If you are a leader who wants to understand that doing more with less is madness, then you’re going to get a lot out of this episode on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

That’s because we’re interviewing expert Dan Pontefract, a CEO, Author, Educator and Change Maker who helps organizations to improve the state of their leadership and culture.

In episode #136 you’re going to learn ‘Why Leaders Need To Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions’.

Some of the key takeaways in this interview include:

  • Today’s corporate leaders have taken away many employees’s ability to think because they are piling on too much work
  • Mental health awareness is growing, but that’s also because employees are more stressed out
  • Profit without purpose is useless

And there is so much more that makes this episode a must listen!

Dan Pontefract

Dan Pontefract - Meeting Leadership Podcast - Effective Meetings

Dan is the founder and CEO of The Pontefract Group, a firm that improves the state of leadership and organizational culture.

He is the best-selling author of three books: OPEN TO THINK, THE PURPOSE EFFECT and FLAT ARMY. A renowned speaker, Dan has presented at four different TED events and also writes for Forbes and Harvard Business Review. Dan is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, Gustavson School of Business and has garnered more than 20 industry awards over his career. 

OPEN TO THINK is the 2019 Axiom Business Book Award Silver Medal winner in the Leadership category as well as the getAbstract International Book of the Year for 2019.

Previously as Chief Envisioner and Chief Learning Officer at TELUS—a Canadian telecommunications company with revenues of over $14 billion and 50,000 global employees—he launched the Transformation Office, the TELUS MBA, and the TELUS Leadership Philosophy, all award winning initiatives that dramatically helped to increase the company’s employee engagement to record levels of nearly 90%. Prior to TELUS he held senior roles at SAP, Business Objects and BCIT.

Dan and his wife, Denise, have three children (aka goats) and live in Victoria, Canada. 

You can get in touch with Dan at https://www.danpontefract.com/

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Gordon Sheppard: If you are a leader who wants to learn more about the value of critical thinking, then you’re going to get a lot out of the episode today on the Meeting Leadership Podcast, that’s because today we’re going to learn why leaders need to slow down, think creatively and make better decisions. And the main reason that we’re going to explore this topic is because we’ve got expert, Dan Pontefract on the show. 


Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for practical tips from the coach with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast with Gordon Sheppard. (singing)

Gordon Sheppard: Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast. My name is Gordon Sheppard and I just want to say thanks for being here. Thank you for being the type of professional who understands that if you want to lead a great meeting, you have to be a great leader, and if you want to be a great leader, you need to know how to lead a great meeting. And you’re coming to this podcast to get the tips, the tricks, the strategies that you need to do just that. Honestly, it’s really good to have you here.

And I’m also proud to say that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. Now, if you and your team are looking to up your game when it comes to building leadership skills and learning how to run outstanding meetings, then visit meetingleadershipinc.com/academy. And if you are a leader who understands that it is ridiculous to think that we can do more with less in our current sort of corporate culture scenario, megalomania is rampant. We have people being asked to kind of do all these extra things, stresses up. It’s absolutely crazy and if you’re looking for some sanity in the sort of the forest of all that craziness, then look no further than our expert today, Dan Pontefract.

Now, Dan is the founder and CEO of the Pontefract Group. Now, this is a firm that is dedicated to improving the state of leadership and organizational culture in so many large organizations. Dan comes by this honestly and he’s got tremendous experience not only in education, but also he’s worked at the highest level of multibillion dollar organization, so he really kind of gets it. He’s taken all of that great experience and his really critical thinking. He’s put it into being a bestselling author of multiple books, including Open to Think, The Purpose Effect and Flat Army. And if that isn’t enough, well Dan is also a Ted speaker and he writes for Forbes and Harvard Business Review. And after you listen to this interview you will absolutely understand why we are so lucky to have him here and I’m not going to hold you back any longer. Here’s the fantastic interview with Dan Pontefract. Dan, welcome to the show.

