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S2E6: Values-Based Leadership – The Game Changer for Toxic Workplaces with Stew Darling

Remember the first time you walked into a new job, bright-eyed and hopeful, only to find yourself in a toxic workplace? That sinking feeling is something we’ve all experienced at one point or another. In today’s episode, we’re tackling this head-on with our dynamic guest, Stu. We share a few laughs over our first encounter at a TEDx event and then dive straight into the deep end, confronting the challenges of workplace toxicity.

Stu brings a unique perspective to the table, one that’s been shaped by his time in the military. As we navigate our way through the murky waters of toxic workplaces, he introduces us to the concept of values-based leadership, something he practiced while leading his unit. The anecdotes from his military career provide a refreshing look at how values can transform a workplace, even under the most stressful conditions. But it’s not all about the military; Stu also opens up about his transition out of the army and how his personal values clashed with those of his new workplace.

In the final act, we switch gears to focus on a practical solution: transforming businesses through values. Stu explains how this approach can dismantle traditional business plans and prioritize what truly matters. We also touch on the EOS system, an effective tool for company reset. The conversation takes a personal turn as we discuss the importance of individual team members understanding and aligning with the company’s values. Join us for this lively and thought-provoking discussion with Stu, as we unravel the complexities of toxic workplaces and the potential of value-based leadership to change the game.

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Nicola
Host
00:00
So you’re going to Stu. However, I met Stu at the Chetty Chetty Tittics thing, Okay.
Gina
Host
00:06
He gave you didn’t know him at all before that. You met him first night, when you were dressed like a crazy pirate I’m gonna say fat pirates fat pirates.
00:19
How does a fat pirate say arg, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, ha, ha, ha, ha. I told Lucia because, like Joe and I took her on a little like fake pirate thing in Fort Lauderdale and I was like, and I told her how to. I was like, what is a pirate saying? And she goes arg. But since you are now saying you were dressed like a fat pirate, it’s ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah. It was just a poor wardrobe choice. Next time you got to float it by me.
Nicola
Host
00:53
You know what next? Next time Sure, sure, sure, sure.
Gina
Host
00:57
You’re like there’s not, guess what, there’s not gonna be a next time. No, there might be, Okay. So you met him at the TEDx.
Nicola
Host
01:04
Okay, so we met at the TEDx. He was really interesting, super curious, really wanted to talk about toxic workplaces and I was like he’s so feisty, like so Good morning, stu, how are you.
Stew
Guest
01:22
I’m very, very well how are you?
Nicola
Host
01:25
We’re doing great this morning.
Stew
Guest
01:27
Awesome it is, isn’t it? It’s morning.
Nicola
Host
01:30
I know it’s a little early, Geez, what are you doing to us?
Stew
Guest
01:33
Oh hey, I’ve been up for an hour and a half.
Nicola
Host
01:36
But anyway, it’s so great to have you joining us. We are very excited to have a chat. It was so lovely meeting you at the Disrupt HR staff, so that was pretty fun. How did you find your session went?
Stew
Guest
01:53
I don’t remember it, but yeah, because it’s so different to what I normally do, it was. You know, my brain was engaged the whole time, but then when I watched the video back, I thought, yeah, landed it, that’ll work. So I’m really quite happy. But I think the thing that I really enjoyed about the event was getting to meet a whole bunch of people. That’s true.
Gina
Host
02:16
I don’t think I’ve ever watched myself back on any recording ever and thought, yeah, that was awesome. I’m always like, oh my God, my eye, one eye is smaller than the other, my eyebrows retarded.
Stew
Guest
02:27
Like my hair.
Gina
Host
02:30
I think that’s like a very like, like gender specific thing, because a man can look like a potato and be like I’m such hot shit. No, no, no, like I’ve always said this my whole life and like a pretty girl can like look in the mirror and be like I’m fat, you know, I think it’s just.
Stew
Guest
02:49
I think we all do that. I mean, the fortunate thing about the Disrupt HR video was that I was like a sort of dot in the middle of a screen, miles away. What I was listening to was the content and how I was rolling into it.
Nicola
Host
03:01
Yeah, it looked like a fat pirate. It was great, oh, ok.
Stew
Guest
03:08
I mean, I completely agree with you that and I think it’s all of us we automatically look for what’s wrong rather than what’s right, and that’s actually a problem in society we look for what’s wrong rather than what’s right, rather and say, hey shit, I stood up on stage in front of a hundred and blah people and spoke for five minutes in a format that I’ve never done before. Of course, I’m fucking awesome. That’s what we should be doing.
Nicola
Host
03:33
I think I blacked out, though I was so stressed that I think I legitimately blacked out. You did seem quite yeah.
