, or with organizations that were really, had become complacent and they knew they needed to change. Hmm. And sometimes things go off the. Burst into flames. And so I got a reputation for being able to advise and sort of ride shotgun with leaders.
And some of my clients have said to me, you know what? You are, you’re the flight engineer or you’re the decision doctor. I got the moniker, the decision doctor from a client. I did not make this up. I got told that’s what I was. And I thought, oh, that’s pretty good. Hmm. Um, so that’s, that’s how I came to do the work.
And I love being able to help courageous leaders. Do what needs to be done right? Support them, challenge them so that their companies thrive, which means their employees have meaningful work, their customers get well served. And I love working with leaders because the moves they make, the decisions they make and how they show up affect thousands of lives.
Rich: Okay, so let’s dive in. Uh, we’re talking about courageous leadership. Yeah. First, first of, can you define that for us? What, what it is that makes a courageous leader as opposed to an average leader? Or a coward or, or that, yeah,
Constance: I, I warned you, I, uh, sometimes use dramatic language. Um, not a problem. I def I define, um, I define it more by, by context.
Okay. So when, when the risk is high and visibility is low, is that’s when the stakes are high. So when you’re making a big strategic bet, you don’t know as much as you wanna. And the risk is high. When you’re hiring a new c e o, the courageous part comes in, um, when the leader needs to tell the truth. Hmm, take some hits.
Um, admit when things go wrong. Or when they paint a new bold vision and they wanna inspire people to jump on board, you know, you hear people say, oh, we need to get people on board. You know, you gotta get people on board. Well, you don’t do that by screaming at them and holding pep rallies. You know, you have to paint a compelling picture.
Sure. And you have to demonstrate A courageous leader is one who goes first. A courageous leader does not sit in their office and hide, you know, if you’re the, um, president of Olive Garden Restaurants, for example, and years ago in my past career, I knew and worked with three successive presidents of Olive Garden.
They have to go and eat an olive garden. They ha you gotta go. Yeah. I mean, it sa I know you’re laughing Rich, but,
Rich: but they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t eat at their own restaurants? Um,
Constance: no, they did.
Rich: Oh, okay. Okay.
Constance: They did. I was with them and, and I don’t mean to take credit for this, it wasn’t my idea. Sure. They did it because, partly because it was the culture of Olive Garden that you connect with.
Ah, okay. And I love that. So, you know, I’ve learned a lot from the leaders. I’ve, I’ve worked with, um, an A C E O that I’m working with right now who I can’t name has his company has a big logistics arm and he’s been out in these transportation hubs. And watch them load trucks and talk to the people and talk to the truck drivers and it, there’s nothing like it.
You know, a, a leader who I can name because I have never worked with her, although I admire her greatly, is Carol Tome, and she does this very well. She’s now the c e o of u p s, but had the C F O position, an E V P job at Home Depot for many years. Did great. Jim Kram run m Ms N B C loves her for good reasoning.
I, my dad, she has that ability to connect, but it wouldn’t do her any good if she didn’t get out and do it.
Rich: And she does. Let’s get into, obviously you said honesty is one being bold enough to take, you know, to lead in the chances that you’re taking. What are some other aspects of a courageous leader?
Constance: A courageous leader is someone that has the courage to show empathy.
Rich: Oh, okay. Yeah. How so? In what, in what ways?
Constance: Well, you know, I’ll give you an example. Um, a few years ago, you may recall, uh, the Home Depot had a data breach. Yeah. And their credit card inf the customer’s credit card information was, you know, stolen. Right. Um, at the time, Frank Blake was the c e o. This has been a few years ago, and Frank immediately addressed their customer.
And he said, this happened. It’s on us. You’ll not be harmed. We’re sorry. You know? And he did it in a way that was polar opposite from John Stump at Wells Fargo. Need we say more. Right, right, right. Um, and you know, he would, he issued very late in the game, these letters that were like, we are committed to excellence.
And it was like, really? Dude? Like, yeah, because it doesn’t look like that to us. Frank did not. Issue forth this mealy mouthed pr plu. Right. What he did instead is he showed up as a human being, as a c e O. The other thing he did was he took a risk, he did not fire the head of it, now.
Rich: Wow, okay. Right.
Like, and so he, that was a personal risk. Instead, Frank said, it needs our support. Let’s give them support. So there’s, there’s. You could call it empathy or loyalty or whatever you wanna call it, but Right. He didn’t throw that guy under the bus.
Rich: It’s the old adage, fixing with a problem is not always just laying blame.