Dan Pontefract: Gordon, it’s my sincere, I really am glad to be here today.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, and for another survivor of the corporate wars, I’m just so glad to have you on the show and I can’t wait to talk about some of your experience in that area and maybe some of the inspiration you brought forward into the work that you do now. But there’s a lot of people that haven’t met you, so if you’re on that elevator with somebody or at a party, what do you say about yourself?

Dan Pontefract: Fantastic question. My name is Dan Pontefract. And my last name in Latin actually means broken bridge. Ponte is bridge and fract obviously is fracture. So Gordon, I’m trying to be the opposite or the antithesis of my last name. I’m trying to build bridges between work and life.

Gordon Sheppard: This is such a needed thing. I mean, there’s this unlimited need for folks to run into inspired author, doers like yourself who can bring things forward. And you’re on your fourth book now, right? Can you tell us about the title of it and why you wrote it?

Dan Pontefract: Yeah. Well actually the fourth book is about to be published. The third book is just published about a year ago, so I’ll tell you a bit about both because they all kind of relate. The third book published is Open to Think, and the Open to Think book is about our freneticism, our corporate megalomania, our public sector bureaucratic nightmare and how we are so good at doing, we are experts at execution, but we have lost the art of marination of dreaming of making really good decisions.

And the one that I’m just about finished that comes up next year is called more than leadership and it’s essentially a book that outlines 10 helpful lessons to allow people to become a real genuine leader. So it’s going back to humanity and empathy and congeniality and ultimately being a human being in the workplace.

Gordon Sheppard: And thinking about that third book for just a second, because I was reading up a little bit about it in terms of understanding it, there’s this idea of dream, decide, do, repeat and you’ve been able to capture that kind of, I’m going to say age old process with your own spin on it. How do you help people to learn about those steps as leaders so they can actually absorb them and put them into action?

Dan Pontefract: Well, ultimately, Gordon, I’m a teacher, so I started out with my university degree doing a bachelor’s of arts and a bachelor of ed, education together, and I became a high school teacher for about three years. And in the process of learning how to be a teacher, you learn a lot about creative and critical thinking because it really are two of the hallmarks of what kids and students ought to have in their toolkit or their tool chest as we say.

And then we enter the corporate world. And so I left teaching, I went to higher education for about five or six years and then I entered the corporate world. And in 2002 when I did so and for the better part of a decade and a half, I witnessed, I guess the ignominy of the antithesis of creative and critical thinking. We are just so good at the doing and the dream and the decide part was just me almost paying homage to my formal schooling of being a teacher. If we’re teaching teachers to teach kids in the K to 12 arena, that there’s an importance, a criticality of ideating, of working together of quote, “brainstorming and whiteboarding.” What happened to that?

And so I guess I’m just pushing against what I see, but I’m not inventing any new sort of wonder slice bread stuff. This is just a reminder to folks, I’m trying to hit them in the solar plexus and say, “We’re supposed to be doing this. What’s up people?”

Gordon Sheppard: What is up? I can tell you a big inspiration for the work that I do is having worked for a company with 25,000 employees and being eight levels down, managing my little group of nine people. And I so commiserate with what you’ve just said around how limiting it is in terms of folks not having that prep time. And the things that I remember looking back on now that I was focusing on versus what maybe I should have been doing, especially from a leadership perspective, was an absolute disaster.

And so I know when I walk into rooms now and people are like, “How do you know what I’m thinking already when I’m doing the training and this kind of thing?” It’s because having been in these environments and what a nice fresh perspective for your multiple lives that you’ve got as both educator, having had your foot in the corporate world and now in that great place where you can speak from a wide platform to help influence people. And I’ll just jump in and mention one other piece of the teaching that I do, which is around helping people to make a great point during a meeting. And the P in point for the acronym that I put forward is preparation.

And I don’t talk about anything around research and talking to your colleagues, I’m immediately into this idea of giving yourself some blue sky time, because again, I just completely agree with where you’re headed and it came from a great story. I spent some time, one time with the chief financial officer of a multibillion dollar company. Guy had a great story. He said one day he was sitting in his office, he had his feet up on his desk and he was looking out the window.