Gina
Host
03:43
Oh my God, no, I didn’t get that. I just, I was annoyed at your outfit more than anything else, pirate. I was like no, you can’t have two voluminous things. One has to be like skin hugging and one can be voluminous.
Nicola
Host
04:00
You’ve got to have both, but we would just earlier. What sound does a fat pirate make? I asked her. I was like go.
Stew
Guest
04:12
I don’t know because.
Gina
Host
04:13
Yeah.
Stew
Guest
04:15
There you are. I think you’ve been a bit harsh on yourself.
Gina
Host
04:21
Oh, of course, but that’s like that’s what we do. So tell us, tell us your relation to having To wanting to be on our toxic workplace podcast. And yeah, you are.
Stew
Guest
04:39
It really fascinates me that we live in a world where we talk about values all of the time but very, very seldom live to those values and that is the cause of an awful lot of toxic pressure within within the workplace. And I’ve seen it yeah, I’ve seen it throughout my military career, I’ve seen it throughout my business career that when the corporate world in the UK and in the US landed on, values and standards is something that the British Army and the American forces have introduced to deal with bullying and that sort of nature in their environment. We’ve got to do the same and everyone jumped onto this values and it turned into let’s stick four words on a wall and tell people that that’s what we stand for, and it stopped Rather than say again like
Gina
Host
05:38
high like hygiene value.
Stew
Guest
05:40
Totally. It’s oh, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that thing, but then it stopped and you’re where, where we need to get. I believe that and what I teach is that we’ve missed the next two steps of creating a value based workplace, and that causes a toxic culture. And there are very, very simple things that we can do. When we can walk into any business and see if there is an underlying toxic culture and I do it all of the time when I walk into businesses I just go, oh right, I see, I know what I’m dealing with, and we have to step through that and step through that so that we go back to what the purpose of the values actually are. So that’s why I’m really excited to be here today. Thank you very much for having me.
06:31
Second part of the question who am I? Well, hey, I’m Stu. I was a wee boy in Scotland just as the great shipyards began to close and I thought there’s a world out there. So I went and explored it and I’ve been exploring the world through my military career for 25 years and we moved to New Zealand 10 years ago and I’ve never stopped exploring, because I believe that the human soul is an unstoppable force and society has said do you know what? We can’t let you be an unstoppable force, because that’s too difficult to control.
07:07
It’s like a hurricane.
Nicola
Host
07:09
You can’t control a hurricane you can.
Gina
Host
07:12
As a person who has been described as a hurricane, I don’t agree with this at all, because when. I set my mind to do something, that shit gets done.
Stew
Guest
07:22
Yeah, it does, it does. How many people do you meet like that? Yeah, there you go.
Gina
Host
07:29
No no, I, I, there are a few in my stable. I would say Nicola is one of them. I would say my friend Nathan is another. There’s a few, but there there’s. There’s less of those type of people than there are the fringe type of people or the people who are not like hurricanes, like that’s why Nicola and I work so well together. Because I was like I have this idea for this podcast. She was like love it. And then the next thing, you know, we’re just fucking doing it. So it’s like you know, yeah, yeah.
Stew
Guest
08:04
And you did it because you you stepped into three particular areas that most people ignore. You said, look, fuck it, we’re going to be unreasonable Cool, let’s get out there and be unreasonable, let’s go and do that thing. And you chose to raise your standards. But not just raise your standards. You’re raising the standards of your stable and the people around about you. And the third thing you did was you gave the ultimate sacrifice. Now, in my olden days, the ultimate sacrifice was, you know, giving your life, but our ultimate sacrifice is giving our time and our energy into an environment that maybe not, maybe won’t be that interested in receiving it, but we’re going to go and do it anyway because we believe that that’s what the world needs right now. That is what an unstoppable force is.
Nicola
Host
08:51
Okay, I’m on board with the new version of sacrifice because time is very valuable to me. Yeah, me too.
Stew
Guest
08:59
If you think about in my olden days, in my military career, when we joined up. You sign up, you sign on the dotted line to say that I will give my life. It’s a little bit like going bungee jumping or whitewater kayaking. You sign off a bit of paper that says if I die it’s all my fault.
Gina
Host
09:17
That’s my whole life. If I die, it’s all my fault. That’s cool.
Nicola
Host
09:22
I saw your tube start. I did it was my fault anyway. Please make sure that happens for me Nicola.
Stew
Guest
09:29
And how freeing is that. How freeing is that? But you know actually what we did when we all went off to war and some of us didn’t come back again. What society did was we took their time from them. That’s what happened. So what we should be all about is going hey, I’ve been gifted these 80 summers in this earthly suit, I got to use this time and I’ve got to do so much. Yeah, that’s exactly what we’re doing. You got to zip it up, get on with it.