Constance: Right. And a lot of times people unfortunately look for blame. Mm-hmm. Before they look for cause. Right. Right. I said, I was advised leaders and I actually was with someone this week who reminded me that I had said this to him. He said, I’m looking for cause I’m looking for cause. And he said, if there’s blame.
We’ll find it while we look for cause And I said, abso, absolutely, yes, absolutely right. But it’s very, it’s a very human sort of automatic reaction to say who did it right? Who, who made the mistake. And sometimes there is a person who made a mistake or you know, was negligent.
Rich: It’s also a very American stance to take when something goes wrong, to be the first one to say, okay, who’s getting fired for?
Constance: It’s not just Americans.
Rich: No, no, of course not. But it is certainly an American responses.
Constance: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It is. We, we tend to, We tend to look to in, at individual behavior, right? For explanations, it’s harder, it’s more effortful, and it makes the leader more vulnerable, which is why it takes courage to look for, you know, what are the causes, what are, what is the cultural cause, what’s the, what are the process causes, you know, that that takes longer.
Yeah. You know, if you can just point and shoot, you know, you can do that pretty quick. Right. But you might be wrong. And by the way, you’re gonna scare a lot of people that don’t need to be scared.
Rich: Which I’m getting into my next point. How does this, how does being a courageous leader positively or negatively affect the workforce?
Constance: It positively affects the the workforce. Okay. If you’re a courageous leader, not a reckless leader, right? I wanna distinguish reckless from courageous. A courageous leader is a role model for discernment, for measured action. You know, a, a courageous leader is not kicking the door in with their gun drawn.
Okay? And the other thing a courageous leader does is they understand that if you don’t create an environment for people to be courageous, they won’t be, that people are not stupid. I mean, if you’re going to. Off with their heads. Mm-hmm. When people try something new, they’re trying to innovate and they, in make an investment in something and it belly flops.
Right. You know, if you fire people, what does that say? Mm-hmm. Or if you’re in a medical setting, and let’s say you’re in an operating room mm-hmm. And a nurse says, I beg your pardon, but I think there’s a, there’s a clamp in the guy’s abdomen and the physician. You know, metaphorically off with the head of the nur of the OR nurse.
Right. What’s gonna happen? And so Amy, ed Edmondson at Harvard writes compellingly about this. She’s got the goods on the research. Mm. Her book psychological safety goes into way more depth than you and I have time to do. Sure. But you can’t expect people to exhibit courageous behavior if you’re gonna punish them.
For making mistakes. Right? Honest mistakes. And the other thing is, if you have not allowed people to be courageous in small ways, don’t expect when you need ’em to be super courageous that they’re gonna do it, because that’s not how we build courage. Okay. You build it. Over time and with feedback and, um, I’ll give you your listeners a wonderful book by Jim Detter, who’s at the Darden School at the University of Virginia called Choosing Courage.
And he illuminates the process that leaders can go through to not only build courage for themselves, but to help other people be courageous too.
Rich: All right. I hope you can actually let me be courageous for just a quick second here cuz I need to step away from you, Constance.
Constance: You go right ahead
Rich: because I do need to tell my team out there about a company.
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So visit team bonding.com to schedule your event. Team bonding when you want. Seriously. Fun results. And we are back talking about courageous leadership with Constance. Constance. Let’s go back here for just a quick second about something you had just stated. Building, building courage amongst your employees, amongst your staff.
Mm-hmm. How can we go about it? What should we look for if we wish to help you? Give the people the freedom to be courageous themselves, and how can we help them along the way?
Constance: Well, it’s probably easiest to describe this by giving an example. Please. So if you wanna build courage in your team, and I hope every leader listening to this does wanna build courage.
Mm-hmm. Because if people don’t have courage, they’re not gonna tell you they’re great idea. Right. We’re also not gonna tell you they’re terrible ideas because they’re afraid. Mm-hmm. They’re afraid to tell you because you know, when it’s our idea, we might not know if it’s terrible or great. Right? You and you might not know until you try a few things.
So what leaders can do is they can acknowledge and recognize things like learning. Incremental success. You can also recognize, uh, failure. That was done for good reason. Mm-hmm. So I’ll tell you that when I was with, uh, I was with the boutique consulting firm for 12 years before I launched out on my own, and my boss liked to do in our staff meetings.
We didn’t do it all the time, but he liked to ask us. Who had the biggest belly flop last month. And so that was a time for you to say, well, I tried this, or I did that and Right. It was a just, it was awful. You know? It didn’t work. The guy hung up on me or whatever. Sure. Whatever it was. And that became who had the biggest together.
