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Ep44: Leading Fearlessly with Kevin Dahlstrom

Kevin is the Founder and CEO of Swell, a disruptive FinTech that is on a mission to reduce credit card debt by a billion dollars. Learn his 7 essential lessons to overcome obstacles and inspire others

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We’re back with another episode of our Founder Series. We’re thrilled to welcome Kevin Dahlstrom to the podcast!

Kevin is the Founder and CEO of Swell, a disruptive FinTech that is on a mission to reduce credit card debt by a billion dollars. 

He’s spent his career in financial services and has served as Chief Marketing oOfficer for Elevate, Mr. Cooper and Central Pacific Bank. 

He is also a rock climber. He’s a father. He’s probably the fittest 50 year old we’ve ever met and the nicest guy on Twitter, which is probably why he’s got about 40,000 followers. 

In this episode, Kevin shares his 7 essential lessons to leading fearlessly and growing cultures in which people and businesses thrive. Join the conversation as we learn:

  • Values are for life, not for walls
  • The way you do anything is the way you do everything
  • Never bargain shop for talent
  • Don’t chase a misguided definition of success
  • Culture trumps strategy, every time
  • You don’t learn anything when things are going well
  • Compounding is key

If you’re looking to liven up your own leadership development and learn lessons that you can apply in all aspects of your life, you’ll love this episode. And Kevin.


All the links mentioned in the show.

Connect with Kevin




Swell Website:

Kevin’s Podcast:

Find Out More:

Ryne Sherman & Hogan Assessment Systems

The Harvard Happiness Study:

Miley Cyrus Climb (lol): 

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The Transcript

⚠️ NOTE: This is an automated transcript, so it might not always be 100% accurate!

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Kevin 0:00
If your why is that we want to make a bunch of money as a company that’s okay. But just own that right? Because that’s that why will drive your behavior. In our case it’s a little bit bigger than we truly want to help consumers build wealth and get rid of debt.

Leanne Elliott 0:19
Hello, and welcome to the truth lives and workplace culture podcast, brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. My name is Leanne. I’m a Business psychologist. My name is Al I’m a business owner and we are here to help you simplify the science of people and create amazing workplace coaches.

Al Elliott 0:36
We are I remember last week when Leanne said that she was under the weather Well, I’ve got it now. So so I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to put up so Leon can be leading a lot this podcast even though I did the interview with Kevin and he was awesome. So you’ll have to put up with them. Mine snotty nose and croaky voice hopefully makes me sound a little sexier.

Leanne Elliott 0:54
Oh, it’s very sexy doing very, very white guests. So today, we have another founder episode for you. We’re talking to the awesome Kevin del strim, who is founder and CEO of FinTech swell, but we’re doing a little bit of a different spin on this one.

Al Elliott 1:13
Yeah, I first came across Kevin on Twitter. I followed him I’ve been following for maybe about a year or something. And he seems to split his posts between ridiculous rock climbs that he’ll send a picture of him like half a mile up a clip face cliff face with nothing but a piece of string, and then really solid leadership advice and stories. And so that’s why I reached out to him reached out to him. I’m not that guy. That’s why I DM them. And I said, Oh my God, what, what? And I basically said, Look, dude, we need to talk to you because you sound like a really interesting guy. And he really was, wasn’t he?

Leanne Elliott 1:43
Yeah, he really, really was. If you haven’t heard of Kevin, Kevin is a founder and CEO of swell, disruptive FinTech that is on a mission to reduce credit card debt by a billion dollars. He spent his career in financial services, and has served as Chief Marketing Officer for elevate Mr. Cooper and central Pacific bank. He is also a rock climber. He’s a father, he’s probably the fittest 50 year old we’ve ever met, and also the nicest guy on Twitter, which is probably why he’s got about 40,000 followers. We are very excited to welcome Kevin to the podcast. So

Al Elliott 2:15
what started off really is kind of a founder story, which is what we do once a month, just led him to really all about leadership and leading fearlessly. And of course, we use the finances the analogy of climbing a rock face. And so the hands put this together. And she’s she’s discovered that Kevin’s basically got seven essential lessons to overcome obstacles and inspire others. We will go into that in just a second. But before that, it’s our favorite time of the week. It’s the roundup

Unknown Speaker 2:39
everything go.

Al Elliott 2:43
Okay, so we’ve got a new segment for our listener portion of the show, which is called Truth or lie dead on brand. They’re loving it. And the whole idea is that I will say to Leanne, is this truth? Is this psychological business I’m gonna be talking about, is it a truth? Or is it a lie? And then the ham will explain which one it is. So are you okay with that, Lee?

Leanne Elliott 3:05
Yeah, go for it.

Al Elliott 3:06
Lovely. All right. So the first question, well, this week’s Truth or lie is all about. Have you ever seen that like, quite cheesy series called lie to me? Yeah, I’m guessing that as a psychologist, you’re a bit like, man. Yeah, it’s fun. And it’s basically if you’ve not seen it, it’s an English guy, and I can’t and Gary, you’re gonna be shouting and if you remember his name, and he’s basically the main protagonist, and he can read facial signals, and he can read micro expressions. So he will say, he will work with the FBI. Inexplicably, every single week he works with the FBI. To solve this kind of mystery. We’re basically looking at someone and going, Are they lying? Yes, they are. Because they Twitch their left eye for half a millisecond. Is this a load of bollocks, layer? Is this a truth? Can it do micro expressions exist? Can people actually tell if you’re lying by looking at you’re looking at your face? Is it truth? Or is it a lie?

Leanne Elliott 3:59
Well, micro expressions are a part of body language. And I’ve always been led to believe that when it comes to body language, we’re pretty rubbish at reading it. And it always makes me smile when people say I’m so good at reading body languages. I really, unless it’s really obvious, you know, like defensive people might have crumpled up their limbs or arms and legs crossed. Or you may see a very alpha male beating his chest I have actually seen that once. In a meeting it was cringe worthy. But in terms of using body language or facial expressions alone to detect truth or lies, I’m not so sure that is a thing. Generally speaking, can we can identify emotions, you know, typically if somebody is happy or sad or angry, but truth I don’t know. But to be fair, this isn’t my my area of expertise. So I actually called in some psychology backup owl in the shape of Ryan Sherm and Chief Science Officer at Hogan assessment systems. As friend of the show, I think we can say at this point, I’m curious

Al Elliott 4:57
what kind of light you have to shine in the sky. For Brian to come to come like flying you knocking Batman Yeah, off the bat. What would you have to do?

Leanne Elliott 5:05
You know the science of personality podcast that Ryan Yeah. HOST I think it’s got like a little brain in the middle of

Al Elliott 5:12
Ryan Ryan or just drop in and

Leanne Elliott 5:15
just appears. Yeah, it’s like it’s more like Beetlejuice. Alright, let you say like personality, personality personality. And then now, Ryan, how are you?

Al Elliott 5:24
Sorry. Back to midnight is early there. Anyway, sorry, afterwards Jack should carry on.

Leanne Elliott 5:31
So yeah, so I asked Ryan, can we use facial expressions, and all body language detect if somebody is lying can psychologists serve as a human lie detector test is right.

