Reactive Chaos to Strategic Agility with Waymaker.io CEO, Stuart Leo
In Episode 014 of REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast our hosts Jackson Barnes (Head of Business Development – REDD), and Brad Ferris (CEO – REDD) interview Stuart Leo, CEO and Founder of leadership platform Waymaker.io. Waymaker empowers leaders to diagnose, plan, & execute smarter growth with less effort. Stuart shares his insights from working with many leaders and leadership teams around the world.
REDD is a Waymaker client and advocate. The Waymaker platform and academy have helped the REDD leadership team move the needle towards achieving REDD’s 20×25 strategy. We would recommend the Waymaker platform and methodology to any SME looking to align their team and execute their business strategy.
Recorded Monday, December 19th, 2022.
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.
Thanks for watching!
You can read the full transcript below:
– Hello and welcome to Redd’s Business and Technology Podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Vance.
– I’m your co-host, Brad Ferris.
– And today we sit down with Stuart Leo, who’s the founder and CEO of Waymaker.io. It’s a leadership software business based in Gold Coast but go all across Australia, I’m sure. Stuart, mate, thanks for joining us. Looking forward to the chat. And full disclosure, Redd does some work with Stuart and Waymaker.io and on the journey. Look, Matt, over to you. Do you want to go through your background before we get into Waymaker?
– Well firstly, thank you for having me. And yes, I’m based down on the coast, which apparently you shouldn’t say in business because everybody thinks you’re just dodgy, dodgy, dodgy but the team is spread out everywhere, so, I’ll be the dodgy guy.
– Yeah, that’s fair.
– That’s fair.
– That is fair, isn’t it? You know, you come up to Brisbane, you’re like, “Are you from the coast?” That’s just not cool.
– They think you’re partying on the weekends and doing no actual work.
– That’s correct, yeah, yeah. But really, I’ve come to Brisbane and I’m partying now.
– [Jackson] That’s true.
– That’s true, that’s true.
– [Jackson] And you’re back again on Friday.
– I’m back again on Friday for a few more drinks.
– Club Redd, Club Redd.
– All right, your background is, Stuart before we jump into Waymaker.
– Sure, my background. Well, I spent roughly 10, 12 years in corporate life, after a few years in ad agencies and new media back then, at the turn of the century in the first .com boom. And ended up in property and urban development and corporate life for 10 or 12 years. And at that crazy moment when you’re 30-something, you say, I’m young enough and dumb enough to change the world, so I’m going to go and do my own thing. And, so jumped out into a consulting practice and built that for 10 or so years, right up until that COVID period. And spent 10 years consulting on strategy and when I say brand, more positioning and differentiation and sales and marketing and growth. It was effectively a growth agency.
– So, management consulting with a sales and marketing background and-
– Kind of yeah, yeah. That was what we were doing. And we played around with lots of different products on that journey. Always had a dream of doing something. It was in 2018-19 that something was starting to stir. And we knew that there was a horizon on what we were doing from a consulting perspective, but had no idea what, and so it was early 2020 just as COVID was hitting that somebody said to us, “Hey, why don’t you turn what you’re doing into a platform?” And so we turned off about 80% of what we were doing, which was that classic 80-20 rule. You know, 20% of what you’re doing is actually where the real kicker value is. And so we turned off the 80 that was sort of you had to do, focused on the 20, spent the first few years of COVID building a platform and launched that platform, or rather turned it on for sale about this time last year. So we’re coming up to about 12 months in market, which is Waymaker.io, which is leadership software.
– Okay, so why did you start Waymaker.io?
– Because I needed a job.
– Thanks for listening to the show everyone. That’s it.
– That’s right. No, to be honest, we really did see a gap in the market that there was, put it this way, even more so through COVID, work has become digital. I mean, you guys are gurus at digital work, but work has become digital, but leadership and management is still very analog. It’s still pads and pens and one-page plans and whiteboards and all that stuff. So it’s like a last frontier of the office to digitize. And because it’s such an abstract enigma, well, how do you digitize leadership? That sounds like an oxymoron. You can’t digitize that. You can’t make software a leader. Well, that’s not really what we’re doing. We’re creating software for leaders to lead their companies more effectively and with greater clarity. So that’s really what we set out to do. And we knew there was a problem, work had gone digital, leadership management practices were still analog. How do we build digital tools so that if you are leading a team like us or there’s one person here, three people there, you’re never always in the same place together, but how can you actually lead so that doesn’t matter anymore. You’ve got the clarity of where you’re going, what you need to do. Everybody understands what success looks like. Leaders and managers understand how to coach and lift and grow. Okay, fantastic. And if we could crack that nut, then we had a role to play in the 21st century, because the 21st century is the century of digital leadership.
– Okay, so the gap that you identified and why you started Waymaker.io was because basically everything was paper-based and analog, you know, face-to-face meetings, those kind of things for leadership teams. And you wanted to digitize that.
– Digitize the tools for leaders to be better leaders in the digital world. And that’s not about don’t imagine, “Wow, here’s how you run your company in the metaverse” or something stupid like that. It’s practically day-to-day my team need digital tools to work more effectively, to sell better, to plan better, to lead better, to work better. And that’s what we’re drilling in to.
– Yeah and the tools include diagnostics. They include the checklist, but it also includes the learning and the help button. “What do I do now in this situation?” So the Waymaker Academy is a big part of it that I’ve got a lot out of as well so.
– Yeah, thanks Brad. You were at one point our rising star on badges accrual.
