Navigating CEO Pitfalls: Ian Judson’s Guide to Effective Business Leadership

Posted on November 23, 2023 in Business Strategy

In episode 42 of REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast, join our host Jackson Barnes and co-host Nigel Heyn in this insightful discussion with Ian Judson, an experienced business coach and the founder of Judsons Coaching, as they discuss the importance of a cohesive leadership team.

Ian emphasises the need for CEOs to understand their management team through psychometric testing, ensuring effective strategy execution. Drawing on his experience and a nod to his book on execution, he highlights that a unified leadership team is pivotal for sustained success.

Reflecting on his writing journey, he underscores the significance of continual learning for CEOs and explores common pitfalls for new executives, like avoiding a ‘change everything’ approach and maintaining humility. The discussion shifts to technology’s role, urging businesses to view IT as an investment for enhanced productivity. Ian also addresses the current labour shortage, suggesting that leveraging technology and embracing AI can supplement workforce output.

Don’t miss this engaging conversation with Ian Judson, where he shares valuable knowledge for business leaders navigating strategy, execution, and team dynamics.

#BusinessLeadership #StrategyExecution #TeamDynamics #TechInnovation #ContinuousLearning

00:00 – Opener
00:42 – Ian’s Career Background
02:02 – The Importance of a Cohesive Leadership Team
07:57 – Ian’s Strategic Planning Sessions
08:49 – Psychometric Testing for Better Team Dynamics
16:53 – Top 3 Biggest Lessons Learned from Coaching CEOs
21:12 – The Pillars of People, Cash, Strategy, and Execution
29:22 – Top Mistakes New CEOs Should Avoid
30:57 – Technology’s Impact on Business Success
33:40 – Leveraging Technology for Better Customer Service
35:33 – Addressing the Labour Shortage Through Technology and AI
37:12 – Productivity Challenges in the Modern Workplace
39:22 – Ian Judson’s Future Plans and Coaching Focus
40:34 – Outro

If you would like to discuss any of the topics discussed in this episode further with a REDD expert or if you would like to be a guest on the show, please get in touch either via our website, [email protected], or through any of the links below.

Show Transcript


Hello and welcome to Redd’s Business and Technology Podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Barnes,


And I’m your co-host Nigel Heyn.


Today we’re sitting down with Ian Judson, who’s the CEO and leadership coach at Judsons Coaching. Ian, thanks for coming, mate. Appreciate your time.


Thanks, Jackson. Pleasure to be here.


No worries, mate. Did you want to start, give me some bit of your background in terms of what you do?


Sure. It started off my career as an accountant, did accounting law at university and decided that law wasn’t going to be my thing and decided to have a go at accounting predominantly in tax, and then built up a fair degree of knowledge in that sort of world. Became a partner in one of the multinational firms in Brisbane and that was a good journey. And then had an itching to go do something on my own. So essentially set up my own business, which was an accounting business, but essentially a more broader financial services business at the end of the day. And ran that for a reasonable period of time. And as I was just telling Nigel just before sold out about two, three years ago.




Yeah, cheers.


Looking forward to getting some insights out of you around what you’re doing now as well, which we’ll unpack in a second. But maybe Nigel, if you wanted to point this point in the right direction.


Yeah, sure. So looking in, I know we’ve had a long history, I think we said 20 years since we last met or when we first met, but I think the common bond was really the Rockefeller habits. So maybe do you want to tell the listeners about what is the Rockefeller habits, how’s transformed businesses? I think we both share a common belief that businesses can always be better and understanding from others learning, coaching, what you do has really played the big influence. So maybe start with the Rockefeller and just for those that dunno what it is, what is Rockefeller Habits?


Sure. So I guess my introduction to Rockefeller Habits is linked to that career shift. So I was working at Grant Thornton and one of the partners that I worked with kindly gave me a copy of this book, mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Vern Harnish was the author of it. And Vern was a, well-known mid-market business sort of speaker, and was actually presenting to Australia quite often or whatever to mid-size businesses, which essentially like companies that have turnover of 10 million plus would be the sweet spot of Vern’s material. Anyway, so he handed me the book and he said, this will change your life. And little did I know that once I got into reading it, it just gave such a broader perspective around business beyond just the figures, which I was used to. So I was working in a bit of a corporate finance area and just trying to understand the story behind businesses.