Another executive walks in and says, “What the hell are you doing?” And he says, this really clearly, he says, “I’m thinking.” And he had obviously the 30 years of confidence to be able to do that. It sounds like you’re actually enabling people to imagine how important this creative thinking and critical thinking is for doing their work at a higher level.

Dan Pontefract: It’s bang on. I love that story. I have a couple of related analogous anecdotes and one of them is since 1999, so I’m dating myself and that’s 20 years, of course, based on the recording of this show, I have not held or taken a meeting on a Friday afternoon between 12:00 and 5:00. That’s called DP think time. I refused to answer my phone. I might do some emails, but it’s my processing. It’s my going for a walk or a cycle. It’s been that way forever. And I might be in an office. I’m working in the corporate world or in the public sector world. That’s okay. And I bump into people, I’m not talking to them, right? But that’s my time.

And I do other things, right? I push back when people request because of Google or Microsoft 60 minute meetings. What’s up with that? Why not make them 45? So that you have 15 minutes of breathing time to process and to jot down some things that happen. Because I do this thing sometimes in keynotes called the Conference Call Bingo. And you’ve probably seen the meme, but I’ve had my own take on that. But the Conference Call Bingo. When I do executive coaching and I see back to back to back to back to back to back to back, eight one-hour meetings in a row without them being 45 minutes or any white space or breathing time, I kind of go apoplectic, Gordon. And that’s kind of synonymous of what’s happening inside the organization. It’s just random. It’s pervasive.

Gordon Sheppard: You’re going apoplectic outwardly, they are going apoplectic inwardly. I was brought in to work with 40 bureaucrats at a provincial government level, and the crazy part was we were finishing up the meeting and the next meeting was booked on the hour. So I can tell you what’s so funny about what you’ve just said, which is a solve a problem and make it 45 minutes instead of an hour. There’s literally another meeting team coming in because they need the room and these people are losing their minds because they haven’t been disciplined enough to finish their meeting on time, and then we’re in the situation where these people are trying to come in.

It’s just so rampant and I’m so glad again that you’ve been able to be out there and again reach more people with this idea of giving yourself the thinking. And I am so glad to get another great story where your attitude towards Fridays and when we see that in the hands of say, Google employee type thinking for the good parts of what they can do, Gmail gets created, right? When they give those engineers that fifth day strategy, that thing were take Friday off, do whatever you want. And they know collectively from that how much it strengthens the organization. But you’ve actually put that into practice?

Dan Pontefract: Yeah, I guess so. I mean the reason to write, Open to Think, the book was out of frustration quite frankly about how cultures seem to be still hierarchical and facetious and devoted to the doing and just megalomania kind of everywhere. Again, public sector or for-profit really didn’t matter. And then employees are yearning for attention, for their ideas to be heard, for feedback, for coaching, for nurturing, for purpose. And I felt my first two books were not being listened to in the organization and I kept rumbling around in my head, why, why, why, why? For the first book being about culture, the second one about purpose. And so then I was like, “Oh, it’s because it’s everything that I hate about the organization.”

It’s the way in which the organization operates. Here’s another one. I’m sure you’ve seen this Gordon, where a team doesn’t know what the norms are for communication or interruption or how do you handle crises or how do you just handle FYI stuff. So when teams or organizations for that matter don’t have norms, i.e., are you allowed to text at night? Are you supposed to respond to email and texts at night or is that family time or is that your time or whatever it is that you’ve got? I see that all the time.

And again, that’s creating the culture and the purpose pressures or the lack thereof when a leader or the organization’s C-suite are not helping the employees see where the balance of life is, the necessary needs of balancing life with work. And again, if you’re making six or seven figures, you’re in a different league than regular folk, if you will like you and I. And so if that’s the case, well can leaders, the senior leaders have a more empathic way in which to help their people handle their time? And I don’t think they do. I think they look right past it and say, “No, no. I want this done yesterday. How come it’s not done?” And it just continues.

