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 in 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 the culture that workplaces should build and 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 one of the Top 10 Leadership Experts, Speakers, and Trainers in the World by Global Gurus.

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 of a workspace. It sets the expectations and 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, “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 on the plan to set back because they know the expectations from there.

And this is where culture drives excellence. It may sound negative, 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 and perform better. They’re not told, \ but inspired to do so 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 other year because all of the conferences closed down. He ended up leading a program for Fujitsu and doing a few webinars as well.

And the interesting thing is that all of them were 100% remote. Gordon has generally led hybrid teams, but this was the first time when he never met anybody from the team.

Concerns that he heard across the board were:

  • 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 shares that many leaders still don’t know how to handle communication. Their answers to basic questions can be a simple, “I don’t know” Gordon feels that, “I don’t know” is not a leadership phrase. As leaders, we have to be aware of the fact 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.

Nobody knows when the pandemic is going to be over. 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 either trying to be disruptive or being disrupted. A Lot of companies felt that this would not work in their sector. 2020 has completely changed that landscape. 

Everybody’s been disrupted and a lot of people have got into that mindset of doing things differently, \the possibilities, \driving down costs  and learning from this.

Leaders should start adapting to the new normal

Gordon has observed the evolution of leadership over the years. He explained how earlier, it was 90% command and control, and 10% leadership. However, over the years, he has seen that percentage coming down. But there are still  30-40% of people who are in command and control, and it doesn’t really work.

With the pandemic and remote working, command and control is dead in the water. Many leaders are having to transition from command and control.

People are not working in the same office, same building, same consciousness, and possibly the same time zones as well. So we need 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, considering the situation of a a guy who wants to lose 20 pounds. One way can be coaching him and keeping a regular check on his weight. This is a good way to get some detailed monitoring of his performance. However, if the only way to coach him would be to accuse him and ask him to stop eating much, then you are just going to create disengagement.

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

Thus, leaders should never have a problem with performance measurement. If they do, it’s difficult for them to do the measurement, that is, to make the employees perform better.

Remote work culture has made leaders more empathetic

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

His curiosity to learn from everything is a result of him looking at things from a leadership lens filter. 

He shares the story of one of the female co-workers that he works with. Even though he’d never seen her face, her voice sounded like she was always smiling. One day, through 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.’”

Through this incident, he realized the importance of smiling when talking, even in a simple audio call. This way we can get a lot more empathetic.

Follow Gordon Tredgold on LinkedIn

Priya Bhatt

I cover Employee stories at Springworks.

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