Ryne Sherman 5:45
But for the most part, many people can recognize when somebody is happy, or when somebody’s angry or when somebody is sad just by their facial expression. And so from that, part of that is that I think that that’s, that’s, that’s all true psychology in terms of the lie stuff. But actually quite a bit of research on lie detection and detecting deception from a whole bunch of things. There’s a really classic studies where they took like FBI investigators, and they took regular police officers, and they just took normal ordinary citizens, and they had them all, like, watch video clips of people who are either lying or not. And in this case, they set it up so that half of the time they were seeing a lie half of the time they weren’t. And what they found out was that the federal investigators were much better at catching liars who are lying. And the reason they were better at it is because they assumed everyone was lying. So they weren’t better at right. So they also were calling people liars who weren’t lying to so they actually weren’t more accurate, right? But they’re better at catching liars. So I’ve usually just say everybody’s lying, and then you’re gonna catch all the liars. But of course, you’re gonna accuse a lot of people lying who aren’t. So it turns out that, at least in that sort of sense like that, there’s no doesn’t seem to be any sort of trained skill, at least at that level in detecting lies. So no lie.

Al Elliott 7:05
So basically, I should stop watching this show and move on to something like house where it’s a bit more realistic.

Leanne Elliott 7:12
To che, so that’s the thing. I’m sure there’s many like doctors and medical doctors and surgeons that can’t watch things like Harris or Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t know I’d continue to indulge them at the end of the day. I think what Ryan is making the point of it’s taking two areas of psychology that are all fact based are true or a thing and just combining the way that may not necessarily be accurate, but it’s very entertaining.

Al Elliott 7:34
Interesting. What else you got Lee?

Leanne Elliott 7:37
So I came across a very click Beatty angry headline this week. So I’m gonna tell you the headline. Boomers are more hard working than Gen Zed according to a survey in Australia.

Al Elliott 7:48
Amen. Yeah, these bloody Gen Z kids. They don’t know they’re born.

Speaker 4 7:53
They don’t. I’m not doing my by the way. I’m Gen X, just in case anyone listening and think I’m Boomer. Yeah, but

Leanne Elliott 7:57
Well, according to this survey, apparently, there may be some truth in it. So first of all, hello to our RZ listeners, we know we have quite a few down on this. Thank you very much for your support. And we’d love to hear your views on this as well. So an article in Indy 100 shared the results of a recent survey undertaken by immigration to Australia, they asked more than 1000 people in the country who evaluate their post COVID work habits, in a bid to understand how the pandemic has affected how people approach employment. Now, apparently 1/3 of people between the ages of 18 and 30. So we’re talking very much Gen Zed and young millennials there, they said they are more relaxed about their jobs because unemployment rates in the country have dipped Meanwhile, 77% so they have no intention of going back to working in the same way they did before lock downs, which of course made remote and hybrid work possible. On the other side, Gen X and Boomers, people born between 1955 in 1980. They were working just as hard as before the pandemic and nearly 90% said they had a strong work ethic. So of course, part of the motivation for younger generations to adopt a more casual, casual approach is to avoid burnout. I think when we think about this, logically, we are now working much longer into our lives. So that makes sense. We’re looking about sustainability rather than necessarily intensity. So perhaps the flip argument could be rather than them not being a rather than being worked shy. gen xers and millennials are simply looking for ways to work smarter and not harder. What else you got Leah. So finally, it is pride month in the US and the UK at the moment. It’s an annual event if you haven’t heard about it, that celebrates the LGBTQ i A plus community. And it does feel more important ever given their aggression of basic human rights that community has experienced particularly in the US over the last few years. So I’m sure your news feed is full of important events and initiatives that raise awareness. I wanted to share one that quite simply It not only filled me with pride, but lots of joy.

Al Elliott 10:03
Oh, I love it when you fulfill the joy. Such a lovely smile.

Leanne Elliott 10:06
Yeah, it was it was joyful. So last week, h&m, USA that’s a clothing brand made history by breaking the Guinness World Records official title for the most people attending a drag brunch in honor of Pride Month and in support of the LGBTQIA plus community. Do they

Al Elliott 10:25
call it a brunch? brunch or maybe drag brunch brunch anyway, carry on.

Leanne Elliott 10:31
So yes, since early 2020 do drag events have faced more than 160 protests and significant threats. amid the growing controversy surrounding pride h&m have doubled down on its efforts not only to its urine commitment to inclusivity and creating safe spaces, but for the initiatives and celebrations it is having during pride month. So forging 12 people attended the drag brunch in Brooklyn, New York. And the event itself benefited one of the retailer’s longtime collaborators. And of course, co host of the event, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which if you’re not aware, it’s a national nonprofit dedicated to protecting and defending the human rights of black transgender people. So in a shared press release, Carlos Duarte, who was president of the H and M region, Americas had a really lovely way of celebrating it. I think he said pride is supported 365 days a year. But our initiatives during June highlight is ongoing commitment. We have moments like this to mark the importance of art and joy in our community. We will continue our consistent commitment to groups like the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which provides vital services and paramount to so many in need. Bravo,

Al Elliott 11:39
well done, well done. Absolutely. regular listeners will know that we are huge supporters of that community there with lots of friends and family who are part of it.

Leanne Elliott 11:47
Our nephew is a drag queen.

Al Elliott 11:48
Yes, he is a very, very good one, too. Okay, so we are diving today into the seven essential leadership lessons that our guest, Kevin Dahlstrom has accumulated over more than 20 years in corporate and startup business. This advice is

Leanne Elliott 12:02
gold. Yes. And we will be working our way through seven incredibly valuable lessons, and sharing some of our thoughts, insights, and of course, the science along the way. But first, let’s meet Kevin properly and hear more about his career and leadership experience to date. In some

Kevin 12:17
ways, swell is the like the culmination of everything I’ve done in my career, and in some ways my life’s work. So I spent a long career in mostly in financial services, sort of at the intersection of financial services and technology. I came out of college in the mid 90s, when the internet was just becoming a thing. And so you know, it’s pretty clear from the beginning, it was going to be a big deal. And so I was attracted to internet businesses. But I was also always attracted to money as an industry, right, because I got my my degrees in engineering and mathematics. I’ve always been a numbers guy. And I thought, you know, money is just the ultimate consumer product. Everybody knows what it is. Everybody wants it. It’s all digital. It never perishes. And so I thought, you know, what a cool way to build a career is kind of dealing with money, but bringing it into the internet age. And so spent my career have founded a number of companies. I’ve also worked as a chief marketing officer for a number of larger companies, public companies. And you know, over that long course of that career, I observed, which is something that’s really obvious to anyone that has a bank account, which is banking has really broken you know, banking and healthcare, the two massive industries, they’re just horribly broken, you know, anywhere you look, it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t work in favor of the consumer, it doesn’t work the way it should work. And so that was the genesis for swell at the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote a white paper just about, I kind of follow the queue of a famous Jeff Bezos quote, your margin is my opportunity. I

Al Elliott 14:02
think this is a common theme if you listen back to my previous founder stories, hello, Stella Smith from perks, then they generally they look at something and they go, it doesn’t exist, and I’m gonna make it exist. And that’s like a combination. I will say that opportunity is a combination of I think, foresight and lock or something because this sort of thing this this swell probably wouldn’t have done well 1520 years ago. But since we’ve had films like The Big Short we’ve had lots of films about banking scandal to documentaries about banking scandal. Now the tide has turned wait the public thinks the bankers the bad guys, and I think what’s incredibly clever here is that Kevin has basically taken that swell that groundswell of of feeling and channeled it and gone we can get the big guys back and of course, he’s got so much experience as well. So he’s almost like the What’s that expression the gamekeeper turned poacher or something your poacher turned gamekeeper where the it used to be used to work for them and now you work for the others and basically a Robin Hood, not Robin Hood As in the share company, because that’s not a bad, that’s a bad company from from what I was intrigued about this idea of your margin is my opportunity. So I asked Kevin to explain a little bit more about this,

