Sponsored by our friends at Veeam Software! Make sure to click here and get the latest and greatest data protection platform for everything from containers to your cloud!

Sponsored by the Shift Group – Shift Group is turning athletes into sales professionals. Is your company looking to hire driven, competitive former athletes? Shift Group not only offers a large pool of diverse sales candidates from entry level to leadership – they help early stage companies in developing their hiring strategy, interview process and build strong sales cultures that attract the best talent for early stage companies.

Sponsored by the 4-Step Guide to Delivering Extraordinary Software Demos that Win DealsClick here and because we had such good response we have opened it up to make the eBook and Audiobook more accessible by offering it all for only 5$

Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing

Does your startup need strategic technical content? The team at GTM Delta delivers SEO-optimized, compelling content that connects your company with technical users to help grow your credibility, and your pipeline.

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Tim is CEO of Redmond Growth Initiatives (RGI), an organization designed to help you grow your profits, grow your business and grow your life through Tim’s innovative coaching process. He’s proven himself in starting, running, and growing businesses and is sharing that knowledge through his coaching and mentorship.

It really was an honour to share time with Tim on the show.

Check out Redmond Growth Consulting here: https://redmondgrowth.com/

Sponsored by our friends at Veeam Software! Make sure to click here and get the latest and greatest data protection platform for everything from containers to your cloud!

Sponsored by the Shift Group – Shift Group is turning athletes into sales professionals. Is your company looking to hire driven, competitive former athletes? Shift Group not only offers a large pool of diverse sales candidates from entry level to leadership – they help early stage companies in developing their hiring strategy, interview process and build strong sales cultures that attract the best talent for early stage companies.

Sponsored by the 4-Step Guide to Delivering Extraordinary Software Demos that Win DealsClick here and because we had such good response we have opened it up to make the eBook and Audiobook more accessible by offering it all for only 5$

Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing

Does your startup need strategic technical content? The team at GTM Delta delivers SEO-optimized, compelling content that connects your company with technical users to help grow your credibility, and your pipeline.

Need Podcast gear? We are partnered up with Podcast Gear Pro to share tips, gear ideas and much more. Check it out at PodcastGearPro.com.

Matt Munson is a CEO and Executive coach with Sanity Labs, a boutique leadership coaching firm he founded in 2019 that provides coaching to dozens of venture backed and bootstrapped companies.

Matt draws on his own experience as a venture-backed CEO, as well as a variety of coaching disciplines, to help others navigate the perilous journey of leadership and organization building.

Check out Sanity Labs here: https://www.sanitylabs.co/ You can get in touch with Matt here: https://www.mattmunson.me/

Sponsored by our friends at Veeam Software! Make sure to click here and get the latest and greatest data protection platform for everything from containers to your cloud!

Sponsored by the Shift Group – Shift Group is turning athletes into sales professionals. Is your company looking to hire driven, competitive former athletes? Shift Group not only offers a large pool of diverse sales candidates from entry level to leadership – they help early stage companies in developing their hiring strategy, interview process and build strong sales cultures that attract the best talent for early stage companies.

Sponsored by the 4-Step Guide to Delivering Extraordinary Software Demos that Win DealsClick here and because we had such good response we have opened it up to make the eBook and Audiobook more accessible by offering it all for only 5$

Sponsored by Diabolical Coffee. Devilishly good coffee and diabolically awesome clothing

Does your startup need strategic technical content? The team at GTM Delta delivers SEO-optimized, compelling content that connects your company with technical users to help grow your credibility, and your pipeline.

Need Podcast gear? We are partnered up with Podcast Gear Pro to share tips, gear ideas and much more. Check it out at PodcastGearPro.com.

Elliot Shmukler is Co-founder and CEO of Anomalo. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Elliot’s been leading a small but growing team since Anomalo being founded in 2018. He’s had previous roles as a Product and Growth leader at tech companies like Instacart, LinkedIn, and Wealthfront. This is a great chat packed with lessons on startup growth, finding quality in your data, and much more.

Thank you Elliot for a great discussion!

Check out Anomalo at https://anomalo.com

Connect with Elliot here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eshmu/

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome back. This is Eric Wright, the host of the DiscoPosse podcast. And you are listening to another fantastic conversation with the one and only Elliot Shmukler. Elliot is the CEO and co-founder of Anomalo, and they’re doing really fantastic stuff around understanding data cleanliness and data issues. This is the data quality platform. Super cool stuff. Elliot’s got a really fantastic background in what he did in early days with LinkedIn and then much more around the rest of his career. But I really dig his approach, which reminds me to go back and listen again to a couple of spots because there’s stuff that stand out lessons here in how you can help to build teams. Think about product market fit. This is like another classic example of super startup lessons. All right, speaking of other startup lessons, learn some lessons without learning on the hard way by making sure you go to the amazing partners that make this podcast happen. Of course, like the fine folks over at Veeam Software, everything you need for your data protection needs, wherever you got it, whether it’s on premises, in the cloud, cloud native, even SaaS stuff like Office 365 Team SharePoint.

Yeah, you can hit delete button. Bad things happen. So, yeah, hit the go to Veeam button, vee.am/discoposse. Let them know old disco sent you. And on top of that, this is a fantastic platform. So go check it out. All right. Now next up, of course, this episode is brought to you by the folks at the Shift Group who are turning athletes into sales professionals. So if you’re looking to hire super cool, driven, competitive former athletes, or maybe you just want to build your own go to market strategy efficiently and effectively. The Shift Group team has an incredible diverse pool of candidates, whether it’s from entry-level all the way up to leadership. Plus, JR and the team are helping early stage groups just build that strategy. Start with culture, start with success. Take the drive of an athlete, bring that into your organization. Fantastic, folks. Go back and check out JR’s episode used recently on the podcast. So head on over to shiftgroup.io or just drop an email right to JR. He’s JR@ShiftGroup.io. Yeah, he’s really cool. Oh, by the way, if you like coffee, go to Diabolicalcoffee.com. Did I ask you that too fast? Go to diabolicalcoffee.com There you go. That’s better. All right, let’s get to the show. Here we go.

I am Elliot Shmukler, co-founder and CEO of an Anomalo. And you are listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.

All right. I feel like that’s always my moment where I tell people that’s like the on air light just like turns on like. All right, we are live. Although we’re not live, it’s live to live to tape or live to right. Live to MP4. I’m an older fellow, so I still say live to save. Elliot, thank you very much for joining today. I was really excited when I saw you come up as a guest, first because you’re doing exciting stuff with the team at Anomalo. And secondly because you’re a friend of Amber Rowland. And if I take great problems, complex problems being solved with platforms and then seeing somebody who’s standing by the story, it is a great pairing. So I’m excited to chat. So if you don’t mind, Elliot, for folks that are new to you, if you want to give a quick background and bio on yourself and we’ll get into the Anomalo’s story.

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Eric. Really a pleasure to be here. In terms of myself, I’m a long time Silicon Valley executive. I’ve worked at some companies that hopefully your listeners know about – LinkedIn, WealthFront – recently in the news and Instacart, also recently in the news with the pandemic. So have been a product and growth leader. I had a bunch of companies like that for a while before founding Anomalo.

It’s amazing how many LinkedIn alumni I found recently. And it’s definitely it’s funny. Some have come from different phases in the company, and I always want to feel like, hey, do you know Patrick Baines? He uses LinkedIn, too, but that’s like saying, oh, you’re from Canada, you must know Pete. He’s from Halifax. There’s a lot of people that work there. But you definitely have a storied history, proven history at that in the industry. And then it comes to today, which we’re going to talk about Anomalo. You’ve got some really great stuff. Obviously, announcements are live and you’ve had some work that’s happening. So let’s talk about the problem that you’re solving and then the how, which is actually super exciting.

Yeah, absolutely, Eric. And I’m glad you’re running into a lot of LinkedIn folks because it was a pretty special time when I was there. And it really actually began a lot of my journey toward Anomalo, where LinkedIn was one of the first places in my career where I got exposure to having a lot of data and trying to use that data to make decisions and in my case, to make the LinkedIn product better, to make it grow faster and ran into a lot of the issues back in the day. This is ten plus years ago now. So even more issues than there are today. But ran into a lot of issues with being data driven and trying to use data. And over the subsequent years, a lot of those issues got solved. For example, LinkedIn at one point had 150 people managing our data warehouse.


Right. And today, you just don’t have to do that. Right. Today you can spin up a great Snowflake data warehouse or in a few minutes or data bricks in a few minutes and off you go. You have a world class place to store your data, query your data, analyze your data. But the issue that I’ve seen, despite these amazing improvements in the data stack is that the more powerful your tool, the more powerful your data warehouse, the more data you’re pulling in, the more use cases you’re building on top of data, the more cost you bear if your data is wrong one day or incomplete or missing or inconsistent with what you expected it to be. Right. And so that’s the problem that a lot of them solving is how do we give teams that are working with data, they’re trying to make use of their corporate data, their enterprise data, trying to make decisions, trying to get inside. How do we give them something that helps to make sure that their data is actually right, that they don’t have issues with their data, or if they do that, they can detect them and resolve them quickly before it impacts decisions or other work?

Yeah, it’s amazing. We get so wrapped into the buzzwordy lifestyle of talking about being data driven, and everybody’s got data Lakes and data warehouses and data puddles and data, whatever you want to call them. There’s all these different things about data is the new oil in the same way that data is the new oil? Say data is the new crude oil. And in fact, there’s a lot that needs to be done to make that data really enriched information and gather signal from the noise because data in and of itself is not valuable. It’s the cleanliness of the data and the sort of trueness to the signal you need to find in order to then gather insights and info. All these folks are focusing on the automation side. But if you do not trust the data that’s going into the machine GIGO. Right. Garbage in, garbage out.

Exactly right, Eric. Exactly right. And it’s actually much worse today than it’s been. Think about using machine learning. Right. That’s another buzzword. Everyone talks. Everyone’s trying to deploy their machine learning model, do great things, use those technologies in a way that a Google or an Amazon or Netflix might to improve their product. Guess what happens if you’ve trained a machine learning model on a particular set of data, particular characteristics, and suddenly today the input data that it receives is wildly different, right. That model doesn’t produce great results for you. You’re essentially getting a random out of that model because you’re exposing it to data that it wasn’t trained on. It doesn’t know what to do with it. It has no constraints on what outputs it gives you. So it’s even worse when you have machine learning deployed and you’re expecting to feed us the data that’s coming in and expecting to have great results.

One of the things that stood out when I look at your platform story, I don’t mean to pick on one phrase right now. We go into the entirety of how the platform works, but automated root cause analysis.


And this is one of the things that near and dear to me. I’ve been doing this as a business for a decade, and it’s one of the most difficult problems to solve because the speed at which the data is moving, the ability to do real time and automated root cause analysis is almost an intractable problem because by the time especially when it gets into anything that’s around system design, the old class thing is by the time you figure out what the real root cause of the problem was, you could have just rebooted the system. Right. But when it comes to data, there’s no reboot the system option. It means you have to understand the forbidden fruit from which the data was gathered, and then now to be able to go back and there’s data reconciliation. So there’s a fantastic problem in the bigness of what it is that you are able to solve. So when I saw that, I was like, okay, we’re going to dig in hard on this one, but let’s actually just talk about the platform in general and how it was put together to solve the problem of data.

Absolutely, Eric. And automated root cause analysis is something we’re very proud of and something is very unique to what we do in our approach. But to step back and give you a sense of how it works fundamentally, what you do with Anomalies, you connect it to your data warehouse. We’re taking advantage of the fact that companies these days are putting up these big data warehouses in the cloud and are stuffing them full of all the data that they care about, centralizing all their data in one place so they can connect it together, analyze it together, and use it for all the various use cases that they have. So Anomalo just connects to your data warehouse, and then within your data warehouse, you select the tables of data that you want us to monitor, and Anomalo goes to work. So one interesting part about what we built with the product is that we’re a machine learning first solution. When you tell us, I want you to monitor this table that has my sales information. We don’t ask you to tell us about the data in that table. We don’t ask you to configure rules for that data or to give us parameters for what that data should be.

We, to the extent possible, learn all those automatically how we connect to that data set. We query your data warehouse, grab some samples of that data, we look at it historically over time, and we actually train one or more machine learning models for each data set that you have us monitor that really seeks to understand the structure and pattern of that data set. That way, when new data comes in, machine learning model can say, hey, this new data that came in, is it somehow different from the structure that I learned from the data set history? And if it is, well, now that may be an issue in the data that we should tell someone about this.

Is the point where if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to stay in camera frame and my microphone arm is not too long, I would stand on the chair and say, oh, Captain, my captain. The idea and this is the core of next generation systems architecture and design is ultimately the system needs to be responsible for its own outcome. And by letting the data drive its own like the understanding of the data itself versus what we believe is the creators of the table that is actually in there is such a fundamental shift, and it’s taking all those assumptions and turning them upside down, which is amazing, because time and time again, we hire a sea of DBAs. And I’ve worked in massive insurance companies, worldwide companies, investment firms, explosive companies, all sorts of exciting stuff. And there’s just we’ve got clients, we’ve got DBAs, we’ve got all these people. And they’re coming in trying to make the data fit into a thing that they believe it should fit into. And every time you’re five years into that project, the diagram is like monstrous, UML, diagram that’s on someone’s wall that they printed on, like five pitch font.

And it’s the size of the entire room. Well, it’s dead because the moment you went live with the system, everything changed. The day in the life moved. And from that point on, the best thing you can do is hope to keep up.


So you’re basically saying you can shed that wherever you are today is, in fact, the beginning of forever because you are now adaptively understanding the data.

That’s exactly right, Eric. And in fact, I would argue those old school approaches which you’re describing, they worked up to a point. Right. We have customers where they spent 2030 years with that approach. They made it work, and they have 100 people doing this work and all this kind of stuff. But at the scale that folks are ingesting data today and with the different types of data that are coming in and the number of applications that they’re trying to run on top of the data, there’s just no way that you can continue that approach. I mean, we have a customer right now Anomalous, that has a table where they’re adding 24 billion records a day. Right. There’s just no way that they’re going to come up with any sort of manual process or rules based process or schema based process to fully make sure that all those rows are conforming to something. Right. They can take some cuts at it, but there’s no way they need something that’s adaptable. And more importantly, they need a machine. Right. Our machine within an envelope has no problem going through 24 billion rows or a sample of those rows if it needs to.

And looking for patterns. That’s going to be pretty challenging using any kind of manual or human driven approach.

Now, I guess this is where the thing will come in, where, as he said, there are purposes and requirements to sort of define the standard by which data is stored. And ultimately, because there’s front end applications that need to understand the schema, there are sort of bound things to the behavior of the data within the structure. But as you said, we’ve got much more that’s coming in. Whether we call it IoT, whether we call it whatever kinds of many sensors, and those sensors could be anything could be 15 different application signals that are coming through that each has their own sort of structural form that’s different. The fact that you could then it gives you the freedom to be able to co locate disparate data, and then ultimately that data, you can find me observability as a practice. We talked about it six, seven years ago. Observability wasn’t even a word outside of physics and chemistry. And then so shout out to charity Majors, who I still will always say she is the creator of the word of observability as a practice. But observability is about bringing unstructured data together and then looking for patterns and signals within it.

And the problem is a high cardinality. Data is incredibly difficult to be able to pull together and then make decisions on and systematically even refine it, let alone get to the point where the data can ultimately create its own structure through having your platform look at it. I don’t mean to wow over this because the computer science folks are just like, there’s no way this is real. It’s a seemingly intractable problem. And I say that because it was intractable up until now. The technology and the capabilities are there where it’s more accessible to do this. But it’s a very unique challenge that you’re solving.

Yeah, absolutely, Eric. And we see ourselves as very much an extension, kind of the observability movement. Right. And they’re great Serbia tools for other dimensions of operations. Right. Data observability is actually even more challenging problem, say operational observable. Is my server up. Right. Those kinds of things. Because data, by necessity is chaotic. Chaotic. To a large extent, what my users do with my product on Fridays might be dramatically different. But what they do with my product on Sundays and even more so different if Sunday is part of a long weekend or Friday is a holiday or we just launched the new product on Monday. And so there’s a lot of dimensions of variability, a lot of chaos in actual data that’s coming in. User data, third party data, those kinds of things. There’s a lot of chaos there above and beyond, sort of the classic conservative data. What is my machine doing? Is it up? Is it down? Is it processing transactions? So definitely a challenging problem. But, yeah, the technology has also improved traumatic. Modern machine learning techniques can do a lot. And modern data warehouses are also incredibly powerful. You can ask them to summarize a lot of what’s going on with the data quickly.

You can analyze it.