– I know, dropped off big time, but the holidays are coming, so.
– There are better things to do on your holidays, but that is a good thing to do. But yeah, so wrapping around Waymaker, what’s in Waymaker, ’cause it kind of helps to go-
– Well that’s my next question, mate. How do you solve those challenges so, perfect.
– Yeah, so there’s some core modules, we’d call them. There’s a diagnostic engine that will go and diagnose a business in 5 to 15 minutes and identify gaps.
– That was really cool to go through that.
– That’s good man. That’s good to hear. Yeah, what it does is it takes the subjectivity out the room.
– When you get… You know, we are all leaders, we all sit in meetings every day and you get in a meeting and it’s like, “Okay, what have we got to do? What’s wrong? You know, what problems can we fix?” We’re all problem solvers and there’s a lot of subjectivity often, and often the loudest voice wins or the squeaky wheel wins or sales always wins ’cause that’s always where the revenue comes from,
– Which is, write that down, Brad.
– Well, I’m well aware, Jackson.
– But that’s not always necessarily the most valuable action to take. Sometimes an investment in employee experience or customer experience might be more effective. And so the problem we are really trying to solve with the diagnostic engine is how do we bring objectivity to how do we improve this function of the business or this leader as an individual? And they’re the two types of diagnostics we run. There’s one that runs on the leader, which is around psychometrics and character traits and how do we improve the person? And one that runs on the business, how do we improve the function of the business? And we talk about that as the engine and the driver. You know, if you want to win Formula One, you need an amazing car and amazing engine, and you need an amazing driver. And if you don’t build those two things, then you won’t win. So we’re focused on those two, on giving leaders the tools to build the engine and build the driver. Does that make sense?
– So that’s the diagnostic piece. And then there’s a whole bunch of really practical tools that flow into road mapping goals, task automation, dashboards, scorecards to go, “Okay, we want to get person A from here to there. What does that journey look like?” How can they see with great clarity where the organization is going, but also see with great clarity what their contribution is to that success and what they need to do on a daily basis. So, we often talk about Waymaker as a command center. It’s like if you had a command center somewhere where you’d get around the table, that’s where you’d make decisions. And in fact, that’s bit of our genesis was from a story about how command centers emerged, which was a story about JFK, the president JKF, which it’s a podcast, say hey I’m going to go there, can I go there?
– Yeah, yeah.
– Fantastic. I’m going to have a little sip of my amazing, can I say this on air?
– Water. My amazing spiced water. So, everybody has a boardroom, right? In their business. There’s one next door to this room in this business, and that’s common. But very few organizations have a command center. And this became evident when World War III almost erupted when John F. Kennedy was president. And if you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis back in ’61-ish. And the Russians had put a bunch of missiles in Cuba, pointed at Florida and Texas and Houston just a few hundred kilometers away, and all hell breaks loose. The Americans, we love them, they’re our good friends, decided that it’d be a good idea through the CIA to support and send a force in to take out the current rulers or guerilla rulers, Che Guevara and co. And the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster. Here’s the greatest fighting force in the world effectively seen the end of World War II the strongest, wealthiest, most powerful fighting force in the world couldn’t beat a bunch of guerillas in Cuba. And so if you enter the Bay of Pigs, the battle was called, if you are that fighting force and you enter and you get your backside handed back to you in a short amount of time by a force far smaller, then you ought to ask a few questions of why, you know, why did the gorilla lose against the ant? That’s the question. And so, to his credit, JFK asked that question, how did the United States of America lose? And the answer that came back was “Well, the commander-in-chief wasn’t getting information in a timely manner.” The commander-in-chief wasn’t getting accurate information. You know, the Navy was giving different information to the Marines, to the CIA, to the whoever, the different departments were given a slightly different story, one that maybe suited their needs. And the net of the whole situation was accurate, objective, timely information was not getting to the table for the commander-in-chief with the Joint Chiefs to make an accurate decision and send that back down the line to effect change on the battlefield. Does that make sense?
– I mean that sounds logical, doesn’t it? So the reality kicks in and JFK goes, “Well, how do we do that then?” Like, what’s wrong with our current process? And the result of that inquiry was that they decided, on JFK’s order, to build a bunker underneath the West Wing of the White House. And that became-
– Where they built Waymaker. The command center.
– Thank you. That’s the cut. That’s the cut. No, that’s the promo. And that became the White House Situation Room. It’s actually called the John F. Kennedy Conference Room and it’s like a 500 square foot room. It’s been remodeled plenty of times, but we’ve all seen it in action movies and “White House Down” or whatever. But we’ve also seen it in real life when President Obama with his chiefs of staff and Hillary and co. took down Osama in that famous Seal Team Six raid into Pakistan, which was managed from that 500 square foot room. In fact, since 1963 or five or whatever, every major domestic and international activity run from the president’s orders, known and unknown, is being run from that room. Does that make sense?
– What makes that room fascinating is not just that it’s a room, but it’s a room with policy that says every department, every section of government has a direct line. In fact, they have a representative at the table. So somebody from every department sits at that table and there’s direct information from that team to that table, obviously both people and digital these days. And that person is appointed apolitical. It’s not a political appointment. So the White House doesn’t appoint them, it’s appointed by the department so that the truth sits on the table. And from that you can actually make decisions and affect change in the most valuable areas of what you’re trying to achieve, your strategic decision-making. Does that make sense? And so most organizations have a boardroom, a table with maybe a dozen chairs around it. Very, very few have a war room or a situation room. And very, very few have the technology to bring objective information in on where the gaps are, where they’re going, who’s doing what, and to make objective decisions around what’s going on. And so if you take that idea and go well, that’s like what Waymaker does for an organization. That’s the best analogy I can give.
