On this episode of Positive Chats, Jon spoke with long time mentor and strengths coach, Mike Pegg. Mike is an expert about creating super teams and getting people to work to their strengths. He is a fascinating character and has a wealth of knowledge that can help anyone in their endeavours. This is a fascinating one and well worth a watch!
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Jon: Welcome to another edition of Positive Chats. I am here with Mike Pegg director of the Positive Approach, similar name to Render Positive. I have a small hope that I influenced the name in some way, is that true?
Mike: Of course.
Jon: Oh thank you very much, I am very glad of that. You helped me very much over the years. Tell me what the Positive Approach, what you guys are up to?
Mike: Okay. Well my work is really based on helping people to be positive, good positive work, help to build a positive planet. That is what it is about. What that means is helping people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success. It means helping super teams to have a very clear story, strategy and road to success. It means building cultures, positive cultures in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. It means us each using our talents to help other people to be their best and to plant seeds of hope for future generations.
The way that works in practice is that I work as a mentor, I work with people and help them to look at what their strengths are and what their picture of success is. In every kind of session we start with what is your person’s picture of success, what do you want to achieve? And if you are working with peak performance what is very interesting is even if you are working with people in sports or business you often start with what is their picture of success for their life? A bit like the classic old tombstone exercise of saying when you are 80 years old, looking back what for you will mean you feel that you can die happy, that you have had a successful life?
And there you have always got three themes coming out which is I want positive relationships, if I want kids this is what I want them to be saying about the childhood they had, this is what I want friends to be saying. It is about making a positive difference in the world and it is about having positive memories, no regrets. And so what I try to do is to try to give them practical tools that they can use to build on their strengths and achieve those pictures of success.
Jon: That is a massive array of things to try and accomplish. And I remember those sessions and I remember people who had never … like I Spy now iProspect, now Aegis, now owned by another agency no doubt. But with I Spy they had never seen anything like this before. At the start everyone was just slightly bemused because this was a totally new approach but everyone agreed that by the end of it it was successful, that it had changed things, that it improved and certainly for me when we needed individual mentoring.
How did you get started in this? Because I know you had an unusual way of getting into this, you didn’t immediately start a company like this, you had an unusual way in?
Mike: Yes. I was very lucky because I was no good at school so therefore I could stay home and learn.
Mike: Yes? So the classic thing is if you have to learn by your own initiative you learn to be self managing and be creative. If you learn in an institution by and large you learn to repeat the answers that are rewarded. So I was very fortunate in not being very good at school. And so therefore I could stay home all day, read, learn and so on. I left school at 15, I worked in a factory for six years on a machine, and that was interesting because I was useless at it. But I had … it was wonderful to be able to go to the reference library in Derby where I grew up and just learn and to study and to look at the world and be able to see patterns.
And after six years I managed to get out of the factory, worked in an office for a bit and tried to work with people. And eventually I started to work with … I was offered a chance by Community Service Volunteers by a fantastic guy called Alec Dixon who started Voluntary Service Overseas, he inspired the peace corps in America and he started Community Service Volunteers. And I remember coming down from the Midlands to Toynbee Hall where it was that day, a sunny day, and being interviewed by Alec who said, “Well we can get you a job working with mentally handicapped kids”. And I remember going back home and skipping almost along the pavement saying, “I am never going to work again”. And that was when I was 22, I am 70 now and I haven’t really worked since then.
I have been able to be … I have been very fortunate to actually be able to encourage people. And after the mentally handicapped kids then it was running therapy in the community for psychopaths, delinquents, people like yourself.
Jon: Oh thank you very much.
Mike: And these kind of things and being able to do that. And what was fascinating about that was it was to just try to study what worked, you know? All my teachers said ‘Study what works, simplify what works and share what works but preferably in a profound way’. And people want more than concepts they want concrete things, they want practical tools they can use. Because all the world and its dog is a life coach these days.
Mike: Yes? But what they do is they come out with the same statements. And then somebody will say ‘Yes but what do I do?’ ‘Ah but I am going to give you another inspirational story’. ‘No what do I do?’ And fortunately I would learn from peak performers about what they did right and look at what people did right.
Because the route I have come from is a very organic approach which is essentially saying it is never about change. I don’t believe in change, I don’t believe in change progress. I believe in development, but that is a totally different thing. Because the organic approach believes that people already have within them the strengths they can use to succeed. They already have succeeded in their life, they have already overcome terrible challenges. And all they have to do is to build on their strengths, follow their successful patterns and have a few skills in order to achieve success.
And what my job is is to help them to understand what is their picture of success, what do they really, really want?
Mike: And bearing that in mind whether it is an individual or a team. So when studying super teams you spend … as you know what we do we spend a long time looking at what is the picture of success? What is the what? Because we all know the theory about teams, it is very simple. You just have to implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way, it is very simple. But what the important thing is to make sure you know what mountain you are climbing, why you are climbing it and when you are going to reach the summit. The only problem for most organisations is they are trying to more efficiently climb the wrong mountain, that is all.