And it, what it also did was it said, no one here is perfect. We all make mistakes. And so to make it safe for people to try things, to learn, to experiment, to innovate. Hmm. Um, and to not always evaluate things in terms of, you know, what is the r o roi, you know, what, what are we getting at? Because sometimes the return on investment is that you learn and then you iterate.
Right? And then, you know, two years later, Something happens that’s really positive for the company, but the germ of it was way back here and it looked like, well that was kind of a crummy idea.
Rich: Mm-hmm. And I gotta say, in my business, which is actually being a team building facilitator, when I do see these leaders, I can, I can usually tell cuz we gamify everything that we do.
And we break things down into teams and sometimes it’s how can teams work together? And sometimes it’s teams working opposite one another. But I can almost always tell the teams that are gonna succeed the fastest and the longest term are the ones that have those good natural leaders is, which is what I refer to them as.
Not realizing I was talking about courageous leaders. I was just thinking, you know, there’s a natural leadership thing going on here where they’re not just the ones standing there. I know what we need to do. Everybody listens to me, but they’re the ones going, okay, I think we can start this way. Who has ideas on how to do this?
Constance: Right. Right. And they’re the ones that are saying, we need to go in this direction. Mm-hmm. But they don’t dictate how you’re gonna get there right now. Now, you know the exception are military leaders in conflict, right? Yeah. Yeah, but sometimes you see people in business and they act like that’s what’s happening.
And it’s like, okay, nobody’s shooting at you, so let’s
Rich: you know.
Constance: Yeah, let’s very careful. Let’s, let’s back up the truck a little bit here. Uh, but it, it is more than inviting idea. It’s inviting ideas, but it’s also. Taking elements from different ideas, whether or not they end up in the final mm-hmm. In the final product.
And I think it’s also, I was meeting with his c e O yesterday and he was talking about recognition and he said, I’m, I wanna recognize people from meaningful things. And I said, recognize them for learning and recognize them for sharing what they’ve learned. And he said, oh good, how do I start? And I said, you.
You start, you the next time you’re out in the field. Mm-hmm. And you learn something from one of your employees. Let it be known that you’re learning and invite that person to keep talking. In other words, it, it’s what I call learn in public. Okay. It’s not enough to learn. You gotta tell people and show people that you’re learning.
That incorporates empathy, vulnerability, and evaluating of the learning process itself.
Rich: Right. Right. Now, what about those people for whom taking a risk? Not reckless, but they can’t be courageous either. They’re, they’re just steady Freddy’s, as we used to call them. They’re, they’re the ones who are just going to, they want to do their job and they want to do well at it.
Mm-hmm. But is there something that a courageous leader can do that will help to inspire those people to do more or to take the risk that they’re afraid to step?
Constance: Yeah, I think you can start by not using the word risk.
Constance: It’s like don’t, don’t say to people, I need you to take risks. Really, like everyone, raise your hand.
Who wants to take a risk, right? Like you haven’t defined it yet. Instead, if you talk to people, leaders can talk to people about, you know, what have you noticed about the way we work that you think is suboptimal? Or have you had, have you had an insight or an idea since we started Project X, Y, Z, acne, whatever, you know, road runner, um, what have you noticed?
Tell me about that. What you’re doing is you’re inviting them to come out of their, their shell of, I do this, I do this right, I do this, I do this. It’s this and this and this. Now if they don’t take you up on it, then okay, they don’t take you up on it. But if, if your business requires everyone to be a learner and everyone to share what they’re learning and everyone to step out of their rote work mm-hmm.
You have to put that into your, the culture of the company. And you have to say, we employ people who are willing to do. And if you’re not willing to do this, and you know when sometimes people say to me, oh, well I’m not a risk taker. And I’m like, okay, raise your right hand and repeat after me. Hi, my name is Rich.
And I am risk averse. Oh, no, that’s not genetically transmitted, is it? Okay. And I stole this from Marshall Goldsmith, by the way. He, I just messed up what he does, but he does it brilliantly. What he does is he gets people to understand that the way we talk about ourselves mm-hmm. Is very influential. It becomes your identity.
Right. You know, I’m not a risk taker. She’s an entrepreneur and people say that to me. They’re like, you, you’re a risk taker. And I’m like, I guess so. But I, I don’t take every risk I think of. Mm-hmm. Definitely not.
Rich: So let’s look at it from the other point of view then. Let’s go back to the employees themselves and
having an influential, courageous leader, uh, above them, inspiring them to do this for themselves. How do we get someone like me to become such a courageous leader?
Constance: Well, you have to choose people for their appetite for learning and growth and development. Okay. And I would say, You know, people, sometimes leaders say to me, how do I motivate people?
