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Hello, and welcome to the knowing self knowing others podcast, the fortnightly podcast that explores self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Join me your host, Nia Thomas, as we talk to today’s knowing self, knowing others guest
wonderful, it’s absolutely brilliant to have you both here with me today. And for listeners, you’re in for a treat today, we actually have two guests today. So two for the price of one. And it’s Donald Henson and Sathpal Singh. And I bumped into my two friends on LinkedIn, because I was very interested in what they were talking about, particularly over the pandemic, and then discover that you were working on the future of work in Scotland, which was a webinar series that had some really quite interesting guests on where you brought people to talk to each other ask questions and really network. And there was a lot of discussion about leadership. So without further ado, I’m going to hand over to you to introduce yourself because you could do it far better than I can. Donald Henderson, please, I’ll hand over to you.
Hi there. So I work for the NHS national services Scotland as a project manager for some things, and a scrum master for others. I’ve been interested in leadership since probably the age of 14, when I first entered the Army Cadets. And then through my working career
Fabulous. I’m gonna hand it over to Sathpal Singh
Thank you so much. Thanks for having us. Yeah, so how would I describe it? So I, I often say I sit at the intersection of engineering, agile and communities. And all my work, how can I say, if you free a Venn diagram, I kind of sit at the middle of that. I basically have a software engineering background, but I haven’t cut cord for 12 years, maybe longer. So I basically moved from hands on software roles in to tech leadership into management and then to more strategic leadership, where I’ve really operated for the last 15 years, much like Donald, I’m very interested in different styles of leadership. And actually, I’ve been on my own journey around, I guess, my quest to kind of improve my leadership style based on the roles I’ve had in the sectors I’ve operated and various other things that I do.
Wonderful, its brilliant to have you here. And I’m really interested to hear how you’re going to respond to our five questions being that you come at it from quite a different perspective.
How do you define self awareness? So I will start with Donald,
having the ability to be aware that your preferred style is not always the best style. Probably about 10 years ago, I got in a situation with my line manager, Mike Brown, who was giving me my annual appraisal, i didn’t take it well, because I was doing everything that was asked of me but he felt I was limiting myself. And I thought, well, I quite often carry out your requests. And if I’m not doing that, how would I? How would I succeed? How would I reach my objectives? And he made me think about that it was there was a lot of ways I could do it. So I was quite fortunate that he encouraged me to explore a lot of avenues I ended up doing a wee course at the Cranfield Business School, called it an exploring the praxis model. And I found that really interesting. And then it set me on that journey about thinking well, my view the world or my lens is totally different. And I need to be aware of when I’m working with different folks and be aware of their needs not necessarily just my own.
So there’s a lot about reflection and feedback in that description. Sath how would you describe self awareness?
Similarly yeah, I’d see it. I think in the simplest terms, it’s Know thyself. Right? So how well do you really know yourself? And sadly, a lot of us don’t, or we don’t take the time to understand who we are and our backgrounds and the things that influence our behaviours. So I think certainly in a leadership context for me certainly and I’ve been on the journey of self discovery for some years and a lot of the you know, the things I’ve studied and the things you’ll see on my my LinkedIn profile, for example, and any bios or producer or deliberate in that I deliberately chosen to try to understand my strengths, my weaknesses. In fact, I used to work with a colleague years ago who said, I don’t believe in weaknesses, I think is lesser strengths which I really quite liked. Yeah, well, that was quite nice. I think it’s how well do you know yourself and as Donald said there, I think knowing yourself helps you understand how other people might respond and react to you. If you’re on a team, you know, you’ve got a team dynamic. And that dynamics very much going to be based on the different personalities and the different personas, and the individual styles. And if you’re a leader, your leadership style is going to be critical to whatever the team is trying to achieve. And I’m sure you’re gonna go on, ask us to explore that a little bit more. So yeah, know thyself is probably the way I look at
That’s brilliant. And know thyself is a phrase that runs through my whole research. So I think if I’d have paid you, you couldn’t have said it any better. Absolutely. Know thyself
Do you think that there is a relationship between self awareness and leader effectiveness? And I’ll start with Sath this time?
