Episode 206:

There are people who are considered leaders because their title says they are and then there are people who lead, no matter where in the org chart they may be. Agency owners can’t afford to be leaders in title only. We have to step into true leadership if we want our agency to thrive and grow.

David Wood, founder of Play For Real, is my guest on this episode of Build a Better Agency. David is a pro at spotting what it takes to be a strong leader in the workplace.

David was a former consulting actuary to Fortune 100 companies like Sony Music and Procter & Gamble. When he left his Park Avenue job, he began to explore the world in a different way in terms of helping high-performing entrepreneurs, executives and leaders play the game of personal development as well as it can be played.

In this episode of the Build a Better Agency podcast, David and I talk about what it means to show up as a leader who is not afraid to be daring, authentic, and vulnerable. We talk shop on how to encourage employees to be better leaders, how to build an environment of trust, and how true leadership can make all the difference.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Ideal traits and practices for leading people
  • The differences between relational and posturing leadership
  • How to recognize leadership flaws and train employees to keep you accountable
  • The importance of incentivizing employee contributions and collaboration
  • What being an authentic and daring leader looks like
  • How your leadership skills translate directly to running a more profitable agency
  • The power of listening to people’s problems rather than giving advice or trying to fix them
  • Action steps for becoming a more vulnerable leader

The Golden Nuggets:

“The best leaders now are the ones that have the right questions.” - David Wood Click To Tweet “If I, as a leader, am willing to embrace more discomfort, then my team is going to be willing to embrace more discomfort.” - David Wood Click To Tweet “As your team works better and produces more, your company will grow and make more money.” - David Wood Click To Tweet “It takes incredible courage to be an authentic and daring leader.” - David Wood Click To Tweet “Companies are wanting everybody to be a leader. Don't wait for me. You create what's happening now.” - David Wood Click To Tweet

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Announcer:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to midsize agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road sellable. With 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Today’s topic is one that is pretty near and dear to my heart, the whole idea of us becoming better leaders, us learning more about our own style, our own weaknesses our own strengths and the way other people do it. Other best practices around how agency owners and leaders step into that role. I think we take for granted how often we lead. I think we lead multiple times every single day. I think we lead in small ways, in subtle ways.

Obviously, there are times when we have to storm in and lead in big ways and lead everybody out through a storm. But I honestly think it’s the deposits that you make in the ordinary moments. What I would call sort of tiny little moments of leadership, where when you do those well, then when everything hits the fan and you need everyone to follow you without any discussion, debate, argument, heel-digging, any of that, when you’ve put a lot in the bank, I think that’s when your team just steps in line and follows because you’ve earned their trust, you’ve earned their confidence. They know if you are taking charge in that way, it’s something important and it’s their job to support the team and support you.

So, I don’t care if you’ve been doing this for a day or a few decades. I think we all have a little room to grow. I know I certainly do. And that’s why I invited this week’s guest to be on the show. So let me tell you a little bit about David Wood. So, David has an interesting background. He was a former consulting actuary to Fortune 100 companies like Sony Music and Procter & Gamble. And he left his Park Avenue job and he began to explore the world in a different way in terms of helping people who are high performers and typically high performing entrepreneurs, executives and leaders play the game as well as it can be played.

So, to really live a regret-free life, to lead with boldness and with daring, but also with understanding who you are and being willing to be vulnerable in all of that. So, he has coached thousands of hours in dozens of countries all around the globe, and he is the author of a book called Get Paid For Who You Are. And Jack Canfield from the Chicken Soup fame actually wrote the foreword to that book. So anyway, David’s a fascinating guy, really believes in that all of us have the opportunity to what he says play for real. And I think that’s something we should all aspire to. So, I’m going to pick his brain on our behalf. Let’s do it. David, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

David Wood:

Thanks, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

So, give the listeners a little background on how you came to be an authority on real leadership.

David Wood:

I looked into this word leadership over the past year and I’ve been really looking at myself like, “Do I know leadership? Do I understand it? Because I haven’t led 1,000 people. I haven’t led men or women into battle.” So, I was looking at, and I realized that we all have the opportunity to lead or not every day in our life. So, I realized that I lead myself. I lead my clients every time we have a coaching session. I lead people when I have an audience say of 1,000 people, I lead them in an experience. And I’ve been studying for 20 years, the principles of what I like to call inside out leadership. So, if you’re looking for someone who can help you lead 20,000 people and affect organizational change at that level, that’s not my thing. But if you’re looking for someone who can help you realize where you’re not willing to be vulnerable, where you’re not willing to be daring with people, where you’re not appreciating and acknowledging yourself and your team, then that’s what I’ve been studying for 20 years.

