Alain Hunkins, Managing Director at HLG | Author of Cracking the Leadership Code


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A sought-after keynote speaker, facilitator and coach, Alain Hunkins is a leadership expert who connects the science of high performance with the performing art of leadership. Leaders trust him to help unlock their potential and expand their influence, leading to superior results, increased engagement, higher levels of retention, and greater organizational and personal satisfaction. He has a gift for translating complex concepts from psychology, neuroscience and organizational behavior into simple, practical tools that can be applied on the job.

Over the course of his 20+ year career, Alain has worked with tens of thousands of leaders in over 25 countries, and served clients in all industries, including 42 Fortune 100 companies. He delivers dynamic keynotes, seminars, and workshops covering a variety of leadership topics including communication, teambuilding, conflict management, peak performance, motivation, and change.

With his Master’s in Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Professional Theater Training Program, and a BA from Amherst College, Alain also serves on the faculty of Duke Corporate Education, ranked #2 worldwide in 2018 by Financial Times on its list of customized Executive Education programs. Alain has lectured at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s business school and Columbia University.

Alain has authored over 400 articles, and been published by The Association for Talent Development, CEO Refresher, and the American Management Association.

A certified co-leader for ManKind Project International, a non-profit whose mission is to help men lead lives of service to their families, communities, and workplaces, he’s based in Northampton, MA with his wife and two children.

Show Notes


The Success Story podcast is focused on speaking to incredible people who have achieved success through trials, tribulations, wins and losses. In each episode we sit down with leaders and mentors. We document their life, career and stories to help pass those lessons onto others through insights, experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs and everyone in between.






Machine Generated Transcript


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Alain Hunkins, Scott, Scott D Clary


Scott D Clary  00:06

Welcome to the success story podcast. I’m your host, Scott Clary. On this podcast I have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, politicians and other notable figures, all who have achieved success through both wins and losses. To learn more about their life, their ideas and their insights, I sit down with leaders and mentors and unpack their story to help pass those lessons on to others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between. Without further ado, another episode of the success story podcast. Thanks again for joining me today. I am sitting down with Alain Hunkins, who is the author of Cracking the leadership code, the three secrets to building strong leaders now Alan is leadership speaker, consultant, trainer and coach over his 20 year career 20 plus year career, Hankins has designed and facilitated seminars on numerous leadership topics, including team building communication, peak performance, innovation and change. And he isn’t just consulting anybody, he has worked with a grand majority of the Fortune top 100 People over 40 of the Fortune top 100, including Walmart, Pfizer, Citi Group, IBM, General Motors, and Microsoft. He’s authored over 400 articles. He’s been published by the Association for Talent Development, CEO refresher and the American Management Association. He is obviously the author, author of this best selling novel, cracking leadership code. He is a TEDx speaker, and he is the managing director of The Hutchins leadership group. So thank you very much for joining me, I really appreciate you taking the time. I know I’ve been trying to get this, this done for a little bit now. So thank you.


Alain Hunkins  01:40

Thank you, Scott. It’s really a pleasure to be here with you. I’m really excited for our conversation.


Scott D Clary  01:45

Now, likewise. So I guess to start it off, I know, I always do a little bit of a bio, but I always want to hear your version of your story. So where did you come from? And how did you get to what you’re doing now?


Alain Hunkins  01:56

Sure. Yeah, I guess when I was probably five or six years old, I thought, I want to be a leadership speaker and TEDx? No, no, that’s not what


Scott D Clary  02:04

was it? It was so easy, right?


