Ep049: How to lead successful culture change and engage employees with Dan Pontefract

Dan Pontefract on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay ep049How to lead successful culture change and engage employees

Changing the course of a 45,000 person corporation seems a daunting task, yet Dan Pontefract and his team did just that. Dan is the best selling author of two books on culture change, a regular TED speaker and the leader of the transformation office within TELUS Communication. On this episode of the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay, he explains why culture change is an ultra-marathon and not a light switch, how business metrics are impacted by culture, and why windows are important to leaders. Plus, Dan reveals what the company 3M did in the 1940s to become a cultural powerhouse, and how any company today can follow their lead.

What you'll learn:

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  • What on earth is a major telecommunication company doing in culture change and leadership learning? (6:25)

  • Why culture change is an ultra-marathon, not a light-switch (7:15)

  • What the culture of TELUS looked like prior to the “transformation.” (7:50)

  • Dan explains the major workplace changes that this 45,000 employee corporation underwent to improve its culture (8:10)

  • What was the big transition moment that moved TELUS towards a better culture? (8:30)

  • Dan explains “Flexible Workstyles” (9:05)

  • Hear the entire story of how TELUS went from a culture score of low 50s to high 80s in its employee engagement and how that impacted each of its business metrics (8:05-9:30)

  • Learn the TELUS “Causality Argument” for improved business metrics (9:50)

  • Dan and the Transformation Offices’ mission inside and outside of TELUS (10:15)

  • How windows and mirrors are the two biggest challenges that leaders face today (11:50)

  • "The Godfather" method of leadership: getting your employees to “go to the mattresses” for your company (15:15)

  • The balance of putting oneself and one’s business first while maintaining an empathetic concern towards others (17:00)

  • Halelly’s tweet to Dan and the subject of his next book (18:35)

  • Dan’s strategies of thinking regarding the intersection of the self and the organization (19:15)

  • What is “marinating in the moment” and why is it important to a culture? (20:10)

  • Why we have societal ADD and what that means (20:25)

  • The biggest problem with constant busyness at work (21:35)

  • Dan’s 3 types of thinking (21:40)

  • When not to think (22:10)

  • What the company 3M did in the 1940s to become a cultural powerhouse (23:30)

  • What is Google Time and how is it similar to a regular practice by the sci-fi author Isaac Asimov? (23:40)

  • Why we need to spend time thinking about The Long Now for the health and preservation of the individual, team, and society (24:20)

  • Why you shouldn’t think of your career as a perpetual ladder climb (28:20)

  • The mantra by which Dan has always lived (30:45)

  • How there’s only ONE Dan — he’s the same person on Wednesday at 10:00am as he is on Saturday while coaching soccer (32:55)

  • What Dan is thinking about today (34:05)

  • A specific exercise to help you follow your purpose, with an example from Dan (35:00)


About Dan Pontefract

Dan Pontefract is Chief Envisioner at TELUS, a Canadian telecommunications company, where he heads the Transformation Office, a future-of-work consulting group that helps organizations enhance their corporate cultures and collaboration practices. Previously as Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS, Dan introduced a new leadership framework–called the TELUS Leadership Philosophy–that dramatically helped to increase the company’s employee engagement to record levels of nearly 90%.

He is the author of THE PURPOSE EFFECT: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization as well as FLAT ARMY: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. A renowned speaker, Dan has presented at multiple TED events and also writes for Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today and The Huffington Post.  Dan and his wife, Denise, have three young children (aka goats) and live in Victoria, Canada. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria. He is at work on his third book, tentatively titled OPEN TO THINK.


Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there, welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. This is Halley Azulay and I’m your leadership development strategist, with another episode. This time our guest is Dan Pontefract. He is the Chief Envisioner at a company called TELUS, which is Canada’s biggest telecommunications company, similar to maybe AT&T in the States. He leads the transformation within TELUS, and he is also the best-selling author if two books so far, The Purpose Effect and Flat Army. But he does dish about his newest book, which is now still in the writing, but we get a great insight into what it is all about and what’s motivating him to write it. Dan and I talk about how important it is to have a purpose-driven culture, and the kind of change that he has helped create within his organization that created a huge uptick in employee engagement and the transformation that they’re now teaching others to create inside of their organizations with the transformation office. We talk about the two biggest challenges that leaders face today, and he talks about things like societal ADD and three types of thinking and when not to think. So I think you’re going to find this interview very interesting and also very actionable. I enjoyed it so much, so I hope that you will too. Thank you for tuning into the TalentGrow Show. Without further ado, here is episode 49.

Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. This is Halelly Azulay, I’m your leadership development strategist and today on the show I’m very pleased to have Dan Pontefract. He is the Chief Envisioner at TELUS, a Canadian telecommunications company where he leads the transformation office, a future of work consulting group that helps organizations enhance their corporate cultures and collaboration practices. He’s also a best-selling author of books like The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization, as well as Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. I had the pleasure of seeing Dan speak at a conference where we were both speakers at different times. He speaks all the time. He’s done numerous Ted events and he’s working on a new book. These are things we’re going to talk about today, but without further ado, Dan, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.

Dan: Halelly, thank you so much. I’m so honored to be here today and we’re going to riff about culture and purpose and just delighted to have a chat with you.

Halelly: Well, I’m very glad that you agreed to come on and I’m looking forward to sharing your wisdom with our listeners. Before we get to that, I always ask my guests to give us a brief overview of their professional journey, which of course is a challenge. You’ve had an illustrious and interesting journey, but give us a sense of where you started and how did you get to where you are today?

Dan: First of all, the journey is not done.

Halelly: Of course not!

Dan: So it’s an ongoing journey, in perpetuity until I’m six feet under, I suppose. I started out thinking I wanted to be a high school teacher, and so I started out high school teacher. That lasted three years until I realized there was a general incongruence between me and what was in the staff room and the staff room teachers were just a little bit apathetic for me. They weren’t really into their gigs, and I was like, “Aren’t you teachers? Aren’t you supposed to love kids, love teaching?” And they weren’t, and so I needed to get out of there. I realized it was against my purpose, if you will. So I went and moved into higher education for five years, and so I ended up running these programs for an institute of technology for career changers who already had a degree or diploma. I was working with adults. That’s where I really started to learn about the semblance of unity between leadership and technology and collaboration and culture and purpose, so that’s really where things started to get going. Then I said, “Well, if I’m going to be a better academic, perhaps I should go into the real world,” and I joined the corporate world in 2002 and for about six years I worked in a high tech company that went through a bunch of different manifestations and ended up being SAP, the German-based large ERP company and I was Chief Learning Officer throughout those six years. Then I joined TELUS, which is kind of like the AT&T of Canada, and it’s telecommunications company where I jumped ship to join that outfit to help them with their culture change in 2008. I was CLO for about five years and then three years ago, I started something called TTO, TELUS Transformation Office, inside of TELUS. It’s this external kind of future of work, consultative Sherpa shop, where we help other companies and not-for-profit and public sector organizations who are interested in culture change, purpose, leadership, learning, etc. So there you go. There’s the nutshell of Dan over the last 29 years.

Halelly: That’s really awesome. I have so many questions I want to ask you about it, but it makes me think of Zappos Insights. Is it fashioned similar to how that program was started within Zappos to teach others about how to get the Zappos culture? Robbe Richmond who ran that was my guest on the show not long ago.

Dan: Yeah, you’re spot on, as they say in England. Between Zappos Insights and two others that we look to with high regard, would be the Ritz Carlton and Ritz Carlton has a customer service wing to their hotel empire where they help people understand how to do the Ritz Carlton level of customer service, and then there’s Disney Institute who also have it from a creativity perspective. So for TELUS, it’s a telecommunications company. What the heck are we doing in culture change, leadership learning? It’s just that. Why not? We’ve gone through that experience and we’re just trying to help when we can.