– That’s a very long-winded answer to what Waymaker is.
– But we were prepared for this.
– Is that podcast over?
– She loves long stories.
– We haven’t even, that was the first, was that a military analogy? I guess that was a military.
– Wait ’til he started talking about the British military.
– Yeah. No, that was good. That makes a lot of sense. So, I wanted people a little bit to get some value back to our listeners around some challenges they might be facing.
– Right, that wasn’t valuable. Cut that whole story.
– No, no, that was valuable. It was a good way of explaining what Waymaker does and what some of the challenges are. So, in your words, Thanks Jackson, Probably have a lot of experience speaking to management teams for years and years and years now. And that’s why you started Waymaker and you’re able to provide all those insights into the dashboard or the war room or whatever you want to call it. Right. What are the top three issues that you see facing small businesses right now in let’s talk in Australia in 2022?
– I would say clarity, agility, and leadership.
– So I’ll break those down. Clarity in terms of we know where we really want to go. So we are proactive in going there. That’s clarity. I know what matters most today. I know what matters most in one or two or three years time and therefore today I’ve got brutal simple clarity around this is what I’ve got to do.
– So, and I’m happy, you can throw over to me at any time, ’cause obviously we are users of Waymaker and Stu’s, we’ve been through many consultants to try and help us on this journey. And in my chair, my role as the director and CEO here, all these challenges I face and many of the businesses that we do work for I know they face them as well. And so yeah, if you want to throw over at any time,
– I will,
– I’m happy to validate. By clarity, we’ve crossed that, we were struggling to succinctly define what our strategy is. And since you’ve come on board and you’ve been working with us, we’ve been able to define that. And now we have posters all over the office. Everybody at least knows what the organizational strategy is and we’re going to unpack this, but the goal is to get everyone from all levels of the business to all be rowing in the same direction. To have that sense of clarity as well.
– And at the end of the day, it really wasn’t rocket science, was it?
– It’s more about saying no, it’s working out what you want to say no to and what you want to say yes to. And that’s really what I mean by clarity. I know what I can say yes to and I know what I’m going to say no to because and Brad, you’d find this in business all the time. Once you get a bit of momentum in business, a little bit of momentum in business stuff comes to you, stuff just happens. And sometimes it’s good stuff, sometimes it’s great stuff, and sometimes it’s just stuff. It could be people, it could be new opportunities, it could be deals, it could be products, partnerships, whatever it looks like. And unless you’ve got real clarity in that’s actually where I’m taking my business ’cause that’s the problem I’m solving and what I’m doing for my customers. Some of that stuff actually makes things very gray. And it’s like, “Oh, well, that’s a good opportunity. We could go there.” Or “Ah, I really like those guys, let’s go work with them, let’s go there.” And what happens is you just start getting stretched and you start getting thinner as opposed to going, “You know what? We are going there. ‘Cause that’s what creates value. And you know what? We are not going to get distracted on that journey. In fact, we’ll say no to some opportunities because they’re not actually the most valuable and true strategic opportunities.” And when things get difficult, that’s okay. We’ve got the clarity of sticking to what we need to stick to to ultimately get there. And we’ve also now got the agility, which is the second thing to maybe reset the sales to adjust to when conditions change. But that doesn’t mean resetting where we want to go. It means resetting the sales. And there’s this great old saying from one of the great motivational speakers in the semi-70s, Zig Zigler, which is, I must have heard years and years ago, you know, the kind of guy you’d buy tapes and put the tape in your car. That’s the kind of great guy. Were you around for that? I do know Zig, or do you know cassette tapes?
– Yes. Not a fan of myself personally.
– I showed a ’90s mix tape to my kids the other day and they’re like, “What’s that?”
– Oh the old mixtape.
– I mean, how does the old mixtape, Anyway, what was I saying? That saying, and he goes, “It’s not the way the wind blows, but how you set the sails,” you know?
– Oh, that’s good.
– It speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
– Not the drink, but the-
– Yeah, both. “It’s not the way the wind blows, but how you set the sails.” And when you’ve got clarity, when you know that your destination is 400 nautical miles away and seven days’ sail. “It’s not the way the wind blows, it’s how you set the sails.” You need to learn as a business how to trim sail.
– How have I not heard that with working with you for three months?
– I know.
– How good is that?
– I’ve got to pull that one out a bit more.
– How good is that? Write that one down. You can attribute it to Redd now that’s on your podcast. Screw Zig Zigler. And I think that’s what agility is. Agility is the ability to say this quarter or now for this priority, we need to reset sales. This crisis has happened or this strategic opportunity has emerged, this is an opportunity that aligns or whatever it is. Somehow the winds have moved. “Oh gosh, suddenly we’ve lost this person.” Okay, how do we reset sales? This happens all the time in business and agility is the ability to stop and think constructively together and then reset course either for a week or a month or three months, to overcome that shift in change. And I don’t need to convince anybody that volatility is now the more common thing it’s almost like volatility is now the stable thing you can expect, you know, that’s the oxymoron. But crap happens, if I can say that on this podcast. Financial crises, inflation, recessions.