Nicola
Host
10:04
Okay, so tell us a little bit about some of the toxic places that you have worked at that have kind of led you to this thing.
Stew
Guest
10:13
So you asked me this question in the first few moments that we met and I nearly told you the story, because it was one that I sort of forgotten and it came bouncing back into front of mind, when I was a mid-level leader in the British Army. I was a company commander. I had responsibility for about 150 boys and girls and we had been on exercise for 10 days. We’d been living in ditches, in the rain, in the sun, eating, yeah.
Gina
Host
10:48
Sounds like Florida.
Nicola
Host
10:51
Sounds like South Africa, not so swampy.
Stew
Guest
10:58
This was in the plains of Germany, and at the end the exercise came to a finish and photographer came out and I thought actually, what a great opportunity to get photographs of a photograph of my whole company together. My company, one of my section commanders, so a junior officer had been absolutely brilliant on exercise. We had got on really, really well, dealt with all the sleep deprivation, all the stress of being on exercise, and at the photograph we were standing in front of a main battle tank, right. And I’d said to this young captain, female, this young captain, hey, jump up onto the turret, you deserve to be up at the top of everything that’s going on for the photograph. So she jumped up and sat a little bit like Cher in whatever the song was, over the barrel of the tank, right. Another officer walked past after the photograph had been taken and said that looked like sexual harassment. And within 24 hours my whole career was on the line.
Gina
Host
12:11
And how can something look like sexual harassment? I’m confused. Yep, so was I If you’re like not standing near them.
Stew
Guest
12:21
This was a little while ago, but this was one person’s view and I’ll give him his due. He’d been on exercise as well. He was tired. But that one statement got this one young lady thinking oh yeah, must be. And before I knew it I was in front of the commanding officer being told that my military career was over.
Gina
Host
12:44
That was it. What year was this? Just so I can understand.
Stew
Guest
12:49
This was 2006.
Gina
Host
12:56
Okay, not to be a dick, but there was a level of sexual harassment in the early 2000s that was almost acceptable. I don’t agree with it. But as a female who was in the workplace in corporate America in 2006, since 2002, which is when I had my first job out of college on Wall Street there was definitely a level of sexual harassment that you still had to put up with. It was not right, but Yep, so like I was the person who walked by, male or female, Male.
Stew
Guest
13:31
So look, this began to uncover.
Gina
Host
13:34
That’s even weirder, in my opinion.
Stew
Guest
13:38
Totally so. What actually happened was this uncovered a very, very toxic undertone across the whole battalion.
Gina
Host
13:50
I think the military is toxic anyway.
Stew
Guest
13:54
I think that’s what certain parts of society want to make the military. But I certainly agree that there are certain parts of the military where it is quite misogynist.
Gina
Host
14:09
Oh, I’m not even talking about that. I’m just saying I think that the majority of the military is just built on a foundation. Remember when we were talking to Tammy?
Nicola
Host
14:23
Oh yeah, but Tammy was a nurse. Yeah, and there was no escalation of the bullying, because you can’t escalate up but you can de-escalate.
Gina
Host
14:35
Yeah, I just think the structure is a recipe for disaster.
Stew
Guest
14:44
Yeah, and I think that’s the same with many, let’s not say every. That’s the same with many older organizations that have a rigid spider structure.
14:58
Yeah, I think we agree on that, whereas, if you look at, I think you’re the other end of the scale, where you’ve got the starfish organizations like Google and Oracle and Apple, where they’ve got a very, very flat structure. There are challenges there, too. The answer lies in creating an organization that allows open communication and openness to conversation, to be ourselves, but there is also a structure behind it, because we still need that structure. That’s what people look for in times of stress.
Nicola
Host
15:37
Yeah, yeah. It makes like I understand the logic behind the kind of the command and control structure, especially in a time of increased stress and challenge, and you’re going into like a war situation or whatever it is. You need that plan of action that everybody knows, the same plan of action. Nobody’s going to stop it up because they’re like I didn’t know who my boss was, so we knew exactly what was going on. And I get it.
Stew
Guest
16:08
And that’s what then creates in the military. We call it, or it’s called mission command, where, because we understand what the mission is, because we understand what’s meant to happen, we’re left alone to get home with it. And micromanagement is the opposite of that, where people just need to know everything that’s going on and that creates toxicity in itself.
Nicola
Host
16:31
Yeah, that’s true. We came from an organization with a notorious micromanage.
Stew
Guest
16:36
Okay, there you go Right.