Yeah. I think the biggest battleground that we are seeing in the industry is this idea of putting data into a place. And then because right now we know that the technology is arriving, if not has already arrived to do really amazing things with our data. And the one thing that think of the early application design, it was like, this is the data that we’re going to need in order to make decisions around future architectures. So they basically throw away everything but this. It is purely wheat versus chaff, except that they threw away the chaff. And then at some point, especially when you get into retail and you get into all the industrial, there’s so many use cases where they say, like, we got to keep the chaff, hang on to it, because we don’t know, there may actually be a different seed hiding in the chaff. And the economics of storing data have gotten significantly better. And then again, what’s happening now is really people are sort of holding onto it and saying that this may be useful one day and I can’t risk that I throw it away and find out that it would have been useful.

It really is a ripe opportunity for what you and the team are doing.

Yeah, exactly right. It’s really a sea change. And I saw this first template years ago when I was at LinkedIn, coming back to the beginning of the podcast. We were collecting everything, every bit of data that we could, and we were maybe using 5% of it. But it was a cultural thing that the team had picked up from other companies like PayPal early in the Internet history that we got to collect everything because it might be helpful in the future and we would regularly discover new ways to use that data that we weren’t using. We regularly found ways to take that data that maybe in the old days you would have discarded and actually innovate with it and build new product features based on it. That’s exactly right. And that’s been a cultural transformation throughout the enterprise world where now when we talk to customers, they’re almost always storing all the data. Right. They’re not throwing data away anymore like they used to. They may not be using all of it. Maybe they’re on their way to trying to use more and more of it, but they’re definitely storing it and they’re centralizing it and they’re making it accessible.

Yeah. I say as a guy who gets hard to see an out of focus view, there’s about 35 decks of cards over there. I’m not going to use all of them, but you never know. I buy three of each packet again. I’m a bit of a collector in that way. And really in the data world now, this truly is what we’re seeing. More and more companies are realizing. It is a combination of many things. But I’d love to talk about this idea that many people believe today is the beginning of a lot of this, when in fact, this has been a well formed idea for quite some time. It’s just that it was maybe not broadly accessible or broadly understood outside of like a core group of, obviously, people in financial services. We’ve got insurance stuff like there are organizations that have long held that their data needs to be used later. So let’s just keep holding onto it. You never know. But it’s always a funny thing, just like when any band suddenly becomes very popular. I saw them ten years ago in College. I don’t know who you think is brand new, but these folks have been around for a while.

This concept, I think, is probably more widely understood in some circles. Where has this been prevalent before?

Yeah, well, I kind of trace it, at least in my experience of it is really a Silicon Valley phenomenon, at least to the extreme extent that we see. Obviously, financial services companies have been storing data using fraud models and that kind of thing for a long time. But this idea that all of your data needs to be in one place. Right. And even if you’re not using it, eventually I may want that connection for something. It’s, I think, a very Silicon Valley phenomenon. Silicon Valley companies that I’ve been at always kind of strive to have the central one place with everything. So we’re using a third party tool. That’s not okay. We got to import the data from that third party tool into our one place. Literally, engineers would come to me and be like, Elliot, you can’t put up this tool. We’re going to lose that data that goes into the tool. We need an API to get it out. And that would be a hard requirement to using a third party tool for something. And so I think that was the core of it. And that enabled companies like the Google, Amazon and Netflix to do very powerful things.

And now everyone’s kind of realizing that that was a really big advantage. We work actually with a lot of financial services customers. They’ve always had this idea of using data. And they have some amazingly expert teams, frog modeling, and all this kind of stuff. They’re still in silo mode. They have data all over the place. Right. They never really bought in until very recently into this idea of centralization into putting all of it in one place.

And I would posit that still today, the most widely used tool for data analysis is Excel. It’s just bizarre. It’s 2022. And if Microsoft should have divested Excel, it would be worth more than Amazon right now.

Absolutely. And if you think about it, Excel is the most decentralized type of data you can have. I literally have my own copy of the data in my sheet. Right. And there’s ways to sync it now. And all this kind of stuff, but it really is a very different world from the one, I think, where we’re heading to them.

I’ve seen this for having supported big financials for a long time in my own career in the tech side. And I remember getting these calls first and you’re like, oh, I need to restore this Excel documents. What, did you delete it? No, it just got corrupted. Like, how did it get corrupted? Well, I don’t know. And you look at it and it’s 2GB Excel file. You’ve stretched the limits of this platform. This is not meant to do this. And that was pre understanding of what the data warehouse opportunity was many years ago. Then. Now even today, they’ll put the data centrally. But then a lot of the offloading of the processing is done very client side, and then more and more, but at least the centralization of data has become data goes here first. It’s funny you mentioned this thing about Silicon Valley. Many Silicon Valley folks have always understood that the data has intrinsic value and so we should always keep our data close. Conversely, a lot of organizations are being told by those very same Silicon Valley companies, you should offload everything as a service. So it’s an interesting sort of dichotomy in the approach.

But I see more people are saying we’re going to use the service, but we want the data to stay centralized or at least keep a copy of it centrally. And that’s a fairly recent shift in some of the customers that I’ve talked to.

Yeah. And we see that as a very common pattern. For example, if you’re running transactions through Stripe, big Silicon Valley company, right, where you’re outsourced your payment processing, well, very often we see it in our customer data set. You’re going to pull out that data from Stripe, you’re going to get the full log of everything that’s happened, put it in your data warehouse, how you can connect any transactional events on your product, on your ecommerce website to that Stripe payment. And now you can also analyze that Stripe data. What percentage of my payments fail? What is my credit card distribution? Right. How many folks got the special discount? So we see that pattern quite a bit. And in fact, when we started on Outlook, we were counting on the fact that this is going to become the norm, that more and more companies were going to use these hosted managed services, but we’re going to pull the data back into their data warehouse so that many companies would end up with a copy of Stripe data sitting in their data warehouse. And that would allow us to do a better job because our models would see many instances of Stripes data sitting in many warehouses that we could learn and generalize from.

So we were counting a little bit on that. And in fact, we were seeing that play out.

So let’s talk about Anomalo Pulse, and this is exciting stuff. Let’s dig in a bit on the product side, on what we have there.

Yeah, absolutely, Eric. So Anomalo Pulse is a new kind of visualization dashboard product that we launched as part of Anomalous. And it’s in response to a question that we’ve been getting to a lot from a lot of our customers. They deploy normal. They start monitoring some of their tables. They have issues that come up that they resolve very often. We talk to the VP of data, the chief data officer, and their question is, Elliot, how do I know how well my organization is doing monitoring my data in terms of my data quality? What can I look at that says you’re improving based on all the stuff you’re doing, or you’re not improving based on all the stuff you’re doing. You need to do more. You need to focus on this area. And sometimes it’s even a team based and accountability type question, which is how do I know which of my teams are doing well in terms of the quality of their data and which teams are not really managing the data quality? So we need more help or need more focus in that area? And so we built an envelope post, really to answer that question.

And so you can log in and you can see an organizational view of how you’re doing that on data quality. So how many data tables do you have? What percentage of those are actually actively being monitored for data issues? Right. If that’s a small percentage? Well, there’s probably a lot of issues that you’re not catching. If it’s a big percentage, you’re doing well of the tables that are being monitored, how often do they have an issue, which ones have issues all the time versus every once in a while that can give you a sense of, well, where are the trouble spots in your data and where our successes in your data, which things are sort of clean, in which things regularly have issues? And then, of course, you can break that down by team or schema in your data warehouse and all those kinds of things. So that’s Pulse, for the first time, you can start to develop a sense of how are we doing overall in terms of managing, monitoring the quality of our data.

Now dive into the tech a bit, because I know a lot of folks would ask things like what’s the sort of impact and capability mix where you talk about sampling, taking first samples, then ultimately training, and then throwing it at the entirety of the data set. There are different phases in which you would see adoption, but then also what sort of the processing impact? Where do I fit this in my life cycle of data when it comes to because all these applications get this weird thing where the data part of the organization quite often is a very standalone group or a bunch of standalone groups, and then the application groups are functionally separated, and then you’ve got the CIO, who sort of has responsibility for it. There’s a lot of intermingling, and that’s why where does it fit in? Who would own Anomalous?

Right. Great question, Eric. So what we often see and again, this varies by organization because this is also kind of a new area. Right. How you become more data driven and transform yourself. There’s still a lot of thinking and evolution in terms of how these various teams and roles are structured. But what we see emerging at our most sophisticated customers is a kind of data platform team inside the organization. And so the data platform team is kind of responsible for what are the tools we have in our data stack. And the data platform team, in turn, has internal customers, which could be the business teams, the application teams that want to use data. But they go to the data platform team to sort of get the tools for accessing and using data. Very often the data platform team is the one that owns the data warehouse. Right. They made the selection of which data warehouse it is. They kind of own its access and organization. They may not be the team that feeds the data warehouse with data that might be distributed or that might be a data engineering team, but they kind of own the data warehouse and how it exists and how it works.

And then they might also own things like Bi tools. How do we build dashboards on top of this data warehouse data. So Anomalous fits into that most easily, which is the data platform team that’s responsible for what are the tools that we have as an organization to manage and work with data.

The thing that I like that I believe the industry has finally gotten around to is that there is no such thing as a single pane of glass. We’ve learned that it was a sales pitch for a lot of organizations, that you’ve got 47 tools. I’m going to say the tool that will get rid of the other 47. And in the end, you now have 48 tools is what you’ve got. And it’s true, because even if you get it right, even you say, okay, good, we’ve got three disparate data warehouses. We’re going to merge them together, put them in one fantastically, huge, single, beautiful spot, and then you’re all good. No one does that. But even if you do, let’s just hypothetically say the magic occurred. And then they announced that you’ve just acquired another company. Well, guess what? They have seven data warehouses. They’ve got some on Prem. They’ve got some in the cloud. They’ve got three different clouds because they just acquired two companies. Like, there’s never a final resting place for data. Where does this make the Anomalous story important? Because it seems to me like this is where you can really shine, that you’re not saying you got to put all your data here so I can go get it.

Yeah. I mean, we are counting on it’s going to be in the cloud. Right. And so I think the migration to the cloud is a free train that’s not going to stop. And we are counting on that, Eric. But we do support multiple different places that it might be multiple different platforms that you might set up in your organization to query that data. And you can view all of them in one space in an online set of monitoring for all of them. So we have folks that have snowquake and they have a Google BigQuery. I don’t know why they have to. Maybe it was an acquisition, but it happens. That’s okay. You just connect the download. Right. And as far as you’re concerned, all of your data is now in one place. So absolutely. I do think there’s a pretty big push to centralize to get to one. And of course, that’s tough. And I don’t expect everyone to do it perfectly. This is actually one area where Silicon Valley companies start out having advantage because they’re building from scratch. Right. You start out seven data warehouses that you need to combine. You start out with the one you choose that you need to grow over time.

And so there’s a little bit of an advantage to newer firms. But I do think there’s strong pressure and kind of strong momentum to get unified and get centralized.

Yeah. And even if not for continuous real time, at least the centralization for offline and near real time processing has to be done that central location, because what UI? I often see this pattern.


Well, they’ll have an app stack that’s Google centric, and then I’ll have another app stack that’s AWS centric. And maybe there’s legal or other requirements, like business requirements that drive those decisions, like architecturally, no one would say it’s a great idea. But then now you’ve got the challenge of centralizing that data to a place for processing. And I think they’ve pretty much accepted. Like I said, the cost of doing storage of this data is not significant compared to the continuous precedent, even like a Snowflake. It’s funny you mentioned somebody I’ve got data inside BigQuery and then date inside Snowflake, which if I were to look underneath covers, probably runs on top of BigQuery or like there’s whatever it is they’re running on the same stack that you’re running on. It’s just that they’ve abstracted it to do additional things. So we will see still those patterns of multiple spots. But the central, like one pool of common data, I think, is where people are heading, whether it’s that real time online. Sorry. Like old school mainframe batch and online, we will see that stuff happen where you’ll have a lot of stuff that’s moving to that batch style, but it’s going to be held in a central spot.

Yeah. And in some cases, you can get there fast if you do a daily Lake type approach where your data is stored in the cloud. Right. But it’s just stored as files and cloud storage somewhere. And now multiple different warehouses can process that data. You can hook it up to Snowflakes, you can hook it up to BigQuery, you can hook it up to data Break. You choose which tool you want to use to process that data, but your data actually is in one place. And so we also see that as well, which is kind of a way to skirt around the unification to say, well, my data is in one place, but I might have multiple tools to query it.

Now let’s talk about the team, because I know we’ve talked about some of your background, and I’d love to dig into the rest of the founding team and what your collective view and approach drew you all together.

Yeah, absolutely. So my co-founder is Jeremy Stanley. We were together at Instacart. I was the chief growth officer trying to get Instacart to grow faster. And he was the VP of data science for Instacart and actually had been a data science leader for many, many years. He tells stories about predictive models for mining companies to predict the mine that was going to have an accident, those kinds of things. And together we’ve recruited a lot of our favorite technical folks for a majority technical team, and have also recruited some of our favorite data scientists, folks that we knew would need a tool like Anomalo that are actually now building that tool essentially for themselves. So Vicky, who was the lead engineer on the Pulse product that we just talked about, is a classic example of something like this. Someone Jeremy and I worked with and someone who in a different life would have been the user of and now is building the products she would have wanted to have years ago. So that’s how we approach building the.

Team when it comes to this.


You’ve been through different organizations, and especially given that your role is chief in the growth side of things. So you’re like a very friendly, nicer version of Chimath Palpatia, but the human aspect merging with the systematic aspect of growth, you’ve seen it at the growth phases. So how does that influence the initial phase of seeding the company? But having an eye on growth gives you an interesting sort of split of how you have to look at things.

Yeah, I’ll be honest with you. They’re pretty different world. Right. And folks ask me for growth advice all the time, as I’m sure they do to Chamois. Or maybe he moved past that. And the truth is, the early days of a company finding product market fit. Getting those first few passionate users has nothing to do with what we used to do at LinkedIn and, wellfront, Instacart on growing. Once you’ve found your core set of users and thinking about, okay, how do we make this much larger, much faster? So those are very different worlds, and it hasn’t been a huge adjustment for me. But it’s a little bit of adjustment to realize that in the early days you’re not operating with a lot of data despite being a data company. Our own in the early days, our own set of data that we could use was really tiny. Right. As we were trying to get to those first initial users in a low product. So there’s an adjustment where you realize that you don’t have a ton of data. You don’t have a ton of things that you figured out that you could double down into.

Right. A lot of growth mechanics that growth leaders that larger companies use. They just figure out what already works and they find ways to do more. You don’t have that at the early stage. You don’t know what’s going to work. So that’s an adjustment. But the thing that’s universal is the idea of experimentation, whether it’s in the early days of a seed stage company or it’s in the growth context of a larger company, you should constantly be experimenting and learning, trying new things and seeing if they work right. And in a larger company, you can direct your experiments more. You know, the characteristics of things that have worked in the past, that you can be very selective in your experiments. In an earlier stage company, you’re kind of trying everything. You’ve got your gut a little bit more. But that idea of experimenting and learning is definitely still a universal thing.

Yeah. It is funny, though. Need you realize how lucky you are when you’ve got the pool to draw from? And it’s why you see building teams, founding teams, building teams, growing teams are often like the stages of a rocket where they truly just will say that the first stage of the rocket gets us to this altitude, and then we shed the stage. And I’ve seen that. So it’s now interesting that you coming in as a founder. You are going to have to survive different stages that were previously not experienced. It must be an exciting and interesting world to now really see this from zero to one phase of the company.

Yeah, for sure. Eric and I’m actually super cognizant of the phases you’ve talked about because I want to make sure I adjust. I have many experiences in past companies where I came in in the growth stage as a growth leader, and I have this portfolio of techniques and strategies. But the founders are still in the foundation stage. They haven’t made the leap. They haven’t realized yet that you have data. You have a base from which to build. You can double down into things that have already worked. You can be selective. Right. In those situations, I’ve had to convince folks that my approach is a good one, demonstrate results, prove that my approach is the right one for that stage. Of the company. And so I’m very cognizant of that and making sure that when that stage comes and I think we’re inching into that growth stage now in our company’s trajectory and all those trajectory, I want to be very cognizant that. I kind of make that switch in my head and say, okay, we can start to use some of those growth strategies now.

Yeah. Now that you have those levers available, you expose those levers to the business all of a sudden, but you have to build and discover those levers to begin with. And how did you find that very early phase in seeking product market fit? You talked about the customer centric hiring in that you’ve effectively built a team on people that would be consumers of the product. So that will very strongly influence the way you engage with those early prospects and customers. So what was that first phase of finding the development partner customers and such like?