– COVID, I mean, my goodness. But I mean, ignore COVID and just look at the 15 to 20 years before that, significant disruptions to life. And if you take the 20 years before that, it’s different. We are in a more volatile geopolitical environment. And so number one is clarity. This is where value is created and where we are going. And we are not going to give up getting there. However, because we have agility, the capacity to adapt and change and bring clarity across the team, we’re now able to reset sales. We can be proactive in the storms. If we’ve got to say to sales “do this” and be clear on that instruction and not have to go through dozens of workshops and one-on-one meetings, but actually get in this is what I’m talking about with JFK in the situation room, they didn’t have clarity and they didn’t have agility when things changed.
– Didn’t have the data so they didn’t know where to pivot to.
– That’s right. If you’ve got clarity and if you’ve got the data, I mean, you guys are in this business, you do it for clients day in day out incredibly well. Giving businesses the data to see, to understand, to have that insight. You know, if you don’t have that, it’s like driving in the fog with the headlights on. I dunno if you’ve ever done that, but you mentioned I’m from the Gold Coast. Well, let me just say I grew up in Tasmania, so there you go. That’s a double whammy.
– Tasmania’s awesome.
– It is awesome. But I learned to drive in Tassie, you know, fog comes in. And if you don’t have fog lights, if you just turn on your normal headlights, it’s like a wall of light coming back. It’s terrible. It’s impossible. And you slow down and traffic slows. And I think, in fact I know so many businesses large or small, struggle today to go, “Am I confident to put my foot on the accelerator?” Am I too afraid that there’s going to be another crisis? You know, is energy prices going to knock me out? Is my interest rates going to stop me from investing in my business?” Everybody’s got these fears of the capacity to invest and go, but those that have that clarity from their data, that insights can go, no, you know what? I may be flying a plane in the fog, but I can actually, I can turn the jets up and I can go faster because I know that there’s a smooth place to go to. Does that make sense?
– Makes a lot of sense. The third thing you mentioned was leadership. Why did you say leadership is?
– Thank you for bringing me back on track.
– You’re well time done, joking. Time management is one of the things that always turns Redd on my leadership diagnostics in Waymaker. Leadership. Because leadership is the ability to get people from A to B. And in fact, I think it was Forrester that came out recently saying the number one attribute of organizations to survive in the 21st century will be their capacity to have, invest, and generate new leaders. So leadership is not about always getting everything done in the right way. Leadership is about getting the right outcomes and sometimes having to change the rules along the way. That’s a dangerous statement, isn’t it? Brad just looked at me and looked at Jackson, gone, oh, Jackson’s going to throw that one back at me. So let me quantify and qualify that. Management is doing the right things in the right way at the right time. You know, follow this checklist, follow this playbook, do everything right. But leadership says I’m going to get people from here to there and sometimes I might have to either add or do less because the most important thing is to get the outcome. Does that make sense?
– So as leaders, we’re not judged on numbers we achieve. We’re judged on who we are and how we treat those around us because it’s how we treat those around us that ultimately lifts them into the capacity and capabilities and competencies so that they can achieve. Does that make sense?
– That’s a good point.
– So I think if you said, well what is leadership? Leadership really is character and values. And I often talk about, in fact, if you jump into Waymaker Academy, you’ll see this analogy. You can have amazing leaders that get things done. And here’s two Winston Churchill, Hitler. Now don’t quote me as saying Hitler’s an amazing leader, quote me as saying, Actually, if you think about outcomes, you know that that one, Hitler, amazing systems, amazing communication, changed a nation, achieved massive outcomes. But do we want Hitler’s? No we don’t. Character and values ultimately is what shifts… Take Churchill, amazing systems, amazing communication, amazing outcomes, complete opposites. Does that make sense? So that third thing that’s missing is if we have leadership without character and values, we’re going to kill people. We’re not going to design employee experiences that foster and grow and nurture and are sustainable. We’re going to treat people as human capital and we’re just going to put ’em in the sausage machine and spit something out at the other end.
– It’s pretty extremist. But I know what you mean. Firing 500 employees over Zoom, that kind of stuff.
– Yeah, yeah. Well we could go some few places here, and I’m using the extremes to make the point. I’m saying, good leadership gets people to where they need to go and gets outcomes, but it doesn’t destroy them in the process, it builds them in the process. Does that make sense? So if we just define leadership as getting the outcome, then that’s kind of a cart blanche, do what you like with both financial and human capital and resources. But if we define leadership as actually getting to that outcome, whilst also having that positive impact on either the environment or people or society, then you’ve got a different definition of leadership there based on character and values.
– And I might jump in. So to that end, why we’re sitting around this table and a problem that, not a problem, but a situation that that Redd was in and I know for a fact many, many, many, many small to medium businesses are in is, right? You’ve got a team and you need to be a high performing team and you need to be marching towards those goals with clarity, bit of agility along the way and someone leading from the front. So we were kind of in that situation where we were-
– That was the sound of my ice clinking in my glass by the way.
– It was a nice sound.
– Just in your emotional pause.
– But the.
– Pause for effect.
– It was good well done. But getting a whole team to all row in the same direction, especially when you pass, I don’t know what the number is, but five 10 people when you all know what you’re having for lunch and what you did on the weekend because you’re all in a short proximity. But you know, really getting everyone aligned to those goals and moving in the same direction actually once you pass about 10 people, that’s becomes quite a challenge. And quite difficult. And so we didn’t have the… we’ve got our goal, well we’ve helped craft our goal and our metrics, which is to be the best technology success partner in Queensland by by 2025. But that’s great in the leadership team, but how do you get everyone across the business to buy into that and to know what their role is in that place. So that kind of touches on all those three things you mentioned, the clarity, agility, and the leadership. And I guess one thing that I’d observed in my reading or learned about was that okay our kind of framework, which we haven’t really touched on yet, which is kind of the bedrock, if you could say that. Is that the right way to describe it? Of the Waymaker platform methodology?
