In Conversation with Dan Pontefract Founder and CEO of the Pontefract Group
Dan Pontefract is the founder and CEO of the Pontefract Group, a firm that improves the state of leadership and organizational culture. He is the best-selling author of four books: LEAD. CARE. WIN., OPEN TO THINK, THE PURPOSE EFFECT and FLAT ARMY. A renowned speaker, Dan has presented at four different TED events and also writes for Forbes and Harvard Business Review. Previously as Chief Learning Officer at TELUS—a Canadian telecommunications company with $14 billion in revenues and 50,000 global employees—he launched the Transformation Office, TELUS MBA, and TELUS Leadership Philosophy, all award-winning initiatives that helped increase employee engagement to record levels of nearly 90%.
Q- Many congratulations to you on the lunch of your latest book, Lead Care Win. Tell us the philosophy of the book?
If you’re like me, you see a world desperately in need of help and assistance. It matters not if it’s at work, home, on holiday, or at the park. People everywhere—across all walks of life—are yearning for a stronger form of humanity to step forward. The SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic of 2020 clearly illustrates this need. How we care about and treat others is in need of an inquest. While we often hear the mantra that leaders are in the people business, something continues to be lost in translation. Let me make it clear: leaders are in the relationship business. The number one and irrefutable goal of a leader is to focus their leadership on the development and sustainability of relationships. They could be with your family, neighbors, team members, bosses, partners, customers, suppliers, or even competitors. The entirety of Lead. Care. Win.focuses on a leader’s exchange with people and how to make them more meaningful and mutually productive.
Q- What are super-practical leadership lessons that can help become a more caring and engaging leader?
Lead. Care. Win. is the product of my relentless focus, observations, and research that have led me to define 9 insightful yet super-practical leadership lessons. The lessons stem from my 25 years of experience leading teams and organizations, but also consulting and helping other organizations. In essence, the book helps leaders understand the critical importance of crafting meaningful, respectful relationships among all stakeholders. Every human interaction is crucial. Every exchange can be mutually beneficial. These 9 leadership lessons center on your willingness to improve how you treat people, a call for meaningful change to:
- Be relatable and empathetic
- Act not out of ego but out of purpose
- Share knowledge to build a wise organization
- Stay present and attentive to the needs of others
- Embrace change and the opportunity for growth it offers
- Stay curious and adopt lifelong learning
- Think and act with clarity
- Commit to balance and inclusivity in all your dealings
- Act with humility and thoughtfulness
The bottom line is that when you care enough to champion others, the workplace becomes happily infectious and the organization benefits in more ways than one. It’s time to care. Full potential is possible. Leaders need to change their ways, and these 9 super-practical lessons can assist.
Q- What is the role of human interaction and how is that mutually beneficial?
Just how relatable you are in all of your relationships—be they at work or outside of it—is a hallmark of leadership, of human interaction. To become relatable—to be a beacon of forgiveness and kindness, to be humble enough to ask for help—affects the very heart of your leadership. Caring for and about others means acknowledging your humanity and avoiding falling into the cognitive dissonance trap, which will cripple your ability to be relatable, and will consequently impact your team and what this group of good people are hopeful of achieving on your behalf. Being relatable is rooted in incivility. If your default position is to respect others, there is a far greater chance of your relationship blossoming. Empathy is a multi-faceted concept, but one that is also key to being a humane leader.
At its root is your ability to proactively—and sometimes reactively—consider the emotional feelings and intellectual thoughts of the other person. When you appreciate how someone thinks—how they are mentally processing a situation—you are demonstrating what psychologists refer to as cognitive empathy. You are using your head to get inside their head. When you try to understand how the other person is feeling, you are using your heart to get inside their heart. Psychologists call this emotional empathy. It’s about how people sense situations. If you arrive at understanding how people are emotionally feeling in specific situations, you demonstrate empathy with your heart. Once you have satisfactorily assessed or interpreted where employees are coming from cognitively and emotionally—you are ina better position to do something about it. It’s how you can turn empathy into positive action through something known as sympathetic empathy.
Q- Many companies are hiring new leaders like CEOs and MDs during the lockdown, what are the new leadership skills organizations are looking for in the new normal?
First, to be relatable is to portray yourself as a real human being. If your only point of reference in life is your current role and place of work, people will view you as being impersonal. When you bring your whole self to work, you look to share some of your more personal details when pertinent. For example, where do you come from? What was your upbringing? Who were your favorite role models? Did you have any struggles growing up? What current hobbies do you enjoy? Are you enjoying the new Billie Eilish album? What are you doing to stay motivated during the pandemic when being quarantined at home? Team members and colleagues appreciate it when someone is willing to share parts of their real selves outside of work. It makes you relatable to others. It’s becoming a key hiring metric of new leaders, CEOs, MDs, etc. Second, the use of time is key. Most of us don’t use our time very well. That in and of itself has become a crime. The systems we adopt to convince ourselves we are winning the time battle are mere illusion. The technology we use is a crutch. The apps are merely a Band-Aid. TheNew Year’s resolutions become forgotten.
To improve your ability to lead, new CEOs and MDs must come clean. Time is the enemy. Ultimately our mismanagement of time has reached epic heights, the point at which it’s detrimentally affecting our ability to lead self and others. One suggestion for new leaders is to create “me time” in your calendar. Analyze your calendar and determine where you can block off time to dedicate to undisturbed, focused work. Perhaps there is a thirty-minute segment at the beginning and end of each working day that is yours, used simply to catch up and plan. Maybe you’re able to institute the same for Friday afternoons. Whatever you decide, “Me Time” is a time behavior that protects you from feeling overwhelmed by having too many meetings and too much busywork. New leaders have to be in control of their time, their calendars. If they don’t, it will end up being very uncaring to those they purportedly lead.
Q- Any concluding remarks?
Leaders ought to be aware of the “shadow corporate culture.” It’s when employees ignore the nonsense of clueless leaders to do whatever it takes to support the customer and each other. It happens a fair bit when disconnected leaders lead from perched offices. If you are guilty of such behavior, you will lose. You will lose respect. You will lose the chance to have an engaged team. You will lose out on potential new hires. You will lose the prospect of productivity improvements or innovative ideas. If you are feeling any heat over this, see the signs listed below and look for ones that might be familiar. Undoubtedly, you will find your team going around you to operate in a way that is more humane, let alone sane. They have pegged you an ineffective leader, and they don’t want to go down with the ship. That’s when a “shadow corporate culture,” or at least a shadow team-operating culture, will come to bear. That’s when a more caring form of leadership is required. Hence, Lead. Care. Win.!
Thank You, Dan!