I’d see undoubtably. Yeah. So I think as we’ve just said, I think the more than a leader knows themselves, they are going to be more effective, because they’re going to know their strengths. They’re going to know their weaknesses. They’re going to know the things that trigger them. They’re also I mean, I think one of the most important things about leadership is knowing where you know, your limitations are, I think, Donald said that earlier, and therefore, as a leader, what you’re trying to do is help your team succeed. So you’ve got to know you know, where your team have skills that you don’t have, and how are you going to leverage them. But you’ve got to kind of know yourself, right? So you’ve got to kind of, as I say, you’ve got to understand your personality, you’ve got to understand your personality type if you’re into the MBTI, or various of the frameworks that exist. And I find those quite useful over the years. And but I think there’s a direct correlation. And leaders who do know themselves I will typically say, tend to be better leaders, because they know how to get the best out of the teams and also when to step back. Because they’re not necessarily the right person. Is my short answer
Interesting. You talked about your background and engineering. And through my research, I discovered that there were there are different – there’s hard skills and soft skills. And when you’re talking about engineering, it’s very technical. It’s very hard skills focused. And there, there is a school of thought that says people are promoted, because they are technically skilled, but they may not be skilled in soft skills. Is there something there that you can draw on to say, yes, seen it in action? Or not? Sure. That’s the case. What are your thoughts?
No I, I totally agree. In fact, I’m glad you you picked up on that. Because that’s really my experience. So I think having been an engineer and some type of skills there, but I’d been in management leadership a lot longer than I’ve been a software developer. But when I’ve gone on various leadership programmes, and I did the chartered manager programme, some years ago, CMI, and I’m a chartered fellow of the CMI, I think, what I’ve learned is you’re right, you know, people get promoted due to the technical acumen. So they’re, you know, they’ve got several skills, they agree very well, in the end of year performance reviews. And then eventually, that results in them getting promoted. However, they then get promoted into managerial roles, but they’re not equipped for management. And the CMI talk about this concept of the accidental manager. And that’s rife in the UK, it’s rife in other countries, as well. There’s a very different set of skills. So one of the reasons I think I was promoted in various roles over the years, and I’ve been in many roles or have been in, I’ve been in the C suite along the sort of stuff is because I do have those softer skills, as well as the you know, that the technical proficiencies. And these times now that I am at my stage of career, I don’t see myself as someone who’s got the hard skills, because I’m not a technical specialist anymore. And again, to your previous question and point, I would not begin to try to tell my teams how to do stuff that they know how to do better than me, all I would simply do is provide direction and provide guidance. But really, I think, yeah, I think those sorts of softer skills, typically a lot of technical specialists don’t have and they don’t get taught them or they’re not, they don’t have the appetite to really learn them, sadly, sometimes because they don’t feel they’re as applicable to their roles. But in the day and age where software is so ubiquitous, you’ve got to have strong communication skills, they’ve got to know how to sell ideas. They’ve got to know how to influence they’ve got to know how to negotiate sometimes, you know, they don’t get taught these things or they’re not been on the same programmes that Donald and I have been on. So I think that that’s that’s a real issue. I think in our in the professional world that works, especially in knowledge work,
Donald in terms of self awareness and leadership. activist, what are your views on the relationship?
I think it’s about building relationships, you have to have that awareness that if you don’t have anything in common, you’re never going to have a trust a trusting relationship. So you need to take time out to find a commonality with the folks that work in and demonstrate that. And if they can learn that from you, then it will make the team collectively better. A lot of folks struggle with that, for example, last last week, I tried to bring a team together for breakfast. And the manager says, Oh, we can’t all go for breakfast. Thinking, this is crazy. Of course, everybody’s going to stop for 15 minutes at some point during the morning and have a break a scone a cup of tea. Why can we not all just do it collectively? We’ve never been in the office for a year. We’re all in the office today. Let’s go for a breakfast role and have a cup of tea. And hear about someone’s kids or their dog or whatever. This chap again, technically brilliant, the project would fail without him. But he isn’t equipped to nurture his team.