– Yeah, I mean the goal methodology in Waymaker is built on OKRs and if you know OKRs, you know objectives and clear results, which is a goal setting methodology. It really comes out of Peter Drucker’s management by objectives and.
– CEO of Intel.
– CEO of Intel put OKRs together. Andy Grove just forgotten his name momentarily, who led Intel in the seventies and eighties. And he had a team member who ultimately went on to take on the CEO role, I dunno if it was directly after him, but shortly after him, John Doerr and John Doerr had exited Intel in the late nineties, early two thousands. And as he tells the story is only he can was sitting down, clearly he had some money to invest, I think he’d done okay as the CEO of Intel. And he had a couple of young startups start guys in a garage as you do in Silicon Valley, Sergey Brun and Larry Page with a little company called Google. And they’re like, well how do we manage this thing? We’ve put the internet on some hard drives and we’ve got this amazing search tool and maybe we think we could do something with email and we dunno how to commercialize it yet we dunno how to manage people. And so it was John Doerr that introduced Google to this idea of goal setting through OKRs. And you can read John Doerr’s book, which is fantastic. Called “What Matters Most”. And it deals with the story and the science of OKRs and by, and Google’s philosophy has always been transparency, which is one of the underlying philosophies of OKRs. Set an objective. That’s the clear what. What are you going to achieve? And don’t tell me the steps to achieving it. Tell me the outcomes or the key results that mean you’ve achieved it. So if my what is to be the best, the best phone with the greatest customer experience in the world. So I’m going to make a phone that has the best customer experience in the world. Awesome, that’s my goal. Well what are the outcomes that tell me you’ve actually achieved that? What’s actually shifted the needle? What are the key results? And that was just the brutal simplicity of this goal setting methodology. Objective key result, objective being the goal, what do we want to achieve? Key result being the impact on the business. And that’s always a percentage, a number-
– To measure it.
– Yeah currency, you’ve got to be able to measure it. You’ve got to be able to verifiably say, I’m this amount into this outcome. And then when you roll two or three or four or five outcomes up together, that’s how much you’re into this goal. And that’s just the brutal simplicity of OKRs. And so when we were building Waymaker, we had been using the Waymaker methodology, which included, which I’m not going to go on this podcast, questions around strategic planning and strategic agility. And the last question of that journey called “The seven questions”, which you can Google and read up on our website says, well what are the one, two, or three things that if delivered in the next quarter or half, shift the needle on the business? What are the one, two, or three things that if delivered not thought about, put in a PowerPoint presentation, signed off at subcommittee, blah, blah, blah. No, no, no delivered. Shift the needle on the business to that and center the organization around that or whoever needs to be. Does that make sense? And that’s agility. That’s saying right now for this organization, A, B, and C is all that matters. Or rather not all that matters, is what matters most. We’ll still do business as usual, we’ll still open the doors, we’ll still answer the phones, we’ll still send the emails, we’ll still process the orders, but A, B and C that shifts the needle on our business. So we’re going to make that classic rule moment. We’re going to make 80% of our outcome from 20% of our effort, which is this A. Does that make sense? And so the building block of strategy is goal setting. The building blocks of leadership is goal setting. And so the building block of Waymaker is a goal. And one of my favorite recent quotes, I think it’s a Simon Walker quote in his book on leadership “Is if there is not a clear goal, there is not much leadership going on.” And I think that’s a pretty strong way of putting it. If you don’t know what you are trying to achieve and kind of what impact that’s making, then you are not really shifting anybody from A to B. You’re not shifting the needle on anything.
– That makes sense of what you said earlier about whether where to point the sales, right. Pivoting a little bit. So you probably deal with a lot of leadership teams over the years and definitely now you’re doing Waymaker. What are the biggest gaps you see in leadership teams and how do you internally identify those gaps?
– Well, I deal with the last part first. ‘Cause that’s the easy bit. How do we find the gaps? We would use our Waymaker leadership diagnostic. Thank you for that nice little softball up to.
– But look, in fairness, it is quite insightful that was the first thing we did when we got on the platform and you kind of, I think we all in our gut we felt it and we knew it, but that allowed it to become crystal clear and black and white in that. Yep, that makes sense. And that’s where we need to work on. And where do we start? What are those things that we focused on?
– So that last bit’s actually the easy bit. There’s a bit of diagnostic software.
– Software has solved that one.
– Software has solve that one. That’s a process. Because that can surface, but what are they, what are the common ones? To be honest, we deal with a lot of what we’d call SMEs. Ten, twenty, fifty hundred, two hundred size businesses and often and not too dissimilar maybe to Redd. And I know you deal with larger organizations, but often those kinds of organizations are run by owners, entrepreneurs, sometimes husband and wife team, or there’s family involved, and it’s often family plus. And so one of the greatest challenges is actually having a clear accountability in decision making that is organized and sits within the team versus is organic and might sit within a husband and wife or a couple of directors or get along with this person, this person, this person. So they’re really my, I’m going to sit down with them and figure it out and then I’m going to take it and just tell everybody where we’re going.