Alain Hunkins  02:07

I know that those ages even knows that stuff exists. And probably it didn’t exist back then. So if I had a look, you know, it’s interesting hindsight, is this wonderful 2020 thing where you can see the common thread. And if I had to look back, if there’s a common thread in my life, it’s been I’ve been fascinated by people, especially around how people express themselves and the impact that makes on others. So fairly unusual childhood, in some ways, I was raised by a single mom and my grandmother, and that’s not particularly unusual. The unusual part is they’re both Holocaust survivors. And my mother was a child of times, from the age seven to 10, she was actually separated from her mom, and in hiding in the Belgian underground, and then they were reunited, thankfully, after the war, but as you can imagine, Scott, that experience totally shaped their view of the world. And so from a really early age, I was very attuned to what was going on for the people around me. And in some ways, home is our first organizational environment, for better or worse. So I quickly got really clear on some things at home are different from the world outside, got really interested in psychology, then no surprise, from there, as well as I went to graduate school to study acting at theater conservatory. So a fairly eclectic background to then move into organizational development. I started by doing leadership training and conflict resolution training in New York City public schools, and did educational training for a couple years before I moved over two working in corporations, where I spent the last 23 years working, as you said, with 2000 or so groups, all over the world. And what I found is that, you know, you when you work with enough people, you start to develop pattern recognition. And what I saw was that great leaders have patterns of behavior in common, and guess what mediocre leaders have patterns of behavior in common. And so I started taking notes on the stories that I would share and what I’d see coming up in coaching sessions. And those notes turned into blog posts, and those blog posts turned into chapters and the chapters turned into this book that is now cracking a leadership code. And it’s my way to make sense of the experience of the last 20 years, and also to help people because I realized leaders tend to struggle with the same issues day after day, year after year. So my goal was to look at the concepts and break them down into their core behaviors. And the subtitle of the book is the three secrets to building strong leaders. And those three secrets are connection, communication, and collaboration. So I take each of those principles, and then I take a look at what gets in the way. Because as you hear that, you think that that’s clever, three C’s, they run that simple. And it’s simple in theory, but in practice, it’s not. So what gets in the way, what makes it hard for us as leaders to connect. So this is all based on lots of research, as well as field work, and then breaking it down to Okay, so here’s what gets in your way. And here are six simple behaviors that you can start to apply. And so for me, that’s where I come from. And I guess the reason I got interested in this, because, again, an early point, I felt like leaders make a difference. And what I discovered over two decades of work is that leaders don’t actually make a difference. They are the difference. They in fact, are the difference. And you know, Gallup has done some great research that, you know, 70% of the difference between lousy good and great culture is directly due to the leader. And as you know, Peter Drucker once famously said, when it comes to success, culture eats strategy for breakfast. So, I find there’s lots of lots of really smart people who are technically Smart and Skilled. But we’re all in the people business. And until you figure out how to help people be better, you’re really not stepping into the deep end of the leadership pool.


Scott D Clary  05:55

I appreciate you breaking that down. And I appreciate you actually helping me map out how you took some of the lessons that you learned in in some of the, you know, the ways that you’ve taught people, you’ve turned it into some blog posts, and then that eventually dovetailed into an article because I find that for a lot of people, I don’t know if, and that could be summarizing too much. But I find that for some people that write books, it’s not such. It’s not such I guess a, a nicely evolving process is is what you did. And I appreciate that, because I think that some people just put stuff into books and put it out there because they want you know, they want that. They want that recognition, they’ve they’ve worked very hard on the career, and they just go into a new topic. And then they find a way to sort of write a book about it. And it ties well into their total their overall persona. But I actually think you did was was not, you didn’t just build up your career, and then research a particular topic, and then write a book about it. You just built the book out of the tangible lessons you’ve learned over your entire career, which is very different than I was actually speaking to individual just yesterday, who was researching a new topic for a new book, that’s just, you know, he’s trying to find something that he’s probably, you know, relatively proficient in, but he’s not, it hasn’t been built up over his whole career, the thought process, and all the ideas in the one on ones and the and the seminars, and the trainings, and coaching hasn’t just gone into that one piece of work. So I think that that’s actually already. I think that’s, I’m not sure if that makes a difference in how the book and the contents actually relayed. But I think that if you took all the things of all the training sessions for somebody who’s been working in a specific industry, and you just took those and put them into a book, that’s probably like the ultimate playbook for for how to do something. And I just wanted to focus on that point, because I don’t think that’s how many people actually write books. So that’s, I didn’t know that. But I appreciate that a lot. And also, when you mentioned that, you know, three C’s is these are like very nice, high level buzzwords. And it sounds great, like you said, but why out of you know, your entire career, because there’s obviously, some meat and potatoes to why these are the main core components of effective leadership? Why are these the three core components that I assumed drive everything else that can be considered to be good or effective in an organization, so these are the like the pillars. And then, and then everything that comes from these will basically enable an organization to have incredible culture, incredible, you know, hit whatever KPI they’re trying to hit, have great retention, have incredible, you know, customer success, like all these different things that are nice to have KPIs in an organization, these you’re saying all stem from connection, communication and collaboration within that group of whoever that group is?


