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Ep17: Leanne Elliott: The truth behind the Psychology of People – Our Co-Host’s Story

This is the untold story of your host Leanne Elliott from the Truth, Lies & Workplace Culture Podcast

Leanne’s been a Business Psychologist for almost 15 years, but unlike a lot of her peers, she’s spent 8+ years in the field as a leader and manager, actually implementing the theory she learnt in her Master’s degree.

This is the untold story of your co-host of the Truth, Lies & Workplace Culture Podcast. 

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We’re a few episodes in and realised we’ve never taken the time to introduce ourselves. In the second of a 2-part series, we dive deep into the life and career of Leanne Elliott, Co-Founder of Oblong and your co-host (and expert) for the Truth, Lies and Workplace Culture Podcast.

Join us as we discuss:

  • Leanne’s best and worst day as a manager
  • The difference between a manager and a leader
  • The path to being a successful leader
  • The 7 mistakes most managers make (and how to avoid them)
  • Her hero (John) who she learnt so much from
  • Why the science of people is not ‘fluff’
  • The only 7 things you need to think about when developing a culture of well-being and engagement
  • Why the vision of the organisation is the most important first step


All the links mentioned in the show.

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The Transcript

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

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[00:00:00.090] – Leanne
You’re in a situation where you know, you’re stretched, but you’re giving everything and you fail.

[00:00:11.570] – Al
Hello and welcome to another episode of Truth Lies In Workplace Culture, the podcast which is aiming to simplify the complex science of people. My name is Alan, my business owner.

[00:00:22.250] – Leanne
My name is Leanne, I’m a business psychologist.

[00:00:24.300] – Al
And generally what we do on these episodes is we interview experts about a particular type or something to do with workplace culture, engagement or well being. Now, what we do is things a little bit differently because if you remember from last week, leanne interviewed me about my background and how I got to where I am today and I’m going to do the same with Leanne. And the idea being that we realise that we now want maybe a dozen and a half episodes in and we’ve not really introduced ourselves, so slight deviation from the norm, but we just want to sort of learn a little bit more about Leanne today, if that’s okay.

[00:00:58.040] – Leanne
Leanne, of course.

[00:00:59.350] – Al
So not only is she my business partner with Oblong, which are the consultants we got together, but she’s also my life partner, as in my wife. We’ve married for about ten years, travelling for about the same amount of time, and together for about 15. So it’s going to be a bit of a weird one because there’s a lot I know about Leanne. But then, as we discovered from the last episode, is that some questions, when you asked me, I said things that I don’t think I’d ever told you before and so it’s potentially that’s going to happen again today. So, although it might sound a little bit of a strange sort of format, because I know Leanne so well, I’ve tried to design some questions to try and get really to the heart of who is Leanne, what makes her tick, and probably why you should be working with it, in my opinion. So, Leanne, is there anything you want to ask before we crack on?

[00:01:45.250] – Leanne
No, I’m happy to be here.

[00:01:47.650] – Al
Brilliant. Okay, well, let’s just start off with a little bit of introduction. So tell us who you are and what you do.

[00:01:54.550] – Leanne
My name is Leanne, I’m a business psychologist and I help, typically, owner led businesses create teams that care as much about their business as they do. My passion is creating environments in which people can thrive, where they’re engaged, where they experience positive wellbeing, because we know scientifically that engaged, fulfilled employees translate to better business outcomes.

[00:02:20.180] – Al
I love it. I love it. And so just tell us, what is a business psychologist?

[00:02:26.190] – Leanne
A business psychologist is somebody who works within the science of people, behavioural science, and applies those principles within an organisation.

[00:02:40.040] – Al
Why would an organisation need a business psychologist?

[00:02:43.000] – Leanne
People are complex beings and none of us operate in a vacuum. Our own behaviours impact the behaviours of others, and particularly in organisations that are service led, where your people are your product. Having a business psychologist is really going to help you harness people’s strengths, but also create an environment in which people can thrive, particularly now that workplaces and the meaning of work, with so many of us are shifting. Understanding how people behave and how to nurture the desired behaviours in your business is going to have a direct impact on your bottom line. It’s going to have a direct impact on your profitability, it’s going to have a direct impact on the happiness of your customers and ultimately the success of your business. So psychology is an important topic for any business that wants to grow through its people. And that is all about creating an engaging culture, which for me has three basic principles how to find great people, how to engage great people and how to empower great people.

[00:03:50.300] – Al
And so what do you think it is that people misunderstand most about what you do?

