how to build an energized and productive team (with Brendon Baker from Valuable Change Co.) featured image

How To Build An Energized And Productive Team (with Brendon Baker from Valuable Change Co.)

In this episode, Tim is joined by Brendon Baker, Managing Director at Valuable Change Co. Listen as they dive deep into an idea called the momentum path that enables you to diagnose the current momentum level of each team member of your team.

Related Read: Chasing Change, Pursuing The Possibilities

Interview Highlights

  • Brendon started Valuable Change Co. with a mission of helping change leaders drive real value. [1:52]

It’s the strength of the change leadership that makes the difference.” — Brendon Baker

  • Brendon’s second mission is helping fight unnecessary complexity, because we’ve all had this tendency to over-complicate things. [2:38]
  • A change leader is someone who drives holistically through the change. And that’s without getting caught in the depths of the ‘what are we doing?’ and all of the stakeholders and everything else. It’s the ability to drive holistically. [3:48]
  • Change leaders are doing four things well. 1) They’re creating a strong, clear change call. 2) They are generating and protecting change momentum. 3) They’re creating an 80/20 change platform to make it easier for everyone to run. 4) They’re leveraging their strategic influence. These four fall within what Brendon calls ‘the three ripples of change leadership.’ [4:07]
  • Change leadership is the ability to drive holistically, to have those ripples in mind, and keep the change rolling forward through multiple avenues. [7:44]
  • For Brendon, building a better world of work is creating what he calls ‘an 80/20 platform’. [9:12]
  • Brendon tells a story that illustrates the point of the 80/20 platform. The story is called ‘the impossible victory’ and it’s the story of an Italian driver in an Italian car winning the German Grand Prix. [9:41]
  • Momentum is not motivation. Motivation is narrow. Motivation is just one part of momentum. Motivation is all about, Well, how do we get someone to do something for us? How do we motivate them to do something for us? And so it’s very narrow. Momentum is broader. It’s really judging how our teams are and where they are. [16:10]

Motivation is all about creating energy.”
— Brendon Baker

  • The line from hope between hope and energy, if we’re going to draw that on that access is not a straight 45 degree line. It leans heavily towards hope first, and then it leans towards energy. The lesson there is that we as leaders, we need to build hope first. [19:06]
  • Brendon explains the two key mechanisms that helped create fanaticism. First, you need to create a sense of belonging. Second, positive disruption and that’s all about doing something different. [22:45]
  • As leaders, driving a change or not, the question we should be asking ourselves is ‘how do we get our teams talking about us, ideally in a positive way?’ [28:37]
  • We are striving to build fanatics when we don’t even know where people are at. And we don’t want to fall into that mistake of trying to drive even motivation or disruption if they don’t feel that sense of hope, if they don’t even feel that sense of belonging. [30:35]

It’s safe to fail. It’s safe to learn, and so then you experiment. And when you’re experimenting, you’re finding what works and that’s how you create the disruption through that experimentation.” — Brendon Baker

  • Brendon talks about the valuable people approach in his book, Valuable Change. It’s the idea between how we connect the inside and the outside of change. [39:04]
  • Brendon’s advice to start creating momentum is… [45:28]

Take a moment and listen. Don’t try to motivate too early. Don’t try to create disruption too early. Don’t immediately jump.” — Brendon Baker

Meet Our Guest

When it comes to change – the industry has over-complicated it. From obtuse jargon to untold reams of paperwork. It’s just become too hard, too confusing, too segregated, and too academic. 

The thing is—you don’t have time for that. No change leader does. So, Brendon is converting others to a radical new idea…

Keep it simple.

As a leading expert in the field, Brendon Baker is the author of the best-seller Valuable Change, and has consulted on over $10 Billion in transformational change. 

Brendon Baker established the Valuable Change Co. with one central mission in mind: to Help Change Leaders Drive Real Value, but on his way found his secondary mission: Fight Unnecessary Complexity. Where change isn’t about delivering on-time or on-budget, but rather actually getting what you’re looking for out of it.

Brendon is based on the rural outskirts of Canberra, Australia, has a degree in Business Management and is the father of two young girls—so he’s likely running on coffee as we speak.

How To Build An Energized And Productive Team (with Brendon Baker from Valuable Change Co.) Featured Image

Take a moment, listen, get an accurate bearing, and then move forward from there.”
— Brendon Baker

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Read the Transcript:

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Brendon Baker

Momentum is not motivation. And it’s useful to draw a delineation there in that. Motivation is narrow. Motivation is just one part of momentum. Motivation is all about, well, how do we get someone to do something for us? How do we motivate them to do something for us? And so it’s very narrow. Momentum is broader. It’s really judging how our teams are where they are. 

Tim Reitsma

Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. We’re on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you build happy, productive workplaces. I’m your host, Tim Reitsma. And today on the show, Brendon Baker, Author of a great book called Valuable Change, we will dig into the question — how do we create hope and energy within our teams and organizations? 