Nicola
Host
16:39
That’s how Gino and I met was at this particular organization, which was very curious.
Stew
Guest
16:46
Do tell. Do tell what caused you. Tell me about the micromanaging, what caused it.
Gina
Host
16:52
Oh, you got to listen to episodes one through three.
Nicola
Host
16:56
It was essentially just very young telling two very well qualified people how to do their jobs consistently.
Gina
Host
17:08
When they didn’t even know basic retail.
Nicola
Host
17:10
They never had a real job.
Gina
Host
17:13
Math or retail fucking planning, or yeah, or just used to sell like old tires on eBay or whatever the fuck it was we would have taken anything at that point, oh my.
Nicola
Host
17:26
God. Anyway, she was the COR and we were like how, how, how brown cow.
Gina
Host
17:35
She’s like a half our age already, right, like half like less than half at this point.
Stew
Guest
17:40
Wow Okay.
Gina
Host
17:42
For me. What was she 27?
Nicola
Host
17:45
No, I think she was. Yeah, maybe like 25, 26.
Gina
Host
17:51
That’s like maybe 44 in November. So that’s about half.
Stew
Guest
17:55
So yeah, I mean. I mean, yeah, when you’ve got. The challenge we have with people being thrown into leadership positions too young is that they’ve not had the opportunity to catch leadership. All they’ve done is they’ve been on courses, they’ve seen a bunch of folks around about them and, yeah, and then something changes and they’re going. How do I deal with this? And how do they deal with it? They go into themselves and they start.
18:17
They start micromanaging their leadership is something that we’ve got to catch from the experiences of people around about us and that can be your bad experiences and good experience to say, well, that’s the way I’d like to do it or that’s the way I’m never going to do it. But the younger you are, the less opportunity you’ve had to do that. Yeah, yeah, in my career I wasn’t even given leadership of myself. When my career started, I’d yeah, I’d soldiers around me saying, do it, do it this way, do it that way. It took me yeah, it took me 20 years and that was quick to take command of my battalion, of my unit. But that’s because I’ve been catching leadership for all of that time to hone those leadership skills, to make sure that, hey, I’m going to do it as best as I can.
Gina
Host
19:03
Throw a 25 year old into a leadership position without all of the supports, then the screwed I almost feel bad for her because, like she really was in way over her head and was trying to like figure it out as she went, but I think there was a part of her that was too afraid to ask for help.
Nicola
Host
19:24
But I think there was also like a pride thing as well, yeah.
Gina
Host
19:28
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I agree with that.
Stew
Guest
19:31
So there was a lack of humility.
Nicola
Host
19:34
I’d say there was a lack of a lot of things.
Stew
Guest
19:38
Okay, well, hopefully she’s going on and she’s learned stuff and she’s now a better leader.
Nicola
Host
19:45
When we can, only I’m like we can only hope.
Gina
Host
19:48
Yeah, I’m the worst. I’m like they’re a fucking pack of imbeciles which they are like, every time you say it, I’m dead inside. I know, I know yeah.
Nicola
Host
20:02
Anyway, it wasn’t our finest hour, it was a learning opportunity.
Stew
Guest
20:07
There you go. As long as that was the outcome, then that’s a good thing.
Gina
Host
20:11
Yeah, for sure.
Nicola
Host
20:12
All right, so talk to us a little bit more around some of those toxic, you know kind of experiences that you’ve had that have kind of led you into this kind of.
Stew
Guest
20:22
So I think I mean yeah, that was. I mean I’m sure there were others, but that was yeah. I think that was the first time that I was on the stand in front of my commanding officer being told that my life is over, were you.
Gina
Host
20:33
what did they say in the military honorably discharged? Oh, no, no, no, no no, that was.
Stew
Guest
20:37
It was all dealt with and it was all you know. Everything was the heat was taken out of the situation and it was recognized what had actually gone on, and life moved on.
Gina
Host
20:49
Oh, okay, okay.
Stew
Guest
20:50
Yeah, life moved on, but you mean, that was, you know, when I started thinking about it. That was the first oh holy crap, there was that one. But yeah, then it came down to well, me me dealing with the situation, you know, when I had command of, you know, over 200 soldiers, salesman and airman, and trained over 10,000 people over 10 years. I had people going in and out the door all of the time and every Monday morning I had a line of junior soldiers who had done something naughty over the weekend that we had to deal with.
