A former fighter pilot and now successful entrepreneur, Christian Boucousis (Boo), dedicates his life to helping leaders have the courage to be accountable for their own journey.
Boo shares insights into how great leaders create clarity through chaos and reveals the ‘Do Loop’ a brain hack that gives you 50% more brain power in 4 steps and creates a culture of action and outcomes.
In this fast-paced conversation Christian and Stephanie Christopher cover leadership, strategy, execution and performance.
Stephanie: Welcome to TEC Live. Stephanie Christopher here, CEO of The Executive Connection. We connect leaders with a trusted network of people who help them succeed.
Leah: Stephanie, do you have internet friends where you know them but you’ve never actually met them in real life?
Stephanie: Well, over the last two years, I’ve had a lot of those.
Leah: Yeah. I think we all have. Right?
Stephanie: Zoom friends.
Leah: Yes, Zoom friends.
Stephanie: A lot of Zoom friends.
Leah: Yeah. Yeah. I always think it’s almost like meeting them in real life for the first time.
Leah: Even though you know them.
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s a different kind of genre of colleagues.
Stephanie: And I’m very excited to, for the first time in real life, be speaking to Christian Boucousis, known as Boo. And from here, will be known as Boo in this conversation.
Boo: Keep it simple.
Stephanie: He’s the MD of Afterburner Australia. And is indeed, as you’ll find out, a high energy, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, and a former fighter pilot.
Boo believes that leadership is the fundamental piece to the performance puzzle. And now, he dedicates his life to helping leaders have the courage to be accountable for their own journey. It takes a fighter pilot mindset. Love it, in these Top Gun kind of times. Boo.
Boo: Good timing, isn’t it? 36 years, we’ve waited for this. Yeah.
Stephanie: Welcome to TEC Live.
Boo: Thanks, Steph. Pleasure to be here. Very, very excited.
Stephanie: Good. There’s lots to talk about.
Boo: Well, look, the world has changed. I mean, if we’re not talking right now and revisiting what we know is normal. I mean, as we unfold here, I don’t believe there’s anything as normal. I don’t believe there’s anything that you call change or transformation. I believe that everything is permanently in a state of flux, for 200,000 years it’s been this way. But we need for it to feel normal and we need for things to feel constant.
A lot of what I talk about is just forget that feeling. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about things not being as you expect them. I call it, well I don’t call it, but I think evolution is a better word for us now rather than change, transformation, normal. I think, we need to be in a controlled state of evolution all the time, rather than a chaotic state of change and transformation.
Stephanie: Yeah, nice. Transformation’s quite a used word right now, isn’t it?
Boo: Yeah. I mean, the whole idea of transformation management is a nonsense. You can’t manage transformation. It is perpetually occurring all the time.
I was watching a YouTube video earlier this week. I’m super fascinated by the brain now. I mean, 1,000 trillion synapses a day. That’s a big number of… That’s a lot going on up there, right?
Stephanie: A little firing.
Boo: And then poor humans down the end here trying to make sense of all that, right? So, I was fascinated by that and I’m starting to get fascinated by the concept of reality and perception.
And I was watching a YouTube video, a keynote of a neuroscientist, whose concept is now, that there is no reality, that what we perceive as reality is a controlled hallucination. Because that’s all the brain does, it hallucinates ideas and concepts because nothing we think is real. We think it’s real. But the reality is, it’s in our minds.
So his philosophies, if you come at life, which is, everything is a hallucination. If you take drugs, it’s an uncontrolled hallucination. A dream is an uncontrolled hallucination. But when you’re awake and conscious, if you just accept the fact that reality is fluid, then you can deal with it much better. You start to abandon some of your biases and you start to look at humanity through a different light.
So, I thought that was a pretty cool way of explaining how, particularly for leaders, can you imagine someone in a board meeting going, “Look, I’m just going to share with you my controlled hallucination for a moment.”
Stephanie: Guess what? I’m not going to try it. Look, as I try and make sense and bring some order to the chaos of this conversation, and while I try and work my head around controlled hallucinations, because I kind of think it’s interesting, let’s go back to your background.
So, how does this all fit in with you as a fighter pilot?