We dive deep into an idea called the momentum path that enables you to diagnose the current momentum level of each team member of your team, and then provide you a clear strategy on what to put in place to build and continue to grow.

Hey, Brendon! Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. It’s so good to have you here. And we’re going to get into your book here in a few minutes Valuable Change. Again we’re, I’m going to make a plug throughout this whole podcast as anybody who’s listening should go and pick up this book because it’s, it just breaks down leadership and change and projects in such a brilliant way.

But yeah. Welcome to the podcast. 

Brendon Baker

Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be here. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, before we get into it, why don’t you just tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? A little bit about what you’re up to, where you are, and all that good stuff. 

Brendon Baker

Yeah, sure. I’m Brendon Baker.

I’ve started the Valuable Change Co. And what I’m obsessed with is helping change leaders drive real value. And it’s been something that I’ve basically worn every hat in the changed arena. My entire career has been change from project management to leading into supporting, into kind of any hat you can think of, I’ve done it.

We had the mistakes and learned from that. And through that, I forged, managed, still managed to forge value in some of the most complex of situations. And one of the most, one of the recurring themes there was it’s the strength of the change leadership that makes the difference. And so that’s what I’m obsessed with, is helping those change leaders drive real value.

But I do admit, on my way, I found a secondary mission and that secondary mission really is helping fight unnecessary complexity because we’ve all, we’ve all have this tendency to over-complicate things. To, we run on the assumption that we kind of forget Occam’s razor, right? The simplest answer is usually the correct one.

And we run on the attached, assumption that it’s, if it’s more complex, then that’s probably it. Let’s go do that. You know, if it’s not a 15 part process, we’re not interested. And so helping reintroduce some of that simplicity into people’s lives. 

Tim Reitsma

I’ve got so many questions, just based on your intro already. And as we, you’re saying in the kind of pre-show prep that I go way off script often. So I already know where I’m going to go with this, but I do have a couple of questions, kind of standard questions that I’ve introduced into the podcast. 

And the first one is — what does it mean to be a leader? 

Brendon Baker

I’m going to take a little bit of artistic license here and I’m going to, I’m going to reposition your question a little bit, and I’m going to interpret that as — what does it mean to be a change leader?

Tim Reitsma

I love it. 

Brendon Baker

Now, a change leader is someone who drives holistically and holistically through the change. And, and that’s without getting caught in the depths of the, the ‘what are we doing?’ And that’s without getting caught in the depths of all of the stakeholders and everything else, it’s the ability to drive holistically.

And in particular, they’re doing four things well. They’re creating a strong, clear change call. They are generating and protecting change momentum. They’re creating what I call an 80/20 change platform to make it easier for all, for everyone to run. And then finally they’re leveraging that strategic influence and those four would I, they, they fall within what I call the three ripples of change leadership.

Now I do, I call them ripples on purpose and it, because I’ve noticed that change leadership ripples out. And so you need to get that core right and that ripples through to inside of your team and it ripples through to outside of your team and even all the way through to your clients and customers. There is that human ripple effect.

And to illustrate this, I’ll ask you a question, Tim. Tell me about the, tell me, tell me about your experience, your, your latest experience when you your latest eating out experience. Have you recently been to a restaurant or anything similar? 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, it’s my, my wife and I had an amazing date on New Year’s eve. And so, you know, we’re pushing out this podcast probably months after that. So we’ve gone on a few dates since then, but yeah, we had an amazing experience. 

Brendon Baker

Brilliant. Now let me ask you this. If your server, actually, I’m assuming that it, because it was amazing experience that the wait staff were all very, you know, that they, they met your needs, they were very supportive and attentive. Correct? 

Tim Reitsma

Absolutely, yes. 

Brendon Baker

So, let me ask you, if your wait staff had been sarcastic, rude, and given off that whole impression of just not wanting to be there. Would your experience have been as positive? 

Tim Reitsma

Oh, absolutely not. The food could have been phenomenal, but we would second guess going back. Absolutely. 

Brendon Baker

Exactly. And that is that’s a very simple illustration of that ripple effect, where that wait staff may have been having a, you know, maybe having a bad day. And so they’re just taking in it and so they end up taking it out on the customers and the customers then have that negative experience. And what’s interesting is that it may not have been the wait staff that was having the bad day.

It may have been the restaurant manager that was having the bad day. He took it out on the wait staff who then took them out on the, on the customers and it ripples through. It’s a simple illustration, but what’s scary is that I’ve seen that exact thing play out. I several hundred million dollar change.

Tim Reitsma


Brendon Baker

The leadership was shaky. The leadership were unstable. The core was unstable. It flowed through into the change teams. They were unstable. They were caught in the depths of despair. Their momentum was low and it flowed through ultimately to all of their external stakeholders and the change fell over.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, it’s a, that’s an expensive mistake. That actually reminds me of a story, a change story that I’ve went through many years ago in my career. I was part of an integration team part of a company that was acquired and the change team that came in, it was taking a look at all of our systems and processes.