Yeah, you know, to be honest, it was easier than I thought because precisely because of the team we built, we could go to our network and we could find customers from our network. So all of our initial customers, all of our initial design partners were folks that we kind of got connected to through our network, and we had a relationship with, and they agreed to help us out, and eventually they became paying customers a phenomena. And so that’s a pretty powerful way. If you have a network or if you can recruit a team that has a network into your customers and has access to your potential customers, that’s a pretty powerful way to get started. Even LinkedIn back in the day, Eric actually started like that. The first folks invited to LinkedIn were in Reid Hoffman’s network, invited all of his all the PayPal folks and his VC friends, and that formed the core of the original user base. And he could get them to accept because he had a relationship with them and he was Reid Hoffman. Without that network, it would have been a much harder road.

Yeah, it is very interesting. And as far as the product market, fit is often a challenge to find, depending on the friction in which you can consume the product. And that’s why I admire your approach in that, obviously, data has to be in the cloud. All right. It’s kind of a binary thing, but you’re not saying that you need to relocate your data in order for us to be able to make use of it. That is the big thing. There’s a much lower friction to bring Anomalo in which versus many other companies, they find this thing of like, yeah, we’re going to do strict Mason stuff with your data. We just need to move it all over into our data warehouse in order to do it in networking. I used to struggle with this all the time, especially on the consumer side. Every single product you’d buy that has fantastic network monitoring these different tools. Oh, yeah. All you need to do is make sure that we’re routing all your data through this endpoint like we do that seven times already. For all these other things, I can’t continue to reroute my data. And eventually they learned that thanks to software defined networking, you can put virtual taps all over the place, but it easily be physical like it.

That’s how Gigamon became a business, because the idea of aggregated span ports so that you could monitor data flow, that created an opportunity. And now if you told somebody, I need you to route your data through something, they’d be like, you’re nuts.

That’s right, Eric. Lowering friction is a big deal. I would argue lowering friction is one of the most innovative things we can do in many years. And you’re absolutely right. Anomal doesn’t require your data to go into our data warehouse. In fact, we will often to point out where we just sit in the same cloud environment as your data warehouse. Right. So your data never even has to leave your cloud. We just push our application to your data rather than your data having to stream to us or anything like that, or us having to query it and send some results back to our cloud. We just sit where the data is. And then the other element of friction that we reduced, Eric, is just the setup friction because you don’t have to set up rules or tell us what to look for when you set up an ammo. That’s another thing that our customers really resonate with. You can do a few clicks and you’re monitoring your data now, right. And you can fine tune it and customize it if you wish, if you want to go deeper, but you don’t have to get it up and running.

You don’t require a $180,000 professional services engagement to go through proof of concept, then, which is no, not at all, not at all. And I say it, I partially ingest, mostly tongue in cheek, I guess, because I know that’s out there. Right. Like the complexity of the problem that you’re solving usually would require a lot of human interaction and a lot of human development of understanding the business, understanding the policies, understanding the flow. God, I hate to say this word because it came to mind right away. It’s game changing in that it is fundamentally changing how easy it is to get started. And then at that point, now, platform, implementation wise, what’s the most common time frame that folks expect if they say like, hey, alright, I saw Elliot on LinkedIn doing something, I’m going to reach out. I want anomaly in my environment.

Yeah, pretty fast. Obviously there’s legal things where we have agreements and security stuff and all those kinds of things. But deploying an on low in your partner probably takes about an hour to get it up and running. And then maybe another hour to get some things configured and you’re up and running. Right. So we literally when we have a new customer, we book two 1 hour meetings, one to install the product and one to onboard you into the product. At the end of that onboarding, you already have it configured and monitoring critical data in your data warehouse. So that’s all it takes.

You’ve won the friction game. Absolutely. The most friction free implementation. And what I love about this is I can be way more excited about your product than you need to be because for folks that do listen to the podcast, they know no one comes on here because they say we need to talk about our products. In fact, usually I’m the one that’s pulling it out of people because I am excited about what you’re doing. Again, seeing my own experiences in this type of implementation and the complexity that we’ve usually faced, it’s pretty big. And really it goes to the core of the team and your approach, which means that future growth, future development will carry that model forward because that culture seems to be like ingrained in the ethos of the company, which is refreshing, right? That’s where it needs to be. Instead of having to take old methods and then gently refactor them like, no, we’re throwing about the old game plan and this is how it goes now. It’s kind of refreshing.

Thank you, Eric. I mean, we’re definitely trying still an early stage company, still small, so still a lot of things to build and a lot of work to do. But we’re definitely trying and we’re pretty excited about the momentum we’re seeing and how well the product is working for our customers.

I guess I should ask one important question. Really? Who is your ideal customer that will be able to quickly find that fit and value out of the Anomalous platform?

Yeah, absolutely. Anyone with a cloud data warehouse, that’s the first step, right? If you haven’t set up a data warehouse yet, then probably you’re a little too early in your kind of data maturity, data lifecycle. You have a data warehouse. That’s great. We also look for folks where they built out a data team. Right. So again, if you have if you don’t have much of a data team, probably you just aren’t powering enough things with data yet. Experience the paint, update issues and data quality. But even once you have a data team of five or so, well, now you’re probably feeling that pain and we can definitely help you.

Odds are once you throw the first person at it, there’s a reason it gets to five fast. They start feeling that pain pretty quickly. I remember back it used to be like ETL people, and that was the whole big thing. It was just like just getting data between places and they’d have teams doing ETL, then you got DBAs doing the back end. It’s like all of this thing we’ve moved the function and the roles a bit. But in the end, there still is a lot of that really understanding where business logic comes in. And this is why this agnostic, data driven and literally data powered approach that you’ve got makes the move to taking on the platform a lot easier because it’s time and time again, it’s like you come in, the first thing you have to do is set up 17 interviews with product people, and they’re even arguing in between about how it really should go. They sort of unpack this awful family history of where the data came from. You can just be like, okay, no problem. Just plug this in. We’ll be back in an hour, and then we’ll talk about what your data really says.

Yeah, exactly right, Eric. And what a lot of companies are doing is because of this issue, because of how difficult it is to kind of get to ground truth synthesize. They’ve actually just decentralized the management of data. Right. So product managers, well, you own this data set, right? You figure out what’s going on here, and it’s actually another reason to get a tool like an envelope. We are no code, low code tool. Right. You set us up and it goes and we’re going to root cause things and visualize things for you in a way that almost anyone can understand. We don’t require you to kind of understand obscure error messages or parse logs or even query the data yourself. Right. We’re going to do a lot of that work for you. So we’re actually accessible to anyone in the organization who cares about a particular data set. And so we’ve actually helped a lot of our customers kind of complete that decentralization or democratization to sort of be able to push the responsibility for that data set to the product manager or to the team that cares about that data set, rather than having to have folks and data engineering and other functions sort of synthesize all that information from all the various parties.

One thing I’ll ask and I hate to ask a question which I know can be a tough question is how do you deal with things like data separation for regulatory stuff, you’ve got role based access control, lots of different access control lists that are spread throughout these data sets. Where does that come into? How it interacts with an omelet?

Yeah, we’ve had to build all that, Eric. So we have a financial services customer right now, actually, two of them, where data is heavily restricted. If you’re in the mortgage group, you cannot see the data from the banking group and vice versa. And so we have to build that functionality. We have separate teams and organizations within anomalous Nomalo itself can see everything. But if you log in from the banking team, you only see the banking data. Right. And if you log in from the mortgage team, you only see the mortgage data and so we’ve had to build those access controls. And, of course, we integrate with things like Octa and other tools that the enterprise might have to sort of appropriately associate users with teams and with the access that they should have. Good.

That wasn’t so much of a curveball then. I was like, this is probably not the question. You just sneak in at the end of the podcast. The hardest possible question. Let’s talk to the CISO right now. So it’s good. Yes. And another thing that we definitely are seeing more and more of is this where the ethics of data usage and the ethics of data storage and the business rules that are wrapped around that and the legal and regulatory stuff, it creates a real challenge. The truth is, most of these teams, they do their best, but quite often, they don’t even realize how exposed some of those data are to each other. Because what we believe is this true data isolation. There’s many Internet connected systems, so there’s always a path to get from one place to another. But it is, I think, top of mind for CSO and Chief Data Officer. Right. I guess. Is that a role that’s really becoming a.com like CISO got it right. That came in with Sarbanes Oxley and other regulatory requirements. They’re like, you need an officer who is charged with this function, but the Chief Data Officer, it’s still kind of a fuzzy function.

Yeah. I mean, it’s not as well adopted, but it’s coming. We see it all the time. Right. That’s typically we typically interact with a chief Data Officer or someone who’s active at that officer. Maybe they have a VP of Data title or something along those lines. But, yeah, it’s coming. There’s enough complexity in the data the company is using in the system, powering that data in the data teams are large enough where you need an executive driving your data strategy. Data is critical enough. As you said, Data is the new crude oil well. You need an executive who’s going to mine that oil, if you will, and figure out how to process it. So we see it happening quite a bit. And even at older companies that have been around for a long time, or maybe Data was part of their It team, and the CIO used to be in charge of data. Now they’re either opening up or they have data Officer. The other aspect of this, Eric, is folks have realized that managing data systems and getting value from data is different than engineering. Right. It’s different than building other systems, different than building applications or setting up networking.

It’s a different skill set. And so that also kind of created an opportunity for the chief Data Officer to emerge because they can truly have that Data skill set. Rather than starting with an engineering skill set and learning about data, as folks used to do in the past, well.

They effectively become the F one driver to a fantastic F one car team.


The engineers that build that car will never be able to drive it and get it to perform. So they have to have a specialist that’s like, this is your singular function is get the most value for the least expense and least risk out of these assets and allows them to shape the strategy for it. It’s kind of funny. If you think like 20 years ago, especially you’d hand somebody a business card, it would say VP of Data to be like, no, seriously, this is a joke, right? What does that even mean? This is not a real thing. How many people do you have on your team? You’re like, oh, I’m in charge of the data. We’ve come a long way in a seemingly short time, as far as the dawn of Earth, at least.

Yeah, you’re definitely right, Eric. And I love the Formula One driver analogy. I’ve been even surprised that they’re now product managers of data. Right. I was in product manager for a long time, and normally product managers are for features. You can be the product manager of this page or this flow. Well, data is so important and so integral to product works that we see a lot of customers where they have a product manager. Right. It is kind of coordinates and orchestrates and strategizes a lot of the things that they do in the data work.

It’s where we’re going. And I say, it’s where we’re going. It’s where it’s already going. And I think this is even any organization at least should have a sense of what their strategy is, whether they’re tactically moving towards it as different things. It’s kind of like sustainability. Every time somebody says to me, yeah, we’ve got a sustainability initiative, that’s fantastic. What have you done in the last twelve months to enact things towards this strategy? Like, oh, we’ve got a steering committee. Okay, perfect. But data is a very real thing. Not that sustainability isn’t. I shouldn’t pick on that, but it’s like people say they’ve got a data strategy. What have you done about it? And this is a place where you can find a great fit. All right. I am so happy. Thank you. So again, Elliot, if you want to give up, what’s the best way? If people want to find out more about Anomalo, obviously have links to the website and such. If they want to reach out to you and maybe dig in a little bit more on the platform itself, what’s the best way to do that?

Absolutely. So just go to anomalous.com it’s A-N-O-M-A-L-O. It’s kind of like anomaly, except with an O at the end instead of a why? Check it out. There are demos there. There’s documentation, there’s all kinds of resources on what the product can do, and feel free to contact us there if you want to try it. And, Eric, thank you. So much for having me. It’s really been a pleasure.

I got to say one quick thing too. For people that are about data, you got bloody good designers like your website is just very captivating. I really enjoy the user experience of the way you do your so for people that are living in data you’ve got a bloody good design mind on you.

Well, we’re big believers that you can’t get insights out of data unless it’s visualized in a really compelling way, right? That’s been something we’ve learned over the years and so yeah, we have great folks that are not just great designers but great visualizers of data that contribute their expertise to the product. So absolutely thank you.

If visualization didn’t matter, people would drink sushi smoothies. We don’t it’s even disturbing for a moment to think about it, but yet when given the right visualization fundamentally different and this is it. Well, Congratulations on all of the recent successes and on future successes that you and the team are going to experience. Elliott thanks very much.

Thank you so much, Eric thanks for having me.

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Scott Danner is the CEO of Freedom Street Partners and the author of Freedom Street. We discuss how to unlock potential in yourself and to define and create your path to freedom. What does freedom mean to you? We delve into mentoring, Scott’s personal story that led him to his current role, and much more. A must listen for sure!

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Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Hey, everybody, this is the DiscoPosse Podcast. My name is Eric Wright. I’m gonna be your host. And this is a conversation featuring Scott Daner. Scott is the author of Freedom Street. He’s also the CEO of Freedom Street Partners. They’re a fantastic financial services team, and we really explore a lot of the core of what people define as freedom and ultimately finding that personal path to whatever you need to define as your freedom, your future. So Scott’s a fantastic person to chat with, and we don’t go into his own history of what drew him to helping people unlock what it is they need to find their personal freedom. So it’s a fantastic story, and it was a great conversation. If you like this and other amazing conversations, of course you can head on over to youtube.com/discopossepodcast and you can see the video version of it as well. And this is made possible by the amazing folks like our friends over at Veeam Software. I got to give a shout out because if you’ve got data, if you’ve got applications, if you’ve got content, it needs to be protected. So everything you need for your data protection needs head on over to vee.am/discoposse. Check it out. They just had their really cool VeeamON conference, and they had a lot of really great announcements. This is stuff that you need. Look, ransomware is on the rise. We got craziness going on the world. Stop the craziness, get yourself protected with Veeam. So go to vee.am/discoposse and check it out. Speaking of startups and protection and growth, and what do you need to do? If you want to grow, if you want to think about what’s next, then you want to think about bringing on a sales team that has driven, that has culture first. And this episode is brought to you by the amazing folks over at the Shift Group who are turning athletes into sales professionals. So if you’re looking to hire driven and competitive former athletes, or how to architect a real successful go-to market strategy that can scale both efficiently and effectively, head on over to shiftgroup.io. They’ve got an incredible group of candidates, whether it’s entry-level all the way to leadership, and they’re going to help you build culture first sales organizations. So shout out to JR and the team at Shift Group, go to shiftgroup.io and see what they can do for you. With that also – oh, that’s right. You like coffee? Go to diabolicalcoffee.com. With that, here comes Scott.

Hi, everybody. I’m Scott Danner, author of Freedom Street and CEO of Freedom Street Partners. And I’m here on the DiscoPosse podcast today.

Fantastic. That’s like my I always say it’s my on air lights. The moment you hear that, it’s like you press the button and it’s on. So, Scott, thank you very much. This is a fun meeting of employment history. It’s a hilarious thing when I see folks that come up on my guest list. And I think, number one, you’re a great content creator, you’re a great presenter. And I’m excited on that side. But we actually share some background in companies we worked for, which is always a funny – it is a small world, after all, as they say. But for folks that are new to you, Scott, if you don’t mind, let’s do a quick intro. And obviously, we’re going to talk about the book and we’re going to talk about your own history and what brought you to bring that to the world. I’m already wishing it was longer than the time that we’ve got allotted because I’m looking forward to this.

I’m excited to be here. And as I said in the intro, I’m author of a book that just came out at the end of last year called Freedom Street, how I Learned to Create a Rich Life, live my Legacy, and Own the Future as a financial advisor. And I promise it’s way more interesting than most financial advisor stories because it brings in real life childhood, all kinds of stuff that I think makes it relatable to people in all facets of work. And number two, I’m the CEO of Freedom Street Partners, which is a financial advisory company. We clear through Raymond James, and that’s our mutual work history. And it’s a great company, a great entity. And we are in seven States. We have just under 50 advisors, and we manage about just under $3 billion in assets. So I’ve been doing the financial advisor thing for almost 20 plus years, actually over 20 years now. And it’s been really great to me. And what I love most about it is honestly finding the connections between people and helping them solve life’s biggest issues, solutions, problems, whatever it is that pops up. And like you mentioned earlier, it’s always nice to see that there’s usually one thing in common with just about every human out there. So being able to find that and start there is usually a really great spot. So I’m very grateful to be here and looking forward to the conversation as well.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to start off with a big question. And this is always the fun part. I’m going to put you on the spot early. Define freedom. This is one that we often really get stuck on. We use the word, but you’ve got such an experience and history in bringing it in various forms to people. So, Scott, when someone comes to you and they say I need freedom, what does it really mean?

Yeah. So we always say, what does freedom mean to you? Right? What does freedom really mean? And ultimately it starts with what lights you up. What makes you feel good, what makes you happy, what’s a perfect day for you. Where do you want to be, who’s surrounding you? What are the things that really drive you to add more of this in your life. And when you can start to find that you can actually build a life around freedom. I think freedom stands for a lot of things. And I’m always very grateful because I’m always amazed that I could come from very humble beginnings and build something so great and so wonderful with so many amazing people. And so much of that lies in the freedom to create the freedom to be an entrepreneur. I think freedom to me is doing what I love every day with the people that I love doing it with and always putting my family and our friends and our relationships first. So it’s such a big word and it has such a different dynamic to so many different people that I think freedom is individual. And it’s something that you define and hopefully you have the ability to get it.

