#23 The CEO Whisperer – Dr Anthony Howard, CEO, The Confidere Group (s01ep23)
DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE
- Human-centred leadership
- How to live a good life
- Leadership theories
- Building a mentally healthy culture checklist
- Book: Humanise. Why Human-Centred Leadership is the key to the 21st Century
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Transcript from the interview
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Graeme Cowan, Dr Anthony Howard
Graeme Cowan 00:01
I’m delighted to welcome Anthony Howard to The Caring CEO today. Welcome, Anthony.
Anthony Howard: 00:08
Hey Graeme, how are you?
Graeme Cowan 00:09
Very well, thanks. What does care in the workplace mean to you?
Anthony Howard 00:16
It kind of goes that question that, that I just asked you doesn’t like how are you? You know, over the last year or so, when I’ve asked people, what has really been the most profound leadership moment for you during the, the pandemic? The, however the answer has been framed. It’s always been my leader, my manager cared for me. And, and what they meant by that what people said is kind of pre-pandemic, Monday morning. Hey, how was your weekend? Yeah, good. Good. Yeah. And anyway, this week, where was now people were saying, are you okay? Hey, how you doing? You know that no, seriously, I want to know, are you okay?
Graeme Cowan 01:01
Anthony Howard 01:02
And that wasn’t just a one off. That was a regular kind of event people be because, I mean it’s lockdown and people working from home. Their leaders were saying to them, are you okay? You know? And what I heard over and over and over is people saying that they felt cared for, they felt that their leader was genuinely interested in their well-being and, and it didn’t matter what the answer was that you know, they didn’t have to front up by, now I’m fine. It was like, seriously, I know you’re probably not because we’re going through something tough. Let me know we’re in this together. Then it’s care, I think.
Graeme Cowan 01:39
That’s been very much our experience as well. You know, I’ve done a lot of webinars in the last 18 months or so. And we often ask people, you know, what’s been the best team you’ve been in and ask people to, to write that. And always number one is we have each other’s back, which I think it’s really interesting and it is, you know, when you feel someone has your back, you feel they care for you, don’t they?
Anthony Howard 02:06
Yeah, they’ve kind of taken an interest. They’re looking out for you in some kind of way, which gives me a confidence that I’m not alone. I’m not alone.
Graeme Cowan 02:15
Exactly. And you’re known as the CEO whisperer, Anthony, which is a bit of a you know, an uncommon thought leadership. What, can you just let people know who may not know about your background. What led to this role you now have?
Anthony Howard 02:36
When I left school, I went away to say so I was a navigator in the or trainee navigator in the Merchant Navy. And I was, I thought I was all grown up but I wasn’t. I was a boy. You know, I just turned 17 and, but I had this kind of extraordinary experience where I’d be on a ship in the middle of the ocean and you know on watch at night, you know, when they’d kind of trust me to look after the ship because there’s nothing else around and it’d be the middle of the night, men coming up the stairs and you’d hear someone coming up and they come through the blackout curtains and, and they kind of stand and you know, get their night vision and look around for, for wherever you went, and they, and you’d often be out on the wing of the bridge, just kind of looking up, looking out. And they come in and stand beside me. And they literally just stand beside me, we’d both look out to the horizon. And then they offer me, hey, you know, how you’re doing? In that informal kind, hi, how’s it going kind of thing. And then, and then I’d say the most extraordinary things, I’d say, hey, you know, I’ve just got a telegram. This was in the olden days, I just got a telegram for my wife, you know, our son’s been in a car accident, or I just got a telegram from my wife, she’s gonna leave me, telling me when I come home, don’t come home. All sorts of extraordinary things that they would just reveal that in the day to day you would have no idea that was going on. And of course, you know, 17, 18 years old, I was really unfamiliar with that experience. But I could kind of empathize in some sort of way, almost at a human level and I didn’t want someone to solve a problem for them and I needed someone who would just listen to them. And, and I found that I had this facility for listening to people and not just listening to people, but creating a space where they could reveal the things that were really on their mind, you know, and I didn’t, of course realize then, that this would lead to the kind of career that I’m in but you know, I was in a conversation last week with a CEO of a well-known organization. And at one level, we were having a normal conversation, talking about what’s good on in the firm and those kinds of things but the same time talking about what’s going on with him and, and at the end of it he said, you know, I can talk with you about things that I just can’t talk about with anybody else. And so, it’s a combination of those things the creating a safe space, the nonjudgmental-ism, the non-rational to solve a problem just simply the listening and caring and holding up a kind of mirror that enables people to see their best selves in that mirror. And, you know, frankly, I knew that some kind of gift that I’ve been given and I have an opportunity to serve people in using that gift.