21:22
And it really came down to well, wait a minute, this means that the values and standards of the British forces isn’t getting through to some of, yeah, some of my team. So we I rewrote, or got the team together and we wrote the values for the units which sat underneath the values of the armed forces and said, right, well, yeah, if this is the bigger picture, this is what we’re going to do within the unit, because you should be able to understand that stuff. And that’s what I did when I got into you know, we moved to New Zealand and I was one of the founders of a tech startup. We got, you know, we got the values together and we did the work. But that still didn’t remove the fact that I had a psychopath work in for me and, yeah, that relationship or all of those relationships across the business, it was just a constant tension in the three years that I was Chief Exec.
Nicola
Host
22:24
So tell us a little bit about the values or the subvalues that you ended up coming up with, because I’m curious to know, because, again, at this organization that we met at, we can only describe the values as Dr Sucioisms. And they were moderately challenging to work with because they just didn’t connect or they were contradictory or they just had these hygiene factors to their merits, Like well, you should just be a good person generally, you don’t have to write that down. So I’m curious to know what these, these subvalues were that you developed.
Stew
Guest
23:06
So, in all honesty, that was well over a decade ago. I can’t remember what those values were, but what I will share is that when I left the military, I had to do exactly the same for me, because from the moment I left school, I’d had the values of the British forces. I was like, okay, it’s selfless commitment, it’s courageous. Okay, well, that’s cool. And then I take my uniform off and I go right. What the far, where? And over 18 months, over 18 months, I established my own set of values.
23:34
So my value? I’ve got six. My values are bravery, tenacity, enthusiasm. I’m a presence to everyone I meet. I’m honest and I act with them. I’m an inspiration to everyone I meet. So those are the six. Now, yeah, I could pack them up and stick them in a box and just leave them and go. Oh, yeah, I’ve got some values. But the whole purpose of values is that we live them, because when we live them, we realize if the right for us, if the right for the organization, if they’re just written and put in a box, then it doesn’t matter. People will just do whatever they want to do and human nature will do whatever is best for us, because it’s about survival. So what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to bring the values to life. Now, for me, I’ve got a book, which isn’t on my desk at the moment, and I write my values down here. I’ve got a mantra that I write down every morning to remind me of the person that I’m going to be that day. What did any?
Nicola
Host
24:29
of them.
Stew
Guest
24:31
Well, all of them. So I go through your bravery to nasty, enthusiasm and inspiration, honest and being present towards everyone I meet At the other end of the day, when I’m brushing my teeth at night, looking in the mirror, I go right, okay, how was it? How was today? Were we 100% across the board? And for the most part, no, because values are something we should live into. Values is a challenge to grow to the next level of who we can be or who our organization can be. And if we miss that and if we don’t check in, then they’re going to drift and that’s when that toxic environment starts happening. That’s when the world goes to me yeah, go on.
Gina
Host
25:16
It’s kind of like you don’t want to become complacent. That’s like the opposite of what you’re saying and it’s like if you’re goal driven and if you’re working for yourself which is something that I do it’s like the harder I work, the more effort I put forth into my business or whatever the task is at hand, the bigger the reward. So I feel like a lot of those values that you’re stating are just going to come along for the ride, naturally. So, yeah, I mean, I don’t know what do you think, nicola?
Nicola
Host
25:56
I think you know it sounds. For me it sounds a little bit like the kind of miracle morning process where you have the values and then you kind of segment your time up in the morning into kind of the six key points of writing, reaffirming, you know, thinking, quiet time, all of those like little pieces to kind of bolster you up before you get your day going. But I think when you do that it’s great that you have this resilience around you. But when you head into a toxic organization that is innately toxic and doesn’t give two shifts about the values that you’re bringing in, you’re coming to crush your soul or a godless of. If you’re feeling fabulous today.
Gina
Host
26:44
Yeah, I agree, Nicola, because it’s like they’ll make you crazier before you can change them and a lot of companies, even if you’re coming in as a consultant to fix morale or whatever, they’re not really ready to change. No, totally agree.
Nicola
Host
27:02
They know they need to.
Gina
Host
27:04
They know they need to, but they actually don’t want to hear what you have to say, because reality is too rough or it’s going to take some wind out of their sales, or whatever.
Stew
Guest
27:16
That goes back to a point that Nicola made earlier, which spoke about your hygiene values. You’re bringing a consultant in to do workplace mental wellness. Let’s call it it’s the sticking plaster, as we’ve got to do something so that when the shit hits the fan, they can say, well, we did that thing, we did that, so we’re a great culture to work for, rather than actually doing the hard work or digging deeper into. And that’s when I go into organizations and I mean one of our workshops is developing values. Yeah, it doesn’t stop with right. Okay, guys, thanks a lot, that was a lovely day. Thanks for lunch. You’ve got your four words. Let’s move on. This is a deep process that sounds like the EOS meeting.