[00:03:55.850] – Leanne
I think it’s got better. I know that in my early days, when I said I was a psychologist, I’d get the replies of, oh, can you read my mind? And after getting over the initial frustration, I’d usually come back with something like, yes, and you should be ashamed of yourself. And I think what people probably misunderstand is that they probably think I’m here to come with interventions, things that you can action immediately within your business to make things better. And the reality is, and the lie of psychology and the science of people is, that there are no kind of interventions with a 100% guaranteed stamp of succeeding. It all depends on the current structure of your business, the current climate of your business, as to what’s going to work. So while there are popular interventions, such as, wellbeing programmes, such as mentoring programmes, coaching, or even great management training, even then it’s about understanding what that training looks like and how it’s going to have the most impact on your business. A great manager in a health organisation is going to look very different to a great manager in a sales organisation. So I think that’s the main misconception is that I don’t come with the answers, I come with lots of questions.

[00:05:17.110] – Leanne
And then when we get the answers to those questions, those insights, then I can design an intervention that’s going to work. So a lot of my role really initially is about research and gathering insights.

[00:05:29.470] – Al
So why did you become a business psychologist? What’s the story behind this?

[00:05:33.390] – Leanne
I can remember the exact moment that I decided I wanted to pursue psychology. Not necessarily business psychology, but psychology is a subject. I was in high school and very sadly, one of my close friends lost her mum very suddenly to meningitis. And the school reacted in such a brilliant way. It was a small school, it was only like 25 was in my year. But the headmistress brought us all into office and she’d engaged a clinical psychologist to come and talk to us about how we’re feeling, what’s a normal feeling, normal reaction to have in the face of such a shocking and traumatic event. And I walked into that room as a scared 14 year old, not knowing how to react, not knowing how to support my friend, and I walked out feeling, I guess, in a simple word, better and empowered. I felt that I understood my feelings better. I felt that I was given some really positive coping strategies. And I feel that by understanding my own behaviour and my own feelings, I was then able to show up and be there for the people that needed me to. And I think in that moment, I saw for myself the power of psychology in terms of helping us navigate our lives and the challenges that we experience.

[00:06:58.310] – Leanne
So, yeah, at that point, I was interested. I knew that I wanted to pursue psychology in this. I was 14 or 15. So, yeah, from that point on, after I finished my undergraduate degree, psychology was the only thing I had in my mind.

[00:07:14.890] – Al
You mentioned there a clinical psychologist came into your school. What’s the difference between clinical psychology and business psychology?

[00:07:21.730] – Leanne
So psychology in general tends to fall into two categories normal and abnormal psychology. Abnormal psychology dealing with clinical disorders. So a clinical psychologist will tend to look at that clinical level of psychology. So when things aren’t quite working in the way that they should be working within ourselves, a business psychologist works more within the normal and very much an inverted commas realm of psychology. It’s all about kind of how people behave and interact within the workplace. I guess it’s looking more of an organisational level, whereas a clinical psychologist is more likely to look at things at an individual level.

[00:08:07.680] – Al
But you didn’t always want to be a psychologist, did you?

[00:08:11.390] – Leanne
No, I think like most young people, I went through various different ideas, but my dad was very influential in my choices, academically and professionally. So, yeah, I went through being wanted to be a doctor, wanted to be a journalist. My very younger years, I wanted to be an actress and a singer, but quite rightly, didn’t have the level of talent needed for that. I think what united them all was a desire to want to help people, want to support people, and I think, I guess, reassure people, just try and make the world a little bit of a better place.

[00:08:54.540] – Al
You said that you wanted to help, support and reassure people. Why do you think that that’s so important to you?

[00:09:00.720] – Leanne
I think there are a few reasons. I think in terms of the environment I was brought up in, it was a Catholic environment and it was very much based on treat others the way you want to be treated. There are some very positive eyes in there in terms of you give what you can to whoever needs it more than you do. So I think that definitely something that stems from that side of it and I don’t know, I guess the psychologist in me would say there’s probably some narcissistic drive as well. That means that I want to make things better because that makes me feel better. I don’t think it comes from a place of let me tell you how it should be, but I think there probably is an element of that, an element of wanting to, I guess, guide others to answers that perhaps they don’t have or don’t know how to get to. I grew up in a very privileged environment and that’s what say that we were rich or we weren’t. My dad was flowing from a very working class background in Liverpool. So I think there is a case of knowing what he’d been through and knowing that he had to do it all very independently.

[00:10:32.490] – Leanne
Then being in this privileged position where I had so much support in my education in my aspirations to develop as a person. I guess there’s a part of me that connected those two things that without opportunity, it’s really hard to make things better for yourself. And sometimes we need people in our lives to facilitate those opportunities. And I guess I just thought that if I can play that type of role, then for whatever reason, I thought that would be a fulfilling thing to do. And I always wanted a vocation. I think, again, this came from my dad’s influence. I always felt, like I said before, I wanted to be a doctor or a journalist, like I wanted a vocation. And that’s just the way I was brought up, I think. My dad was an engineer. My sister is a teacher. My other sister is an accountant. So, yeah, I guess I don’t really know exactly, apart from I had a feeling it would bring me some sense of fulfilment on an intellectual level. I found psychology really fascinating. I found people really fascinating. And, yeah, I felt it was just a good point to start pursuing psychology.