Boo: I think, in retrospect, I did not realise this at the time, but the last of six or seven years has been a bit of a journey, where I left the world of being, well two years ago, I left the world of being a business owner.
Boo: So for 17 years, I’ve founded businesses, owned businesses. One, very big one.
Boo: And always, I’ve either identified myself as a fighter pilot or as a business founder.
Boo: I don’t really like the word entrepreneur, because too many-
Stephanie: Everyone is one.
Boo: Wantrepreneurs have a-
Stephanie: Wantrepreneurs. Yeah.
Boo: Yeah. Whereas I think being a founder has got a little bit more gravitas to it.
Boo: Because that means that it still exists. And the businesses that I founded, it all still exists. They weren’t some flash in the pan, raise the money and then they go out of business.
So for me, I can tell the fighter pilot story from two angles. One being a fighter pilot and the other reflecting on-
Stephanie: Let’s have both the because it’s kind of cool.
Boo: Yeah. So, being a fighter pilot was cool. It was, for me, something that I connected with from the age of five or six.
Boo: I can’t remember exactly. But I went to an air show and I remember, I was sitting on the grass at this air show, and watching the airplanes taxi past. And it’s a very visceral experience, more so back then because the crowd line was very close.
Boo: You could feel the reverberation as the airplanes taxied around, you could see the pilots waving. And they would take off and they would, you know, incredible flying machines.
Boo: A lot of noise, low level, very different to today, which is far more controlled. And I think in that moment, seeing all of that happening, the sight, the sounds, the green suits, the patches, the helmets, everything about it felt like Star Wars or something.
Boo: And I think for me, I don’t think I ever thought I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I just felt it. I felt like I was a fighter pilot in training, from the age of six.
Boo: And there’s no short answers when you ask me a question because there’s a lot of connections here. What I found out a couple of years ago was I have ADHD and potentially a little bit of mild bipolar. And I had that because my son needed to get tested at school, because he was having issues with concentration. I never thought about it before.
And I went through that journey because that’s something that’s passed down. My dad’s a bit all over the shop as well. So I thought, ‘Oh. Well, I’ll go and get tested.’ Right?
Boo: So I think, from the age of six to the age of 19, when I was recruited.
Boo: If I didn’t have that purposeful drive, if I didn’t know I wanted to be a fighter pilot, I don’t think I would’ve graduated.
I think, coming out of school, I would’ve been a very different person, because I really struggled academically at school.
Boo: Athletically, I was okay. I rowed in the first stage and was in the first six volleyball, track and field. So, I was okay at sport and I love sport, because ADHD people have that hyper focus. And sports is very discreet. You start and you finish, and you win or you lose, right?
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah.
Boo: Okay, cool.
Stephanie: And the rules are clear.
Boo: Correct. And effort in equals results.
Boo: Whereas academics is a bit less like that. But I knew I needed a minimum mark to get in and I repeated year 12 because the first time I didn’t quite get there.
Boo: And the second time, I did get there, but not very-
Boo: I didn’t go that much better. And I’ve never ever been great academically. And interesting, a lot of the fighter pilots, that are great fighter pilots, that we all struggled with ground school. We struggled with academics.
Boo: And the pilots that did well with academics, didn’t go on to become fighter pilots. So, again, that’s another thing. I’m sort of unpacking.
But having that sense of purpose from the age of six, and looking back now on purpose and the great resignation, and what is this purpose, that if you Google purpose, there’s 20,000 books on Amazon around life purpose, right? So, when you do the research, I just thought, it’s just not that hard. Purpose is just a feeling. Everyone’s overthinking purpose and trying to cognitively think about what is my purpose.
Boo: And it’s like, you’ll never think about, you’ll never think purpose. You’ll feel it, right?
Boo: So from there, and being accepted into the Air Force, and graduating a pilot’s course, and being accepted as a fighter pilot and going through that, I think, I’m one of those people that manages to get into the top tier of stuff. But if it was the first eight rowing, I’d be the eighth. Or the first six volleyball, I’d be the sixth.
And I think, of the eight fighter pilots that were selected, I was probably the eighth, right? I’m always just scraping over, purely through determination. And I think that’s, again, because ADHD, it’s very hard. You stay focused to the point where you get it and you find the extras a bit harder.