Gina
Host
28:12
Let’s have lunch. Those four words are good, great Company culture.
Stew
Guest
28:17
Yeah, but I mean that’s what happens, because there’s something that happens when consultants go in, or when you go in you deliver a workshop, or the door closes and everyone in that room agrees that. You know we’re going to do the values work we’re going to, we’re going to make it happen. I even turned my phone off and then then, then, at the end of the day, the door, or the end of the session, the door opens up and the world hits us again. Normal daily dying hits us yet again and you’ve got all the emails that you didn’t answer, you’ve got a parking ticket, you’re late for picking the kids up from school and you forget everything because automatically we go into that survival mode. Oh, I’m no behind, I’ve got to catch up. So all of the great work that happened in, you know in that session, or you know that report that the consultants written after they’ve been with you, yet nothing more than the top 10.
Gina
Host
29:17
That’s like how do you bridge that gap? And I think and Nicola and I were just talking about that I think it takes a certain level of Emotional maturity and being able to really be honest with yourself about especially if you’re in a leadership position about what’s going on Like and not everybody wants to do that, and I think the people who are in leadership positions, who don’t know how to self assess or or are willing to face reality, are the most toxic. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, whatever. I just think that that is what creates the most toxic type of workplace. So it’s all good, right, like, you can come in stew and say like bravery, you know, persistence, enthusiasm being present.
30:11
But Unless the leadership of that company buys into that idea, you’re just like basically showing up and saying a bunch of gobbledygook and then getting a track and going away and that’s cool too. I mean, get money, however you can.
Stew
Guest
30:28
Which is why, which is why I’ve walked away from the corporate world, which is why I do what I do, because I recognize that, actually, do you know what I cannot work? I choose not to work with those people because they are problem. I look at it, I look at leadership. Yeah, I look at, I look at leadership across and I’ll use New Zealand. But we see it, yeah, we see it across across the world and, yeah, it’s an echo chamber, and the evidence of it being an echo chamber is the challenges that we are seeing in our national leaders.
31:04
Yeah, there is that echo chamber of, well, I’m a leader. That for, therefore, this means that and I’ve got a leadership coach who tells me these things, which means it must, and it just keeps going round and round in circles, and that that exacerbates the challenge that we’re all talking about, because it says it’s OK and the leadership of our nations, the leaders sorry, the leaders in our nations, creates the leadership we see at every level across our countries and it says it’s all right to not uphold our values. It says it’s all right to, you know, just sort of just brush over the truth of the matter rather than actually going to. Now we’re actually going to dig into this. That’s the real challenge that we’re facing. It’s not just individual organizations that have got a toxic leadership culture or lack of values within the workplace. What we’re actually seeing is that it is being led by the examples we’re seeing at the national level.
32:06
And that’s whatever that’s whatever colour you vote.
Gina
Host
32:10
I don’t, I like, don’t follow politics at all, so I am not, or I’m not, educated enough to even talk about politics Like I let I leave that to the grownups. Like I’m coming from America.
Nicola
Host
32:28
I feel like anything that you do in that space would be like a hot button topic.
Gina
Host
32:34
I mean everything’s a mess everywhere. Right now, that’s really my political stance is everything’s a mess everywhere, and I’m just going to do what I can do to make my life and those around me a little bit better every day. What is it that you do exactly now and how does it work into your the value thing?
Stew
Guest
32:58
What I do know is I go into, I work with organizations and individuals and help them to reach beyond. The limits become unstoppable, and I do that through workshops, I do it through one to one coaching and I do it through a mastermind program where I bring a dozen businesses together and we work together over 12 months to to raise them all to the level that they didn’t think was possible.
Gina
Host
33:28
Okay, so can you give us a quick example of what it might look like?
Stew
Guest
33:33
Yeah, Well, I mean the 12 month program. I go and actually spend time with the chief exec and with with the businesses and and help them work out where the next levels are. And we’ve got a number of tools that we use to to bring an organization to where they were really the board level, where the governance level thinks they should be, but the board doesn’t have a clue about how to get them there. And, yeah, I just sit there and work with them and just you identify the challenges that they haven’t seen. So you know if it’s values based. You know the conversation last month with a client who’s you know, and I this is big for New Zealand but a tiny for the US is 650 acre thoroughbred stud farm they were. They were going Well, look, this, this isn’t working. Our values are broken. In fact, we don’t have any values. How do we?
34:37
Okay, so we begin to introduce the values concept to them and go deeper and deeper and deeper until it actually lands with every single member of the team. But then we also look at well, how does that affect revenue? What is it that you are doing in your business right now? That has nothing to do with sales, is nothing to do with marketing or BD, but the system still broken. How do we unpick that? And you know, we just slowly, in fact not slowly at all. We just unpick what’s not happening in the company and we’ve seen massive accelerations in those businesses because we’re not focused on the traditional bits of business.