And I say, you don’t. And then they shut up and they, they look at me like, I have, you know, 14 heads.
Rich: Why didn’t we hire you, Constance? This is what we needed.
Constance: Yeah. Like, what, wait, how much should we pay you? What was that? And I say, you don’t. You hire people who are motivated and you fan the flames of motivation.
You can also quash motivation. You know, injecting it into people who are comfortable and who want a very predictable environment in which they are left alone to do the thing that they like to do, that’s fine. Mm-hmm. But it doesn’t fit in every company. So your selection process has to choose people who have motivation on their own, and you can interview for that.
You know, you, you just ask people, you know, well, how did you decide to do this? And, you know, tell me about your decision to do that and what options did you consider? And if you get a theme going of somebody who takes the safe path, Right. The path of least resistance all the time. Right? That’s one kind of person.
That’s fine. I’m not judging that, but is that what you’re looking for and, and selecting for roles is, to me is never about good or bad. It’s about fit or, or don’t fit.
Rich: Okay. Well what if I think that I am one of these kind of people, but I’m not getting enough leadership opportunities. Is there a way I can.
Make this more obvious about myself, or do I have to wait for a crisis to come about in my company and be the hero who steps up and gives the right answer at the right time?
Constance: Oh yeah. Yeah. And some people do that. Yeah. It’s like, here,
Rich: but I’m gonna shut up about it until it’s that moment.
Constance: Yeah. And it, and it’s just, yeah, it’s, people have a funny way of not liking people like that.
So you, you don’t wanna be, I would say that once you realize that you have an appetite for leadership and you wanna pursue roles where you have more leadership, um, I would say you gotta ask yourself, you know, why do you, why do you want that? You wanna identify. You know, what is it about me and, and are the traits that I identify in myself laudable?
Am I proud of those? You know, if I’m, if I want power and more paycheck, and some people will admit them this to themselves, Uhhuh, I’m sort of shocked by that, but they do. So once you realize that and you feel proud of the motivation that you’ve found within yourself, And I won’t label that with any of the monikers and bromides or, well, I’m a blah blah leader.
Yeah, really Show me. Just duck it. Close it and show me, um, then I would look for opportunities and I would take small opportunities. Okay. You know, Marshall Goldsmith, who’s a very famous guy, started out by hanging around with Peter Drucker, you know, carrying his briefcase. I mean, literally doing what was needed so that he could be with this really great management thinker.
I mean, really the fa the father of management thinking right. The other thing I would say is give yourself a time limit. You know, okay, if you, not that this has ever happened to me. You understand? Um, you identify something that you think would be, uh, valuable for your company and you prepare and you present that to your boss or through your boss’s boss, whoever.
Mm-hmm. And they poo poo it and they squash you. Um, that’s a sign. And so people need to understand, they can always find another job. Yeah. There’s this whole mythology about, oh, it’s really hard to find a, yeah. It’s really hard if you sit in your office and whine and say, it’s really hard. Um, and it may not be easy.
I’ve, I’ve seen executives of big companies lose their jobs. Hmm. And think that the world had ended and they find other jobs they find, and sometimes you’re just in the wrong place. I was in the wrong place being a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch, it was the wrong job for me. Mm-hmm. And I found my way to the right job, but it was hard.
It was hard.
Rich: How does empathy work in those regards? Like when you’re thinking about improving your own situation?
Constance: Oh, to be empathetic with yourself? Exactly. Oh, oh yeah. Oh boy. Yeah. Most of us are crummy at that. Yeah. When I left my job at Merrill Lynch, I was, was pretty unsettled. Um, by, by the decision, you know, I literally was earning half our.
Constance: And I quit my job and went back to school where I was making nothing.
Constance: And so my husband was supporting. Um, and I found different faculty members. I found people who were farther along than me.
Constance: That encouraged me in small ways. So I went back to school. My first term in school, I got a 4.0.
Okay. That’s a little like a pebble. Mm-hmm. Okay. This happened. So I’m capable. Right. At least in these courses, I’m capable, you know, and then I think so often when we have a big. We, we keep our eye on the prize, which is good, but we forget to give ourselves credit for the little droplets. The small pebbles, Dory Clark calls it raindrops.
That in and of itself, in and of themselves, they don’t fill your cup, but they’re an indicator that you’re doing the right things.
Rich: Okay. Um, so you need to have a certain amount of emotional intelligence, not only about the situations that you’re in, but about yourself as well. Is that what you’re saying?
Constance: Yeah. I think that, um, the concept of emotional intelligence is one that people have all sorts of varying understanding about what that means, but the. You know, having read the original research, um, on it, to me the most compelling aspect of emotional intelligence is, um, is self-regulation. Okay? So your question about empathy toward yourself is about emotional regulation.