So, got through to being a fighter pilot. And again, one of the ADHD attributes is you tend to have a slightly more flexible interpretation of risk. You’re a much higher risk taker, you’re less concerned about consequences. That’s not to say you are high risk, but I think, again, being lucky to go through the Air Force and it teaching me this phenomenal risk management system.
Boo: It wasn’t called that, it was just what you were, and your culture and how we did business.
Boo: The default of that was you were a 98% high performer and incredibly safe at the same time.
Boo: And a lot of businesses come at performance or safety. They don’t see the link between the two. The safer you are, the higher performing you are. They’re completely connected.
So, when people say, ‘I’ve got a safety culture,’ what they’re also meaning is we have a performance culture. But that gets a bit lost in interpretation. Anyway, so for me, it was 11 years in the Air Force. Of those, it was-
Stephanie: And as a fighter pilot-
Stephanie: … were you fighting anyone?
Boo: No. Because when I joined, it was the late or mid-90s. I went to the UK. I was selected to be an exchange pilot and fly.
Boo: And that was the only, at the time, combat tour for Australian pilot. So I was like,’Fantastic, this is me. I get to go and do my combat tour. The thing I always trained for.’
Boo: And Murphy’s Law, this is something I’ve certainly learned a lot about in life, is expectation and reality tend to be fickle. So, when I got there, I could no longer go to combat in the UK, though Australians weren’t allowed to go to Saudi Arabia, which was where the UK Squadron was based.
Boo: And the squadron, just left, went to Iraq.
Boo: So, I was mildly bitter at the time. But again, as I’m older now, I kind of feel like I dodged a bullet as well.
Stephanie: Well, that’s literally, that’s actually-
Boo: Or missile, is more accurate.
Stephanie: Yeah. Not a bad thing.
So, okay. I love already your insights onto, well, clearly you as a person. And that idea of risk and performance, that continuum, but that it’s counterintuitive.
Boo: It’s counterintuitive. And I think, again, as I’m learning over time, because of the mental programming I have, my mind is quite chaotic. And therefore, you realise, if you allow yourself to be that way, you are going to create chaos around you. So therefore, and thanks to the Air Force, I have trained this filter and this way of managing it.
Boo: And I think, for me, from a leadership role especially, is an ability to see all the interconnecting parts all the time, like The Matrix. The movie, The Matrix, where it just looks like a bunch of numbers.
Boo: But what I really love about getting my teeth into leaders, and I never work with leaders to date, haven’t worked with leaders, I always work with their team.
Boo: Because the best way to develop a leader is to allow their team to develop them, but to equip them to have those conversations.
So when you see a leader, they’re constantly pulling one lever without really having the awareness of the next lever, the next issue they’ve created. So, it’s this whole spinning plates analogy. Whereas great leaders, if there’s seven plates, they know which order to spin, what it looks like when I need to get there, rather than chaotically running around. I mean, there’s so many metaphors for leadership and chaos, putting your fingers in the leaky dike, whatever you want to say.
So for me, I think one of the things that being a fighter pilot taught me is how to create clarity from chaos. And it’s one of the topics I talk about in my keynote, which is, accept chaos as part of life. In fact, the theory of entropy is, life always tends toward chaos.
Boo: You only have to watch those movies where the zombie apocalypse comes and the cities turned back into the forest, right?
Boo: If we didn’t have cleaners and we weren’t constantly working at keeping our city clean, it just revert back to what it was.
So it’s that, and again, when it comes to chaos, there’s only two things you can do as a leader. In terms of invest control, that sense of… So, if you think of chaos as everything being out of control and right now in the world is very chaotic.
Boo: The only thing a leader can control is themselves, right?
Stephanie: And that’s what I wanted to get to. Because as a leader, it can be, I love your analogy of The Matrix, it can be like that in your head.
Stephanie: Because you spend the weekend thinking, ‘Oh this is… But where do I start? What about this bit? And then, I’ve got to do that bit there and how am I going to do it? And who’s going to do that?’
How important is it for a leader to, which is the traditional approach, shield the team from all that chaos that’s going on in your head?