Drew McLellan:

So, let’s talk a little bit about, so in a lot of your writings and a lot of your teachings, I know in your coaching and the things that you’ve written, you use a lot of words like truth, daring, vulnerability. Talk a little bit about, because I think for a lot of people listening and I don’t think anybody listening is leading a pack of 20,000 people into battle. I think a lot of people are leading 10 people, 20 people, 100 people-sized teams and also teaching other people how to lead, because when you own an agency, most people who own an agency grew up in some aspect of the agency. So they were either on the creative side or the account service side. So they’re probably better suited to lead in that world because it’s kind of their sweet spot. But one of the reality is one of the, I guess, things you have to accept as an agency and I know I did a long time ago is that in many cases, I’m leading people who are doing things that I don’t know how to do it.

So, I can lead them in terms of the organization, but I can’t sit down at their computer and replicate their talent or skills because I don’t have it, right?

David Wood:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So, let’s talk a little bit about this whole idea of truth and daring and caring and vulnerability and how all of that plays into leadership?

David Wood:

Great question. And I want to touch on something that you said and speak to it. Leading people and things that you don’t know how to do, I think there’s a shift that’s happening in corporations generally where it used to be, “I know how to do it and I’m going to show you how to do it. I’m going to have the answer.” “I am successful. Look at me, I’m a king, not a kingmaker.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

And the shift seems to be towards the best leaders now are the ones that have the right questions. They’re the ones that have curiosity and to speak your question, they’re the ones that have the vulnerability to say, “I don’t know, you’re better at this than I am. You showing me how to do it.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and I think that ties brilliantly into what makes us good agency people. The best agency people may or may not have the answer, but they always have great questions.

David Wood:

Yeah. Yeah. And where truth comes into it, there’s one example. Truth could come into it with, I don’t know how to do this or even better, I think I know how to do this better than everybody else and I realize that’s probably not accurate.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

Oh, let me try some humility. Where truth also comes into leadership is let’s go back now. I learned to hide a lot of myself. I learned to hide if I don’t know how to do it. I learned to hide if I’m feeling scared. I learned to hide if I’m feeling lonely. This was just natural for me. No one actually taught me this is how you do it, other people role-modeled it and I got to hide that. So, the idea of truth, the idea of firstly, me realizing what’s happening in me, me realizing, “Oh my belly’s tense,” as you speak. I notice I’m tensing up. That was alien to me. So, if we start to explore truth, we can start to notice firstly, what’s happening in ourselves and how this affects leadership as an example, let’s suppose you’re running a meeting and you don’t know what’s next, but you keep talking. I call that posturing.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

You’re overriding what’s happening and I say people are going to feel it. And it’s going to impact your credibility and trust. Whereas if you bring in truth and reveal your own experience to yourself, you discover, “Wait a minute. I just realized I don’t know what’s next. So I’m going to put it out to the room. What do you guys think would be the next step here?” Now that’s truth. I just felt like some energy running through my arms as I said that. That’s truth and now you’re related. So now we’re starting to talk about relational leadership where you reveal your experience to yourself and then perhaps to others using discernment. And then that creates an environment where they can reveal their own experience to you and truth starts to be pinging back and forth. And now you’ve got relational leadership instead of some kind of posturing leadership. “Look at me, I beat my chest. I’ve got it. I’m going to take us all to success.”

Drew McLellan:

Well, I also think that falls into alignment. So, I’m in my mid-fifties and so when I think about some of my early bosses, they were more of what you were describing, which is they sort of just told you what to do and you did it. And then you’d sort of learned on the side and I even think about parenting styles and how that’s changed. And it used to be kids were seen and never heard, and now there’s a whole different dynamic in parenting. But I also think about the workforce that we have today. And I think about that sort of more dictatorial style of leadership. And I can’t imagine that would go well, but if you are my age and you’re running an agency, and so you grew up with that model of leadership, how do you learn how to be willing and what vulnerability looks like, for example. How do you learn how to be a different kind of leader than the leader examples that you grew up with in your career?