And I’ll never forget this. One of the leaders came in and said, Tim, you’ve built an amazing system here for your team. Amazing processes, but we’re going to throw it out and you’re going to do it my way. And that was it. And and just like your illustration, it’s, do you think, how do you think I reacted? Was it just Oh, great. Okay. Sounds good. Or was it All right, here we go. We’re going at it. 

Brendon Baker

That’s exactly it. Yes. Yes. Yes. So, so I guess coming back to that question. Change leadership is that ability to drive holistically, is to have those ripples in mind and keep the change rolling forward through multiple avenues.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, it’s a, reminds me also of just a, another podcast guest who was talking about leadership is an energy. And when you say ripples, I just see it as that energy, where if I woke up today and was in a terrible mood, had to sync up with my team and portrayed that energy onto my team. And now they’re going to go and talk to other stakeholders in internal or external and just there’s ripples that have an effect across the organization, whether we think so or not. 

But I like how you said that and I like that visual, like how it has that massive ripple effect, whether you’re in change or as a leader, we’re change leaders all the time. We change directions, we change KPIs. We change metrics and and strategies all the time.

The next question that I have, it kind of ties to this and I think I, you know I’m going to kind of foresee where you’re going to go with this. But when we think about build a better world of work, here at People Managing People we’re on mission to build a better world of work. And one question that we’re wrestling with and we’re asking ourselves is when you hear that, what comes to mind?

What does it mean to build a better world of work?

Brendon Baker

It’s funny. So, what comes to mind for me here is creating what I call an 80/20 platform. And there is if it’s okay with you, I’d like to tell a little bit of a story that really illustrates the point here. It’s the story it’s called the impossible victory and it’s the story of an Italian man who single-handedly defeated the Nazis in 1935.

So his name was Tazio Nuvolari. He was an Italian Grand Prix driver and this the 1935 German Grand Prix. Now the German Grand Prix was designed by the Third Reich at the time to prove that the Germans were the best in the world. It was set up to demonstrate that the intention for the German Grand Prix was that a German driver in a German car would win the German Grand Prix. 

And to help make sure that happened the Third Reich had essentially given the German teams, Auto Union and Mercedes a ton of cash, a whole ton of cash to make better cars and their cars were faster, more powerful. They cornered better. The suspension systems were better. Their cars were miles ahead. And then you had Tazio Nuvolari, who was driving, an Italian driver in an Italian car.

He was in a three-year-old Alfa Romeo. To say that he was outclassed would be an understatement. And so race day arrives, it’s it’s drizzly. The track is wet and Tazio did actually, he put up some good times in terms of the qualifying. So he was, he stopped fairly close to that, to the top of the pack bang, the race starts and he has a terrible start.

Gets left in the dust. Germans all take off. But he has a trick up his sleeve. He’s pioneering a new technique. It’s a four wheel drifting. And so he starts four wheel driftings around some of these corners. Now to give you a little bit of context in terms of what they’re driving here, they’re driving basically glorified go-karts in 1935 that are, that have an engine strapped to them that are more powerful than a modern VW.

They and like, no ABS not even seatbelts. These guys are just living on the edge. Right? Anyway, so he’s four wheel drifting and using that on the wet track, he regains the lead and he holds that until, for about half, half the race until it’s time to pit the Germans or come in and out about a minute.

Tazio calls in and his fuel pump fires. And so they’re scrambling, his pit team is scrambling, trying to put the bottles and jobs and everything else they can to try to put fuel in his car. Eventually, got it full. And he’s off on his way, but he’s lost many significant minutes there. The race looks all but done for him that, at that point, but he comes out and he drives like a man, absolutely possessed and he takes one and one.

So he gets eight, seventh, sixth, fifth. And he battled his way all the way up until it’s the final lap. And he’s sitting in second and he is edging at the German car that’s currently in the lap and he is pushing him and pushing him. And the thing is, no one expected Tazio to do this. And so that German was actually planning on, on, on pitting earlier that and putting new tires on.

But he didn’t because had he done that he would have given up the lead. So he was pushing his tires until that last lap and the tires pop. Off he goes to the side, Tazio takes the lead and he narrowed is, an Italian driver in an Italian car winning the German Grand Prix. The crowd loved it, the Third Reich didn’t. 

Awesome story. Right? Classic underdog story. But if we look at that top 10, we have number one, top tier and he’s out for a mayer, but let’s put aside the romanticism. We then have positions two to nine, Mercedes and Auto Union. So the two German manufacturers, they hold positions two to nine.

Number 10, there is a Maserati. All right, so we’ve got 8 out of the 10 there being held by the, by the, by the drivers who had the better car. And so the question there is, are we building companies based on freight unit talent, like Tazio? Or are we actually building companies embedding the, that human led style thinking in terms of creating a platform for the 80%? 