It’s always interesting. So fellow who I was lucky enough to work with, ironically enough, through Raymond James, his name is Andrew Johns. He is actually currently with a company called Canaccord. He switched teams along the way, but Andrew himself was fantastic. And I remembered him putting a tweet out and it was like just a picture of him. And it was like the classic sort of like nerdy. It says $0 assets under management, zero weeks experience, first day as a financial adviser. And this was, however, many years later, he says, looking back on that, he’s like amazing to see this journey from humble roots to growing. And he had a very strong business and has continued to build a team as well. Which is always interesting in the ability of not just being individually successful, especially as an advisor. There are lots of fantastic individuals. But to also be ultimately a leader of a team to help support a client base and a community. And I think that’s the one thing that genuinely separates. And I don’t want to use the word successful or not successful. I’ll say prolifically successful in that they can scale the success of their clients. When there’s a different mindset that comes into play, you bring that mindset and you’ve developed a team to carry that vision. So it’s always that very just an amazing mix to me of like that entrepreneurial capability and then leveraging a machine behind it so that you don’t have to worry about the clearing house. Ultimately, you bring people towards their freedom and you have tools and techniques and products that help them get there. But it’s vision mapping and delivery on it. It’s quite amazing.

Yeah. Well, you hit on two really big points, I think. Number one, nobody hits success alone. You are successful for a multitude of reasons, and it’s usually an army behind you. And if you don’t realize that truly successful people are very quick to realize that. We have a mentality here at our company that we say we’re better together. We’re building something bigger than ourselves. These are internal cultural taglines that we use every single day. And the truth is, I cannot be anywhere near as successful as I’ve been able to become without the team behind me. And I think that’s the first big point that you’re making. And then you talk about the word partnership. I’ve always used partnership because anytime you’re meeting with a client, you’re creating a relationship to truly understand what freedom means to them. Anytime you’re in a friendship, a relationship of any kind, the goal is to help the person that you’re surrounding yourself with kind of live a better life, have a better experience, enjoy each other’s company. But if I don’t know a little bit more about you, I can’t ever actually have you want to know more about me. And so it’s kind of a mutual respect. But when you talk about prolific success, prolific success comes from actually understanding you did not do it alone. That is really important.

Humility is one of the strongest traits of great leaders. The ability to do stuff when no one is watching, and the humility to understand that you are powered by the adjacent humans that get you there. It is something. It’s funny. I always love the merger. People get like, you know, I work for 20 years across financial services firms in tech. But for me, my success, this came from deeply understanding the nature of the business and what made the business successful and what made their clients successful so that I could develop technology solutions that would then help that company deliver success to its customers. That’s my purpose. That’s my goal. And then in technology now I work for a technology vendor, and I got on the technology space and startups. We use this word. This is phrase all the time, and I was laughing at it. It’s the goal of everybody is to become the trusted advisor. And I say, you misuse that phrase all the time. It’s kind of like the Princess Bride. You keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what you think it means. Right. Like it’s an overplayed phrase.

But the truth is that it really is a genuine connection of their goals and their limitations and their comfort. There’s a reason why we have KYC. As a technology marketer, I have a KYC program that I run people through. What is your ability to be comfortable in this type of marketing and this type of sales situation? I have to understand the profile of investment in messaging and marketing and sales. It’s funny, and I learned this from literally working beside trusted advisors who are regulated to KYC and what that means. You already have this mindset, Scott, of being trusted. What drew you to this as a field in the beginning?

Yeah, a couple of things. Number one, trust is earned and authentic trust is about building relationships and developing that trust. Trust is something that builds over time and gets stronger and stronger and stronger as long as it’s not about the transactions. Trust built on transactions are weak, and they’re weakened every single time the person realizes it’s just about a transaction. And I think that I was blessed in the sense that I was working for the state attorney general here in Virginia, and I was assistant director of crime prevention. And my job literally was to travel around the state doing PR type events in crime prevention for the attorney general, especially in the places where he was less likely to go. And so I ran a lot of senior and law enforcement events where I would bring the law enforcement community in and teach retirees how to not be taken advantage of. Identity theft was fairly new at this time, and I was out there really teaching about what to be aware of, and I was educating all the time. But I saw a major gap in trust, in helping people in the financial areas. It seemed like the people that were being taken advantage of were people that didn’t have trusted advisors, didn’t have great family foundations.

I also have a really great backbone of a great family. In my book, I started out by talking about The Lion King and how Simba was held up and hung over the mountainside for the entire village to see. And when I was born in an Italian Catholic family to a Sicilian grandmother and five aunts and an uncle, I was a firstborn grandson. I had this feeling of great confidence and so many people behind me. One of my aunts, who I was extremely close with, I happened to call when the AG did not win the governor’s office, and I didn’t have a job. And I said, hey, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up and I need help, and I just can’t figure it out. And she said, I think you’d be really good at this job that I see these guys coming in and doing every day. She was working as an admin assistant in one of the offices at Edward Jones, where I had worked prior to founding Freedom Street. And she said, I feel like you’re young and you’d be great at this, and it falls right in with what your mission is of trying to help people.

And I remember fighting her a little bit on it. I put in an application. Two weeks later, I was hired, and I had to learn. And I started from the ground up almost exactly like the story you defined where the guy was standing there with zero assets under management. I had no family money. It was one of those things where I was knocking on doors in cold calling. But I was willing to work because I came from a very, very hard working family without a whole lot of extra, and I was willing to learn the story. The last part is I got lucky, Eric, because I came into the business at a time where it was very difficult in the early 2000’s, the 1999-’02 time frame, the majority of people that started, fail. Because not only were they failing because of September 11 and all the stuff that was happening in that first financial crisis, but ’08 and ’09 happened right at the meat and potatoes of when they would be actually finally getting going in their careers. And today we have more 80 year old financial advisers than we do 30 year olds in our industry.

And the reason is, most of them were so transaction based. The old school way of doing it was so transaction based that I learned within the first months of my career. If I don’t build a relationship with these people, nobody’s going to stay with me when times get tough. And when times get tough, that’s when trust elevates. That’s when you develop the next level of trust. And by being able to really have been an expert in something I didn’t even know I was an expert in, it was just really connecting with people and building something that had nothing to do with the business but had everything to do with the success of helping the other human across the desk from you. And so whether it was the early stages of the AG’s office or my aunt and the family confidence, or it just happened to be hard work and hustle of understanding, connecting with more people would get me there. It kind of led me in that path.

It’s one of the most interesting challenges because especially you talk about the timing of it. Right. Like between the financial crash, which was much more prominent in the United States, I happened to be in Canada while it was going on and working at a financial advisory firm and interestingly seeing things begin. I remember signing the deal and closing for a condo in Vancouver, BC, which was sort of known for the sort of disturbing prices of real estate because you’re surrounded by water and mountains. The only way you can, the prices go up and so do the properties. Right. Like they’re all condos. There’s a fixed amount of property. So it’s perfect market economics for the market, not for the people participating in it. But I signed in Halloween of ’08 and people said this is like we were losing a bank a week at that point. But I had luckily, the insight into the way the market was moving and being adjacent to seeing it happen because we knew, the news was figuring out that this was going on. But the financial world, we were already playing it out. It’s sort of the famous scene from the movie Margin Call where it was meant to be this idea of like, imagine. So what you’re telling me is that everybody’s moving around, we’re all dancing and the music is coming to a stop. And then the quant who’s at the table, he says “No, imagine that actually the music has already stopped”.


And we’ve just realized it. And so it was interesting that it could have been the worst thing I ever did. And it worked out to be good, that it was actually the trough of the pricing. But to see that the resilience of good relationship based advisors and relationship based selling in anything to survive those troughs is differentiating, right. Because it’s very easy to get in the game. And like I said, we can do transactional business. And that happens. There’s still a huge piece of that in every business. But the true relationship sellers I’ve learned now in technology, like it’s – you see them and they’re different. It’s like that kid that plays soccer and you’re like, it’s an eight year old kid, you’re like, that one’s different. You can tell. And then now, years later, I’m an older gentleman. I’ve witnessed it in action with folks like yourself or I’m like Scott’s different. He’s got a bigger picture in mind. But it seems like it’s been there for a long time. It started early with you. Now when you moved in and now you’re doing the business, what was your focus when you bring a client on board? What is the thing that said, I’m Scott, and this is my goal for you?

I think it was first connection. So the first thing I wanted to understand is really understand the human behind the money. Our tagline today is life wealth optimization. And we say constantly that life comes first and really prioritizing life all the time first. So it’s like going on a date and they start talking about all the things that have nothing to do with getting to know each other. You have to get to know each other. And that was always my objective, to connect with a human first. The next thing was to establish what was most important in life and help them attain it. Sometimes it’s actually helping them go back on things that they never thought were possible. I used to say that I’m a life coach that specializes in money and people would laugh. You really have two types of people, the people that immediately shut off. It was the perfect elevator pitch because people would immediately shut off if they don’t believe in that. If they’re straight, transaction driven or hyper analytical, they literally are lost in that first phrase. I’m a life coach that specializes in money. But the people that we really served well immediately go, wow, that’s interesting. What does that mean? And I would say, well, I obviously do investment management. It’s something that I have to do every day. The next thing I do is really scenario planning. If-this-then-that. If you do this, then what happens here? And it’s just true financial planning. And the third thing is vision coaching. And they would say, what’s vision coaching? And I would say, well, it’s really identifying what lights you up what are you going to do in your next chapter? What are we working towards? How do we actually measure success on a grander scale? It’s going back to the term freedom again, right? What is your freedom and how can we help you work towards that? And when you go into those types of conversations, it really changed the dynamic of everything. And that’s one of the main reasons that I wanted to put a book out. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to put all these ideas into the world was because I felt like there really still are not enough of those soccer players, as you define, which is a great analogy because I have a 12 and a 15 year old son who dedicate all their time to soccer, and we love the sport and you can tell the difference.

But I really felt like we needed to change the game. The game needed to go back to connection and humans and relationship driven advice. And it’s any business. And when you can get that vibe and that energy that goes with the right relationship and the right connection and someone actually caring about shaking your hand and looking you in the eye, not robotically doing it because they know they’re supposed to, you start to really tune in to who those people are, and they stand out immediately. And I love that analogy that you gave because it’s really everything we believe in.

The interesting thing as well is the idea of optimization as a word, both in technology, in finance, in life, and anything. Optimization is much more about the scale on which you measure optimization. So there’s local Optima where if I’m driving and I want to get there a little faster, I’m going to just kick it up and I’ll go 10 miles over the speed limit for a little while. Maybe I’ll go to 15. Right, because I don’t see any police around. But if it’s a seven hour drive and there’s only one stretch of highway that I can go 15 miles an hour over, that local Optima is actually risk inducing because you’ve got a higher chance of getting caught by police in this corridor because they know they’re using aerial radar or whatever. Right. So having the broader view and understanding the scale and the timeline allows you to optimize. And this is one of the things that people have trouble seeing because they’re simply thinking now, just the same way that I buying real estate in October. It’s a fundamentally bad idea by any measure of most people. Right. But when I looked at my optimization was a 20 year timeline, I said, this is either the bottom or near the bottom, and I’m willing and able, luckily, to maintain the risk level. It did net longer term benefit. But I had to view the timeline. And for me, most people can’t see that timeline. That’s why I loved your idea of life-wealth optimization. And it’s so much different because you can give them the broader view, but then help them map to it. So, Scott, when you meet somebody, what does that discovery process look like?

Well, I think the first thing that we try to do is we try to make sure that we’re understanding again the things that stand out. So the discovery process is going to be just like meeting for a cup of coffee. Who are you? Not what do you do? That always draws me bonkers. And I know you probably go to a ton of these things, Eric. We go to events and everyone the first thing they want to know is what do you do? And I want to know who you are first. I want to know what you stand for. I want to know more about you as a human. And so all the surface area questions that I don’t care about, I start going deeper and deeper. And a lot of times people walk out and they’re like, I haven’t talked about that ever with anybody. And that’s always been a goal. The goal is not to get people uncomfortable, but to balance the uncomfortable with the comfortable. What are the things that they’re going to think about when they walk away? You mentioned something super interesting to me, and that is – think about the long game. If you made all your decisions on a long-term basis, how much better would most of your decisions be? Even as a young teenager. I have teenage boys and the bottom line is we all were teenage boys or teenage girls at some point in time in our lives back in the old days. And as a teenage boy, I always thought pretty long. I made bad decisions, but I was always playing chess and not checkers. And so the objective is to really make long. You would have still bought that house in Vancouver if you were thinking as you did long-term. Now for the short-term, it was a really tough decision and you questioned it. But in the end, knowing that you were there for the long term. Every time I make decisions, every time we help people make decisions based on a longer time frame, they tend to come out ahead. I always do this drill and I love this when I do town halls. I started doing town halls when I was early in my career because I found that the same phone calls, the same questions would pop up over and over and over again.

And there were two things that really helped people. Number one, knowing that they weren’t in it alone. So knowing that other people had the same questions as that made them not feel stupid for asking the question. And it also helped us answer it once and not a thousand times the same way. And the second thing was, everybody needs when you’re playing a long game, everybody needs a little love. You need a little bit of understanding that it’s still a long game and it’s going to work out and things will be better if we just are all in this together and we talk through it. And I started doing these town halls and I like to play this game where I will ask, any time things get a little bumpy, I ask people in the room how many people have been married for more than 25 years? And then I go all the way up and believe it or not, we often get to just this past week, I did one and we got to 60 years. Okay. They were married for 60 years. And sometimes it’s more than that. Okay. They got married super young, highly successful.

Here’s the point. I ask all those couples how many days were rough? And they all laugh and they say, tons. And I say, how many weeks or months? And they laugh and they say tons. And I say, some of the time they’ll interrupt. They’ll say they were actually very bad years, tough years. And I say, but you’ve been married 60, 65 years. When you look back, what was the long game worth? And they said, well, all those bumps in the road just helped us build a stronger relationship. They helped us build more trust in each other. They helped us serve as a beacon to the next generation of what relationships and long-term success really looks like. And it’s commitment and loyalty and understanding that there’s bumps in the road. And I think understanding that in the process, your question was process driven and what someone goes through. But understanding what we’re really looking for, I think is even more of an interesting part of that process because we’re looking for people that really understand that. They’re working towards that level of freedom. But they’re understanding that bumps in the road, a short real estate blip in the market usually ends up playing to your advantage if you stay long enough. Vancouver is a hot market. Mountains and water, you can’t go wrong with that.

Yeah. And that is always the interesting thing that I’m not sure whether it’s like going through adversity as a kid and watching my dad go through a difficult – he was in the tech market. In the tech job market when there was no such thing. Right. This was when comdex was new. Like that’s the age that he’s at. Right. So here I was watching him through the 80’s lose a job, which meant months of no work and newspaper ads to apply for jobs. So fundamentally different. So I have this really interesting challenge when I see stuff these days that exposure to adversity and an understanding of the longer game and that there’s Optima over time are played out differently. And so I kind of feel blessed that I got that exposure to that experience because it taught me down the road and I’m so lucky. My wife is a great example, she says, I had a financial surprise which my taxes got re-assessed. And they’re like, oh, yeah, it’s like Monopoly. It’s a banker in your favor. It’s never in your favor. It was very much not in my favor. This situation. I was horrified. I was just like, this was a real shock to the system was going to be a financial impact.

And I was worried to bring it down. My God, how do I say this? And I said, this is what happened. And I’m not sure what to do. And she says, well, it’s easy. We just pay it and we work through it. Because she had that ability to see long term, and there are difficult times. And versus you could focus all your attention on that situation. And so living through cycles of market, cycles of jobs, cycles of exposure to adversity for me was healthy. I always say I’m jaded, but the truth is I’m blessed because I’ve come out the other side of it. When you’re in that town hall, those are people that kind of get they’re closer to getting what you’re bringing to them and what you can give, what you can help them to achieve. Let’s talk about the people that are not in that room. What do you see as the risk when people don’t have that insight? How do we give them? Like, how do you put Freedom Street on their map?

Yeah, well, I think, first of all, we have to always have a growth mindset. And so if I’m trying to educate myself and grow myself in any capacity, I’m always learning. And so putting out information that was putting out Freedom Street as a book was part of that mentality, launching all the videos that we do on positive mindset. I think everything starts with mindset for the most part. For me, mindset is everything. I have one of my son’s high school soccer teammates. He had a little injury, and he’s been texting and keeping up with me. And I’m literally like, hey, keep your head up. Just keep doing what you’re supposed to do. Everything’s mindset. Because the minute he gets down on himself is the minute that it starts to change, it starts to feel heavier and feels like you can’t do it. It’s building those good habits to make discipline easier versus because, you know, discipline equals freedom. We all know that. But discipline is a hard word, but habit is an easier word. So we help them establish the habits that end up building the discipline that help them look in the long term.