But in an accounting sphere that’s very much based around the financial statements and some of the things that are included in that. But the Rockefeller habits really sort of brought it into a more greater perspective around four key decisions that people need to get right to have a business succeed. Those four key areas would be around people, strategy, execution, and cash. So finance is an element of it, but essentially you still have to get those other areas as well. So that’s where a lot of the value in a business is really contained. And for me, once I read the book, I went, I’ve got to get more of this, I really want to get into it. And I know that there’s a life outside of accounting that really helps you identify where the value sits in a business. And quite often it’s all based around people.


And so that was another sort of moment I guess in my life where I go, okay, there’s more to this. I want to learn more. And this lent then to the change in my career to go rather than just being straight the accountant or tax guy, getting into more of a coaching strategic advisory component. And I think that’s where I ran into you, Nigel. We had a seminar that was based down in Sydney at the time, remember that? And it was a small group and Vern was a little bit more unknown in the market there, but building up a bit of traction I guess, in the United States. And people were going, look, do you want to hear what the latest sort of trends are around the world in the United States? Let’s get a bit of a piece of this. And I think we’re at Randwick race course where we first connected


Possibly. Yeah, I can’t remember. I do remember we had the Atlassian, one of the Atlassian founders there. Remember Scott was there a bit of an unknown at the time. And so yeah, reminiscent of old days in, but yeah.


Yeah, and it definitely came to mind in the night function I think. I can’t remember which one of the Atlassian guys came in, but he was in thongs and very relaxed and talking about core values and yeah, it


Was Scott, now I


Remember. Yeah, Scott isn’t this cool? You’re really getting an insight as to what’s behind the business and the people behind the business. So for me, it went from there and it got me so interested. I then decided to become affiliated with that coaching group. So Verne ran an organisation called the Gazelle Group, which was very much based around the presentations and doing those sort of big live speaking events, but there was a coaching arm attached to it and there was a number of people that was signed up to that coaching programme. One of them was based in Brisbane, reached out to him and after a little while, went over to the United States, did some training and became an affiliated or accredited coach of the Gazelle’s Group. Fantastic. Which then changed its name to scaling Up. And so that really sort of started my journey around this Mastering Rockefeller Habits for Decisions specialisation.


And from there just got more and more immersed in the material, started to learn my craft around how to use the tools that were a key component of the programme. And four Decisions really is really just I guess a framework of how to view the business, the real art I guess, of how do you get value out of the material is applying the tools and getting the leadership teams and the CEO to basically attend these sessions and then work with their teams to work through the tools and to help them build out their plan. And the key, I guess, outcome of the activities when you’re doing this sort of type of work is, and what Vern Harnish and Mastering Rockefeller Habits is all about is this one page strategic plan. And if you use the phrase, Hey, we need to get everyone on the same page, well that was the page and essentially a big piece of a four, a three sort of piece of paper where you’d have a number of columns where you insert key information to help give a clear picture of what the business is all about.


The left part of it was all based around things like core values, core purpose, your BAG, all those sorts of types of elements where there’s a lot of speakers that can help you work through those sorts of types of concepts. Jim Collins is a key one that comes to mind, another great book, good to Great helps with a lot of the sort of formulation I guess are some of the answers for people in that world. And then it finishes off with execution, having a look at what are our one year goals, what are our 90 day goals, how are we going to rally the team behind these things? So really it gives you a clear direction as to what the business is all about, both in the short term and the long term.


Yeah. And to your credit, Ian, ever since I’ve known you, I’ve never really positioned you as a traditional accountant. You’ve been very much driven about making businesses better, you help make sure that the balance sheet is strong and the p and l is sustainable, but it’s all about business success and I think that’s where we’ve shared that common trait about coaching and doing things better. So fast forward to today, focus on coaching. Talk us through what you’re really doing day-to-day these days.


Yeah, well most of my time is spent around facilitating the strategic planning sessions for clients. So typically I guess the scenario will be the CEO is wanting to work workshop, I guess some of the concepts that we may be talking about and the one page plan or other things that they’ve heard about or read about. If you look at the business libraries of most of your endemics and those sort of great bookstores, a lot of ideas there, but how do we incorporate it into our business? And so essentially my main work now is running those strategic planning sessions for want of a better term. Typically you’ll do a two day planning session for an annual or a one day planning session for a quarterly. And really it’s just helping the team clarify where are we heading, what is our endpoint here, what we’re trying to achieve, and then what are the steps to help us get there?