So therefore it is about what is the mountain, what is the real what, what is the real result you want to achieve here and which is something I learned from people very early on about you have to … clarity, creativity, concrete results. What is the real result you want to achieve? Not is it what you want to do, what is the real result you want to achieve here? And then going from there and then saying alright so let’s look at your strengths, how can you use your strengths to achieve those goals? Have you ever tackled a similar challenge like this in the past? What did you do right then? How can you do that more? What do you need to add to that? Because it is about developing the organic seed that is within people because people develop they don’t change. A rose becomes a better rose they do not become a daffodil, yes?
Mike: It is about that, yes?
Mike: And again it is the classic things of focusing on what you can control, all that stuff, yes?
Mike: And I think the world is full of people who are trying to tell people they should change. It is pointless. It is about okay what is your goal, what do you really want to achieve? What have you tried before? When you have succeeded at it? What are your strengths? How can we use those? What are the three key things you can do to give yourself the greatest chance of success? Okay let’s look at the challenge you face, here are some practical tools.
Jon: Yes. When you referred to me earlier as I believe a psychopath, I think it was actually milder than that, that I was run by adrenaline and you figured me out within about ten seconds. How did you do that within … that was I think literally 20 seconds of speaking to me? I think because everyone else was quite tame in trying to respond to you and I immediately went in and you figured me out very, very quickly. Is that just experience?
Mike: I think it is. I have been very fortunate you see. I have been very fortunate to learn from some great teachers. And if you are working with teenagers … so for example the first therapeutic community, I ran therapeutic communities which were seven days a week 24 hours a day. And young people would come to us and they would come with all these sorts of labels, psychopaths, schizophrenic and bipolar, yes, whatever it is? And what we did was we made it very, very clear we made the deal very clear to people early on.
And the deal was this. We can help you to get what you want in your life providing you don’t hurt yourself or other people. We will encourage you, we will build on your strengths, we will help you to get work you enjoy. By the way here is the deal. When you are here we want you to encourage other people, when you are here we want you to take responsibility every moment of the day. That is the choice, yes?
Mike: Because it is about choices and it is about consequences, yes?
Mike: And so therefore what I also learned and then relating to your question is that if there is 24 kids who are aged between 16 and 20 and there are two staff, what is your assets? Your asset is not your staff it is the kids. So what you have to do is quickly find the leaders. How do you find the leaders, they are often adrenaline driven.
Mike: Yes? And adrenaline driven people walk a line and they can choose to be very positive with their adrenaline or negative with their adrenaline. It is their choice and there is a consequence to each route. And you can spot these people very quickly because they are full of life. It is always better to work with a psychopath rather than a neurotic because at least you have got life, yes?
Mike: You don’t have to spend three years to try to get it out. It is there in front of you, yes?
Jon: Did you … one question that I have is when you talk about athletes, I am fascinated by elite athletes, is that you have a level that is normal, professionals, elite and then there is one very rarely two but one at the top, Michael Jordan, Phelps, Bolt and my favourite Floyd Mayweather who you watch and you think is this guy a wizard? He doesn’t get hit. Why is it that at the very top there is one that is the elite, do you know why that is?
Mike: There are many, many reasons. I was fortunate to learn in the early days about sport psychology and I spent a lot of time after the therapeutic communities I then started to work in Scandinavia, I spent ten years teaching strengths courses there. And part of that was also working at university for sports in several countries and studying mental training and things like that. Now the interesting thing in this is … and I was talking with your brother Gary about this before which in a sense answers a bit of your question.
I just read a book by … which is quoted called ‘Win Forever’ by an American football coach and he has a very, very interesting definition of competition. And it is interesting competition and I found this, that this particularly with brilliant sports people is of course they are not competing against their opponent, their view of competition is to become the best they can be, now that approach started formalised with Coach John Wooden in the 1970s and his pyramid of success that all Americans will know about. And he says ‘True success is to become the best that you can become and to do your best whenever it is required and it is required every moment’.
Jon: Yes. And they always say that fights are won in training.
Mike: It is total intensity, yes? And so the interesting thing about the book ‘Win Forever’ is that it talks about this. And what he also says, what he learnt a lot was from this whole idea of actually competition. And I am not a competitive person except to try to become the best you can be. And he was looking for how can I improve? And he went and studied The Grateful Dead and talked to Jerry Garcia who said ‘We do not compete we try to be the only ones’.
Jon: Yes. I like that.
Mike: Yes? Which is the uniqueness of to become the best you can become, yes?
Mike: If you become the best you can become the other things happen as a result.
Jon: There is a great quote, I forget who it is, but he said that ‘I don’t have enough time to look at our competitors I just focus on us and that is why we win’. [Multiple speakers 00:12:38].
Mike: Providing you have got what … it is, it is an interesting one. Sorry to interrupt there. But I think the key to this here is there is a fantastic … it is providing you have got personal radar that fits.
Jon: Yes. And you are unique, you are not one of the crowd. There is something special and unique about you.