Halelly: Makes perfect sense, and kudos on your success. It sounds like in big part because of what you’ve done and the leadership that you’ve brought there is why they’re sought after as a role model, so that’s very cool.

Dan: Yes and no. I mean, that’s a very kind thing to say but I would never take credit for it. TELUS is an organization from the board and CEO down, back in 2007, 2008, that wanted to change its culture. Quite frankly. I’m just riding on the coattails of an organization that together wanted to change the way it served its customers, just chipped in in the communities in which it served, and there are certainly some things that I was able to lead, but it is a team effort and I think that’s where if anyone is looking at culture change or becoming a purpose-driven organization, it’s really a team effort. It’s an ultra marathon as well, not a light switch, and it’s not up to one individual to make that change.

Halelly: So what would you say, if you could give the very high level view of the kind of culture maybe that you had before the change and the kind of culture you have at TELUS now and that people want to learn about? What would you say?

Dan: I’d say it was kind of a 50/50 split of people who were open, open-minded, transparent and people who weren’t. That could be employees or that could be leaders. We call employees team members. Right around the 2006, 2007, 2008 era, our employee engagement score – if we are to use that just as a barometer – was very low 50’s, and it basically juxtaposed between 50, 53, 57, for several years. Then once we really said as an organization, “Why are we here? We’re here because we serve our customers. We’re here to delight them. So how do we put customers first?” Well, we better have an engagement team member culture. And once we started to do that and chipped away at things like our leadership model, our learning model, our recognition model, our performance and development practices, how we moved the organization from “you’re not allowed to work from home” to 70 percent of our organization of over 45,000 people are mobile workers or work from home 100 percent of the time, which we call flexible work styles. And a cadre of other I would say human capital/people practice type things – when you add it all up together, our engagement score went from the low 50’s to the high 80’s, and the basically every other business metric started to be positively impacted. So absenteeism went down by three days per person per year. Resume submissions went from about 100,000 to over 400,000 per year. And then financial metrics like our revenue, our profitability and shareholder return – because we’re a publicly traded company both in New York and Toronto – all went through the roof. So there’s a causality argument here that we like to say at TELUS that when you have engaged employees, that will put customers first. Your business and community ultimately prosper.

Halelly: Interesting. So it’s almost like as a company, you put the employees first and ask the employees to put the customers first?

Dan: I think that’s a really good way of saying it. I mean, our mission around here is each and every day, we put our customers first in our daily actions. So that means, for example, call center agents who operate obviously complaints and issues that pop up from time to time as a telecommunications company. They are empowered to make decisions rather than having to go through a hierarchical approval order of six different layers to maybe discount a customer who might have an issue that has been, say, lengthy. That’s the type of things we had to look at from the front line team members and how you make them feel as though they are part of it, and they have to be part of it – i.e. the customer first mantra – and if they’re not, and if you’re just relying on 800 senior leaders that are directors and above to ultimately create your customers first engine, then what about the other 45,000-plus? Aren’t they just as important as your 800 most senior people? And that’s where you start from and then you say, “Yeah, if team members are put first, they will put the customer first,” and good things start to happen.

Halelly: Wow, great. I love it. I hope that people will go get your book so they can get, because there’s so much more you have to share and we don’t have enough time to go deep on every one of those ideas right here. But I do want to ask you, since you focus so much on developing culture, developing employees and developing leaders, from a leadership focus perspective, what have you seen to be maybe the one or two biggest challenges that you think leaders in today’s workplace are facing and what would you offer them as solutions?