Gordon Sheppard: The empathic part as I grapple with a very similar issue, and I’m interested in two parts of what you’ve just said. This idea that those leaders have lost touch with folks generally and they’re setting out, I’m going to say in my case, the strategic plan in a given year would come out one year it would be a triangle, another year would be a square in these big corporate settings. And it was this thing where one year I was mandated to explain it to my team and I said, “Come on. This is for a huge corporation. We can’t relate to the language in this kind of thing.” But there they were, they were doing their 360, they’re sending out their messaging and their information from one high, and not sort of again, giving like you said, those norms for folks.

And we had to actually eventually and in an awkward way, kind of create our own norms because our norms were like pay your mortgage and take the kids to hockey. And that’s what we were dealing with on a day to day basis. It’s not that we didn’t do work within our unit, but we weren’t connected to whatever 45% growth or whatever like these things that made sense then. And thankfully they did it overall.

I might’ve saved resented it as an employee at the time. But those norms that you’re talking about, what is it? Have you had any breakthroughs with leaders that you can take us to a moment without naming names, but you said you’re an executive coach position, you know they need the norming opportunity or to be able to empower people, what language has worked to reach them so that they can actually grapple onto something to do about it?

Dan Pontefract: Well, one of the, I guess terms or recognitions that seem to be popping up now is, and thankfully kind of overdue Gordon, is mental health and wellness. So whether it’s APA or other psychology studies, right, we know that in the ’80s the level of chronic mental health conditions was around 10% and today it’s about 30%. Now, some of that is because people are more willing to admit that they’re having difficulties with their mental health wellness. And so what I’m getting at is senior leaders are at least beginning to sort of pop up out of their foxholes and say, “Oh, what is this?”

When you triple the amount of mental health wellness issues over basically three decades, that does sort of begin to resonate I think with some, and whether it is because of their colleagues, their parents, siblings, something. I’m not sure. But I do see that. So I do see a bit of hope. Unfortunately the resulting effect is because people are feeling more stressed. And so there are sort of, as I say, waking up a little bit to that reality. And then they’re starting to begin to make some change with workload, et cetera. But that’s rare.

I’m not saying that is anything near systemic. You get the rare folk that have looked up as they say from their trenches or wherever they are in their silo and they said, “Oh, that’s happening.” Well, that’s not cool. So that again, consequentially is unfortunate and how people are rising, if you will, but it really is a lot more of what I call the do more with less culture. It is abysmal. I mean, again, when I’m working with folks and whether I’m doing enterprise wide culture assessments or one-on-one executive coaching, I often ask, “Do you guys, do you gals, do you have a do more with less edict?”

What does that mean, Dan? I said, “Well, does your finance team or do you sort of issue that what we’ve got to do better around here, we have to do more with less. You’re not getting more budget, more people, but we’ve got to add more on. And then I started asking the question… Well, first of all, I say, that’s crazy. People go bananas when they hear that line. It’s one of the corporate or public sectors worst lines ever, do more with less. But then anyway, I segue to, do you know how to say no? And if you want to be an open thinker to have that white space, the ideation, the creativity, meandering, the marinade in the moment type of atmosphere and making good judicial decisions, you have to say no.

But what ostensibly happens is executives want more and they’re not allowing huge amounts of budget or headcount hiring to allow the more to happen and in fact then they do not say no to what’s already on the plate. So it’s keep the lights on and invent a new light bulb everyone.

Gordon Sheppard: Absolutely impossible in terms of the expectation and yet, like you’ve said, we have this corporate history and history of leadership and leadership mentality that allows this to sort of go on and on and on. And I’ll just add in one of the pain points that I’ve observed, again, out of the conferences and giving the talks. One of the exercises that I’ll do with people is I’ll say, “Okay, professionals making six figures and more, high levels in their corporations, doctors, lawyers, engineers, I’ll say, put your hand in the air if you’re in at least one meeting a week.” All the hands go up. Keep it in the air if you’re in at least two, three, four.