You know, it’s stopping yourself from catastrophizing. And saying, oh, I’m ne I’m never, I’m never gonna do it. And we all have moments. My first day of graduate school, I sat in a room with very few people. These programs are, they don’t have a lot of people in. Yeah. And there’s a few people and we went around and introduced, and I had classmates from places like Brown.
In Stanford and I was like, oh my God, I got in by mistake. This could be the wrong letter, you know? Cause I’d gone to a public university. Sure. And I over-indexed on. My classmates that had been to private schools and I didn’t pay much attention to the public school grads, and it was a mistake. It sent me, you know, reeling for a couple days, probably a couple days.
Um, and it was a, it was unnecessary. That was not good regulation.
Rich: Right, right. But what other kind of emotional intelligence are we looking for then, especially in a business
Constance: opportunity? Oh, we’re looking for, um, how. Attuned we are to others. Okay. So it’s nice to be attuned to yourself. Yeah. But if that’s all you are, then you know, you’re a self-centered person.
Um, but I think being attuned to others, but here’s the thing. Yeah. Here’s the thing that bugs me to no end. Yeah. If I’m interviewing people for an executive role, if I’m assessing them, cuz I’m still a psychologist, I hold a license. Sure, sure, sure. And they say, Oh, I’m really insightful. I’m really good with people.
People tell me their problems. I’m like, yeah, I don’t believe one word of that. Like that’s, and so there’s that, it’s, it’s sort of a superior attitude, self-aggrandizing, that sort of thing. Um, I had one person tell me that they got their PhD in psychology from the school of hard knocks. Okay, Yik, you never say that to somebody who spent seven and a half years in graduate school and the money you spent
Rich: do not say that.
My god, that God, that was really dumb.
Constance: But, um, uh, but the other, the other thing that, um, uh, as somebody who’s really skillful at, under understanding others is curious about behavior. But more often than not, avoids interpreting the behavior until they know more. So, you know, you, if you listen, and you probably do this in your work.
Mm-hmm. You hear people say something observable about a person, and then they leap to, well, she was late, so obviously she doesn’t care about her job.
Rich: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Constance: Or now if somebody’s late and they’re chronically late, the feedback is you’re chronically late. I’m curious about why that is, because these are important meetings and we start on time.
Hmm. What’s, what’s going on? I, you know, you don’t know. Now maybe they are lazy and you need to fire them. I don’t know. Yeah. But when we leap and, and I hear people do this a lot, that is not being emotionally intelligent in my book. Right. But sometimes people feel really proud of their ability to. What they would say is insightful.
And I say you’re leaping to conclusions. Mm-hmm. And if I, and I’m not doing that, and I’m pretty good at it, you know, I mean, and I have the proof, I’ve assessed executives for 25 years. Right. I know those assessments are solid. Mm-hmm. But I think it’s unfair to people and it feels mean.
Rich: Well, let’s go back then to the leaders themselves.
The ones you’ve seen, the ones who. Hopefully have this courageous leadership, uh, uh, the skills and, and, and, you know, ingrained emotional awareness. But like my grandfather used to say, even firefighters don’t put out fires every day. Right. So what does a dayday leader of this quality look like?
Constance: Um, what, what do they do?
A leader like that is someone who really sets a direction. For an organization and I said, really sets a direction and I meant mm-hmm. Really sets a direction so it’s not amorphous. Right. But neither is it so tactical that it makes your teeth hurt. Right. You know, it’s a direction, it’s a, I call it a strategic direction.
You know, we are the world’s leading, um, engineering firm, solving the most complex issues facing mankind, for example. Not that I know a company like that,
Rich: um, wink, wink, that’s not sure. You
Constance: create, you create the systems. To support that you make your resource allocation decisions according to that strategic vision, and you hire people that are capable of moving in that direction.
The resource allocation one is very important for a courageous leader, sticks to their guns and funds what is consistent with the strategic direction and cowardly. Get cow toed and nagged to the point that they cave in and they put resources in places that may sound good. You know, these are the people that succumb to the bright, shiny idea, right?
That takes them off course. And it takes courage to stay on course because you have to say no. You have to say no, we’re not buying McDonald’s franchises. Hmm. Yeah. You know, or No, we’re not. Whatever. And, and I use the McDonald’s franchise example. You probably think I made that. Nope, I did not.
Rich: Nope. I’m sure you didn’t.
Constance: What actually happened once.
