In this fascinating discussion I'm talking with Alison Blackler of 2minds. Alison is a transformational mind coach, speaker and 2x author of 'A Path Travelled' series - what that means is that she supports and helps people work with their minds to transform how they view themselves and the world around them.
As Alison says "basically anywhere where there is a mind I can pop up and hopefully help them".
During the conversation we dive into the strategies, processes and frameworks that you and your team can put in place to manage the difficulties of change in your accountancy firm in a much more effective and personal, if not human, way.
It's a revealing, candid and enormously insightful interview. Do join me on this podcast to hear what Alison has to say...
"People think being vulnerable and not knowing how to manage something is a negative, weak thing, but actually it's the opposite.
"If you're going to be courageous and take your business or your style a different way, you will feel super vulnerable to start with, but just having the courage to say, okay, this is all new...
"I honestly think if you allow your mind to feel safer and to say to yourself, it's all right - it's okay to not feel okay."
Connect with Alison
Connect with Paul
Resources mentioned in this podcast:
The SCARF Model
A Path Travelled:
How to make sense of your life
A Path Travelled:
How to make sense of relationships
Business Breakthrough Report
Lead With Purpose
TRANSCRIPT - unedited
[00:00:00] Paul Shrimpling: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Humanise the numbers podcast, series leaders, managers, and owners of ambitious accounting firms, sharing insights, successes, and issues that will challenge you and connect you and your firm to the ways and means of transforming your firms results.
[00:00:21] Alison Blackler: [00:00:21] People think being vulnerable and not knowing how to manage something is a negative, weak thing, but actually it's the opposite.
[00:00:28] You know, you, if you're going to be courageous and take your business or your style a different way that we will feel super vulnerable to start with. But I think just having the courage to say, okay, this is all new. I honestly think if you allow your mind to feel safer and to say to yourself, it's all right, it's okay to not feel okay.
[00:00:49] You start to change that instead of living in the fear of, I can't do it. I don't know how to do it. I'm not that sort of person. How am I earth? Am I going to do it? Just bare being able to be almost kind of to [00:01:00] yourself,
[00:01:02] Paul Shrimpling: [00:01:02] how can accountants lead and manage change successfully? When said change is being resisted, whether it be resisted by their team, their clients, or even their fellow leadership team.
[00:01:17] We don't. Discuss change specifically on this podcast with Alison black left from two minds, but we do dive into strategies and processes and frameworks that enable you and your team to manage change the difficulties of change in a much more effective and personal. If not human way, let's go to that podcast now.
[00:01:40] Today, I'm joined by us a blacklist from two minds. Welcome Allison. And to kick off, please, would you just give us your backstory, your experiences? Because this time we're not talking to an accountant, we're talking to someone quite different. So, um, please ask them, uh, your background, please.
[00:01:58] Alison Blackler: [00:01:58] Hi, thank you for having me on [00:02:00] your show, Paul.
[00:02:01] Um, My background. I predominantly worked in the NHS. I did 24 years in the NHS as a therapist. So I was trained as a counselor and cognitive behavioral therapy. So I worked alongside GPS. I worked in, uh, areas where a specialized domestic violence worked in drugs and alcohol for five years with them.
[00:02:22] Heroin users. Um, I've worked in prisons. I've worked in schools, I've worked in public health and safeguard. And so I, for 24 years, I was working in different departments, but always working alongside people. So my fascination, no doubt here is people. I. Uh, 10 years ago, I left the NHS and I set up a business called two minds.
[00:02:43] And now I I'm a mind coach because I support and help people work with their minds. I work with teams and leaders doing facilitation and groups. You also work in prisons, uh, still and, uh, basically anywhere where there is a mind I can pop [00:03:00] up and hopefully help them.
[00:03:02] Paul Shrimpling: [00:03:02] And every human in theory has got a mind of some description.
[00:03:05] Alison, even the characters we could say. Um, I, so you've, you've worked with different leadership teams so that whoever's listening to this podcast is typically a manager or leader of an accounting firm. Um, I'm wondering, um, is there, what are the significant differences between say the leader of the business and, um, someone who's stuck in prison or someone who's struggling in a school I'm just trying to, is there a bridge that we can build here that's relevant to the Kevin's listening to the podcast?
[00:03:39] Alison Blackler: [00:03:39] I think there is. I mean, you people often think of different situations, create the, obviously going to create different. Um, challenges. So if you ask in prison compared to if you were a leader of a business, yes, there's going to be different challenges, but actually in a strange kind of way, because the mind works in very similar ways.
[00:03:58] Um, we respond [00:04:00] in very similar ways. Emotionally. We have the same mechanism for dealing with them. Um, threat. We are all actually in the same boat, really. It's just, depending on what's surrounding you. And for me, when we can help people understand how their minds work, wherever you are, whatever your challenge, you will have a benefit from that.
[00:04:21] Paul Shrimpling: [00:04:21] It's interesting. I remember when I'm walking by 20 years now, I'm reading some books about the way the brain worked and it was almost as if. I could be more productive as a consequence of realizing and appreciating and understanding how the brain is wired and what that this amazing tool is doing for me or not doing for me, that I want it to do.
[00:04:43] It's cause it's, there's a, there's a programming element. Um, I'm hoping you're going to suggest here. Um, otherwise we're just who we are and we can't change it. You know, there's that old stories and the B. Uh, what's the Henry Ford, you know, whether you think you can or you can't, you're absolutely right.