Kevin 15:09
the banking is an industry that, you know, all the big banks make huge margin, huge profit margins, you know, hundreds of billions in profit literally, yet consumers don’t feel like banks are working in their best interest. So that spells opportunity to me. And so I wrote this white paper about all the ways in which banking is broken, and it sort of went low key viral within financial circles, and made its way into the hands of one particular CEO of a bank, a public bank that happened to be based in Hawaii. And we, we got together and talked about some ideas had a meeting of the minds, one thing led to another and we ended up incubating what is now an independent company swell inside of this bank, annual the basic idea was let’s go do things better. And, you know, of course, that’s the charter of most FinTech companies, I’m, you know, swells what’s called a FinTech company, we decided to focus very specifically on what I believe is the consumer finance problem of our time, which is credit card debt. You know, credit card debt just reached an all time high of nearly a trillion dollars in the US, the APR or the interest rate that people are paying on that debt just reached an all time high, more Americans than ever are just struggling to pay those bills. And so, swell is tackling that market head on with a very simple strategy, which is lower prices. And it’s easy to say that it’s really hard to do to pull together all the pieces that you need, in a heavily regulated industry to disrupt the credit card industry is very difficult. So it’s taken us a little over a year to build the product. And actually, your timing is great, because we just were literally launching the product this week. And so the basic idea is if you have credit card debt, you apply for an account with swell. And if you’re approved, you’ll get a much lower rate, which for many of our customers saves them 1000s of dollars in interest. So it’s a very significant savings amount.

Al Elliott 17:10
So I think this is just us based but such a cool idea. I can see it coming to the UK I think see someone I Starling taking this up and just running with it.

Leanne Elliott 17:17
Absolutely. What was that film we were watching recently?

Al Elliott 17:20
The naughty one the adult one.

Leanne Elliott 17:26
know you’ve medicated?

Al Elliott 17:30
I’ve, yeah, I’ve gone full on Wangka with my tea, honey and lemon. I think I’ve gotten I think I’ve had too much of it. Carrie, what was the film we watch recently? Thank you, Dave, that was such a great film.

Leanne Elliott 17:41
It really was. If you if you haven’t watched it, definitely put it on your on your list. I think it’s on Netflix. But yeah, it’s it’s, it’s interesting. I mean, swell is not alone in in pushing back against the big banks and ensuring the financial services industry and its customers. It doesn’t have to be that way. I think that is also such a common theme that we see in and I hate to use the word change makers and leaders that are just trying to make things better. It doesn’t have to be this way. And I think we have seen a lot of that since the financial crisis, which was in 2008. A lot of trust was lost in big financial institutions. And it has led to a rise in challenger banks and fintechs. I was reading somebody was saying something like there’s around 150 challenger banks now that have a collective consumer base of 200 million. Wow. Which bearing in mind is that? Only, what 15 years just about? Maybe that’s an incredible story of growth. So you might be thinking like, why are you telling me this? Well, I guess it it may seem commonplace now that challenger banks are a thing like humans are like your starlings and that the disruptive fintechs are a thing. But until a financial crisis, the banking sector was a closed and elitist community and going back to the bank of Dave’s story, that was the So a guy called day in front of the burn late savings and loans that officially opened in September 2011. After but that was after Dave fishwick had been awarded the first banking license to be issued in the UK for more than 100 years credible. It was unthinkable that the financial services and banking industry could be disrupted. It was the way things were like the office and entrepreneurship and leadership. That’s just how we do things. So my point is really that disruptive change, change it revolutionizes how things have been doing it for hundreds of years, is never actually really that far away. And I think we’re seeing the start of that now in people and culture. We expect more from our working life. We expect more from our leaders. And it’s early disruptors like Kevin dullstroom, that has proven human centered leadership not only works, it’s the accelerator of success,

Al Elliott 19:49
there’s lots of people out there who are disrupting things who are amazing entrepreneurs, but not too many who are amazing entrepreneurs and great leaders. Sorry, Elon. So the first leadership lesson that Kevin’s got to offer is The values and the values that he creates are for life and not for the walls. I love this, this just the that’s one of your bugbears. And at the end, when you open it off isn’t it’s got like, it’s the equivalent of Love Live laugh.

Unknown Speaker 20:13
That’s exactly what it is

Al Elliott 20:15
just bullshit. not forgiving. Let’s let’s hear from Kevin.

Kevin 20:19
Yeah, no, I’m a big proponent of having clear values. You know, of course, like most companies do have values, that end up being something that gets posted into the break room and then forgotten about. And, you know, my belief is, if you’re kind of bothered to create values, then you need to live them. And the way you live them is like, they should be a litmus test for literally everything you do. And so, you know, we have four core values at swell. I get into the details of them if you want, but I’ll just list them out quickly. No, one is that the why matters. So you know, we’re a very mission driven company. So, you know, if your why is that we want to make a bunch of money as a company, that’s okay. But just own that, right? Because that’s that, why will drive your behavior. In our case, it’s a little bit bigger than we truly want to help consumers build wealth and get rid of debt. So while you’re doing things matters, the second one is best idea wins. You know, as a startup, we’re a disrupter. We’re an innovator. And so I’ve always believed that, you know, I don’t have all the ideas as the founder and CEO, neither does my executive team, great ideas can come from anywhere. So this idea of sort of a flat hierarchy, and that, you know, it’s not rank that that decides which ideas is when it’s the merits of the idea itself. So that’s the second value. The third one is the way you do anything is the way you do everything, we would rather do a few things really well than try to do too much and do an okay or, or a poor job. And I think you’ve seen that reflected in, in our, our sort of our website, and our product is that there’s a lot of things we could attack in banking, we’re attacking a very specific niche within consumer credit. That’s where we start. And that niche happens to be really huge, but focus is really important. And then the craftsmanship and attention to detail is critical. And then the last one is always working, always playing, you know, the way work has evolved. And COVID really was an inflection point and accelerated this is that you were remote first company. And there, there are pros to that. And there are cons to that one of the pros is that you have lots of flexibility in the way not the nature of knowledge work is it’s not like factory work, where you just sort of work in a linear fashion for fixed hours, you know, inspiration comes in fits and spurts. And so we work in a very flexible style, we’re extremely results oriented. And rather than like, I’m not a big fan of the term life, work life balance, I think of it more as an integration where, you know, just throughout your day, you’re doing some work, you’re doing some personal stuff, you’re having some fun. So kind of always working, always playing is the vibe, we’re striving for

Al Elliott 23:01
how you do something is how you do anything. We’ve been saying that for years. And it’s just one of my favorite favorite things. But Kevin also made it really clear that as leaders, we need to live our values, and we need to reflect our values in our behaviors and our ways of working.