I will what Donald said there, I tweak it slightly and build on that in that, like the common drone thing. And I think relationships what but I think it’s about having things in common because often we do it and that diversity of skill set backgrounds and things is so valuable now, I think it’s building consensus, right and getting people together so that you are seeing it from the same hymn sheet. And I think the more you know, people, the more you build trust with Donald dimension. And I think trust is crucial. We talk a lot now about how do you build trust, and one of the ways you build trust is by opening up and being yourself. And also you know, where there is case to do so you can show your own vulnerability and all these things, I think are really crucial concepts and how we build teams, that we build successful teams and how we’re the best leaders we can possibly be
do you think effective leaders can be found at all levels of organisations are I’ll go to Donald?
Absolutely yes, people quite often just need the chance or the or the or the encouragement to step up, especially how we operate just know, I think we need to encourage more leadership at all levels in order to to get the best possible outcome. If we’re obviously just going to take one point of view or it’s coming from top down, you’re not going to get the best outcome or build the best products, you’re only going to have a limited option. If you can create an environment where everybody feels the contribution will be valued.
You talk to me a little bit about agile and I have to say I don’t, I didn’t know very much about agile at all until you explained it to me. And I guess when you’re working with teams in that agile way, where you’re determining the next steps based on the outcome of the last step, you do need to be able to consider where your strengths and your leadership is at that given point in time, based on the fact that you have a moveable plan, a moveable feast, and you need to consider where your expertise lies at that particular time. So would you say when you’re thinking about agile, that moving leadership, and being flexible about who the leaders are is particularly important?
absolutely don’t pass your skills on, you’re always going to be the bottleneck that was in our conversation earlier on this afternoon. I’d set up a programme at work, then I went on holiday. And the team were able to do it without me being another I was on the beach. It’s a really successful outcome.
I’m gonna go to you, Sath
leadership’s about behaviours. A leader is not someone with a title, or someone at a certain grade. A leader is someone who demonstrates those behaviours. And therefore on the basis of that statement, you can find leaders in all parts of an organisation and you will, if you go out to, I guess, if you go to seek them out, and you know, you will see. So now if you think about organisations and millennials and all these different generations, you kind of see that you see very young people who are demonstrating incredible leadership in the way that they carry themselves and the way they will challenge the status quo, and the way they will, you know, just try to improve things. So I think leadership is really for me, it’s always been about behaviours and how you communicate. And if you think about different styles of leadership, you know, you want leaders who are visionaries, create a vision, those who say a direction that’s got nothing to do with it, you know, job title or graders about how you carry yourself and having someone who’s who has that skill set. You know, it’s a role and you know, and you’ll be touched there on agile. Don’t get into that because we’ll be we’ll be here for hours, right? Because we’re both agile practitioner and all the rest of it. But a lot of that is about empowering people and empowering teams. It’s kind of what we touched on there. And having flatter structures, so not having traditional command and control structures, and trying to break down traditional hierarchies and bureaucracies, right? The way you do that is by having certain types of leadership, style and behaviours. And again, I think that has that has nothing to do with grades and job titles and your salary. It’s all about how you behave,
situations will mean that different leadership is required at different points in time.
Do you think leaders at the most strategic level of organisations have greater self awareness and leaders at other levels of organisations?
