Special Forces Veteran, Bram Connolly, demonstrates the 3 Fundamental Pillars for every leader through his unique art of storytelling.
Bram draws from his real-life experiences over a 20-year career in the Australian Defence Force, 15 years of which were spent in the Australian Special Forces!
Stephanie: Hello and welcome to TEC Live. Stephanie Christopher here, Chief Executive of The Executive Connection. TEC connects CEOs, executives and business owners to the world’s largest business leader network.
Stephanie: Today our guest is Bram Connolly, a published author, keynote speaker, and group training facilitator who is passionate about leadership and helping teams to develop organisational resilience. Bram spent 20 years in the Australian Defence Force, 15 years of which was spent in the Australian special forces and we will talk about that soon.
Stephanie: In 2020, he was awarded the distinguished service medal for leadership in the Australia Day Awards. Bram is the Managing Director and Founder of Hindsight, Leadership & Resilience, an enterprise that seeks to show that leadership is an energy transference. He’s also written two military thrillers and just told a great story about sitting on Bondi Beach and there was a woman next to him reading one of his books. So Bram, welcome to TEC Live.
Bram: Thanks so much for having me.
Stephanie: And what a great background. We were just starting or I was starting to ask you about the movie Long Tan that I saw the other day and I was just interested because it’s such an interesting part of history.
Bram: And it will be an iconic movie I think in the future.
Stephanie: Yeah. So what did you think of it?
Bram: I think they did a good job. I think the Extra Specialists that were part of it, for me, was the best part of it, having actual people there from six ARA as extras. I didn’t love the way they portrayed the officers in the movie. I’m not sure that was true to form. I think that was a little bit British glibly type.
Stephanie: Yep, they’re the bad guys and the guys on the field are left on their own?
Bram: Yeah. And again, that would have been the producers. They’ve worked out a way that it’s probably going to appeal to a certain people. But yeah, I thought the movie was brilliant. Yeah
Stephanie: Did that happen at Long Tan, that the officers were…?
Bram: I can only assume that the officers were as good as the officers we have now. And I think we have one of the greatest leadership academies in ADF and then in Royal Military College. I assume that the officers in Vietnam would have been very, very similar to what they were in my career, in Somalia and Afghanistan team or National Counter Terrorism team. All the officers I ever dealt with were very, very good.
Stephanie: Yeah okay. Let’s talk a little bit about your military career and then the segue way into how that informs what you’re doing now.
Bram: Yes because we don’t have much time.
Stephanie: I know we don’t but it’s really interesting.
Stephanie: Can you tell us, because I’ve heard you tell the story before and it’s a really good one as far as resilience and bounce goes, tell us about your special forces.
Bram: Oh gosh. Okay, so long story short, well just my career quickly, I joined the army at 17, found myself in Somalia at 19. Then, not long after that deployment I decided that, ‘Well hey, I must be special because I’m 19, I have an Australian Active Service Medal.’
Stephanie: You hadn’t heard the song God help me I was only 19?
Bram: No, no. I might as well go to Special Air Service Regiment because it’s obviously the pinnacle of what you could do in the army at the time. So I applied for SAS, was successful in going over to do the selection course, and again treated that like everything else in my life, which was, ‘Oh, I’ll be awesome at this.’ No humility as a 19-year-old. Got off the bus and…
Stephanie: Where was this?
Bram: That was actually in Perth, got off the bus and was presented with the largest human I’ve ever seen in my life who was wearing an SAS beret and I think I quit in my mind about then. Forty-eight hours later I found a really good excuse in that my back twinged a little bit when I picked up a pack and I was like, ‘That’s me done.’ So I told everyone, ‘Oh yeah, I hurt my back.’
Bram: It wasn’t for a few weeks later, it was about two months later, I was on a tracking course up in Townsville and all the guys were milling around outside of what is known as the Tully Hilton, which is actually just a big structure in the jungle, it’s raining outside and we’re all there talking about the day and then conversation led to SAS. Some guys told me how they were going to go next year and then someone said, ‘Oh Bram, you just did selection of SAS, didn’t you?’ And of course I’ve done the whole, ‘Yeah, yeah, I just did that.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, how far did you get?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know. I think it was maybe second week or something like that.’ And then one of the guys goes, ‘No, that’s not right. No, you withdrew on request on the second day.’