Boo: You can’t. The whole leadership model’s broken. The way we train leaders, the way we put them through MBAs, the hierarchical model, technologies just come with a sledgehammer. It’s like hitting a piece of peanut brittle. This whole top down leadership model, it doesn’t work.
Now, technology’s embraced it. So, technology companies are better.
Boo: You need both. You need a little bit of a very loose hierarchy, but you mostly need dynamic teams.
Boo: And domain expertise coming together in a team to deliver a very specific outcome.
Boo: And one of the areas I teach leaders is, if you’re thinking tasks, you’re not leading. You have to be thinking outcomes.
Boo: Or what is the point? If you can answer that question.
Boo: So I believe leaders, well, if you look at neuroscience, you look at where brain research is and then you put a little bit of mindfulness and meditation. If you look at the human brain, it kind of works at three levels and it can’t do all three at once.
Boo: It feels, it thinks and it does.
Boo: And what you learn as a fighter pilot, because your life depends on it, is you can’t let your feelings get in the way of what you’re doing.
Boo: But they do sometimes.
Boo: Sometimes you get scared, sometimes you’re confused, sometimes you’re not sure what’s going on. So, we have to be equipped to put the feelings back in the feeling box and go back into the doing box. What gets lost a lot, and more so today, is the thinking.
Stephanie: Is the thinking. Mm.
Boo: I’ve been running programs for seven years, where I get executive leaders, CEOs of ASX 200 companies all the way down to SMEs, small, medium and large cap. And in the last seven years, and I mean this respectfully, but there’s no better word for it, I’ve watched them all get dumber.
Boo: Watched them lose the ability to think, the passivity in the exercises and the waiting to be directed.
Boo: So I’m, again, ADHD, passionate Googler. So, I Google everything, find multiple sources, find some case studies. And there’s some really fascinating research now around the fact that we don’t have to remember anything anymore, because it’s all available on the smartphone.
Stephanie: Yep. Yep.
Boo: It means, the part of our brain that’s designed to think, there’s lots of parts so I’m deliberately oversimplifying this. But if you look at all the pieces of the brain that contribute to thinking and problem solving, and the bits of the brain that are designed to be distracted and just react, the amount of neural activity is growing in the distraction, non-thinking bit. And it’s shrinking.
Stephanie: In the problem solving.
Stephanie: And memory.
Stephanie: Long term memories. Well, my husband and I do this thing, we say, ‘Oh, who was it who was in… Who played MacGyver?’ And we’ll both go to the phones and go, ‘Don’t. Just leave it.’ And the next day, bang, it comes up. And it isn’t MacGyver, I don’t know why I even said that. But it’s really good to train your brain that way, isn’t it?
Boo: Oh, it is. And I think if you are, and this is-
Stephanie: Well, retrain your brain because it’s all we had to rely on.
Boo: Yeah. And it’s amazing how we, sorry. It’s not easy to do. It requires effort, but it is easy to do. You don’t need to take medicines or have some crazy, like 86 billion neurons that are plastic. And I didn’t know that, but the 86 million neurons we’re born with, we have the same amount when we die.
There’s this concept that as we learn more, that we get more cells in our brain. But we don’t.
Boo: We just use them more effectively.
Stephanie: That’s right.
Boo: When you start to unpacking some of the knowns about the brain, there’s a lot of unknowns, what you start to see is leaders come from the Do lane. So most organisation, and look, I came from an organisation that invested in leadership, right?
Boo: So, as a fighter pilot at the age of 19, you do officer training.
Boo: You start the journey with leadership training, not domain excellence. You start the journey with leadership at the age of 19. No business does that.
Boo: No business recruits you, puts you through a leadership training and then puts you on the trading floor, or puts you on the teller. It just doesn’t happen. So, that alone is a big differentiator.
And people I think are quite threatened by ex-military people. I certainly see that as a veteran advocate. I think there’s a degree of, ‘You guys are too intense.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, if you want to get things done, you got to be focused and you’ve got to plan, you’ve got to do this stuff.’
Whereas in business, it seems to be, well, how can we create environments which doesn’t feel like work? And it’s like, well, you got to come do work sometimes.
Stephanie: Okay. There’s a couple of things I want to pick up on. I definitely want to get to that, the great reshuffle of people now. This idea that it’s got to be fun and appeal, and work for everyone all the time, and really appeal to them.