Kevin 23:16
Your podcast is sort of about culture. And I think, you know, a lot of culture obviously starts at the top is, you know, does the person at the top does the CEO or the founder, live their values, and certainly one of my values is to be accessible. And I have always had this policy on Twitter that I respond to every single DM that I get. And as I’ve as my account has grown, it’s gotten more and more difficult. It’s actually become a significant part of my day. But I consider that just to be part of my job. And I enjoy the interactions that I have, and just gave

Leanne Elliott 23:50
a really simple example there of how to live your values. Man, one of my values as the leader, Kevin says, I’m accessible. If people need to ask me a question, I am there. And he’s extended that to his, his connections, his community on social media, and he spends a proportion of his day, answering DMS, it’s as simple as that. And that’s congruence. We like that. You’re still doing what you say you will do. You’re living by your values.

Al Elliott 24:15
Absolutely. And values. We had the amazing PJ Brady on talking about brave, smart kind, and is this trifecta of values? I think there may be 1015 20 years ago values was just something that happened in the boardroom or we’ve created new values. And now almost everyone is saying, No, this needs to be everyone needs to be able to recite the values they need to know them. They need to live by them. And I just think is a great revolution.

Leanne Elliott 24:39
It really is. That is our first leadership lesson from Kevin. Values are for life, not for walls. Kevin second leadership lesson takes this idea one step further. By saying the way you do anything is the way you do everything.

Kevin 24:55
The way you do anything is the way you do everything is the famous quote from an American poet that I really like named Annie Dillard. And, you know, I, there’s lots of ways you can go with that quotes. Sorry to kind of go on a tangent here, but but, you know, even when it comes to hiring, when I interview people, I will often ask more questions about their personal life than their work history. Because of this idea that the way you do anything is the way you do everything. It’s often more telling you understand how someone thinks about their personal life, because we’re not, you know, we don’t become one person in our personal life, and then a completely different person at work, it all works together, we are who we are. And so I think there’s a lot of ways it’s a, that’s a great pearls of wisdom, there’s a lot of ways to apply it in business,

Al Elliott 25:41
it’s what I really like about this is this idea that you look at how someone lives, their life. And then work is part of that life. Because let’s be honest, we’ve all been to an interview where we’ve kind of said the things that we think that the other person wants to hear. Or we or we do this LinkedIn profile, or this fake persona on LinkedIn going oh my god, I’m so jealous, I’m mighty. So people who say, I’m so grateful that I’ve been nominated for this award Shut up.

Leanne Elliott 26:05
I think the worst ones are like when it’s actually like humble brag alert. by topic, you know, just brag. If you have achieved that thing that you worked really hard for you shout from the rooftops and you tell the world, don’t be those not pleased to be humble. They’re either don’t say anything or brag.

Al Elliott 26:22
Exactly. And so and so I think what annoys me and possibly you about that sort of thing is you feel that, if they’re going to be like that on LinkedIn, then either they’re really fake. And they’re being like on LinkedIn, or that’s actually how they are in real life, we the way they’re not someone I want to talk about with, to be honest. So I think what I really like is the idea of saying, okay, so what is it about your personal life, let’s learn a bit more about you. And that will help me to make a decision about what your how you’re gonna approach work. So Kevin went on to explain that doing the right thing, under all circumstances doesn’t come easy. But this authentic leadership approach can be incredibly powerful.

Kevin 26:58
At the end of the day, doing the right thing is a really powerful thing. Like, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of people in business and just in life, who will do the right thing when it’s convenient, or when it serves their purpose. There’s actually not that many people who will do the right thing when it’s inconvenient over it, or when it comes with a sacrifice. And I’ve made a policy for a long time of doing the right thing under all circumstances. And it turns out that, that that sort of mindset is somewhat selfish, because it repays over time, it’s kind of playing the long game made, the example you’re talking about is our head of design, actually, her father ended up stumbling into my account on Twitter, and became a follower of you have reached out and said, Hey, my daughter says, says great things. But yeah, I mean, it’s, you know, look, I’ve been in the corporate world for a long time. It’s, it’s surprising how few, especially at the top levels, you know, are fundamentally like good people that do the right thing under all circumstances. You know, I think somewhere along the way, they, it gets beaten out of them. The system beats it out of them, or I don’t know what happens. But yeah, it all starts like, look, at the end of the day. We’re all just living life, right? And you know, work is a big part of our life. Why wouldn’t you want to make that a positive experience for everybody

Leanne Elliott 28:20
living authentically or being able to bring a whole selves to work really is linked to high levels of well being. So when Kevin was speaking before about understanding the whole person, that really will make a difference to an individual experience during that recruitment process. Being authentic implies acting in congruence, alignment or consistency with our true selves. And this means being consistent with our inner experiences. If we’re not, it can feel like we’re living a double life or a secret life being a pretender being an imposter to yourself. And sooner or later, this lack of authenticity, causes dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and at times despair. But by leading with authenticity, and sincerity, Kevin is allowing others to be their whole selves at work, which means his employees will experience the highest levels of positive well being. And when it comes to consistency, we know that as humans, we like that we see inconsistency as a threat, that threat triggers our fight or flight response, or brain chemistry changes, our stress levels go up, and we begin to withdraw into ourselves. If you’re one thing as a leader, be consistent.

Al Elliott 29:28
So Kevin’s third leadership lesson is Don’t bargain shop for talent. Now, the tweet that I first made me notice, Kevin was about this story about how he got a guy who worked in a bike shop, and how he basically offered him a job, but it wasn’t what you think Unbeliev Kevin to explain that this is

Kevin 29:46
probably almost 10 years ago now. Yeah, it’s one of my favorite stories about hiring. I’ll tell it real quickly if you want me to. But yeah, it speaks a lot to hiring and and culture, but basically, and that I posted it online, that might have been where you saw it. And it kind of went viral because I think it really resonates with people in terms of the way hiring should be approached. But this was years ago, I was the CMO of this growth technology company. And I was looking to hire a junior level digital marketing position. And I met this, I was a pretty avid cyclist at the time, I rode my bike a lot. And I gotten to know this guy who worked at a bike shop, his name was John. And we have a lot of conversations just talked over conversations with bikes when he was fixing my bike. And I knew that he wanted to kind of pivot his career, he wanted to do something he wanted more than just to be a bike mechanic. And I, you know, I noticed that over time, he was a really sharp guy had kind of an engineers mindset. And so I mentioned to him, hey, you know, if you’re looking to get into a different industry, I’ve got an opportunity to become a, you know, start off like entry level position in digital marketing, just completely different, you’re gonna have to learn on the fly and so on. He was really interested, he interviewed at our company, and the interview went really well. And so I texted him, and I said, Hey, interviews went, well give me a ring, because we need to talk about compensation. Right. And so he calls me up, and I could tell he was a little bit nervous to have this discussion. And I said, Well, you know, John, tell me, you know, what kind of compensation Do you think you need for this? To come on board with us? What would you need to kind of make this make sense for you? And I can tell he had prepared for this. And he, he said, Well, you know, I’ve got a young family and about to have another child. And for me to make this move, I would really need to make $50,000 a year. And at the time, you know, 10 years ago, that was a significant salary for an entry level position. And so I pause for a moment I said, you know, John, the, you know, we’re gonna have to train you on this, you know, this, I’m kind of taking a chance on you here, we’re gonna have to provide training, you’re somewhat of an unknown quantity. So I don’t think I can do $50,000 How about 60,000. And it was like dumbfounded silence and I could tell he was choking up on I still get goosebumps when I talk about it. I could tell he was choking up on the other end. And the point being like, look, you know, when you hire someone go all in with them, right? You want them to be over the top happy about their position. And I knew this was a life changing opportunity for John. And I will tell you that the benefit of that $10,000 was repaid, you know, tenfold, if not 100 fold over time, you end up staying with the company a long time he ended up growing into running digital marketing. And I’m pretty sure if it came down to it, John would have taken a bullet for me. That’s how he, that’s how grateful he was about the opportunity. So it’s a great story just to say like, look, you know, when you when you hire people, hire great people, and go all in on them, like don’t bargain shop for talent.

