Learning To Fly With Digby Scott
In this episode, Aidan and Digby discuss the role of a leader as a facilitator and host, rather than a hero, is a powerful concept. Creating an environment where people can explore, ask questions, give feedback, and discover insights is essential for effective leadership. It promotes collaboration and empowers individuals to take ownership of their work. It's about fostering a culture of shared learning and growth, which is incredibly valuable in a world where the answers aren't always clear. So, leaders who embrace this approach can have a significant positive impact on their organisations.
Welcome to Learning to Fly an Inspire Group podcast join our CEOs Aiden Stoate, Stu Neighbour and Ulrika Brunner as they discuss learning, leadership change and more. Inspire group because better learning is life-changing.
Kia ora and welcome to Learning to Fly the Inspire Group Podcast. I'm Aiden Stoate, and I'm thrilled to be joined today by Digby Scott. Hi, Digby. Hey, Aidan pura to see, to see you. So originally from Western Australia, Digby has now made Wellington his home. He started his career as a chartered accountant, then went through the Bohemian phase, working in living in the US and Canada on summer camps, ski resorts, and as a commercial salmon fisherman. There's definitely some stories there isn't they're not sure to get into those today. But intriguing stuff. First moved to Altidore in 1996, where he sets up and became the first national manager for the recruitment company, Robert Walters, and has since grown and led coaching and leadership development businesses in both Perth and Wellington, including formally working as a director would inspire group. His clients say that his superpower is in bringing people together to create high trust deep learning environments. He thrives on making complex, simple, but not simplistic. He'll bring wisdom, challenging questions and insights along with a positive infectious energy to deliver awesome learning experiences. Welcome, Digby. And a big thanks for joining us on the learning to fly podcast. What we what we haven't covered in that intro, is that you also run an awesome initiative called changemakers. We've had some conversations previously, offline about change in transformation. So it feels like that would be a really good place for us to start. So tell me a little bit about changemakers. How it came about how you conceived the idea, and what it is that you sort of work on in that space to help people deliver meaningful change and transformation.
Alright, so where do we start with? Well, because I can weave in some of my bio and into that as well, that I guess, I used to do a lot of one on one relationship coaching, I've got so much more, and the people you still love, still love working with is what I call the restless, go get it, you know, there's people that sort of wanting to have an impact bigger than the job description and wanting to go is, okay, how do I get positive change happening here? And I found was great working with them one on one, because you get some really great breakthroughs and some may have put it in. But there's got to be some leverage here, right? Because it's one on one, certainly people I can connect. So what are we bought a bunch of those dresses are going into a room together, what would happen? That, in essence, is what changemakers is about. It's bringing together like minded group of people that don't have to be the same industry over, it's actually not alone. To help them learn and grow with and follow each other. And this, this idea of taking risks to go getters creating a Petri dish for them to play, where they can coach each other, share stories, help each other grow. And creating a culture of using the petri dish metaphor is, is incredibly powerful. It also takes the pressure off me to be the one that works to help me do the single point of help. So it's been running for seven years now. Pretty much continuously. And the idea is my question that I'm trying to hold an answer with this is how do I should be best contribute to creating a connected world of changemakers. And if you take any organizational sort of lens on that, when we think about change, we often do think about top down change, right? The executive seems got to have the vision and the strategy again, and we roll that out so over the people and we've got to get our middle managers to get buy in from the frontline and all those cliches. Yeah, there's a hierarchical nature to that which I don't think really reflects how humans organize and connect and get together to make things happen. And I think if any of that is destroying the hierarchy, the alternative or baby complimentary model is a circle which is that the tree this is what do you get the petri dish to the culture and what makes up the cultures the bacteria who in this metaphor of the bacteria you Think about how do you grow culture? Well, it's about activating the bacteria that are ready to be activated. And they can be at any level. And you can get them to grow this sense of agency, I'm not talking to people not an activity. You can help them do individually and collectively grow a sense of agency by creating the conditions for them to experiment to learn, to try new things to share those stories, then you get change and transformation happening faster, and I think more sustainably. So that's the whole idea of changemakers is an initiative is to help change happen in the way that usually does happen and removing the barriers. That's from the podcast.
I love that.