[00:04:58] Um, so can we [00:05:00] change it? Alison, can we change this mind about is that this brain of ours, so that actually it serves us better and if you can,
[00:05:07] Alison Blackler: [00:05:07] how. We definitely can, um, that, that, I always think of it as it, isn't it powerful kit, Powell, P piece of machinery that we've got, and we've all got one. It doesn't matter who you are.
[00:05:18] It's not about intelligence. It's not about those kinds of things. We've all got this powerful piece of kit that can hold us back or can let us go. And I think the, there is no manual, you know, they don't, they don't come with a manual. We are all different and we are all affected by. Different things in different ways.
[00:05:36] And for me, when you say, how can we change it? Yes. There's lots of things that need to happen to really change an old habit or a limiting belief. But for me, if we just become curious and become, but get aware of what's happening, then I believe that you're 80% there to change in anything. So awareness, just appreciating that you've had that response to a situation.
[00:05:59] So, you know, [00:06:00] your manager, your boss says to you kind of have a word. And just appreciating what happens to you and, and just becoming aware can change
[00:06:09] Paul Shrimpling: [00:06:09] I mean, can you drag out one or two examples of where someone in a variety of backgrounds, maybe one or two, maybe a corporate background and a, another background were simply being aware of what's going on has actually helped them become more successful or more balanced and more able to enjoy what they're doing.
[00:06:28] Alison Blackler: [00:06:28] Um, loads of examples. Um, had one just a couple of weeks ago, actually, uh, working with, uh, chief exec of, um, a fairly small organization that is about 52 staff. And she had no appreciation of the impact that she had on her team when she spoke. She had no, she hadn't really thought about what it might be like for them.
[00:06:54] And just by exploring kind of what it was like for her, that realization, actually, [00:07:00] everyone isn't thinking like me was absolutely huge for her. And it sounds almost so simple and yet it was just so profound for, um, let me think of another example.
[00:07:11] Paul Shrimpling: [00:07:11] So when H how did she come to the realization that everyone isn't thinking the same way that she's thinking.
[00:07:18] Alison Blackler: [00:07:18] Well, partly my coaching approach is to put a spotlight on things for people, but also I do, I do share some of the, the science if it's appropriate in the session. So sometimes I might be giving some information and I think quite often I do find myself reminding people that we aren't all thinking the same.
[00:07:38] And when you talk about the difference with prisons, I remember saying that many times to the groups in prisons and almost that light bulb moment of like, Oh, is this why I'm here? Because, because I, I, I might've expected people to respond in a certain way and Oh, they didn't. How surprising is that? So I think sometimes we are all [00:08:00] walking around a little bit with blinkers on.
[00:08:02] I think we, we do expect people to respond in the way that we would. Mm, I think, I think it's an auto response to us all as humans. But for me, the more you can actually just step back and be curious that that might not be the case, that you've started a journey of changing how people will then get your information.
[00:08:22] And then also the whole piece then is around how you then communicate. So there's two things going on. There's appreciating that. It might not land as you wanted it to, but we've also got a lot of skills we can learn about how we communicate to each other. And is there any flexing that we can do? You know, some people have very solid ideas.
[00:08:40] This is how we do it, and we're not going to flex. If we can be more flexible than we can probably speak to more people more successfully.
[00:08:49] Paul Shrimpling: [00:08:49] Yeah. That lends itself to that piece. Isn't it. The more adaptable we are, the less maybe stressed we would be, but can we learn that adaptability?
[00:08:58] Alison Blackler: [00:08:58] Alison. I think [00:09:00] so. I think, I think some of it's about trust.
[00:09:02] Some of it's about trusting yourself, you know, almost trusting yourself that you can adapt and you, if you've had a way of doing something in, in a certain way, and you've always donated and it's kind of worked and you're almost so rigid to that year a bit, you know, if you use a metaphor, you're a bit like, uh, an Oak tree you're solid, you're strong.
[00:09:21] This is how we do it around here. And, and it works, but actually more now today than ever. Those things don't work. I think being able to dare to flex, I think, as a leader, being able to have the courage to listen to your team and think they've got some great ideas, let's open our thoughts into how we can take on board.
[00:09:41] Some of the ideas that teams have. Cause because sometimes we don't do that as leaders, you know, it's like, Nope, this is how we do it. And yet, you know, for me, that employee voice, giving people the autonomy to come up with some great ideas, let have the courage to run with them. Even if they don't work out, have the courage to run with them.
[00:09:58] That flexibility, [00:10:00] that objective ability will make you a great leader and, uh, probably a happier person
[00:10:08] Paul Shrimpling: [00:10:08] autonomies um, An interesting subject, isn't it? Because if we're looking at, to my experience of, you know, nine, nine knocking on the door of 20 years of working with the leaders of managers of accounting firms is, um, there's seems to be a desire to retain and maintain control. As opposed to allow people to, um, do their thing in their way.
[00:10:33] Uh, as opposed to maybe now this is the system, this is the checklist. This is what we have to do. Now. I'm going to contradict myself in a little while, but, um, we could argue that the. Caricature of a, you know, a leader of an accounting firms got this desire to maintain control, and you may see that in other CEOs, I'm guessing as opposed to no, hang on a second.
[00:10:55] What if, what if you could provide an environment where there's more autonomy for more of the people, more [00:11:00] of the time everyone would win? What, what are your thoughts on my thinking there?
[00:11:05] Alison Blackler: [00:11:05] I think there is a real balance because at the end of the day, if you are the leader, you are the leader. You know, there's a reason why you're there.