Alain Hunkins  08:52

Absolutely, Scott. I mean, the fact is, I didn’t like I love the fact that you caught on that I didn’t write this book from a top down approach. It was really a bottoms up grassroots. And what I found was, I’ve been doing all these blog posts and these articles. So after about four years of consistently publishing on a Saturday, I had about 250 articles. And I went back through and I started categorizing them into buckets. And what I found is there were three major buckets was connection, communication, collaboration, and seen that some aspect of leadership kept falling into one of these areas, whatever the topic at the surface level two went down deeper. Well, this is about connection. This is about communication. This is about collaboration. And so what I find is, yeah, while we tend to focus on the numbers and the metrics, because they’re easy, you know, it’s hard to measure how connected we are or the levels of trust. You know, no one says, Hey, Scott, you know, you’re being a 92% Jerk today. No one would ever say that right? Yet, we so it’s funny, you know, I was just listening to Huber actually, who was the CEO of Best Buy, and he was talking about He’s been doing this for years. But when he run his board meetings and his executive team meetings, the typical business meeting, what do we start with? Let’s pull out the numbers. Let’s look at the numbers. First. He said, It’s all backwards. Like the numbers are just a lagging indicator of the behavior. So in his meetings, and I am a big proponent of this as well, let’s start with a team. Let’s talk about the people and what’s going on with the team, what they’re working on, let’s look at the projects. And oh, by the way, it will be time we’ll get to the numbers, but then it shows what do we really prioritize? The fact is many, many leaders have been trained to be good technicians, you know, I was a good salesperson, I’m now promoted to a sales leader, I was a good marketing person, I’m the marketing manager, etc, etc. And yet, when we get into the leadership roles, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s a whole different skill set that focuses much more on how am I facilitating the work of others, and I say facilitate very intentionally, because the world has changed from our industrial age, command and control, to where we really need in this 21st century knowledge work economy, we need facilitators who can get the most out of people through unleashing what’s already there. And unfortunately, most leaders are still struggling with this inherited mindset, that still comes back to a command and control point of view. And this is what we have to overcome. It’s such a big issue. And if you look at it, the connection, communication and collaboration, the model I use is three concentric circles with connection at the core, because you really can’t have communication without connection, then you can’t really have collaboration without the other two, and they start to intermingle at a certain point. But everything keeps coming back to that because it’s the human element. And what can we oh, sorry, go ahead. No, I just was gonna say just Yeah, it’s at its core, because Leadership isn’t a job title. It’s not about power and control at its core, what is leadership, it is a relationship between a person who leads and a person who chooses to follow. And I say choice very specifically, again, because we live in this world where job hopping is the new normal. You know, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the median tenure of workers aged 25 to 34 is 2.8 years. So this isn’t about Shut up. Do as I say, because you should be happy you get a paycheck. I mean, between LinkedIn and Glassdoor, and all the technology we have people know where the grass is greener. So if you want to find ways to attract, retain and engage top performers, you need to give them something other than just a paycheck. And this is where being a great connector communicator and collaborator really starts showing up.


Scott D Clary  12:50

Now, let’s, let’s discuss what bad or poor leadership is, before we talk about what’s good leadership. So people may be trying to understand if the, like, not everybody knows what the command and control structure is. So what is bad leadership? How does it How does it display in 2020?


Alain Hunkins  13:10

Sure, I’ll tell you a story that really brings us to life. This is about a guy named Matt. And Matt is a district manager and he works in a pretty traditional industry works in the fast food industry. He worked for a fast food franchise. Now when I met Matt. Matt was one of 100 district managers in the whole company, he happened to be ranked number one out of all 100. So I asked him if he was always a top performer. He said no way. When I started, I was like, 84th on this list. And I was struggled for a while. So I asked him what changed. And I think Matt’s story is really indicative. So the way he described it is that when he started, he described himself as a fixer. He thought his job a district manager, and my job is to fix what’s wrong and make sure things were working right, which seems like an honest enough thing to do. So every morning, they would get a printed out report with their key performance metrics. They call it the hot list. And so he scan the hot list, and the first thing you do is look for what was in red, what wasn’t measuring up, then he go, as he called it into firefighting mode. He would hustle from one store to the other. And he basically go around and say, This is wrong. You need to fix this, and this is wrong. You have to fix this, go do this, do this. And he was struggling. He was doing this way for years. And he said, and I sucked. He says I sucked it like it things were not getting better. I was working my tail off and things were not getting better. And finally had a mentor. He said, Look, Matt, people don’t want a fixer. They want a leader. So Matt changed his approach. So instead of going in with a hotlist and saying you need to do this, he stopped he went, Okay, when he goes into stores now, he actually builds relationship with people. Hey, Scott, how are you? How was your weekend what you’re up to, and so he would listen and talk with you and ask you about that and build personal relationships with the people before he had seen everyone as these employee worker bees, where he said literally People would turn over in the stores and he didn’t even know their names coming and going. So disconnected from what was going on because he was so focused on the tactics of his hot list, we’d start with that build relationship, the next thing you do is pull out the hot list. But instead of saying this is wrong, you need to fix this. He would show people the hotlist and say, here’s the data, what do you think we should do? So very different approach, right? Suddenly, he’s now communicating and seeking to understand their point of view. And then together, they figure out a game plan for what they needed to work on. So they would collaborate. We said the shift for him was, I stopped thinking about trying to make the numbers by focusing on the numbers, he said, the shift for me was I started focusing on the people, because Surprise, surprise, it’s the people who make the numbers. And he said the coolest part about all this, he said, When I was number 84, I worked so much harder, and I was so much more stressed out then than I am, and I’m delivering number one results now. So not only are we delivering great results, we’re having so much more fun. So I think, Matt story is a really good example of that shift from the kind of old school mediocre fixer mentality, I’m the superhero to No, actually you’re facilitating the work of other people.