David Wood:

Yeah. Well, what comes to me as I hear the question is you got to catch yourself. I’m trying to do it myself. These things are easier to teach than to practice sometimes. And I found my assistant sent me a message yesterday. I said, “Rebook the call under any Friday, Thursday or Monday.” That seemed pretty clear to me. And she sent back a question, “Okay, you’ve got space next Monday. I just want to check that this time works for you.” And I’m thinking, “Why are you slowing me down?”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

David Wood:

What was not clear about that? Why do we have to go through another cycle? I got frustrated. And I sent her the question, I said, “I’m really in mystery as to why you would do that, but I wasn’t actually asking.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

The subtext was, “You’re stupid. Don’t do that again.” And I was expressing frustration. Turned out she had a really good reason. I’ve got an extra calendar that she’s not sure that she’s seen. So Monday could have been full. So, I felt a little embarrassed and I realized, “I really need to practice curiosity and catch myself when I’m being arrogant. I’m so directive. I think I’m so smart.” I’m telling you, I’m not role-playing here. I really think I’m smarter than almost everybody on me. And that holds me back because when I’m creating a new system, like right now, I’m creating a system for social media management. An interview like this, I want my assistant to chop it up into really golden nuggets and create articles for it and image quotes, and put it out on social media.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

That’s a complex system. And I want to like, “All right, I think this is the best way to do it. Let’s do it.” I’m catching myself. As I’m thinking it, I catch it and I go, “All right, this is what I’m thinking. I want some pushback here.” I am… Oh, okay, I just realized, as I got this insight, I realized I can share it with her. Let her know I am directive. I will often say, “Let’s do it this way.” I need you to push back and say, “Hey, can I push back?” So, that’s how I catch myself.

Drew McLellan:

In the example you gave with the calendar, when you realized that the way you asked the question, which is, “Why are we going through another round? I told you it was okay to book on any Monday, Thursday, or Friday.” When you caught yourself doing that and you realized that you were kind of subtly saying, “Because you’re stupid.” Right? How do you fix that? Because I’m sure as we’re listening to this, I’m sure we’re all going. “Oh, okay. I kind of see myself in that description. Oh, yeah, I do that.” How do we fix it when we do it wrong?

David Wood:

Wow. So many things came to me at once. When you said it. The first thing, I think what I said to her was, “That makes total sense, my bad.” Something like that. That simple. But what I’m seeing right now is if I’m really committed to curiosity, “Oh, this stings a bit. I feel like I got a scrunchy face.” Because I’m like, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.” Which tells me, this is a good thing to do. I can come clean and be transparent and practice truth. And so I commit now to doing this after this call and sharing this conversation with her and saying, “You know what? I just assumed that was a dumb move. Why would you do that? I was frustrated. I wasn’t curious. And I want to practice curiosity. If you notice me not practicing curiosity and being arrogant, I’m inviting you to call me out on it.” That’s how I can transform this old habit for myself is practicing truth, bringing it into the light of the day. And I’m blaming you for this ninja move that I’m about to do with my assistant.

Drew McLellan:

Sorry.

David Wood:

Thank you.

Drew McLellan:

I have to think though, there are a lot of employees who we say, “You know what, when I do this thing, I want you to call me out on it.” And the employee nods their head and inside their head, they’re going, “Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. I am not going to call you out on that. I’m going to pretend that I will, but I don’t feel safe doing that.” How do you make someone feel safe too? When you’re in a leadership role, when you control someone’s job or professional career path, I get that it’s tenuous to ask them to critique you. How do you actually make that safe?

David Wood:

So, I just realize it’s tempting for me to give an answer. Like this is the answer. This is how to do it. And I’m not going to speak that way because I’m acknowledging there are 1,000 answers. The answer that I have right now, and that I’m going to use with my assistant is to give her the language she can use. These words are what will probably get my attention. It’ll probably be something like, “Remember when you asked me to mention… To inquire if you’re practicing curiosity? Is this one of those times?” Something like that is something I can hear. So, I’ll give her the words that she can use. Otherwise, it might be hard for someone to come up with a way to challenge their boss even though they’ve been invited, it’s like, “[inaudible 00:16:18].” You’re not listening right now. That might not work, right? So, there’s one idea is give them the language to create that safe space.

And I love that you brought that up. She might have said, “Yeah, yeah. I know you’re saying that. I don’t want to poke the bear.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. It’s interesting because many years ago… I’m super fortunate. So, not only do I own the Agency Management Institute, but I still own my own agency. And my, my tenure of staffers, they’ve been with me forever. So 17, 18 years on average.

David Wood:

Oh, wow.