Creating a company that embeds learning, creating a company that embeds the right way of human led capability, improvement, and momentum. That’s, that for me, that’s the future for the world of work, is embedding a lot of these human aspects to allow the 80% to, to drive faster.

And what I really like and the kicker for this story is that, even Tazio Nuvolari, he knew the answer to that question too. He had applied, that season, he had applied to join the German audit union team, but had been declined. 

Tim Reitsma

Wow. That’s a great story. It’s an inspirational story for not just the underdog, but you know, how can we apply that in the future of work and how do we use that story to inspire building a better world of work and, and yeah.

When we look around our organizations there’s so much talent and are we allowing space for that talent to thrive, to grow? Are we creating learning opportunities? Are we creating that momentum? And not just with, you know, the top performers, because you know, top performers might be the most vocal people in the organization and I’ve come across that in my journey is.

Not often or it’s not always, the fact that a top performer is the most vocal, could be that underdog. Somebody who is just silently working away with so much talent to offer, and we just haven’t unlocked that. So building a better world of work is creating that momentum. How do we do that? And that’s like, I think a great tie to your book of Valuable Change, is how do we create this momentum?

I know on page, on chapter five, I love the quote from John C. Maxwell. Momentum solves 80% of your problems. So if we know that the future of work, building a better world of work is about momentum, how do we do it? Where do we start? 

Brendon Baker

Yeah. And so like, when I think about momentum first of all, momentum is not motivation. And it’s useful to draw a delineation there in that. Motivation is narrow. Motivation is just one part of momentum. Motivation is all about, Well, how do we get someone to do something for us? How do we motivate them to do something for us? And so it’s very narrow. Momentum is broader. It’s really judging how our teams where they are.

Where they are they in the depths of despair or are they at the rooftops shouting glory for the for what you’re trying to change and what you’re trying to lead or are they somewhere between those? And so when I think about momentum, I think about it in terms of an XY axis.

And I’ve got this tool, it’s in the book, it’s called the ‘momentum path’. So imagine XY axis and on the Y axis we have hope. Low to high. On the X axis we have energy. Low to high. Now it’s not a straight 45 degree line. It’s not as hope increases, energy increases in, in a 45 degree a, in a equal ratio. And this is the common stake, right?

We get caught thinking about, well, how do we motivate people? And if someone’s in, if you have a team in depths of, in the depths of despair, and when I say depths of despair, I’m talking they’re literally counting the minutes before they have to finish. They have zero sick leave left because they’ve used every single minute of it. They have no annual leave.

I have notice, they have no interest in being there. They’re there because they feel stuck. That is the lowest. That, that is that group that’s low energy, low hope. They’re the ones that are not overly productive for us as late as either. They they’re often feisty. They’re often cynical.

They’re often not pleasant to deal with as well, because they’re lashing out. Right? So if you have a group that’s in the depths of despair, using motivation techniques, it doesn’t change a thing for them. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. I can see somebody who’s that cynical, like trying to tell somebody, you know, where we’re going, what we’re doing, it’s just the shrug of the shoulders. I don’t care. 

Brendon Baker

That’s exactly it. Yeah, yeah, they don’t care. 

Tim Reitsma

It’s so passive going. Yeah. It’s, you know, in the momentum path you call it despair. I still think of it as just, yeah, just highly cynical person. Somebody who just frankly, like, like I said, just doesn’t care. 

Brendon Baker

Yes. Yes. And that’s because both their hope and energy is so low. And so the trap there is, you don’t try to motivate them.

Motivation is all about creating energy. And so if you, the line from hope between hope and energy, if we’re going to draw that on that access is not a straight 45 degree line. It leans heavily towards hope first, and then it leans towards energy. And so what, the lesson there is that we as leaders, we need to build hope first.

We need to make sure that for anyone that’s, that’s stuck any kind of, maybe they’re in despair, maybe they’re overwhelmed by fear. We need to build that hope to pull them out of that position. And hope, let me quickly define the terms. Hope is a sense of optimism for both what they’re doing in terms of the organization, but also their personal place in what they’re doing as part of that, as part of the organization. 

And energy is closer to how I would describe a, well, I’ve got two young daughters. I’ve got a four-year-old and a two-year-old both of them. Bundles of energy. And that’s the kind of energy that I’m talking about.

I mean, I’m not expecting our, our staff members to be climbing over the lounges, like my little ones do. But it is still that sense of enthusiasm and that sense of attentiveness and that, that sense of readiness for whatever you know, needs to be done next is that idea that they’re showing up.

And so we need to build that hope first. And so we have this lovely line. It leans towards hope and then heads over to energy. And what I’ve discovered is that it tends to be five stages that a team can be at or an organization can be at, or an individual can be at, because you’re going to, you can assess this at any level. The lowest level, as I’ve already mentioned, that’s despair. 