[00:11:46.770] – Al
You mentioned your dad a lot. Do you think he’s proud of what you do?

[00:11:50.640] – Leanne

[00:11:51.970] – Al
Why did you think that?

[00:11:53.060] – Leanne
He’s told me. Yeah, he’s told me. And my relationship with my dad was funny growing up, because I was the youngest by quite a margin. My dad had a very high pressure job, which meant that he was absent quite a lot. But it seemed that work ethic definitely influenced me. And, yeah, I always wanted to make both my mum and dad proud, because I think, again, knowing where they’d come from, what they’d achieved, I didn’t really have any excuse like it was on me and that was definitely the pressure I put on myself. There was certainly an expectation from my family in terms of what I was capable of, but it was definitely more of an internalised pressure. So, yeah, I always wanted to make my dad feel proud, so let’s go.

[00:12:39.490] – Al
Back into your main work is with leaders and managers. So I want to start off and ask a bit of an elementary question, but I’m sure a lot of us normals don’t know this. What would you say is the difference between a manager and a leader?

[00:12:53.440] – Leanne
Yeah, that is a very widely debated and discussed question. I think what’s really interesting about the way the research is going is that actually there is becoming less of a distinction between leaders and managers in terms of the behaviours they need to adopt to be effective. I mean, traditionally, managers are quite transactional. They’re about making sure that plans were executed in the way they needed to be to deliver the results, whereas leadership was about creating the plan and creating the vision. But, yeah, as the research goes on, we’re understanding more and more that these leadership behaviours are something that the organisations benefit from having across levels, across roles. So, yeah, I think that gap is reducing. But ultimately, yeah, the simplest way, and I guess in a business way, the leaders would set the strategy and the managers would be more responsible for its execution.

[00:13:48.650] – Al
So when you worked for a subcontractor for the Department of Work and Pensions, I was with you at the time, you loved that work. Would you describe yourself as a leader at that point or a manager?

[00:14:01.630] – Leanne
Very much as a manager.

[00:14:02.900] – Al
And what do you think made you a good manager back then?

[00:14:06.990] – Leanne
I think in terms of my competence, I was managing the people who I’d done the job of previously. A master, by no means a prerequisite, and often not a reason why managers should or people should be promoted into a management position. I think having that insight, having been there and done it and done it well, gave me credibility as a new manager and as a young manager, in that I understood, at least I understood the role. And then, I think, beyond that, I very much drew on my psychology education. I knew theoretically what it took to create an environment in which people could be themselves, where they had a voice, where they could question things, where they could contribute ideas, where they had autonomy, where they were empowered, whether they were supported, where they had the correct resources that they needed to have, they had role clarity. I knew theoretically what I had to do as a manager and I think I had a level of understanding that was well beyond my years in terms of my professional competence. So then it’s just a case of having an environment where I was encouraged and supported to turn this theory into practise.

[00:15:23.200] – Al
So what was your best day as a manager?

[00:15:25.950] – Leanne
My best moment knowing that what we were doing was really something cool and I’d orchestrated this situation was when so I worked for a welfare to work company called Pinnacle People and I ran a contract that supported people with multiple barriers back into work. So physical health barriers, mental health challenges, social isolation, education, financial challenges, parenting, a whole host of different things. And it’s one of the most holistic programmes that the company had ever had. And I remember going to a meeting at our head office and our MD was talking about how it would be really great if we start to cross pollinate our contract and start to understand how we could help each other. And she gave an example of a contract in the Midlands that was refurbishing bikes. So the contract was that people who were unemployed, who needed some kind of work experience would go to this place where people had donated bicycles and they’d refurbish them and then they’d either keep them or give them away or whatever it is that they did. And this programme has been so successful that they got lots and lots of donations, but they had a surplus of children’s bikes and they couldn’t do anything with the children’s bike because their contract was all adults, so they could only give these bikes to other adults.

[00:16:53.100] – Leanne
They didn’t have any outlet for the children. And she said, There must be an opportunity here somewhere. And I remember going back and talking to my team and saying, is this something our customers would be interested in? Because we were the family support programme, so typically, vast majority of our customers would have children. And the other team were really excited and we’re like, yeah, that’s definitely it would come up to Christmas as well. So I was kind of like, Right, well, before we can kind of put this all together, I need to understand, from a kind of a business case perspective, how many people we can give these bags to, because it’s going to cost money to get them up from the Midlands to Manchester to organise appointment for people to come in and collect them. So lots of different logistical challenges, but the team really bought into it, did all the leg work I asked him to do, contacted then the contract manager of the biking contract, explained it. He thought it was really cool, so help me load with the transport logistics. And even down to the last minute, there was loads of snow and ice that year and were they going to get there and all this.