Bram: And it was at that point where I really thought to myself, first of all, I’d been caught out so I was very embarrassed. It just felt like this moment in my life where if I went down this path of continually denying and not owning my own problems and mistakes, that I was just going to become a liar. So I just said, ‘Yeah, okay. Yeah, you got me. That’s a fair call.’
Stephanie: And you said that at the time?
Bram: Yeah. Yeah, I did. I did. I walked away very sheepishly. I don’t think I ever talked to that person again, but it was a life lesson that I’m very pleased that I had because it would profoundly shaped the way I approach everything in my life since.
Stephanie: In what way in particular?
Bram: I’m open and honest and humble about the things that I do and if I fail them, I will tell you why I failed them, and if I’m successful, then I’m gracious in that. And generally, it’s not because of anything I’ve done for me to be successful anyway. It’s everyone around me.
Stephanie: Don’t be too humble.
Bram: But yeah. Yeah, that’s also a trap. But yeah, so for me that story leads all the way into me getting into special forces the second time around because I had approached it with complete readiness. I completely looked at that and went, ‘Right, I need to be completely prepared for that,’ which is one of the foundational pillars, what I talk about with team resilience and leadership.
Bram: I prepared myself for it. I was on the first of the modern commando courses and I passed that in 1997 and I was a team commander at the time, so I had to take people with me and try and get them through it. And then I was on the first of the National Counter Terrorism Team courses in 2002 for the second Tactical Assault Group. I was a founding member of that and I passed that course, which was arduous and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Bram: And then, there was the officer selection board in 2006 and I went into that completely prepared. It was a really difficult day but because I had prepared so much it just felt like I had the most perfect day. Every question I was asked by that board, I knew the answer to. Every position that I was put in psychologically, I knew how to handle. And that set me up for success to then end up in Afghanistan as a platoon commander, and then be promoted to major, and then do my last couple of years in the regular army in special forces before building this consultancy, Hindsight, Leadership & Resilience.
Stephanie: Yeah right. What a lucky thing that you were at the Tully Hilton.
Bram: I think that is the single moment in my life where I could have gone in one direction or the other. I don’t know how but I knew it at that very moment. Yeah.
Stephanie: Our mutual colleague, Gaj Ravichandran, talks about what happens next. What did you do next? That’s really interesting. So, thinking about how you’ve leveraged that experience and your life in the armed forces, and a considerable life, into the work you do now with leadership and resilience and teams, what are the main things that you bring now to that?
Bram: There was a point where I was looking around, I was answering questions. I’d written a couple of military thrillers after leaving the army, so they’re Matt Rix adventures through Allen & Unwin, just give them a plug. And I wrote these two books and-
Stephanie: Five stars, by the way.
Bram: Yeah, thank you. And then I started to receive emails from people saying, ‘Hey, great book. You’re a leader, how do I solve this?’ And then other questions like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this leader, how do I solve that?’ I think you’re fairly silly if you don’t see that the market is reaching out to you and I realised the market was reaching out to me for leadership. I thought to myself, ‘If not me, then who? Who’s going to do this with the experiences that I had from Afghanistan?’
Bram: So I created a little consultancy and it was a leadership consultancy and people told me I was crazy because no one’s going to buy your services to teach leadership. Well, best revenge in life is to be successful. And yeah, and then I found that what I was doing was going into companies or dealing with individuals and talking about those pillars that I see are fundamental to leaders, which is preparation, communication and positivity. In that line, I looked back over my career and I did, I prepared for absolutely every eventuality.
Stephanie: Which you have to do in the military, anyway.