Dan: Those are perfect questions. I think it’s two-fold and one is about looking in the mirror and one is about looking through a window. So here is my metaphor. In the mirror, a leader has to look at him or herself each and everyday and ask this question: “Am I playing for the name on the back of my jersey, or the crest on the front?” And so if you kind of use that metaphor for a second, as they look in the mirror they say, “Am I leading because I’m interested in my own name?” Which means that I’m interested in simply upholding my title, my power, my budget, my salary? Am I climbing the career ladder just for the sake of me? Or maybe extra responsibility, extra numeration, extra salary, extra budget, extra team size, etc., etc. Maybe those are outcomes and they are thus an output of being a more harmonious, open, humble leader. And time and time again, whether it’s executive coaching or working with teams or working with organizations, when the leader looks in the mirror and makes that switch from playing for the name on the back to the crest on the front – i.e. the team, the organization, etc. – wow, do you ever see a stark difference in the behavior of how they treat their people, treat their organization, which then ultimately allows this camaraderie, this harmony, this engaged manifestation of people working together for each other to then serve the interest of the business or the public sector organization or the not-for-profit. That’s an amazing thing to see when they look in the mirror and say, “Yay. Hooray. Good things happen when I’m not just interested in myself.” It’s classic narcissism reversed.

So the second one is looking through the window, and that’s when you’re looking at the team. So what often happens for leaders is that they’re not interested enough in their own team, as they look through the window. I say the window analogy is that what I often see are executives or leaders and they’re in an office and they’ve got glass windows or doors in their office, and then the rest of the team are in cubicles on the floor around them. Everyone is kind of milling about out there in cubicle land and they look through the window and say, “I wonder what John or Sally are up to today,” and vice versa. Really, the question is, okay John or Sally, you’re the leader in your window office. What are you doing to break down the window such that you are asking questions and involving yourself and asking for opinion of the people in the cubicles? This goes back to a more collaborative leader is ultimately a more effective leader because then it becomes not the “I “in team, it’s the “me” in team. We are together. So when anyone looks through the window and they say, “I need to do a better job of asking Dennis about how his tournament went as a coach with his kids this past weekend. I need to go speak with Jennifer and find out if things are going okay with her mom who she just put into the retirement home. I need to go out and speak with Dominique and sort of get Dominique’s opinion about how that marketing campaign played out and maybe is there something different that we can do next time?” These are the type of proactive, compassionate, collaborative type leadership windowless criteria that ultimately gets an employee engaged and as more employees get engaged, they break down the window barrier. When that happens, again, they’re going to – if you’re sort of a Godfather fan – they’re going to go to the mattresses. They’re going to go above and beyond the call of duty, and so that ultimately serves both the interest of the organization and thus the leader, but the customer in which they’re serving. So when people or leaders look through the window and break it down, ultimately, I assure you these good things happen.

Halelly: Nice, and I like how you connect he purpose and the what’s in it for me. Because sometimes I worry that when we give advice like this that it sounds like we’re telling the leader to be selfless or to put themselves out of the equation completely. And I think that it’s against human nature. I think in human nature is to take care of yourself and it’s proper that you do so, but not at other people’s expense. You’re making a nice link between how focusing on the well being of the others and the organization ultimately helps to create well being for the recipients or the value of the organization creates, which is the customers, and ultimately keeps you employed and keeps the organization growing, keeps your team humming along. It’s a very virtuous cycle, just a less direct link to me.

Dan: This is just it, right? It’s not 100 percent selfless and it’s not 100 percent selfish. It’s this balance and I think that’s where this either/or, this left or right, this “it’s got to be all this way or that way,” it’s absurd. I mean, when you’re integrating both the needs of the business – because if we’re talking about a for-profit organization, let’s not kid ourselves. You need revenue and profit to continue. And that kind of goes without saying. But it doesn’t mean it has to be done in such a way where we suffer fools gladly and we do so in a way that creates this discontent, this malcontent, within the organization itself. I need not remind you – clearly with your background – how we know from BlessingWhite to AonHewitt to Gallup to McKenzie, all these data points suggest that in fact we are not doing that. So the disengagement, even the disenfranchisement in our organizations from a data and research perspective suggests that there’s not enough leaders listening to this balanced need between driving business results if you will, but also having that empathetic concern and involvement of people in order to meet those goals.