But first, let’s get back to this thing about thinking and leaders, as a way of effectively harnessing what’s going on in your brain.
Stephanie: Because you’re a leader, so in theory, you’ve got good cognitive capacity to make connections and see the big picture. So, part of that has to be, am I hearing then allowing time to think, and to exercise that part of your brain, which is drawing connections, problem solving?
Boo: Yes, but at the same time, with context because there is thinking that’s low value thinking. And that’s like worrying and stress.
Boo: And thinking about unknowns.
Boo: There’s a lot of time invested in that.
Boo: And even someone that practices this, I certainly found myself doing that during Covid, because I went from being a business owner, and again ADHD, after 17 years you get a bit bored of running businesses. And moved into this and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe I should be in businesses because now there’s all these business opportunities. But I committed to speaking and getting into a space to try and unpack leadership. And I feel what I’m doing now is going to change the world more than owning another business.’
And I found myself in that state. I was just thinking about the wrong things. And through that, I would just ask myself, ‘Why? Why am I worried about stuff I can’t control?’ Because I know that’s not the things to think about.
Boo: And over time, I came up with this idea about the Feelings bucket, the Thought bucket and the Do bucket, right? So yeah, leaders come from the Do. So, we’re normally a domain expert, okay? We’re an accountant and we become a CFO. And from a CFO, we might become a CEO. And very different, very different problems to solve.
We might have been in sales. And then from sales, we go into being a sales manager. We might have been in production, working on the production line, and then now… And that is a dramatic change in mindset.
Boo: Because when we do, we have built a muscle, right?
Boo: It’s like saying, you’ve been a cyclist for 20 years, you’re phenomenal at doing things. We know you’re a highly-capable person, but now we’re going to put you into the Olympics as a swimmer.
Boo: And so, what happens? They lose confidence.
Boo: Leaders start to micromanage because they’re trying to work out the details underneath, because they feel like, well, I don’t know. The best thing you can do as a leader is just admit that you don’t know anything.
Boo: That’s the best decision you’ll ever make in your life. Because then, you’ll ask the right question to the right people.
Boo: You’ll build bonds, better feelings, et cetera. Anyway, so what happens is we remove the doing from the leader, so that brain bucket’s not being used anymore, into an undeveloped thinking model. Because it’s a muscle memory thinking that we’re used to, we’re used to thinking about problems in a very specific way, and we’ve created a bigger Feelings bucket. More feelings of stress, more feelings of discomfort, right?
I have this concept, which is called the Do Loop. And basically, what it means is you have to constantly feed back into the Feelings and Thinking bucket, which means you have to allow yourself to make mistakes. You have to allow yourself to have conversations that rapidly bring the Feeling bucket under control and fill the Thinking bucket up with the right things.
And as a leader, there’s only one way you do that. And that is constantly sit with the people in the room that you need to get the job done. And don’t ask them what they’ve been doing, ask them what you need to do. Ask them what the future looks like. Always focus forward.
Boo: How we do things and how we process things, that’s a given. That’s just what we’re doing. You’ll always improve that. So, that’s actually easy. Leadership is picking all the problems. That’s not hard, because we are humans, we make problems. And so, it’s not hard to solve them.
As a leader, what you’ve got to do is innovate. You’ve got to constantly evolve the way that we’re doing business.
Boo: And the way we do that is we say, ‘Well, what are the intentions from the business?’ Humans are very intentional beings. We intend to be fitter, we intend to be healthier, we intend to be smarter. But the Action bucket’s pretty low. In fact, only 8% of our intentions turn into action.
Boo: Which is pretty poor. But we don’t notice it because that’s what we’re used to.
But if you look at it, the empirical data is, five to 8% of ideas get done.
Boo: So, where does the rest go? Well, it goes into all this noise, right? It goes into these three mashed up buckets of feelings, thoughts, and the wrong actions and chaos. And now, you’ve split them out.
So, if we consider what our intentions are, our business might be a drinking glass import business. And if we sit there and say, ‘Hey, we’re just going to keep importing these glasses better,’ that’s half the problem. Because in the future, we might find that people don’t want glass anymore.