Mike: Well there is something special that is actually appreciated and that people want. There is lots of people who are different who nobody wants. But I think if you look at Al Siebert’s work, great psychologist in the 1950s who has written some of the first books about the survival personality and about resilience. And Al Siebert was fantastic he went and studied the Marines and the Green Berets and said ‘Well I tried to find the people who had survived massacres and what was very interesting with these people was that they were not gung ho but what was interesting was they were constantly on scan’.
Jon: What do you mean by that?
Mike: Well they were scanning the situation. And he called this idea ‘Personal radar’ yes? And personal radar, a person with personal radar they seem to know what is going to happen before it happens. But it is in their particular field, yes? So some of us have personal radar in one area but terrible radar somewhere else.
Mike: Yes? You know. So you will have somebody who will be brilliant technically and say well no radar whatsoever with people. And if somebody has cut their wrist and they will say ‘Oh we have got a red carpet today’. And what the crucial thing with the strengths approach is you have to find the area where you have got great radar and keep putting yourself in it.
Jon: This is very weird because only in the last six months would I say I have impressed myself, like I think the campaigns that I have come up with. And that is because I have been good at digital for a long time but the knowledge of social science is like the persuasion psychology, behavioural economics, social currency, they seem to have interconnected now. And only recently have I seemed to have had … I haven’t had a name for it until recently but radar for that. Where I know I can go if I do X and Y this will be the result. And that has kind of been really exciting but also kind of scary.
Mike: Well it is scary in the sense of knowing that now I have a duty to use it.
Mike: And you are talking about elite people and so on who are good at something. What they do is they have a fantastic duty to their talent. If you look at Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED speech she was remarkable there because she tried to introduce people to the whole concept that the Greeks and Romans had that genius is something we don’t own but we have a duty to it. So all this whole stuff about self promotion is totally alien because if we are given a talent it is a question of we have a duty to that talent. And we can’t claim credit for it but in a sense we have a responsibility.
Jon: But you have to work out … musicians always get annoyed when they are told ‘I wish I had a God given talent’ but it …have you ever heard of ‘The Talent Code’?
Jon: What do you think of that?
Mike: Well I think that a lot of these books like ‘The Talent Code’ or ‘Gold Mine’ or ‘Bounce’ or whatever, they have got some really good ideas. And I think the crucial thing is that it is beyond the 10,000 hours of purposeful practice. It is much more. It is -.
Jon: – This will be crap practice?
Mike: Yes that’s right yes. The purposeful practice is the stuff to keep improving. I think that what is interesting is if you look at [unintelligible 00:16:17] work many years ago when he talked about peak performance and what is called a memory of the future. And the reason is because they are constantly going A, B, Z. Yes? And what is Z? And also what they do is they have a [unintelligible 00:16:33] delivering the Z. And then comes the important thing is you are very fortunate if you have only got one or two talents, you are most unfortunate if you have got five because then you have to go to a course in decision making to decide what to use, yes?
So I think it is about … and I think that all people are remarkably talented. And I have been fortunate to be able to work with people and help them sometimes to find that talent. And then to say well okay how can I build on my strengths, how can I find sponsors who will pay me for it and how can I deliver success? And those people who do that they have a great service ethic which is something I learned from Alec Dixon in Community Service Volunteers is … you know it is the old saying ‘You are most yourself when you forget yourself’. It is in giving that we actually receive. And it is about if we are in the service business, if we are fortunate enough to be in that, our job is to help people to succeed, that is all it is, how we do it.
Jon: I always view that as when we have clients especially difficult ones I always remember it is privilege that we have got them as a client, that helps a lot. When you talked about … you know you got me in 20 seconds, it was like, “You are adrenaline driven” and there is negatives to that. There is positives of course.
Mike: Yes. There are pluses and there are minuses.
Jon: Because I do things that are … you know I will try something and I will take chances and a lot of the time they will work out. Like just Saturday I posted an image on Twitter 150,000 views. Never done anything like it before but it worked but it was very daring but it worked. But obviously there is down sides to it. Why is it that there are such down sides to this type of person, why does it come with that?
Mike: Well an adrenaline driven person loves to feel alive, yes?
Mike: What that means is they love to say yes to things, yes? Because they are frightened that if they say no they will miss out on an experience.
Mike: This has certain implications for them in all aspects of their lives. So … do I … I don’t need to go into it?
Jon: Yes sure.
Mike: You know it does, yes?
Mike: Because it is about … their life is about you are gathering experience and making sense of experience and passing on experience, that is what it is about.
Mike: An adrenaline driven person is addicted to more experience. And it has to be on it … because they are fully alive, they love to feel alive. So I was very fortunate because a lot of my early work was with addicts. Now of course we are all addicts, yes? But it is a question of whether it is a positive addiction or a negative addiction, and that is only in the consequence and so on. All great … all peak performers have aspects of what I call OCD which is obsessive compulsive discipline rather than disorder, yes?