[00:17:55.660] – Leanne
We had this amazing event and loads of customers came. We gave away about 8100 bikes, kids bikes, a couple of days before Christmas, knowing that this was a really nice thing that we could have done for our customers. And it was the last day before the Christmas holidays and I sent the rest of the team hiring. I was like, We’ve had a great day. It’s about 01:00. I was like, we’re done. We can do no better this year. We’re done. So everyone went home. When I was working with the centre manager, where we were just to kind of find storage for the fuel bikes that we had left over. And a guy came in who I know for, but was a customer stressing that had he missed it, the buses were delayed because there was snow in North Manchester. And he tried and I was like, It’s okay. And we ended up he had two kids and he had bikes for we just so happened to have bikes at the right size and when he he took them, he just burst into tears. And this is a guy who’s like late 30s, early 40s, hard as nails, North Manchester.

[00:18:59.290] – Leanne
People like that don’t show their emotion easily. And he just turned to me that it’s the one year that I’m not going to let my kids down at Christmas. And that for me was just like, oh, my God. We’re not just helping our customers, we’re helping their families. We have impact, we have social impact. And without having as a manager, heard about this opportunity and tried to do something about it, rallied my team and other stakeholders in the business to do it, it wouldn’t have happened. And, yeah, that was my proudest day as a manager, getting emotional. It was a good day.

[00:19:31.980] – Al
While I’ve got you emotional, then what would you say is your worst day as a manager?

[00:19:37.030] – Leanne
Well, that’s easy. My worst day as a manager, so same job, but at the beginning of this contract, it was from start up, I was a new manager. As I said before, I didn’t really have any much experience and I was appointed to manage the Northwest. Got asked to take on Yorkshire as well, another region, because I couldn’t find an art to fill the role. And to fill the role, I went at it and fell on my face. I did such a bad job. I was well beyond my level of experience and competence, so I got demoted. I remember having this meeting with the MD and my director in Leeds that I was going to get demoted. And I had a number of options and I remember getting the train back, feeling very sorry for myself, and getting off for the train station and falling over and somebody sick. So it was all at my back. It was a real low point. So, yeah, that was definitely my worst days of marriage. Right. I felt like I’d let myself down. I felt like I’d let my team down, I’ve let my director down. Yeah, I guess it’s that worst nightmare, isn’t it?

[00:20:47.010] – Leanne
Where you’re in a situation where you know you’re stretched, but you’re giving everything and you fail.

[00:20:55.490] – Al
You have always talked about this person, John, who I think you alluded to in that story, which was the director. Now, I know that you talk about John very fondly. Tell us a bit about John.

[00:21:11.830] – Leanne
So, John was my director. He was also the husband of the MD, which made for an interesting dynamic. We didn’t know each other. He was new to the business when I took on this role and he’d supported me, I think he knew that it was a bit beyond me. So when we came out this meeting, I was given three options. I could either go back to being a coach on the contract in Yorkshire I just come from. I could be a coach on the new contract in Manchester, or I could be a freelance tutor, so basically a trainer. So no option of management roles, like management for me was over. And I remember going back and talking to you, Al, and various colleagues and kind of thinking, well, I’m not, I’m not I can’t go backwards, I can’t go back to being a coach, whether it’s in my, you know, my old job or on the new contract. So I’ll be a trainer, something I’ve not done before. I know it’s me I’m good at and at least, I don’t know, I just felt like it wasn’t a full step backwards and felt a bit more like, protect my ego a little bit.

[00:22:18.650] – Leanne
So, yeah, I went back the next day and I told John this with the MD and this wasn’t the answer they expected. I think they expect me to go back to being a coach. I kind of held my ground with it and in the end, John was kind of like, I hoped you’d go back to be a coach because I think in a few months time you’d be able to then step back into the manager role. And I was kind of like, well, okay, but if you don’t think I can do it now, what difference is it going to make to have three more months of experience? I’ve already got under my belt. And at that point, he was just kind of like, I think you can do this, and I think with a smaller region, you can do this. So he really lobbied for me. He campaigned for me to the MD, his wife as well, by the way, and he’s directed the contract to give me this chance. And, yeah, she reluctantly, very reluctantly gave me this three month run up to basically turn the contract around. But from that point on, I guess my I guess whereas I’d seen John as quite like a scary figure in my life, he was then like I guess he did turn into a bit more of a mentor, a bit more of a coach.

[00:23:30.600] – Leanne
And I was kind of like, okay, well, if you believe in me, then I can’t let myself down twice, but I certainly can’t let you down twice. And that was where everything just shifted. I asked the questions I needed to ask for the support I needed to I got my shit together in terms of doing my job well. And, yeah, in three months time, we turned the contract around and I was asked to stay on his manager.