Finally, we get down someone in the room. I’ve had people in the room at 25 and 30 meetings during the day time per week. And like you just said, their mental health, their relationship health is a disaster because they’re A types, they won’t admit it because they’re trying to climb the corporate ladder and then someone from on high, these leaders that are in that same mode aren’t stepping back to go, “Wow, she was really great when she came in and we told her she was only going to work 37 hours a week. And why is she burning out and why did she get divorced? And why is she unhappy? And why is she quitting after 12 months? And why do we have to go through turnover?

And when you put these things together for the senior leaders, I’m really curious about direct language that really blunt like mental health equals profits. How do we get some of this sort of softer thinking into their brains to allow them to really get on top of this?

Dan Pontefract: Isn’t that the million dollar question or so? But I think hitting them, the executives in the solar plexus with the data is one way in which that I try to address it. And there is ample data. I mean, if you go over to France for a second, the government sort of was looking at this because they were worried, if you recall as was a bunch of different European countries in the EU about email after five, right? Yeah. And so the French government does this study and they found out that on average, French workers are doing 30 minutes of work from their bed

Gordon Sheppard: On average?

Dan Pontefract: On average.

Gordon Sheppard: That means some poor person didn’t go to sleep.

Dan Pontefract: But you know what that is, right? We issue the device to everyone and so they pretend that their mobile device is an alarm clock as opposed to the one from Walmart, Canadian Tire, pick your choice, right? That’s 25 bucks. So there’s $800 phone beside them pretending that it’s an alarm clock. And while it’s there sifting through the dopamine hits of the video of the cat playing piano that they like, they also look at their tax and their email and that’s kind of work. They’re answering things to get ahead because it just keeps coming. So another I guess point to bring up, Gordon, which I’m sure you agree with, is just the propensity, the pure deluge of content that is encompassing our daily lives.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, and the volume of it is unbelievable. One of the things I’ve mentioned is my wife’s grandmother lived to 101 and we would marvel and say wow, she saw so much invention in the car or whatever. This sort of stuff in terms of the things that she went through. I think we’ve actually been through a more rapid change in our lives in the last 30 and I’m going to say 20 years specifically with the insidiousness and I can observe this in my own house with my two kids and my wife of when wireless came into our house, because it used to be that you would sit down at the computer and it was an event. And then when wireless hit, right where you’re going, and I’m so glad because I’m not aware, I’m so glad to hear you bringing these data points in and the fact that entire countries are thinking about this thing of email at night and back to your base point around norms.

If leaders have all of this information, if they know that with simple low hanging fruit, “Hey, our norms are this. We’re not going to email after five, we’re going to take Fridays to think creatively because that actually will collectively be more profitable.” Again, are you getting some traction in sort of, I’m going to say in the smaller moments when you’re doing your one-on-ones, are you one at a time, a group at a time? Are you getting some traction with your work?

Dan Pontefract: And it’s not just work, it’s life, right? So how many times have you been to a restaurant and you see date night or the family all on their blue glow warm devices and not talking? Honestly, true story. So two weekends ago, I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and in winter it rains a bit. So we’re at one of the kids’ soccer matches, and this, I kid you not, I’ll try to describe this, this woman, probably mid 30s, late 30s, she’s in a chair and she has basically a tent for one. It’s raining. So she’s put up this tent for one, it fits one chair and it’s got a roof, it’s got sides, it’s all plexiglass or whatever you want to call it. It’s like you can see through it, right?

Gordon Sheppard: Yeah.

Dan Pontefract: So it’s clear plastic. And then there’s a thing that comes down in the front there. So there’s no plastic so she can see through it. Now, I’m watching this woman set the whole thing up, and then she sits on her chair and the game starts. I’m like, that is fantastic. I just got an umbrella. It’s windy, I’m wet, she’s dry. Now, what? Three minutes into the match, this is 12 year olds. I see her pull out her phone. I’m right beside her and I keep looking at her, looking at her. I don’t say anything for the first half. She’s on her device for the entire… Now, you could say, “Oh, she’s taking video and photo of it.” No, I assure you she was not.