That makes it?
Yeah, it does. And yeah, what an awesome platform to give to people. Because I imagined for those wrestlers, go getters, they are arriving, you know, with some some great ideas and some great energy, but probably just trying to work through how and where to direct that energy. You know, how best to change whether that's yeah, conditions for teams for themselves. And I'm curious to know, you know, whether it's through changemakers, or through your other initiatives, you know, what are some of the, what are some of the challenges that those wrestlers go getters arrive with?
How are they articulating the problems that they want to solve?
That's great. Yeah, good question. So I recognize sort of three categories that a potential change maker would face. So the first one is a lack of direction, though, it's a sense of, like, I've got energy, and I've got motivation. But where do I apply that? Yeah. And also, that can be because there are so many different things that they want to zation wants to do, or you don't want to do, right, you're kinda like, you know, again, speak a lot of metaphors, maybe it's an analogy, looks like a laser light, versus the floor light, like a laser light is really focused on putting energy into one direction, whereas a flurry line will be the fuse, will cover a wide range, probably won't be as potent. And I find that a lot of people are seeking a sense of direction, this is the thing that I really want to put my energy into, this is the thing that's most important. organization strategy, and vision and purpose, definitely help with that. But there's also an inner piece, which is, what is your own sense of personal purpose? Where do you want to make your contribution, right. And so the Changemakers program at an individual level really doubles down on that. So what's that direction isn't for purpose for you. So that's number one, that kind of lacked a sense of direction. The second one is a lack of traction. So I might have direction, I might have a sense of clarity of purpose. But I am stuck in the kelp in the weeds and whatever you want to use. It is hard work. And I don't feel like I'm making any progress. And also, the challenge there is that we're trying to do too much. Or perhaps there's underneath that, and maybe even more powerfully is that there's a deep fear. If I stick my head out too much, am I gonna get chopped up? Am I an imposter here? Do I actually even have the permission and as often a big stick? So what am i Where do I go? What do I do? How do I get that traction? There's all sorts of things. That's that kind of Seeker mindsets, like what we're trying to do there is to move beyond seeking permission seeking clarity. And speaking of big goals, let's get Yeah. And the big thing to do there through learning how to do what Amy Edmondson from Harvard talks about, she calls the intelligent pilots, which is essentially a good way of saying experiment. How do we learn to experiment deliberately, so they can learn and get more traction. So we've talked about the lack of direction, we've talked about lack of traction. And the third one is probably the most common out of those, these three is a lack of connection. That you know, that old saying, you know, if you want to go fast, go alone if you want to go together. And this idea of I am a lone voice, I can see what we need to do differently, but no one is listening. And I feel like I'm just the only person. Am I the only person am I going mad. And I hear this all the time I feel alone. And what I think is smart is people to think a little bit about So who will come with me and the speaker, who I had on lie tell the story of the condition that I have. How do I connect with others who are thinking or feeling in the same way and how do we going out together and get really smart about. So yes, it's influencing skills. But there's also deliberately developing a coalition or a network. And what changemakers is designed to do there. I think like any good collective experiences, we have building trust between people, we're building understanding, we're building a sense of community. Right? And through that, it's hard, but people call, I've got people that they can call me, there's this sort of mutual sense of a wound together, which again, the petri dish, bacteria join up. So direction, traction connection. Sounds kind of cute, right? And then if you get on a mica, they're all fundamental human needs. Yeah. That we all have. And I think, for us to learn how to create it for ourselves, but also leaders, how do we create the conditions for that to happen for others? That's sort of the vision.
Yeah, Absolutely, absolutely. I'm fascinated by that, that concept of connection. I mean, all three of those points are absolutely vital, and fundamental to, you know, to supporting change to enabling change. And to give people the confidence to, like you say, experiment, you know, try things. The connection one's a tough one, isn't it? Because in many ways were more connected. Or, in many ways, were fundamentally disconnected in terms of, you know, new working environments, the emergence of of the hybrid workforce, or, you know, fully remote work. Where do you see some of the, I suppose the opportunities or challenges with that connection piece, because it's, it's a concept, and it's up and see if you can can harness that. It's incredibly powerful. But I also assume that might be one of the biggest challenges that people come up against. In terms of the current context. They're working.