35:19
We’re actually focused on what’s making, what is the lifeblood of the business and how do we get people working smarter together. So it starts with values, it moves on to communication and conflict resolution. There’s a bit of leadership in there, and then we, we break down. Everyone needs a business plan. So I’m told why? Why don’t we? Why not instead, do we work on a bunch of priorities? That causes the business to evolve, rather than everyone having to face change and next time someone comes up with a good idea. So we, we, we cause businesses to start evolving in what they choose to be rather than the traditional start. Stop nature of change teams.
Gina
Host
36:04
Do you know anything about the EOS system? Have?
Nicola
Host
36:07
you heard of this. Have you heard of?
Gina
Host
36:09
this, because what you’re doing, is it just Minicola, or does it kind of sounds very similar, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s not a bad thing.
Nicola
Host
36:20
It’s not rocket science, right. It’s been around for like decades and decades and decades. Yeah, that process.
Gina
Host
36:26
And sometimes I feel like it’s like a company reset almost. But then when you’re doing that, is it ever like really apparent to you like who’s fucking toxic? And you’re like, is it?
Stew
Guest
36:39
Yep.
Gina
Host
36:40
And what?
Stew
Guest
36:41
do you do with?
Nicola
Host
36:41
that how do you deal with that?
Gina
Host
36:43
I mean, like you, sir, are the most toxic human being I’ve ever met. Please leave.
Stew
Guest
36:47
No, the thing is, if you actually land your values properly, you don’t ever have to have that conversation. Look, it might come to that. Of course you might have to have that conversation, but you can have a values-based conversation that causes that individual to in the most place in the most. In almost every case that I’ve dealt with, the individual leaves the organization because the values are not aligned. There’s only been a couple of occasions where we’ve had to do a business restructure in order to sort the problem out.
Gina
Host
37:21
So I left because so I was so where Nicola and I met, I resigned and then they found me, and I know to our regular listeners that are tired of me saying that it was so boring.
37:34
They’re. So they’re like yeah, yeah, yeah, we know, we know you’re fucking annoying now, but but I think it was like I just was like this is such a mess and I can’t be a part of it, and like I knew enough because I had whatever 20 years of working in corporate America and building a business from scratch that I was like this is just a sinking ship, like I can’t be a part of this.
Nicola
Host
38:01
I wouldn’t say that they have values alignment thing either. That’s a, that’s a.
Gina
Host
38:06
hey, I can see this is not a good thing, but it was values, right, because their core values, as we spoke about multiple times, were like myths, like they were just like didn’t make any sense, like they were not, like. I feel like a core value is something like always be honest, you know, like even that’s kind of like a hygiene value, but it’s like or be enthusiastic, it’s like I can be enthusiastic but I can still disagree with you, right? So it’s like it was like be enthusiastic in the way that we want you to be enthusiastic and I’m like that doesn’t work for me, like that’s not a real thing.
Stew
Guest
38:44
And so you? Yeah, I mean I agree that you left because your values were so disparate from the organization that you had no choice, because insanity was the only other option.
Gina
Host
38:55
I was going insane, I was absolutely going insane. And then, of course, in their true toxic fashion, they then fired me and gave me severance, even though I like was like I have no choice but to resign. So I was like cool yeah.
Stew
Guest
39:11
It’s exactly the same reason that I took my uniform off. I was at the Royal Mercy Academy at Sanctus, where all baby officers passed off the parade square and I was there as a senior officer with all of the other ones and I was looking at it going really all of the bullshit that I’m hearing today, and this is what you want your next generation of leaders to be hearing and to act like and to be really.
Gina
Host
39:42
And that was it. And then you were just like I’m out.
Stew
Guest
39:45
Yep, I mean it took a little while to actually get out, but that was different in the military right.
Gina
Host
39:52
Like you can’t just like be like peace out. I’m resigning in an email.
Stew
Guest
39:57
Well, you can but it just takes a bit of time to get through that process. But that was the moment that I went. Do you know what I’m done? Because my values no longer align with what I am seeing and what I’m feeling about the organization.
Gina
Host
40:13
You had outgrown it.
Stew
Guest
40:15
Yeah.
Gina
Host
40:17
Yeah.
Stew
Guest
40:17
Yeah. So yeah, I do. I do think you left because your values no longer who you were didn’t align with the business you work for. There are probably people in that business who are going yeah, this is great, I’m happy with this, and that’s either because they’re completely unconscious or because they align with those values.