Graeme Cowan 05:39
And what sort of things was that CEO wanting to discuss that he couldn’t discuss with other people?
Anthony Howard 05:45
Well, that’s the interesting thing, because often, I think, what did we discuss that you can’t discuss with anybody else? And, and I would find it hard to put my finger on that, but I think the framing for it would be, is probably in the way that they’re discussed. And so, with me, what kind of comes out is the vulnerabilities, the concerns, the personal turmoil, the things that if you discussed it with your colleagues, they might be concerned about, you know, whether you’re up to the job or not, or whether you can help us get through the kinds of things that if you discussed it with the board, it might trigger a need to make a disclosure kind of thing. And so, it’s just the, it’s the same kind of things that they were talking about with others strategy, vision, direction, legacy, you know, any number of things to do with, you know, leading an organization, caring for people and so forth, probably in the way that they discuss the deeply personal manner, in which they will discuss things and to the non-judgmental-ism. Like they really know, it doesn’t matter what they tell me. I’m not going to say, you get to be a CEO, if you don’t know the answer to that, or, you know, I’m not going to say this seriously. I’m just gonna listen to it. And because as you know, a lot of times people just need someone to listen to them, people, as people, we need to be heard and understood. And when you create that environment for people, they grow and develop, they flourish, they become fulfilled. And we could do a lot more of that in the world.
Graeme Cowan 07:33
Yeah, absolutely. What are the skills or qualities do you think you have, apart from the great listening skills that has really helped you as a CEO whisperer?
Anthony Howard 07:47
The thing that people remark on more than anything else, more than listening, the listening is something that I observe in myself. But the thing that people remark on more than anything else is isn’t that this is the way they frame it that I asked them the question that no one else is asking them. And so, in the in the olden days, I, you know, I spent a number of years at sea and then I worked in church organizations for many years doing kind of mission work and youth work. But in that context, I studied philosophy and theology. And I was fortunate to come across a Canadian philosopher called Bernard Lanigan. And Lanigan has a very simple kind of methodology, if you like, for knowing how we think and how the kind of processes that go on in our mind then. And I just found that and plus the kind of philosophical study of the Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and so forth, has just given me an ability to reframe questions and ask questions at a meta level, rather than the more simple kind of level. So, kind of goes to meaning and purpose or why, what’s the underlying issues? What are the bigger concerns? How can we look at that from a different perspective? The ability to say, well, not simply, it’s either or, but rather than, you know, the end the either or, but to kind of say, well, look, we’ve got options, but there’s an entirely new way of thinking that we could bring to it. And that comes through a better questioning kind of process.
Graeme Cowan 09:27
Yeah. And what, what are some of those questions that you asked, which no one else does? Is it much more at the why? Are they doing it or why they concern? What are the things that you touch on that other people don’t ask them?