Boo: Ceramic drinking is all the rage or whatever it is. And so, the intention goes from being a drinking glass company to conveying water to humans company. It’s a totally different mindset.
Boo: And there’s completely different ways to do that.
From there, that’s when we get people together. We say, ‘Well, here’s our intention.’ So there’s four steps, our intentions, our results, our reasons for those results and our actions. And this is a loop. And when we keep doing this, our intentions always get met, and our actions always get better, and our feelings are always managed.
So we say, ‘Here’s our intention, here’s what’s going on.’ And the good thing about intentions to results is, because 92% of us don’t achieve anything, there’s plenty of gold there. The results are always underneath, right?
Boo: People go, ‘What about positive results?’ Well, that’s a great day. Go to the bar.
Boo: But mostly, they’re not.
Boo: So, the problem is we invest in that, we invest in the negativity. And therefore, we start to avoid it. And then, when we avoid the negativity, then all of a sudden, things start happening in our business that are surprises. And then, when we start having surprises, then all of a sudden, your life as a leader becomes very unhappy, very stressed.
Boo: Never in history have we seen higher resignation rates and suicide rates in leadership than we are seeing now.
Boo: And it’s because it’s just impossible to meet the expectations as a leader. So, intentions are always more than we can do, we can achieve.
Stephanie: The results are what they are.
Boo: They are what they are. And that’s a fact.
Boo: So, intentions are tomorrow.
Stephanie: So, it’s making sure you’re clear on what your results are across the business.
Boo: Yeah. Which we do well.
Stephanie: No surprises.
Boo: Which most of us do that pretty well.
Stephanie: Yep. And technology helps tremendously?
Boo: 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years.
Boo: So, we’re pretty good at capturing that data.
Stephanie: Nice. And then, what’s the next one?
Boo: So then, there’s a reason why, you know? So, you’ve got good old Simon Sinek.
Boo: He talks about, start with why. I say, start with why, but you’ve got to end with why as well.
Boo: There’s no point wanting to be the Wright Brothers, and building an airplane, if you don’t know why the propellers don’t work.
Boo: So, I believe leaders think their job is to sit there and wallow around in the reasons why their team doesn’t get the job done. And they’re very good at that. So, we put bean bags in the office and we put free yogurt and we have all of these wonderful things in the office to help people live with a negativity that is the byproduct of unmet expectation. So for here, what I say to organisations is, you just want one thing, one reason. There might be 20, it doesn’t matter, but just take one.
And with that one reason, you want to create action. You want to create one action, which will be, the glass keeps breaking, is the reason why people stop buying them. The result is the broken glass. The reason is because, last year, we decided to cut costs and we put one millimeter less glass in there because that would give us 10% more profit.
By the way, if you use numbers to manage a business, it’s seven times more likely to fail. So, here we go. We have this action, which is put one ml back in the glass, right? So, we go back into the glass, the intention is to be the biggest-
Stephanie: Conveyor of water.
Boo: … conveyor of water. And all of a sudden, we’ve created a conveyance device, a vessel that puts water from somewhere into someone’s body. And boom, we have a leap. We have this leap forward.
Now, when that leap forward happens, something else happens inside of us, which is pretty incredible. We have this dose of chemicals.
Boo: And here’s one of those unique… You know a mnemonic works when it works, right? Because a dose of chemicals stands for Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins, right? Four key chemicals and hormones.
Boo: And this neurochemical reaction in our body is the same thing you see in sport, when all of a sudden everything seems to go better. All of a sudden, they call it momentum, the sway of momentum.
In businesses, we live with mostly neutral inertia. Nothing good, nothing bad. Nothing’s as good or as bad as it seems. And we wait for a red light to go off and then we react to it.
So, through this Do Loop, what we end up doing is, by creating the action, we hack our brains and we release these chemicals. And when that happens, it’s not to the same extent the sports person gets it, where they get this rush of endorphins and away they go, it’s a bit milder than that, but it still gives you 50% more brain power and energy for an hour or two.
And it means that, if you do this at the end of the day, what was my intention today? What actually happened? Why did that happen? What am I going to do tomorrow? You get this free carry of energy.
Boo: And if you look at successful people, they have a lot of energy, right?