And I think the insight that really helps people is just starting with that growth mindset. Starting with putting stuff in their brain that helps them think bigger. I also always believe we should always reset the environment that we’re in and look at who you surround yourself with. Eric, you have great conversations, 200 plus of these great conversations. Just think of all the things you’ve learned from talking to a boring financial advisor or a CPA or some of the jobs that other people don’t realize the depth of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it because they shut off because they have one mindset of what that looks like. And the reality is, for 20 plus years I’ve been sitting across from people in an office learning stories, hearing challenges, understanding business fails and business wins, helping guide people towards their biggest successes and being there when they’re not so successful. And the reality is it’s like sitting in and learning and learning and listening. It’s just helping. Developing that in other people and then sharing it with the world so that more people can think in the way that gets them there. And having an abundant mindset doesn’t hurt.

Not thinking in a scarcity mindset is very valuable and it’s something that probably is one of the biggest indicators of success is are they able to shift from there’s only so much of this to there’s so much of this that I need to share it with the world and the world will give it back to me. The universe is there to share amongst each other and build something bigger than ourselves.

Yeah, it is interesting that you say that like the mindset and the I’m selfishly doing this podcast is because I love learning from people and people. I had chat with a friend of mine recently and I said everything I do is to make my grandmother proud. She’s long since passed, but she always said I was a shoe repair man and then I was a landscaper and then I worked in retail and everything I did, she was proud of me because I was proud of it and I wanted to be the best at it, whatever it was. And my ethos has always been whatever I’m doing right now, whatever I’m learning. What if I needed to make a living and support my family doing this thing? That’s how much I want to learn about it. And like you said, I look now, I started this as like a tech podcast. I’m going to talk to my nerd friends because I know how to speak that language and I’m excited by it. But I wanted the story underneath it. And then now to speak with amazing folks like yourself and people who are CPA. I’ve had folks who are sex and relationship therapist way outside of the vein of this text.

But in the end, to hear people react to those stories and say that I would have never known that I needed to listen to this person, but they’re fantastic now that I’ve heard it. Like I said, that’s Freedom Street as a mindset in showing people the opportunity ahead and mapping the path with them. It’s important. Partner. We mention that word before and you talked about the strength of that word. Partnership has been early on for you, obviously in your advisory team. Partnership is incredibly important because it is a journey you map together, not you don’t create a journey and then you hand it, here’s your playbook, do these things and you’ll get there.

That’s right.

Let’s talk about what does partnership mean to you?

I think a lot of what we mentioned when we said the relationship really correlates to partnership, because partnership is sometimes a closer relationship. It’s even more dynamic. And I have partners in the business that we work with. I have partners every day. We also everyday in our affiliate businesses and our other components. And it’s really interesting because when you mentioned the word freedom street, when I wrote this book and I came up with some of the pathways to kind of having a better partnership, not just with the people in your life, but with yourself. That’s something that doesn’t often get explored. We often look at how we’re doing in the world to other people. We spend very little time internal. And the average age of a financial advisor in my industry is 62 years old. Successful financial advisor. I mean, not someone who just came into the industry and is successful because they’re not fired, but somebody that genuinely is making a pretty good living in this industry. The average age is 60 something years old, and it fluctuates 58, 64 depending on what article you read. But let’s just use 62. Here’s what I found.

So many advisers had helped everybody else with their continuity plans. How were they going to step out of the industry? How are they going to sell their business? How are they – they hadn’t done it for themselves. Almost 70 plus percent of independent advisers had never had a continuity plan or a succession plan. And so one of the reasons I put this book out there that triggered us to put it out there was a partnership with the community of which I work in. And financial advisors are somebody that are just like attorneys and doctors and all the other professions, tech professionals, they build this baby of a business, but they never think about what happens when it’s time to move on. The tech world does a really good job of this. I mean, maybe they do it too early. Sometimes they go in and they basically build it, sell it, build it, sell it, build it, sell it. And in our world, it’s the opposite. And what I found was the reason the sub line is to create a rich life, live my legacy, and own the future was three things.

I found that, number one, living a rich life had nothing to do with money. And it was really important to help people define what living richly really meant to them. That’s part of the process. Whether you’re selling a business, whether you’re in the tech industry, it’s not just about a number, okay? Because every time you get a number, if you’re a tech industry professional and you have a start up and 10 million is your number. I can guarantee you that the minute you hit 10 million, you say 20 is now your number. And the minute you hit 20, you’re like 50. If I can get to 20, I can get to 50 and the numbers change. But what are you doing to live richly? Making an impact, living a legacy versus waiting to leave one really important to me. I talk a lot about the daily habit of impact. What are we doing every day that’s leaving an impact, an imprint on the world that my kids and my family can look back and say, hey, dad did this. Dad was working on this. Dad was always trying to, hey, he didn’t have any time the other day, but he spent 45 minutes on with the local board trying to help them revamp so they can provide something in the community.

And I want to have that as something that’s important because here’s what we find. People that are too tied to their businesses, their legacy is all tied to their business. And so selling the business is almost something they can never fathom, because everything their impact relies upon is in the business, not outside of it. And once you can live richly and you kind of get into that, living a legacy versus leaving one, you own your future now. You could set the core, you could set the course, you could set the blueprint. But if you haven’t established those couple of things and what you’re doing to your question is you’re partnering with yourself. You’re actually identifying what makes you click. What am I doing that’s working? What defines my future path of success? Who’s with me, and how can I go ahead and dive deep into this path so I’m set up for success in the future.

It is interesting that partnership begins with being your own partner. And I often think of this idea of, like, goals versus execution. The latest topic that I’ve got a lot of because I say it’s almost rolling my eyes I shouldn’t because I genuinely believe in what it is. What I don’t believe in is people that set these sort of big, hairy, audacious goals. There’s nothing wrong with setting the BHAG, as they call it, right? But sustainability is a big topic in life, in the energy sector, in tech and everything. We should be concerned about the impact we’re having on the world, on the Earth, on our communities, on each other. And everybody says, like, all these press releases come out, that company X has developed their sustainability plan to hit a target by 2030. And we joined the 2030 project, and we do all this stuff. I remember that in 2025, LA was going to have no gas powered vehicles on the roads. 2025 not far away but we’ve kindly hidden that press release, right? So when people say they’ve got sustainability goals, when I get into discussion with them, I don’t say, what’s your sustainability goal?

I say, what have you tactically done over the previous twelve months towards this goal? Let’s not talk about what’s ahead, but what have you already started so we can amplify that. Like, this is you partnering with your goal and then executing on it. And as you said, right. It’s small things. It’s habits that we create. And it’s very easy for us to just say like, yeah, I want to make a million dollars a year. Fantastic. What does that mean to you? Why is that a number? There’s always one thing. But secondly, what’s your habit forming path to reach that? And that’s the piece that’s always missing. I mean, I struggle from it myself, but that’s why I’m excited. I’m emotional hearing you describe this text. I’m like, I’m going to leave this conversation. I’m going to write stuff down and do things. I’ve got to exercise. I’ve got to call my wife. I got to do it. Everything I do is to that long term habit creating opportunity to reach that goal.

Yes. When you talk about making a million dollars. I just did a video on this yesterday, literally on the exact topic. And I used that example. I was like, okay, so you want to make a million Bucks? Can you quantify how you’re going to get there? Can you actually lay out the path? Most people say things like this and they never actually believe that they’ll attain it. They actually say things like this, and they never formulate the real vision. They immediately switch off in their brain that it’s possible. That’s the first problem that people do. Right. We do this on lots of things. I mean, we all do this. Sometimes you go into a new room and you think, I’m the smallest guy here. I don’t know anything. And then everyone starts sharing ideas and you jump right in and you’re like, wow, this is great. I belong here. But you had to remind yourself you belong there. And I think everybody every level, I’m sure Bezos and Elon Musk go into an occasional room and they’re like, man, this is a big room. I don’t know how big the room can be, but there are definitely things.

But charting the path of what you can control is really the next thing. So get your mindset right. But then what are the things you can control today? What is the word? Practice is a word that I love. I have a twelve, almost 13 year old son. And the kid practice every day, right? And he executes upon something in a game. And people are like, oh, my gosh, how does he do that? I can’t believe he just did that. And I go, I mean, he does it in the backyard literally every day. Like, the guy tries this every single day. And we kind of lose the habit of practicing the older we get. We forget that if we want to get to a million dollars, we have to practice million dollar habits. What does that look like?

This is one of my favorite, sort of like a bit of a time waster every once in a while, I’m sure is I scroll through Instagram for fun and just a bit of a distraction. And one of my favorite things is sort of like motivational things, because once you click on one of them, it’s all over. That’s going to be your feed, which is actually probably pretty decent, but I don’t know who the voice is behind it, but there’s an audio and people put just videos in front of it. They reuse the audio. And so fella, it’s almost like a preacher. Practice, practice, practice. What does practice make? And you hear the audience go, perfect. He goes, Absolutely not. Get that mindset out of your head. That is not the case. Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes better. What are you better than yesterday? Do it, right. And that whole idea. And I say even the simplest thing, I always joke on camera. It’s like just like goofy little things that I do because I’m a big fan of card magic. And so I sit there every day and I just fan cards and I look back and the first time that I tried to fan a card set and people look and they say, how do you do that? If I hand them this deck of cards, it’s the same physical set of cards. The difference between me being able to do this now is that I’ve done it 25,000 times. And I literally can’t do it bad now. I say it’s like I’m broken. I cannot show you how to not fan a deck of cards because I’ve taught myself the habit and the muscle memory. So this is the new every day it gets smoother, it gets better, and I can do it quickly. And it’s hard sometimes to impart that wisdom and create that path for people. Because when you have money, when you have career success, when you have whatever, this is what I’m always interested. How do you give people that inspiration and guide them through that journey when you’ve already practiced it so much. You may not remember how hard it is difficult at times and such, because that’s it. It’s very easy to say, like, I’m going to make a million dollars this year. And people like, that’s fantastic. But helping them reliving that path to a million with them. I love this idea. So, Scott, how do you teach when you already know but teach in a way that they can adapt and learn?

Yeah, you said it earlier. You’re very grateful that you had adversity because adversity taught you that you could do harder things. You could actually overcome challenges, and then you happen to marry the right person who, when something adverse pops up, you do it together. So now you’re seeing another skill that’s extremely important. And that is being surrounded by people that make you better, that lift you up. There’s some fundamental things that never change. No matter how great you are, no matter how big you become, if you’re surrounded by the right people and you understand that on the other end of adversity is often success. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes fortunate and sometimes unfortunate. So I had this conversation. We have a Sunday night dinner at my parents every Sunday with our whole family. And it’s a wonderful time. And we were talking about the challenge of how children and young adults struggle with anxiety and adversity. They almost get to doing hard things and stop and pull back now. And what they’re not realizing is that on the other side of that uncomfortable feeling is really good stuff. But you have to actually feel the uncomfortable feeling.

You have to change your mindset. My boys, every time they have a soccer game from the time they were two years old, I would ask them if they were nervous, and they would say a little bit. And I was like, you’re not nervous. You’re excited. Remember, you want to change the words to match what it’s truthfully doing to you. Can you wait to play? No, I can’t wait to play. Do you love playing? I love playing. Then you’re excited. You’re not nervous. See, when you tell yourself you’re nervous about something, you’re giving yourself a negative connotation to something that doesn’t need to exist in your brain. And so when you talk about adversity, the first thing I do is remind people that you want to do something that’s not easy. And that means that it’s going to take work. And work is sometimes really uncomfortable. It hurts. You’re going to fail. Get used to it. If you take a basketball and you take 25 shots and you haven’t shot a basketball before, you are not good. But the more you fan your cards, the more you recognize and level up each time. And I think, honestly, this is where authentic advice comes in.

Being in a good relationship, relationship advising relationship, good quality relationships in general require truth. Trust requires truth. So you also have to be willing to tell somebody when they’re lying to themselves, because that also is something that’s difficult. And we also live in a world sometimes now where people are really afraid to say truth. We don’t want to say that. We want to blame the spoon for eating the ice cream, not ourselves. Right? It’s the Spoon’s fault. It’s the box. It’s so big. They didn’t put it in a big box. Like, there’s always a reason why it’s someone else’s fault. But if you look in the mirror, you’re bringing the spoon to your lips every single time in that really big container. And you know how good it is. And it’s okay. It’s your choice. But the reality is just know that if you want big things, if you want to build the next big, great tech company or you’re building a great financial advisory business or you want to be the best CPA. It’s going to take a lot of uncomfortable adversity and you work through it. And on the other side of that work is usually some level of high performing success.

It is amazing that truth. And that being with them while they’re going through the journey and giving them the little nudge that like, hey, I saw you yesterday or I saw you last week and I can tell it’s coming together. They can’t necessarily see it. Right. It’s often lost in that thing. And like those incremental changes are not visible when you’re the one incrementing. But the honesty and the partnership of going through that with them lets you be on that journey instead. Remember two years ago you said this was your goal. We’re two years in and you’re 20% there, and that’s 20% more than you would have been if you hadn’t mapped out the goal and started the plan and then introducing adversity. That’s why I’ve never been a fan of the sort of the helicopter like, I mean, I’m a helicopter parent. I have four kids. Certain amount of helicopter. You do you’d want to protect them from things, but I also purposefully don’t protect them from everything. You don’t want them to experience real negativity, but you want to expose them to it a little here and there. So that almost like an immunity response that they know how to get on the other side of it.

And you could say, remember like that. Remember how that felt? That was tough. You don’t want to feel that again. Right? We want to try this BMX trick, this snowboard trick. My oldest daughter is a Championship snowboarder for slope style, and it scares me every time I see her doing a backflip off of a 40 foot ramp. I’m like, but what I gave her early on was taking her through a tree run when she was five on skis and having her bounce off a tree. But it gave her the ability to say that I’m willing to test the edges. And I think that’s a real big thing. Scott, you talk about this. So when people go and they want to find Freedom Street, their Freedom Street, what’s your sort of first layer advice you give?

I think the first is we have to ask the question and the questions all lie in what does freedom mean to them? And you start there and a lot of times it’s too big for people and I’m a big picture person and so I’ve got to work it down. So we talk about what’s the perfect day for you? What are you doing? Where are you at? All those types of things are important. But really the recipe is in the book and that’s living richly, living a legacy and then owning the future. And what does that future look like? If we’re going to live long term and we’re going to think long term and we want to have success, it’s not immediate. Anything given immediately is usually something we don’t appreciate. We have no idea where it really came from. It’s why most lottery winners are broke within a couple of years or months because they have no concept of what it took to get that amount of money. So it’s just easy come, easy go. It’s way better to create something of substance. And I think really identifying it when we identified I mentioned earlier, 20 plus years of being a financial adviser.

You know what I’ve been my entire life as I’ve been a coach, I’ve been a consultant. And the reality is I’ve done this for a living, working over and over and over again in this space. But it’s something I feel very comfortable in, something I love doing. Watching the impact Watching your success makes me as happy as watching my own level of success. And when you learn that about yourself, you’re really able to give a lot more of yourself in those types of things. And that’s what Freedom Street was about for me. It was about giving people the recipes to really create each part of this book of creating a rich life on the road to riches, tell stories of things that I failed at. Moments where I thought I was going to get a promotion, and it was the most important thing in my life, and I didn’t get it. And my wife has two glasses of champagne and a bottle waiting for me that evening to celebrate. And I didn’t understand what we were celebrating. But again, surrounding yourself with the right people, having the right dynamic, knowing the path you’re working towards all made that a better situation.

And a learned experience helped me two years later, define the next path, which has been great for lots of other people who have now followed us and built something bigger. And that’s why we created the coaching and consulting practice was to help business owners in any industry really go through these challenges because life is full of transitions. So Freedom Street is really helping to navigate those transitions with ease because you define the most important attributes of what you’re living for.

I’m getting excited because I think I said at the beginning it’s to be able to learn and hear and get inspired by it. And knowing that there are people out there that we can impact through these conversations, people sometimes ask me, like, what do you consider your greatest success? And I say, it’s the success I’ve created for somebody else through a lesson that I’ve given them. So the greatest thing I can do is help somebody achieve the greatest thing they will do. And it’s such a fantastic feeling, and I can see it and hear it. Your background is quickly before we finish up, because if you don’t mind, they’ll just stretch a couple more minutes on this one, because your entry into advisory and financial advisory and this side of the world was via crime prevention, which is very interesting, but your choice in how you targeted it was really about empowerment in community, empowerment in things. And so you went that route. It really genuinely seems to me, Scott, that from very early on, you had that. What can I personally do to empower my community to be better? So how do you go from crime prevention as a practice to where we are today?