– So it’s like defining accountability, is it really what you’re saying? So make sure that there is people accountable for things.
– I would say it’s the lack of a true leadership team. So a great leader is going to build a leadership team. And so I’ve done a poor job of explaining that. Gimme a second chance. Here’s take two. Let’s say you’ve got a leadership team and you’ve got a head of HR, head of operations, a head of sales and marketing and a head of product. You know, there’s say four, you could have other roles, head of finance, each of those individual people are good at their individual teams. But that’s not a good leadership team. A good leadership team is a team that is good at running the business. ‘Cause that’s the game. That, that team is in leading and running that business. It might be that you’ve got a representative from those areas, but a good team has the capacity. When one person drops or gets weak or goes down, somebody can backfill steps in think about a football team, it’s world cup time. I dunno if you’ve been staying up late or getting up early, but I love my soccer. Unfortunately Australia’s out. But if you look at a soccer team, a football team on the field, if a midfielder moves up into the forward and starts playing up into the front end of the field, somebody’s going to sweep back in and cover that position. Does that make sense? And they’ll know what to do there. They’ll know each person on that team if they had to, could get into the goals and put the gloves on and be goalkeeper. There’s enough understanding on that team to move roles and adapt as the game unfolds according to the moment. Does that make sense? And a great team won’t say that’s his role. I’m not going to step in ’cause there’s a gap there. They’ll say there’s a gap there. I’m going to get in there and I’m going to get it done. And it’s like, ah, it’s Friday, it’s four o’clock. And that client we’ve been chasing for forever has rung up and their interested in setting an appointment. But Jackson’s going home.
– That’s about right.
– That was set up beautifully, wasn’t it? Does that person go, “Jackson’s gone home for the weekend, can’t talk right now, hey call him back.” Or do they step in and go, “Awesome, how can I help? I can access Jackson’s diary. Would you like to make an appointment? Let’s speak.” You know, they’ve stepped in. Does that make sense? Great leadership teams know the game they’re in and play the game. They don’t play their role, they play the team. And so moving from a collection of role fillers to a leadership team is that big missing gap. That’s the hardest thing because you’ve actually got to invest in building a team.
– That’s really quite hard though because a lot of people naturally progress and progress in their field they’re good at and they just keep getting into management typically ’cause they’re good in that one function. So being able to plan other functions is quite hard I’d imagine.
– Well it is. And that’s often we’ve all heard that phrase. “They’ve been promoted beyond their competency.” You know, they’re suddenly ’cause you quickly learn. In fact, I remember as a very young manager in corporate life, I had just got my first regional management gig and I dunno how old I was, 27, 28 or something and reasonable gig. And I remember walking into the CEO’s office at the end of the first week on the Thursday or Friday or something. And here in Brisbane, down in Milton. And the CEO looked up and he goes, “So how is it?” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s different.” And he goes, “Have you figured it out yet?” I said, “Figured what out?” Thinking, oh crap, what haven’t I done? And he goes, “Have you figured out you can’t control it?” I’m like, “Kind of”. He goes, “Have you figured out that actually you don’t do anything, you’ve actually got to get everything done through people?” And I’m like, hmm. Walked out of the office going better work on that. And what he was really saying was, how you’ve now moved out of a to-do role and you’re now in a leadership role. Your role now is to help other people win. You exist to make person A, B, C, D need win. And if you can’t do that, you’re not leading them. You’re not helping them. In fact, if you are doing stuff, you’re getting in their way. Now when I say doing stuff, I mean doing the old stuff that you used to do. Does that make sense?
– Yeah, it does.
– So when I talk about that, often we grow up the ranks. You know, let’s say Jackson head of sales, amazing vice president of sales for Redd corporation sitting at the executive table overseeing the empire of Redd Digital. And you may be an amazing salesperson, but if you’re not a great leader and a team member within a leadership team, then you haven’t worked out the game you’re in. ‘Cause you’re actually not in the sales game, you’re in the people game. How do I help people win? Not just in my team, but in the finance team or the HR team or the marketing team Does that make sense?
– And so for owner operators, particularly owner led organizations, they’ve been doing that since . The buck stops with them, everything stops with them. They have been chief operating officer, chief HR officer, chief sales officer, chief everything.
– Chief finance officer, Thank you Brad. Brad’s nodding.
– I was going to say other things, videoing like Brad.
– And so for the owners, that’s the great moment when it’s like actually there’s a team of people now running this business to an operating rhythm to clarity of strategy and direction and goals. I’m actually now a passenger, albeit a driver on this journey, but other people are driving. Wow, that’s amazing. I’ve now equipped and empowered others and that’s why so many small to medium enterprise business owners go home at night and don’t sleep because they haven’t built a leadership team. Does that make sense?
– So can I, we haven’t talked about this and it’s one of my favorite phrases from you.
– All right okay, here we go.
– Because I know so many businesses are in it to some degree probably all the way up the totem pole really. So reactive chaos, strategic.
– Yeah. So that resonated big time with me. And again, it goes back to that purpose, clarity, what are we doing saying no, but that’s probably was one of the core principles, if you like, that we were trying to move away from, and I don’t think it’s ever going to be, it’s not going to be Utopia it is running business. But moving along that curve towards the strategic agility. So maybe if you could talk a little bit about how the Waymaker system process platform assists with that. I know you’ve talked about some of the things, but just specifically around that example, ’cause I think talking about business owners, talking about leaders. Motivating, driving, getting people to move away from if you can be proactive and cut off some of this reactive stuff at the curb. Everyone sleeps better at night, but yeah that is such a challenge to achieve.