Scott  16:19

I like that story a lot. It shows the it shows the dichotomy, or just the juxtaposition, sorry, that’s probably the better word between the old school mentality and what you should be doing and how you should be enabling. And being that servant leader not being that task master, you know, cracking the whip. That’s it’s just, it’s such a better way to lead. And it’s probably the way that I see a lot of forward looking leaders strive to to lead and enable because you don’t want to be and I think that I’m actually curious as to your opinion on why you think that that command and control, fixer mentality is still so prevalent in many industries? Not all, of course, but in many, it’s still white, the status quo?


Alain Hunkins  17:08

Yeah, it’s interesting, great question. So, you know, we’d like to say, you know, what gets measured and rewarded is what gets done. And the fact is, unless there is a compelling reason for people to change, change is hard. And if what you have been doing, if you think it works for you, now, your people can think you’re crap. But if you think it’s good enough, and I have the job, and there’s no compelling thing that’s going to make me change, you’ll stick with what you know, you’re not going to be an evolved person. You know, my colleague, Tasha Eurich, has got this great book called Insight where she talks about the number one skill we need is to be self aware. And her research has found that literally only like eight to 10% of people are self aware, though, like 70%, say they are, which is pretty scary. And one of the things that she suggests is that one thing we need to do to become more self aware is have these, what she calls these alarm clock moments, these Wake Up Calls. And unless you have that wake up call that hit bottom moment that holy crap, what I’m doing is not working, you’ll stick with it. And I think so many industries, and I’ve had conversations with many, many, many mid level managers that you know, we kind of try to change things around here, but the people the top, they’re all happy with it, and they’re not going to change. So if they don’t, things around here won’t change. And so there’s got to be that sense of urgency. You know, John Kotter talks about, you know, the first core to leading change is you need to have a deep sense of urgency. If it’s not important to the leaders in the organization, it’s not going to happen to the extent that it can now Yes, can you do things in your own sphere and with your own teams? Yes. And ultimately, I believe every organization is limited by the level of the self awareness of the leaders at the top of the hierarchy.


Scott D Clary  19:01

And in following up on that point, is there a best practice to manage up eat? Let’s assume that it’s an optimal circumstance? And there could be some change? But how would you suggest somebody manage up to leadership. And when we say leadership, I really want to clarify that it doesn’t always have to be in a corporate setting, either. It can be in a community setting, it can be in a sports team setting like there’s so many different ways that you can apply these principles to be effective in your, in your specific instance. So of course, most of this is going to be in business contacts, people that are going to understand how to manage and lead but there’s a lot of other ways, but still, how do you manage up so how do you because I’ve always been told and I also agree that managing up is probably the hardest part of a leaders or managers job getting people above you to change their mind.


Alain Hunkins  19:55

Yeah, it is. And it’s funny, I was just having this conversation with someone yesterday who was asked She’s actually on a school board and talking about the head of the school board and that they weren’t particularly open and, and open to change. So same, same question. And it’s interesting because what it takes it takes a little bit of gymnastics and flexibility to do it is what you can’t just go direct and say like, Hey, you know, you’re sucky at this. And you change because that doesn’t really work, is you have to align yourself with what is our mutual common goal. And so you need to step back and see the big picture. What is that leader who was up above you? What are they trying to achieve? So starting from that place, and then figuring out how can you position and frame what you’re going to tell them in light of this is going to help you help us to be better. So that takes a little bit of like Aikido right like that martial arts, the using their energy to get them there. So if you can get them to agree that we are aligned, I want to get their great, would you be open to some feedback on some other alternatives, and see if they’re open to alternatives about how we can get there. And then they have now opened the door, to see that the feedback is actually going to help them in some way. And then can you deliver feedback around? I think, if we did things differently, this is all of those great political skills of how do you couch your message in a way that people can hear come into, come into play, which is why I think what you’re saying, This is why it’s such a difficult thing to do. Because it does take a level of tact and finesse to notice what’s working, how do I have to slightly adjust and change my approach, so that the person really hears me, and that they know that I’m on their side, certainly some things that we can do in advance is if we have demonstrated that we have done what we can to make our leaders look good, and support what they’ve done in the past, that’s going to go a long way to building our credibility, as opposed to us coming out of left field and saying, hey, you know, I’ve got some feedback for you. So, so that’s why I think there’s an art to managing up


Scott D Clary  22:04

for the for the three C’s that we touched on before, and we’ve sort of dipped our toes into some of them. When we go through connection, communication and collaboration, I would like to just if you can succinctly describe what each of those means in the context of leadership, just so that I have like a soundbite for those three, because I just I they sort of intermingled amongst everything else. But just to make it really, really simple. Because those are the three core concepts of the book.