Halelly: Exactly. They’re intricately connected.

Dan: Absolutely.

Halelly: I agree. So I engaged with you in a little conversation on Twitter when I saw that you were leaking out that you’re working on a new book. I got really curious – this is probably how this conversation got catalyzed – but do tell. What are you working on?

Dan: I loved that tweet exchange, by the way, because you’re one of about five people that paid attention to it, so someone was listening. It proves you shouldn’t put some things out there. I’ll say this – if the first book was about culture and leadership and engagement, the Flat Army book that you kindly introduced, and the second one about purpose, so purpose of self, purpose of the organization, purpose of role, this kind of unique diagram that ultimately create a sweet spot, that what I recognized is as I continued to write the purpose effect, actually, that there was a link between culture and purpose with how we’re thinking, both individually and in the organization. I guess I can’t really write a book these days that isn’t looking at both the self and the org. I kind of think they’re intricately linked, right? So it’s called Open to Think. The subtitle tentatively is called A Strategy for Better Thinking. And what I’ve recognized through the interviews we’ve done thus far, the research, looking at the philosophy, looking at the history of thinking, is that these days, what we are practicing more of is what I call ignorant thinking. And ignorant thinking is when we don’t spend enough time, if you will, marinating in the moment. We’re not dreaming, we’re not pausing, and ultimately we’re not reflecting. And what we’re doing is we’re spending far too much time taking action without thinking before the action.

So this kind of societal ADD has occurred, and particularly in the organization, where there’s not only the “do more with less” mantra that seems pervasive and almost ad infinitum part of everyday conversation, it’s that we are lost, if we will, the ability to recognize that pausing and reflecting is actually part of growing and thinking. So when you’re not looking busy or you’re not answering emails, you’re not answering social media or your phone is not lit up all the time because there’s these constant interruptions and notifications, it’s as though you’re not worthy. It’s as though that when we’re not spending the time as a team just looking out the window that all of a sudden, there’s reprimands and reprisals for not looking busy. So this penchant for being busy is actually creating some strife in our orgs and with people because we’re not what I call creative or critically thinking.

So, Open to Think is these three types of thinking – creative, critical and completion thinking, and how we need to rebalance what those three types of thinking mean if both for ourselves and the organization we want to feel good about our culture, our purpose and the way in which we’re just conducting day to day work.

Halelly: Wow. And so do you recommend spending, proactively or intentionally, aligning some of your time to different kinds of thinking modes?

Dan: Exactly. Now, thinking happens in different ways. There are times when let’s say a neurosurgeon is on the operating table and is going to have to make some very quick decisions. That’s not the best time to dream, when it’s life or death. So let’s take some of the anomalies out of the situation that are obvious to everyday life, like driving in a car and you approach a stop sign and someone has run through it and you kind of make that immediate reaction. Let’s just discard those for a second, human nature decisions. So when you’re in the organization, when you’re running your life, when you’re an employee, HR leader, marketing leader, sales leader, it doesn’t matter. What we need to be doing more of is reflecting. And then when we reflect more, we’ll be able to make these better “no go,” “go,” decisions, so this critical analyses from the dreaming, the analyzing and the kind of conjuring up of this reflection will then allow us to make better completion actions because we’ll have spent some time in the other two quadrants, as I say, dreaming, analyzing and then making that right decision. So if we can do that, yeah. And there’s going to be examples history-wise of where this came to be, like the company 3M actually allowed its employees back in the 1940’s 15-percent of their time to dream. Google engineers is another example with the sort of very famous 20-percent Google Time where they could dream up anything they wanted to. Good examples that came out of that were things like Gmail and Google+. And just other notable history figures, from Isaac Asimov to Edison, they all spent time dreaming and in this world where we are sucked into the vortex of quarterly analysts who are expecting updates, we need to take a step back and say for the health and preservation of both the individual, the team, the organization and society, we’ve got to think about the long now more.