Anthony Howard 09:45
It’s an interesting, I don’t have, I mean, I kind of have a set of questions that I’m that I might ask, and I’ll touch on some. But it’s more that in a conversation, you’ll hear what’s being said, and it becomes evident what’s not being said. And when you can detect not what’s not being said and asked a question about that, that’s where the questions emerge. So, so sometimes it can be as simple as, hey, Graeme, you’re not going to hear what you’re saying, what are you not telling me? What are you not asking? What’s going on in your head, that you’re afraid to bring up or afraid to ask or what it will maybe you can’t verbalize. And just asking questions like that, but one question that I asked, which anybody can ask, is, you know, when you’re meeting someone, particularly for the first time, rather than, hey, how are you? Who are you? What do you do? You know, that kind of get a conversation going. I ask people, what are your story? And when I literally astride meeting them for the first time, I’ll say, hey, nice to meet what, what’s your story? And most people will look at me in a kind of quizzical way, like, well, what? What do you mean? And I’ll say, well, look, my assumption is that you are born at a very young age. What happened then? And that’s kind of loosens them up. And people started to talk. And of course, when you tell a story that invites questions, you know, what was like to hear or that’s interesting, you lived in that country or this country? What was that like? How was that experience? And, and so you get to meet the person. They feel understood. And, you know, I think if more of us took time to hear one another story that would change the way we think, you know, because I encounter the other primarily in a role, CEO, CFO, husband, wife, mother, father, you know, we kind of have those categories that we fall into, which are helpful, but it’s not my story. And you know, one of the things I do with executive teams, I get the team away together to hear one another story. And you shift from being a CFO or HR director or what have you shift to being a person with hopes and dreams and aspirations, capabilities and competencies that I just didn’t know because I thought of you in that very narrow, you know, finance role for I go to elements of care, you know if I take time to hear you, that’s, that’s caring for you.
Graeme Cowan 12:20
It is very much and you certainly find out things that you as you say, you don’t get from normal questions, like I was an executive search consultant for a long time, no, that’s something similar, just can you give me a brief overview of your career? So, mine was much more career focused, but what I was really interested in was the steps I made along the way, you know, the steps they made in what to be not a straight line, or something outside the box, and while at that and that would often give real perspective on their role, on their life and their story, I think, and so I can really see the value of, spent a fair bit of time doing a PhD at Notre Dame University. What do you, what was your topic? And why did you choose that topic to explore?
Anthony Howard 13:17
I’ve always been fascinated in people. And particularly fascinated in leadership. You know, as that thing, if you like the kind of get stuff done with and through people, and, you know, for many, many, many years, 20 years nearly, I’ve spent in non-pandemic world, I’ve spent weeks every year overseas, meeting leaders, talking to leaders, what makes them tick? How did they get to where they are? Just, you know, what can we distill from their, from their insights? And, and in that context, I often asked them about the trends they saw, what they saw coming down the, coming down the pipe that we have to prepare for, which led to another question like who they, who was going to be the leaders in that environment? And no one had an answer to that. No one was able to stay, there was, I was met with his overwhelming concern about the future, and an overwhelming concern about the lack of leadership to deal with or manage or lead through whatever it is we’re going to encounter. And so, I asked them to describe what kind of leader, what kind of traits and so that they would talk about it as a Mandela, kind of individual Martin Luther King, kind of individual they would talk about it as a moral leadership thing. And then I started talking about as a human leadership or human centered kind of leader and this was in the time, years before human centered was banded around so much, and that led to a, to a book that I write on human centered leadership back in 2015. And Notre Dame, frankly I saw the book and asked me if I’d like to do the academic work to underpin the work in the book which was just an enormous privilege to then go and do a PhD to do the study, but what if you kind of, what drove the PhD? Because of my work with leaders and my observing of leaders, I could tell as can many others, you know, by the, by the why a leader treats people, what they think a person is, and it’s really common for people to be treated as a means to an end, as a resource, as an asset, as something to be used and disposed of. And when you’ve got a weekend from this one, let’s get ourselves another one, let’s put an ad out, and we’ll get another one. That’s no way to treat people. And it struck me that leadership models were deficient, because the vast majority of leadership models, talk about the things that leaders do, or the attributes, behaviors, competencies of leadership, but we fail to address actually that leadership is done by a person with another person. So, what does it mean to be a person who’s leading other persons and that drove the PhD research to kind of take the human centered life to a whole another philosophical level?
Graeme Cowan 16:14
And did you learn anything additional to you know, you put forward your ideas and your book humanize? Which is a great, a great book, which I recommend to people. Do you? Did you learn anything extra by going through that more rigorous process?
