Gordon Tredgold on building high-performance teams through leadership

We bring to you ‘The Shape of Work’, a Podcast series that brings to you insights from top People Managers across the world on the future of work and how it’s shaping our workplace. Anything goes conversation with our speakers about their journey, insights and thoughts. Most importantly their ideas and visions for the workplace of the future. See all posts here


Springworks interviewed Gordon Tredgold, CEO of Leadership Principles Limited where he gave a talk on how success is about having the right motivation, the right plan and the right leadership. He discussed about the culture that workplaces should maintain to help their employees thrive, especially during remote work settings. 

Gordon’s first passion was rugby and he started playing when he was just 9 years old. He continued to play until he was 43. As he moved into his professional career, he discovered his real passion was actually for building winning teams, coaching and developing people. He Successfully led high profile Data Center Migration Programs at fujitsu and also contributed to a few online media such as Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur media.

Now with that mix of passion and ability, he has been ranked by Global Gurus as one of the Top 10 Leadership Experts, Speakers, and Trainers in the world.

Let us walk you through some of the important insights from our interview with Gordon!

Culture contributes to building high-performance teams

Culture creates the environment. It sets the expectation, and then holds people accountable for the performance that they deliver.

Gordon expressed his views on this with a Cricket analogy. He mentioned that when cricket teams such as England lose the match, they are told that, “You did your best” or :you were valiant in defeat”. However, when teams like New Zealand and Australia lose the Test series, they are not keen again on the plan to go back because they know the expectations from there.

And this is the thing with culture. It drives excellence. It may sound as if it is said in a negative way, but actually it is a positive reinforcing way. Massive man culture is what people do when we’re not looking. So for New Zealand, it’s probably about them doing extra training, to get fitter to be better. They’re not told to do it. They’re inspired to do it by the culture they have been in.

2020 was a year of addressing organizational concerns

Gordon probably booked more speaking gigs in 2020 than any year previously because all of the conferences and everything closed down. He ended up leading a program for Fujitsu and doing a few webinars as well.

And interesting thing was that it is a 100% remote program. Gordon has led hybrid teams, but now it was the first time when he never met anybody on the team.

Concerns that he heard across the board

  • Companies didn’t know how to lead virtual teams
  • They didn’t know how to handle the communications within the virtual teams.

“I don’t know” is not a leadership phrase

Gordon shared that a lot of leaders still don’t know how to handle the communications and are like, “when is remote work thing is going to be over? I don’t know.” I don’t know is not a leadership phrase. As leaders, we have to know that a lot of our employees have been struggling with communication. It is a leader’s responsibility to be able to come up with possible strategies that work for the future of the company.

We don’t know when COVID is going to be over. We can’t fix that. So, we should focus on the things that we can control and start to be positive and direct around that.

2020 is a year of disruption for every sector

The last three years 2017, 2018  and 2019 were probably the period of disruption and a lot of people were trying to be disruptive or being disrupted. And a lot of companies were saying that this would not work in our sector. 2020 has completely changed that landscape. 

Everybody’s been disrupted and a lot of people have got into that disruptive mindset of how we can do things differently, what are the possibilities, how do we drive cost down or drive revenue and how can we learn from this to benefit.

Leaders should start adapting to the new normal

Gordon has seen the evolution of leadership over the years. He said that it was 90%, command and control, and 10%, servant leadership and more inclusive. And over the years, he has seen that percentage come down. But there is still a 30-40% of people who are in command and control, and it doesn’t really work.

With COVID and remote working, command and control is dead in the water. Hence many leaders might be having to transition from command and control.

People are not working in the same office, same building, same consciousness and the same Time zones as well. So we have got to be much more inspiring and engaging leaders. 

It is important to add collaborative style of approach to your leadership

Gordon explained this well with a simple yet good example. Let’s say a guy wants to lose 20 pounds. The one way to coach him is that every Monday, you get him on the scales and look to see how much he weighs. This is a good way to get some detailed monitoring of his performance. Then use that metric to say if he is losing weight or gaining weight. 

Doing that in a supportive way is going to help him to become better.

However, If you just say, “ You’re fat, are you eating too much? If you get into accusatory and blame and punishing, then you’re just going to create disengagement.

Thus, leaders should never have a problem with performance measurement. If they do, it’s difficult for them to do the measurement.

Remote work culture has made leaders more empathetic

Gordon shared that a lot of the work he does with Fujitsu is audio. This forces his team to try and listen better, which then improves their listening, which is empathetic. 

Since he looks at things from a leadership lens filter, he tries to learn something from everything. 

He shared that one of his female co-workers that he works with whom he’d never seen, even on a video call but her voice sounded like she was always smiling. And then one day they did a video call. They got to see each other for the first time. Gordon shares,” She had a smile from ear to ear and I said to her that her smile is really engaging. She said, Yeah, but you’ve only got to see it now”.

With this incident, he realized the importance of smiling when talking, even if it’s just an audio call. This way we can get a lot more empathetic.


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Priya Bhatt

I cover Employee stories at Springworks.

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