– Yeah, it is. And that’s definitely the shift we talk about. The win is moving from reactive chaos. Gosh, everything’s happening to me. To going gosh, now I have strategic agility, I can actually adjust to the wind, I can dance to the music, Don’t ask me to dance to music. But you know, you can-
– Friday I’ll need at least another three or four of those.
– I’ll team up.
– That move. That shift from reactive cast to strategic agility means that as a leader, you know you can get out of bed and you can face today because it actually doesn’t matter what today throws at you. You know how to adjust, how to adapt. You’ve got tools in your tool set to do that. And so few of the things, one is the diagnostic and the seven questions process. I’m hesitant to go. I’m going to get a nod. Am I going to get a nod if I can go there? I can go there? Great, excellent. So there are amazing tools around goal setting, OKRs, amazing tools around performance management, balance scorecards, and strategic reporting. Fantastic. You can do all those through Waymaker. One of the things that the world didn’t have was some rapid strategic decision making methods. And we stumbled across one and then went, “ooh, we should kind of build this out.” Waymaker had its genesis about 10 years ago in 2012, 2013. And which is a long time ago when I came, we’d written our first piece of diagnostic services software. This is my old consulting practice. But I’d also come across this story about the British military. So I’m going to go there and here we go.
– Here we go, here we go.
– Step in.
– I’ll tell it quickly. And in the late eighties, early nineties.
– No you won’t. Is this going to be a double episode or I going to make people sit to look at this?
– Looking that way. Part two.
– Have I been fired already?
– You’re all right.
– And the problem in the British military was the way they would make battle plans was long, cumbersome, technical ivory towers. It was just bad. And very quickly in the late eighties, early nineties, 91 Gulf War, the world was moving from very traditional warfare to very agile warfare. You’re only an idiot if you line up and try and take a country head on I.e Putin. That’s a very traditional war being lost badly. Not to get into that detail, but it’s a good example of a having a big front, trying to achieve a big thing versus most warfare in the 21st century is get in get out it’s drop of force in get ’em out. And Afghanistan tried to be that kind of failed miserably ’cause they just couldn’t extract themselves out. There was nothing to replace. But certainly Iraq war. Today’s military typically don’t have big fronts. It’s get in get out. Anyway, long story, and I’m going to try and speed it up. The battle planning process, how you would create what was called? If we write a campaign plan or a business plan in the military it’s called a combat estimate. I’m not a military guy, I’ve just read too much. And so the British military said “We need to fix how combat estimates, how battle plans are written.” If it’s taking six weeks to 12 weeks to write that plan. That’s too long because flip like, we are dead. You know, it’s been gone. And you know, as I’m talking about this, just think about your own business. If it’s taking six or 12 weeks to write a plan, you are in trouble. You need to think about this. And so the British military stepped back and said, “We need to be smarter, faster, more adaptive.” And they developed a battle planning technique, which they called “The seven questions”. And we’ve politely been inspired by that and rewritten that for business. That said, if you ask and answer a small number of questions, you will define the highest value and shortest amount of actions. So you will develop the highest value actions on the battlefield to reach the a objective. Does that make sense? And they said, it’s just a small number of questions. We can teach everybody these questions. And if you ask and answer these questions, you will develop the highest value course of action on the battlefield. And so instead of saying here, and I’ve been in corporate life, here’s your 52 page business planning document, and everybody have that done by 31 March, they turned around and said, “You know what, Hey Jackson, when the bullets start firing and you’ve got to throw the current plan out the window and you’ve got to adapt, ask, and answer these questions with your team.” And they develop this agile battle planning technique, which is amazing. And it transformed British military and it did it in three ways. First is everybody learned it and did it. So from Lance Corporal to general, that’s what you did. So you kind of flattened the organization. It wasn’t like here’s the secret source to how we run this business. If you’re in a company of men and 10 get taken out and they were all the commissioned officers, you guys know how to plan, execute, and achieve the mission. They’ve de-risked the team. Does that make sense? So you’ve flattened the organization. Second thing was it created agility because you could ask and answer these questions taking fire behind some Humvees in the desert in 45, 50 minutes, an hour. And put a full plan together. Or you could spend three days back at HQ putting it together. It was the same method. Does that make sense? You didn’t have to learn all these. It was just like, yeah, focus on these questions, make sure you get these answers. Agree as a team execute, boom, done, go. So it was very agile. It was very flexible, very malleable. And the third thing it did was this idea of organic leadership. Because the young guns coming through would be asking and answering the same questions as the old warriors that had been there a while. You had this organic leadership transfer taking place. It meant that, gosh, I know how to be a leader. I’m seeing how to be a leader. I’m feeling how to be a leader. I’m learning how to plan, I’m learning how to execute. I’m learning how to rinse and repeat that process. Does that make sense? And so the British military and that institute, by the early two thousands, it was standard. Every new leader is going to learn how to do combat estimates, battle planning this way. And still to this day, if you end up at some royal military college, you’re going to end up learning that. I’ve met loads of coaches and consultants on my journeys that go, yeah, I’ve learned that. I’m an ex-military dude. And yeah, like that’s what happens. And probably fill in the blanks that I’ve embellished. It was about 10 years ago that I first read that. And that’s when we stopped and went, man, if you could do that in the military on the battlefield, why can’t you do that in a business? What do those questions look like? And to the military’s credit, if you are in the desert taking fire, working out your plan, you’ve got some technology in your hands these days. There’s data coming in, there’s stuff happening. Going back to that data conversation of objective data coming in. So you got a tablet in your hands of some descript, probably not an iPad, I don’t know what they use in the military. I was about to have a dig at that. I won’t got to remember I’m on a technology podcast. If you can have some data in your hands as a business, when you are asking and answering those questions in the boardroom, then you can be smarter, faster, more accurate. And so that’s where kind of our software and some of the methodologies you can use come together. And whether you buy into the full seven questions, we don’t really care, but it’s there. And if you practice that, what you’re practicing is being holistic, self-aware, business aware, market aware, strategic clear, and you’re practicing the ability to focus on how do we build this business? How do we create value? And you’re also at the same time teaching everybody else in the room how to do the same thing next quarter, next half. And you’re rinsing, repeating, it’s creating stability. Does that make sense?