Anthony Howard 16:28
I’ve just learned so much that could be the, you know, on our another podcast, but you know, at one, one level, I learned about a rigorous process. And, you know, thank you for recommending my book, I enjoyed writing it. But I look at it now and go, it lacks rigor. It kind of picks up on conversations and picks up on interviews, it kind of highlights some trends and some interesting ideas and interesting concepts. And, you know, I’d like to think does that well. But what I did in the rigor that was applied in the PhD, you know, with my supervisors constantly saying, well, we know what, you know, we know, you know what you mean, but no one else does. And it kind of battling away, battling away at that, but the thing that the book didn’t have, that rigor emerged from the PhD, was a model of leadership, grounded in the human person. And anything that says, this is what it means to be a person. And if that’s what it means to be a person, then this is how we should leave persons and care for persons in a leadership context.
Graeme Cowan 17:45
Yeah. When you go about, you know, taking on an assignment to mentor, a CEO, what’s your process in, I guess, assessing them and choosing whether to work with them or not?
Anthony Howard 18:00
To have a team of, kind of former CEOs that work with me. So, part of the assessment is, you know, who of our team is best suited to this individual. And a very, very broadly, most issues confronting CEOs are relatively similar, someone who’s been a CEO, sat in a CEO seat wouldn’t be able to add an intelligent, make an intelligent contribution to someone, but the real issue is the chemistry between them. And so, you know, do we have a basis for trust? You know, do I meet you to someone may, the potential mentor and vice versa made the CEO and a guy that’s someone I could trust, someone I could listen to, because, you know, a CEO is going to reveal things that just could not be revealed publicly? You know, in a very simple sense. It might be look, you know, I’m thinking about, you know, I’m thinking about retiring next year, let’s kind of talk that through, you know, in a public company that’s getting pretty close to a disclosable event. And so, I need to be able to trust you to have that conversation, and not just to have the conversation, but help me really think through it very carefully, and ask the kind of questions that need to be asked and reflect back for me. So, to come back to your question, you know, assessing and setting someone up with someone, there’s a very broad thing about, you know, what kind of questions do you face, you know, across the strategic operational, political stakeholder and personal domains? What are you, what are your big challenges, and within that, I’d be listening and how I’ll given those kinds of challenges, let’s get you together with Pedro, Rebecca or, you know, one of the team here or maybe I might think gee, that’s more suited to my kind of skill set? But then at the same time, I’m listening for trying to make a judgement in terms of personality. Who would they listen to? Who do I think they’re going to be able to create that trusting relationship with?
Graeme Cowan 20:12
And when you think back about the process you have and how the mentoring continues, how do you, how do you sense whether it’s working or not? How do you sense that you’re making progress both for the CEO, but also for yourself?
Anthony Howard 20:33
You know, one, one very kind of utilitarian view would be they continue to engage us. So, it helps kind of indicator. It’s important, I found it’s important at the start to be clear about expectations. You know, and so I’ll ask them, you know, if we work together for a year or so what does success look like? What is going to enable you to go to the Board, and say, that’s been a good use of my time and our money, you know? Bearing in mind that sometimes they can’t articulate that. And also, bear in mind that once you get into it, the expectations are going to shift. So, in a very, very broad sense, most clients or potential clients will contrast because they’re going through some kind of transition, I first time, say, where I’m preparing for becoming a CEO, or we’ve just been through a big M&A and the whole world just changed or, you know, stuff shifted, such that when I go to work on Monday, it’s different to what it was on Friday. And the value of having someone to talk to, which is really quite enormous. And they’re not looking for, you know, if you’re a banker, you’re not looking for another banker. If you’re a miner, you’re not looking for another miner, because you have access to all that kind of expertise already. They’re looking for someone who can help them think through things in an entirely different way, who can give them another perspective, who can help them see the forest for the trades, who’s gonna ask the questions that aren’t being asked. And so, they’re coming in with some kind of transition. And so they may not be able to articulate it other than to say, frankly, I just need someone to talk to, you know, when I closed the door, and kind of look out the window, or something, I need someone to talk to, who can test my thinking, who can help me reframe my thinking, who can create a safe harbor, in a space where I can do that thinking in a way that doesn’t disrupt me, doesn’t disrupt the organization, nails me to continue leading and probably elevate my norm, I certainly elevate me to, you know, play at my best and continue to deliver my best.
Graeme Cowan 22:49
Yeah, and you truly found that there is loneliness at the top, have you?