Bram: Well you do in life actually.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Bram: Otherwise, you’re just bouncing around waiting for the universe to give you some whimsical clue. And then communication, I couldn’t believe how many leaders out there were amazing leaders and don’t communicate anything, so they fall short. And not just not communicate everything, but they don’t put the energy into the communication. You have to be able to bounce from person to person to person. I tell a really great story during my keynote, which people really resonate with. Do you want me to tell it now?
Bram: Have we got time?
Bram: Okay. So, I’ll do the abridged version. I took my platoon in Afghanistan, 2010, on a vehicle patrol and we went to an American forward operating base down near Kandahar and we harboured up in there. The American colonel came over to me and he said, ‘Hey Bram, how you going?’ I won’t do the accent. He said, ‘Hey Bram, how you going? Just be aware, every night we get rocketed here, so at about six o’clock you need to get inside your armoured vehicles and just hunker down for a while.’
Stephanie: Oh right. Okay.
Bram: I’m like, ‘Okay. Not optimal, what are you going to do about that?’ And he said, ‘Well, we can’t really do anything about it because it’s coming from out there on that region, on those hills, about 10 kilometres away.’ I said, ‘Well, why don’t you drive out there and do an ambush?’
Stephanie: And make them stop doing it.
Bram: ‘Why don’t you drive out there and patrol?’ And he said, ‘Well, there’s IEDs everywhere so we can’t take our vehicles out.’ I said, ‘Well, why don’t you walk out there?’ And he said, ‘What, 10 kilometres?’ And I went, ‘Yeah.’ And he goes, ‘Well, the villages aren’t there. They’re the other side of the mountain. They’re about 20 kilometres out.’ And he said, ‘We just don’t have the time or the effort to be able to do that.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know what? I’ve got a couple of days, so tonight my platoon and I will climb over your fence and we will patrol out there and we’ll go and clear those villages,’ which by the way hadn’t seen any foreigners in hundreds of years, let alone during…
Stephanie: Right, a war.
Bram: They were that disparate compared to the rest of the population. They were that far removed from everything. No-one went out there except the Taliban. And so, that night we climbed over the wall, all 35 of us with our packs on. It was about 40 degrees, sun had just gone down, packs on, and because we’re commandos, we’re carrying ammunition and guns and everything, but not much else.
Bram: So, we start walking and we’ve got about a 20 to 25 meters between each person in a big long line at night, on night vision goggles. It sounds morbid but if someone steps on an IED then you only lose one person, not five or six, so it’s a big long line. You can do the maths, 35 people, 20 meters apart.
Bram: Twenty kilometres we’re going to travel. We get to where the rockets usually get launched from and there’s nothing there. We start to go up into the mountains and now overhead I’ve got a predator drone whose pilot, by the way, was in California and the drone comes out of Kandahar. So he’d been telling me on my headset about the beach he’d been to that day. So it was a very surreal-
Bram: Yeah, strange. Anyway, and when we became friends actually over that deployment. He would talk to me most nights. Anyway, he says-
Stephanie: So the predator drone is one of ours?
Bram: It’s the piece of equipment you want if you’re a special forces and patrolling along because it’s armed with a couple of hellfire missiles and a lot of lasers and it can see and no-one can see it and it’s very quiet.
Stephanie: We were, by the way, going to talk about leadership.
Bram: We’ll get there. We’ll get there.
Stephanie: Well, this is leadership.
Bram: This is leadership, trust me. Anyway, he comes on the headset and says to me, ‘Oh Bram, you’ve got to stop. There’s a couple of people up ahead, about 200 meters ahead.’ And I can’t quite make it out, but they look like they might have weapons. I’ve gone, ‘Okay, no worries,’ so we stop.
Bram: Now all of our interpersonal radios are off and the reason they’re off is because we don’t want to create a big electronic signature, but also because we don’t want to create lots of noise. So I’ve got a little earpiece in so I can hear him. We stop and it’s now about six degrees. It was 40 when we left.
Stephanie: Oh my goodness.