And really getting clarity for not only the CEO, but the whole leadership team as to what their role is in relation to getting those activities done. And so from an execution point of view, there’s clarity around what are our priorities? What are the data and metric points that we’re going to use to work out what our progress is on those things and what’s our communication rhythm? How often are we going to get together? So my work is really helping steer the team, clarify what are those priorities, what is it that we’re working on, how will this help get us to the end position that we’re seeking to achieve? And then from there we’ll look at, okay, well what are the data and metric points that will help us work out whether we’re track or off track? And then establishing the communication rhythms with the team is another area that we like to work on.


So it is really taking the pressure off the CEO to have to come up with all the answers and facilitate at the same time. So a lot of my work is really there just to help the teams clarify what that is and then capture the outcomes of those discussions into a plan. Now it mightn’t be perfect and that’s understandable. You can’t get perfection out of a one day session and work out all of the world’s problems in one hit in those sort of types of forums, but it’s good enough, it’s better than where you started and that’s what we’re really trying to do. Not necessarily seek perfection every time, but really help the team get a little bit clearer, a little bit further down the path where they want to go. And that’s essentially my work at the moment. So


The business owners that are watching, listening to our podcast, what are the common signs you see that triggers a moment where I look, I need help, I need to talk to someone Lucky Ian, what’s those common signs you see that the inflexion points where they go, I can’t do this myself, I need help.


Yeah, quite often the description we like to use quite often for CEOs is they’re desperate. They’re desperate for some sort of increased results or they’re desperate for time typically, and you’ll see them, they’re trying all sorts of things to try to work out how do we get better productivity or how do we get this traction of these great ideas that I went to a seminar and really want to make it happen yet they just don’t seem to be able to get that energy replicated through the team. And just any sort of new initiative or any sort of new change that they try to put in just never sticks.


The execution struggles. Yeah,


Exactly. And so CEOs are typically frustrated. They’re desperate for some sort of methodology or system to try to get their business to run better and smoother. And that’s typically I guess the signs that we see. So if you see also from a financial point of view, stagnant results, no growth, maybe potential loss of staff happening because there’s a loss of confidence in the leadership qualities of not only the CEO, but maybe the team and the managers that he’s got underneath or he she’s got underneath. And so they’re typically the signs that we go, Hey, here’s a business that could really do with a refining, I guess, of some of those core concepts we spoke about in that one page plan. Can you


Think back into maybe the best of these sessions you’ve done of creating a one page plan? What was one of the best ones you’ve seen and what was in that?


I think the best one I’ve seen is the ones that are simple. Quite often when these plans, most people want to sort have a huge sort of detail as to what’s in it, but the best ones I’ve had is where a team came up with a rallying cry that really sort of resonated with them and everyone went, yep, that’s it. And it was a simple statement. I can’t remember actually the statement for the one that I’m thinking about, but there was a clarity around, it was just like a phrase where everyone that captures where we really want to be in say three years time, that’s our one phrase strategy and everyone bought into that as that’s a very good clarity around where we’re going and that sort of type of thing. The clearer and the more succinct you can get in that plan, the better the plan essentially is probably the outcome or a learning I got out of the process.


Looking forward to getting some more insights. I know you’ve learned a bucket load over the years, mentoring and coaching CEOs on how to run a business better and making their business better. I want to circle back though before we get there on, for people listening who maybe earlier in their career who were studying accounting, their kind of goal would be to get to a big four accounting practise for example, and get to a partner status. What made you go, alright, my partner at this accounting firm want to start my own show? Why did you want to do that? What was the driver behind that?


I think you look at businesses from a perspective when you’re going through an accounting ranks, typically, I guess if I could sum it up as being two core pathways when you’re doing chartered accounting, one is tax and advisory sort of business services sort of thing. The other one’s audit and essentially if you look at the services, the tax advisory is really just a smaller component I guess, of helping people steer through regulation compliance and just basically ticking the boxes, make sure that they stay out of trouble, meet the requirements of legislation and just able to handle their affairs or get outcomes in accordance with the laws. And then audits are very much based around systems and so typically focused around bigger businesses. As we know, we’ve got into a requirement in Australia and most jurisdictions where you’ll need audit only for the bigger companies and typically focused, you can’t sort of check every sort of detail.