Boo: And a lot of successful people, if you look at the All Blacks, and when I thought about this and I started to find proof of it, feeding all my biases, not the best way to research it. But there’s enough out there that shows, if you look at the Tom Bradys, the Oprah Winfreys, the Serena Williams, or the greatest, they kind of do it naturally.
Boo: It’s kind of what they do. They have that inquisitive mind. What next? And what can I do? What can I do? Rather than, what’s wrong? What’s wrong?
And so, if we just continue to do that loop daily in our own lives, weekly with our teams, monthly at an organisational level, we’re constantly evolving based on what’s happening today. So, we can control that conversation.
Everything we’re talking about there is real. Our real controlled hallucination of the future, our real result, our real reason, because we did it so we can see it. And if we do it every day, it’s going to be an honest reflection. Not in a month’s time, where it’s going to be a made up reflection.
And the action is real. And so intentions tomorrow, result today, reason yesterday, action projects us into tomorrow. And I’ve never seen a conversation in any business that brings those three phases of time together, with a leader and their team. It’s like the most sensible conversation you’re ever going to have.
Stephanie: It really is. And the part that’s missing is the reasons why.
Stephanie: There’s a lot of intention, whether it’s well-articulated or not, everyone has some sort of intention.
Boo: Absolutely. And they’re well-intentioned. Most people-
Stephanie: Of course. No one goes into business to be bad.
Boo: No. Exactly right.
Stephanie: Well, baddies do. And then, the results are the results. I think, it’s the reasons. Because what I know I do, my intention maybe whatever it is, the results are there and then this has happened straight to action. It’s the reason, is the bit that’s missing, isn’t it?
Boo: Yeah, exactly. It’s a dart board. And I’m amazed because I do a lot of team strategy days.
Boo: And when we go in there, and we start a team strategy day, it’s like a blank sheet of paper.
Boo: It’s like, ‘Hang on a minute. Why are we blank sheeting this?’
Stephanie: Yeah. We’ve got all this stuff already.
Boo: We’ve got it. We know what’s going on, we want to tweak what we… If you consistently tweak all the time, rather than constantly come up with new stuff, every new idea is a significant effort. And that’s why I’m anti to innovation and idea space.
Boo: The fact that big businesses go and set up an innovation and idea center, you may as well say, ‘We’re going to create a whole bunch of work that’s not going to deliver anything.’ Because statistically, that’s what happens.
Clayton Christensen, Harvard professor, this whole space is around product launches.
Stephanie: Jobs to be done. Yep.
Boo: And it’s consistently sub-two digit success rates, on all of this investment.
Stephanie: Which is interesting and that’s kind of another whole podcast.
Stephanie: But I think, back to this one, because there’s some really interesting lessons on leadership here. The thinking part, as you say, is differentiated from getting stressed and down.
Boo: So, thinking-
Stephanie: It’s actually about the reasons why.
Stephanie: That’s where your thinking needs to be with your team.
Boo: Yeah. And I didn’t answer your question right early on, which was, what is the thinking? Is it making time?
Everything to do with thinking is context.
Boo: And when you’re trying to figure out 10 things at once, there is no context. You need the granular focus, the granular outcome. And that’s why less is more. That’s why strategy doesn’t belong in the boardroom. It belongs to everyone. Everyone needs one focus.
I want to be a fighter pilot. That’s all I want to be. And when you have that focus, all of the detail and all of the thinking is correct. It all comes back to that one thing. If you’re doing 10 things, your poor old brain is spread, you are creating chaos and that filters down.
Boo: So, you might be the most well-intentioned leader.
Boo: And I’ve seen this in some of the biggest companies in Australia and they just filter down chaos. It’s like, rather than filtering and simplifying, it filters and actually creates more chaos at every level.
Boo: And you end up just with a passive workforce.
Stephanie: So that thing about, and I get what you’re saying and I can picture it, but what you’re saying about what’s the thing, that single focus. So if my single focus is customer retention, then what I do is towards that. Well, that’s the intention, customer retention.
Boo: But what do we do too often? We go, ‘Well, if you had just done this, I’d be able to retain them.’ And well, the product was, that’s not your problem. You’ve got to, despite everything that goes on around you, your job is to retain the customer.
Boo: Now, if that means that it’s a product-related issue, then you need to set up a little team exploration session there.