Leanne Elliott 33:06
It’s funny now that there’s a phenomenon in the workplace right now called at your salary, almost include it as a Word of the Week basically means that rather than going above and beyond just act, your salary do the work that you are salary to do. Some say it’s another gems that misstep to not strive to be at your very best. Well, they say it’s a matter of principle and protest to ensure employers are paying people for the work that they do. I guess my question would be to employees who do barter down a couple of ground on each new hires expectations? What are you actually getting from that? Like in the grand scheme of things? What difference is a couple of grand make if you hire somebody for say, 50 grand a year in a role that you hope to have in your business for five years, that’s a quarter million pound investment, and you’re bartering may have saved you 10k on that? Yeah, it was we’ve heard from Kevin, the ROI and he’s very slightly on face investment was almost immeasurable in terms of the dedication and the commitment. And the real effort that person gave him. Kevin’s ROI was exponential.

Al Elliott 34:03
I think we probably if we don’t have the story ourselves, we might have heard stories from our friends, of someone who’s gone above and beyond for their like, as their boss going above and beyond for their employees. And they’ve just earned the trust for ever and ever and ever. I just think that’s so so cool.

Leanne Elliott 34:20
I agree. And that is our third leadership lesson from Kevin, never bargain shop for talent.

Al Elliott 34:26
Now, on to number four, there is a misguided definition of success. When I started when I started building businesses back when I was about 2324, I thought success was big house, big car, horses, yachts, helicopters, all that kind of bullshit, let’s be honest. And then as I got older, I realized that that is completely not what success is. It is for some people because some people play the game and that’s the way that they see the compensation of the game. That’s why if you go to Saudi Arabia to go to Abu Dhabi, for example, then you know that a lot of people are playing the game. aim to go I want to go now get a gold plated Rolls Royce because the standard 500,000 pound Rolls Royce is no good for me. Okay, fine, you’re playing a game. But success to us we are now topic of the day. Success to us is not setting alarm clock. And that’s basically hit and miss a weed. And we haven’t had alarm clocks for years and years apart from a flight or something or a train we haven’t said for years and years and years. And that to us is our definition of success. Lesson number four is don’t chase a misguided definition of success.

Kevin 35:30
And I think a lot of it comes down to your definition of success. You know, I spent a lot of my career chasing, frankly, a misguided definition of success I was defining, I was allowing society to define success for me. And of course, we all know what that looks like, right? All the glitz and glamour, big titles, money, cars, big houses, whatever. And what I realized, for me, unfortunately, this didn’t happen until midlife I was in my 40s, we kind of had a classic, you know, midlife crisis, if you will realize that the life I had built was not me, it was some other guy, I was playing the role of some other guy. And it looks really great on paper, right, checked all the boxes of success. But I was not that happy, I was pretty miserable. And so I did in my mid 40s, I did a major reboot relocated my family walked away from an absurd amount of money to basically have the life that I want. And I haven’t looked back that was you know, over five years ago now. And I have to pinch myself now because I’ve been able to construct a life that I don’t want to break. I don’t even like I was telling, I was joking with my wife the other day that I actually get grumpy on weekends and holidays. Because, you know, my day to day life is exactly the life I want. And I get sort of frustrated when it gets disrupted by a weekend. So I’m sort of the the opposite of everybody else who looks forward to the weekend lives for the weekends, or holidays. So, so yeah, I mean, that was a big change in my life. And, but it feels good to like, you know, Carl Jung, the philosopher says that, over over a lifetime, we accumulate these masks, we wear these masks. And these masks are not a bad thing because they allow us to survive and thrive in society. But over time, if you accumulate too many masks, you sort of lose sight of who you really are on the inside, and eventually those masks will come off. And for me, it kind of happened all at once. And I made a bunch of changes in my life, and I’m in a much, much better place. Now

Al Elliott 37:34
these these masks, that’s just such a great way to describe it. pretending that this brand new car makes you happy because it doesn’t, it doesn’t it might make you happy for about 10 minutes when you drive it over. But then there’s always the more the bigger, bigger car isn’t there. Maybe that’s euphemistically speaking as well. So I asked Kevin what his biggest high has been as a business leader, and the point in which he really knew that he made it. So he went on to explain that money and financial gains are fleeting, but it’s the relationships and experiences that really matter.

Kevin 38:05
Because the obvious answer would be, you know, look at this big financial win that I have, or, you know, the company went public, or, you know, look at the sales numbers or revenue growth. But if you believe as I do that, you know, really all that matters in life are the relationships and experiences that you could collect along the way. And then the things I think about as the high points are just rad experiences, you know, just really amazing experiences. And I think you alluded to one earlier, where, you know, I got to participate in a multi billion dollar deal with the Softbank, legendary Softbank Vision Fund and Masa Son, the legendary chairman of SoftBank, and that was very baller experience that was like, it was like playing business chess at the absolute highest level. That experience was sort of a bucket list once in a lifetime experience. And I’ve had a few of those over time. And actually, the irony is, that deal didn’t work out, we ended up doing a different deal. So there’s no financial wins, even point two out of that deal. It was just an amazing, amazing experience. And so, you know, I’ve collected because, you know, I guess if I have any claim to fame, it’s that, you know, I’ve, I’ve, my career’s now been going on for 30 plus years. And I think I’ve run harder than most for longer than most. So I’ve collected just a ridiculous number of experiences. And so inevitably, if you just do that many things, you’re going to have some cool things happen to you. And more importantly, you’ll meet some great people along the way. And that’s really where where the real value is. One of my friends, he’s a real estate private equity guy named Richard fertig. He has this saying that basically like the ultimate list, literally test in life is just do cool shit with cool people, period. And that really does say it all right, because it provides a framework for deciding what you do and don’t do that. Also, it’s just a great way to live. Because if you’re doing things that you’re excited about with people that you like being around, there’s no losing, the company might go out of business. But you haven’t lost anything, because you were still doing cool shit with cool people. So, so anyway, that’s a that’s a kind of a mantra that I like to live my life by

Leanne Elliott 40:28
doing cool shit with cool people love it. Do you know what since we’ve started this podcast, I, there are times where because it takes up quite a big part of our working week now. And because of that, we have had to scale down some of the consultancy work that we’ve done. And that’s now that, you know, we’re finding our feet with it, we’re starting to scale that back up again. And there are times that I miss it. You know, I’m a psychologist, I want to be working with organizations driving this type of change. But then on the other hand, I’m like, wait a minute, I’ve just spent the last six, eight months doing cool shit with really cool people. Nothing’s wasted. It’s all just that that isn’t that just the, if he can wake up every day, and just to cool shit with cool people.

Al Elliott 41:08
I love it. I love it. And you’re saying I’m cool. Is that what you’re saying? You met more, I guess.