Rich: So, but talking about resource, uh, allocation, human beings being the number one resource that businesses should be, you know, allocating the most towards, should they be delegating more? Would a courageous leader be delegating more to the people under them?
Constance: A, a courageous leader, delegates when appropriate.
To whom appropriate. Okay. And they don’t delegate out of cowardice. They don’t give somebody else a job that is theirs to do. They don’t kick the can down the road. They don’t do what in medicine? Um, is called buffing and turfing.
Constance: Have you heard that? Okay, so buffing and turfing in medicine, uh, is when you have a patient that’s a pain in the, Hmm, and you, you can’t figure out what’s wrong with ’em.
And they’re difficult and you know, they show up in the er, they’re a frequent flyer in the emergency room, all that. And so what you do is you write a consult to psychiatry. Where someone like me is on the receiving end of the referral and they say, this is a really interesting patient, and you know, we can’t figure it out, but we think that you can.
Right? Right. And so you see business leaders have somebody in their organization who’s a bad fit for the company. Maybe they’re kind of lazy or whatever it is, and instead of firing them, They pass them off to somebody else inside the company. So that’s buffing and turfing. Okay. And it’s really, really, you can, you can just feel how much energy that sucks out of a company.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it, it can become a cultural phenomenon where people just get rotated around and then 21 years later they get fired and they get six months severance. But that’s not the real cost. The real cost is, they hurt your culture.
Rich: But what about mentor? I mean, how does the, how does the courage leader handle mentor?
What about it? What are you asking me?
Are these people, meaning you are looking over your people. How will a courageous leader handle mentoring? Or do they, or they do, they automatically just assume the people that they have are the ones who, who can get the job done?
Constance: Oh, I think courageous leaders think a lot about people in their development.
Okay. And so whether it’s mentoring or they provide an external coach, I get asked a lot about that by top leaders. They say, do you think we should get so-and-so A coach and I say, well, are they a B player? Are you’re trying to make ’em an A player? And they’re like, oh no, they’re a D player. And I’m like, no, that’s, that’s, you Don’t invest your money.
In people that just aren’t performing and haven’t performed right for a while. Um, I think that, again, courageous leaders promote the value of mentoring by doing it because they don’t have to say, oh, I’m a mentor for this person and this person. Right. The word will get out, you know, as little as I do, how.
Vibrant grapevines are Yeah. In organizations. Yeah. Yeah. And so, and you want that to become something that’s attractive, that doesn’t hap happen to people as a rescue plan. Same for coaching. Okay. You know, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said no. I will not coach that person. And they look at me and they go, well, what do we do?
And I go, you’re gonna fire them. You’re gonna write a big. Wish them well, you’re gonna treat them with dignity and respect, but you’re gonna show ’em the door. Hmm. Because you just told me for the last 25 minutes what’s wrong with them. Right. And they’ve been here for, I don’t know, 12 years and it’s been the same story.
Hmm. Yeah. And you know about, uh, I’d say 90% of the time they don’t listen.
Rich: Okay, well, which brings me,
Constance: and then three years later they fired them and then they called me back and say a follow in.
Rich: Hey, you were right. We actually had to, but it was after like not supposed to go. Yay.
But let’s talk about something that we’ve been having throughout the entirety of this conversation with one another. Fun. We’ve been having a lot of fun. Yeah, we have. But as, especially as a team building facilitator, I gotta tell you how many companies I have worked with where I get in there and the only thing that I’m hearing is how much fun they’re having with me that they don’t have every day.
Yeah. And that kind of, as I’ve learned from so many other people I’ve spoken to in the now four years of this podcast, fun is making your day fun is enough to help keep. Working hard for you every day. Mm-hmm. How can a courageous leader make their environment fun? Well, besides hiring me, I mean
Constance: Yeah. Well, well, yeah, that’s, that’s obvious.
I know, right? Right. I sometimes say, will say that to a leader. We’re talking about something and I lean over and I go, I realize I’m stating but this is something I could help you with. Yeah, so fun I think is, can be in two ways. Fun can be special occasions and they can be super fun. My husband’s former company used to do an annual, uh, party.
We’d go to Six Flags over Georgia. Mm. And uh, I would stay put while he rode the rollercoaster, you know, and it was fun. You know, you, you ate kind of bad food and you went on the rides and you know, the president of the company was there. That’s one kind of fun. Yeah. The more enduring kind of fun is when doing the work is fun is when
people celebrate each other Learning. When you celebrate, you have a feedback loop from customers or clients where everybody gets to hear, you know, we did this for this customer and this is the difference that it made. And it’s like a collective, you know? Yay. But it also comes down to each manager at every level.