I think it really ties with self awareness, understanding what you’re great at, what you’re good at, and what you’re not so good at. And I’ve always had a tendency to lean heavily in what I’m very good at and great at and surround myself with people that are better than me at all the ancillary things, just like we talked about in the beginning. I am the person at Freedom Street that you want to bring in, to talk big picture, to dive into the weeds on your vision, to break down the challenges, you know, to look at, okay, here’s where we want to go and here’s how we’re going to get there, and we can chart it all out. When we get into some of the analytics, I bring in the experts and I have an input, and I’m a part of all those decisions, but I get to have experts that are better at it than me. And I think what I really wanted was I wanted to build towards strengths. I wanted to create a company and a culture that was built around people that were great at their space and putting them in the space that they love doing.

So when someone comes on, I’ve hired so many people that we’re looking for X job, and we find the right human, but the right human doesn’t fit the exact job we were looking at. So I’ll change the job. I’ll change what we’re going to be utilizing this human for if it’s the right person for the culture fit. And we’ve really done that. It’s interesting, to your point just a second ago, when you talk about making an impact. I have been doing these videos on YouTube, and we just launched a new channel. But ultimately I’ve been doing these videos on Facebook and LinkedIn and all these different, different facets and putting things out. And the person that started helping me is a phenomenal PR person. She’s really great with video. And she used to come to me and say, are you getting the ROI you need? She was trying to quantify every single thing. We talked about it yesterday, and I kept saying, no, it’s a long game. I’m not here to make money on this today. I’m here to get better at doing it. I’m here to provide more impact. And you know what I love more than anything? Is I love getting the feedback and the loop back that this conversation gave someone the ability to think bigger.

It gave someone the tools. In the book, at the end of every chapter, I literally have a set of questions that evaluate, do you see yourself as this person or that person? Do you see yourself doing these types of things? What can you practice every day? What gets you to that millionaire mindset? Whatever it may be, it’s about that process. And I think to directly answer your question, after spending almost 15 years at a great company where I was growing and learning, I found out that I was in a box, and I needed to break out of the box and do my own thing. And the reality is that’s where Freedom Street partners came from. I told everyone we were a tech startup. So it’s funny because the connectivity between what your startup is and what we were, and that’s who we were. We started with nothing. We built up this business. We have offices in seven states today, and we’ve developed a path where we’re building something bigger than ourselves.

And it was the vision from the beginning. We had a vivid vision. Cameron Harold wrote a great book called Vivid vision, and I’m in a couple of groups with Cameron. He’s a phenomenal person to talk to. But we created a vivid vision in the first three years, and we knocked everything out of the park, and we did so because we kept putting the right puzzle pieces of human capital in the right spots. And all those people are better at the area they’re serving in than I am. And again, it’s that teamwork mentality that bigger and better together mentality that really helps people understand. But it’s about the impact and part of there’s a deeper thing, and we don’t have time to go into the depths of it. I know, but here’s what I could tell you that I find really interesting. In the beginning of a journey, a lot of times you start out, maybe scarcity leads you to abundance. Maybe my fear of losing it all because I didn’t come from anything in the beginning kept me from spending any money. So that when the bad years came, I was always in a better position. And then when my abundant mindset kicked in, I happened to be in the right position. The same thing goes for failure and affirmation. I think what I found is, I found a lot more comfortability helping other people be the greatest version of themselves early in life because I was trying to find my own way.

I was trying to figure out how to get myself where I needed to be. And what I learned is I just needed to continue to learn from other people. And all that coaching and learning and teaching was actually bringing leveling me up every single time. So I very rarely turn down conversations like this because I learned just as much from you as hopefully you’ll learn from me. And each day we get better and better at this. Right. And so my mindset of just this open learning, open mindset, really learning from the things that I might not have been great at very early in my career are the things I want to be best at at the next chapter.

That’s amazing, yeah, great. And vivid vision, fantastic. Cameron is a great writer. I seem to remember he was in BC as well, another Vancouver. There was some presence he might be Canadian. I’ve read so many bloody books these days, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, but I do. There’s a fantastic, fantastic book. Cameron seems like a really great human. And Scott, you are, you are doing great things. And as I say, the greatest mentor has a great mentor. And it’s an important lesson that people don’t. They forget. They think that once you are reaching a certain level that you are now at the top of the chain, like, no, you are looking – you get there by your peer group and you get there by your mentors. And it continues up. Even therapists have therapists. That’s how it has to go. Because if you stop receiving knowledge, it’s really not fair in my mind for you to give it out.

Yes. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, right?

Yeah. And they sound like witticisms that you would put on an Instagram post or something. But when you see it in practice and you hear about the people that are being successful at helping people be successful, I’m turned on by that. That’s my thing. If you came to me and said, what’s the thing that makes you wake up and get this? It’s like I’m on this microphone for an hour a week, an hour and 20 minutes a week, and it’s the greatest moment. It just lights my week up because I learn something and I try to put it in practice. And then I share it and it’s so great. Scott, your passion for this is palpable. It’s obvious, and it’s earned. And the success you get from it is deserved. So I’m going to tell people, get the book, get involved, learn. So thank you for spending the time today. So, Scott, if people do want to get a hold of you and of course, we’ll have links to the book and to your team at Freedom Street Partners. So what’s the best way they can get in touch?

The easiest thing to do is, ScottDanner.com, and you can kind of see all the links there. I really encourage people. What I’m extremely passionate about is this YouTube channel we’re building, and it’s just in the infancy stages. But the reality is it’s all about hitting the next algorithms. And I think putting more positive information out there to people is really something that we don’t have enough of. There’s too much of the algorithm that’s putting negativity into our feed on purpose. I’m a Duke basketball fan and taking the loss to UNC last weekend was challenging. You would be amazed at every single UNC fan I’ve ever known in my entire life was in my feed. It’s like they knew how to make me feel miserable and I want the opposite. I want to create stuff that helps people feel great. I want them to look at something that we’re doing and see that we believe in them, that I believe in them that your conversations are there to help people be the best version of themselves. ScottDanner.com the books on all major things. My wife ordered it from target and it was delivered to the house.

Amazon.com audible, we just love for you to get the message out and don’t be turned off that it says financial adviser. I think what you’ll find is that the story is something that was written for anybody and I think that’s the value takeaway. I hope it’s something everybody finds good information and reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you.

That’s amazing. There you go, Scott Danner, thank you. Absolutely. This has been a real pleasure and everybody needs a little bit more Scott Danner in their life feed I can tell you that.

Eric, thanks for having me, man. Such a great conversation.

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Dr. Andrew White is an experienced programme director, teacher and researcher at the Said Business School at Oxford. Andrew’s areas of expertise include innovation management and leadership development. Andrew is a Senior Fellow in Management Practice, and was previously the Associate Dean of External Relations (2020-2021) and Associate Dean for Executive Education and Corporate Relations (2010-2020) at Saïd Business School.

This was very enjoyable discussion that covers a lot more than just leadership and modernizing business education. Andrew was an absolute pleasure to chat with and shares lots of insights into the leaders of today and research he and his team are coming out with soon.

Thank you for a great discussion, Andrew!

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome everybody to the podcast. My name is Eric Wright and gonna be your host. This is the DiscoPosse Podcast with the one and only Andrew White. Dr. Andrew White is a senior fellow in management practice at the Saïd Business School at Oxford. This was a really enjoyable discussion where we talk about traits of leadership, really the transition from what we often talked about as traditional leadership, the Silicon Valley culture, start up culture in general, and what we can do. We also talk a lot about sustainability, the impact that we can have both personally and organizationally on each other, on the world, literally on the Earth. We cover a lot of very exciting stuff. Super excited because Dr. Andrew and his team are doing a lot of work and research, so we’re going to have him back to talk about what’s going on there. But anyways, I don’t want to pre-podast the podcast because it’s literally just so much fun to listen to. And speaking of making this stuff happen and our impact, I am super happy because I’ve got great supporters who are impacting you and I’m hearing the good news. So I want to give a shout out to the folks over at Veeam who make this podcast happen.

If you want to head and find out what you need for your data protection needs and how Veeam can help you, go to vee.am/discoposse. They got you covered from cloud to on-premises, physical servers, application, SaaS, the whole gamut. So go out there, get it done, protect your assets, go to vee.am/discoposse and find out more. Speaking of also amazing supporters, holy heck, you’re building a start up. You want to build a sales culture that actually can be impactful, then do it with the Shift Group. So we are proud to be sponsored by the Shift Group. They’re turning elite athletes into sales professionals with training and also helping you with your go-to market strategy. So JR and the team at Shift Group are doing amazing stuff, really connecting fantastic people with fantastic opportunities. So if you’ve got an opportunity, you want to fill your boots and get your sales machine rolling, do it with great people. So go to shiftgroup.io, find out more about that and also go back and check out, I had a great podcast with JR talking about what he and the team are doing. All right, this is Dr. Andrew White from Oxford and he’s a fantastic human. Enjoy the show.

Hello, my name is Dr. Andrew White. I’m a senior fellow in management practice at Saïd Business School at the university of Oxford. I’m delighted to be here today with Eric Wright, host of the DiscoPosse Podcast. Great to be with you.

Fantastic. Thank you, Dr. White. One of those beautiful occasions where when I see a guest opportunity come up and your practices, your studies and your research are in real alignment with a lot of the work that I’ve been exploring. So I am selfishly going to take a ton of lessons out of our discussion today as well. Luckily, a lot of folks who do listen. So thank you for joining. If folks are brand new to you, Andrew, if you don’t mind, give a quick sort of bio on your background, and we’ll talk about some of the research that you’re working on and really what folks can take away as we think of the future of transformative leadership, which is becoming something we really had to be keenly aware of.

Yes, thank you. And thank you for the opportunity to be here as well. So a little bit about me. I started life as an academic. I did a doctorate in innovation management, really looking at where ideas came from for successful businesses. That was about 20 years ago. I then started my academic career, and very quickly I moved into leadership roles. The biggest of those was I was associate Dean for executive education in the business school I’m currently in at Saïd Business School at the university of Oxford for ten years. And in my capacity there, we worked with thousands of leaders around the world. Every year we launched a big digital platform, but now it’s about 25,000 people training with us or going through leadership programs. And I got to know what was really going on. I didn’t have time to teach. I didn’t have time to research. I sponsored a research project where we interviewed 150 CEOs back in 2015-2016. But then after doing that job for ten years, with all the complexities of running a PNL and the HR stuff and the global business development, I really wanted to get back to teaching and research because I felt there was an agenda I wanted to pursue.

And that agenda, if I put it in simple terms, is what the leaders need to be doing today. What do they need to be addressing? How do they need to be leading? With a particular focus on that, I think the time we’re living in is critical. Between now and 2050, much of the science suggests that we’re either going to be in an existential crisis due to the climate challenge or we’re going to have solved it. And I think when you look back at humanity, we’ve got the creative ability, the entrepreneurial ability to have sold it. So I really wanted to know who are the leaders that are transforming businesses, starting businesses that are really having an impact on what the future looks like for humanity? And what does it mean to be a successful leader today in terms of shareholder returns, in terms of profitable growth? But also, as we both know, more is being asked of leaders. And businesses don’t exist in isolation just with their own competitors. They’re actually part of a group of stakeholders that have or they have a stakeholder base that requires them to think about the impact they have on the world.

So that’s what I’ve done. I’m a host of the Leadership 2050 podcast. I have a Leadership 2050 newsletter on LinkedIn which really focuses on these things. And I’ve begun the research that I wanted to focus on by looking at transformation. And I’m in the midst of a major global study on that at the moment.

Fantastic. Now this is going the interesting thing. I think it was the dichotomy of leadership in that you have both a fiduciary responsibility as well as a very human responsibility in leading people through change. But with the shareholder responsibility to bring growth and returns to the investors and ultimately the responsibility of the business, it is really an interesting challenge where we often see folks that are fantastic on one and struggle on the other, and often why there’s a leadership team. So you have more sort of the COO who will be the driving the functional business growth, and then the CEO is more the vision and leadership. But we’ve always here, or at least because social media brings the noisiest voices forward. We hear about the moment someone is a very strong leader. We immediately try to sort of find something wrong with them in that they’re so disconnected from the average worker within the organization. For me, I look at it with a sadness because we need leaders to be doing something almost like sports years. You never want to meet your sports here because they’re probably not good people to get along with. They have this drive and this different thing that lets them be great at what they do. So when you look at transformational leaders as well, really, what do you see as sort of traits and how we’re viewing those personalities?

I think you’ve got two things going on currently in business. I think on the one hand, you’re right. The world has a challenge in terms of what I would say is the disconnection fixing large companies between the salaries of those people at the top and the salaries at the bottom. And I think that adds to what you were talking about, that sense that they’re not us and they’re different and they live in a different world. And there’s no doubt that that phenomenon is out there. But like many things in the world, I don’t think it’s one or the other, and I don’t think it’s black or white in that sense. What I see is a cadre of leaders who are really, and this is the ones I focus and I study, who are really understanding what it means to put humanity back at the heart of leadership. And I mean that in a number of different ways. Firstly, they understand their role is about fiduciary duty to shareholders and profitable growth and all of these things. But they also know that what they do and the footprint they have and the impact they have is far greater than that.

And I’ll give you a couple of examples. One is a company which I recently profiled called Pave Gen, which is a fantastic company. Full disclosure, I’m an investor in it as well, but they created paving slabs, indoor and outdoor flooring that when you step on it, generates electricity. So in the same way you have solar on the top of a building, and that plugs into the building’s electricity infrastructure. If you’ve got buildings like hospitals or shopping malls where there’s high footfall, they’re even doing it in concerts. I think every time a person takes a step, electricity is generated. Now that has huge potential for shareholder growth, huge potential for profitable growth and all of those things. But actually, if that company does well, it’s harnessing a source of electricity, which is our footsteps, which at the moment is just going to waste. So to me, that’s a great example. And the leaders there have got a real sense of how do you bring people on a journey? There’s something about society and how do you bring people with you on a journey. There’s something about the way they’re leading. The research we’ve done on transformation, that the phrase we’re using is about putting the humans at the center.

And what we’re seeing is these leaders. If I could give you a bit of a picture in your mind, imagine a CEO with one arm, and that arm represents line management, their hierarchy, their It systems, their finance, and all of that stuff. But it’s tied behind their back, and they have to use their other arm and their other arm. The only skills they’ve got is their speech, their ability to listen, their empathy, their concern for people, their ability to draw out of people what their values are. And I think that’s the secret weapon. Most of them know how to do the other stuff, but the ones that can really not just inspire but listen to what people’s concerns are, what their values are in their employee base, but also in their customer base, and weave that into a vision, weave that into a purpose. That’s not some overly simplistic statement, but really, why does this company exist? Who does it exist for? I think these two things of, let’s call it social impact or human impact, and profitable growth and shelter grid, they no longer become two separate things. They’re embodied in a vision. They’re embodied in individuals who are able to do both.

That is interesting. And I’ll say when we hear transformational leadership, there’s an implication that they’re beginning at a place and carrying to a different destination, especially now when we see a startup come up, I almost have to look at it with a grain of salt. This idea that they’ve come from zero to one. So the transformation is in what the platform or the company is achieving. But when you see leaders that especially are in an existing organization, the sort of steering of a cruise ship, there’s a very different challenge I find. And look when we look back on great books that we use today still to study like Built to Last. And then if you look at the story, it’s about most of them actually didn’t last. If you took it outside of the context of the five year research term in which they research the book, most of those businesses actually struggled greatly in the decade that followed have continued, but not with high growth. So when you get to leaders of especially large organizations, Andrew, how does one stay empathetic when there’s such a broad audience to have to listen to?

I think it’s a great question, and I think it’s a question which has been rumbling for decades, if we think of Polaroid and Kodak, of the video rental stores that didn’t make the change, BlackBerry and some of these other companies. So I think what’s changing is that the rate and the impact of disruption is pretty much affecting everybody. So it’s no longer something that comes out of the blue. It’s no longer something that you’re unlucky if you’re experiencing a career, it’s everywhere. But I think you put your finger on the challenge for the incumbents. And I would describe it as this. There is a status quo which is all consuming. If you think about the schedules that most leaders of those businesses have, they’re probably starting at 6-7 AM in the morning. Some of them are going through till very late in the evening, particularly if they’re responsible for global activity and they’re working across multiple time zones. They’re probably back getting on planes with the relentless travel schedule as well. And it’s all consuming. They don’t have the mental space in a sense, they’re addicted to the machine and the machine that demands continual returns, the machine that demands continual effort.