– Yeah, it makes total sense. And I think again, if we’re just kind of coming back to the Waymaker platform and why we’re still sitting here, I can’t remember if I mentioned earlier, but we’ve been through a lot of consultants, but this one really stuck for us because it’s that combination of the methodology, obviously the strategy, clarity, agility, leadership, it’s the actual platform itself. So it allows you to kind of deliver that tool to everyone in the business. And there’s different tiers. So the most junior people maybe just get the goals or the leadership team get the leadership curves and all the bells and whistles.
– Good sell thanks brad.
– But the academy, this is it. Like these things sound simple to talk about. But they’re very difficult to implement. It’s very difficult to implement. I cannot bold italic underscore enough. Like defining a strategy, delivering that to a team and getting a team to execute it in the most efficient way. You know, it is very difficult. And depending on the industry you’re in it can make all the difference between success and failure. And everyone knows the stats on small businesses. Well, I don’t know exactly what the stats are, but most of ’em, but.
– They’re not good.
– Yeah most of them fail. And a lot of that is because of the things we are talking about. So, and I think it’s, there’s also the knowledge piece, right? So that having the academy, because you know, what would I do? I would download a book off Amazon you’re two, 300 pages down a path or a certain methodology. Whereas what I like about Waymaker is it’s built on a solid and tested the underlying framework around the OKRs. Is a tried, trusted, true methodology, but then all the other things that we’ve been talking about, everything’s explained in one to, I don’t know 20 pages potentially, in the academy. And it’s quite, quite well explained. And when you get up against a roadblock and like well what does that actually mean? You can just quickly flick over as a leader, as a team member, as anyone to kind of really get that learning and okay, well that’s what that means. Okay, now that sinks in, now I get it. And you don’t get blocked. You can remove roadblocks and move on to the next. That just kind of came to by the way.
– You can just, roadblocks.
– Is also a key part of the strategy. Stuart’s giving a bit of thumbs up, you can remove that roadblock one too many. So you can just be reading, researching. And I think that’s, I don’t know, maybe doesn’t get highlighted enough in our conversations. But I think that that really helps move the needle. Remove the roadblocks. Having that academy, learning that clarity if you like-
– Thank you for saying that. ‘Cause that that’s the intent that it really is. And we’re big believers, as you get to know Waymaker, you’ll get to know a few of the tools in it and the leadership curve and with big believers in skills and systems. And as I know you guys are, that’s the business you’re in. And you can’t build an individual or a team without building both. You can’t give race car drivers Volkswagen Beatles. Well, they’ll have fun for half an hour, but you know, they’re going to trash that car. And you can’t give learner drivers Ferrari’s. They’re going to kill themselves on the first corner. You’ve got to build skills and systems together. And so our big focus is helping people do that. I think this is the big mystery around organizational strategy. It doesn’t have to be right. It just has to be clear. And if it has an element of winning in it, you’re going to win.
– You’re going to be out of job.
– Ready to change.
– That’s a big claim right there, isn’t it?
– Yeah, it it actually. Conscious of time. And I actually had some more questions for you, but I didn’t realize we were going to get into war stories and a bunch of testimonials from Brad, which might have to go on your website too, but we might.
– I think you’re going to have to ask for rights to post this in the moment.
– Might have to. Mate, Stu, thanks again really appreciate it. And if anyone wants to reach you, how can they find you?
– You can just Google me on LinkedIn or search me up. I’m on LinkedIn. Go to Waymaker.io. You’ll find me, or you’ll find our team. We’d love to help you. We’re passionate, we love business, we love helping people, and we love seeing leaders win. That’s really why we exist. You can plug your podcast to if you want. Yeah, well I feel like that could be a shared, like we could do a return here. And Google “Leadership Torque”. That’s T O R Q U E just to make it difficult. “Leadership Torque”. Should have thought about that name a little bit more and jump onto the Waymaker podcast and you’ll hear all the war stories. True and false.
– Awesome thanks to you. Appreciate your time.
– Hey, thanks for having me. It’s been a blast and I love the hospitality. There’s something special about Redd there.
– See you back here on Friday.
REDD is a Technology Success Partner business headquartered in Brisbane, Australia. The Business and Technology podcast focuses on the commercial application of digital technologies in business. Guests will include industry experts, vendors, customers, business owners and anyone with unique insight to share. We discuss and explore current events, issues and stories relevant to business leaders, entrepreneurs, technologists and everyone in between. The show will have a mix of hosts from the REDD leadership anchored by co-founding Director and CEO Brad Ferris.
REDD is a leading provider of the following services
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