Drew McLellan:

So, many years ago, one of the more braver of my team members said to me, “when we have bad news for you, you probably don’t realize it, but you have an expression on your face that says… No matter what’s coming out of your mouth, the expression on your face says, ‘I don’t want to hear those bad news, and I’m a little annoyed.’” And I was like, “Really?” And she was like, “Yeah, every time, which means that people don’t want to come and tell you stuff that you need to know.”

So, I pulled everybody together and I said, “Hey, here’s what I’ve been told.” And they all nodded their head at me and I was like, “Okay. So, it sounds like I need to get a better poker face, but I don’t always know when I’m supposed to have the poker face. So, what I would love for you to do is if you have bad news or something you think I’m going to react badly to, and you want me to just sort of catch my breath and not react. It would be awesome if you would walk into my office and say, ‘Hey, do you have time to have a difficult conversation?’ And the words difficult conversation will trigger me to put on my best poker face and know that I need to be slow to react and just hear you out so that it’s a safe place for you to talk to me.”

And so, we came to that agreement that they would try that. And I will tell you, it’s probably been over a decade since that happened. There are many times when they now stroll into my office and go, “Difficult conversation time?” And based on the frequency that it happens, I’m assuming that I’m getting better at it. So, to your point, giving somebody some language, a common language, like just a word that I get exactly what’s about to happen next so I can be prepared for it-

David Wood:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

… Makes sense. Yeah.

David Wood:

Well, I think you’re speaking now to a really powerful leadership move that everybody can use in their life and their business, which is setting context.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

And then what you did is you kind of went meta and you set context for them to set context with you, but let’s pause on that for a moment. You’ve got a difficult conversation with someone, you can just come in and dump it on them, right? Any kind of conversation with charge, or you can kind of prep them. Safeport is an amazing word. You can safeport them, let them know what’s coming. “Hey, I got something that might be a little edgy to talk about it. You got 10 minutes to sit and talk about it?” The language that Brené Brown is using in her book, Dare to Lead is rumble. Let’s rumble with some vulnerability. And so, people are starting to learn in some cultures, rumble means what you said, slowing down, giving each other space. There’re going to be feelings, that might be uncomfortable, we’re going to do that. We’re going to rumble.

So, let’s all set context for those conversations in our life, which can be a game-changer as you probably experienced. And then what you did is a ninja black belt move showing them how they can set context for you.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

“If I’m not going to all listen, here’s what you can say, so you can put me in a space of listening.” So you kind of lead them into their own leadership move? I like how you did that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. They lead on a regular basis, which is great for me and for our clients, absolutely.

David Wood:

Well, that’s another shift that’s happening. I talked about the shift from, I know to I want to know. And then this other shift is this idea that companies are wanting everybody to be a leader. “Don’t wait for me. You create what’s happening now.” And I love personal agency, so I’m all on board with that.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and that’s a necessity in today’s agency. When you’ve got account people who are sitting in a client meeting in a client’s office, and the client says, “Can you do this?” Or, “Is your team capable of that?” Or, “Can that be turned around in five days?” Or, the client says, “We want a blimp.” And the account person knows a blimp is not a great idea. We have to lead our clients every day. And oftentimes we’re also leading internal teams. So, to your point, inside an agency today, everybody has to lead. And one of the big frustrations, I think for many agency owners is they see their younger employees sitting back and waiting for instruction.

David Wood:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So, if I’m listening to this conversation right now and I’m like, “Oh my God, I have three employees that I would kill for them to lead because they are waiting for me to tell them to tie their shoes and what time to leave, how to take traffic into consideration before they leave for a client meeting.” How do I inspire someone to lead? How would you respond to that?

David Wood:

Oh, my question is, does their voice matter? Does their voice matter to you? How much are you really listening and asking them questions on a daily basis? I’ve got one client who’s a VP at a big media company. And he had a great idea. He’s like, “I want to create a project and we’re going to follow it from start to finish within the company, instead of just throwing it off to other departments.” And we talked about how he would bring this to his employees, to his staff. It never occurred to him to ask them what the project should be. He was going to pick like a technology project and then implement it. What if they had input? What if they had some ideas and then got to justify their ideas to the team? And that as a team, you guys pick the project you’re going to implement from start to finish so they have ownership, so that they have agency.