Leanne Elliott 41:14
So we’ve also you know, we’ve talked about your core goals you are. But now I mean, in terms of what Kevin’s saying there as well with relationships. We’ve talked about the Harvard study of happiness before on the podcast. To remind you with the early 1980s, researchers at Harvard started a longitudinal study, it’s a multi year study, to find out what makes us happy in life. And after 85 years of following its participants and their families. They conclude it’s not Career Achievement, it’s not money. It’s not exercise or healthy diet. The most consistent finding was that positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer.

Al Elliott 41:49
So okay, so number five. Kevin’s fifth lesson is culture Trump’s strategy. Every time when I asked Kevin about this, he’s drew on his own experience from case studies from other industries. And he explained that if you look at the greatest companies in the world, through the ups and downs of the market in product cycles, it is the culture that sustains them, I’ve got

Kevin 42:07
a pretty unique perspective and maybe a little bit of authority on this issue, simply because of the variety of my experience, I think I’m the only living chief marketing officer who has done a rebrand at three public companies. So I’ve come into existing companies with hundreds or 1000s of employees, and done a rebrand where he had to kind of turn the culture around. And I’ve also been a founder of several startups, where it’s a little bit easier in that case, because you get to start with a blank canvas, right? And you can decide what you value, you can decide who you hire, and handpick every single person and so on. And so I’ve had a unique purview to like, how do you what are the kind of ingredients for good culture, bad culture? And how do you how do you shift culture? And, you know, it’s there, there’s a saying that, you know, culture Trump’s strategy every time and it really is, is true. Like, if you look at the greatest companies in the world, through the ups and downs of the market through different product cycles, it’s the culture that sustains them. So it’s really important. And, you know, I come to believe over time, that it’s something that most companies dramatically under invest in is really like, at a basic level, like understanding like, who are we really, I think a lot of companies can state who they’d like to be. But like, it’s really important to take a hard look in the mirror and say, like, who are like, what do we really value? Who are we? And then how do we leverage those strengths, right. And, you know, I believe, like, culture happens from both the top down and the bottom up. Because at the top level, it’s got to, if your culture and your values aren’t a reflection of your leadership and who they really are, then it’s not going to just doesn’t work because they’re not going to live those those values in that culture. But at the same time, you can’t just drive culture completely top down through the organization.

Al Elliott 44:02
So obviously, Kevin’s a big fan of culture, he also pointed out that a consumer brand must align with the employer brand, because they’re basically two sides of the same culture coin. What’s sad

Kevin 44:12
is when you see companies that have great culture, and then it gets diluted over time, because a lot of times what happens is, you’ll have founders who come in who are who build a great culture. And sometimes it’s so great that the company can become worth billions or hundreds of billions of dollars before, you know, on the back of that culture, but then inevitably, it starts, you know, the founders leave its death through 1000 cuts. And so I think the example I like to talk about a lot these days, is one where they had done they had basically a company who had done the impossible. And then they eroded an incredible brand incredible culture over time. And the example I’m talking about is Southwest Airlines. So So, Southwest Airlines, you know, came into a commodity business and very difficult commodity business, which is, you know, short haul air travel. And their founder Herb Kelleher did the impossible, which is he built a brand that people loved that in a crappy industry basically, where it’s really hard to differentiate. But he did a lot of things to differentiate, but a lot of it was just service, it was the culture like it was the attitudes of the employees. And the fact that they were, they were like, they were really cared about getting the planes out on time and delivering service with a smile and so on. And that that resulted in southwest outperforming its peers for decades. But then what happened is southwest, you know, her Herb Kelleher left and even his successors left. And then of course, you know, the the bean counters, the accountant started taking over a little bit. They started merging with other companies. And you saw those during Christmas, there was a huge fiasco, I don’t know if you followed it here in the states where where Southwest’s entire system basically broke down because they hadn’t been investing in it. In years, they had been trying to focus on cost control above all else. And what happened is they had reached a breaking point where they had done so much to erode the brand that eventually just cratered. And it’s one of those things like, you know, with for a strong brand, the degradation of it happens slowly at first, but then all at once, at some point, the dam breaks. And so you know, it kind of cuts both ways. If you’re not continually investing in in culture, then eventually you pay a price for it, culture can sustain a company for a long time. You know, if you look at the other great examples, it’s some of the obvious ones, right? So like, you think about Google or Apple, you know, their culture of innovation, or focus on speed and simplicity, and things like that design. Those are things that endure across products, right. So like, the great example of course, with Apple being you know, Steve Jobs is long gone, rest in peace. But, you know, you still know what to expect when Apple launches a product, right, and I’m gonna, you know, unabashed Apple fanboy myself. So like, if Apple launches the next product, I have a heavy bias to just buy it, because I know the way they approach product design, and it resonates with me. And so that’s, that’s incredible power, right? When you when you’ve got that kind of loyalty to a brand, which ultimately, is a culture and such that people are predisposed to follow you, whatever you do. I cheated

Leanne Elliott 47:33
on Allah a couple of weeks ago, and was on another podcast called the Map Room to talk to you about that. Yeah. Well, we talked quite a lot about this actually, the the mismatch between employer brand, and customer brand, and how that incongruence can really drive us nuts. And I talk about we talk about incongruence a lot. So I mean, in terms of psychology, in congruence is a theory and it goes back to the time of Carl Rogers. And he observed that when there is a discrepancy between our perceived self and our ideal self, we experience we experience unpleasant feelings. So now in an organizational psychology, it’s been extended to describe a situation where organizations and employees have different perceptions and expectations, or a break in the psychological contract. So when a psychological contract is broken, commitment, performance, productivity, or will drop, so does morale. And if the incongruence is experienced, repeatedly or consistently over time, employees will start to vocalize this violation in a psychological contract. Often in some sort of protest. You may have seen a protest by Amazon workers recently, in terms of the call back to the office, the open letter that we mentioned a few episodes ago from employees at Starbucks, you know, this is a type of backlash we can see as leaders, if we break the psychological contract. And you know, in in that scenario, instead of your customers that your brand puts people first will be laughable, really, and I think that’s what Kevin’s saying there, in our culture can erode over time. And if it does, so to a point where it’s not stopped and rescued, it not only has a massive impact on our employees, but a massive impact on the commercial success of our business to

Al Elliott 49:12
100% cannot add anything to that because you’ve just you’ve nailed it. Absolutely. Nailed it. Okay, so we’re on to lesson number six, you don’t learn anything when things are going well, love this.