Mike: And what they do is they live on the edge. But what they have done is they have learned how to manage it rather than let it manage them. And that is the threshold. And you are talking about great sports people, great sports people they are fine when they have a very clear purpose, yes?
Mike: What happens when they actually lose that hunger, yes? Or that purpose is fulfilled.
Jon: They have to retire.
Mike: Correct yes that’s right, and then finding a new purpose. Human beings crave purpose, yes? And without that they are lost and so therefore it is about the purpose. There is a lot spoken about passion and so on and some people say ‘Don’t follow your passion because it is …’ and so on ‘Because it is an illusion’. But passion is a starting point. Then it is about translating the passion into a purpose. And then it is about being ultra professional. Then it is about actually delivering peak performance and then it is about finding a sense of peace and passing on your knowledge.
Jon: Yes. Well that is one thing that I especially like about Render and I liked it in Eye Spy as well, but especially here is watching people who have trained who didn’t know very much or didn’t know anything at all become spectacular and especially with relation to ideas. A lot of my ideas don’t make the cut for clients now because our team have better ideas. That is probably one of the most wonderful feelings. Do you think a lot of the things that apply to athletes also apply to businesses or is it different principles or are they the same principles?
Mike: Virtually all … the eternal principles are there, they have been there for thousands of years. Be true to yourself, do a few things, do them brilliantly, help other people, keep improving. There isn’t too much else, you know, although people like to repackage them as their own principles. The crucial thing is how you do it, yes? How you use your talent. A lot of the work that I do is helping people to find their vocation. So if I ask you the word vocation what sort of image comes to mind or what is yours?
Jon: Vocation, how you want to apply yourself in life as I would associate it with work but that may not be relevant. How would you describe it?
Mike: I think it is about calling. What is your vocation? What are you here to do, yes? And what is interesting with vocation is you never retire from your vocation, and there are very few vocations. They are all about helping, encouraging, teaching, trading, performing, inventing, problem solving, they are the basic human activities. But you always think about this is your vocation, it is about finding the right vehicle in which you can use.
Jon: Can you have several vocations? Because obviously I have a big goal of taking Render global, I have other ideas that I want to launch, but also I have got … which astounds me, four or five people that … one that has specifically asked me to mentor her which is when I came to you and say “How do I do this I have never done this?” But three or four people, maybe five, that are constantly asking me advice which is … which I love doing and I will give it and that, I really like that as well. And there is other business ideas that I want to launch. Is it possible to have more than one dedication or do they all wrap up into -?
Mike: – Normally there is one vocation, there are different vehicles, yes? So a typical vocation will be enabling people and things to become the best they can be, yes?
Jon: Yes okay.
Mike: Yes? Then you are saying if that is the vocation what are the vehicles, yes?
Mike: And if for example a person has a vocation where you are enabling people and things to become the best they can be for instance which is a very common vocation, people say ‘I want an original one’ no well there aren’t too many original things. What is original is the way you use the vehicle to express it, yes? So therefore a person who has that vocation they could become a teacher, they could become a software designer that enables people to grow, they can become a coach, a sports coach, they can become a scientist. The interesting thing is how you actually find your vehicle. And the vehicle you always think about that and you say well find a vehicle, look at the specific activity (a) that you actually are fascinated by, you think about it all the time (b) you have a feeling for, you are very good at it. You go A, B, Z, you have a track record.
Mike: And thirdly (c) it is that you have a track record of finishing, yes? So find a field of activity that you are fascinated by, that you have a feeling for and you have a track record of finishing even if it is a very short time.
Jon: This is very interesting to me and kind of selfish that I am using the podcast to talk a little bit about me. But I coasted for a while, I have a tendency when we are doing quite well I will coast, and I realised -.
Mike: – Which is what adrenaline driven people do.
Mike: Until they get a kick.
Jon: Yes. When my back is against the wall I will do extremely well. And there is two things out of that is one I realised how stupid it was to brag that I was lazy and I could still do well and secondly you know when people say ‘I work 16 hour days and I put 100% in, 110% in’ I don’t think that is true, I don’t think it is possible to put that much effort in and not [s.l. burn down 00:25:01] like 80%? Well what do you think of that when people say that because I have never done that in my life? I am doing well now, I am putting a lot of effort in but that 16 hour day 120% I know that that is not … they are speaking figuratively but what is your opinion of that? Is that even possible?
Mike: Well if we look at all the work on peak performers there is some great stuff, books on that, you know? And obviously there is a load of courses based on this and lots of gurus around. Well essentially what they do they say it is always about managing energy rather than time, yes? So how do you manage your energy to achieve peak performance and so on? Now it is quite possible for some people to work flat out for several weeks if you are trying to go and climb a mountain or go across the desert or whatever it is and so on. I think it also changes with age massively. I think that there comes a crucial point where … well first of all we have to separate out the difference between effectiveness and efficiency and say if that is the goal, if that is the picture of success, what are the three key strategies we can follow to give ourselves the greatest chance of success, yes absolutely you do that?