Moving up from that, you then have fearful, you then have hopeful, then motivated. And that’s when motivation is put, once you have people that have that hope, that’s when motivation counts. You have motivated and finally have fanatic. So there is this stage beyond motivated. We all think about motivation, but there’s more than motivation.

There, there are the people, I mean, I like to think of people that are obsessed with Apple. Apple are amazing at creating fanatics. The people that camp out overnight to, to get the newest iPhone. That is a phenomenal level of, a phenomenal level of fanaticism. And you can say that fanaticism, because essentially what you’re looking at is that, it doesn’t matter the pain they have to endure. 

The reward for them and that sense of belonging is so strong that they’re going to pursue it anyway. And that’s the fanaticism we need to be driving towards as leaders. And that’s high. That’s truly high momentum. 

Tim Reitsma

I’m curious that you’ve been involved in – change leadership, change management, your, your career. Have you seen many organizations been able to master this to create internal fanatics? 

So, you know, going down that momentum path and whether you could say company names or not, but you know, I’m really curious about, how, like, how have you seen this? How’s it been done? Is it just, Oh, we’re going to create fanatics by giving everyone crazy amount of stock options or unlimited vacation, or, you know, that’s just, you know, kind of those perks and, you know, somebody who’s in that pit of despair just goes, Okay, I guess I don’t need to show up to work ’cause I’ve got unlimited vacation now. But you know, I’m curious.

What’s what have you come across in your journey?

Brendon Baker

Yeah. So but before, before I delve into examples I’ll quickly explain what I found the two key mechanisms that helped create that fanaticism. And so, let’s say you’ve got a team that’s motivated. You’ve got a bunch of high-energy, high-performers. 

What I found is, the groups that make that next step up that create that fanaticism. And quite often, just for, you know, context here, I don’t often see, in the change space, I don’t often see people camping out overnight. But what you do see is people staying late. What you do see is people talking about it in cartels and what you end up creating is passive marketing for your change.

You create that word-of-mouth marketing inside your organization for the change that’s coming. And that’s really that gold standard there, because you’ve got the email and drops, and you’ve got the change champions. You’ve got all these other techniques, but all of that is, I guess, inside out. What you want to achieve is passive word of mouth.

And you do that by, by doing two things. First of all, you need to create a sense of belonging. Brené Brown talks about belonging a lot and the personal reward that gives us, but we need to create what we can in terms of the context and the environment to help people have that sense of belonging and to help them see, this is where I fit and I love what I do. And this is exactly, this is me. Create that belonging. 

The second step there is what I call positive disruption. And that’s all about doing something different. And a quick example here, and in fact this is real life example. I do a fair bit of work with highly bureaucratic very hierarchical government organizations. Part of that’s because I’m based in Canberra, Australia.

And so it’s, it is federal HQ here. And so there’s just a lot of government here and it makes sense. But what’s really interesting is that, you can create a positive disruption in an environment like that, that highly hierarchical one by flattening the decision-making, by making what is typically a three week decision making process, multiple papers, you know, multiple layers of governance, all the way up.

What we did is we got the the exec and we created an issue destruction meeting. Very simple idea and it was once a week. He came all the way down into the project. The project team all brought their issue and there was no filter in terms of in terms of, is this issue too small or too big?

And they sat, he sat there and made decisions on the spot and it was all minuted bang. And so it flattened what was normally a three to four weeks, sometimes six weeks decision-making process into a weekly basis. That created positive disruption. And I mean, in a startup tech environment, you’d go, well, that’s crazy.

I can’t wait a week for my decision, but in a government environment, yes, but in a government environment, that was unreal. That was like, that was unheard of. And so that positive disruption ripple through. And so everyone started talking about, Oh, these guys are amazing. They get it, they get decisions done every single week.

And that that passive marketing started to flow and that ripple effect was very much at play. And what was really interesting is that within that change, the momentum picked up. They knew they were going to have decisions. There was that clear vision. They had that sense of belonging.

They knew where they fit and that wasn’t the entire story, but it’s a very simple example of creating a positive disruption, coupling that with a sense of belonging, and you create this fanatic passive marketing that, that rolls through. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, I can see it in your example, I’m picturing myself in that organization kind of in that despair spot of going, Okay, we need a decision. I guess it’ll happen in six weeks, but you know, on your access, you’ve got hope and energy.

And as these change initiatives come into play, yeah, your hope goes up. It’s like, oh there’s hope for our organization. There’s hope for my team. And my energy goes up because I know decisions can be made quicker. So I’m going to put in more effort to, to show up, to make sure my end of the change or the project is where it needs to be in order to drive that decision forward. 

So I can definitely see how that happens. I think, yeah, in a tech space or in a startup, decisions happen, you know, sometimes quicker than, you know, you can take a drink of water and we’re going left, we’re going right, we’re going up, we’re going down. All could happen in one day. 