If you’re managing people, You’ve got to be really intentional about helping them understand and feel proud mm-hmm of their contribution to the bigger goal. And that takes work. The work of management is partly that it’s not just supervise, you know, I saw you leave early crap. Mm-hmm. It’s. Wow, we did this thing and you played this role, and here’s how it affected the whole.
Hmm. And that is fun. As a leader and a team person, when I’m leading a team, I’ve chaired the boards of four different not-for-profit organizations, and I’m now on a board of trustees at a university. Fabulous. Making sure the trustees know that their contribution matters lights them up. And these are smart, sophisticated people.
You know, you can’t swing your purse without hitting a PhD in an mba, you know, whatever. And when you tell people you made a contribution that matters. Here’s how it mattered. Here’s how our students are better off. Here’s how the faculty’s better.
Rich: Fab you
Constance: like, like it, nothing like it. That’s fun. I, I think it’s fun and that might make me a big, fat nerd, but I don’t care.
Rich: Oh, Constance, thank you so much for coming on board today. Uh, this has been awesome. This has been a riot. I’ve really, really enjoyed talking to you about this. Uh, go on my team out there. Give a big round of applause for a giant nerd, Constance Derek.
So, Constance. Before we get into the final phase of the show here, can we just, is there a way that my team or a place my team can go to to learn more about you, especially your upcoming.
Constance: Oh yeah. Um, so my website is my name and I’m so sorry it’s so long, it’s unfamiliar. Um, so I have a website and it’s constance dierickx.com.
Um, I have a LinkedIn newsletter that publishes every two weeks. Oh. And I have on my website blog posts and newsletters that go back to 2011. Wow. I have videos on. And, um, when my new book is out on April 18th, I’ll be making some appearances, but for everyone who pre-orders the book mm-hmm. And you can look on my website and get the email address.
If you send me a copy of the receipt, you’re going to be invited to a special livestream conversation between myself and a really cool person. Say no more. Who I haven’t figured out who it is yet. So that’s what I said.
Rich: Say no more. It sounded like you had this great secret going con. Thank you again.
Constance: I’ll say that I’ve been professionally very fortunate to have professional relationships and friendships with some awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome people like you and your
Rich: was about to say, please consider, consider You got one more.
Constance: Can I give a little plug? Yeah. So when I spoke to your colleague, Dave mm-hmm. I got introduced to him by Jared Kleinert and Yeah. Right. And
Rich: also a fan of the
Constance: show. Like Jared knows everybody show I know Jared. I met Jared at Renaissance weekend and we just clicked.
And, and so I, I have to confess mm-hmm. That when people say to me, do you do team building? I just think, uh, no. Why would I, why would I do that? So I talked to Dave and he cracked my head open and helped me understand that what your company does is, which is a huge service, and a lot of consultants are too cowardly to do what you do if you help the leaders identify the the reasonable outcomes for these events, right?
The problem with a lot of team building is the leader wants people to be aligned on the strategy. Yeah. And they wanna get them together for half a day in a room with flip charts and bore the woohoo out of them. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and when Dave, when he was talking to me about team bonding, it really, it just lit me up, I have to say.
And I wanted to say that, uh,
Rich: and now he’s gonna hear
Constance: feedback for your listeners.
Rich: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And he’s gonna love that because again, unsolicited and he’s the number one fan of the show. Thank you again. You know, he’s going to hear that. Um, I, I hope you had as good a time being here as
Constance: I had, had I, I’ve had a blast.
Uh, the time has flown, what is it, eight o’clock at night? I mean,
Rich: well, I hope you continue to have a good time, uh, because it’s time form a speed round. No. No.
All right. As I started talking to you about before we actually got into the show
Constance: Yeah, you did. You warned me. Yep. You warned me. Which means, which all that means is I’ve been nervous about it the whole time.
Rich: Couldn’t even tell. Fantastic job covering that up. But, uh, all this is, is I’m gonna give you 60 seconds.
There’ll be some music playing. That’s how I keep time. And during that time, I’m gonna ask you a series of, The, the obvious way to get through this is just gimme the shortest answers you can right off the top of your head, whatever comes first. Okay? If you’re feeling at all, like you wanna be competitive, the number to beat for this season is 13.
13 seconds. 13 questions. 60, 15 questions. Yeah. How many questions do you have? I have over 101 sitting right on my screen in front of me that I will just pick from randomly.
Constance: I’m not that competitive. I’m not gonna try to do 101. But then let’s delve
Rich: a little bit deeper and learn more
Constance: about you. 13 is a lot, so you have to, you have to utter phrases in response
Rich: about, yeah.