I think you anyone listening and watching this right now is nodding heads, right? I was, there's a there's a poet, and author, David White. W H Y T E, who's one of my heroes, many, many people's heroes. He wrote a book called constellations, which is a physical constellations, which is a term used on meanings of certain words. Because this is what poets do. Last night, I was reading this chapter on the word to beseige that really evocative word, right, you think of seizing the capsule? Right? And it's kind of like this stuff coming from all angles. And, you know, what do I do, you can get into paralysis. And that got me feeling and thinking, Yeah, most of us feel bad seed for most of our lives. And, and we have, I think there's a challenge here, which is amplified, I think, in our modern day, which is this kind of paradox, for clarity between the need to connect and belong. But at the same time, this needs to be alone. And I reckon the staging has been dialing up all the stuff that's coming in, has is, I think, going, I'm so connected, that I needed to draw, I was sitting on the train on the way into Sydney this morning. And there's a lady in front of me, the classic, got the Beats headphones on on the phone, no eye contact, just in her own world. And no judgment. It was more of an observation of, I wonder, was really more of a question. I wonder if this is just a response to the beseigedness
Right, you know, that there this "I just need me space!". But to be honest, that's why because we had to be there and then out. And so I think, I think we're in this world where we don't quite know what to do, because we know, we need people but there's so many. It's almost like there's there's a lot of shallowness to the interactions that we have. And a lot of speed, though, I think what we're actually yearning for is for those clinics and not volume of connections. You know, there's a bunch of research, Dunbar's number, most connections or relationships we can hold in our lives of any sort of 150 and that's what makes the village tribe whereas we're bombarded by many, many more people than usually. So that was a bit of a rant. Right? But I'm hoping to do some wondering what's learning with you or what coming up as I share that paradox.
I think it's a, it's a fantastic insight. And I, what resonates with me there is this idea that we're sort of consistently and continuously challenged by, you know, the the basic needs and desire for connection, whilst also trying to balance that with, like you say, time alone, you know, disconnecting, because there are very few spaces where we can truly disconnect from the noise. And, yeah, I think it's finding... finding the right channels, and the ones that work for you. Because for everyone that will be, you know, different, it will be personal and will come at different times.
I want to, I want to build on that a little download research into unhurried being unhurried and productive. And what I find people who are able to get the balance, right, know how to disconnect. And I feel like most of us either don't know how to skate, because not doing. There's a great coach, clinical, Jerry Collins, and he talks about we take meaning from motion and we take away the motion with. And yeah, there's a lot to working with PJ and Hudson yesterday. And she's classic. Yeah, lead by doing, and she's just so stretched so thin. And yeah, this is the collar on her identity, I think is, yeah, I'm gonna do it. And I think for her and a lot of other people, there's this device stop. And I disconnect, what do I have to face? And so what we do is we might stop and be alone, but then we jump on this thing. Or we jump on Netflix, I think we've lost as a society, valid reflection, of just being with not knowing which plays into this, how do we mean, certain areas? How do I be in this place where there's stuff being done or achieved? And I'm, I'm in the same boat. You know, I love I love chicken, the whole load of stuff. And the list is never ending. All right, 4000 weeks? First. That's how long we have to live, generally. His first chapter he talks about, you know, this, this fact that your to-do list will still be there when you're dead. So, yeah, yeah. So I think we don't know how we fear stopping. And so then we staying in connected land, but not in a productive, useful way, right? Because I come back to places like changemakers or anything, where when you cultivate the space for people to go deeper. And it's not about achieving stuff. It's not about tasks. It's about deeply getting into the human connection, the sense of belonging and being seen, now I want to be seen. Yeah. There's some thoughts about that.
I love those insights. And I don't think it it feels like doom and gloom. I think it's, I think it's a very pragmatic approach to that idea. And, you know, it is it is a sad feature, unfortunately, that our to do lists will will outlive us all. But actually a really nice reminder that actually, the important stuff is not on the to do list, you know, that stuff. And that stuff can wait to some extent. It's how it where we prioritize those connections and cultivating relationships, which should always take precedent.
Yeah, they don't have to be an 'or', you know, think it's make it an 'and' then it's like, how do I be in the quality high trust relationship?