[00:11:11] You either own the business or you've, you've worked your way up and you were in charge. I think people, um, are so different that some people respond better by being told what to do. And they prefer that. Right. So you'll see, you'll have in your workforce, people who just want to be told, do this in this way, and they'll be quite happy, but you'll also have in there, lots of people who are very creative for a full of ideas who feel very stifled and very stock.
[00:11:39] And I think it is a balance between being able to flex again, it's that adaptability piece. Isn't it thinking? How can I. Support everyone who is different in my team so that everyone feels, cause if you went and said to the person who was just quite happy to do whatever they need to do each day, that gives them the scope for being creative.
[00:11:57] They will feel stateful too. And I [00:12:00] think that's always the skill is that one size doesn't fit all. And I think it's how we, how is. A leader, you, you flex and be able to give people a chance to, but ultimately the buck does stop with you. You know? So for me, it's that communication around we'll, we'll try things, but ultimately the decision might come back down to me.
[00:12:20] So people know, I think it's always that no surprises. Autonomy piece. We all like to have some level of control in things that we're doing. If everything is told to us, look at the coronavirus situation, look at what's happened to us. All. We were all told what we could and couldn't do, and it's put us all into some interesting, uh, emotional and mental States.
[00:12:42] Paul Shrimpling: [00:12:42] Uh, which yeah, absolutely. Uh, as challenged as all, for sure. Uh, so you, you, you bring up the magic question. How so? How, how does, uh, uh, any leader or manager, but obviously I'm interested from an accountant's perspective and then the CATSI firm's perspective is how, how do you [00:13:00] spot whether someone is happy to be.
[00:13:03] Essentially told what to do, as opposed to someone who wants a greater degree of autonomy. For example, what's the, yeah, what's the tool. What's the framework. How, how, how does someone who's managing a team of people, you know, see the differences, spot the differences, and then obviously respond to those differences.
[00:13:20] Alison Blackler: [00:13:20] The first thing always has to be is you've got to look at your style first. So were there any, when you're trying to work out how someone else is. Responding, you you've gotta be really clear on what your stylists. So I use somebody who was expecting people to just do what you say, or are you looking towards people?
[00:13:36] Because quite often people are saying, Oh yeah, I want my team to do different things, but you're not leading in that integrity. You know, you're not walking your talk. You're not thinking about it. So for me always, if you're gonna make any changes with. Especially leading people or managing people. We've got to look at our own style first, but after that, you can usually tell, because you can tell by what, what sort of things people [00:14:00] come and ask you, you know, who's the, who's the staff member that's constantly at your door saying, can I just, can you just check this for me?
[00:14:07] Can I, can I just ask you this versus the one who. Does it come and ask and just seems to get on with things and you can sort of unconsciously see, or the thing I always think is the most obvious thing, ask. You know, I think this idea that we don't ask one another, what we need in leadership. And when I do a lot of the leadership programs that I run, people are suddenly like, Oh yeah.
[00:14:33] W you know, almost w why don't we ask these questions of people. There's almost a fear of, of, Oh, I don't want to get too personal and medium. Asking those feelings, questions. How do you feel about this? You know, people often are running away from that in business, and yet, you know, to quote your, uh, strapline, you know, humanized the numbers.
[00:14:53] I mean, these people are the people who get the numbers done, and if we don't spend time working out what, what [00:15:00] they need and what they, what might help them be better, uh, in network and be better versions of themselves. Uh, we, we don't, we miss out, we miss lots of information
[00:15:11] Paul Shrimpling: [00:15:11] there. So if I've heard you, right.
[00:15:13] What you've said there is, um, first itself awareness my style. Yeah. Then it's, uh, be curious to pick up on something you said earlier, be curious about them and their style. Um, and one of the aspects is autonomy, but presumably there are other aspects that we're looking for. It's not a one horse races at this.
[00:15:32] It's either control or autonomy. That's it's not a one horse race, is it? No, not
[00:15:36] Alison Blackler: [00:15:36] that simple. I wish if it wasn't, it'd be easy, wouldn't it? I mean, people are so complex aren't they you'd just never can predict. And this is this whole thing about where we unconsciously assume that somebody's going to do everything that we've asked them to do.
[00:15:49] And then, and then we're shocked that they don't, you know, and I think that's where it gets really interesting. And that's what I love, you know, there's nothing greater for me than a team where it almost isn't working very well. And then we can really [00:16:00] start to look at why and what isn't happening, but I think the whole idea of just.
[00:16:07] Creating an environment where people feel able to come and talk, you know, be able to think about how people respond naturally, whatever your style is, you will get on better with the people that have a similar style to you. Right. So obviously there can often be a clash. Um, and I often hear, you know, I will often get involved in a business because there's a problem.
[00:16:30] So I might get called in because there's a problem. Uh, and I might get asked to coach somebody within the business, but actually the, you look at the leaders. Style and that's the problem and, and, you know, that gets proper.
[00:16:43] Paul Shrimpling: [00:16:43] Yeah. Yeah. Where's the root cause of the issue. It's that? No, it's not a Jew.
[00:16:47] Alison Blackler: [00:16:47] And I've had to have, I have had some of those difficult conversations with people where they said to you, it's all very well sending, sending me to work with your.
[00:16:55] Client, your colleague, your staff member, but actually hold on a minute, [00:17:00] you know, I think there's some issues at the top.