Alain Hunkins  22:33

They are. Yeah, sure, the high level around what they are each so connection, I said before, at its core leadership is a relationship and the quality is built on a foundation of connection. So how do we get there, the first big piece to creating connection is empathy. That is showing people you understand them and care how they feel, is my Angelou said it best, I think she said, people won’t remember what you did. They won’t remember what you said. But they’ll remember how you made them feel. And there’s all sorts of neuroscience that will back that up. So in this section, we look at what is empathy, what gets in the way, things like impatience, fear, power, get in the way of empathy. And then I look at some simple tools on how you can strengthen your empathy muscles, doing things like being curious, being more open, listening with purpose, these are all things that can make you a more empathic and connected leader. Another big piece to connection also is credibility. That is, if people don’t believe you as the messenger, they’re not going to believe your message. So what are some things that you can do to strengthen your credibility in the eyes of people you lead? Here’s a really simple thing that anybody can do. Show up to your meetings on time. Think about it. Being on time is the easiest thing in the world to measure. You’re either in your seat, or on the Zoom call, or you’re not. And we know that everything we do and don’t do sends a clear message. When you’re there on time, it sends a message when you’re not there, it sends a message. So that’s one of the key things to credibility. So those are the two main components to connection, you’ve got empathy, and you’ve got credibility. Looking at communication, communication is one of the most challenging things for people to do well. What I found in my research is that leaders spend somewhere between 70 to 90% of their time, actually in communication of some kind with other people. So it is a huge thing. It also turns out to be ranked the number one challenge at work in general. This has been going on for decades, communication is our biggest challenge. So first, take a look at what are the things that get in the way and one of the biggest and do use an analogy here Scott ever been to a carnival and seeing the ring toss in the midway?


Scott D Clary  24:52

Of course. Never never win it but yes, I’ve never seen it right.


Alain Hunkins  24:55

So if you think about in communication, you can think of it as three rings. So one ring is What you mean, the other ring is what you say. And then the third ring is what I hear. So for communication to be aligned to create understanding, all those three rings have to be on top of each other, which as you can imagine, it’s hard enough to get one on the Carnival, to getting all three is really, really challenging. So I take a look at the fact that the goal of communication isn’t communication sake, the goal of communication is to create shared understanding. And the reason that shared understanding is so important is because understanding becomes the flat platform on which we take all future action. If we have a solid foundation of understanding, we can make great decisions and create good results. If we have a Tippy Toppy, shaky platform of under I think I understand, maybe I don’t know, then we’re going to make poor decisions and get poor results, which is why getting to the heart of understanding is so critical. So we take a look at things that get in the way. And then look at some simple tools that you can use to grow your communication and get understanding, I’ll just share a simple tool. I call it asking for a receipt. If you think about what a receipts in life, they are proof or confirmation of a completed transaction. So you buy something you get a receipt to prove you bought it. So you buy a candy bar, you might think I don’t need a receipt. But I bet you would never dream of buying a house or a car without getting the receipt because it’s important. So in communication, asking for receipt, is your ability to confirm that your information is not just been received, but it’s been understood. And a really simple story that brings us to life comes from the fast food industry. So we’re back to fast food again. So in the 1980s, they were introducing drive throughs to all the fast food restaurants. And back then the process was a nightmare, it was really common for people to go up and order their food from the intercom. And then they drive up to the window and they pick it up and be filled with orders and filled with mistakes. All the order will be filled with mistakes. And this was consistent, like two years this went on. And then suddenly drive thru mistake rates just started to plummet. And you might wonder what was the big technology they introduced? It was so simple. Basically, the employees started repeating the orders back to the customer before they start to make the food. I mean, isn’t that the simplest thing?