So half time happens, she actually came out of the little tent pod thing and then went back in, and the second half starts. And I couldn’t resist, Gordon. I couldn’t resist because it’s me. So there’s this team play against my daughter’s team or her teams against my daughter, so it’s opposing parent. And I went over, I said, “Hey, I’m guessing one of these is your daughter.” “Oh, yeah. Number 11.” “Oh cool.” “I’m a sociologist, right. I kind of observe humans and things. I’m just curious, you’re on your phone. Are you taking photos of things?” “Oh no, no, no, no. I’m just catching up on my work.” And I was like mic drop. I was like if I had to film that, Gordon for my own purposes of doing keynotes and research and helping others, I would have just won the game.

Gordon Sheppard: Yep, absolutely.

Dan Pontefract: I’m just catching up on my work.

Gordon Sheppard: And this insidiousness then of like you’ve said… that $800 alarm clock thing is a great analogy, and what you’ve just said there, and then people aren’t getting it in control, and then I’m hoping that the leaders that listen to this podcast, and I’m talking the C-suite guys and the HR people that are trying to break through can help us all stop laughing about this and do something about it so that the norms, like you’ve said earlier is they start getting brought back into the workplace to allow people to do this because it’s happening anyway. I often feel helpless in these moments. I feel like I’m losing the battle when I’m out there trying to bark loudly with these things. And this gets me back to this profit motive.

I mean, if truly everything has to align with a profit motive in a sense or making a senior leader look great in a given situation, how do we get them something like your book for example, to allow them to be able to slow down and put at least one, two things into action so they can make a significant difference? it’s just absolutely needed.

Dan Pontefract: Profit without purpose is useless. And so if the organization’s purpose is just to make money or to uphold bureaucracy of its public sector, what’s the point? You’ve got to look at this as we all end up six feet under, we all are on our own journey to the waterfall as is the old First Nations adage. And if we forget that the word human is in humanity and we’re a leader, what is the point of leading? Because you are extinguishing humanity.

Gordon Sheppard: Totally. I mean, again, thank you so much for your multi decades of work to bring it down to such a concise and eloquent way to think. And I think that should go on someone’s next tattoo on their leader forehead to allow them to wake up in a sense and start to move these things forward. When I’m in a room and I talked to, I don’t know, again 40 professional people and I’m like, “Put your hand in the air, if you’ve ever been in a meeting and you didn’t know why you were there,” and all the hands go up, and then the next moment is crickets as if we are not empowered to do something about it.

Now, I’m saying simple things like, “Hey, why do you cut one meeting a week as if that’s impossible, and they know they could cut 20?” These are the areas where I’m starting to hit into. This is why I’m reaching out to do the podcast with people like yourself who can boil things down and allow people to have something they can take away and do something about right away, wake up, smell the coffee, pick up your book, do something and get moving forward. I mean, we could talk on and on and on. I so appreciate all of your great insights. Again, we’re going to get into the show notes, the titles for your books and people will be able to access them there. The final question that we always like to ask on these episodes is a real favorite of mine and I’m just going to say it and we’ll see where it goes, but it’s this, what inspires you?

Dan Pontefract: Wow, that’s a philosophical question. What inspires me? I mean, multiple things, but I’m going to narrow one of them for you for the purposes of our conversation today. What inspires me is when someone recognizes through their own analysis and or the help that they might’ve gotten on the journey to the waterfall, that they indeed are making a mistake with their leadership. They can course correct and still have time in which to make something of what was an error in judgment or an error in behavior. When I see to be honest, Gordon, the people whom course correct and admit fault or failure and say, “Look, I can do this better. We can do better. I can serve you better,” that inspires me.

Gordon Sheppard: Can you give me sort of, without naming names a first name of someone that you can give us a real concrete example of about this?