And so I think I also like how you’ve coupled that with your sense of belonging, I think that’s not creating a family organization and that’s a whole other topic. It’s creating that community, a place where we’re having strong communication, where people do have a voice where people belong, where, you know, we, we check all of our biases at the door or we own up to our biases.

And and I think that has a lot of merit, whether you’re going through a change project or just in leadership in general is creating that sense of belonging, because you can create that hope and get people motivated. But how do you get, you know, your team talking about your business at the pub on Friday?

You know, that’s, that is exciting to hear and…

Brendon Baker

Yes, and that’s the question, sorry, but really that’s, I think that’s the question that as, as leaders, driving a change or not, that’s the question we should be asking ourselves, is how do we get our teams talking about us, ideally in a positive way?

How do we get them talking about us at the pub on Friday? That’s exactly it. And that will start to get that thinking going. And it’s a useful question to ponder, because you’re immediately thinking, Okay, well, how do we build that community so they feel like they belong? And how do we create that positive disruption and the positive disruption is so important because ultimately that’s the excuse.

That’s the thing that gives them something to talk about. If they don’t have that positive disruption, there’s nothing to talk about. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, that positive disruption. Let’s explore that a little bit more because that’s not necessarily a term that we throw around in our workplaces on a day to day. You know, we talk about motivation and we’ve, you know, we’ve heard momentum and I love how you’re bringing that in.

And you know, something that I brought into my team today about creating momentum and what does that mean for each of us? And, but that, that positive disruption. So, as a leader, we’re leading organizations, we’re leading teams, we’re leading change. How do we, where do we start with positive disruption? Where do we start? 

How do we create these ripples without just, as I said earlier on, coming into an organization and say, Oh, that’s great. Now you’re going to do it my way, whether that’s leading a change or maybe you’re a new leader leading a brand new team. And and don’t know where to start. It’s like, Okay your past leader led with, you know, their style.

And now this is my style. So, is that positive disruption or just disruption? 

Brendon Baker

I think it’s often the latter.

Look, I really liked that question. But my advice, I mean, in this hypothetical, my advice that later would be, hold up. You’re striving for, you’re striving to build fanatics when you don’t even know where people are at, you know. And we don’t want to fall into that mistake of trying to drive even motivation or disruption, if you, if they don’t feel that sense of hope, if they don’t even feel that sense of belonging, that there is that precursor there.

So my first advice there would be, let’s figure out where you are on momentum path. Where you are and where your team is on that momentum path. And let’s get a good sense of that. And let’s say they are highly motivated. Let’s say you have done a good job. And you’ve built a clear vision. And so they’re all feeling motivated.

They have those, you know, that they’re feeling empowered. The challenge that they’re in that lovely, motivated stage. Well, then you start to look at, well, what are the, what are some key organizational traits? What are some key organizational pain points? And you essentially just listen. You pay attention for a little while and you watch.

I mean, and that’s why I gave the example of the six-week decision-making, because that was a huge pain point in that organization, and to be honest, most government organizations. And so shortening that, bringing that down and creating that completely flat structure with no filter on what gets up was hugely disruptive there.

And so that, that’s the advice there is, let’s look at what’s actually painful. And, you know, interestingly inverse you know, you mentioned a tech startup and decisions are being made so fast that you can’t remember before you even have a drink of water or before you blink, right? Decisions may be made left, right, and center. 

And how do you create disruption in an environment like that? Or perhaps you create a disruption in environment like that by having that strong driver in the seat and having that really clear vision, because when decisions are being made that quickly, it’s, it can very quickly fall into a sense of chaos. Often positive chaos or coherent chaos, but it’s chaos, nonetheless.

And so it’s creating maybe or perhaps a sense of order in an environment like that. But again, we’re just looking at decision-making in these two things to, to illustrate it, but really what you want to be looking at is, What is our key, what’s the key organizational pain? And then you experiment. Because when you have a team that’s already up at that motivation point, you can experiment. They feel safe to fail.

You feel safe to fail, you feel safe to reflect and learn. And I talk a lot about learning and I help a lot of clients about building learning organizations. And we probably won’t get time to talk about it today, but perhaps in the future. But you want to build that sense of, it’s safe to fail. It’s safe to learn and so then you experiment. And when you’re experimenting, you’re finding what works and that’s how you create the disruption through that experimentation.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, it’s like how you started with, you know, leaders, if you’re listening to this and you’re been leading a team for many years, or you are new to leadership, or maybe you’ve been promoted or change organizations and now you’re leading a different team. Listen. 

You know, ask the good questions and listen, and learn. I, two qualities of leadership that you know, I don’t know if if I’ve seen in any courses or programs. It’s, how do we listen? You know, how do we actually listen, turn off our distractions or notifications and actively listen, get into that.