The companies that I have seen that have broken this, they’ve done something that I’m going to describe as a conscious disconnection from the status quo. They’ve had a CEO or another senior leader that has effectively said, we have to take ten days out to think about the future, not two days, not one day, but ten days. And we have to go somewhere. And that is either to look at a set of emerging industries, spending time in nature away from everything to give the human mind and heart and soul chance to refresh and to think differently, building a different group of suppliers around us. But that notion of a conscious disconnection from a status quo I think is such a powerful one for me because it’s like an addiction. There’s an addiction to the returns, there’s an addiction to activity, there’s an addiction to processes where it’s very hard to get space from that. And those that are successful consciously disconnect. And I think in some ways it’s becoming easier because the problem is becoming clearer that if you don’t do that, you’re not fulfilling your responsibilities as a leader and you’re not thinking about the next certainly the next three years, five years, ten years.

So there’s a need to go through some form of conscious process of disconnection and then think about what is the best place for us. And as I say, my recommendation, if I was working with a firm, this is at least five days. And you need to put in place the infrastructure around you that allows you to take that time out and to really spend the time sinking into why we exist separate from our current operation, separate from how we currently work. To think about what the future might look like, to think about what a reinvention might look like and from that place, then go back in and lead in a different way.

This is one of the things that I’ve often promoted, even in my own work and my own teams. This idea of the off site where we have to visually disconnect from your day to day processes because it’s habit forming. Right? We go to the office, we say we’re going to go into the big meeting room. And so what does everyone do? They bring their laptop. They pop their laptop open, you see them looking at their screen and tapping away. So I would say, like, no, here’s what it is. You sit at the table, you’re either in a hotel or somewhere else where it’s quiet or even if it’s in an existing room, you have one person with a laptop. They’re the scribe. They’re on screen so you can’t see them. You make sure they’re not on instant messaging and email. The rest of us, we have pad and paper and really go through that disconnected discussion. And it can’t be a half day. It’s got to be something where you’re taken away because there’s nothing worse than somebody comes up and it’s like, oh, I’m just going to go down and check on something or I’m going to check my email real quickly.

But it’s really a human behavior problem where we feel like we’re missing something. And yet the irony is it’s completely the opposite. You’re right. You are missing something because you’re involved in it every day. You’re missing what you could be doing. And it’s so hard to hammer that into people’s minds that this is how they need to behave.

A couple of points. I think you’re absolutely onto something. I coached an executive once, and they spoke about their iPhone, and they said they had more anxiety putting their iPhone down than they did when they had a baby. And the coaching was about how long can you not go without holding the iPhone? So we started off with a minute. We got to two minutes. We got to ten minutes. We got to walking around the garden without the iPhone and what it felt like because it was an addiction. And I think there’s a whole conversation around social media, which I don’t think is today’s topic. But what I would also say is I’ve run events where we gave people the option of handing over their mobile phone and the mobile phone being locked in a safe for a day. Now you have to put some with executives, you have to put some infrastructure around that. So everyone lets their PA no, there’s somebody outside who has got a phone. They give them the number, and if there’s an emergency, either in the family or in the business, they call that person and we commit, we’ll bring that person out and then they can get access to their device.

What was really interesting, Eric, at the end of the day, we got to like 05:00 A.m.. He said, right, phones back. And a few of them said, no, can you keep them for a few more hours? We just love this time of being able to think and be with ourselves and be with the bigger questions that this company is facing. So could we extend this to 08:00 P.m.? And then we’ll have our phones back. So to me, it was a really interesting it was like taking a toy off a toddler at the beginning. And at the end of it, there was a few people that didn’t want it back because of what it gave back in terms of space and that space to reflect, which I think is so important today.

Yeah. I mean, I often recommend people read Cal Newport has fantastic writing on the idea of the digital minimalism and Deep work is another fantastic book. And it’s funny, when I read Cal Newport, I sort of had this vision of some scholarly 65 year old gentleman. He’s a young guy, he’s probably going to be my cousin. He’s well studied on the idea of this disconnection. But it’s funny that going through that first part of putting it down and you hear people go through like you can see them change when they realize their phone is at their desk and they’re in a meeting room. And I agree with you that when we’re doing it with purpose, we have to know like, hey, I’m going to be offline if you need me. But another thing I do as well with work. I often talk to people at this idea. So if you ask for a week off, the first thing that happens is people say, what’s your project schedule look like? Who else can we get to back you up? We begin to wrap the machine around. Is it possible for you to get away now? It’s a very North American thing, especially as well.

But if you say, I’ve got to go to hospital, I’ve got a family issue immediately. The response from everyone on your team is no problem. Go for it. Let us know anything we can do to help. We’ve got you covered. And I often think about this, why we should be able to have everybody should just have a big red button that they could just say, this is my day, I’m taking the next three days and just, like, hit the button, no one questions it. We had this belief that we need to overly plan escape. And Ironically enough, when you just do it, the machine rolls on. In fact, it gives you freedom of thought. Like when I go for a run, the moment that I can’t look at my phone, especially on a bike, because I have no headphones, I don’t listen to any music. So I’m just out for 5 hours. It’s the most incredibly creative time because you just have nothing to do but be introspective. And when I get back, I’m like typing and scribing and all these fantastic ideas have come because there’s no access to distraction.

Yeah, exactly. And I think you’re making such a good point. So over the lockdown period, the first lockdown period, I got bored. I was literally like an express train that came to a halt at that point. I was probably on a plane two or three times a month, and so I had a lot of pent up energy. I still have the work schedule, but the social life and all the other things that we weren’t able to do at that time. So I trained as a meditation teacher, so I’d meditated on and off for about ten years. And I’d always had a hunch that this has got a real purpose with leaders. And it’s for this exact reason that meditation forces you to just stop, focus on your breathing or any other of the techniques you’re using. And it’s that discipline. And you suddenly realize after a while, when the mind quietens, that you go into a place of stillness. And it’s that stillness that real innovation, I think, can come from real creativity. And it’s another form of that separating from the machine, separating from the busyness, separating from the thinking mind, which I just think there’s so many things in today’s world has just put that on steroids.

Social media being a big one with the like and dislike, which is the same as the Buddhist concept of attraction and being repelled from things. But just bringing awareness to that takes us into a place where we realize that is not me. My thoughts are not me, my work is not me. And that subject object separateness is essentially what I’m talking about when I’m saying a conscious disconnection from the status quo. Our company is not our current way of operating. It’s the current expression, but with something bigger than that. And what are we in service of? To me, these two things started to come into alignment. I’ve not fully finished that journey of exploration of bringing these two worlds together. And there’s others working on this as well. But to me, that’s why I went there during that lockdown period.

When you think of that sort of forced introspection where we had obviously the last two years, even like, people still have trouble at this point remembering when it began. It’s been so long. And I remembered going through an airport in February of ’20. It was the beginning of being concerned that something could be happening, but things weren’t locked down yet. And I remember sitting in this airport looking around, going like, there’s nobody here. I was in Calgary, Alberta, so there’s generally not that many people anyways, but still so vastly different than I’m used to. And like you, I travel a lot as part of my function for work. And I would get I got those creative breaks. I would be – my favorite thing was to be on a plane. I’ve got so many colleagues, and they would say, oh, I really dread airplane WiFi. I said, do you know what’s better than having to worry about your airplane WiFi? Never getting it. You don’t need it. You’re in a bloody plane. Just disconnect. And the moment that I’ve got this white noise around me, I put in noise canceling headphones, and I usually write a blog. I create presentations. I get very creative because, again, there’s zero access to things. It’s that sort of meditative creative state that I get into.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that about planes, by the way, before WiFi on planes, the planes where the planes, the busy executives went to rejuvenate, they had some of their best thinking. They could write. There was just not that interference. Yeah. So I think there was something about that which hopefully we don’t lose with the plane’s WiFi.

But it definitely did change my work patterns and my creative patterns when I had none of that all of a sudden. It took a while. I’d been a remote worker for a long time, and I was used to managing team experience in how I would engage with them. They were all in an office or fairly central, and I was the remote worker. And then all of a sudden, everybody was suddenly remote. And people say like, oh, this must be sort of normal for you because you’re used to being a remote worker. It was normal for me, but it’s not normal for most people because they are now treating remote work and remote leadership like it’s the office. And all of a sudden, I went from 5 hours a week of meetings to 19 hours a week of meetings because there was this culture of presence that was incredible. It’s a very challenging thing. And then the leadership, if they’re used to that culture of presence as part of the leadership, it was very difficult for them to adapt. And this is, again, when I think of the good leaders can be away from the direct experience, but not actually away from it.

Maybe that’s when I think of the large organization leaders that are empathetic, they don’t have to sit beside the worker to understand the challenge of the worker and the needs of the worker and the capabilities of the worker and the pandemic I think highlighted a lot of people who were leaders by time in the company, not by actual capability.

Yeah, there was something about that I’ve seen recently, companies starting to put on LinkedIn. This is a no meeting week. In this week no meetings. Just get on with you. I would love to go in and see a how do they define a meeting? Because in the virtual world, is that anything beyond a one to one or does a one to one include that? But then what work actually fills the gap when you take the meetings out? What happens to the productivity, what happens to the output from people? What happens to the creativity, what happens to the motivation and the energy within people? So the way of tracking that would be super interesting. But I also think I think your point is really interesting that have we just transferred in, going into the lockdown and remote working as it’s now sticking in many places, a culture of meetings into this online world. So people are in just back to back Zoom meetings all day rather than as you’re saying, if you’re working from home, working remotely, you probably need about 5 hours to check in, but the rest of the time you’re working remotely and that’s the job you’ve got to do.

I don’t think we’re at the end of this process of this transformation to come back to our theme in terms of the future of work, we’ve disconnected from the status quo that Toby did that, but we’ve not landed, I think, on what the norms are of when do you go in? When do you not go in? How many meetings a day is optimal, really?

And what people didn’t realize, it’s odd because maybe I just think a little too hard about these things, but they don’t understand that being in a Zoom meeting is cognitively tiring like much more so than being in a room full of people in a meeting. Because I actually studied for a long time the dynamics of physical placement at the table in a meeting room, when you sit up across from somebody, there’s a natural adversarial relationship. When you sit beside somebody, directly beside somebody, there’s a different relationship and how you collaborate versus somebody who’s at the end of the table, but you’re looking down towards them and they need to look. There’s a reason boardroom tables are designed a certain way and that people sit at the head and at the side and at the middle, there’s a very ergonomic pattern to behavior. Well, in Zoom we suddenly are – am I in the middle of the frame? Am I looking at the camera? There are things we never had to think about. I guess I’m technically I’m a broadcaster now, so I’m staring into the lens of a camera because I know I’m supposed to, but often you see me looking down because I want to see nonverbal cues and I enjoy that part of the experience. We don’t get that. Like twisting a pen on the table like little things that you would enjoy. You’d see somebody doing something and you’d say like, oh, that’s neat. Where did you learn to do that? Which would never come in a Zoom meeting. We were missing so much of that non-verbal cue.

I had a couple of funny experiences. One was at the beginning of moving on to Zoom and moving on the lockdown, and I was in conversation with somebody I’d met a few years earlier, and he came on and he said, Are you okay? And I thought he was asking about covid, I said, oh, fine. None of the family is affected. It’s all great. Thank you.

No, no, no. He said, you’ve lost a lot of hair. And I suddenly realized I’m six foot ten tall. Now, I don’t come across a six foot ten. I said, no. I said, I’ve not lost a lot of hair. You just don’t normally see me from this angle. And then I run a leadership program at Oxford, and we’ve had to do the whole front end virtually. So I got to know a group of 43 leaders from around the world all through this medium. And then they turned up in Oxford. And the shock at my height, even though I told them, I said, guys, I told you I was six foot ten coming in. I think because in their mind’s eye, they had this assumption of me as, you know, we’re all normal on this. There’s an equalizing effect. And it took some of them a couple of hours to really just recognize. And it was more than I mean, I often shock people when I stand up, but this was notably more so when they’d got to know me in the Zoom world, and then they’d see me in this other world and then the world of real human interaction.

Yeah. I remember when I first saw one of your Ted talks. And like, even there, there’s no frame of reference because no one knows how tall the stool is. But I could immediately tell them, good golly, this man is a tall gentleman. And it’s funny. That another interesting thing. I’ll say it’s good in a way that we’ve sort of democratized people’s existence in a way that it does take away other things that may detract from it or distract more than detract, I should say. There’s one felt I worked with for months, and it was fantastic gentlemen, we got along great. We did a lot of collaboration together. And then I saw a LinkedIn profile about him, and I talked about him being a military veteran, and I’d known he was a military vet. And then I saw the picture of him standing and he has no legs at mid thigh below. He’d lost both his legs in an explosion and thought like, it’s amazing that I’ve worked with this man for eight months. I had no idea, because even if you stand up on camera, you wouldn’t even get as low to be able to see that.

And it was fascinating to me that there’s no focus on it, and that can be good or bad because there are things that you do want to bring attention to. But it was very interesting that it just sort of we could only focus on what we were working on, and it takes away stuff that may impact your belief in someone’s capabilities.

Yeah, I think there is something in all of this, and I’ve noticed as well that on certainly teaching on Zoom because of the chat function, we get a more diverse set of people asking questions and making points. There’s a bit of a fight with getting hands up, and you need a good person to work through that. But the chat function just broadens out the voices that can come into the conversation. I think particularly for the introverts, in my experience, it’s the extroverts who often dominate when the professor asks, does anyone have any questions? But then you’ve got that space for people who perhaps are not as confident or want to put a more thoughtful question into chat rather than make a more rambling point, if that makes sense.

Yeah. Especially having given a lot of talks myself and doing lecture work at events, it’s always funny when the person that stands out, like the first person that gets up, I’ve got a question for you. What you actually have is a statement, and you’re framing it with a question mark at the end because there’s sort of the overly learned person that wants to make their point. They effectively want to sort of begin this Dodge thrust Parry of like, I could be on stage and I applaud it. I love that people are willing to do that. But then there’s so many people in the room who, as you say, like, they’ve got fantastic insights and questions, but they just don’t want to stand up, they don’t want to look bad, they don’t want to sound bad. But in chat, it’s a beautiful way to democratize access to that intellectual back and forth, which I think is something we’ve really gained and I hope we hold onto.

Yeah. One of the best tools that I found is Mentimeter. And this is within boardrooms. It’s within executive teams. So I’ve got four quite challenging questions that I often use in discussions. One is tell me what you are not talking about, but that you need to talk about. Tell me what you always talk about but never resolve. Tell me what spaces you need to create in this organization to have those conversations and what would be different in, let’s say, one or three years time if those conversations led to the right decisions and the right actions. And what’s interesting is when I ask the first question, tell me what you don’t talk about, that you need to talk about if I’m in an executive team, half of them will look at the floor. They can’t hold my eye contact. The second question, tell me what you always talk about but never resolve. Half of them will laugh because there’s always things that they’re really good questions. So I call them my diagnostic questions. But what I found is they’re even better if you put them on mentee because people can just put stuff up and it’s cathartic, it gets stuff onto the table.

It gets out of the political angst. What are people going to think about me? How this could be Christine as critical of the CEO and all those little questions or points come up on the mentee screen, you can also get people to score stuff. So if I work with an executive team and they come up with a 100 day plan, we meet after 100 days and there were four elements in the plan. I get them to score themselves out of ten on how well they did. And the little bar arrow moves up and the bar moves up and down as the scores come in. And it brings a ruthless and really important honesty which I think is at the heart of some of the transformation we’re talking about. So some of these digital tools which you can now use embedded within a Zoom or alongside a Zoom or Teams meeting can be really powerful. So I think there is something as I say, we’re learning to work in this new digital world.

There’s an interesting that concept is something I’ve embraced and one of the sort of leaders in that very open radical. We talk about radical transparency and such. Ray Dalio, of course, author of the book Principles and Bridgewater Capital and I’ve been lucky to be exposed to their in room experience where they record every meeting. Everything is very open. The downside to radical candor is often people believe it’s a reason to be able to say anything, that maybe some stuff should be not rewarded. I’ll say not unsaid. But I’ve talked to many former Bridgewater employees and they say you find people go from the idea of radical candidate to becoming a radical arsehole because they just freely say things that are negative, not thinking of contextualizing it, which is.

And so therefore it needs the right values around it. It has to be done in a constructive way with the right questions, with the right behaviors for it to work. I think you’re right. All these things can be abused, can’t they?