Dan Pontefract: Sure. I have a gal that we’ll call Kelly whom was basically so into the name on the back of her Jersey and not playing for sort of the crest on the front that she would purposely ignore people. She would purposely just work for herself. She was climbing the ladder and kicking people off along the way. And she had a bit of an epiphany when there was a bit of a coup d’etat on one of her teams. And she was a director at the time. And the coup d’etat was, “Why are you being like this to us and why are you doing what you’re doing to yourself? You are such a genuinely good person. You’ve put on this different suit every day and it’s not helping you. Just be you. Be the Kelly that we see sometimes when we might go for after work drinks or sometimes when you’re funny and your guards down.”

So Kelly ultimately took the feedback, had a bit of a meltdown and asked for assistance both from folks like me and few others, and completely course corrected to the point where now she’s an SVP at one of the world’s I would say, well at least in Fortune 50 and just rocking it. And it was that come to Jesus, if you will, epiphany coup d’etat about nine years ago where she looked in the mirror and said, “All right, I understand now what I’m supposed to be. Now let’s go do this.”

Gordon Sheppard: That humility moment that you’re describing, I think is rare in leadership. The fact that you can say it again in a way that we can absorb that story and remember it and not forget Kelly in a sense is a gift to again, leaders listening to this show to say it is possible. Don’t get trapped in a title. Don’t allow yourself to fall behind and on your way to the waterfall, think you’re going to get there and be beyond anybody else because in the end, the six figures, 20 figures, whatever it is that you’re making isn’t going to get you there either. What a great story and you had a chance to participate in her journey and be inspired by it at the same time.

Dan Pontefract: She’s a rock star and I really love Kelly for that model she sat, and I think you used the right term of humility. That’s really what that journey was all about for her.

Gordon Sheppard: What a great interview. So good to have you on the show. I so appreciate it. I really want to make sure that things are super clear for people. Do me a favor, say the titles of your books ,and again the natural places for people to get them, and then also let us know where we can get in touch with you for the folks that had been listening and would love to do that. Go ahead.

Dan Pontefract: You are so kind, Gordon. Before that, I wanted to go back to the room you’re in with the 40 people and I was just musing to myself. The reason why they didn’t answer the question or didn’t hear it was because they’re probably on their phones and they weren’t ignoring you. So just to be clear there.

Gordon Sheppard: There was a bunch of them and there’s a whole cohort like this. They’re five years out from being done and they don’t want to rock the boat, and they’ve been doing it for 25 years, and they’re so beaten down, and they have to drink so much wine at night basically to get through the day. There’s that aspect as well, and again, it’d be great to break down that group, and again try to break through and help folks like that to say there is hope. I find myself often… I’d love to get the CEOs of the world and the Kelly’s of the world, more of them, like what army of Kelly’s can we create?

But I find myself often back and saying, “Okay, what cohort are you in? What nonprofit board of directors are you volunteering on right now where the meeting stink? And you can go back there and be open and honest and say, “If we don’t do our work, then whatever. The team doesn’t get something. The people on the street that we’re supporting don’t get something. How do we break through there?” Getting it down to something very, very practical. So thanks for your musing. There’s so many poor people in those moments. Oh my God.

Dan Pontefract: Well, it’s always, for me, it’s behavior before tool, form before function. What you’re getting at is really behavior and form, right? Behavior trumps any type of tool and it’s what we’ve got. It’s how we present ourselves. I mean, I often use this adage, how do you want to be known when you leave a room? And often people don’t ask that question because they’re onto the next thing.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, and it’s a great one. And sorry, just while we’re talking, I have to jump in and say, I learned a thing from a guy named Jordan Harbinger and he’s a podcaster, and he said he has a thing called the Doorway Drill. So it’s a Pavlov dog thing of every time you walk through a doorway, how do you want to walk in the room? And I teach that. It’s takes whatever, 90 seconds and I get people up and they’re standing up and say, “When you walk in the doorway and you want to come into a meeting, what impression do you want to give? Do you want them to know about your weekend and how upset you are or do you want to stop for a second and snap when you go through that doorway? But now you’ve given me the exit one and I can tell you there’s audiences that are going to benefit from that part as well. I really appreciate it.