[00:17:03] Paul Shrimpling: [00:17:03] Yeah. Yeah. So I'm still digging around for this sort of, uh, the usable framework, as you know, it's like autonomy and control, uh, is, is one. Component is one aspect of difference. So my style is, um, as is for, I don't know if you might have thoughts on this study.
[00:17:21] I guess I should flag this up. I've got Alison working with me, one-on-one to improve what I'm doing and working with my team as well. And my sense is my I'm not a control. I'm not bothered about control. It's about get the, get the work done and the people in the team have the best people to get the work done.
[00:17:38] Um, But I know that it's different for an, I look at different people that I've worked with over the years and can see actually the, if I just told them what to do, they were happy. And then if I look at someone else, if I told them what to do, they were really not happy. Cause they want to, um, you know, bring some initiative and then sense of autonomy to the piece.
[00:17:57] But autonomy owes you one element. [00:18:00] What, what, what other elements are there that we can be looking out for some sort of framework?
[00:18:05] Alison Blackler: [00:18:05] Well, I think one of the models that I use, which, um, is based on neuroscience, which I've mentioned to you already, Paul is the scarf model. And the scarf model helps scarf and it's so it's an acronym.
[00:18:18] Um, David rock is the neuroscience and he, um, published this module in 2009, based on a lot of research, he plugged a lot of people in and put them into social or work-based situations. And he came up with this acronym, scarf, and autonomy is the a in scarf, but some of them, one of the pieces that I see all the time in this model is certainty.
[00:18:40] Certainty is huge. Your human brain is a certainty making machine that said there are some people who absolutely need so much detail, so much certainty to be able to do their job, and others can do the big picture and they they're much more comfortable just going with it and picking that up. [00:19:00] I think there's often a lot of information about the differences with how people cope and how people perform based on whether they've got clarity or not.
[00:19:09] That's another area,
[00:19:12] Paul Shrimpling: [00:19:12] clarity being certainty, therefore.
[00:19:14] Alison Blackler: [00:19:14] Yep. Having enough information about the job, about the task you're asking them to do. And,
[00:19:21] Paul Shrimpling: [00:19:21] uh, th th th this is, um, if we look at the, uh, role of, of, of, in the work of an accountancy practice, um, they are big in certainty because you know, the numbers add up or they don't add up.
[00:19:35] Um, they are sharing. Uh, historical data with their clients. And it's fact it's not fiction. It's not, there's no ambiguity attached to it is, you know, here's your set of annual accounts, which tells you how your last financial year did or the last quarter. Here's your tax return? Here's the tax amounts.
[00:19:50] There's no ambiguity there. There's absolute concrete certainty. You know, obviously nothing's a hundred percent, but you know, near as damn it, [00:20:00] uh, as opposed to, I think what, where the profession is heading is, um, to a place where the, the, and I look at the firms that are achieving higher average fees and, and doing work that they really, really enjoy and value we're on that journey from sort of compliance to advisory style.
[00:20:18] Work. And in that space, there's lots of uncertainty which doesn't necessarily suit the way accountants are trained or suit the people who are typically, uh, engaged with accountancy at the start of their careers. What, so what, what, what, what do we do to help accountants make that shift from then?
[00:20:37] Absolutely comfortable. Yeah. Happy in a world of certainty to one where they actually feel. Happy and confident in a world of ambiguity and uncertainty, how do we help them with that?
[00:20:50] Alison Blackler: [00:20:50] Well, obviously the human brain is looking for certainty all the time. I think it's fair to say that these challenges for anybody are going to be swans that need managing.
[00:20:59] So [00:21:00] that's the first thing to say is we have to think about that. They do need managing and again, the pieces, if something's happened, that feels uncertain. It's just being conscious that you have an unsettled feeling with it. That's the first thing if it were working on an individual basis. But I think in my experience of working with accountants, I think that is almost a bigger challenge for them because they're everything about that role is certain, as you say, and you know, that's in the wrong column or that's the wrong number that, you know, obviously I'm not a, I haven't got all the speak, but, um, that kind of thing.
[00:21:34] And I think when I, when I look at how people are then managed. Because people aren't predictable because people aren't, there is no clarity. I think that almost becomes harder for people managing accountant, staff, accountancy staff. Whereas when I look in other areas where I work, so I work, I work with a senior leadership team in a hospital trust.
[00:21:57] For example, now I'm not saying [00:22:00] they're great at managing their people. Cause I'm not saying that at all, but they are so used to. That they are, they're in charge of the whole, of the hospital. So they've got a and E they've got they're so used to in predictability, they're almost at the other end of the spectrum where they are still not dealing with their people very well, but they're so used to everything changing every minute of every day.
[00:22:20] They're not rooted and grounded either. And I almost feel like there's those two massive differences with accountancy here. We're used to having the detail and the. Clarity and the information and it's gotta be right. And if it's not in the right box, it's game over, and then you try and, and then you try and put that into managing people and it costs, it just doesn't work.
[00:22:42] It really just doesn't work because people are very unpredictable. And I, again, I'm not sure whether I answered your question.
[00:22:48] Paul Shrimpling: [00:22:48] Yeah. I'm not sure you have either, you know, we'll get there. We'll get
[00:22:51] Alison Blackler: [00:22:51] there.
[00:22:59] I'm trying [00:23:00] to ask you a question.
[00:23:00] Paul Shrimpling: [00:23:00] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, there's that? Um, yeah, no people are unpredictable, so you can look at your team, you can manage the work, which is right, right. Number, right column. But managing the people that's not necessarily right. Person, right. Column, right. Number that's different.