Bram: We’re carrying a lot of weight, everyone is sodden through sweat and freezing to death, literally to death, because the temperature will go below zero tonight. It’s now 2:00 in the morning. So we wait and they don’t move and the drone keeps circling at 20,000 feet overhead and they still haven’t moved.
Bram: And now, as with leadership, I say, ‘Right, I need to come up with contingency plans in my head. What are my plans?’ So I’ve come up with three plans in my head. What I’m going to do if they don’t move. What I’m going to do if they do move. What I’m going to do if they’re the enemy. Anyway, so I’ve got these three plans and I stand up and I start to walk down the line. I’m about three from the front, so I go up there first and tell my scouts what I’m going to do and then I start walking down the line. I tell every single guy down that line personally what’s happening and what my three plans are. I am using energy, transference and communication as a leadership principle. I’m going to tell every person.
Bram: The reason I tell every person is because if I don’t tell them, then there’s a gap, and they’ll fill that gap with their own intent, their own understanding, or the guy next to them will pick up and slowly walk over and go, ‘Hey, do you know what’s going on?’ And the other person will go, ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ and then they’ll make up what’s going on. So I have to be proactive in that moment.
Bram: I get down to the end and then, we’ll call him Johnno, comes up over the radio of the drone, he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, they were goat herders and they’ve gone now.’ ‘Ah, thanks mate.’
Bram: So I now have to walk nearly a kilometre to get back to the front of line. We pick up and then we patrol on.
Stephanie: So long had you’d been standing waiting while the goat herders were there?
Bram: That was an hour.
Stephanie: Right, okay. At six degrees, yep.
Bram: Yeah. Oh, it would have been less by now too. Yeah, and then so we pick up and we move on and we continue patrolling. Now, as I said, I have to own that space because if I don’t, someone else will own it. That’s a really fundamental part of leadership, is owning that communication, owning the narrative, and being able to put it out at the pace it needs to be put out.
Bram: And then we went down to the village, we patrolled through the village. They woke up very surprised and they were great. They hadn’t seen anyone. The Taliban had been coming in and out of there for months. The Taliban didn’t come back after we’d been through there for other reasons. But yeah, but we sorted it all out and we went back to the American base that evening. In fact, my vehicle was drove out of that base and went across the road they said they couldn’t drive through and picked up all the IEDs and then picked us up. And then we continued on our way and the Americans, well they’re standing there going, ‘Who are these guys?’
Stephanie: How were the Americans?
Bram: I’m used to working with American Special Forces and also the Navy SEALs, which were brilliant and these guys were a line infantry unit with an artillery unit attached to them, so they weren’t of the same calibre. But you know what? They had been there for best part of 18 months.
Stephanie: Just getting hammered every night at six o’clock?
Bram: Yep, yep. And they were amazing actually. When you think about the training they’d had compared to us, and they were doing a great job and they were holding the line, so they were holding that line there so that we could use that road between Kandahar up to Tang-e Gharu and then obviously up through all the way up to Kabul. There’s forward operating bases all the way up there and were just manned by these patriots.
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s amazing. I heard preparedness, absolutely, and I love that. All the options in your head. Communication, that was given, and your communication was what it needed to be at the time. You had people all distanced out so you had to go and talk to each one. Tell me about where positivity fitted into that?
Bram: Yeah. I am 100% about positivity in everything. I’ve never seen anyone be led by a leader who’s a pessimist. I just don’t know any pessimistic leaders who are successful, so it always pays to be the optimist. If something goes wrong, you have to look at the opportunity in that problem. I think Gaj calls it probletunity, which I think’s pretty cool.
Stephanie: I think I’ve told him to stop using that, it’s a terrible word. But anyway, it’s a probletunity.
Bram: Yeah. No, so positivity is everything and I learned that early on. I know how this works because I’ve felt it. So, on my mountain warfare course we would have this thing where you have to do a non-emotional. Your helmet, for instance, might be full of water and it’s minus six degrees and the guys will call you out and go, ‘Hey, you got to put your helmet on!’ And you go, ‘Yeah, no worries, no big deal. This is easy.’