Gina
Host
40:37
Yeah, and they like drank the Kool-Aid for so long. They don’t know any better. Rude, yeah, well it was different for you though. Yeah, it was different for you, nikola, though, because you liked them as a consumer first, true, so you kind of already, pre you like, pre-ordered the Kool-Aid.
Nicola
Host
41:00
I did pre-order the Kool-Aid. I made the Kool-Aid at home first and then I slipped on the Kool-Aid and then I got. Then I like sweat, I barbed in the Kool-Aid.
Stew
Guest
41:12
Yeah.
Nicola
Host
41:13
Barbed off from the Kool-Aid and then drank my bathwater too. Oh gross.
Gina
Host
41:17
Nice, but yeah, but yeah, yeah, I mean, whereas I didn’t even know this company existed and I was like what, who are like? Who are these people? But like it’s a CPG. So I’m good, I’m going to be good at it, and I was good at it, and I was told that I made everyone feel stupid. I’m like, well, I was a bit nervous, I was a bit confused, I was being mean, but what can I? I have like 18 years of experience.
41:44
You guys, don’t you either learn from it, or you walk around feeling like you’re stupid, or you ask questions Like what’s, what is the alternative there?
Nicola
Host
41:55
So many, so many alternatives. You can leave.
Gina
Host
41:59
Whatever, but yes to your point too. Like I was just like this is fucking insane. I know better. This is a sinking fucking ship. All these people are not only individually toxic. They come together and create like a toxic, like sludge monster, yeah, and then like they’re like all on top of each other and they’re like toxic. And I was just like I don’t have time for this shit. It’s like I don’t have time for this shit. I’d rather be hungry and have no like actual real income than have to deal with this bullshit.
Nicola
Host
42:31
Yes, so I agree with you on that. Oh, that’s too, that’s too entertaining. Thank you, Thank you everybody for that entertaining piece of joy. Anyways, it’s you. So, Stu, tell us a little bit like what where are some of the places that our amazing podcast listeners can find you? What are some of the things that you can offer them in like a service, like service wise? How can you help them? What are some? Of the things that they can hunt you down for.
Stew
Guest
43:02
So, first up, Unstoppable Force TV is now into. It’s just launched it last month, so we’ve got four episodes up there. You can find that on YouTube. My Unstoppable Force podcast is available out there. There will be links to it on the new website, wwwunstoppableforceconz. You can find me there. You can find me on. You can find the audio book Lead Through Life on Spotify. And, yeah, if you jump onto Amazon, Amazon’s got the audio book, the e-book, the hard copy, the paperback copy, If you want to look through that. That’s very much a book about a leadership framework that I developed throughout my military career. That is now used from schoolboys to corporate leaders. And if anyone wants to talk about values, leadership, jump on a call with me. You can jump on the website. You can book a 30 minute call and we can talk about where you are challenged in terms of leadership. Or if you feel that your organization is a little bit more toxic than you’d like it to be, especially if you’re in a leadership role, jump on and let’s have a conversation.
Gina
Host
44:27
I would love to gift our old business a 30 minute call with Stu.
Stew
Guest
44:34
Well, if they have got the humility and the vulnerability to take it.
Gina
Host
44:37
They don’t, then they do not.
Stew
Guest
44:39
Then the offer is there. But the offer is there that you jump on, book a call and we’ll talk about it. And where might that go? Well, we offer six half day workshops. Workshops either in person or virtually. That cover the gamut of leadership, communication, conflict resolution and a values framework. And also the values framework includes the tools you need to embed those values into your organization. Yeah, that’s the work that we do across New Zealand and a little bit in the US.
Nicola
Host
45:18
Fair enough, I love that. I’m gonna say it’s been absolutely a hoot chatting with you today.
Stew
Guest
45:27
Well, thank you. This always happens on podcasts, which is really cool. You end up going to some really random places, don’t you?
Gina
Host
45:36
Some of these are probably the most random I’ve been.
Stew
Guest
45:40
I have no issue about being lectured about anything, because if there’s an opportunity to learn, I’ll take it. If I find something of use in it, awesome. If not, I’ll come back to you and tell you how my year was and what I learned from it. If anything, maybe the thing I learned is that I don’t want to ever fast again. But yeah, we’ll see what happens. Hey, luke, guys, it’s been fun. Thanks a lot for inviting me on. Really enjoyed it. It’s been insightful, I’ve learned some stuff and I hope it’s been useful to everyone who’s listening.
Gina
Host
46:13
Yeah, awesome, thank you, you have a wonderful rest of the day.
Stew
Guest
46:17
You too, bye, bye.
Nicola
Host
46:19
Thanks.

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