I love your questions because it is something even when I so one of the environmental impact, right.  Sustainability, it drips off the tongues of everybody these days. Right. I sort of joke and say if you want something to be more successful, rub some sustainability on it. Right. Like if it suddenly gets us increased focus as it should because we have an opportunity to continuously change the future with what we do immediately and in the near future. And then we hear people, they say all these organizations have come up with these strategies and promises and 2030 impact statements and all these things they’re doing. And then whenever I talk to an organization or talk to a team, the question that I ask is, what have you done in the past twelve months towards these goals? And it’s amazing to hear, like, everybody’s like, yeah, we’ve got a promise we’re going to be carbon neutral by 2030. We’re changing the way we do business, we’re changing the way we operate infrastructure. Tell me precisely tactical things that you’re doing that are working towards that goal. And as you mentioned before, people are like, there’s a lot of navel gazing and, well, we’re coming up with a plan, but it’s done in a constructive way that they say, okay, what have we done? And they do find good things, and they then start to think more strongly about what can we actually do to affect this vision, this goal, and tactically begin to take action towards it.

Now, I’m struck by how much innovation has actually taken place over the last two decades around things like alternatives to plastic. Now, all of that, if I get magazines delivered, they come in biodegradable plastic bags. So when I see a company not using that, I’m thinking, you’ve got no excuse. The company is making it work cost wise. The technology is there. My house opposite. Where the building I’m in here. We rebuilt it. We put solar on the roof. On a day like today, as it is in the UK, we’ve got bright Sunshine. That house is a net contributor to the grid, to the electricity grid. Such is the case across large parts of the world with wind farms. Now we have the technology. The question is, are we going to sit on old business models with old products, or are we going to accelerate and really lean into the transformation? And I think, to be honest, we’re at a point now where if you don’t, it’s bad business practice. It’s not just bad for the environment, but it’s bad for your shareholders and it’s bad for the future of your organization because you’re just not going to be part of the future and what the future looks like. And I think it’s taken pioneers like Elon Musk to kind of move the needle in the automotive space. But you can see when someone like that does that, then the rest of the industry starts to really get its act together and go on that transition. So I think we are at a pivotal point in history where, in a sense, the commercial world and the environmental world and the human world are coalescing and the leaders are the ones that get all those three things and are able to drive forward with the right products, technology, commercial solutions, which will generate the shareholder returns of tomorrow.

I’m going to put two personalities up. And this is from my own experience, and I’d love to get your thoughts on the sort of the transformational leader. And I’ve met a lot of CEOs and in everything from solar printers to small organizations to startups to massive organizations. I’ve worked in major financial institutions for a long time. And you would meet people who are good CEOs. And it’s as if they were cut from a cloth and sort of printed. And they have perfect answers, which are no answers. Quite often they’re media ready. There is that sort of vision of that type of leader. And they lead a financial institution or a healthcare company, and they’re very good and they have to do there’s a certain amount of that that’s necessary. They can’t just sort of go off the cuff and be natural. But the tough part is I would struggle with believing in them, in their people impact and their human centric impact, because they’re giving beautiful canned answers, almost political in the way of like, how are we going to handle this problem? And then they know how to do it so well. First, let’s look at the four macro trends that are facing… And like, they’ve got the answer, sounds fantastic. And then you see them twelve minutes later on CNBC giving exactly the same answer, right? I saw Elon Musk, sometimes a polarizing figure. But when he was on actually a great podcast with Lex Friedman and Lex Friedman asked Elon, how do you prepare for engineering something that’s so massive that it’s got a high chance for failure? And first of all, among the most fantastic interviewing techniques ever, he stared at him for 25 seconds, I think, no words. And you could see Elon. He’d actually see his eyes darting around. We don’t architect. We don’t engineer for failure. We engineer for mitigation of failure.


We know that failure is not an option. Ultimately, we can’t fail. We have to believe in the outcome. We have to like the ability for him to not be media ready, not be perfect diction. And to let that air out, first of all, as an interviewer is like the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen, the best 20 seconds of an interview I’ve ever seen where we didn’t just fight to fill dead air. So there’s very dichotomous leadership styles. In the business, I’m curious, how do those two personalities play out?

I would put it this way. If you put both of those people in front of a panel of 1000 members of the general public, which one would they trust more? Which one do they believe more? Which one would they like to hear more from? I suspect it’s Elon Musk. And I think we went through the whole world of the sound bite and the slick press operation saying everything and saying nothing. And I think there’s a craving for leaders to turn around and use phrases like, I don’t know, we’re not there yet. This is our aspiration, but we haven’t yet thought through what the plan looks like to get there. We don’t plan for that. And I’m more honesty about things, and I think COVID was a really good case, certainly at the level of political leaders and perhaps down in corporates as well. We didn’t know so much at the beginning. Has it ever been a thing that hit the entire world where we just didn’t know what the next four weeks were going to look like? The next two weeks? We’d never lock down entire societies like this, and it happened in parts of the world, but never at such a global scale and never with such the industries that got stopped as they did.

And we saw some people thrive in that and some people didn’t. But I think if you tried to almost take the approach you described in the first instance, you just come across as stupid. And it was far better to be honest about the situation and honest about the potential risks and consequences of what was being spoken about.

Do we find this or do we teach it, Andrew.

I suspect we can teach it. I suspect we can create the cultural conditions for it. I think the press has a responsibility here, but ultimately it’s down to individuals who’ve got the courage of their convictions and the courage of their values. I think he’s probably at the heart of this.

Obviously, you’re entrenched in the research side as well as in higher Ed institutions. Do you find that those institutions are catching up to industry and changes in the world? One of the things that I’ve often struggled with, especially in higher Ed, you’d see, like startup leadership courses, and they were so disconnected from a real, true startup leader experience or even in telecom and technology because of the tradition of education, was deep research that led to curricula and syllabus that could be tested and trusted meant that it had to move at a slower pace, but the world moved at a slower pace. So in this day and age, I think it’s getting better, but you’re obviously much closer to it. Do you think that the education is catching up to the pace of the world?

I can only speak for what we do in the business school at Oxford, and I think, yes, we’ve got a whole structure we’ve set up around entrepreneurship. A good proportion of our MBA students go into setting up entrepreneurial businesses. And I think we’ve got a very good curriculum there in terms of the leadership program I run, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum, which is people who are 2030 years into their careers. I think we’re very much on the cutting edge of what’s going on in the world. We have the benefit of having the Oxford Martin School in the University looking at the challenges of the 21st century. We bring that onto our program. We have some brilliant research around scenario planning. We bring that onto our program. We’re doing cutting edge research around transformation, where we’re interviewing leaders who are at the forefront of that. We’ve got an 1800 person survey globally around that as well. So I’m not suggesting we’re perfect, but I certainly don’t think we’re sitting on our laurels with a curriculum that was from about three or four decades ago. That’s definitely not the case.

One thing in the time we got left, I want to explore an area of leadership success and leadership proof is not defined by successful times. But I think adversity. And also one of the challenges we have. Right, is that we don’t introduce adversity into someone’s experiences. We sort of have helicopter parenting, and that translates into easing them through public schooling and then getting them onto higher Ed. And, well, we’re paying for this University. So I want my child to have a good experience. So they yell at the professors, make sure you do a good job, and stop making negative comments. We’re seeing this sort of unfortunate pervasive trend of the normalizing of existence, taking the edges off a bit. But when you take those sharp edges off, then you get out of the school and the world has sharp edges. But for leaders as well, right. Leaders are often defined by getting through difficulty. Just like a marriage, right. Every marriage goes great for five years, and then you have children. You’re like, oh, boy, this is difficult. Now you really see the test of collaboration and partnership.

Yeah. I think you’re on to something. It’s a big topic, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. What I’m minded of is my late grandmother, who was a pharmacist during the Second World War, and this was old school pharmacy where the pharmacy was full of jars of powders and potions, and a bomb went off near to where the pharmacist was. And she described how she was up to her knees suddenly in glass and powder. And I said, well, what did you do, Grandma Darling? We just brushed it all away. And we opened up the next day. And to me that’s my high watermark of resilience. A bomb goes off, you’re up to your knees in glass and whatever chemicals were in the pharmacy, you brush it all up. And then your duty is to have that shop open the next day, not just for the shop sake, but for the community and for the whole war effort and for the country. And I do wonder if we need adversity in life. And I suppose it’s only a question. That generation that came out of the war, there was a resilience about them. And it’s almost every generation it halves.

And maybe what we’re going through at the moment with a much more uncertain world is actually good for us. It’s painful. We don’t like it, but it’s a bit like a muscle. It needs to be stretched in order to grow and resilience, I think, is like a muscle. It needs to be stretched. And I wouldn’t wish Adversity on anybody, but there is something about it which is perhaps necessary. And if you think about the survival of the fittest and the evolutionary processes which we’ve come through, there’s something about that as well. So I think you’re right. And one bit from our research, we’re finding companies that do transformation well then are able to do transformation well, it has a virtuous cycle about it, and the opposite is true. You muck up a transformation, it has a vicious cycle about it.

Yeah, that is the interesting thing. It begets a better response in future. I mean, I think of telev’s research and concepts around anti-fragility. Often difficult to quote him because it’s a bit of polarizing figure as well, but still, that concept of natural exposure in the same way that our immune systems react by creating antigens to these situations. If you experience difficulty and you see the reaction to it and the response to it, then you have preparedness for the next time. And I often find personally, my favorite thing in a weird way is when it all goes sideways. I worked in data center operations, and It operations for years. And the moment that it would get out of control, I would just feel this calm of like, okay, let’s immediately go into sort of triage. What can we do right now? What’s necessary? And you were forced to immediately prioritize things. I don’t like being in a well, let’s develop a steering committee, and then we’ll set up some cadence calls, and then we’ll set up a nine month plan. If the power went off, what do we do right now? I thrive in that experience, and I struggle with the very plan for long term views of things.

There’s definitely going to be personalities that can do both sides, but I often find the people that require the planning when something does go wrong, they really struggle, and ultimately they aren’t able to contribute as well, because I’ve never seen it and they don’t get that exposure to it. It’s an interesting thing. Maybe because I threw myself at adversity a little early. I got used to it.

I think it’s a really interesting concept, and it reminds me of just the human body. If you sit in front of the TV all day and don’t move, you’re atrophy. If you get out on a bike, go for a walk, go for a run, lift weights – that stress that you put the body under, stimulates growth. And you’re also more prepared. If you ever need to really pedal fast to get out of trouble, run fast, walk fast. You’ve done the preparation in that sense.

Yeah, I used to do track cycling. I’m a longtime cyclist, and I started doing track cycling just for fun ’cause I lived in an area where there was a velodrome, and it was exciting. One of my favorite races was this like timing was flying 200 where you basically do like five laps and then you say, okay that’s it, I’m going to go on the next lap and you start at the top and then you immediately go to the bottom eldrum. So you’re going to fall out for a 200 meter lap. And the reason I was particularly good at because when I was a kid, I lived in the middle of nowhere on a farm and the person up the road for me had two German shepherds. So if I wanted to go for a bike ride, I’d have to literally be like preparing for this ride. And then I would hear the barking and I would immediately have to just sprint because I had to outrun them before they could come to the road and catch up.

They’re quite some dogs to outrun as well.

They are fast little fiends, those ones. But like that sort of natural exposure to difficulty and seeing my dad go through difficulty with work through the 80’s when the tech sector fell apart and seeing it go around. That’s why I look to leaders. It’s very easy for someone to be in a leadership role, but not a leadership function. And they’re very different. Like just being the team lead because you’ve been there longer than the rest of the developers does not actually make you a leader. It’s often by title, not by function. And that’s why I try and tell people to differentiate between the two. You deserve this role, you deserve this title. But when it comes down to it, there are different skills required for leadership. And I think that especially in transformation, you can’t just look back and say, well, this is how it’s been done for X number of years. What is to use the playbook? I have to be able to have something suddenly shift and then be able to understand and get through it, not just for me, but for my entire team and my organization.

Yeah, I think we’re seeing that with President Zanelleski in the Ukraine at the moment. This guy was an actor and is now taking on arguably the most difficult leadership role that’s been seen for decades in the most difficult of circumstances. But the way in which he’s working both locally and internationally in getting consensus, getting coalition, is remarkable to see.

Yeah, I think that is, in adversity we have surprising leaders that rise to the top or surprising personalities that you discover through it. And being able to see them as well in an organization, I think it’s part of that empathetic need of to be able to say like as a leader, I can recognize other people that I can bring up, I can rely on and I can empower them to do more. One last thing, decentralized leadership and giving up sort of control of it to a decentralized group. How are you finding that as a transformation in leadership styles.

I will rehearse a conversation I had with one of the executives I coach. This guy is brilliant. He’s top quality performer with his brilliance comes a bit of a shadow in that he demands excellence from his team, and he does that through controlling. And I was coaching him on this, and it come through on a 360 process he’d been through. And we went through the session, and I thought the session was good, but I didn’t feel we fully landed. And we were packing up our stuff about to go. And he said to me, so I guess, Andrew, what you’re saying to me is and what I’m learning is it’s about their energy and not mine. And I just said, you got it. How do you find a way to release their energy and you will get so much more out of it? Yes, you have to put a guiding framework around it because it’s your vision, but it’s how do you engage and get their energy involved in this rather than a passive response? And he went away and did some stuff and came back and said, I just cannot believe the difference in the output I’m getting from people by kind of taking this mentality, I wouldn’t necessarily call it centralized or decentralized. It’s about energy. And as a leader, do you energize people? Do you bring their energy to the table, or do you crush their energy with your energy? So that’s how I would frame it.

It’s fantastic. Yeah. So what are you looking forward to in the coming year as we sort of re-opened the world a bit now? Of course, given the conflicts that are going on, there’s bigger challenges that we probably had to weigh into what we believe the next twelve months will look like. But as you head into the next batch of your work with research, what is your goal to come out at the end of this year?

Yeah, that’s a great question. Thank you. I think a number of things I’m looking forward to getting out and visiting the world again. So I’ve done one international trip already. I’ve got another one in April. I love people, and I love being part of a business that takes me all over the world doing the work I do. So to be able to be back on a plane visiting people is really great. I’m working with 160 leaders this year on the advanced management and leadership program that I’m working on, all of them face to face, all of them in Oxford. That’s going to be great. And we see huge transformation taking place in them and with the plans that they take back to their organizations. And I have a couple of other projects. So I’m going to get to 21 podcasts this year of leaders who I think are making a transformative impact. I’m planning to write a book, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, so I’m not sure that will be out this year, but it will certainly be written this year. And more of the research around transformation, just taking that into the public domain as well.

That’s a fantastic set of goals. And as you said, getting back out and really engaging and collaborating back the earlier point, we said people went to many meetings and I often get asked said, you love people, so you must like meetings. I said, no, I like collaboration, which is why I hate meetings. Meetings are not collaboration. When done right, they are, but they are seldom done right. And I think we’ve learned to value collaboration over meetings. And I’ve seen now more of people getting like, I’m going to focus on what matters. So that 60 minutes meeting, when we feel like we’re done at 25 minutes, we just cut the call because we’re done and it’s so good instead of before. It’d be like, okay, well, we’ve got some more time here. What else can we talk about? Like, no, perfect. Let’s just get onto something else. And what we needed to get done is done. And then there are those moments where we’re getting back to just chatting and meeting in person and breaking bread and enjoying time together. I look forward to it, for sure.

I hope I bump into you at some point in those travels around the world.

It would be fantastic. I would really take pleasure in it. So, Dr. Andrew White, if people do wish to reach you and get connected, what’s the best way they can do that?

Best way is on LinkedIn. I’m very active. You can find me there. If you just search for my name and Oxford, or you search for the Leadership 2050 newsletter. And it would be great to hear from folks.

Yes, definitely. I’ll have links, of course, to both the newsletter and make sure that people can get access and to your podcast, which is amazing. That’s just such a beautiful opportunity now to bring the world, those stories in that format and explore this. And then, as you said, now, do you think like 20-30 years ago or even a decade ago, the idea of being able to do a podcast and then take that content like, oh, this is a book. Now, people often say, like, well, you’ve been at all in the podcast, but there are many people who will not hear it, nor would they want to do it in that format they like to read. So I love that you can take research, practice, beautiful work with the podcast and the newsletter and then now bring it together in book format. I will be anxiously awaiting the release of the book for sure and look forward to it.

But the book also gives an opportunity to do synthesis. So it’s not just going to be like a transcript to the podcast. It’s going to be learning what are the cross-cutting themes. So maybe you’ll have me back at some point, Eric, and I can talk about what those findings were when you put the whole set of those podcasts together, are there ten themes, the ten lessons that come out of that?

Absolutely like any great special, the end gets you right back to the beginning. It’s that whole thing. The executive summary is written last. People forget that sometimes, you now look over this body of work and said this is what we’ve actually done and then to see that thematically played out so good, like I love the free form. Like the podcast style is great because you can go in many directions and then you’d be like, okay, what did we actually discover? But definitely, it would be an honor to have you on again. Look forward to catching up. Hopefully, in real life and in travel it would be fantastic. Andrew, thank you very much.

Thank you, Eric.