Or it n b a simple yes. No. We’ll see. It depends upon the question or pass. Let’s try not to do that one. Okay. Go. Okay, go. All right. If you are ready, let’s go. You’ll hear the music and we will begin with your question. What’s your name?
Rich: How many kids do you have?
Rich: Which one’s your favorite?
Constance: The cat.
Rich: Nice. Uh, if you could choose a nickname for yourself, what would it be?
Constance: I don’t have to choose one. I was given one. It’s Ferrari.
Rich: Excellent. Uh, where did that name come from?
Constance: My mentor, Alan Weis.
Rich: Who’s the funniest person? You know,
Constance: my husband.
Rich: Excellent. Uh, what is the favorite thing about your parents?
Constance: Um, they were very socially graceful and they taught my siblings and I to be socially graceful.
Rich: Fantastic. Do you have any pets?
Rich: What kind of pet do you have?
Constance: Cat. Her name’s Rutledge.
Rich: If you could ask her a question and get an answer, what would that question be?
Constance: Why does she keep clawing the
What’s the most courageous thing you think you’ve ever done?
Constance: Quit my job and go back to school.
Rich: What is a one book you’ve read recently that you’ve enjoyed?
Constance: Man’s Search for, meaning Victor Frankl.
Rich: Fantastic. Constance. 12. See you Then you got 12. Yeah. Remarkably good job For someone who really wasn’t even. That’s great.
Constance: Yeah. For somebody who tends to give long answers to questions.
Rich: Nope. You apparently hit it courageously and did well with it just because.
Thank you again so much for coming on board and thank you, my team. That’s it. We’re wrapping up another episode of Team Building Saves the World. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, whether you’re new to the podcast or an old fan of the show, please be sure to share with everyone that you know, whether they’re a coworker, family.
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April 11, 2023
On this episode of Team Building Saves the World, Rich speaks with Constance Dierickx, better known as the Decision Doctor, about courageous leadership and its impact on creating a growth-focused work environment. The episode unpacks the attributes of a courageous leader and their ability to motivate and empower their team members to achieve their full potential. The impact of courageous leadership on employee engagement and productivity will be explored, along with its role in fostering a safe work environment where all individuals feel empowered to take risks, innovate, and contribute to the growth of the organization. The episode features real-life examples and practical advice for creating a growth-oriented environment, which is important to anyone interested in developing their leadership skills, whether or not they hold a managerial position.
Constance is an experienced author, Psychologist, and contributor to renowned publications such as the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. Listen as she provides her sought-after tips, advice, and stories on how leaders and individuals can cultivate a culture of courage in their organizations in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.
About Constance Dierickx:
Constance is author of the forthcoming book, Meta-Leadership: How to See What Others Don’t and Make Great Decisions. Before launching her successful consultancy practice, Constance worked as a broker at Merrill Lynch. There, she observed firsthand the power of emotion and perceptual distortion on major decisions. Her curiosity about the behavior of clients and colleagues led her to study psychology and business and earn a PhD in clinical psychology, focusing on decision science and crisis intervention with individuals and organizations.
Constance has since consulted with dozens of boards and over 500 executives on five continents, becoming a sought-after advisor to boards and senior executives in high-stakes leadership situations including strategic pivots, CEO transitions, board conflict, and crisis. She has worked with companies from the Fortune 50 to high-tech start-ups. Her merger and acquisition clients succeed 400% more often than the average. One public company client saw a 100% increase in share price two years post-deal. Clients call her “The Decision Doctor®” in recognition of her ability to help them with high-stakes decisions. She has helped clients increase share price (1400% for a retail brand), revenue (27%) and margin.
Recognized as an expert on governance and executive leadership, Constance has been interviewed by National Public Radio for Marketplace Morning, The Wall Street Journal, and Chief Executive and writes for Harvard Business Review and Forbes as well as Directorship, Boards and Directors, and Corporate Board Member.
In 2021, The Society for the Advancement of Consulting named her Consultant of the Year in recognition of her achievements and contributions to the profession. Prior to starting her own firm, she led the Board Services practice for a global boutique firm. She is the author of High Stakes Leadership (2017), The Merger Mindset (2018) and upcoming The Vibrant Board (2023).
" The art of Meta-Leadership allows people to excel at seeing what is really going on, recognize distortion, and make better decisions, helping them to avoid invisible traps, including black and white thinking."- Constance Dierickx
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Introducing Season 4 of the Team Building Saves the World podcast! In this season of Team Building Saves the World, join our host Rich Rininsland as we explore the significance of building a positive company culture and how effective communication plays a crucial role in achieving it.
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