I wouldn’t say so. I mean, there’s, there’s no guarantee of that, right? There’s no direct correlation, no taking strategic leadership a lot. A lot of my work is strategic leadership. But then in my organisation, which has a large global enterprise, and is hierarchical. There are layers and layers of, you know, leaders above me. But again, you talked in your previous question about leadership behaviours. And there’s a certain way that I carry myself within my sphere of influence. And I’m working directly with others who are grades above me in my hierarchy. But we will have conversations because we’re doing it based on purpose and building consensus. And we’re all driven by the same appetite, the same desire. I think, some leaders, in my experience, great leaders do have self awareness. But strategic leaders don’t necessarily have great self awareness, some do, some don’t. But I think if you’re going to be very good strategic leader, you do need to have great self awareness, but you need to have a lot of other things. To have the ideas you need to have a vision, you need to set a direction, all the things I’ve touched on earlier. So I think it’s a broader set of things than just self awareness. But if you ask a bunch of people, what’s one of the most important things you see in a group leader, they will usually can say good self awareness.
And Donald, what’s your view?
again, uh, pretty much agree with Sath, it depends on the individual. Some some folks are some folks are less, so it’s nice to see some of that changing in the health service. It’s a very institutionalised organisation I’ve come across lots of different views of the world in my time dealing with lots of different business SPUs different visions, different SPUs, , some of the folks at the top certainly had a an old fashioned view of the world and my experience, I was
just going to say, Donald, you might want to explain to our wonderful listeners what the SBU acronym stands for, because everybody might not know it.
strategic business unit, an area of the business more of the organisation which touches many different areas, so we’re both in IT so quite often behind the scenes touching lots of different moving parts of the organisation.
Thank you, that was really helpful. I certainly didn’t know what that meant. That’s great.
Do you think effective leaders have more self awareness than ineffective leaders? And I think probably we’ve answered a lot of that through all of our other answers that we’ve talked about. But is there anything in particular in terms of leaders and self awareness, and ineffective leaders that you want to draw on?
I would say yes, and my experience, they’re more encouraging for those around them to self develop, they make time and space to nurture and encourage, certainly, that’s that’s been my experience for different levels of leadership over the years, whether it was through the Army Cadet force, or it was Edinburgh City Council who I used to work for, or NHS Scotland, the best of being people who’ve wanted to encourage me to develop and the folks under me or around me to continuously seek to improve themselves.
To build on Donald’s points, I think we’ve already covered that there is a direct correlation. And you know, some of the best leaders have that self awareness, but I think it’s done obviously, in the one of my conference talks, I can deliver, have done over the last year or so talks about, you know, social leadership, which is something I’m really passionate about. And you know, I’ve kind of practice it and practice it and I’ve been talking about it within my spheres of influence and apply in my my enterprise, but a lot of that talks about, you know, great leaders, understanding the need to create other leaders. So you know, great leaders are not, you know, those who necessarily have followers, those who are able to create the future leaders, and there are various variations on that kind of, you know, phrase but I think naturally important, the other thing as well I was you know, I’m a huge advocate of coaching and mentoring. And I’ve done a fair amount of it in my in my own journey in career. And I think great leaders are also great coaches. So they have great coaching styles, and they’re able to coach others. So they’re not necessarily just telling them what to do. So I think you touched on so you know, talked about different styles. So they’re not being directive, but they’re able to help lead others to the answer by showing them that actually they already knew. So I do quite a lot of both some mentoring, somebody has a slightly different style. But I often coach because people often are able to, you know, other people need to believe in them, which I think is kind of the point Donald was making there. Great leaders nurture folk and help them build their own self belief.
Thank you both so much for joining me today. It’s been a really, really great conversation.
We look forward to seeing you in the future, at future events.
Wonderful. So to remind all our listeners, the Future of Work in Scotland, if they go to the YouTube page, they will see presentations that have already been if anybody wants to find out more, they can certainly find you on LinkedIn.
And it’s open to outside Scotland as well.
Thank you very much indeed. Donald Henderson. Southpl Singh. Thank you very much for joining me
you’re very welcome.
Thank you for joining me your host near Thomas at the knowing self knowing others podcast. If you’d like to know more about self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Please take a look at my website knowing self knowing others.co.uk You can also join me on YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter. Make sure you bookmark for knowing self knowing others podcast and tune into the next episode in two weeks time. I look forward to having you on my learning journey.
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