Anthony Howard 22:54
I think we all know that, you know, in every kind of role, we’ve got an element of loneliness, but you know, at the CEO level, you’re caught in a pincer movement between the Board and management. And, you know, you don’t have a peer. Yet, on the board level, you have a group of peers and the management team, you have a group of peers, but the CEO doesn’t have a pear. And in every single hard decision comes to the CEO. You know, if it was easy, it would have got made already, but it’s ended up on her desk when no one else was able to make the decision. And she’s got to make the decision. You know, she can’t bat it off to someone else. And so, you’re faced with you know, these demands on your time and energy at the same time, you’re thinking, I’m really trying to accomplish X, but I keep getting distracted by all these things that kind of come up that are out of my control. And so, managing the uncertainties in the uncontrollables is an extraordinary challenge for a CEO keeping their feet on the ground, keeping their life balanced and integrated so that they, you know, they kind of win the war, win the battle and lose the war so to speak. It’s hard work, lonely work and very demanding. And not many people understand that. Not many people understand what it’s like to be there and, or able to create a space for, for that CEO, to have a safe conversation.
Graeme Cowan 24:31
Yeah, obviously human centred leadership’s very appealing mindset. You know, we obviously believe in it with a show called The Caring CEO. But you know, CEOs also have really hard things they have to achieve the quarterly results or, you know, yearly results, various milestones. How do you balance that? How do you encourage them or ask the right questions to help them, balance the need for results and the need to provide this sort of culture of care and human centeredness?
Anthony Howard 25:07
It depends where they are on the spectrum, you know how we approach that. But there, there are people who are just so focused on profit, that I wouldn’t work with them, you know, that they’ve been just so committed to making a whole lot of money for themselves, living great big profits at the expense of everything else, that the antithesis to everything else, I believe. However, there’s a lot of people on the journey who are trying to figure it out, you know, I have obligations to stakeholders, shareholders, and so forth. And I have obligations to people. And I want to care for people whilst, frankly, delivering a profit. And so, if the questions, you know, the right kind of questions like, for example, sufficient profit, you know, what is a sustainable profit? Not what is maximum profit. But the, to kind of reframe the conversation, start asking myself, what does it mean to be a person? How do I show up as a person and to your kind of caring concept? How am I caring for the people around me? Do I see you, as someone’s son, husband, brother, father, mother, wife, sister, you know, that’s primarily who we are, before we come to work and do a job? And so, the more we can see through that kind of lens? And you know, imagine if, just imagine if we were to say, you know, our objective is that at the end of the day, you go home a better person than you were at the start. That would just reframe the whole approach. And I believe, I think the wicked game cases, I think the stats are there that shows that, you know, we give discretionary effort, we get fully engaged, that leads to profits. We also know that if we focus on profits, it doesn’t care for people, and we don’t quite get the profits we deserve ultimately. So strangely enough, you know, it’s not as binary as profits or people, if we focus on profits, we have looked at people, and ultimately, I get the profits, if we focus on people, will care for people and ultimately get the profits.
Graeme Cowan 27:21
Yeah, I’ve always been quite a fan of Benjamin Franklin. And as you probably know, he started each day, the father wrote the question, what good am I going to do today? And then, at the end of the day, he asked himself the question, what good did I do today? I guess that’s what you’re talking about. What, what you just described, it’s, you know, how do I get better being good?
Anthony Howard 27:45
And that’s, you know, the question that was posed applied to Plato and Socrates analysis, what does it mean to live a good life? Or we would frame it as, what does it mean to live a fulfilling or a flourishing life. And Benjamin Franklin’s insight is really, really important. Because what he highlights is, you don’t kind of suddenly live a great life, you live a great day. And if at the end of the day, you’ve said, I’ve moved the needle a bit, you know, I’ve gotten closer to goodness. And if I haven’t, that’s kind of okay, tomorrow, I’ll do a bit, I’ll try a bit better. And I’ll make up for anything that I might not have done today. And therefore, becomes incremental, you know, as percentages over time. We build a great life, and we build a great life in the moment, not in the lifetime. And that’s a, that’s Franklin’s big insight, I think.