And I realized now talking to a bunch of people who have agencies, but I use the word agency in terms of that personal agency. I’m going to direct this and my voice matters. So, are you really listening and getting… And as I say this, I’m listening to myself because I can ask for more input from my team, instead of this is what we’re doing. This is what we’re doing. This is what we’re doing. What do you guys think?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I think agencies are sort of structured in a way that there’s a lot of collaboration and listening, but I think for many agency owners, it’s not the internal leadership, what they’re saying is, “I want somebody to lead a client. I want somebody to lead when I am not around to care or be curious. I want them to be soldiers that are marching out on their own and fighting a worthy fight on behalf of the clients and the agency and all of that.” So, how do you instill that sense of… Because to me, a lot of leadership is about ownership, right? I’m not going to lead something that I don’t care about. I’m not going to lead something where I don’t feel like it’s reflective of who I am and what I’m all about. So how do we give, again, in this whole idea of this truth and daring and all of that, how do we give our employees a sense of this is yours to lead. So lead it, take charge?

David Wood:

Yeah, what occurs to me, I think we are animals and I think we’re all trainable for better or worse. And I have a dog right now. I have a new puppy. And the way to train this puppy mainly is to catch her doing something right and praise her so she wants to do it. So, as humans, if I’m praised doing something, I want to do it more often. That feels good to me. I love what Google has done. Something like 10% of your time can go towards your own project. And the message there, I think is we care about your decisions and what you do.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Wood:

So, if I’m a Google employee, I imagine I’m going to feel more important, and more agency. We just talked about listening, like asking you in a meeting, “What do you guys think?” And hearing your question I thought about… I wonder how are agencies incentivizing ownership? How are they incentivizing contribution? I’ve got one client who’s head of total rewards for a big company. And he’s thinking about, “How do I reward curiosity within the company?” So, maybe someone has an idea during a staff meeting and they get a dinner for two.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Again, publicly acknowledging.

David Wood:

Yeah. Acknowledging and celebrating. I was on a podcast interview this week and the host brought up a comment, flashed it on the screen, pretty ninja. I’m definitely going to use their platform when I launch mine and it was a testimonial. He said, “I want to read this and thank you to Jane Brown for this great testimonial.” Read it out. Incentivizing behavior that have listeners write reviews. It’s been witnessed. Now, if you witness it and celebrate it publicly, now I think it matters. And I might want to write a review. Maybe you’re going to read mine out.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So, all of this is fascinating in theory, but of course, everyone owns a business to stay afloat, feed their family, take care of their people. So, I want to take a quick break and then I want to come back and talk about how being an authentic and daring leader, and I’m going to have you define that. But how being that kind of a leader translates to an agency’s growth and profitability? So let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back and talk the nitty-gritty side of leadership.

Thanks for checking out this week’s episode of Build a Better Agency. I want to interrupt very quickly and just remind you that one of the services that AMI offers is our coaching packages and it comes in a couple of different options. So you can do a remote coaching package where we would communicate with you over the phone or over a Zoom call, or we also do onsite consulting where we would actually come to your agency and work with you for a day or a period of days to solve a specific problem typically that you’ve pre-identified and we’ve talked about on the phone. So, if you’re interested in either of those, you might go over to the AMI website and under the consulting tab, you will find more information about both our remote coaching and our onsite consulting. Let’s get back to the episode.

All right. We are back with David Wood and we are talking about leadership. We’ve been talking a lot about sort of recognizing your own foibles in your leadership style and being vulnerable enough to own them and sort of course-correct them on the fly with your team. So, right before the break, I asked David to think about how he would define this idea of being an authentic and daring leader. And because I know all of you are thinking that you’re thinking, “This is great, but how does this help me grow my business? How does this help me make more money so I can pay my people better and I can add more staff and all the things,” that you like to do? So, David, first of all, let’s talk about what does an authentic and daring leader look like? How would I recognize one?

David Wood:

I’m going to answer that by giving an example of when I stumbled into it?

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

David Wood:

So, I was a professional speaker for years and something didn’t feel right. I felt like someone’s going to catch me out, imposter syndrome.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right.

David Wood:

And I wonder if some of our listeners can relate to that, like kind of work out that I don’t really know what I’m doing. And then for six years, I stopped speaking on stage. I just didn’t want to do it. And then finally, an opportunity came up. I went and spoke to 1,200 people and something happened on stage. It caught me by surprise. I was telling on myself. I’d make a mistake, I’d say, I’d lose my place. And I’d say out loud, “I just lost my place. Give me a moment to see what’s next.” Take a breath in front of 1,200 people. I made a mistake with the monitors. I didn’t even see the monitors. I kept looking around behind me to see these… There were four big screens behind me. I kept looking around to see where I’m at in my slides. After 40 minutes, I noticed the monitors and I just laughed at myself and I shared it with the audience. I was having such fun of what an idiot I was.