Kevin 49:23
You are defined by how you conduct yourself and how you respond when things are going poorly. So you know, I’ve definitely had situation I’ve had companies fail, right? So, you know, by any objective measure, that would be a really dark moment. But I even in those situations, I’ve always tended to take a bit of a portfolio view with my of my career. It’s like, look, the harsh fact is that if if you do startups for a long time, and you do enough of them, a bunch of them are going to fail. Right? Statistically speaking, you’re going to fail that now if you stay at it long enough, and you get smarter, and you choose your opportunities wisely, hopefully you’ll have at least one success that more than makes up for all the failures. And so I can think of some dark moments like when you know, when you have a company, and you’ve hired dozens of employees, and you raised a bunch of money from investors, and it’s clear that it’s not going to work. It’s really painful to watch that that company die, it’s your baby, you’ve put your blood sweat and tears into it, you know, people in their families are counting on that company for their paycheck. That’s a really, really painful moment. But also you have to kind of rise above and say, Okay, what am I going to learn from this experience? Right, and will it be better the next time? And so, you know, I don’t know I, there’s a saying I think it’s right, the author Ryan Holiday that says the obstacle is the way. And you know, like that, one thing I’ve learned over my career and my rock climbing has been a huge teacher in this regard, is that the struggle is the reward. Right? So to use a climbing analogy, when you get to the top of a mountain, the summit, there’s nothing there quite literally, there’s nothing there that you should look around. There’s so you need to learn to enjoy the climb and struggle along the way, because that’s where all the good stuff happens. Oh, yes,

Al Elliott 51:17
absolutely. Absolutely. I love this. I’ve never really thought about this before. But I mean, in terms of rock climbing, I get vertigo, standing up, to be honest, not comfortable being this tall. But I can see what he’s saying is that rock climbing is a perfect analogy, because it is about getting, it’s not about getting to the top is about the journey to the top. Right when I was building my first beer business, give me some beer. And I thought it was it was me brilliant. I thought was good. I was gonna be millionaires with franchising, and then it all started to go tits up, it all started to go wrong. And I learned so much in the like the probably 22 months from when he was at its peak to when I went bankrupt and had two houses repossessed I learned so much from that. And, and at that point, perhaps if it happened to me now, I think I might have given up but because then I was maybe 30. I was like, No, I’ve still got time I can rebuild. And I built another business, a property business around people are getting repossessed or in debt or going bankrupt. I would never have started that business. If I hadn’t have experienced all of the downside and versus diverse diversity is that the right word that I had in my beer business?

Leanne Elliott 52:18
Yeah, we definitely learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. And in the organizational psychology world. What Kevin is talking about here is a learning culture. So a learning culture is an environment that demonstrates and really encourages both individual and organizational learning. The idea is that gaining and sharing knowledge is prioritized is valued, it is rewarded. And that does mean allowing people to make mistakes. The research is pretty compelling. When it comes to learning coaches, learning coaches typically enjoy higher levels of employee engagement and retention, more creativity, innovation, they’re far more resilient to change. Businesses with a learning culture also tend to have happier customers, customers are more satisfied, they are more loyal. And they are strong advocates of the brand.

Al Elliott 53:05
Big shout out to anyone who’s building in public hashtag building public on Twitter. And I think that’s a very much that they’re showing from the top from the top down even if they’re like solid developers, but a lot of them have a bigger companies. And they will sort of publish on Twitter or on LinkedIn and say, This is what we did this week. This is what went right, what went wrong. That’s easy for me to say. And so the whole point of that, I think, is that it’s learning it’s showing that the top that people from the top don’t say they know everything. And so they’re telling everyone else it’s okay to learn on the job. It’s okay to jump off the cliff and build the wings and the way down. Although I’m sure Kevin’s probably got a much more effective way of getting down from the clifftop talking of Kevin, that it might be the eighth wonder of the world not Kevin compounding, but it’s the it’s our seventh lesson today. Kevin’s Lesson Seven lesson for leadership is compounding is the key to everything. I don’t think I even need to say anything, I think we need to leave it up to Kevin.

Kevin 53:54
Compounding is really the key to everything. I don’t care if it’s like pursuing a sport or a hobby or a career or relationship, anything, everything compounds and all compound compounding means is little incremental baby steps over a prolonged period of time don’t provide linear return, they provide exponential return, right? So it adds up. Same thing in it. The term comes from finance, right? And it’s hard to grasp the power of compounding until you see it. And so just the power of consistent deliberate effort applied over time, is unbeatable. Now, the catch is that I’m glad you mentioned this is you have to be careful about what you’re compounding. Right. And this is what I always preached to young people is the most important thing to do when you’re young or really at any age. But ideally, when you’re young, I’d say in your 20s or early 30s. You need to take the time to clearly define what the desired end state is for your life. Like, I’m not just talking about your career, I’m saying, literally get out a piece of paper and a pencil and bullet point out what your life looks like in the ideal case. And of course, this will change over time. But at any given moment in time, like, like, what are your relationships look like? How are you spending your time? What are you doing for work? What does your financial situation look like? What are you doing in your free time? What about your children and your your friends, and like as much detail as you can, and I’ve done this, and it was like a bulleted list of, you know, maybe 30 items, right? The reason that’s important is because now you can work backward and you can start being deliberate today, even if some of the things on your list will take decades to achieve. You can start today being at least deliberate and it provides a framework to say yes, or say no. So at least you’re kind of roughly headed in the right direction. Because as I, as you mentioned, there is something that I call the opportunity trap, where if you’re someone like me, and you don’t take the time to define that end, state that desired end state, and you just listen to what society tells you. Well, what society told me is, you got to make a lot of money, you got to you got to move your way up the corporate ladder. And so I did that. And I compounded on that for, you know, 20 years made it to the top, only to realize that that wasn’t actually what I wanted. So I’d spent all this time now, there are benefits, right? Like I’ve made a bunch of money and that sort of thing, which is great. It allowed me to pivot. I think I’ve talked to over 100 people who generally range between your upper 20s to low 40s in age, and they all have different situations. But my advice to them is almost always the same. Like whatever your problems are today, take a step back, define that desired end state and that then the path will become clear

Leanne Elliott 56:42
what a call to action, you need to take the time to clearly define what the desired end state is for your life. Goodness, that can feel overwhelming. There is an awesome coaching exercise that I use a lot called vitals It was introduced to me by Dr. Audrey Tang, and it’s rooted in positive psychology. So as we’ve discussed already, understanding and living by our values really is a core part of maintaining our well being and building our resilience. In circumstances where environments are misaligned with our values, we often experience these these reactions, this emotional and psychological discomfort. And over a period of time, it is actually called Moral burnout that we can experience and that translates into a lack of meaning, with our work with our lives, is not a good place to be the vitals model is actually really good at helping us recognize exactly what Kevin was talking about there. What is important to us in our life, it helps us choose opportunities and actions that are authentic to us, including new jobs, hobbies, and relationships. So the vitals model includes values, interests, temperament around the clock life mission and strength, I will leave a link in the show notes if you want to give it a go. And as Kevin explains, it might also help you build a multidimensional life.

Kevin 57:58
There’s one more important aspect I want to mention two, which is building a multi dimensional life, right. So a lot of men in particular, a lot of our identity is our career. And the problem with that is, you know, we have this notion that we’re going to focus on our career, and then at some point, we’ll build a better life. And the problem is that that someday rarely comes. And what happens then is, your entire identity is based on your work. So if you have a company that goes bankrupt, you’re devastated. Well, if you build a multi dimensional life, which means like, yeah, works important, but it’s only one facet of who I am, then when when things going good or bad, it balances out with the others. And the thing that you have to remember is, everything takes time and compounding. And so the idea that you’re going to work for 20 years and then start to get healthy, or then start to a family or whatever, it doesn’t work that way, everything takes time to compound. So you have to start today, you know, whether it’s like, you know, fitness, relationships, a hobby, whatever, those things all need to compound in parallel, and you need to be multi-dimensional

Al Elliott 59:05
Bravo, well done, Kevin. Absolutely. When you identify or when when you pin everything on one thing, and the idea that if this business is going to define your identity, it has to work. Because if it fails, your identity has failed, and you are a failure. So you cannot and this is where we go down the whole idea of men’s mental health, which is different as from what I learned from the and some of our guests was very different from women’s mental health, is that men’s mental health tends to construct around shame, and the shame of saying, I’m going to go and do something because you read these books going do these affirmations write these goals out, tell everyone what you’re gonna do, and then you can’t back down and then when it all goes to shit, you have to back down and you have to make up some kind of rubbish like, oh, well, I didn’t really want that car in the first place. Anyway, I’m gonna go and buy myself a nice green Mitsubishi or something. Or you have to say, Oh, it wasn’t down to me it was external forces, in which case you’re not taking you’re not taking ownership of the entire situation. So I feel like I’m actually Take it away from what Kevin said there, because what he said was absolutely perfect. And I think everyone should hear that.