[00:23:53.750] – Al
So you’ve got very fond memories of John? Sadly, no. Longer with us. And I think that a lot of the things that you do these days are based around some of the fundamental things that you leanne from John. So tell us, what are some of the things that you leanne from John?

[00:24:09.870] – Leanne
Yeah, I did, I did learn a lot from John, but I think there was maybe three core things that really stuck with me. One is that you’re not that important. One person, manager or leader, is not that important to lead with humility, with empathy, with honesty. And that it’s all about building trust. And I think one thing that I later learn about John, that he was hugely successful. He was a CBE, but I didn’t know that and he never told me that. Somebody else told me that. So I think it doesn’t really matter what you’ve achieved or what you’ve done before. It’s all just about the moment. And people aren’t going to trust you just because you’ve got a legacy of achievements, they’re going to trust you of how you’re operating and navigating in that moment. So, yeah, that’s what I learned. You’re only as good as your current day as a manager, rather than what you’ve achieved before. Secondly, the importance of employee voice. One thing that John did that blew my mind, bearing in mind I’ve been with this company for three years already and no senior manager had ever done this before, but he said, right at the beginning of every quarter, I want to sit down for half an hour with every single member of the team.

[00:25:28.390] – Leanne
And that was everyone, whether they were a senior coach, whether they were a brand new coach, whether admin, whether they were a compliance team, whether they were actually on another team, but worked very closely with us. And so we’re in our office two days a week. He wanted to sit down for them as well and he spoke to every single person how they were doing, what was working well, what perhaps wasn’t working so well, areas for improvement and just created a very safe space for them to give feedback to a very senior leader who is also the husband of the MD. That’s an intimidating situation to put an admin person in. It was very new to the team in the business or very early in their career. Yet he facilitated those discussions and then meant that I had the feedback I needed to make the improvements that I needed to do to make an environment that was better and more supportive for the people in it. And I think that just then created this sense of teamwork and collaboration and transparency and psychological safety that we’ve talked a lot about before. So, yeah, the importance of employee voice.

[00:26:33.690] – Leanne
And the third thing, hide the wires. And funny, I’ve been talking about this on another podcast today, but hide the wires. So you basically said that even if you’ve had the shittiest day, even if you are getting pushed and pulled and dragged down and pressure from all angles, whether it be in work, whether it be at home, whether you’re going through personal things as well. Hide the wires. Don’t bring that in with you. Your team don’t need you to put on your stress and emotion onto them. That’s not going to be helpful to them in any way. And your only job as a manager is to enable the performance of others. So, yeah, if shit is going down, hide the wires.

[00:27:16.810] – Al
So you’re saying hide the wires is one of the mistakes that a lot of managers make, or could potentially make. What are the mistakes do you see managers making?

[00:27:27.310] – Leanne
I guess having feeling that they need to have all the answers. Feeling that they need to come up with every solution, not ruling those solutions past their people. And that’s a mistake that I made and one that I learned very quickly not to do again. But, yeah, I think that’s a big one, thinking you have to have all the answers. I think neglecting the people aspect of their job. It was made very clear to me that my job as a manager was not to manage the contract, make the contract work. My job was to manage the people, help the people work. And ultimately, because if we do that, we’ll get more people into work, we’ll have more impact on their families and we’ll break the cycle of multigeneration employability. I had such a clear vision and purpose and my only real concern at all times was to make sure I did everything I could to help my team fulfil that mission. Everything else is important and needs to be dealt with, but the majority of my time should be spent on enabling others. Taking the time to nurture those relationships is really important. So, for example, empathy, having empathy, recognising when someone’s having a hard time, giving feedback, constructive feedback, specific feedback.

[00:29:02.900] – Leanne
If people have done something well, why was it so good that they did it in that way? If performance isn’t so great, being brave enough to have those conversations early on so it doesn’t escalate to a performance management situation. And allowing people to question you, allowing people to challenge you. So I think one of the biggest breakthrough moments I had with one of my mums of staff was when she was able to question my decisions. She was on a sabbatical whistle, she applied for a permanent role, various other thing had happened. And whilst this role was meant to recruit my third coach because of somebody leaving, I was recruiting my second coach. And she just wasn’t ready for that level of responsibility to be number two. She needed that more senior support around her to make sure that she would succeed. And she questioned it. She was like, Why? I’ve been here for three or four months. I’ve been working my ass off, showing up every day. Why was. It not me. I said, because you were never meant to be my number two coach. You meant to be my number three coach. Because I need to make sure that you will smash this, and you will smash this with the support of two more experienced senior coaches.