Dan Pontefract: Quid pro quo, my friend, quid pro quo. So the books, the first one was called Flat Army. It’s about culture, it’s not about the army. It’s a play on words. We need to be a little flatter in the way in which that we lead but we still need to lead. The second one is called The Purpose Effect and it really deals with how we first start out with we need a personal sense of purpose. Why am I here? What am I doing? How am I going to be? But then we work for organizations and we have a role in that organization. So you had have to have two other types of purpose. Does the organization have one or is it just for profit or power? And do you have purpose in your role or are you unvalued if you will for that.

Which then gave birth to Open to Think book, which is that slow down, think creatively and make better decisions in the doing kind of aspect. Three types of thinking, dream, decide, do. And yeah, coming out next year is More Than Leadership: 10 Helpful Lessons to Become a Leader That Matters. And all of that, basically my name danpontefract.com. You can find out more about me on the books and what I do.

Gordon Sheppard: Sounds like a great sort of, I’m going to say little cannon of books that folks, if they pick them up and went straight through the mall, that would be a way within whatever, I’m going to say, some combo of ours to expedite their own leadership journey, learn from someone who’s had this experience not only in education but also in the corporate world and now has that ability of being the guy who’s not in your family who can tell you what you need to hear. Dan, thank you so much for being on the podcast,

Dan Pontefract: Gordon, and my sincere pleasure. The discourse today with you was unbelievably excellent. And I say that because I get to do a few of these, I get to chat with a few folks, but you really know what you’re chatting about, so keep doing what you’re doing because the world needs more Gordon Sheppards.

Gordon Sheppard: Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Dan Pontefract: Cheers mate.

Gordon Sheppard: Now, I think you have to agree that that was an absolute game changing type of interview. If you could practice one, two, three of the major concepts in there, there’s a good chance that literally you’re going to start to transform your organization for the better. And I really hope that there were many kinds of CEOs, executive directors, directors, high level people listening because this idea of do more with less, well it’s dead. Your employees, like Dan said, they are yearning for your attention and to think you could actually be more profitable by slowing down and helping those people and yourself to think creatively, well that is a gift to you and your entire organization.

And if you want to get in touch with Dan then I’ll make sure you get his website address in the show notes. I’ll also make sure that the book titles are there and a link to where to get those books is there as well. And if you’re looking for even more bold inspiration, then check out episode 93 on the Meeting Leadership Podcast. It’s called Why Leaders Need Radical Conviction, and that is with expert Eleanor Beaton. And you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/93.

And then on episode 84 we were lucky enough to have Karmen Masson, and she talked about why you should stop being a know-it-all leader. And some of the key areas that we get into there is just that. You don’t have to feel that because you have the title that you need to have all the answers and this collaborative thing is where it should go to and that really ties in with the entire interview that we did today. And you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/84.

And I also want to let you know that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. Now, there you’re going to find some terrific live training options for you and your team. There’s one on one coaching available. There’s also a great half day workshop that for folks in groups of say 25 or 30, they can really spark a movement to create a culture of meeting excellence in their organization. That’s a great way to get going and there’s online training options as well. so I hope you want to learn more about it by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/academy.

And to all your subscribers, thank you so much. And if you haven’t hit the subscribe button yet, please do. And if you get a chance, leave a rating and review. We’ll read it out here on the show when you do and also it’ll influence some of the content that we’ve got coming up in the future. And as always, thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

Thanks for listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast. Be sure to subscribe for more strategies that help you become an outstanding leader, and don’t forget to rate and review so we can bring you even more great content. We’ll see you next time, right here on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

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Gordon Sheppard

Gord is on a mission to change the world, one meeting at a time. Over his 25+ years in business Gord has run or participated in more than 2000 meetings! Not only is Gord the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc. (owner/operator of Meeting Leadership Inc), but he is also a Facilitator, Trainer, Business Consultant, Author, Speaker and Podcaster who helps leaders learn how to have great meetings, so they can build outstanding organizations and serve their clients at the highest possible level.

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