Scott D Clary  27:11

It’s very simple. It seems now common sense, right? It seems like


Alain Hunkins  27:15

common sense. But it wasn’t happening. And here’s the thing, how many of us have meetings where we all shoot around these ideas. And let’s do this. Let’s do that. And the meeting ends. And we haven’t circled back around and said, Alright, Scott. So what are you doing exactly? What am I doing? And so you think if Taco Bell will do this simple technology for 99 cent taco, don’t you think our business meetings worth the same level of clarity. So anyway, it’s a simple example of one tool that we can use to be better communicators, very good. And then you have the last C, which is collaboration. And if we think about it, especially in this modern 21st century age, is we can’t actually make someone be a good collaborator, comply, be good, be motivated, be engaged, go. I mean, that’s very command and control. So what we want to do as leaders is create conditions where collaboration and motivation is most likely to happen. And to do that, we need to put in place an environment where certain specific needs get met. Turns out that everyone in any organization who wants to get a job done has certain needs, and the four main needs that I cover, we all have a need for safety. And that can be physical safety, which is why we’re all working from home right now. For example, there’s also psychological safety. So do I feel free to be able to speak up in a meeting and say, I don’t understand this? Or I think I made a mistake? Can I say that without feeling like it’s a career limiting move? Also, does everyone on the team have equal airtime or when the team comes together? Do we only hear from one or two people again and again, and other people just never share? So that’s a big piece is around psychological safety. You got safety another big piece to a collaborative environment is people need to have energy they want to work in an energized environment, in many people can describe their workplace is like zombie Haven, right? It’s just like, so dull and like everything is boring, or no at the bar can be really low. So what are things that we can do to create a more energized workplace? Here’s another simple tool that you can use is if you have meetings, and you know, they’re going to go longer than 90 minutes, schedule a break. I know it’s a radical concept. We’ve all been on those two hour conference calls this three hour meetings, like, Ah, I can’t think we’re gonna take a break. Like know that in advance. There’s diminishing returns to the human psyche, you need to schedule breaks, it’s so simple, but how many of us do it intentionally? So there are safety, there’s energy. Third one is around purpose. We all have a need to feel that what we do matters and that how we do what we do is important and that we can contribute to something bigger than ourselves. So as leaders, how are we reminding people that what they do matters, and there are a lot of things that we can do, including telling stories about how what we do impact Next, our customer now is working last year with an auto tire manufacturer. And we’re doing some work around helping them to be a more customer centric culture. And this one woman said, I don’t really touch the customer, I don’t really deal with the customer. I said, What do you do? Should I work in Finance? I write out invoices. I said, interesting. Those invoices go to the customer. Yeah. So do you think the quality of your invoice makes a difference to the code? Of course it does. So she again, she didn’t realize how what she does mattered and made a difference. And so many people get so stuck in their own little part of the bigger picture, they lose sight of that. So what can we do to remind people their purpose, and the fourth need is around ownership. The fact is, we all do better work, when we feel free and autonomous, to do things in the way we want to and unleashes our creativity. Again, no one likes a micromanager telling us do this first, then that then this then that we want to be able to be free. So those four needs safety, energy, purpose and ownership are key to unlocking a culture of great motivation and collaboration.


Scott D Clary  31:04

Thank you. That was really, you know, that was very good. I appreciate that. That was that was that was more in depth than you had to go. But I, I still want people to go check out the book. And yeah,


Alain Hunkins  31:13

there’s more there. I mean, I just get a little taste of a little tip here and there. But there’s tons more.


Scott D Clary  31:18

No, it’s very, very good. Um, I’m curious on on a few more things. And if you if you know, if you have a hard stop at any point, let me know. But I am curious on a few more things, one of them being even those those four those four principles for basically enabling people to feel safe and and optimize their performance within an organization? Yeah, after we have migrated to work from home. What, what issues do you currently see? Or perhaps issues as a leading question? What are the benefits and the drawbacks of working from home in regards to how somebody leads a team?


Alain Hunkins  32:03

Interesting question. Yeah, in terms of benefits and drawbacks. So I think that Franklin, I have this question. So how is leadership affected in this time of working from home, all these principles, the stakes are just that much higher, they all still applies. The fact is we need to connect before Well, now you have to be much more intentional about connecting, because you can’t just go down the hall and say, Hey, Scott, I got this question for you. So I have to set up a meeting. But the fact is, and in fact, people not only do they need connection at home, but because we’re all living through this collective traumatic experience. And by the way, the dictionary defines trauma as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. So Coronavirus, qualifies. So we’re all in a trauma. So realizing that people actually want us to lean in more to be more connected, to feel that we care more about them as a person at a personal level first, because a lot of people are struggling with what’s going on. So I think one of the worst things we can do as leaders is just to plug on and say, Okay, well, we working in the office, now we’re working from home, it’s business as usual. Let’s go go go and not take a moment and stop and say, Scott, how are you doing? Everything? All right, because I know that you got two small kids, and you’re homeschooling and I can imagine that stuff. How are things going for you? How can I support you? The fact is, these are not ordinary times. So one of the things that we can do is be more connected. Also be explicit about the communication norms. So for some people checking in more frequently means checking in twice a day. For some people, it’s once a week, some people’s once a day, check in with your team and find out what’s going to work best for them. Again, Leadership isn’t measured through our own eyes, it’s measured through the eyes of the people we lead, and different people are going to need different things. Our leaders being tested right now. Holy moly, yes, they are. I mean, this is the time where leaders earn their stripes, because this is this is this is the tough stuff. And so I’d say be exceptionally human. At the end of this pandemic, no one’s gonna look back and say, you know, Scott, he cared about me too much, you know, he really cared about me too much. No one’s gonna ever say that. So, and the fact is, the reason that’s so important, and it’s always important, but particularly during crisis, is that all of our central nervous systems are in high arousal and alert mode, right? Every day. We’re dripping cortisol and adrenaline. Because when is it going to end? When can we go outside? Is it safe to have to wear a mask how far to have to be that person ran past me that they sneeze, like people are going through these things on a daily basis? And they’re thinking about, I get this if you don’t know someone you know, someone who knows someone who’s gotten sick and died. So we’re all really connected to this. We need to as leaders help people to calm their central nervous systems. So one of the biggest attributes when I ask people what do you describe as your best leader calm comes up again and again. We want leaders who can Be calm in the midst of the storm. So how can we help others around us calm themselves. And a big piece of that is for us to hold space, which is a fancy way of saying, put your own agenda aside and listen to the agenda of the people around you hold space, and ask them how they’re doing and how you can support them. I think too many leaders are afraid of that conversation, because they think it’s going to turn into group therapy, and they need to be a licensed psychologist, you don’t need to be a psychologist, you only need to be a caring human. And it’s amazing how just taking literally five minutes or 10 minutes out of your day with someone can set them up for a week of feeling better and better productivity, because what we know, and the science is here, and I got 30 pages of a book all about this. Because I know people say prove it. To me, that sounds very woowoo soft. You know, you wrote that on the back of a cocktail napkin? Well, no, actually, there’s science on this. And the science says that when people perform at their best, they actually feel at their best, which is probably pretty obvious. Because if you think about when you’re at your best, you’re probably feeling energized, enthusiastic, upbeat, happy, etc. That’s pretty obvious. What’s less obvious is anytime you’re not feeling those feelings, you are sub optimal. As a performer and sub optimal as a leader, you can’t be at your best. So in some ways, you can think of ourselves as CEOs, chief energy officers, and most important thing we can do is manage the energy of those around us. But to do that, obviously, we have to be aware both of our own energy, because energy is contagious. We all know that from being around people who have the proverbial rain cloud over their heads all the time. And we also know that the energy of a leader is the most contagious energy on a team. So a big thing that we need to do is to manage and be aware of our own energy as well as be tuned in to the energy of people around us.