So it’s all very focused on the systems. And so the people involved there in audits really looking at systems I guess and having a look at those sorts of types of things, what makes the business tick? But it’s very much, again, making sure you get to the right outcome, right result. And you go, okay, well that’s great, but I had a yearning to go, well, I’m seeing these sort of things. I can see okay, I could go down a road of getting good odd systems or being maybe involved as ACFO in those sorts of types of organisations. But really there’s a repetitiveness about that sort of type of behaviour and activity that go, I don’t know if that’s really me and the advisory component of working in the smaller businesses is great, but quite often the ambitions I guess of a lot of the people there are more about consumption and you’re going, well, actually I’m just helping this person get a bigger boat or help get ’em a greater car.


Is that really what I’m all about? No, I really had an interest in trying to build something that had a bit of a legacy, not only I guess for myself, but for people I worked with. I really had through my career a love of working in teams. And so for me, shifting I guess to a partner role and then going out in my own business was very much trying to maintain that team environment and working together, working through problems as a group and that potentially lend itself then to now the work that I do, which is really very much focused on that team outcome. How do we get people working together in the most constructive way, collaborative way to try to get the best outcomes out of the business.


Yeah, makes sense. I want to drill down a little bit on some of your learnings, but let’s start with when you first meet ACEO, when you go through somebody maybe coaching engagements or leadership engagements, what do you ask first? What do you need to know first when you are trying to mentor or get a current state for a business? What do you ask a CEO


EOI like the question, why am I here? And the CEO EO will step back a little bit and go, okay, why have I reached out to someone to work out what’s going on? And typically it’s because they’re stuck. They’ve tried a few things, they just cannot get the traction. And so they’ve either heard about me or read about someone like me who’s a business coach and can help ’em get through things and they really know, okay, is there a system, is there a way that I can start to change the way I lead or get my team to behave in a certain way to get different outcomes? Typically they’re just stuck. And so the first question I always like is, why am I here?


And they’ll typically reveal the issues and the pain and that sort of stuff. And then the next question to follow up with that is, well, what do you want to achieve? And that gives you an insight as to what is actually their either mindset around what they’re trying to get out of the business consumption versus either growth team based legacy things. It might nott always be for profit either quite often I’ve done some work with not-for-profit organisations. We are very much as about they’re trying to enhance the social impact that they may have in their particular sort of area of the world. So it is just what are you trying to achieve? And then we get to then sort of a bit more detail around, okay, well what does success look like for you and what are you actually running? What would you like to achieve out of the process?


Okay. And how many years have you been doing now the more consulting to businesses and CEOs?


I’ve been working in this field for about 12 years since I officially got accredited, but I guess as an advisor, even wearing the accounting hat on, I guess I’ve been in advisory capacity for 25, 30 years.


If you had to name three biggest lessons you’ve learned from coaching CEOs, what would you say they would be?


Alright, the number one learning I think I would have in relation to CEOs is they just try to do too much. They try to, when they get wind of a change or something like that, they really want to try to enforce change a bit too soon too quick and really modify the business. Particularly I guess if you’re dealing with a new CEO that’s coming to an organisation, quite often that will be the open door for me to get involved with the group. It’ll be a change of ACEO that’s wanting to make their mark on the business. And so sometimes I’m there either as a board directive or maybe as sort of a prior relationship with that particular CEO to help them implement change in their new environment. So typically though, one of the learnings I see is like the CEO is just trying to do too much from day one.


They don’t get an appreciation quite often of the relationships that are there. Try to work team members get an understanding of how they all work, but really they don’t get on top of those relationship building skills soon enough. And quite often they upset people in the way things are done a little bit too quickly without really getting a feel of the environment that’s not obviously to encourage that you just wait forever until everyone’s happy before you then start to implement change. But I guess the first thing is you’ve got to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve too. So the CEO just keep it simple and so don’t try to implement too much change too soon I guess is one of those key things. It then leads probably then to the second learning, which is that role definition, what is the role of the CEO? Quite often there’s a lack of clarity around what that actually means, particularly for founders


Chief everything officer.


Exactly. The founders are the worst culprits I guess, or outcomes of this. So used to having been across many of the functions in the business that they can’t help pick up issues that come across their desk and they love to help everyone. And quite often the outcome of that is they’d start taking on bits and pieces of everyone else’s job. And we use this term in the ging, you’re doing someone else’s job is quite often a question I like to ask of the CEO and you go, well, why are you doing this? You have a head of sales, head of operations, head of marketing, or whatever it may be. That’s sort of the problem that they’ve decided to pick up just because either that makes ’em feel useful or that’s attuned to something that they’ve had in their background is something like a nice little sweet spot that they’ve used to play with.