Halelly: Nice. It makes me think now I’m not sure if I remember it correctly, but maybe it was Benjamin Franklin who had a daily walk habit where he did a lot of his thinking?

Dan: As did Einstein. That’s exactly it. Einstein would ride his bike, and that’s, for me, I’m certainly not Einstein by any stretch, but I’ve stolen his bike riding act as that daily time for me – depending on the day of the week and where I am – somewhere between 45 minutes and three hours where I’m on a bike and half the time, I’m on that bike without any distraction. There’s no earbuds, I’m not listening to music or anything, just me and nature thinking. Although I’m actually doing stuff, because obviously my brain is working in another way to avoid traffic, to spin the wheel to get the tires going and I’m navigating, so there’s still some thinking going on, but it’s not the thinking, like it’s parallel thinking with the dreaming as I’m doing something, which is almost ironic, isn’t it?

Halelly: Yeah. I get it, totally, and it’s almost like it allows your subconscious to process stuff, which is where intuition comes into play and a lot of ideas and connections form, where you connect disparate things to create new ideas or solutions to problems.

Dan: Absolutely.

Halelly: Love it. And I bet you’re probably mentioning Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.

Dan: It’s in chapter one, already. I’m about four chapters into the nine that will make this particular manuscript, so Kahneman has influenced me greatly, and there’s some great luminaries out there that have really done a great job. And different types of thinking, so you kind of delve into emergent thinking, integrative thinking, design thinking, liminal thinking. There’s a bunch out there that some are too academic, some are too flighty, but when you do the research and you kind of pull from it and say, “For me, this notion of the organization of simply break it down to something I call open thinking,” this open thinking model of creative, critical and completion, I’m hopeful for a very simple anecdote for both the individual self and the organization.

Halelly: That’s excellent. And that’s coming out in 2018, right, this book?

Dan: You got it. May of 2018, right.

Halelly: I’m looking forward to reading it. Sounds amazing. I wanted to ask you – I really want to talk to you for much longer than 30 minutes, very irritating to me that I’ve selected this. It’s actually something I struggle with and listeners, please let me know what you think. Maybe extend the podcast? So just a real quick side detour, I find it very interesting and instructive and I try to bring it out when I encounter it, when some people select not to have a binary choice about “I want to be out on my own” or “I want to build a solo career” versus “I want to be part of a big organization,” and there are some people who do this successfully in dual tracks and you seem to be one of those. You have a corporate job and a lot of responsibility. You have a lot of success. You’re not neglecting that, but at the same time, you are developing your own brand and you’re speaking as you and you’re writing and you’re blogging and I’m really curious if you can share with us how have you managed that division and what would you give as one or two tips for the listeners if they’re thinking about doing something like that? We’ve had a couple of guests on the show that have done that.

Dan: I’m very honored that you’d ask for your opinion on me and sort of my career trajectory. I guess there was a wonderful book back in 2011, 2010 maybe, Joann Cleaver, called The Career Lattice, and The Career Lattice is a book where she’s getting on how it is not a vertical climb you should be concerned about, but more so lateral, distinct and even parallel at the same time additions to your career, to your skillsets, etc. And that came out after I’d already thought through, long ago, that that’s how I need to operate. I need to be in parallel, doing things from a career perspective that embolden my learning, but I guess ultimately embolden me and how I’m viewed.