[00:23:14] But also what I'm suggesting here is when you raise the volume of client interaction, Because, you know, if there's an issue here with the profession, in terms of where, where the, where the profession is trending, where it's heading is less compliance work because the technology is taking over and is, is, is much better by the way, you're putting the right number in the right column, in the right way.
[00:23:38] And I know as soon as I say that, yeah, the catalyst listen to this. No, no, no, no, no, but that's, you know, when the, when it does it, well, it does it very well and it does it faster and so on. It's creating to the technology is going to create the time for more people to have more conversations with more clients more often.
[00:23:57] Therefore we're going to trend from looking [00:24:00] backwards at the, from, from historical data to looking forwards to, well, we haven't got data about the future where it's unpredictable and maybe from an advisor point of view, need to be helping clients make better decisions with better information at their disposal.
[00:24:13] So yes, we can do a cashflow forecast, but that's ambiguous. There's uncertainty built into every forecast. There's that's ever been made and accountants are uncomfortable in that space and that stresses them out. And I know I'm creating a bit of a character you're here, so forgive me, but it's, um, I'm actually looking for what, what tools can we share?
[00:24:36] What can you use that you can share that helps them eight? And you mentioned awareness a lot on this podcast. You know, it's that consciousness of where the challenge, but what tools to deal with that ambiguity stress. Have you, have you got for us? I'm looking for the magic wand here. Alison.
[00:24:56] Alison Blackler: [00:24:56] Okay. So many options of where, [00:25:00] how, where to put someone's attention.
[00:25:02] Um, I think something that occurred to me when you were just. Coming back to it is, and I know it's something that is, um, important to you is having the purpose of what is the future. Right. But having everyone aligned to that, but often you often find that staff don't really know. The, the purpose of what the future's going to look like.
[00:25:25] And that's partly because the manager or the leader, hasn't quite got clear on that. So I'll see a lot of managers, leaders who they sorta know, they know where they're going, but again, does everybody else know where they're going? And that includes the customers and all the stuff, because if you haven't got that clear, um, almost like a sort of.
[00:25:45] Strategic narrative for want of a better word. I can't think of a better word, but almost like that, that clear vision, that strategic narrative needs to include the story of what got them here. Because if every, if, if, if a [00:26:00] leader is clear on what got you here, people are much more likely to align themselves to that story.
[00:26:05] So even if your story was that you started off in your back bedroom and you know, you've grown and grown and grown it, that people love that kind of, again, human story about things. And often I see. Um, when we don't know where we're going and that uncertainty in the future is having that clear strategic narrative.
[00:26:23] That's clear story. What's got us here and then purpose, where are we going? Why are we going there? And maybe that might help people when they haven't got the finite detail.
[00:26:35] Paul Shrimpling: [00:26:35] Yeah. Yeah. So the, the, the backstory, again, we've got certainty about the backstory, but we've got one certainty about where we're going.
[00:26:42] And I think maybe that's why, uh, the strategic conversations with accountants can sometimes be challenging too, because, and it's interesting. One of my colleagues today is having a strategic session with a two owner firm. And we asked them to do a questionnaire in advance. And I was [00:27:00] reading the emails before the session today, just to see, um, what, uh, uh, my colleague Douglas was having to face.
[00:27:06] And they really struggled with the questions in and around. What's the purpose of the business. What's the raison d'etre. Why are you here? What, what, what does the world miss? If you die tomorrow, the sauce really hard. Um, but what.
[00:27:21] Alison Blackler: [00:27:21] Yeah, I think it is hard. I think you put people I've done it before, where I've done sessions with teams, leaders in a room.
[00:27:27] And I think it is, it is quite hard for people to think like that. Um, you know, I think for the human brain, it is, you know, it will do anything to avoid hard work if it can. And actually having to think quite hard about where you're going. And why are you going there? I think it's quite a difficult thing for, for humans to do, but for me, it's about having that clear what got us here.
[00:27:47] So I also met, I always use the metaphor if you go into a big shopping center and you'd go and find the big map with the big yellow you are here, arrow. If you haven't got that, then [00:28:00] you, how can you know where you go in? Because you're that big, you are here. Thing is so vital, but it has to be shared with every single member of the team.
[00:28:09] And the other thing I see a lot of challenges around is they don't share it with the new people. So you might have shared it at one point you might have done three years ago. You might've done a big, uh, in fact there was talking to somebody yesterday and she, they said they'd done a big values and vision piece seven years ago.
[00:28:26] And I said to her, how many members of, how many members of staff have you got new since then? She, and she just went, she just looked at me and went, yeah, Um, loads. So all those people don't know about that. And I think that really anchors people, people want to know what, you know, again, if we use another metaphor, what ship are the on, what got the ship here?
[00:28:47] I want to be part of it. And people will then go the extra mile because they really, really want to be part of this brilliant story, this brilliant journey that's grown and it's still growing and people that want to align themselves to [00:29:00] that. They get excited by being aligned to something that has got growth in it.
[00:29:06] Paul Shrimpling: [00:29:06] Is that, is that more prevalent in different age categories in your experience? Alison, do you notice the younger people more akin to that as opposed to older people? I guess,
[00:29:18] Alison Blackler: [00:29:18] I guess in some instances, yeah. You know, if you're at the beginning of your career, then you might have a bit more energy, but I still think if you're part of something that's going somewhere, we like that.