So I think getting clarity around the roles in the team is very, very important and make sure that everyone’s fulfilling their role properly. So again, that gets to then the clarity of the roles in that team structure. So who’s doing what is really where you want to get to as one of the key learnings of working in this environment is getting the CEO clear around the team, the makeup of the team, even to the point of even using some of those psychometric tools that we might be familiar with like a Myers-Briggs tool or something like that, just to get a feel of what are the differences in the makeup of my team? What actually makes some of these people tick and how am I going to get the best performance out of them based on their interactions? What I’m seeing is their profiles.


So you’d recommend a CEO gets the management team to go and do psychometric testing so you can understand how to work with them better?


Exactly. My learning would be you’ll not get any of your strategy execution running smoothly unless you’ve got a cohesive leadership team. You will not really get past go. You may get some initial success, but you’ll get stuck unless you get a cohesive team together. And so really those tools are useful to work out well, what might be the barriers? What’s causing the issues potentially in some of that day-to-day machinations or conflict that may come out. Now we do want healthy conflict in a leadership team, but it’s got to be respectful. But if we have conflict that’s leading to arguments and open corridor type of slangy matches, well then that’s not really a great outcome. And then that’s where staff or whoever will see the conflict in front of them and start to query what’s happening with the organisation. So cohesive leadership team is really the key thing before you can then lead onto those other things.


So Ian, I’m going to ask the question. Sure. Going back to those four pillars that I still ingrained in my brain, the people cash strategy, execution, execution being the hardest, you’ve written a book about execution. Do you want to talk a bit about that?


Yeah, it was a fun exercise there, Nigel. I always had an inkling or a desire to write a book, but never too much clarity about what would I write a book on. I’m a lover book, so I could spend hours walking through a demic business section and just picking up pieces and then, oh, just really enjoying, I guess seeing what people have as ideas, what they’re writing about and that sort of thing.


I was always envious, sorry to interrupt you. When I walked into your office and you had that beautiful bookshelf of all the dream books, I think every single book that von recommended, you’d read, you’d have several copies, it was a dream one, so well done there.


Yeah, cheers. And I must admit, I don’t always read every book cover to cover, but you just try to get an inkling, I guess, of what that person’s trying to say. And quite often I find things like the forwards and those sorts of types of things, they’re very useful exercises where, okay, what is the actual main point that this person’s trying to make? Anyway, so I had a desire to write a book in some way, shape or form. Originally I thought it was going to be a small business manual to help owners navigate I guess through the issues that I see in a larger firm context, but in a smaller business that was more to do I guess with a lot of my background when I was working in accounting of helping smaller businesses. But in the end I was offered an opportunity to write this, what we call a monograph.


So we were very much impressed by the way Jim Collins, when he wrote Good to Great, had a monograph attached to it that was specifically focused on how you apply the good to great principles in the social sector. And then he recently wrote another one called, I think it was Turning the Flywheel, I dunno if that’s exact title, forgive me if it’s wrong, but it was another simple concept, 40 to 50 pages of information, something you could read in a two hour plane flight and really get the gist of the message. So that created the idea of creating a series of these sort of smaller books on some of those key areas, and execution was one of the ones that came up as an offer and say, Hey, would you like to write a small book on execution? It was at a time when Covid was prevalent, so this was actually written about two years ago.


Oh wow. Said someone approached you to write a book about execution. One of the coaching groups I connected to made the offer. So they made that process a little bit easier for me to get over any of the barriers that I may have had in relation to how do I start? Yeah, what do I do? Admin shoes. Yeah, and this is actually around about fourth or fifth in the series, so they had a bit of a formula as to making that work. So it was written on behalf of the Gravitas Impact Coaching Group, and as far as I know, it’s being reasonably well received by people who read it. It’s very consistent with a lot of the execution methodologies we see across the globe. So without trying to negate the quality of the content or the concepts in the book, there’s a strong similarity in the way execution is addressed in not only this book but in a lot of the other coaching sort of type of methodologies. So people who are fans of EOS Traction, three hag way scaling up, all of the execution principles are very similar across those sort of different sort of religions. And so all I tried to do in this book is really cover off my own experiences in how I’ve applied the material in my coaching client base and just some of the extra lessons that I learned along the way.