Stephanie: Because that’ll come out in the reasons why.
Boo: Yeah. And that’s where the work in business… That’s all work.
Boo: Just like you’re working now, getting frustrated. But that work delivers transformational outcomes. And I coach one business, one team of five leaders, and within one year, grew 700%. 10 years of 10 to 15% growth. So by any measure, a successful company anyway, and then it just exploded.
Stephanie: And what was it that made the difference?
Boo: This thought loop, that was the difference. Every day, what was your intention for today? What actually happened? Why did it happen? Tomorrow, what are we going to do?
Boo: And every metric within their business, whether it was their social media, their Instagram and Facebook channels exploded. They didn’t even have to go into the new stuff. No TikTok, nothing. Just their traditional marketing methods, because they were done without the context, without the why. What’s the point? It was just ad hoc. It was just stuff.
Boo: Find two people in your community, leverage off them, then it becomes four, then it becomes… And all of a sudden, you’ve got this entire community of advocates for your brand. You’re rewarding them for their social. We just had to find these leverage points.
Boo: But they were never found because the time wasn’t invested around… What is the point? The point is to grow the brand. The point isn’t to get more Instagram followers.
Boo: That’s one of the points. But we’ve got to find that overarching point. And what happens is, five people end up three times more. You’re actually ending up, and there’s a study done, the group for organisational effectiveness in New York, and they studied 40 examples of this style of thinking.
And on average, at least 20 to 30% increase in performance. But the people that truly embraced it, about 300% improvement. So, that’s 15 people worth of output of salaries for only five people. That’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty-
Stephanie: It is amazing. So, when you say, I love it, just going back over that loop, what’s the intention? What was the results? What was the reason? What am I going to do at the end of the day? Is that everyone in the business doing that?
Boo: Every single, that’s your life. That’s how you should be approaching your life as a mother, as a father, going out for the shopping. Everything you do, you always… Simon Sinek has nailed it. You start with why, like what is the point of what I’m about to do?
Boo: That’s great, but how do you figure out what why is. And that’s the loop. The loop comes back and gives you the contextualised why. So when we are doing things, it’s the right things. Because why is a big question.
Boo: Why? I mean, you can sit on a mountain for three months and not answer that question. But why do I need to build a better glass that’s tangible and that’s discreet? And most people, in fact no one thinks this way, I’ve yet to ever walk into a business and ever observe this.
But when I leave a business with people thinking this way as a team, ‘Never prioritised like this before. We’ve never had such clarity. We’ve never got so much done. Can’t believe how easy that was.’ And when everyone is saying, ‘What’s the point, what’s happening?’ Imagine 30 people having that conversation every day, and once a week having that together, just how clear the information is coming every week, how much clarity those team members have when they come into the room.
And there’s always a few that struggle, your usual sort of thing. Maybe half get it quickly, 25% slowly get there and 25% think it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard of. And that’s fine, but you only need half.
I worked at an organisation that had 220,000 employees, right? And I started with seven leaders.
Boo: Seven leaders in this process. And within a year, we were up to 220 leaders. And from there, I just found out the other day, I left there three years ago. Now, the entire organisation, it’s been embedded, it’s been put into a special management tool that the company uses. And there’s three and a half thousand stores, 220,000 people now thinking this way. And they are one of the top six companies in this country.
Stephanie: Okay. That was really, really good. I think, it started off incredibly conceptually with this, what do we call them, structured hallucination.
Boo: Controlled hallucination.
Stephanie: Controlled hallucination. So, we started off there and I was-
Boo: That’s where life start.
Stephanie: It is where it all starts.
Boo: That is the start of all of our journeys.
Stephanie: And I will admit, Boo, my head was going, ‘Okay, okay, how am I going to get this going?’
I love this conversation, and I say it on TEC Live podcasts, that I think it really worthwhile. Go back and listen to it again, dear listener. Once you listen to this, go back and listen to it again because there’s some really thought-provoking stuff there on leadership, on execution, on performance, on managing the world we live in.
And personally, I found that a really good discussion. And Boo, thank you so much for joining us.
Boo: Thanks, Steph. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Stephanie: Discover more about TEC at tec.com.au.