[00:29:30] Hmm. You know, and I think a lot of people do look for that in their work because in their home life, it might not be like that. Um, so I think a lot of people feel I, that having a sense of purpose is, is the thing really, that glues us all together. And that's why so many people have struggled in this last year because we've lost a lot of our sense of purpose.
[00:29:51] So for me having the ambiguous. Having the certainty and the NATA ambiguity about some of that vision will help [00:30:00] people feel settled. It'll help the mind feel settled. And now that's what we're looking for. Isn't it. To be able to settle people's minds.
[00:30:08] Paul Shrimpling: [00:30:08] Yeah. And there's a piece of research, you know, I, I refer to it very often and it's, I don't know how many times I've referred to it in this, in the podcast series, but certainly every firm we've ever worked with, we ended up talking about a Serota research study, which has been growing over years.
[00:30:23] And there's got something like 13.6 million employee surveys around. What do you do to drive an enthusiastic team? And it talks about three senses, sense of fairness, sense of camaraderie and a sense of. Achievement and just build the sense of fairness. One of the key components of a sense of furnace is that sense of job security certainty.
[00:30:45] And what I'm hearing from you saying if, if, if everyone in the business, including customers for that matter, because they also want to send a certainty, I've got a real sense as to your central theme, the purpose that vision of your [00:31:00] business. Uh, they're going to feel a greater sense of job security.
[00:31:03] There's an employee and you know, the loyalty of your clients may be also connect with that. And, um, therefore again, we've got another layer of, uh, job security built in, um, yeah. Interesting that we end up talking about the sense of purpose of businesses with someone who's a mind expert, but that I think that's
[00:31:21] Alison Blackler: [00:31:21] critical.
[00:31:22] Think you're the thing I just want to say there. I think the other thing that's really critical for leaders is if there is ambiguity, Looking at how, again, I'm coming back to self again, which is obviously always going to be my thing. If you. Understand and are able to deal with, um, ambiguity yourself as a leader, and others can see that you're doing that.
[00:31:45] So it's no good. You're expecting everyone else to be okay with it. And you're stopping around in a mood, you know, banging your door, you know, we've got to walk our talk. So I think you, you learning how as a leader, how to manage [00:32:00] ambiguity, but actually in the moment manage it. And, and almost model helpful this model.
[00:32:06] This is how we do it around here, because I think that's also critical. It's not just, it's not just the moving forward. It's the how you deal with when there isn't ambiguity. Um, when there isn't that clarity. Sorry. And I think the other thing, I was just going to say that, just to reiterate what you've said, and also what I was saying, being able to share your.
[00:32:30] Story your growth with everyone. So that everyone's like, Oh my gosh, I so want to be part of that. Whether you're a customer, whether you are a employee, whether you are anybody that's connected with that business, they want to be part of it that they're just excited to be part of it. Cause it's going somewhere.
[00:32:48] And I think that people just love that. Hmm. It's as simple as
[00:32:51] Paul Shrimpling: [00:32:51] that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, your point earlier about the person who's grabbed, they did a big values exercise seven years ago. And since then, lots and lots of people have, I would [00:33:00] argue almost certainly all the people who heard it seven years ago, can't repeat any of the values that they actually said seven years ago.
[00:33:07] Alison Blackler: [00:33:07] she, she admitted to that herself and she's the chief exec she's she actually said, she said, if you asked me or any of the senior leaders, she said, I think I would struggle to remember. What it was. So what they've done is which is very classic. They've had some sort of intervention where they've got some, probably someone in like me to do a piece around values that had a lovely day out or whatever.
[00:33:30] And then they've just become words. On a document somewhere, some businesses put them up on it, or some people put them up on the windows and it's all fabulous, but no one, no one is aligned to them. No one really knows what they mean to the business. And I think that is a massive piece around purpose. And where you go in is, is to make sure that everyone understands the values piece and the alignment of that.
[00:33:54] Yeah. Well,
[00:33:55] Paul Shrimpling: [00:33:55] we've, uh, I've got, um, um, I'm a big fan of what you just said by the way. There's this? [00:34:00] Yeah. How do you bring them to life? How do you bring that purpose and the values to life? Well, you don't do a big strategic exercise and then forget about it. It comes to life every week in the business, the values and the purpose shows up every week.
[00:34:12] I was in a, a board meeting with a firm earlier on this week and I, uh, I've worked with them on their core purpose. And, um, I had a stop watch on to see at what point their central purpose would show up in this leadership meeting. And we got to 49 minutes and it showed up. No. Is that early enough? Is that early enough for that, you know, for everyone to be demonstrating, this is our core reason for being and our world.
[00:34:38] I would argue, no, it's not. I've yet to have that. One-on-one with the managing director of that firm yet. So it's coming next week. Um, but similarly, the, the values piece is, you know, uh, yes, work out what they are. Get clarity on them. You know, if you've got more than four, in my view, the brain will fail to actually absorb them and recall them anyway.
[00:34:57] So to do what you can to keep the numbers low and [00:35:00] then, um, get the team to share a story every week and your team gathering. Yep. About one of the values and, you know, firms who are doing this as a say in actually it doesn't take long. Didn't take many weeks for everyone to realize this is the way we do it.
[00:35:13] Alison Blackler: [00:35:13] And use it as a decision-making strategy as well. You know, checking as you're about to make a decision in your business, just check. Does this fit with our values? Does this?
[00:35:24] Paul Shrimpling: [00:35:24] Yep. Brilliant. So we've got a few open loops here. We've got scarf. So we've got CNA. So we've got certain autonomy. So that,
[00:35:33] Alison Blackler: [00:35:33] yeah.