And I think what happened is I wasn’t posturing anymore. I wasn’t trying to be anything. I was willing to actually be myself. And from that space, I was able to lead 1,200 people in an experience such that at the end of my talk, I offered my training program and people paid me $387,000 in 15 minutes. It stunned me. And I say it was because I stumbled into a place of authenticity and vulnerability. It doesn’t mean I collapsed. I wasn’t blubbering in tears and having people try and save me, although I’m willing to cry on stage from a place of dignity and vulnerability. So, that may not have been the answer you were looking for. That’s the answer I have.

Drew McLellan:

I think that is there, I think that is what I was looking for, which is to be a authentic and daring leader, it takes a lot of courage.

David Wood:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

With that you don’t have it all under control and that you don’t know all the answers and you don’t have it all planned out to the nano detail. I think that’s scary for a lot of people. And I think a lot of agency owners are very type A, they’re overachievers, they did well in school, they’re used to being one of the smartest people in the room. And so, to admit, I don’t know, or I’m not sure, especially in front of their own team is probably pretty [inaudible 00:30:54], right?

David Wood:

And what this brings up, I imagine a lot of people would have the question, “Well, how much is too much?” Like there’s some things it might not be… Some might not serve everybody for me to share with my team. An example, Brené Brown gives is of an executive saying, “I don’t know where the company’s heading. I don’t know if we’re going to make it. And I’m terrified.” You might not want to share that to 100 staff. You might want to share that to a friend. You might want to share that to a trusted colleague and just kind of acknowledge that and acknowledge your own vulnerability. And then with your team, you may not share all of that. You might say something like, “I know some of you might be scared. I’ll admit that at times I am too.” It’s not collapse. Sharing vulnerability is not the same as collapse to the point where people might feel they need to rescue you. There’s a place of dignity where we can realize my voice matters. And I’ve got this, even with my fear. I’m okay. And that’s a fine, but very important distinction.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, how does all of that translate to a more stable agency, a growing agency, a more profitable agency?

David Wood:

I like that because I talk about… Personal growth is so dear to my heart, and this is such an important question, how is this going to make me more money?

Drew McLellan:

Not… Here’s one of the things I know about agency owners, although they all, everybody wants to make more money.

David Wood:

Right. We all want more money.

Drew McLellan:

That’s actually not their motivation. Their motivation often is, “I know my team is taxed. I want to offer better. I want to be able to give raises or bonuses, whatever.” Many times when an agency owner talks about increased profitability often to their own detriment, sometimes to the point where I have to say, “Stop paying yourself last.” But usually, it’s about them building something better so they can make it better for their people. So, how does being this leader lead to that?

David Wood:

Yeah. Well, I’ll say up front, some of this takes some faith because it seems easier and quicker. And I acknowledge this to build your business by improving your marketing strategy, by getting more customers. I get that. And I want you to do that. I want everybody to do that too, but it takes some faith to work on yourself, to build your business. And let’s give some concrete examples of how this might work. If you’re willing as a leader to do what you did Drew and say, “All right, someone told me I have this space. I have a bad news space.” And you’re willing to sit down and do that, I say that’s going to increase retention. I’m your employee. I’m way more interested now in working with you. So, increased retention. You’re going to probably attract better staff when your employees are telling others, “This is a great place to work. He’s a really good guy. You can talk to him. And I feel like he acknowledges me. I feel like I matter.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Wood:

“I feel like my work matters.” So, you’re going to attract more staff. I think your team’s going to do better. If I, as a leader, I’m willing to embrace more discomfort, then my team is going to be willing to embrace more discomfort. And so, if they’ve got an issue with another staff member, I’m creating an environment of trust where they can now go and address that. I might even give them the training or bring in someone to train our staff in how to address things that come up and build resentments that grow over time. Now, my team is rumbling with each other and handling things so that again, they love working here. They’re more productive. They’re going to support Bill or Jessie in shining instead of trying to undermine them. And as your team works better and produces more, your company grows. It makes more money.

So, I think there’s one way to draw a firm line between the personal, because at the end of the day, we are people. We have fears, we have vulnerabilities. And again, I’m big on Brené right now. I’m loving the book. She says, “You can spend a reasonable amount of time now addressing fears and concerns, and feelings, or an unreasonable amount of time later dealing with unproductive behavior.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s an interesting point.