[00:30:13.900] – Leanne
So believe me, and the minute that we need a third coach, and that moment is more likely to come in the next six to eight weeks, you don’t even have to interview your coach number three. And that in itself, she was like, okay, well, I get it then. I get it. If I hadn’t created that environment where she could question that decision and a very big decision to question as well, then she would have disengaged and she would have gone back to her other department and I would have lost an incredible coach. People need to feel that they can question your decisions. And as long as you have the integrity behind that decision, then you can explain it and it’s not going to negatively impact their experience or their engagement. If anything impact it positively.

[00:30:55.430] – Al
You mentioned there that someone challenged you. What are some of the beliefs that you hold dear that a lot of people disagree with?

[00:31:02.760] – Leanne
I think the concept of employee voice can be challenging for some people. And I know we talked about this quite a bit with Stefan a couple of episodes ago. I think there’s a conception with employee voice that you have to do everything your team says or you have to act on every piece of feedback that you get. And that’s not the point. The point is creating an environment where people can speak up and making sure when they do that they feel heard. Because that one in ten thing that you hear about that you otherwise wouldn’t have may be the one thing that saves your business or saved your biggest customer or saved somebody from leaving. The other nine might just be a case of acknowledging it, thanking them for their point of view and explaining why right now that’s not going to be possible. I think there’s a view that we need to bend over backwards, that cultures need to be this come by our moment of everyone’s happy and everyone’s fulfilled and everyone’s yeah, of course. But the reality is the reason that works is because the mutual benefits for everybody. Having an engaging culture doesn’t mean that you have to bend over backwards and do everything your employees say.

[00:32:19.740] – Leanne
It’s creating an adult to adult environment and adult to adult relationship. So I think fundamentally, I’m not sure people would necessarily disagree with the values I hold. I think they may misunderstand some of the intent behind those values. But ultimately, I’m a business psychologist, emphasis on business. My role only exists if businesses exist, and businesses only exist if they make money.

[00:32:45.250] – Al
You’re saying that people don’t necessarily agree with you. One of the things which is your trigger words is the word fluff. So how would you react if a listener said, all you’re saying here is just psychological fluff?

[00:32:57.930] – Leanne
Wonder why are you listening, friend? Not sure this is the podcast for you. No, it’s science, isn’t it? Psychology is the science of people. It’s the science of human behaviour and it’s empirical. As data, we conduct studies to understand how people behave and what impact those behaviours have on the commercial outcomes of the business. So, yeah, I don’t know, maybe there was an element of fluff to some people and culture practitioners, but I think if you genuinely want to create an environment in which people aren’t burning out, in which people can sustain their role for a long period of time that do feel fulfilled, then why wouldn’t you nurture that? Because it’s going to have a positive impact on your business. It’s science, it’s data, that’s what it is. And I think if it’s fluff, my guesses would be that you are either accidentally doing these things and not realising you’re doing it, so therefore these interventions, these types of interventions sound fluffy or you’re on the brink of burnout and so are the rest of your team. Or I guess maybe you’ve worked with people before where it hasn’t been very effective. I think that’s the point.

[00:34:23.010] – Leanne
Oblong we work with people on interventions that we measure. We measure the impact six months later. We measure the impact. Twelve months after that. If there isn’t a positive shift in the well being of your employees and the performance of your business, then, yeah, it’s fluff. That intervention failed. But it isn’t fluff because there is an impact.

[00:34:42.370] – Al
You talked then about your work. So I’m curious, what would you say is your perfect work day?

[00:34:48.810] – Leanne
I am quite introverted, so I think my perfect work day would be a balance of kind of work in my head, so doing kind of analysis and putting results together and talking to people as well, having that balance. But I think my favourite days in work are the days where I see people would hit a breakthrough, whether that be people that I’m coaching and they suddenly get that, oh, they did that because I did this, and they thought, okay, yeah, those kind of breakthrough moments. So when people suddenly realise all of a sudden that, oh, my behaviour does impact my employees and how they think and feel and behave, I find that satisfying because ultimately I want to be disposable. If I’m doing my jobs right, I’m a short, sharp intervention and then you don’t need me again for six months, for twelve months. The whole point is building the capability of leaders. And I think as well, when, as you say, the podcast, understanding the complex world of people and culture, it’s not that complex, actually. It’s fairly straightforward. But gathering the data and the insights that you need for it to then seem straightforward can be the tricky part.

[00:36:03.730] – Leanne
And I think for me, when you see leaders that suddenly have this clarity in an area that, before it caused them so many headaches and they just didn’t know where to go, I guess in that relief, that reassurance, that drive, kick back in that entrepreneurial drive. Go. Okay, now I know what we need to do. I know the plan. Now we can make it better. I think just taking somebody from where do I even begin? To, okay, I’ve got a very clear plan of action. That’s a good day.

[00:36:37.180] – Al
So who is the dream client to work with?