And it is also then looking at the whole idea of can we use this energy in an effective way like looking back at your positive history, of when have I succeeded or when is this team or when has this company performed brilliantly? What did we do right then? How can we follow those principles again? Because those are the ones that are well oiled [multiple speakers 00:26:38] what can we add to that? And I think that the issue is that what you are talking about is when you talk about people, if you look at all the work that has been done on flow or the equivalent of the zone or those kind of things -.
Jon: – I would like your opinion on that by the way
Mike: Yes. Well again what is interesting is when you talk about this whole concept of try easy rather than try hard. And if you look back at for example all of the work that was done many years ago by Tim Galway on The Inner Game and the whole idea of the quieted mind and people actually perform best, athletes perform best, people perform best and they are more likely to experience flow when their mind is quiet or they have just got positive self [multiple speakers 00:27:22] that sort of thing. When they are expressing their champ rather than today it is very common to talk about your chimp, but when you are expressing your champ rather than your chimp and all those kind of things.
But of course that try easy and the zone comes at the space from nine to ten because you have done the hard work to get to nine and then you are suddenly relaxed, yes?
Jon: Yes. And you have overcome adversity. That is one thing that I was terrible with and I am sure many other people are is that it is great when things are average or they are very good but you have hit a disaster. And I always think that problems … you need big problems in your life and not just little problems they are to do items, because otherwise your life never changes, I would have never have come to London, I would never have started Render and your life is just a grey line it is just nothing happens. So I think you need adversity. I don’t know if you agree with that or not? Because you get to fall up, you get to change things, your life alters and you improve. Or is that just my armchair theory?
Mike: I think it depends on what kind of person you are. By and large I think that lots of people develop through pleasure and through stretch. I think that what happens is that … so a lot of people … and I think if they are left alone and educated properly they will grow through that pleasure. I think what they also do is they learn how to tackle, how to develop inner resilience by actually tackling problems that are challenging. And if they are given that encouragement and that environment they will be fine and if they can learn from positive models and say well actually you know you have a choice here, you can either choose to succeed or sulk, it is your choice. What do you want to do? If you want to succeed I will help you, if you want to sulk I suggest you go somewhere else.
Then I think that those people grow through pleasure. I think what they also do is they learn to be extremely proactive in continually seeking a new purpose and new goals. I think that what happens for some people is they don’t have that privilege. And so what happens is they get to a certain level and a certain rhythm and then what happens is they hit adversity at which point they need to make a choice. Do I let this carry on? Am I going to be a volunteer or a victim? What am I going to do here? It is my choice. And of course each choice has consequences, yes? That kind of thing.
And so therefore then sometimes people will say right I must do something about this. Now this is particularly so with adrenaline driven people because what happens is they love the go for it they love the purpose but actually it is a purpose that is often given from outside. If they are an athlete they are training for the tournament, yes? If they are a musician they have got the performance, yes? So it is that institution that forces them to go on stage and perform in the arena. Once that is removed, the external command, if they don’t watch out they can spiral down until they get very low. So they can hit rock bottom and then make a choice and say what do I want? Do I want to spend my life here or do I want to do something with my life?
So I think it is different for different people. And I think some people are driven by pleasure, some people are driven by pain, yes?
Mike: The difficulty with being driven by pain is that people become numb to it. They become like an addict who is numb to the smoke or to the drug and then one day it takes them, yes? And so on. So you see that of people in work. They actually absorb the pain of work, the boredom, the meetings about meetings about meetings, yes? And so on. Until one day something snaps. Then of course what they reframe it as is that you only learn from adversity well of course you don’t you learn from success.
Mike: So if you are working with athletes for example one of the hardest things is not to educate athletes how to deal with adversity it is to educate them how to deal with success.
Jon: I have heard that quote actually recently. And also a quote that I liked recently from a guy called Chael Sonnen who is a fighter. And he said that ‘People will tell you that failure is not an option. Failure is the easiest available option at all times. And if we can plant seeds and tell them to do X, Y, Z, then we can succeed or we can have self doubt and negativity and that is the route to failure’. And I thought that was a brilliant quote really not by anyone with any experience other than being a professional athlete. So I would agree with that, would you agree with that?
Mike: Yes. I think the key is the interesting thing is people always have … because I come from a very positive approach and looking at people have already got the strengths within them. So therefore for instance I sometimes work with people who are undergoing trauma of some kind and there is a fantastic book by a woman called Babette Rothschild called ‘Trauma Essentials’ which is a tremendous book. And she talks about the whole idea of if somebody comes to you with trauma the first thing to do is well teach them how to control it, yes? So they don’t have flashbacks, yes? That sort of stuff.
Jon: So would you put PTSD in that category?
Mike: Yes that’s right yes absolutely yes it is yes. And I am not medically qualified, yes? So therefore if anybody comes to me with something like that I make sure that they have had some medical checks first, yes absolutely, yes because it is vital. You can’t mess around with this stuff, yes?
Jon: Yes. Because the things like … I will let you continue sorry.