That’s awesome. We’ve big on the execution side. You can have all the strategy in the world without execution you can’t get anywhere and execution’s hard strategy’s quite easy to drop down one page is what we want to do, but seeing that through an execut is really hard. What advice would you have for maybe someone listening who’s got a strategy, they know what they want to do, but execution, it’s not happening.


It’s essentially, I think the key lesson I’d impart is like most people think it’s got to be the absolute nail. All of the elements of strategy first before you get going. I’d probably say strategy creation is really probably 1% of the work that you’ve got to do. The rest of it is alignment and getting people aligned to do the decisions and do the activities that are linked to the strategy. Most people keep on doing what they do and without an imperative, I guess to actually change behaviours or a reason to do something differently, they’ll keep on doing what they do and they’ll keep on making the same decisions. There’s no need for them to change If success has got them to a point where what they’ve done is given them a certain sort of outcome and salary and that sort of stuff, well obviously they feel like, well, I’ll keep on doing that. I’ll still get the same outcome and it meets my needs and stuff. But quite often the business will need to pivot and need to change. So the lesson I guess I’d take from it is that most of your work is going to be around the alignment, getting your team to actually focus on what does that strategy mean, how does it differentiate I guess your business across others? What is it it’s going to do to your business to actually make it behave and appear and operate differently to your competitors?


So we work on the book thing. I do want to ask actually, your favourite three books you’ve read, you’ve mentioned Jim Collins and a few others. What are your favourite three


Good to Great would have to be number one. I think the fact that it’s not just someone thinking what business is about or an academic sort of type of piece, just purely on that basis, it’s all empirically validated. Like Jim Collins did that work by studying and had a whole research team looking at the elements, the financial reports, all of the data. So it’s a very robust lot of evidence-based sort of outcomes that came out of that study that lend itself then to the Good to Great book. But still it’s an absorbable piece of work even though a lot of the examples are bigger businesses and a lot of people might think that they can’t relate to. I guess some of the examples and no surprises, a lot of the business is American. And so from an Australian reader point of view, you go, well, I can’t relate my activities to that, but the principles outlined in the book I think are universal. And for me that would make it therefore my number one book from all of the stuff that I’ve got on my desk. I love all books, so it’s really hard to say. It’s like what’s your favourite child? But just trying to think of some other


Ones. The kind of reader who gets books and reads the few books a whole bunch of times and then skims through the rest, or did you cover to cover book by book?


No, I’ve got about six or seven books on my bedside table, all pickup pieces and stuff. As I’m going along at the moment, I’m reading Dan Pink’s to Sell as Humid, just as again, like Dan likes to do some of that sort of study to work out reason why people do things and that sort of stuff. I read the Master Coach, so I also like reading books that help me become a better coach. So not just a business book for the sake of a new idea and try to incorporate that. It’s really very much around also trying to improve my own skillset, and that’s another favourite book of mine is Metronomics Hard to not, I guess have an acknowledgement to something that’s big component I guess, of the work that I do. It’s the methodology that I very much am aligned with in relation to the work that I do with clients and I follow their philosophy fairly closely in relation to how do we formulate it. Metronomics is very much about how it helps ACEO and a leadership team work out how do we incorporate all these great business ideas into a plan of attack.


It’s a great book. I remember reading it. I resonated, especially the technology side as well. So Shannon did a great job with that one.


Yeah, and I think Scaling Up and Master Rockefeller Habits, I mean that’s where this journey started for me. So it’s still probably one of my sort favourites. And again, a lot of these books, I guess as a theme are very much like a how do we practically get through some of these ideas rather than just like a book that has a great idea or concept but doesn’t really tell you how to operate or play with it.


Circle. Go back to the CEO advice side. What are the three biggest mistakes you’ve seen new CEOs or someone who’s new into the position that they can make apart from coming in, like you mentioned before. So you already mentioned one, which is just coming in and changing everything. Apart from that, what else?


Well, mistake they didn’t call in.


Maybe I think the other key lesson or one of them would be the feeling that the CEO’s learning has stopped. Where I see things break down is where they think, and again using that term that Marshall Goldsmith’s famous thought, what got you here won’t necessarily get you there. And I think sadly, I see a lot of CEOs that because of their base of success and they have been made CEO say as a title or a position that they’ve now got, they think that that’s the end of their learning journey and now the rest of their time is just to sort of grace the world with their fantastic presence and all their learnings and that sort of stuff. Whereas the best CEOs I’ve worked with are continual learners. They’re always got a curiosity, they’re always trying to get better. And I think when you, again referring back to the Jim Collins, good to Great has a concept called level five leadership.