[00:35:33] Okay. So the acid status and that is how we see ourselves in relation to others. Yeah. Um, we've got certainty is the C we've got autonomy is the a we've got relatedness. So do we belong in the team, in the group? And then we've got fairness. And what the research says is if any of those are unsettled, we will be in a threat response, which obviously can be huge.
[00:35:59] You can [00:36:00] lose somebody's attention for days, weeks, even months based on one thing that's happened. And if we've got all of those techs, we are likely to be performing well, we will want. To do things again, we will want to repeat, I mean, it's a fantastic model. Um, it's a huge model you can do all sorts with it.
[00:36:19] It is obviously Google-able, um, there's some great videos online to pick for people to.
[00:36:26] Paul Shrimpling: [00:36:26] So if they'd just put in David rock and scarf, they'll find it. Yeah. If you
[00:36:30] Alison Blackler: [00:36:30] actually, if you actually put in David rock scarf, um, animated, there is a four minute, four minute. A short video, that's animated. I would recommend you turn the music down, cause it's a little bit annoying, but it's it's um, it's really just explains it in a really, really great little cartoon way.
[00:36:50] It's brilliant.
[00:36:51] Paul Shrimpling: [00:36:51] Well, we'll put the, we'll find the link and put it in the show notes for the podcast. Alison, thanks for that. And interesting. That fairness is a key part, which is fits brilliantly without [00:37:00] Serota study, which is the biggest study I've been able to find. And you look at some of the stuff that connected gala in terms of employee.
[00:37:06] Uh, research, they, they, they sound post exactly the same. Um, and, and actually state it as a foundational cause if there's not a sense of fairness, all the other stuff almost disappears, you know, it's like, what's the point in trying to build a sense of achievement or sense of confidence and certainty about the future, if you're not treating people in a fair way.
[00:37:25] Um, and that's that breakdown of, well, what do you really mean by fairness? And that's a subject for another time. Um, so. You keep coming back to self-awareness Alison, which you'd expect to someone who's got the business called two minds. Presumably the two minds is yours and theirs working together in order to reach a better place, whatever that means.
[00:37:47] Um, I've certainly experienced the upside benefits of that and we will do it again in a, in a, in a month or so's time. And we next get together. Um, if there's one, uh, key [00:38:00] that unlocks the door to, um, a. How do I describe this? A more balanced way of tackling the day-to-day stresses? Cause you know, that comment earlier about, um, you know, you as a leader have to, uh, manage ambiguity first, when, when you were saying that I was going, is that leaders actually being balanced?
[00:38:21] No matter what is flying at them, they just stay relatively calm. And yet enthusiastic. Is that what you're
[00:38:27] Alison Blackler: [00:38:27] signposting there? No, I don't think so because that's, wouldn't be realistic. I mean, at the end of the day we are yeah.
[00:38:37] All have an unconscious response to absolutely everything. We can't change that that is normal. Um, you know, we will have a response that makes us feel cross. Alternatively we'll have response that makes us feel like we want to run away from it, or we'll have a response where we're not sure what to do.
[00:38:52] And we just freeze. So that fight flight or freeze piece will happen for everything that ever happens to us. The trick is to be able to [00:39:00] manage that piece of kit. And I think as leaders, what I often hear, you know, bearing in mind and I'm often sent the staff to deal with. And actually when you listen to what the manager's doing, um, they're just human too.
[00:39:13] But obviously if you let. People see that you are responding in a way that you follow on. As I suppose the trick is to think about. So you're going to have the response, but if you follow on with that response, so if you stay angry, if you stay, if you shut your door and hide, you know, people aren't then going to be able to connect with you in a way that I always use the thing, walkie talk, you know, the amount of leaders who, if you're being really honest with yourself, you know, are you behaving in a way that you want your team to behave?
[00:39:45] Probably not because if you're not aware of what you're doing and if you've always done it like this, then we all have our habits and ways of, I mean, it's know I could give you a million different options to consider in any situation, because we have so many different ways of talking [00:40:00] of, of listening, of, of behaving so many habits that we all create.
[00:40:04] And I think the more you are open to just wondering. What you're what you are doing yourself and what's going on. And then whatever you're doing will impact on everybody around you. It's just, it's a thing we can't get away from
[00:40:17] Paul Shrimpling: [00:40:17] it. Yeah. What I'm hearing is this, you know, the, whatever happens happens, you know, the proverbial hits the fan to use it better, the next position.
[00:40:28] Um, and you can't help, but react unconsciously. And maybe, uh, everyone can see that, but relatively quickly go grow. Let's have a conscious response. Now we've reacted one way. What are we going to choose to now, how are we now going to choose to behave? Which again requires that awareness and consciousness, which sometimes we, um, um, avoid the responsibility for that as leaders
[00:40:53] Alison Blackler: [00:40:53] maybe.
[00:40:54] I think so. And I think, you know, when it's, as you do use your, it hits the fan. [00:41:00] We often then we'll go back to habits, the data you might have been trying to change. So you might go straight into telling people what to do. So you go straight back into the authority piece, right? It's all gone wrong. This is what we're going to do when you start, you know, literally telling people what to do because in the wake of that will be all these staff members who have been trying to.
[00:41:22] Be creative and come up with all these wonderful things and then something's not worked out. And then people get fearful that that will be the response. And I'm not suggesting ladies out there, uh, bolshy and shouting and bowl. I'm not suggesting that, but it, but it's, they're still graded. You know, that's still unconscious response.