Mike: Yes. So then I think the crucial thing is, and what she says and I think is wonderful, is that people already have the resources within them. She does a test or when she does a keynote and says to the audience ‘How many of you have had a trauma in your life that has been pretty tough and come through it and been able to use it successfully later?’ And she says about 75% of the audience put their hands up, yes? Because it is this whole mythology as well that she goes against which is the idea that you must relive the trauma in order to come through it because this isn’t the case.
What you have to do is respect people’s coping mechanisms, yes? And never try to change them, because again it is this whole religion of change. There is people rushing around trying to change everybody else. But if you actually … if a person for example is getting migraines or headaches or an illness, the last thing they want to be done is confronted by saying ‘You are a bad person for having that’ because that is what they will feel, yes? Somebody says ‘You shouldn’t do that’ yes?
Mike: No, no. Say ‘It is okay, it is okay to have that symptom, it is not a problem because it is helping your system to succeed. Would you like to learn another option as well? You can still keep what you have got but would you like to have another one on top?’
Jon: It brings me on to why I believe the statistic is 3% of dyslexics in America I think this is are in federal prison and 3% are millionaires or billionaires. I don’t know if you have read into this but why is that? I believe the reason is that they have to find routes, the successful people, around the problem that they have that lead to this success. They go unusual routes. Do you have an opinion on that?
Mike: I think … and this is why I think it is a great advantage if a person has difficulties at school, but it is only a great advantage if they have supportive parents or a supportive grandparent or what is called … what used to be known as significant other, yes?
Mike: Because what happens is everybody feels unique, that is the reality, everybody has unique ways of processing information.
Mike: We know from all the work on what are now called the nine intelligences that everybody has a different combination of intelligences. If you are a kid growing up and finding your own way the last thing you want is judgement. You want to be left by yourself to then come back with the prize, yes?
Mike: Now if you don’t watch out … well the positive thing is you have encouraging parents who create an environment where you are encouraged to explore. Because we know people have to go through the process of absorption, adventure and achievement, we know that. And they have to do it at their own pace and they have to build up their own … the confidence in their own learning style. That is what they do. Now if they get that support to build up confidence in their own learning style and see that it succeeds then what happens is they grow on and they feel stronger inside, yes? And then they go on to the next and the next and the next.
But even this person who is found their way and believes in their successful style of working, if they come up against an institution who say that is the wrong way if they don’t watch out they will shudder inside, yes? And then if they keep repeating that they will feel a failure, yes?
But that is why you see that most people … when you are dealing with people who are very … who have got Synesthesia or any other kind of way of working which is different, what happens is that on one level … yes I always remember a fantastic quote by Anton [unintelligible 00:37:30] the great, great French writer or flyer who has talked about one day he was there in a carriage and looking at a child. And he looked at this child and said, “This child is a Mozart”. He says ‘When a new flower comes into the garden the gardeners rejoice and they help it to grow’. He says ‘But that is not what happens in school, they try to make it the same. They say you can’t be red here you must be grey otherwise you are wrong’.
Jon: Which brings me on to actually a topic that interests me that Dave [s.l. Trock 00:38:08] a big guy in advertising that I look up to said that he preferred that in America when he went over there they focused on building on strengths rather than here we want you to be mediocre in everything, you know? We want you to be okay at everything. And I actually had a similar … I was okay at school but I didn’t go to university and I didn’t go to college. And I also had the advice of my brother of always be different and that had a tremendous effect on me.
And do you think that it is a certain type of person … you say I am adrenaline driven? What are the other types of people if you had to stereotype? I don’t know if you like doing that but you did it with me so what are the other types of people that you have come across that are vastly different to that?
Mike: Well I think you know … what I say is everybody is unique, everybody is an artist, everybody is creative. What I try to do is to look for when a person comes alive.
Mike: You see it is all about finding the positive spirit in people. When do they come alive, when are they in their element? When are they doing things where they feel at ease and yet excel? And it might be sport, it might be music, it might be maths, it might be building things. What you are looking for is those golden moments when they come alive and what they are doing right then, yes?
Jon: Yes. Nothing is ever done excellently with reluctance.
Mike: No. It is done with energy and rigour and that sort of stuff. So you are always looking for a lot of the time … one of my great mentors was a guy called George Lywood who ran a therapeutic community for young people in Kent and I went to see him. And he was very controversial and not everything worked out but he had a remarkable programme and the young people loved it and so on. But what they did was they had this sort of community where all the people were … all the kids were living in chalets and with playing guitars, music, some were building cars, everything. And then they used to get bus loads of social workers come from all around the world. And then George would meet them in the Great Hall at the end.
And they would say ‘Mr Lywood it is a great honour, thank you for welcoming us. You have remarkable results but we don’t understand your programme. What is your programme?’ He says ‘I am not quite sure’. ‘Well can you explain a bit more?’ He says ‘Well the staff they just appear to be watching people’. He says ‘Absolutely you have got it in one. It is the hardest thing in the world to watch. They watch for when the boy comes alive and then they feed that seed, yes? And then it grows, it is very simple’.