And do amazing things. Great, amazing. outcomes for the world given purpose. All of that coming back to the direction? Yeah, yeah. I think I think that's this identity of separateness was on me to do this. How do we shift it to that, if you want to have a temperature summation, it's got to be a week optimization. Absolutely. There are lots of awesome quotes in the changemakers book, but one that resonates with me really strongly is nothing is certain and we're better off when we live with that in mind. Mmm.
I love that concept. But I am interested to know, how can people rationalize that thinking with the organization or demand for certainty with with the needs for insights and information and sort of currency in the know. And I imagine that's, that's something that probably comes up in the changemakers dialog is, you know, that feeling of finding comfort in ambiguity, but also finding a balance with that organizational or operational demands, that almost requires the opposite. So I'm interested to hear some some thoughts from you on that, and how you position that for people?
Yeah. That's, so let's start with that last piece. How do you position I mean, there's, I think it's about language, I think it's about what are you? How are you positioning yourself as a leader or a value contributor. And I can think about a continuum. And so you can have a continuum. So draw, so from your left, to your right. On the left, is works today is called ignorance. And ignorance is I know that I know, and I'm kinda and maybe I'm either deliberately or just naively, I don't know anything. And though it's all out there, and blind, we don't want to be we gotta run across the the facade. That's arrogance, everything, there's nothing that I need to know. And I'm going to show you that I am the one with the right answers. And, you know, and we know this, right, we don't really want to be around them. You don't necessarily want to fool them. They're exhausting. And it's exhausting to be that person. I think you've got strapped the whole time. And I think a lot of people in the organization environments where delivery is paramount said, demand and then the temptations. And neither of those ignorance or arrogance, ends of that spectrum marketing because then we places to be or healthy places. So what's in the middle is where we want to be. So we got one back from arrogance. That's confidence. And that's how statisticians talk about 75% competence. You hear it in the winter. Weather Forecast, yeah, stupid. Chance of rain collapsing, I've seen confidence, right. And I think there's something about confidence is to be able to say, here's what I know, here's what I know to be true. And in fact, there's a credit profile in New Zealand's called I know this to be true. And I think, as a leader, as anyone to be able to say, Look, I know this to be true, is a really useful way to stand in that space of confidence, right? Yet, there's one other piece in the continuum, which is kind of one in from ignorance, and one of those from confidence. And that's wonderance. And this is playing on language. So wonderance if you could say it's humility it's curiosity. It's maybe both of those things combined. It's the book and here's what we don't know. And here's what we need to go and find out a bit more about, and here's the questions that we're holding about, and his way we feel uncomfortable, and all those sorts. Right. And, and I think he to come come back to the original question or recommends about being out of balance, wonderance and confidence healthy way, because too much wanderance... I think we lose in our Western culture, there's kind of like, like, what do you do for this asking questions? Sometimes that's really helpful, right? Too much confidence is thrown towards. We can be blind spotting, and we don't see what we're missing, we have to ask a question. I think a good example of that is there's a person that's the Chief Chief Executive, when I first met him, he was the General Manager going through the change process, and he would, for instance, change versus every Friday. He would get about 150 people together for standup. This is half an hour. And he would say to them, okay, I just want to update you on where we're at. Here's what I can tell you. That's the condifence stuff right. Here's some stuff that I can't... there's some stuff I can't tell you at the moment. Because of confidentiality, whatever, but when, when I can tell you I will... So that's still in the confidence space. And here's some stuff we don't know. And we need to find out. Right? What do you think that messaging? For the people in the room? If you're in that room? How would that land with you? Right? Just having him say those three things every Friday?
I don't know whether this is the right or the wrong answer. But I would personally feel very empowered by that. Because I think feels the right balance of transparency, authenticity, and detail around what's known what isn't. And this is what we're going to do about it. So there is some action, there is some action orientation to the unknown, which I guess sort of back to your point on the spectrum which is sort of negating that risk of moving to ignorance; we're not going to allow ourselves to move to ignorance, because we will ask the questions, and we will investigate what we need to know, in order to move. Yeah!