[00:36:40.940] – Leanne
I’m not sure I have one specific organisation in mind. I think it is, as I said, more about helping those owner leaders just get a handle on all this, because once they do, it’s easy, it’s maintenance. But I think in terms of personally, it would be cool to work with a private welfare to work organisation. Again, reconnect with that, I think it would feel like a full circle moment. So to work with somebody like, I don’t know, CTech or Groundworks or that type of thing, but ultimately there’s no one. I think that just makes it very much about me and I’m not sure that is ever really my drive. I want to feel like I’m helping and like I’m having an impact, but I know whether that impact is in an accountancy firm, a digital creative agency or welfare to work organisation, that translates to happier, more fulfilled people and that has a massive impact. It’s not just them about our work selves, is it? If I’m happy and fulfilled in my work, I’m going to be happy and fulfilled at home. So, yeah, I don’t think there is a target client. I think with all clients, and the only clients that I will ever work with are those that get it or open to it.

[00:37:54.940] – Leanne
So they’re unlikely to call it fluff, but even if they did, I think just being open minded to this could change everything. So strap on your big girl, your big boy pants, we’ve got this. But it’s going to take commitment from you, an open mind and a bit of hard work.

[00:38:18.030] – Al
So there seems to be a trend towards this year, and I’m guessing it’s going to continue next year, towards having outsourced sort of Lea level chief people officers. Imagine that you were brought in as the chief people officer for Twitter, let’s say. What would your first day look like?

[00:38:36.810] – Leanne
I mean, maybe not Twitter, because Lord knows where you’d start with that. I think that’s without beyond my realms of capability, I guess the things that I if we’re talking like people with that kind of an organisation, those types of challenges, maybe an organisation with high turnover or an organisation that is struggling to find great talent. I think my first day, what would John do? That’s where I start. And my first day is going to be sitting down with people having conversations and I think, first of all, understanding that at a board level, is this a priority? Are we going to take seriously that our turnover problem is more than likely down to the fact we are not creating environment that engages people, we are pushing people to the point of burnout and we don’t have the managers in place to support people in the way they needed to be supported. And I think if you don’t have that, I guess, consensus at board level, then there’s almost no point starting because without that that support from the most senior of levels, any intervention is going to struggle. So then that would be my first my first priority would be to make sure it’s on the board agenda and yet have conversations, have conversations with managers, have conversations with people, gather the insights.

[00:40:02.830] – Leanne
You know, one of my favourite psychologists is a guy called John Amy Chin. He says the most powerful thing that you cana do is understand exactly where you are right now. And I think that’s something that is so it’s not sexy, is it? For an organisation to be like, you know what we need to do, we need to do a survey, so we need to know exactly how your people feel right now that’s not sexy. People want to talk about employer brand and all these well being interventions that we can do and that’s the sexy stuff. But the reality is that stuff isn’t going to work if it’s not targeting the actual problems that you have in your business. So probably my first two months lea alone first day is just going to be figuring out exactly how people are thinking and feeling within the business, exactly what’s working, exactly what’s not, and then designing a road map to get us back on track and that’s when the sexy stuff comes in. But first we need to do the work, we need to gather the data.

[00:40:56.760] – Al
So if you were going to write a book, then what do you think you’d write the book about?

[00:41:01.590] – Leanne
I think I would write a book that brings together culture, engagement and well being in a way that makes it accessible and makes it actionable. And I think and I didn’t even know these questions. This isn’t even about kind of promoting what we do at Upland or the RX Seven, which is our culture engagement, well being tool. But I think what’s so cool about the tool that we’ve developed and why I would want to expand on it is that it takes away the noise. There’s so much to think about as a business leader and if you start to delve into people and culture, there’s so many different topics and even just look at the topics we’ve covered already on our podcast, it can seem a bit overwhelming, I’m sure. And I think the great thing about just distilling it down, talking about the seven principles that you need to understand, you need to monitor and you need to nurture within your business to create a culture that people are going to be engaged and fulfilled and experience positive well being and your business is going to grow. Let’s just talk about these seven things and, yeah, there’s going to be complexities within those seven things because it is the science of people and people are complicated and we all love Myers Briggs because it puts us in a box, but it’s bullshit as we know it doesn’t work.

[00:42:21.200] – Leanne
These things are more complicated. But if we can spill it down into just seven points, I think that’s what I’d write about. And I think, as well, there’s this I guess there’s so much overlap between culture, engagement and well being that even as a psychologist, sometimes I’m not entirely sure I get it because there’s so much going on, so much evidence and conflicting theories, but it’s distilling it down, getting the basics right. It’s not even like, the complicated things. It’s like, do your people understand what the vision is? Do they understand why they’re turning up for work every day and what impact they are individually having? That is massively powerful. Every organisation out there has a vision. How many of your employees could name that vision? How many of them would tell you exactly what the organisation is trying to achieve and exactly what their role is within it? Start with that, because that is one of the biggest things you can do in terms of nurturing, engagement and well being. So, yeah, start with that. What’s your reason? What’s your role? Yeah, I think it’s just trying to simplify it, but, yeah, rambling answer to a questioner, probably right, about the RX seven and how, if you do nothing else in the first ten years of your business, that will serve you just fine.