Scott D Clary  37:04

And do you find that, that people are and leaders because it’s, again, time to step up to the plate and a lot of leaders are being tested? Do you find that there are some good insights or lessons learned that you’ve come across in your conversations with leaders that they’re experiencing for the first time that they’ve sort of had to overcome and surmise with, with COVID-19 and work from home? That? I would love to know, like some sort of like tactically current stuff that you’re dealing with?


Alain Hunkins  37:34

Yeah, sure. So tactically, I mean, one of the things that’s going on is, you know, we talked before we went on air, about a lot of leaders feeling this loss of control. I’m talking with a lot leaders who basically going, I need to be more transparent with my teams about what’s going on and how I’m feeling because I could basically manage that when we were all in person. But now that I’m out of control, basically saying, I need you to help me so I can help you. And so they’re having much more overt and explicit conversations about how they go about working together, whether that’s, Hey, what are our ground rules around emailing each other? Because as we were talking about off air, a lot of people are finding you’re working an extra 234 hours a day, and it’s nonstop. And so they’re having these conversations around boundaries, like, you know what, yeah, if you want to work at night, because your kids are asleep, that’s great. But why don’t you email that to your draft folder, and then send it to eight in the morning? Because let’s face it, if you’re the leader, and you say, No, I’ll send it at 11. But you don’t have to look at it until eight. We all know we’re gonna check our phones, we’re gonna see it. And now we’ve got that psychological baggage all night thinking, how am I gonna respond? And then you’re actually at work, even though it’s midnight. And then it never ends. So they’re having some really explicit conversations about what is going on. That is one of the biggest things I’m seeing happening. And another one is just checking in around frequency is like, what do we need? Because all of our usual rituals and norms are gone. So what do we need to do? And as with anything new, the pendulum sometimes swings too far. So suddenly, everyone went, Okay, we got zoom, great, let’s zoom everything. And my Maxim around Zoom is just because you can doesn’t mean you should, like not everything needs a zoom call. And so we have to realize there are a time and a place for it. But there’s a time in place. You know what, let’s turn the cameras off today. We’ll talk about this because it’s, it’s we’ve all heard of zoom fatigue, it’s exhausting. And so there’s a time and a place for it. So it’s forcing all of us to take a look at what is work and what doesn’t work on a whole new level. So those are some of the conversations that I’ve been having.




Scott D Clary  39:49

Very good.Now, before before I finish I do like teed up with some insights that you’ve learned over your career. Just some quick, quick questions, but before I go down that road Was there anything that that you thought would be relevant that we didn’t talk about those in the book? That was a core theme? I think we’ve covered a fair amount. But I just want to cover it up.


Alain Hunkins  40:08

Yeah, no, we covered a lot of the core themes mean, the other core theme, and we touched on this a bit is before we get into the three C’s of connection, communication and collaboration, the first C is context. And we talked about a bit of the context, it’s one of the frame that, you know, the reason that leaders are struggling so much today is because many of us are still clinging on to that 20th century industrial age mindset that is hampering us from being able to be the 21st century leaders that our people need us and want us to be. So just wanted to make sure that because the fact is, we can look at all these tools. But unless we look at the mindset, and the beliefs behind the tools, the tools has become a checkbox exercise for us to try to oh, I need to connect. No, I’m listening now with purpose, like, No, you’re not you’re fake listening, and you know how to do that we all need a fake lesson. So I just want to set the context, it all comes down to what is your motive behind why you want to lead, because if you want it for the power and the glory, you’re going to be limited in this new world that we live in.