Oh, I love the way he says, Okay, you say something like that? Because yeah, and it is very empowering. Those people, by and large, what I understand were incredibly, incredibly empowering. And there was an accountability that was built into that as well. Yeah. So there's a lot of that. And I love how you say, we're not going to allow ourselves to move to bigger, right? Because one of the things I think getting Changemaker early, there has been large doses, that sense that what I call agency, right this like, I am going to own what I can own. And I'm going to take responsibility for stuff as opposed to wait and hope. And, you know, that, and it might be just not necessarily even any particular action, but it's like defining the questions that need to be answered.
Yeah. So that feels like it's a pragmatic way to think about being in uncertainty because again, uncertainty, uncertainty, to binaries. Right. Some things are kind of tactically certain. Sounds gonna come up, and it doesn't, but there's some wildlife we think. And but most of the life isn't, I think more in the uncertain. Best doing is acknowledging that and then looking to explore one of the questions we can answer. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Avoiding the, the other problem, I guess, which is moving from confidence to arrogance, you know, so making sure we're constantly asking those questions and showing that curiosity to to understand what we don't know.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, organization level, that's the classic, you know, the the world's not changing the world's like I said before, we don't need to change, or if it's changing. It doesn't apply to all of us.
Which is arrogance. Right. And that can happen at all levels can't it. Yeah. I think, yeah, being able to sit in the middle is where you want to be. Yeah.
Fantastic. I love that. And just to build on on that anecdote, around the leader, they're sort of sharing a sharing those stories with with with their people. What other roles do you see as being vital for leaders to either support or deliver transformation and change in their organizations at the moment? What else could they be doing? Should they be doing or should they be thinking about to help with that process?
That's a lovely question. I have a bit of a recency bias, because I've been doing a lot of work in the space of late but it's it's the role of facilitator. What I mean by that is the role of another word. But here's way of thinking about it is less hero and more host. And so hero is one further down in towards maybe confidence and arrogance.
And it's all on me. And I carry it all. To host which is my primary role, or one of my primary roles is to bring people together, not just for sharing information to them. You know, I think, I think often, leaders will think no, my job is to tell people what they need to know. Yeah, yeah, probably probably. That's the part of it wouldn't dispute that. But I think what's undervalued is not just what I'm sharing information, but then enabling people to make sensitive information that then can be become meaningful in their context. And I think 'leader as facilitator' is a lovely sort of frame for that, which is learn the skill, have the skill of convening people and not controlling, but creating conditions for them to explore to one ask them questions, give feedback, take it somewhere that's relevant for them and perhaps their people discover new insights that maybe you don't know, as well, right. This is, this is one way to kind of like broadcast. And it's more two way conversation and multi white conversation. So I think that role as host, and facilitator is one again in in a busy world of where we need certainty, later upheld as having answers. I think it's really hard to do that. And I think it's kind of one of those Pareto Principle, superpower skills that if you've insisted that 10% More 20% More, and ask more questions, rather than just beyond broadcast, you get 80% shift in engagement, people? And yeah, so that's a great question. Because I hear we need to be powerful storytelling. Yeah, I think that's great. We need to have the people who are authentic. Yep. For sure. But what's not been? I think having a light shone on it is, so how good are you bringing people together? And creating the space for them to do amazing work together?
Amazing. Mm-Hmm. I love, yeah. A wonderful insight and, um, idea of, of Host Over Hero is a great place to, to start and a really nice way of articulating that idea. That's great. Yeah. Yeah.
Yeah. Whenever I share it with, with leaders, they kind of immediately get it and go, Oh yeah, right. I just kind of go into default hero mode. But that's what I think people need. Yeah. And it's probably what the culture rewards. And so, you know, it's that old Sun Tzu quote, isn't it like, you know, when the job is done, the people will say, we did it ourselves and that's a sign of a great leader. And I think, you know, how do you, Hey, again, the other language around this is moved away from ego centric, ecosystem trip, eco being the ecosystem that you're serving. Yeah. How do you put that at the scene around you? Yeah. And that requires development and that requires work. Coming back to that senior female leader that I was talking about, you know, um, love it dearly. And there's an ego development thing that needs to happen, I think, which is an identity shift beyond leader as doer. Yeah. The leader is kind of stepper and host and facilitator and convener, you know, and that requires a If I'm, if I'm doing this work, I'm still valuable kind of momentarily. Absolutely.