And one of the key elements I guess of the core leaders and the best leaders that the day saw in their best companies was very much a humility and a humility based around they acknowledge that they dunno everything and they’re really trying to understand the world through questions. Continual learners have a growth mindset, really trying to get better as people, better as leaders and not feeling that that’s the end of their sort of development in relation to ACE. So that’s probably one of the key outcomes I guess, or mistakes I see of CEOs is they think that they can stop learning.


Yeah. I’ve got to ask the question, we’re a tech company. What have you seen from technology influence in businesses over your many years? Can you share experiences good, bad?


Yeah, I’d like Nigel. I think again because of the accounting background, I think a lot of the work that I’ve done is working with CEOs and leaderships teams as another example. Analogy is they see the finance function is a completely separate thing. So they’ll talk about the accounting system, the results, and there’s a desire by the leadership team to sort of get better results, but they don’t see the connection about their activities then to the financial outcomes. I think the same thing comes to mind when I look at it. A lot of the CEOs talk about the IT platform that they choose and what other people are doing, but they don’t relate, I guess the usage of the IT to what they’re actually trying to achieve. And so it’s really a consideration of what is the IT going to help us achieve, how do we leverage it better?


And I love that concept that’s consistent with a lot of the books and the around treating it rather than just an information sort of place where you might have a few things is that operational technology, how do we embrace technology to help us operate better? What systems can we use to make sure that things don’t get missed? How do we automate a process where there typically may have been a human involved in a process where you go, actually technology will actually make this run faster. How do we get more responsive to our clients? So it’s very much still based around the business principles of better service or faster service or reducing the cost of that service, but leveraging technology in a way where actually those outcomes can be achieved in a much simpler and easier way as opposed to why I do see a lot of CEOs and leadership teams. And maybe getting back to that, another mistake that I see is I always try to get a person to fix a problem, whereas I’ve been a very big believer in now is there a system or a type of technology will actually be able to replace the need of that person? Is there a smarter way to do this as opposed to is there a better person to do this? Yeah, great question.


Fantastic. So from the businesses that you’ve done consulting for, have the good ones, the ones that have been going really well, are they the ones that have been trying to leverage technology for better customer service and automation?


Yeah, I think the involvement that we see for the star performers in my client base, the ones that embrace technology, they’re not fearful of it. You don’t see a reluctance too on them wanting to make the investment in the technology. So they’re willing to treat it as an investment rather than a cost. And so that’s probably the biggest thing. And the elements I guess in the components of successful IT sort of adoption and technology in those more successful firms is the ones that are focused on knowledge capture. So the ones that can really get a better understanding as to how do we get the knowledge out of the heads of our people into systems like the wikis, the way that we even work together as teams and getting that out in the open. So there’s a trail, there’s a transparency about how these things come together and how do we actually capture that knowledge in a way that people have policies and processes, not just court and lever arch files sitting on a bookshelf, that sort of type of thing, but genuinely a component of the infrastructure where if people have a problem or trying to understand how they do things in a particular environment, they can go to a particular source of the intranet or those sorts of types of things and get an answer.


And so they’re the sort of businesses that I’ve seen more successful and they’re the ones that are willing to communicate and be vulnerable in those types of environments. And that’s where you see the communications and the elements I guess, of the data that they capture and working are very much aligned to business goals as opposed to maybe just another way to do email, another way to have conversations. So Slack as an example, without trying to give away product names or something, people go, oh, we’ll use Slack now, but it’s really just replacing email chat. It’s not integrated to the business. Whereas if you look at systems that very much have a focus around, okay, what are the priorities of the business? Where are we heading in relation to as a business, how do we make sure our decisions line up with that and we put that in front of our employees more often or how do they access the right sort of type of decisions and maybe precedents of how things have been done before. They’re the clients that have been more successful, I’ve seen in the coaching context, but it’s also linked to the ones that are more embracing technology.


Yeah, I think I’ve definitely seen that ones that are willing to invest in technology are generally the better run businesses. But one thing I wanted to pick your brain on was the labour shortage, which a lot of businesses are facing right now in Australia, probably the world. What advice would you have for people who are facing that challenge of like, oh, I lost a key employee or need to find more people, hard to find people, that kind of thing. What advice would you have?