I think I’ve seen, you know, there’s the four levels of listening and that top level is where you able to tune out everything around you and just focus. So, listen leaders. I’ve got two small kids too, and you know, I try to listen while I’m reading the news and it’s, and it, you had listened to them and that I just jumbled up the conversations and nothing makes sense anymore, but, you know, take time to listen and learn.

Learning I think is just an important aspect of leaders, of leadership and creating that momentum is, you know, learning what works for your new team or your current team. You know, what worked for your past team, you know, if you’ve been promoted or leading a different team, might not work for this new team. Everyone works a little different and creating that culture of experimentation where it’s okay to fail. 

I’ve worked in organizations where I failed and was yelled at. So it’s the fear, right? You go down that momentum path very quickly from motivated or fanaticism to now I’m fearful and you know, are people afraid in our organizations? So if you’re a leader listening to this, look around at your team.

Are they able to give you great feedback? Are they, do they have permission to experiment? And I, I like I’m curious in, in your example in the government organization. How was I can imagine people were a little bit fearful, you know. It’s like, Okay, this is different. The leaders coming down from on high to come down and into our low level office to make decisions.

Oh, you know, I better put on my best suit and tie to because I’ve got that FaceTime now. I better articulate, I better practice. So was there a bit of that fear or was it just… 

Brendon Baker

Absolutely, yes. Yeah, there absolutely was initially. Now, we were lucky in this situation because the executive and the thing is, most people are like this though.

He was easy to get along with. He was very personable and whatnot and you know, and so when you’re in that kind of position, normally you do have a bit of experience in terms of creating that relation. And so that, that was nice. That worked well. That was a nice little added benefit which made that fear dissipate quicker than it otherwise perhaps would have.

But despite that yeah, that fear was there. But after a few weeks, a few rounds, the benefits greatly outweighed any potential fear and people got used to it. We, humans are very good at adapting. Very good at adapting. I mean, anyone that’s ever got a pay rise in their life knows how quickly it is, how quickly, how easy it is to just ratchet your life up one step.

And then all of the, all of a sudden the money just, oh, it’s I dunno where it’s gone. It’s that amazing ability to deal with, to adapt. And it’s the same in this case. And so it’s created that positive disruption by doing something different to the organization, and yet it didn’t take very long for that inside group to adapt to it.

And that was highly effective. And to be honest, as a side benefit to this, that executive that came down, he was promoted six months later. He moved up even higher, because of this initiative. So it was mutually beneficial. 

Tim Reitsma

It was beneficial for him personally, for the organization. And I’m sure as a strong leader, as you’re describing, wasn’t going in there with that, the selfish intent of, If I do this, I’m going to get a promotion and raise. 

And so if you’re listening to this, it’s, you know, maybe there’s some selfish intent there but I’ve got a previous podcast about imposter leaders. So if you, if that’s your intent, you go listen to that podcast on imposter leaders, but it’s, it starts with that core.

And you’ve got another diagram in the book about core momentum and, and so maybe, you know, take us through a few minutes of what does that mean? I know we’ve kind of touched on that a little bit and you know, we’ve talked about, you know, when I look at it is, it starts from a leadership perspective to create that core momentum and so, but yeah. 

How would you describe that core and I know in the diagram, and it’s hard to say this on through audio, but you kind of have a smaller circle of, with core momentum with kind of the feelers out with are called internal influencers. And then there’s a dotted line around called community.

So walk us through that, that that illustration.

Brendon Baker

Wait, you’ve just done, you’ve described it. Job’s done, right? 

Tim Reitsma

I took your job. There you go. 

Brendon Baker

Perfect. Excellent. 

Tim Reitsma

I’m going on book 2 now. 

Brendon Baker

I’m gonna write about my next book. 

Yeah, look. Absolutely. So, so the core mentum or rather, what you’re describing there is what I call the valuable people approach.

And this is this idea between how do we connect the inside and the outside of that change. And when I say the inside, it’s inside out, realm of control and then the broader stakeholder groups, all the way through to clients and customers and whatnot. And so the diagram there is rather simple. There is that internal circle, which has that core momentum, and you need to get that, you need to get that effective. 

I mean, you, as a minimum, you need to be hopeful, motivated, or fanatic in there. You need to get them, you need to get that hope built and you need to get that fear managed and out of there as best you can. Then, you then put your, you essentially then put your feelers out and I am conscious of time and this is a whole nother discussion in terms of, well, how do we then find the right people to target, but I’ll do it in 30 seconds if I can. 

The end notes, the summary notes to this is that, our organizations follow the same network patterns as do every human made network and that, the pattern is one of hubs and nodes. In that there is these people that, that are connectors within your organization. They’re the ones that essentially other glue for your organizations.