[00:41:41] And I think when leaders are very conscious about how they lead and what they are. What is in the wake, you know, I think I've seen it so many times where people are almost like, wow, really? Yeah, of course. Nobody's thinking like me, of course, they're going to all have their own ways of being. And I think the other thing that [00:42:00] is critical is to, to be con curious about the impact that you do have as the leader, Because you often think, Oh no, I'm dead friendly.
[00:42:09] And my door's always open and you know, I'm all approachable, but you're the boss, you know? And when we think about certainty and we think about threat, you know, at the end of the day, there are a lot of people who will fear that they've done something wrong and then what happens? Oh my gosh, I'm going to get sucked.
[00:42:26] I've made a mistake. They go home to their families and say, I made a mistake today. Really boring. Yeah. And that break that piece of that. Yeah. That from a mind perspective, that piece, if that bit of brain is triggered and people follow it, that's when the catastrophizing start. And they will think about the worst case scenario.
[00:42:45] I've lost my job and then they're not performing well. And then they're more likely to make a mistake and then we're in the loop. And I think that's where so many people are not.
[00:42:55] Paul Shrimpling: [00:42:55] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I guess if there's, if there's one unanswered [00:43:00] question in my head now, Alison, from the time we've had together, is this.
[00:43:04] Yeah, and I know it's caricature, but typically is it just a caricature? I work with a firm in the last seven to 10 days and they've done a psychometric profiling. It stands across their whole team about 36, 37 people. And they've all of them, all of them have got in the, uh, you know, we're accountants. We want certainty, we want functional, you know, clarity about what we're doing.
[00:43:28] Um, you know, it's, if it's black, it's black and if it's white, it's white, the gray is not there. They've been there in that box. And actually what's required is for some of them to step into this, you know, client engagement and leadership and management role, which has got lots and lots of ambiguity. Um, how do we, how do we help more of them?
[00:43:48] Those people get into a space which is going to help them, help their careers, help their firm and help their colleagues because. Don't get me wrong. All the cancers need to blend in a balance of different styles of people as does [00:44:00] every business. But, um, accountants clearly need more of the people, people, or more of the people building skills around the people, human, emotional feeling, empathetic stuff.
[00:44:14] Uh, what do we do? What can they do to help themselves to become more of that type of person? Or are they stuck in that box forever?
[00:44:23] Alison Blackler: [00:44:23] Never, never stuck in a box. I think it is. It's just being okay with it being okay. Feeling vulnerable, literally be okay with the fact that it feels new, be okay with the fact that it isn't your necessarily your natural style, your, your area of expertise yet.
[00:44:41] I think it's about, you know, being open to the fact that this feels new. I think for me, That sort of people think being vulnerable and not knowing how to manage something is a negative, weak thing, but actually it's the opposite. You know, you, if you're going to be courageous and take your business or your style a [00:45:00] different way that we will feel super vulnerable to start with.
[00:45:03] But I think just having the courage to say, okay, this is all new. I honestly think if you allow your mind to feel safer and to say to yourself, it's all right, it's okay to not feel okay. It's okay for this not to be okay. You start to change that instead of living in the fear of, I can't do it or don't know how to do it.
[00:45:23] I'm not that sort of person, how am I earth? Am I going to do it just by being able to be almost kind of to yourself and just stick with the fact that it's okay. And then obviously then you can build skills, but for me that if you've got a foundation to say, it's okay, I can do this. I just got to learn how to do it.
[00:45:42] It's almost seeing it as something like that. And I'm sure it won't be as, uh, black and white as that, because I'm sure people will have skills. Yeah. I'm sure they'll have people skills that wouldn't be where they were if they didn't have some level of people skills. Yeah.
[00:45:57] Paul Shrimpling: [00:45:57] So that's what you're saying is just cut [00:46:00] yourself some Slack
[00:46:05] Alison Blackler: [00:46:05] seriously, from a mind perspective, if you are being hard on yourself, if you are expecting yourself to go to a completely different style that isn't necessarily, you know, comfortable or it's new for you, if you can go at it from a place of curiosity or a place of kindness. You will respond differently.
[00:46:27] You will learn things it's differently. If you go into it from a fear perspective, it's like your mind shut to learning new things because your mind has gone into panic.
[00:46:36] Paul Shrimpling: [00:46:36] Yeah. And then, you know, the cortisol and the adrenaline kicks in which, you know, a natural hormones in the body, but they're not helpful, are they in terms of what they do to you?
[00:46:44] So, um, uh, and I think David rock talks about that as well as neediness is research in terms of the impact of cortisol on the, uh, the immune system and how it downgrades it. So, you know, that flight fight freeze piece is, um, a natural [00:47:00] human response, but ultimately if you can get to a place where you're being kind to yourself, cut yourself some Slack.
[00:47:05] And being okay with the challenges and difficulties. I think that's brilliant, Allison, that's a great way to finish. So thank you very, very much for investing your time and your energy in the subject. And, um, thanks to personal experience. You really know your onions as the, uh, as the saying goes. So thank you.
[00:47:22] Thank you. Very
[00:47:23] Alison Blackler: [00:47:23] thank you. Thanks for having me on
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Awareness can lead to a change in attitude
One size does not fit all
Check your own 'style,' then look to your teams'
Certainty / Ambiguity
Purpose & values can lead to clarity
The SCARF model
Unconscious reactions and informed responses
Its okay to not be okay
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