I think using that term ai, which has probably been overused in a lot of your guys context and whatever, and people are fearful I guess, of what that means. But I think looking at recent productivity reports and trends that we see in a lot of areas and a lot of academic papers on AI and the like, it’s definitely there to help supplement the workers’ output and they’re tools that should only enhance and increase the productivity of people. And so I think to try to answer your question, I mean the shortage of labour means that it’s not necessarily going to be easy for us to find the right person to sort plug a gap that you might have. We might have to look at what system can we incorporate into our sort of environment or structure to get more out of our people. How do we enhance the productivity I guess, of our workforce even better. And I know recent reports out of the Australian Productivity Commission are indicating that we’re doing more hours, but we’re not getting the productivity. And I think some of these tools are only going to be more useful to help get more out of our workers and try to get clarity, again, going back to that concept of how do we capture the knowledge that we have in our workers’ heads to an area where people can actually get better outcomes faster into either servicing clients or distributing the goods that they may be selling to their customers. Why


Do you think that productivity is not higher but people are working more? What do you think the causes of that?


I don’t know. I think anecdotally because of the pandemic, there was a bit of a refocus around priorities of life and people were trying to navigate, I guess, how do they handle a work life and a home life? And I think also there’s a trend there about home life being just as important, but I think people are bringing more of themselves to the workplace. And I think as employers, they’re being requested to be more understanding of people’s situations when it comes to that sort of type of thing. Now that’s good and admirable, and when you do have a labour shortage, I think you do have to hold onto your good people very well. But we do know that personal life is spilling over, I guess into some of those typical environments of work and stuff now. And it is just a reality that maybe life’s a little bit more complicated or the times that you can go to see the doctors or do all those things are hard.


And so people are having to take time off work or work from home to do those things. And there’s some conflicting evidence I’d say around what are the productivity gains associated with working at home versus working in the office? And I’m not here to sort of say one side or the other is right or wrong, but I think my own experiences or anecdote around this is we are seeing a bit of a productivity drain through the outcome of trying to balance these two lives. And I think trying to work out and then that gets to employer quandary around, well, how often should we bring our people back into the office? Should we mandate that they have to be in three days a week or do we completely adopt a work from home policy? And that’s okay. And trying to get some of those sort of things. So productivity wise, I think there’s always going to be a downside whenever you’re trying to juggle these sort of extra priorities in life and also work and how life intersect and the more they come together, I guess the more that we’re going to see productivity potentially be impacted.


It makes sense. Ian, I’m conscious of time, but thanks for coming and sharing insights. I’ve learned a lot of this and hope people listening have as well. What’s next for Ian Judson? What are you going to be doing next five years?


Well, definitely, as I was just telling Nigel before, accounting is an element no longer a part of my sort of normal life. I did have still an active interest, I guess in the accounting firm to some degree, but now that’s completely closed and definitely just doing the coaching. So my goal is to basically be working more with mid-market businesses in Queensland. I do travel to Victoria and New South Wales occasionally to do coaching assignments there, which is fun. But basically hoping that I can do a little bit more work with Queensland businesses.


And if people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way? What’s your website and details like that?


Yeah, look, judson’s au is my main banner and website that I operate from. And from an email point of view, [email protected] au is open for everyone to ask questions or reach out.


Fantastic. And look, thank you. You’ve been such a great friend and supported me over the last, I think 20 years and four businesses, and I have been that CEO that’s reached out asking for help. And gratefully, I’m now just the founder. So I really appreciate friendship. You’ve been a great testament to helping businesses succeed and looking forward to helping you enhance other businesses and business owners a lot.




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Nigel Heyn
Nigel Heyn
Founder & Executive Director
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Nigel Heyn is a passionate, business and technology centric entrepreneur. With a natural instinct drawn towards technology, Nigel, under the guidance of his father, successfully built his first desktop computer at the age of 8. This started a journey of research, innovation and technology exploration that continues today. Nigel has successfully built several companies, all underpinned by the desire to leverage technology smarts in order to positively influence business models and realise stakeholder dreams. Leveraging a vast network of global contacts established over many years, Nigel thrives on learning what best practices exist in order to provide digital excellence for his clients'​ successes. In order to achieve true success, Nigel understands the importance of building a team of the best talent available and thus welcomes the opportunity for those sharing similar dreams to reach out and be a part of the vision. In the words of Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it”!
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