Scott D Clary  41:08

Now, that’s also very important. And I think that as people go through this, there’s there’s going to be people that truly want to improve. And like you mentioned this the story with Matt, I don’t think he perhaps he changed his leadership style, because he realized what he was doing wasn’t working. Or perhaps he wanted to lead as more of a human and as a servant leader. And that seems like it just had the side effect of making his life a lot easier and getting the number one position. So I think that, I think that if you if it’s coming from the right spot, that’s the like, you mentioned the context and mindset, that’s incredibly important. And if you find that I now that’s something as an employee, or you know, somebody who is working with their boss, or their manager or their leader, that’s, you’re not going to be able to, you know, up manage, or manage up their mindset or so that’s, that’s really a more of a discussion of pick, you’d pick the right boss who you want to work with and work for. Because that that mindset piece is going to be very important in actually doing this properly long term with the fact across the organization. And that’s also why, you know, I like to have conversations with people about how to interview the company, they’re going to go higher than who’s gonna hire them. Because it’s not just a one way interview process. It’s a two way interview process. And if you if you don’t understand that, and you and you don’t do your own due diligence, when you’re going into a new position or a new role, that’s when you find yourself working in organizations that don’t adopt these practices and other practices, other cultural items that are really going to inhibit you and be psychologically draining, I find so I think that it’s all about like, who you work with, at the end of the day. That’s very, you know, long, long story short, make sure you work with and align with the right people. Now, the the last few questions I’d like to ask are just about your experience. So one of them being his question, I asked almost everybody, one life lesson that you’ve learned over your career, that you just I know, there’s many, but there’s just one that you would say, this is something that really, really helped me get to where I am today. And I want to impart it on anybody, industry agnostic.


Alain Hunkins  43:23

Yeah, I’d say the number one thing that has helped me in my own personal and professional development, has been seeking feedback from people outside of myself, who will give me the unvarnished truth, as uncomfortable as it can make me there’s nothing that I think that will help you accelerate your growth more than making sure you continually put yourself in a situation. I’m not saying here from Eric, not everyone’s feedback is the same. But you know, giving yourself over to people that you trust will tell you the unvarnished truth, and then taking it and then applying it. I think that’s the number one thing that all of us can do.


Scott D Clary  43:59

Very good. And another another point is a resource that you can’t be your own book has to be someone else’s resource has to be someone else’s book, they you have read or you’ve, you know, it could be a podcast, it could be a mentor, it could be an audible doesn’t really matter, but something that you would suggest people go out and take a look at.


Alain Hunkins  44:20

Yeah, you know, I’m going to go back to a classic that I find I quote, in fact, I think I quoted him earlier in our conversation, we’re talking about circles of concern and influence, which is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When I read that book, I think I was 23. And it sort of blew my socks off. Oh, my gosh, like this is just makes sense. I mean, it’s it’s obviously it’s built on these principles. You’re looking on your bookshelf there,


Scott D Clary  44:43

I think. No, I think I do have I just I’m wondering if I don’t know if it’s out here, but I do. I do have it somewhere in the house. But yeah, it’s a great, it’s such


Alain Hunkins  44:51

a great book. And the thing too, is not only is it a great book, but it’s become part of our common vocabulary. So if you haven’t read it, it sort of excludes you From the conversation when people start throwing out like, you know, think when when synergizing. I mean, there’s so many wonderful concepts in that book that is so rich that I find, because those are powerful universal principles. I keep coming back to that time and time again.


Scott D Clary  45:15

Very good. That’s a great book. And it’s a great recommendation to Where would people go and find more of yourself website? Where can they go check out your book? I’m assuming Amazon but other other places?


Alain Hunkins  45:27

Yeah, no, for sure. easiest place to go is one stop, you can go to www dot cracking the leadership, which is the book website that all you can read all about the book, you can actually order it right from there from four different places, as well as you can download the first chapter and get a free preview of the book to check it out. First, that page is connected directly with my website. So from there, you can scroll over and learn more about the coaching and training and consulting work I do with individuals, teams and organizations all under the umbrella of helping people become better leaders can also connect with me on LinkedIn as well. And if you’ve listened this far into the podcast, you now are part of the end of the podcast club. If you have any questions about anything that we’ve talked about or anything else on leadership, you can email me at Li Li n at Ella Hankins calm, and I do read and reply to all those emails that I get. So congratulations, you’ve made it this far.


Scott D Clary  46:26

That’s all for today. Thanks again for joining me on another episode of the success story podcast. You can download or stream this podcast wherever podcasts are available, including iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, I heart, radio, and many others. You can also watch his podcasts on YouTube. If you haven’t already. Please subscribe and share this podcast with your friends, family, coworkers and peers. Please leave us a rating on iTunes. It takes about 30 seconds as it allows other people to find our podcast and lets our amazing guests reach even more people with their message. And remember any rating is fine as long as it contains five stars. I’m Scott Clary from the success story podcast, signing off

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