Graeme Cowan 28:40
What questions do you ask CEOs to understand what, what a great life would be for them?
Anthony Howard 28:47
Well, frankly, I asked them, what are people gonna say when they die? And, you know, when I start work with a CEO, we take them away on a two- or three-day retreat, just the two of us. And, you know, I believe that I’m a person or the CEO as a person before they go to work. Work just happens to be a job that I’ve got. But who am I? Who fronts up at work? What are my hopes and dreams and aspirations? Why am I on this planet? What is mine to do? Who do I serve? Big questions that really matter. And so, the first pilot at the retreat, focusing on that, and you know, going back to me being a navigator, I think of it in simple terms, where are we today? Where are we trying to get to? And how do we get there? And most of our life tends to be designed on career steps. Whereas if we designed our life from a point of view of endgame, what are people going to say at the end? And you know, if you didn’t want to be quiet, so eulogistic about other people ask you know, if you wrote a book at 100 years old, what would the book say and so forth. But you know, I get people to do that exercise, what are people going to say at your funeral? You know, your family, your friends, your colleagues, the people, you touched that might have a con– What are they gonna say? And, and I’ve never had anyone write a bad story. Now whenever writes, now whenever writes tear, then he was a jerk, and we’re glad he’s gone.
Graeme Cowan 30:22
We hit budget.
Anthony Howard 30:24
That’s right. That’s right. What a champion, oh man, it was such a privilege to work with him, we got the numbers. And every time they write things like, what a privilege it was to know Mary, you know, she cared for me, she went out of a wife may, in fact she did this man is a result of that I’ve now done this or become that or whoever. I write these stories because they can see these stories unfolding that see the possibility of the stories. And the amazing thing is, the amazing thing is when you write a story like that you look at and you know what’s real, and possible. And the thing that happens is your mind shifts, your mind shifts straightaway, because you grasp, gee, I’m doing things now that are not going to get me there, that are unhelpful to get in there. And I’m also doing things now that I never did more of them, it would accelerate that. That transforms your life.
Graeme Cowan 31:19
My 91-year-old father, passed away in January, and I was asked to do the eulogy. And I’m not sure why I thought it is but decided to ask about 35 people from family and friends, you know, three words that describe dead. And then I had Jenny Thomson who, you know, put it into a word cloud. And it was just fantastic to see because the biggest one, we came up with generosity, why he was, you know, really generous person, generous with his time, his advice, his money, he was just a really generous thing. But then there were things like honesty and integrity, cheeky and fun, loving and caring. And it’s a very interesting wait, it was 35 people that knew invest and see what comes up. But it was, I couldn’t and it formed really the backbone of it. And the eulogy just to talk about those sorts of five qualities, it was a great experience to do that.
Anthony Howard 32:21
Yeah, well done. Well done. And, and, you know, if we dream, dream of what we want to hear people say, that’s what we wish for. You know, and so, and it’s possible to create that, it’s possible to create that.
Graeme Cowan 32:40
When you think about, obviously, read very broadly, who are the people that have had most influence on your thoughts about leadership? You know, is there one or two or three that come to mind?
Anthony Howard 32:56
Stephen Covey was certainly one, you know, with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in particular. He wrote other books on you know, people first and so forth. But he’s one who’s quite profound. I would keep going back to the philosophers though, you know, Plato in the Republic, Aristotle’s ethics, some of the works of Kierkegaard, and Heidegger and others. And because they’re grappling with what it means to be a person in an environment, say, in a city or in a relationship or, you know, becoming who I can be. And to me that those are kind of more central to the issues of leadership rather than if you like some of the practicalities of leadership. If I think about contemporary writers who are kind of looking at leadership, I think what one of the ones that that really does stand out for me is Roger Martin, former dean of the Rotuman School of Management at Toronto, just a very, very, very good thinker. And he just basically reframes thinking and leading and leadership in a, in a really astute kind of way.