A nice way to think about this is if you think of the internet, now, how do you find any website on the internet? You go through either Google, Facebook, Amazon, one of these big connectors. I should probably mention Bing, I’m sure people use it. But you use one of these connectors. I mean, even if you look at that hub to node ratio, I mean, Google has trillions of connections and it increases every day.

Amazon has millions or hundreds of millions, Facebook a hundreds of millions as well. And so you go to one of these hubs and then you go to where you need to be. And that same pattern exists in our organizations. I mean, it’s not a trillion to one ratio but we, there are these people that are those key connectors within our organization and the art is finding those people and enlisting them to your course and ultimately then building a community around them.

And so those people are what I call the internal influences. You then wrap them up, put your arms around them, and create that community and use them, I guess, as those little watch posts throughout your organization, because they are, anyone, anyone, most of us, sorry. I know this idea of change champions, right?

If you managed to find these internal influences they are the most efficient change champions in your entire organization, because they’re the people, they’re the people that people go to. They’re the people that people look up to. So you get them on board, you’ve essentially brought an entire group with them.

Now, the audience, how do we find them? And again, I’ll give you the the summary notes here. It’s just two questions. You run a quick survey and you asked two questions across your organization. The first is, If you could work on any project with any three people, who would you work with?

And you get three necks from everyone. You then ask, who do you go to for organizational updates, news, and gossip? And you get one then. You then just count the names. And the more often a name comes up, the more likely that they are an internal influencer and it gives you this lovely map. And I mean, those that are data inclined may well slice and dice that many other ways.

And there are some really interesting lenses there in terms of, you know, maybe who’s got the most connection outside of their own department and things like that, but generally, it gives you the people, it gives you the list of those who are wielding that greater connective power. And so they’re the people that that you target. 

Tim Reitsma

When you were saying that I, a name popped in my mind from a couple of organizations ago rather large organization, but there was somebody on my team who was kind of the go-to person for a lot.

For advice, for gossip, for, you know, if they want to just bad talk the organization, a big influence in the organization. And we were going through a big software change, implementing an ERP and CRM system. And it was messy. And I remember sitting down with my leader and saying, we need to get this person on board and a champion because if we get this person as a champion, everybody else will follow.

And we worked hard to get that person to be a champion and they were heading up a lot of the testing and training and they were that big influence in the organization. And you know, whether you’re going through a big change or not, I think even in our team meetings and our scrums or stand-ups or weekly meetings, we feel the energy, whether it’s through and we’re doing this over video and I feel your energy.

So you can, there’s that sense of energy that you get either through a direct connection or an indirect connection. And then it’s opportunity to start exploring that. And for lack of a better word, is exploiting that to build that community, to build that those fanatics within our organization.

That’s great. It’s a great illustration and it’s simple. And I think if any leaders listening to this right now you know, if you can envision that, awesome. If not, even better go pick up the book and you can take a look. 

So, yeah, so as we wrap up, Brendon and I wish we could go on for a couple hours here, because there’s so many different topics we could hit on just sort of this podcast, but you know, somebody who’s listening to this whether you’re a leader, aspiring leader leading a big project, is there one piece of advice or one piece of wisdom to, to start with to create that momentum? 

Brendon Baker

Yeah, so it’s like, I had something in mind there, but I’m actually going to drop it. And I think out of this conversation it’s listen. It’s, take that moment and listen, don’t try to motivate too early. Don’t try to create disruption too early. Don’t immediately jump. The amount of times that I go in with the client and I draw that momentum path on a board and I say, where are you and your teams? And they always place themselves up at motivated or higher.

And then once we delve in, it’s often lower. And it’s just this intuitive, we’re doing great. So my advice there is, take a moment, listen, get an accurate bearing, and then move forward from there. 

Tim Reitsma

That’s wonderful. And yeah if you’re going about your day-to-day or just starting your day or ending your day, it’s important to listen. Not listen to your own voice, but listen to other people’s.

And often we love to hear ourselves talk and we give ourselves pats on the back all the time and listening to our own voice, but listen to our teams. Where are they? And that’s great advice and it’s a great place to start. 

Brendon, I hate to cut it there, but we’re definitely going to have you back, another topic that you hit on as learning organizations and how to create that. I think that fits in with the theme here at People Managing People. Build a better world of work, creating a learning organization just is something that we have to do. And so maybe we’ll table that for another conversation and talk get into the why and not just the why but the how, but it’s such a pleasure to have you on.

And thanks again for spending some time with us today. 

Brendon Baker

That’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me on again, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Tim Reitsma

Yes. And for those who are listening, if you’ve enjoyed this conversation, you know, please share it out with your network and we’re going to be posting the links in the show notes as well as on our social media when we publish the podcast. So you can learn more about Brendon, what he’s up to, his website as well as his book so please go pick it up. 

And as always, please check us out on social media and subscribe and leave some comments. And we always love to hear your feedback. So with that, Brendon, have a great day. And to those who are listening, I hope you have a phenomenal day as well. Take care.