And again I had great, great teachers and they talked about look for the moments of a sense of wonder, look for that electric charge from a person and feel it, yes? Because that is them, the rest isn’t, the rest may be a shell. Look for the spirit and reward the spirit which might sound very flaky but what you then have to do is looking at what are they doing right then? This is why many great peak performers in sports are not great coaches, yes? Because what they have to be able to do is to be able to say what is the person actually doing right? How can other people follow those principles in their own way and own them?
Because all great educators they go through inspiration, implementation, but most of all integration. They may be inspiring, they might give an implementation to all that works but they are brilliant at creating the space so people can integrate it and own it and do it in their way and very few people have all three of those.
Jon: Yes. So how would you describe, if I had to give you a job title, do you have a job title?
Mike: No. I am just an encourager.
Jon: An encourager. I like that. A head of encouragement would be great. So what do you think is missing from most organisations because all of these principles are successful particularly for me although there is a lot further that I want to go and the way we want to go? What do you think is missing from a lot of small, medium and large organisations? Do you think there should be a head of encouragement or similar within organisation? I know that might take business away from you.
Mike: No, no, I don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
Jon: But do you think that would be a role that would be -?
Mike: – I think the important thing is … that is why I call it the Positive Approach, it is a way of looking at things.
Mike: Let me give you an example. In the old days sometimes people used to come to me and say ‘Can you come to our big organisation because we will need to change things’, yes? ‘Can you come and help us?’ I would say, “Well what is the picture of success? What is the result you want to achieve? What do you actually want happening?” It is the old question. “What do you want people saying, thinking, feeling?” Yes? It is a bit like in any service organisation, you with your customers, you say in three months’ time what do we want our customers saying, thinking and feeling? Yes?
Mike: How can we do our best to achieve that? Those sort of things. So people would give me a picture of success. And then I would say ‘Fine. Can I come along and interview the ten most positive and professional people in your company’. And they would say you see ‘Ah but that is not the ones we have the problems with, we have the problems with the others, can you see them?’ I said, “No. I am not interested. You want people who can grow roses. I am not going to come and interview people who are not interested in gardening. So let’s have a look at … ”. So all companies have within them the seeds of success.
If you ever worked with Render Positive you would say ‘When has this company been successful? When were you most alive? What were you doing right then? What were the principles you followed? There is a whole school of thought about this called appreciative enquiry which is a fantastic way of working with organisations.
Jon: You are giving me so much to read now by the way, but go on sorry.
Mike: Yes well it is your choice whether you read them or not.
Jon: I will do.
Mike: That’s right. So therefore you know it is about looking at when do people perform at their best? Unfortunately I am just saying the same thing when I am 70 as I did when I was 15, that you look for when people perform at their best. What are they doing right then? How can they follow those principles even more in the future, how can they add other skills to be savvy? Because the soul is a great starting point but it is great if they have savvy as well, yes?
Jon: Yes. That is actually what I am trying to do at the moment is I know about persuasion science, behavioural economics, these things but I want to learn other social sciences that may not seem relevant to advertising but there will be little nuggets that will give you 1% extra. And I genuinely want to be the best. We are never going to be the biggest agency in the world but we can be the best, we can be … I want to be seen as, we want to be seen as, top tier incredible people come to us, that is our goal. So I think a lot of these principles you have been speaking about will help us get there.
When you talk about you get organisations and you don’t want to speak to the negative people, do these people have no hope? Can you not turn around … have you ever turned around someone that just has no motivation, has no … for whatever reason, maybe it is chemical, low dopamine levels or whatever it is, do you have any … are you able to help someone that just has zero motivation, zero inspiration?
Mike: Well no the thing is but they might have but it might be in actually being a member of a rock band, yes?
Mike: What I am saying is that all people, everybody is an artist, everybody is creative, everybody can blossom and grow. It is just a question of them finding … number one choosing to, being able to find that talent and putting themselves in the right place and that is what it is. However if you are running a business you have to be very clear on the deal, yes? In every great … if you look at great teams what do great teams have? A very clear story, strategy, road to success, but as I said earlier they make the deal clear. We are going to the South Pole and back. These are the reasons we are going, these are the guidelines. By the way it is going to be cold, do you want to come, yes or no? Yes? If you don’t want to it’s fine, I am not going to actually try to sit down and persuade you to enjoy being cold, it is your choice. But it is to make the deal clear.
And that is what I learned very early on working in therapeutic communities, you make the deal clear and you follow it through. You know great organisations they live the values they don’t just laminate the values.
Jon: That is one thing that I disliked about certain organisations that I have worked for, well that I have gone into, clients, where you see these values that are printed on the walls and you can clearly see that they are just meaningless wish lists, then they are not lived by. Have you gone into organisations and they have values and you have seen, because you are very quick to analyse, you just have that ability, that these are clearly not your values? Do you ever just confront especially large organisations?
Mike: I don’t confront anybody. I am a gentle person. I might stimulate, yes?