Bram: And just by that self-talk, you’d put this freezing cold helmet on in the water going down the small of your back and it’s not that big a deal. But if you try and go and do that thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to suck, I’m going to hate this,’ and it does suck. But the fact that now everyone’s looking at you and you make everyone laugh, there’s a power in positivity. It’s a super power.
Stephanie: And non-emotional, you have to do a non-emotional.
Bram: Yeah, to be emotional.
Stephanie: Well, you also have to do that as a leader sometimes because we all have to make really tough decisions. It’s interesting, as a leader I feel myself go into that zone and think, ‘Okay, it’s time to just tune out now,’ and actually I think non-emotional.
Bram: Well think about that. If you want to think about leadership in that vein and doing a non-emotional, think about it, go a step further and think about that drone. That drone is 20,000 feet above us. It sees the big picture. I often say to leaders, ‘Be detached from the situation, take a step back, become that drone, look down on what’s going on.’ Viktor Frankl says, ‘In-between stimulus and response is a space. You own that space.’
Bram: I think more leaders should be owning that space. Take a step back, become the drone, look at the problem from the other person’s perspective, own the space, and don’t be emotional in your responses. And honestly, if leaders just did more of that, they’d be more successful at every level, from the junior level through to the C-suite.
Stephanie: It’s just making the time to have that space, isn’t it?
Bram: Yeah. But it doesn’t need to be hours and hours, yeah.
Stephanie: No, it doesn’t. Well, it’s that whole… And this gets to the cybersecurity conversation we had about and the bad guys just trying to get you to break your OODA loop that you observe and act.
Bram: Yeah. Interestingly, if you want to go down this rabbit warren for a moment?
Bram: I was playing around on Twitter last week. Tulsi Goddard, is it? Anyway, an American Democrat who I quite liked, I thought I’d tweet something about how I liked her position in the next American election there was a flood of responses on Twitter. They were great.
Bram: And then, you’ve got John Doe, we’ll call him from, from Suffolk who owns a pie shop and he weighs into the debate about American gun laws and the Second Amendment and all this garbage, but he doesn’t exist. There is no guy called that. That a state-sponsored tweet from another country that is conquering and dividing. And that’s what’s happening on social media now. It’s a cyberspace problem, but there’s this continual narrative being controlled by… They’ve realised how powerful this weapon is to divide us socially and that’s what’s occurring.
Stephanie: It’s really terrifying, isn’t it, when you know about it? So, back to positivity and back to my Long Tan movie that my husband’s not going to believe I was actually watching as intently as he’ll now hear. There was a bit when it all looked bad and it backed to one of the old movies where you’re really up against it in the fort and they pretended they had more soldiers. But it was looking bad and the guy, I’m sorry, I don’t even know his rank, just got back before his…
Stephanie: Thank you. And gave a speech and said, ‘This is who we are.’ You know?
Stephanie: What? It was great because I thought of Henry V naturally of, ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends.’ You know?
Stephanie: And I thought, ‘Okay.’ But what I liked about it in the movie was he was terrified. After he made his speech, the guy in front of him said, ‘We’re not going home, are we? We’re not getting out of this.’ It was authentic. He was terrified but at least it was positivity.
Bram: Yeah. I had a moment like that in Afghanistan before we did a time sensitive target operation with helicopters but it was a joke arrive. And I stood up in front of my guys and said, ‘You’re not doing this for the Anzac spirit. You’re not doing this for the war on terror. You’re doing this for the guy left and right of you’. It’s all about mateship and, ‘Let’s go and do this’. It was all a bit of a tongue in cheek.
Bram: And then we had one of the most chaotic, violent, six and a half hours of our lives. When we came back, guys came up to me and said, ‘I really want to thank your boss for what you said before that.’ It was only two or three guys that said that it wasn’t every person. I don’t want to paint the scene here to make it look like I’m some sort of a genius.
Stephanie: But there’s a movie in it. In the movie, who’ll play you?