David Wood:

You choose.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, I also think you were talking about sort of discomfort. I also think part of vulnerable leadership in our world is that how we served clients five years ago is not how we serve clients today. And it’s certainly what we’re doing today is not going to be what we’re doing two years from now. So there’s an inherent discomfort in our business because it’s moving so quickly. So, I think even acknowledging that kind of discomfort and making your staff know that it’s okay, that you too feel that the footing underneath you, maybe isn’t as solid as, “You know what we do, print ads, we do radio and we do TV. Those were the good old days. That’s not the world we live in today.” And so even acknowledging that you’re aware of the rate of change and on there are certainly days you wish it would slow down a little, right?

David Wood:

Being able to voice that-

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Wood:

… and maybe getting some shared reality with other people like, “Oh, other people are feeling that too.” And sometimes it feels like the rug is pulled out from under us.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Wood:

I’m coaching in quite a few companies now where they’ve been taken over, right? High-level have been taken over. There’s a new way to do things. The old culture is going out and now we’ve got to relate to this new culture. And some people are like, “I’m doing this without a net.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right.

David Wood:

And don’t you feel like that sometimes just in your life with a thousand things that we’re coordinating and the systems we build up like even how we clean the house and how we look after the pet and what we do with the kids. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing it without a net and the ability to share that with someone else can make all the difference. Just to had someone else hear you and go, “Yeah, that sounds like a lot.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

Without fixing advisee sounds like a lot. I get it. “Is there anything you need?” That’s a game-changer.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah, fighting the desire to fix, right? That’s a tough one.

David Wood:

Oh! Well, I’m going to generalize here. I think I’m a man, I think humans in general have it. I think the muscular in all of us is solution-focused, which is great. Right? Like if there’s a tiger in the house, let’s come up with something.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

So, that’s really valuable. But the feminine in us… I’m not going to say women, but the feminine in us, I believe, wants to be heard and wants to be seen. Have you seen the YouTube video with a woman who’s got a nail in her head?

Drew McLellan:

No.

David Wood:

You got to watch this. You just Google woman nail in head.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. There probably are not a lot of videos-

David Wood:

No.

Drew McLellan:

… with those keywords.

David Wood:

She’s saying to her guy, “I have this pain, it’s like a throbbing head.” And he’s like, “You know you have a nail in your head.” She said, “It’s not about the nail.” He goes, “I think it is. I think if we just got the nail out you do it.” “Are you not listening to me?” It’s so classic. He’s like, “Here’s a solution.” That’s not actually what she’s wanting in the moment. Maybe later she’ll want a solution, but get my world first. And I am practicing that as I teach it to executives and even prison inmates now, I’m practicing this in my own life. Can I get your world? What it’s like to be you right now? And then maybe what you want is some advice or coaching or a solution. But that comes after for a lot of people.

Drew McLellan:

Right. This has been fascinating. And I’m sure we’ve got people thinking and recalling situations and replaying things in their head. If people are listening to us and they say, “You know what? I do want to gut-check what kind of leader I am. How am I showing up? Am I as authentic as I could be? Am I being as daring as I could be? Am I being as truthful as I could be?” What are a couple of ideas or places for them to start? So, if I’m listening to this right now and I’m like, “You know what? I think I have a little bit of room to grow in terms of my leadership style.” What should they do next?

David Wood:

My question is how deep you’re willing to go? Because I have a simple, easy beginning. And then I have like a black belt move.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. Let’s start with simple, and then we’ll move to black [crosstalk 00:40:36].

David Wood:

That’s interesting. I was going to go the other way, but let’s do that. So simple. Well, simple is start noticing your inner dialogue. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. Start noticing your inner dialogue. And when you’re feeling like something’s between you and another person, it doesn’t have to be an employee, it’s just anywhere in your life. That sounds sad. See if you can find a way to actually bring that up and to have that inner dialogue come out into the space between you. Not easy to catch because it’s years and years and years of pushing it into your subconscious.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Wood:

The black belt move I think would be to ask, ask people how you’re showing up. Now, I’ll give you two ways to do this. One, you can interview them. And there I did this with people in my life, and it was amazing. I had questions like, “Have I ever disappointed you?” One amazing question. And you can come up with your own questions. “How could I support you more? What would be one supportive move I could make? Is there one way that you feel like I hold you back?” I’m making these up. You can come up with your own questions and interview people. It’s kind of like your own 360 feedback process. And then another way to do it is just do a formal 360 feedback process. You can have a coach or a trainer come in, or you might be able to go online and find one and have your staff answer a bunch of questions about you. And then you get the feedback.