Mike: I look at what works. In the early days I worked with organisations, I helped many organisations as you know to find their values, yes?
Mike: And what we know if you are building a values organisation it is very simple, there are basic rules. Anybody who works with me we say ‘I will work with you on your values it is quite simple but we will do what works. Number one you are allowed no more than four values. Number two each value should have no more than three words. And number three each one should begin with a verb’. So like one of the first organisations where this really worked was they had four values, deliver results, take responsibility, care for people, love change. That was 20 years ago. And then that became the basis of everything they did. Deliver results.
Interview, if you are coming for interview we say to you ‘John our values are this deliver results, take responsibility, care for people, love change. Here are some examples of how we try to live that develop that, these companies. When you come to an interview could you share with us a couple of times in your life personally or professionally when you have lived some of these values? And can you also come with us and tell us if you are hired what you would do in the first month to live those values inside the business, what would you do?’
Jon: Yes. Is this … moving on to … this is almost actual branding, it is not just fluff branding it is genuine branding. I don’t know if you have heard the ‘Start with Why’ Simon Sinek?
Jon: That people buy into companies because of why they do things, like Apple have a purpose. What do you think of that approach? Do you think that is genuine or is that -?
Mike: – Well people want three things from work, money, meaning and magic, money to feed the stomach but meaning and magic to feed the spirit and the soul. Now how they get that meaning and magic, they are attracted to it, especially modern young people going in, they want a meaning, yes? And now if they don’t go into a digital they might go into a social enterprise, yes? Or create their own business. People long for that meaning, they long for that sense of belonging to something greater than themselves. But what they most of all want is honesty. So that is the key. And I think that the crucial thing in all the organisations that I have worked with who have been brilliant at living the values have had tough times and they have been tested and they have come through very strong and that I think is crucial.
Jon: That brings me on to one thing. We talk about individuals and they have to find a purpose and their magic where it is not work and you can work for hours because you enjoy it. But when you involve other people it gets complicated especially when that can be internally, that can be with clients, especially big ones where there is various committees, then it gets very complicated. Do your principles apply to those situations when dealing with lots of different sectors of people?
Mike: Yes. I think you go back to the thing about what works. Very few organisations have got the right balance between the global and the local. And a lot of my work is mentoring people who for example who are VPs of EMEA or something like that and have to deal with various other difficulties around the world. What we do know works is very simple. If you are the VP global or if you are the head globally, you will say to your people and stand up and say ‘This is our global purpose. This is what we are trying to achieve. These are the reasons why we are trying to achieve it. These are the benefits for all the stakeholders including yourself, for the customers, for the colleagues and for the shareholders. These are the benefits, that is the why. That is the purpose, that is what we are here to do, that is our reason for being.
These are the three principles we would like you to bear in mind to follow. So okay it is all about improving your performance, it is all about helping the customers to succeed, it is all about actually using your strengths and you developing. So it is about profits, people and problems. So this is our purpose, these are the principles’. ‘Those are set from the centre’ you will say ‘And they are not negotiable because that is what we are here for. The local practice folks is up to you because you are intelligent, you are intelligent. And the key is you must learn how you practice those principles is up to you but you must learn how to manage the centre. We will agree, make clear contracts with you on what you are supposed to deliver, then it is your job to manage us. You show us how what you are doing is fulfilling the purpose and following the principles and then we will leave you alone. Deliver. Guys you learn to manage Rome otherwise we in Rome will manage’. Yes?
Mike: And all great workers know how to manage Rome, yes?
Mike: And they do it in a way that is professional, because bosses worry. What happens the higher the ladder they get the more addicted they get to worrying, yes? And the key is there are great leaders creating a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance and their job is … the only job of a leader is to build and maintain a positive culture in which people can succeed, that is the only job. If you do that which I learned with the therapeutic communities, I learned when working with football teams, build the positive culture and the culture will take care of the people, yes?
But the people’s job is to manage the boss, yes? Because most organisations you are trying to manage the mad relatives in the attic. And you do that, yes? And very few people have learnt how to manage those people.
Jon: Can you explain these mad relatives in the attic? Explain.
Mike: Well you see the thing is that something happens. If you look at great organisations they do have global purpose and principles and they allow the local practice and they manage by outcomes rather than tasks, yes?
Mike: Your problem is with most organisations, at the centre you don’t have visionaries, you have [s.l. uber 00:54:17] implementers, yes?
Mike: Who actually are fighting amongst each other about the best way to paradise, yes? And what they do is then they carry on and take those fights out to the people, yes? So actually the hardest job is to act as a kind … provide air cover for the people who you want … who are doing the work while at the same time managing the mad relatives at the same time.
Jon: Yes. I like your terms that you have got there. Well thank you again for seeing me.
Mike: My pleasure.
Jon: And being on Positive Chats. And I hope to be involved with your organisation in the future and use your principles to make Render Positive more successful. Thank you very much.
Mike: It is my pleasure. Thank you.
Jon: Thank you. Thank you very much. We will see you again soon.
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