Leanne Elliott 1:00:06
I don’t think you have taken away from it, I think you’ve added to it very beautifully. And I think that is maybe the struggle that we’re seeing with the younger generations coming through at the minute. They’re trying to do this from day one of their career. Whereas as Kevin said, himself, this was something he had to do retrospectively. So I don’t think we can really hate on the younger generations for wanting to get this right from the beginning. And I think as well, just the authenticity through Kevin, just really shows, think back to his intro there. And this is how he described himself and how we introduced him. He’s a CEO or disruptive fintech. He’s been a chief marketing officer. He’s a father. He’s a rock climber. He’s a fitness enthusiast. He is the nicest guy on Twitter. He is multi dimensional.

Al Elliott 1:00:45
I love it. I love it. So shall we recap on King Kevin’s seven lessons for leadership? Do you want to take them one by one?

Leanne Elliott 1:00:52
Yes. So lesson number one values are for life not

Al Elliott 1:00:55
for wolves. Lesson number two, the way you do anything is the way you do everything. Lesson number three,

Leanne Elliott 1:01:01
never bargain shop for talent.

Al Elliott 1:01:02
Lesson number four, don’t chase a misguided definition of success.

Leanne Elliott 1:01:06
Number five, culture Trump’s strategy every time number six, you don’t learn anything when things are going well. And number seven, compounding is key.

Al Elliott 1:01:15
So to conclude, I wanted to get some final words of wisdom from Kevin. I said, How is it you’re doing something brand new every single day and not losing motivation? How is it you’re coming up against these challenges, and it’s not always working out.

Kevin 1:01:31
I take nothing for granted, I never feel like I’m there. I always feel like the best is yet to come. And you know, more of my life is ahead of me than behind me, even though at some point, it’s hard to make that argument logically. And, you know, I know that my father was that way. So maybe he demonstrated, you know, I didn’t have a great relationship with my father. But that’s one thing he did pass on to me, is this notion that like, the best is yet to come always looking forward, don’t look backward. But but even if you didn’t inherit that mindset, I just think it’s a it’s a choice. Like, it’s, it’s, it’s the best way to choose to live, because ultimately, we can’t change the past anyway. And, you know, the, you know, you have to ask yourself, like, what is fulfillment? Like, what is the end goal? I determined, like at a relatively late stage in life was as good as it gets, is being able to choose your challenges, right. So, you know, I’ve earned the right to have control over my time control over the, the challenges I undertake, no, there’s no happiness in like, the proverbial like retiring and playing cards or playing golf all day, that’s a path to misery. As good as it gets, it’s just being able to construct your life the way you want. And I’ve been able to do that. And I still truly believe that, you know, the things I’m working on now are bigger and better than ever. And so, you know, continue to just look forward. And, and I just say even if you’re younger, that’s why it’s so important to take the time to define that end state that I talked about, is because, you know, that’s the thing that you’re building toward that will evolve over time. But it’s a never ending process. Like I published my list of in state the other day. And yeah, the good news is that 52, I’ve probably already achieved three quarters of them. But there’s still five or six on that list that I want to chase. And so that that’s all there is at the end of the day,

Al Elliott 1:03:28
the best is yet to come. What fantastic advice from Kevin senior there.

Leanne Elliott 1:03:33
Yeah. And I think that’s all you can do. You know, as a leader, just keep on moving forward, keep striving to be better. Keep listening to yourself, investing in yourself. And we hope that these seven lessons of leadership will help you add to your leadership development plan, and future coaching conversations. If you’ve loved listening to Kevin as much as we have, and want him more inspirational stories, there is some excellent news. Kevin also has a podcast. It’s called compounding with Kevin Dahlstrom. And features the most interesting people, you’ve never heard of people who don’t typically do podcasts because they’re too busy living an incredible life. Let’s hear more about Kevin’s podcast.

Kevin 1:04:10
The idea behind my podcast is you know, I bring on people who I believe are the best in their fields. And some of these people are really well known. Some of them are not so well known. But I think very much of a quality over quantity approach. So I’ve been doing this podcast now over a year and we’ve only published seven episodes. Chris Zamora, the women’s surfing gold medalist was the latest and maybe my favorite guest. But when I talk to Carissa or when I talk to someone who’s built a billion dollar private equity fund, or when I talk to Alex Bogusky, who’s a legend in the advertising industry, we don’t talk about business at all. Right? All I’m interested in is what lessons have you learned over time and what things have you learned that the rest of us can apply in our daily lives, to perform better at whatever it is we want to do to build a great life to perform better And Carissa Moore was a great example because she’s undoubtedly the best in her sport, if not one of the best of all time, across any sport, or achievements speak for themselves. But what stands out about her to me is that she’s done something that very few CEOs, very few celebrities, very few athletes have done, which is, she’s become the best while building a great life. Right? A great life full of family and a luxury from Hawaii, so full of aloha and incredible experiences. And the best example of that is the thing that stood out to me from our from our interview was she was in 2018. She was struggling, she was not winning tournaments. She wasn’t even finding fulfillment in the sport anymore. And she went to her dad, who was her coach, and she said, I don’t know what to do, should I just quit? Am I done? Should I retire? And you know, most coaches would say, No, we’re gonna, we’re gonna rework your training program. We’re gonna double down on weight training, we’re gonna hit the water twice as much, you know, here’s your training plan. Instead, her dad said why don’t you ground yourself and giving back and then see where that takes you? That gives me chills too. And so she founded her charitable foundation called more Aloha which is about introducing the sport of surfing to young girls underprivileged girls. And the rest is history. She came back won five World Championships and a gold medal.

Al Elliott 1:06:31
Big thank you to Kevin for being on the show. Big thank you, for to you listener for getting this far and listening of putting up with my horrible, whiny, nasal voice.

Leanne Elliott 1:06:41
I think it’s quite sexy and

Al Elliott 1:06:43
made me laugh. I just got a larger coughing fit. Would you like to call we’re about to cut out I got that I got out. All the links will be in the show notes. We back next week with a very special episode on diversity in the workplace with the incredible Sonia Thompson from inclusion marketing. She is our sister show on the HubSpot Podcast Network. And Leanne you got a special guest too.

Leanne Elliott 1:07:04
Yes, I had an awesome conversation with Catherine Garrett, former head of inclusion at Sky and author of the recently released book conscious inclusion, which I would I was asking Catherine about this. The figures are out next month but if it is not in the best selling category, I will be shocked and appalled. I’ll be writing a very strongly worded letter to her publisher

Al Elliott 1:07:25
and Jeff Bezos and Jeff are doing time for Jeff right now your life out Jeff. Right. We’ll see you next week. Bye. Bye bye.

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