And then I recommend you actually have a conversation with each of them about it. And then maybe a team meeting to address and say, “All right.” This is a black belt move, that-

Drew McLellan:

“Here’s my score. What do you think?” Yeah.

David Wood:

Yeah. Yeah. “Let’s get some feedback and I want some action steps, maybe three things that I can work on out of this to be a better leader.” I’d say that’s black belt move. And I would think that would require a lot of vulnerability.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Wood:

And a lot of curiosity.

Drew McLellan:

But I think about as I’m listening to you, what that action would say to your staff is incredible. That you’re willing to be that vulnerable, that you are that hungry to be better. I think it would speak volumes, right?

David Wood:

Yeah. That actually sets an implicit context. You’re actually showing and modeling that, and I imagine that could really also ripple out well [crosstalk 00:43:16].

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

David Wood:

… “Like wow. If my boss is willing to do this, I wonder how I’m showing up with my team?” And who knows, maybe if you do it, or if you do it first, I could see that really paving the way for them to maybe even opt in and say, “I’d like to know as well.” Versus, and it’s fine to just say to the whole team, “All right, we’re all going to do this,” and you can involve them in it. But if you do it first and say, “I’m going to be vulnerable.” That’s a beautiful context.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. This has been fascinating. David, if folks want to learn more about your work or they want to track you down. What’s the best way for them to find you?

David Wood:

Thank you. Best way is to go to my website and click a big button at the top that says, “Request a session.” You can subscribe to my podcast too, you can do the five-minute life assessment. But I love doing discovery sessions with people who want to shift how they’re operating in life and work. They’re already doing well. They want to up-level and they want to have zero regrets when they die. And maybe something in this conversation about leadership has resonated and they want to build a better agency. So, I’m happy to create a plan for your agency and your life. I don’t charge for it. I call it a discovery session and I do it because it’s how I find the right people to work with long-term. So, the website is playforreal.life, click on the big button that says request a session. And I can’t say yes to everybody, but I can say yes to most people who apply. And I’d love to talk with you.

Drew McLellan:

And they also can find your email address and other things at that URL as well, I suspect?

David Wood:

My email address isn’t on there, but yeah, that’s a really good point. No, but I’ll give you my email address here. The one that reaches me directly is private6, that’s the number six, [email protected] That’s my personal email.

Drew McLellan:

That’s your super secrets spy [crosstalk 00:45:29].

David Wood:

It is. I’ve done 30 interviews. I’ve never given that out, but-

Drew McLellan:

Oh, well, now it’s out in the internet. So, you’re going to start hearing from everybody. David, thank you for sharing your time, your expertise, and for being willing to talk about where you’re still trying to grow as a leader. I think setting that example sets the tone for the whole conversation. So I appreciate it.

David Wood:

Thanks, Drew. And I’m appreciating you in this moment. You’ve really shown up to me as someone who is willing to do the work and willing to be vulnerable and your questions have been so thoughtful. It’s had me reflect and realize where I can develop. So, I’m glad to meet you.

Drew McLellan:

I am glad to meet you as well. Thank you again for being with us.

David Wood:

Pleasure.

Drew McLellan:

All right, guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Just a couple of quick reminders. We are taking registrations now for our 2020 Conference Build a Better Agency Summit. First one we’re doing. The only conference that I know of that is really built for small to mid-sized agencies who want to talk about building their business. So, I hope I will see you in Chicago in May of 2020. It sounds like it’s far away, but it’s really not. If you do one of those little calculators to see how close Christmas is, it’s going to make you cry. So, May will be here any moment. So, remember we only have 200 slots. So, grab one before we sell it out. A big shout out and thank you to our presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They are amazing wholesalers to agencies. If you need design, dev or PPC help, check them out. And they have put together a very generous offer for our podcast guests.

So, head over to whitelabeliq.com/ami and check that out. I highly recommend their work, good people and amazing work. So, at an amazing price, can’t beat that combination. So thanks again to them for making the podcast possible. Also, if you are trying to track me down, you can just find me a [email protected] I know that’s a mouthful. I should have thought about that when we bought the URL, but once you type it, once it’s in your software, and then you’re good. If I don’t hear from you, I will see you and chat with you next week with another great guest who’s going to help us think a little differently about how we show up in our agency, how we grow our agency and why we are doing all of this. All right. I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening.

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.