So let’s try to break this down specifically. I’ve always been an educator, so you’ve heard the story where I started out doing my B.A./B.Ed. I was a teacher, I got into higher ed and in chief learning officer roles. I’m an educator, specifically. Now, educators for me, at least, are not just sage on the stage. So yeah, I’ve been fortunate to be asked to do a bunch of TEDs, I do like 30 or 40 keynotes a year. That’s kind of educating. So the keynote thing and the speaking thing is really an extension of educating, but I didn’t necessarily consider myself a writer. Which is weird, as an educator, but I thought, “Well, there’s something more to being an educator than why don’t you give a go at writing.” And so I just started out with my own blog and continued to hone and practice publicly, asking for opinion, which then led itself to other outlets, whether that was Forbes or HBR, Huffington Post, where these things started to happen. Publishing company came and found me at a speaking event and said, “Have you ever thought about publishing a book?” And I was like, “Not really,” but here’s where some of these things happen with this idea of the career lattice. A, you’ve got to be humble, and have a sense of humility and you’ve got to put yourself out there, so it sounds contradictory. How can you be humble and have humility if you have to put yourself out there? Well, you do. If you want to get noticed, you have to put yourself out there, but don’t be doing it – again, back to that name on the back of the sweater analogy – I write and I speak because I want to educate. I want to help.

Which goes back to this central point, or two central points. A, I’ve always lived by this little mantra that I’ve developed called “We’re not here to see through each other. We’re here to see each other through.” And so this has tightened over the years and it has a firm grip over Bill George might call it the North Star, like it’s my declaration of purpose, really. That’s who I am and I’m going to pay it forward at a Starbucks for the next customer, anonymously. I’ll see a tweet stream with you online and say, “Yeah, I’d love to be on the podcast, let’s do it!” So that’s the thing. I think if we had more reciprocity in this world, and you as an individual, some of these career things and the lattice thing and the parallel thing start to happen, which then lends itself to point number two, and that is again, another adage I live by is my network is my net worth. So I’m only as good, really, at the end of the day, if I’m a like a gardener, tending to the network that I’ve built or that has come across. I don’t dis people – or at least I don’t think I’m dissing people – again, I try to be respectful. I try to understand opinions, whether it’s political religious, geographical, company, whatever. I think respect is a really important part of building out that network. If you have the respect, you have the network and you tend to it like a garden, and you have this notion of reciprocity, this “I’m not looking through you, I’m trying to help you through things,” and ultimately in parallel to me, going back to me specifically, I consciously said, “Education me is part business, part writer, part speaker, part reciprocity, part network, part yeah sure, let’s see if we can work this out.” And I’ve just turned 45 and so it’s been basically since university, about 20-odd years of tending to that thought. I guess it’s just a case of knock on wood, and I’m knocking on my head because that’s where the wood is.

Halelly: It’s almost like you’re driven to do it?

Dan: Yeah, really, and I’m the same Dan mid-week at 10 a.m. as I might be on a Saturday at 8 p.m. as I might be coaching soccer Sunday morning. I mean, wherever I go, it’s opportunities to build a network, to ask how people are doing, to be humble and have humility, to be collaborative, to reach out, to respond to an email, to not dis people. It is really this life work integration piece. People speak about work/life balance. I don’t, I mean, this may sound odd, but I don’t believe in work/life balance. It’s not about balance. It’s about integrating your values and who you are. If you want to be doing multiple things and seeing yourself grow, whether it is in my case author, speaker, consultant, things that I do with TELUS internal and external, to me it’s all the same. And it’s about respect and how you operate your life in that vein.

Halelly: I know that one thing that’s new and exciting for you is the new book. Is there anything else that’s got your attention these days?

Dan: It does, and what’s really driving me crazy these days is what’s happening to society with this fixation on staring at their devices. I’m really contemplating delving into the fixation on screen time, device time, versus looking up and, again, participating in the moment. With three kids that are 13, 11 and 9, it’s haunting me.

Halelly: Yes, totally get it! If we had more time to talk, I would tell you that everything you were talking about the thinking and just taking time to dream, I totally think it’s connected to having this urge to feel busy and the screen and the device filling in for that and just sort of being our constant companion. We don’t allow ourselves to be alone anymore. Before we tell people how to stay in touch with you and learn more from you and about you, what’s one really specific action that you would like our listeners to take today, tomorrow, this week, that you think can help them upgrade their leadership skills?

