The road less travelled

Friday, 16 November 2018

Kicking off day two at DairyLeader 2018 was Sir John Jones who is described as ‘one the most entertaining, inspiring and sought-after speakers on the global education stage’ and spoke to us passionately about the role of leadership in forward thinking businesses.

“Lesson number one,” he said, “is don’t take yourself too seriously. There’s lots of research showing the positive benefits of having fun in relationship to leadership.”

Framing his presentation, Sir John said that as leaders there are three vital questions we must answer - Who are we? Why do we live and work the way we do? What might we become?

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Who are we?

The world is changing, the global population is predicted to reach nine 9 billion by 2050 and will be dominated by India, China and Brazil. People are living longer too. There is no such thing as a job for life, children today will probably have 30 to 40 jobs in their lifetime.

There are new pressures too, from:

Asia - are they doing it better and cheaper than you?

Automation – can a computer do what you do better than you?

Abundance – kids have limitless choice, is what you’re offering unique?

“We don’t have the answers,” he said, “but as a leader you’ve got to ask the questions and keep asking them.”

Sir John highlighted the five golden gifts we, as leaders, can give our people:

  1. Opportunity - give them a chance
  2. Passion for what you do – put your heart and soul even into the smallest acts. All learning starts with passion. When you’re passionate, you get a desire for more. If you satisfy the desire, you get addicted. Passion is infectious. It’s all about people. It’s not about cows, it’s about people.
  3. Belief – you’ve got to believe in them, even if you don’t.
  4. Time – give them your time. Notice it, appreciate it and say thank you.
  5. Coach – give them an amazing teacher

Bring these altogether, Sir John said: “You won’t leave a legacy in milk output, you’ll leave it in the hearts and mind of the people you work with. People will forget what you told them, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

Watch videos of Sir John Jones' previous presentations

Why do we live and work the way we do?

Many leaders today operate based on five principles which were originally conceived in the Victorian era: standardisation, linearity, control, conformity and compliance.

The result is that we live the way we did yesterday, which means we’re being deprived of a tomorrow and with the world changing Sir John asked whether we afford to live our lives in the past?

He said that to flourish in the future, we need:

  • Creativity – making mistakes and bouncing back every time you fail
  • Ingenuity – knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do
  • Agility – reacting to opportunities
  • Adaptability – overcoming problems
  • Sociability – the ability to get on with other people

Sir John stressed that we won’t survive unless your people have these abilities and the good news is that they already have them when they arrive.

Change will be difficult simply because it’s different, which makes it uncomfortable especially for teams with habitual behaviours. Those teams and individuals who repeat actions but get the same outcomes are known as single loop thinkers. We need move them to become double thinkers who are willing to try something different.

“The best teams change when they’re winning. They find a better way to do things. The challenge is to develop growth mind sets with your organisation and get the brains of your people sparking,” he said.

To be successful, enable your team to develop their hidden habits:










“Character is what matters. All the people that work for you, have that in buckets. They’ll all great, just not yet.” he said. “Hesitation is the biggest enemy of change. Be bold be brave be different. Don’t be a poverty thinker, be a possibility thinker – which one do you want your people to be?”

What might we become?

Successful is achievable so long as you get the right people, doing the right things, in the right way for the right reasons.

The right people – There are two questions to ask about your people:

  1. Can they do it?
  2. Do they want to do it?

If staff can do it but don’t want to, then inspire them. If they want to but can’t, develop them. And if they want and can do something – get out of the way.

The biggest challenge is with staff who neither can nor want to do something, in which case you need to have a hard conversation. The hardest part is opening line, Sir John shared the best one he’d heard:

“I don’t want to have this conversation personally but I need to have it professionally.”

Do the right things

The military is built on trust and togetherness – when you get those right, people feel safe – then they’re able to take risks. To create trust and togetherness in your business you need to be:

  • Authentic
  • Believeable
  • Competent
  • Dependable
  • Empathic

Find out the main things for your team such as why they come into work, why they do what they do. ‘Why’ captures people hearts and your team remember the tiny things that you do – even just a thank you or a smile

Vulnerability should be seen as a strength, grasp the power of apology and humility to unlock creativity and innovation. Embrace imperfection and uncertainty, and above all never give up.

In the right way, for the right reasons

To change anything, you need deliberate practice. The best leaders move things forward by inches and take pride in this. They acknowledge the current skill level of their teams, they know what good looks like and design small, focused activities. When added together, those inches help you become the best in the world.

In conclusion, Sir John said: “To make a difference you have to be the different. What do great leaders do? They raise their people up to be more than they can be.”