Bram: Well… But the fact of the matter was that there was people who heard those words that didn’t see it for the tongue and cheek it was. Or if they did, the moment where it was required, they drew on that. And so that, to me, it is a part of positivity. Australian dark humour is well-known and I’ve lived and breathe that my whole career and it absolutely makes things better.
Stephanie: What I liked about that, that scene, but extrapolating into other situations, is it put humanity into it, which I liked. How can you do that as a leader then in really tough times? Someone spoke to me the other day and said, ‘There’s a business I know that payroll is now late, getting later and later. I’m worrying about that business.’ Well clearly you would be. So if things are that grim, how do you show positivity as a leader?
Bram: I think in the first instance it’s about being able to address people and being able to show them that you understand what’s going on, but maybe also taking ownership of why that’s happening. And so in the first instance saying, ‘Hey listen, perhaps something I’ve done has amounted to this or perhaps it’s the way I’m leading. I’m not sure. You can let me know. But this is the circumstances and let’s try and remove the roadblocks for this and make this a better situation.’
Bram: Because if you come into something like this with any blame or in any way saying, ‘Hey, these numbers don’t look good. Why aren’t these numbers good, guys?’ Then the defensive mechanism of that group exacerbates the problem. A leader’s responsibility is ultimately to burden all of the issues and problems; and if you burden them upfront and then slowly release them, people will take the problems away from you. ‘No, no. No boss, it’s not like that. It’s not your fault. Let’s go and have a look at this from another angle. Perhaps we’ve done something wrong in this department.’
Bram: And so I think in that first instance, a leader can show positivity by also showing that they have the ultimate responsibility. It’s a lonely job. You’ve got all the responsibility and very little control being a leader.
Stephanie: That’s right.
Bram: And I’m not saying that the military leadership is the panacea of all things corporate by any means and I’ve learned more about leadership since leaving the army. But I’ve looked at it from the prism of my army leadership and then had aha moments in the corporate sector and gone, ‘Oh, well this is that theory.’
Bram: But the other aspect to all of this is that humans are intrinsically messy, really messy, socially just so messy. And you go and try and apply one leadership principle to that problem that you’re talking about and three or four people will see that in a completely different way. So you have got to change your approach and then manage those micro-leaders. Again, it’s about influence and relationships and making those relationships through your influence, even sometimes one-on-one.
Stephanie: Like you did along the line?
Bram: Absolutely, building a fan base. Well, the interesting thing about going down the line that I didn’t tell you, every single person expected that as well. I got it to such a point. This is right at the end of our tour. So every single guy I knew, ‘I’m freezing cold. I’ve been sitting here now for 10 minutes, but I know that Bram is going to walk down that line and tell me what’s going on at some point.’
Stephanie: That’s the important part.
Bram: That’s actually the important part.
Stephanie: So that’s the predictive vulnerability, isn’t it?
Bram: I like it. But BC, to go back to your story, I know we’re jumping around a bit, but to go back to your story about our numbers are bad in this business, and it’s the leader who then disappears. Maybe they’ve built this reputation of saying everything and talking about it, but then if they disappear, that just exacerbates that problem.
Stephanie: And that’s because humans are messy and leaders are messy too.
Bram: Humans, leaders, we’re all messy.
Stephanie: Because there’s so much going on in that situation for you.
Stephanie: Because you’ve got a whole lot of other… And you know so much more than you’re ever going to share.
Bram: Yeah. And also, rumour and innuendo is probably an extension of our genetic makeup from times of apes where we now don’t pick lice out of each other’s hair, or off the back of their shoulders and then crack it in front of them, which is what apes do in order to be liked by other apes. It’s, ‘Hey, I’m giving you this gift.’
Bram: Well now, what we do is we stand around the water bubbler. ‘Have you heard…’ Insert any other unsolicited rumour. When I say that to you, I’m giving you a gift. So the leader’s job is to not let that occur, conversation not denigration. So, there’s a requirement to try and stop each other from picking lice out of their hair and give them-
Stephanie: That could be a company policy, I think. Keep the lice picking…’ There’s something there you’re saying about a gift. For me, it’s understanding what’s the real currency in this place. So is it gossip or is it the trading of information or is it, ‘Here I’ll give you one of my leads and you do this’? It’s really getting into the organisation and figuring out, ‘What’s the currency here?’ And, ‘I can’t change things till I really recognise that.’