Dan: Well, of course. I think that everyone this second, if you haven’t written down your one or two lines that are your declaration of purpose, your North Star, your who you are, what you want to be and how you’re going to show up each and every day, these one or two lines personal purpose statement, do that. Put it on a sticky note on your laptop or your office or wherever, and look at it and stare at it and say it and commit yourself. This is who I am and this is how I’m going to be.

Halelly: Do you have specific instructions for this exercise in your book Purpose?

Dan: Indeed, in The Purpose Effect for sure.

Halelly: Okay, great. So give us an example of how you wrote yours, just so that we have a sense of what that might look like?

Dan: I thought about who I am, the type of guy that I am. I’m an extrovert, I love being around people and how am I going to help those types of people with whatever it is that’s going on in their lives? That’s the notion where I tried to think through how I might have been or how I might be in pressure filled, stress filled situations, and how do I turn that around to be the antithesis of it? That’s the point of I’m not here to see through you, I’m here to see you through. And that’s, to me, it might be slightly more philosophical and poetic. It’s the notion that if I see someone fall down, I’m going to help them up. If someone asks for help I’m going to say, “Sure, how do we make this happen?” That’s just humanity.

Halelly: Great, thank you for that. Dan, it’s been fun talking with you and I’m sorry that our time is up, but maybe we can have you back on for a round two. In the meantime, how should people say hello, stay in touch and learn more from and about you?

Dan: Well, thank you. I would love to be hanging out with you again some point in the future, so count me in. First, one way to pay homage to me, I suppose, is to donate a couple of cans of food to your local food bank, and then if you’re online, www.danpontefract.com.

Halelly: Excellent. We’re going to link to Dan’s website and social media and books all in the show notes of this podcast and so thank you very much Dan for being our guest and thank you for listening, everyone.

TalentGrowers, what did I tell you? Dan had so many good insights to share and also very actionable advice, I think. I hope that you will take him up on that last piece of action that he was suggesting that you take, plus really think about all the other things that he suggested that you can do to improve your culture, to improve your leadership and to improve your thinking. Thank you for tuning in to the TalentGrow Show, which I’m very proud has been selected to be part of the C-Suite radio network of podcasts. These are podcasts from the world’s leading business experts and podcasters for C-Suite leaders, business executives and entrepreneurs, and it features premium content, designed to increase knowledge, deepen understanding and build skills to enhance your personal and professional lives. Check it out. It’s on c-suiteradio.com. And if you’re not getting my weekly newsletter, which is short, fun and very actionable, why not? Come on, sign up and you get the free tool that I’ve created for listeners of the show called “The 10 Mistakes that Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them,” and if you don’t like the newsletter you can always unsubscribe. It’s free, it’s short and I try to make it with you in mind, which means I try to make it super actionable and very useful. And of course I always welcome feedback about the show, about my newsletter, about anything that you take the time to give me feedback about. Because that’s how I get better.

One last announcement and this one is super time-bound. I was featured as one of 24 thought leaders and experts on the Global Influencer Effectiveness Summit, and that is something that is actually going on right now as this show is being released. It started on March 6 and it’s going for 14 days and it features a bunch of great speakers talking about proven, unconventional modalities to ignite change in others. It was organized by the innovative influencer Sylvia Schroeder and she pulled it together. I was happy to participate and my part was featured yesterday, which was March 13. Today is March 14, that’s when I’m releasing this episode. I was told that my part will only be up for 48 hours, which means there’s 24 hours to go. So go grab it and also of course listen to all the other great speakers. That’s over at bit.ly/globalinfluencerHA. HA stands for Halelly Azulay.

And, the show notes and all of the links to everything that we mentioned in this podcast and of course a way for you to sign up for my newsletter and grab my free tool, that’s all over at TalentGrow.com/podcast/episode49. I’m really glad you stuck around. I appreciate you listening. I hope that you found it valuable and I’m still Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist, hoping that you’ll make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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