Yeah. Yeah. And lots of reflection, um, because there's a big self awareness piece that needs to, to go along with that in terms of diagnosing where I'm at in terms of what my natural, um, you know, default style is as a leader. And then thinking about, you know, those opportunities to, to, to change and evolve.
Just on that, I think we often think I need to carve out a bunch of time every week to do reflection. I need to meditate morning. Yeah, that's, that's great if you can. Yesterday's group session, I've been piloting these cards that are around developing your awareness in the moment. So you can have a bit more choice and everyone gets a card with a little directive on it. So like, it might be to do with, um, what am I noticing about the group dynamics? Or it might be, uh, what am I not sharing that might be useful to share? Or it might be, how am I feeling about what? It's just a question to ground you in the present. So from there, rather than get more into, um, the, okay, so what choices I have now, which is choices, and I think we have little kind of disciplines, rituals like that, we, I think it becomes more accessible because I think really at the end of the day, it's.
everything that you do.
Um, I'm interested to know where you draw your ideas and inspiration from. Um, you know, what, what is it that sort of keeps fueling your, your great work in this space? And, and where are you, where are you sort of generating a lot of your, you know, your insights and ideas and inspirations?
So, it's two answers. One is people the other one is... broader in nature. So let me explain what I mean. We had a conversation in the group last week and we were asking the question, what do you get inspiration from? And when it came to me, I said "People doing hard things and, and, and hard things for them" it's, it's someone who's saying, this is hard, I'm going to do it, I'm going to, um, have a go, you know, inspired by those documentaries, but also just people learning something new, right? Yeah. So I, I love that because it's me. It speaks to that. It's going beyond into something that's more important than comfort, and I think in a changing environment, you've got to get beyond comfort, right? Yeah, so that inspires me, and I love to write stories about that. The other one is, uh, Nature in general, and you know, this is a little cliche maybe, but I think it's that, you know, that feeling of warmth that you get when you're just, like last night, we were outside for a bit, and we Funny, Hazel Wellington said, you know, well I don't know what Wilkins like, but Wellington is my little jewelry of the same, yeah, and it's always fun, you know, I, every year, like, two and a half weeks I'm off, or three weeks on an annual surfing and windsurfing 25 years back to Western Australia, where I'm in the desert on the edge of the coral reef, 150 kilometers from the closest town with a bunch of old mates. And We're camping under the stars, no cell phones, nothing. And I've been doing that for, you know, half of my life. Yeah. That is a place to slow down, but also because it's a lot like the metaphors, you know, the snow globe being shaken up and then clarity emerges. It's like, that's inspiring. It's an idea that pops up. Because I've, I've slowed down enough to listen to it, so yeah.
Yeah. I love that. Well, you, you certainly inspired me, not only with, not only with that answer, but just with the conversation today. Um, I think we've got into some, some really good territory and, and that's probably a, an appropriate place to end. To start, we could talk for hours, um, about it, and I know we will offline, um, after the fact, but I think that feels like a really great, great place to, um, to finish for today, and I just want to say a huge thank you Digby, um, for joining us on the podcast, um, you've got into some really interesting concepts and ideas, and I know that, um, People listening and watching will, will draw, um, you know, a lot of great energy and enthusiasm from, um, some of the, the things that we've covered. So thank you so much for, for your time.
Yeah, we give everyone a wave.
Let's do that. One of them.
Let's do that. One of them. Nice. Thanks. I love your questions. Most of my thinking into new territory too. And it's really great. I love it. It's been really helpful.
Awesome. Thank you. Well, thanks. Thanks again. Uh, you've been listening to Learning to Fly, the Inspire Group podcast. I'm Aidan Stokes and we'll be back again shortly with another episode
Learning to Fly is produced by the Inspire Group team. You can find us online at inspiregroup. net and don't forget to rate, review and subscribe on your podcast app.
About the author
A Marketer with over ten years' experience in the learning industry, Ben loves to use data as a driver of decisions. In his spare time, you'll find him walking his Great Dane fur baby or teaching group fitness classes at the Les Mills gym in Ōtautahi.