Graeme Cowan 34:19
It choose you raise Stephen Covey in that book, because I remember reading it when it first came out, wonder how long it goes, 25, 30 years ago or something? And just recently, just this year, I listened to via audiobook and where he sort of read the book, and I thought, boy, I thought, boy, this sticks up well, it really sticks up well. You know, I remember being quite impressed by it, but actually listened to him speak about it and the principles that are applied, it’s a very convincing book. He certainly had a–
Anthony Howard 34:55
It is kind of timeless and you might recall from, from the introduction, it was his PhD. But you might recall from the introduction that he did all his research into theories of leadership and thinking about leadership, and his big observation was in relatively recent period, thinking about leadership had shifted to traits, behaviors, attributes and competencies away from the character of the leader. And that’s kind of why I’m thinking as well, you know, that was my concern. So, the social scientists can tell us the stuff about leadership. But they can’t tell it’s really about the person, the character of the person who is the leader. And that’s where Covey went with his on the character was, I went more to the, what we call the anthropological was that made to be a person who is in that role of a leader. And that’s the stuff that interests me and kind of resonates with my work.
Graeme Cowan 35:50
How do you encourage leaders to practice self-care, you know, to look after their physical or mental health?
Anthony Howard 35:59
It’s an interesting question that is not because we have habits. As you know, when, and I would say that the majority of people, I may and I hope, I’d hate to get someone to kind of generate some research to, I’d love actually, if those to show me some research to prove this is wrong. I kind of have a working assumption that most people have bad habits, poor habits, poor habits when it comes to their own health and well-being. They probably sacrifice those on the altar of success. They’ve pursued money or material goods, or, you know, whatever it might be. You know, I’ve worked with leaders who knowingly would work themselves into hospital. In other words, they’d work until they couldn’t work in a lot until their body gave up. And then they kind of recuperate and come back to the fray. You know, this, this idea of, you know, politics being a Blood sport or business being you know, survival of the fittest, I think it’s just an awful, awful attitude towards leadership. So, so having said there’s some problems out there. The, the big issue and I come on coming back to my earlier observation about the day what, what I can often referred to as the quotidian French word for just the ordinariness of the day. Your routines really matter. And really the end of the bases what time you go to bed? What time you get up, getting your exercise in each day? What time you get off to the office? And you know, how you prepare for meetings? How you manage your energy through the day? Most people as you know, they arrive at the end of the day and collapse at home and certainly when they get on holidays the body goes through a bit of a shutdown and that’s their recovery time for the question is you know, how do you arrive at the end of the day so you have as much in the tank as you did at the start? Not how do you arrive ending. And that’s a conversation I would have with every single client because they haven’t figured it out. I don’t mean as I never need to talk about this it just comes up because I just know they haven’t got the idea and know how to figure it out.
Graeme Cowan 38:17
I talk a lot about resilience and well-being and I recommend each day people act like a VIP and what that is V stands for vitality which is our physical health, you know, good exercise, good risk, good nutrition, intimacy, which is our emotional health you know, our positive relationships and our personal and home life. And prosperity is contribution health so that’s our contribution the positive impact we make in our work or you know, working for charity or donating around that time and it is really about thinking about that each day as you advocate that you need to top up each of those three each day to be able to sustain good energy levels and good health.
Anthony Howard 39:05
Yeah, and the you remind me of all the work of Jim, Jim Loahr, you might have book on, you familiar with his work. He just highlights that so much. It’s about your energy not about your time. And the moment you make those kinds of shifts and manage your energy more effectively, he then ate better, sleep better, exercise better. You know, we’re in this for the long haul, you know, I plan to live to a hundred or died trying, so I’m kind of getting there. And we’ve got to look after ourselves to be there, you know, because there’s so much fun being alive.
Graeme Cowan 39:43
So how do you fit all those important things for your own well-being into your day? What’s your planning process for that, Anthony?