Bram: Yeah. In the example I’m giving, people want to be liked-
Stephanie: Of course.
Bram: By their peers. And if you don’t set up a culture where they can mutually support each other and provide some value, then they find other ways to do it and rumour and gossip fills that void. We had that problem in the platoons, we had that problem in the national CT team. We have those problems too, so you’ve got to keep everyone on edge and moving.
Stephanie: Circling back to the military for you with a distinguished service and incredible career, when were the times that your mental toughness was challenged?
Bram: Great question. All the time, most days. For me, you have a cup and that cup has so much mental toughness in it and you pour a little bit out all the time and then you reset and then your resilience comes in. They’re different, right?
Bram: And so, I’m of the opinion that resilience is something that is genetic in some parts. It’s epigenetic a little bit. You can switch it on, switch it off in some parts. How much sleep you’ve had the night before, your current diet, your fitness level, all of these things show your depth of resilience. It’s what you bring to the party right now, today, at this very moment. So if my cat had died today, I may have fared better yesterday because I might have slept better the night before.
Bram: Mental toughness, however, is all about frames of reference. It’s having done something arduous and difficult previously for you to look back on and go, ‘This isn’t that tough.’
Stephanie: ‘I survived it.’
Bram: Right. And then your physical fitness above that provides a buffer before you have to reach into your mental toughness. So, the three of them, I want to say it’s in a cylinder, but it’s not. It’s like resilience is all around it, mental toughness permeates through it, and your fitness is almost an inoculation to a point.
Bram: Again, I think it’s really complex, but it’s a beautiful thing and you can work on any of those three. But I think the key one to work on is the mental toughness piece, to do something difficult, to do things difficult often, to put yourself in arduous situations and scary situations. Go parachuting, go rock climbing. Do all those… I know you’re shaking now. But to do things that make you scared.
Stephanie: And that can be cognitive.
Bram: Oh, absolutely.
Stephanie: Because one of the things I think of often as a leader is be brave. ‘Actually to do this thing, to transform this, to be independent, I’m going to have to be brave,’ and that’s a certain mental toughness.
Bram: Right. I continue to see, I want to say cowardice, but that’s a too harsh statement. I continue to see leaders shy away from the courageous conversations that would have made their, yeah, their subordinates better. They should be guilty. You know?
Bram: They shouldn’t have guilt and resentment for that, to not have-
Stephanie: That’s what Pat Lencioni says. He says you’re not being kind to the person.
Stephanie: You’re actually doing them a disservice by not having that conversation.
Bram: Yeah. And it comes back to preparation, communication, positivity. Prepare yourself for that debrief or that performance appraisal, really prepare yourself for it. And then, come into it from a position of humility and say, ‘Hey, your performance hasn’t been great and I’m sorry because I think I’ve let you down because I haven’t done this for you. Now, what can I do to help you?’ If you come at something like that, someone else is not going to be defensive.
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s really good. I’ve met some really interesting people this year, really interesting people, and some of the biggest thought leaders there are. Jim Collins, Pat Lencioni.
Bram: Oh wow!
Stephanie: Yeah. I’ve had an amazing year and it’s been fantastic meeting you too, Bram.
Bram: Well thank you.
Bram: You said Jim Collins and my name within 10 seconds.
Stephanie: Yeah, I know.
Bram: That’s amazing.
Stephanie: Yeah. Pat Lencioni, Bram.
Bram: There you go.
Stephanie: Bram, thank you so much for your time.
Bram: Thank you.
Stephanie: What a wonderful story. Thank you very much.
Bram: Thanks, appreciate it.
Stephanie: So that’s TEC Live for today. CEOs are in the business of making decisions and leadership is the art of execution. I’m Stephanie Christopher and look forward to talking to you next time.