[00:43:44.120] – Al
What questions? And have I not asked you that perhaps I should have done?

[00:43:48.300] – Leanne
I think what’s interesting is we kind of alluded to last week is that we’ve had very different professional journeys. Mine has been very much around education and vocation. Yours has been much more around entrepreneurialism and building businesses, I think, yeah, there’s different routes and there’s different reasons and there’s different ways things work. But I think that’s what being around people that challenge you to think differently, that challenge you to look at the world in a slightly different way, they’re the people that are going to enhance you as a person. They get the people that are going to help you grow and develop. And they’re the people that we want in our businesses. We want people that are going to challenge us, we want people that are going to push back, they’re going to question our decisions. Because, you know what? If we’re doing everything we should be doing, we’re going to have a valid answer to those questions, valid reasons behind that pushback. And if we don’t, then thank the Lord you’ve brought this to my attention because this is a gap that requires my attention, so I think, yeah, maybe not. And this isn’t something that’s easily done and definitely something that I’ve had to grow into and still am, particularly in terms of feedback, but I think knowing that people, generally people are just trying to help, people rarely just want to just mess with you to make your life worse.

[00:45:16.960] – Al
You’ve mentioned your mentor, John, quite a lot. I know he’s no longer with us and I know that you are massively impacted by what he taught you. Do you think he’d be proud of what you’re doing today?

[00:45:31.930] – Leanne
That question is a trigger warning. Yeah, I think you’d find it a laugh, I think you’d find it really funny because my journey with Pinnacle ended with I should also just say, like, I did end up getting promoted to a position above the one I was demoted from. That’s how good John Ward as a mentor. He was like, Right, let’s do this. So, yeah, so my time with Pinnacle ended on a high in terms of what we achieved, low in terms of the contract was ending and I was made redundant at that point. We’d been living in Spain for two years and I’ve been going back to the UK. John was such a progressive leader. Bear in mind the man was in like his sixty s at this point. He would have found it a laugh. I remember him saying to me, maybe there’s a time that you just have a portfolio career, or start your own business, or travel the world, live life, do the work you love. I think he’d find it a real giggle that we’d been to so many different places and lived in different parts of the world and do what we do now.

[00:46:38.000] – Leanne
Yeah, I’m sad that he’s not here to see it, I’m sad that he’s not here to guide me, but, yeah, I think he’d be proud. I think he’d be as proud of what we’ve achieved personally as much as what we’ve achieved professionally. He was all about that work, life balance. Family is important, it’s not all about work. So, yeah, I think we’d have a good chat over a couple of pints and reminisce about the good old days, the bad old days, and how far we’d come.

[00:47:18.970] – Al
Elevate thank you. Leanne. That was fantastic. Just such honest answers to that and also teaching us and translating the complex ideas into simple stuff and I think it’s brilliant. So shall we leave it there? Lee?

[00:47:35.930] – Leanne
Yes. I’m going to go cry over a pillow.

[00:47:39.410] – Al
Well, I’m sorry I made you cry, but I’m pleased that we got some great stuff.

[00:47:44.610] – Leanne
Yeah. It’s important to remember these people and to be continually inspired by them. And one of the neighbours, we’re not in contact with them anymore, but I think we learn so much from each other and other people and I’ve seen that as well, where it is, and I think we talk about this as well, that the responsibilities on the shoulders of leaders is huge. It is massive. But part of being a great leader is acknowledging that, because then you’re going to take your job seriously and it’s those people that create the most awesome businesses to work with.

[00:48:19.710] – Al
So, back next week with predictions for 2023 in the business of people.

[00:48:23.360] – Leanne

[00:48:24.370] – Al
And then we are going to be we’ve got we’ve recorded some fantastic episodes or interviews so far around Burnout and around Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Awards, which I believe they’ve just been announced this last week.

[00:48:39.270] – Leanne
Yeah, they have some really great interviews coming up and in January we’ll be talking a lot about wellbeing, a lot about Burnout and yeah, a lot of individual and organisational support as well. So, yes, look forward to that. And as I’ll say, we’ll be back with two episodes on our predictions for 2023. If you have a prediction, get in touch, drop us an email, drop us a message, we love to hear from you.

[00:49:02.910] – Al
Yeah, so if you’re not subscribed yet, then click subscribe and all of our future episodes will pop straight into your app. You can find all of the show notes, liesandwork.com, and if you want to get in touch with us, there’s a little box on that website where you can basically pop in a question or anything you want, and you will get in touch with one of us. Thanks for listening and we look forward to seeing you next week. Bye.

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