Anthony Howard 39:55
So, I’ll talk to you about the ideal. Bearing in mind if you’re not always live up to my ideals. And because I’m a part of being human is we have those wonderful dreams; we don’t quite do it all the time. But conceptually, I’m always asking myself, where would the world be in five years’ time? And how do I get there first? In other words, what trends are on? And how do I be there, when that wave breaks, you know, is it a new skill, I have to develop new relationships, I have to develop or whatever. So that gives me something of a, if you like a medium-term horizon, in the context of my overall life with the contribution that I’m trying to make with my life. So, in a sense, I’m always working back from the big pit to the longer term back into. And then in January each year, I like to get on my motorbike and get away for a week on the bike, riding through the mountains and things and just to clear my head. And very broadly, I spend the mornings kind of out on the bike, and the afternoon, sitting by a lake or a mountain or whatever, reflecting, and I’ll reflect back on the year that’s been and what I wrote about that year, and I’ll start dreaming some dreams for the year ahead. And then of course, process wise event box read into, you know, months, days, weeks, and so forth. And then, you know, create some gates along the way when I’m going to achieve certain things. But to my earlier comment, it does come down and ultimately to the day, what I’m going to do today to move the needle and start routine. So, I have, I have really tight routines that operate for me, wherever I am in the world that I follow every single day, in order to ensure well-being across all the human dimensions.
Graeme Cowan 41:49
Very good. When you think about CEOs making mistakes, or any manager or leader making mistakes. In your experience, what is the most common area that they can often be blindsided by?
Anthony Howard 42:04
Gosh, straightaway I think of something like A Gala Hubris. You know, I get blindsided by the fact that I think I’m a genius and now everything and therefore don’t use it to others, but most effective CEOs are sufficiently self-aware to say, hey, give me a point of view here or challenge me if I if I’m off track. I’m going to take that question on notice and give that give that some thought nothing. Nothing evident comes to mind.
Graeme Cowan 42:35
No, no worries. Looking back on your career so far, Anthony. And if you could go back and speak to your 17-year-old self on the on the deck of the of a ship. What, what advice would you give to that 17-year-old person knowing what you know now?
Anthony Howard 43:00
Well, he wouldn’t listen. But I’d certainly beside him grow up for goodness’ sake. I don’t know if I could grow up but I know on him on hindsight, how immature I really was. And the you know, becoming human is a lifelong work and so I’ve still got a fair way to go. The– When I was when I first started school, the headmistress of the school. So, in kindergarten, first year, prep. The Headmistress of the school came in and said, Howard, pick up your books, follow me. So, I followed her and she took me to another class and to sit there, there’s your desk and so I gone to you one, no one said anything I’m just kind of worked away through. And my mother at the end of the day said when I came and said, anything happened at school today. I said what it was, was kind of strange, you know, the teacher came in and put me in this other room. And my mom said, are you being put up? I said, what do you mean put up and she kind of explained this you know, that I was kind of operating at the level, kind of above where I was. And so, I always achieved in inverted commas intellectually. And that was fine until I was a teenager. But then as a teenager, I was kind of two years almost emotionally behind most of my peers. And my parents could see that. They’d kind of say look, you know, you’re not ready or whatever, right? I think yeah, but all my friends and, and so by the time I went away to sea at 17, I was frankly, kind of a little bit emotionally stunted, you know, was probably a lot under than that I know on reflection now. And so, I chased that for a long time trying to figure out who the heck I was and where I fit in the world and so if anything, I began back to that guy saying, just draw some breath. Just allow it to find gold, you know how to make it happen and you know it’s gonna, it’s gonna be fine, Anthony, it’s going to be fine. The things that I’ve stressed up, you know, in a bit like Mark Twain, I lost mostly over the things that didn’t happen and the things that did you know, Anthony is gonna be fine, but–
Graeme Cowan 45:33
It’s not a bad advice to just breathe and to return to the present moment. There’s a lot to be gained by that for sure. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show, Anthony, really appreciate. Really interesting to hear the perspective from different CEOs. You know, I was in recruitment executive search for a long time. And it always fascinated people used to say, our industry is really different when you talk to them. But there was always very similar, you know, it was always very competitive industry, it was hard getting good people, and it was constantly changing. You’ve really highlighted that those things all move and shake, but you know, just being in developing good character, good character skills is, is such a good message, particularly these really volatile times. So really appreciate you being part of the caring CEO, Anthony.
Anthony Howard 46:33
Thank you, a privilege. I wish you well, Graeme.
Graeme Cowan 46:36
Excellent. That’s great. Thanks, Anthony. Really, really.
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