Culture by Design is Now ---- The Leader Factor

The Leadership Journey Part One: Leads Self

Today, Tim and Junior kickoff a three-part series on the leadership journey: Leading yourself, leading the team, and leading the business. Today's episode is focused on leading yourself. Tim and Junior emphasize taking personal accountability and ownership of your own development. You'll hear insights on cultivating wellness, self-awareness, and a growth mindset. Tim and Junior also share their personal learning habits from consuming quality information across multiple mediums to embracing curiosity.

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Episode Show Notes

Today, Tim and Junior kickoff a three-part series on the leadership journey: Leading yourself, leading the team, and leading the business. Today's episode is focused on leading yourself. Tim and Junior emphasize taking personal accountability and ownership of your own development. You'll hear insights on cultivating wellness, self-awareness, and a growth mindset. Tim and Junior also share their personal learning habits from consuming quality information across multiple mediums to embracing curiosity.

Why LeaderFactor? (03:11) Tim shares the meaning behind LeaderFactor's name and founding. Leadership is the ultimate applied discipline, it's the factor that affects every aspect of your business.

Leadership and personal accountability (06:45) Without personal accountability, nothing happens. As an inside-out discipline, the demands you make of yourself will reflect the demands you make on your business. 

The nature of contribution (14:21) Tim and Junior share Paul Thompson and Gene Dalton's four levels of contribution. They explain how to move through these levels as you work to better lead yourself. To do so, you must own your own development.

How's your coachability? (29:14) Tim and Junior share the two things that everyone needs to improve to become better at leading themselves. The first is willingness, and the second is self-awareness.

Personal learning patterns (43:34) Listen to our hosts share their learning patterns, some of the things they do personally to learn and develop their skills. 

Episode Transcript


0:00:02.5 Freddy Shelton: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast. Today, Tim and Junior kickoff a three-part series on the leadership journey, leading yourself, leading the team, and finally leading the business. Today's episode is focused on leading yourself. Tim and Junior emphasize taking personal accountability and ownership of your own development. You'll hear insights on cultivating wellness, self-awareness, and a growth mindset. Tim and Junior also share their personal learning habits from consuming quality information across multiple mediums to embracing curiosity. As always, you can find detailed notes at But before we dive into the episode, I want to give you a quick invitation to join Tim and Junior live on February 22nd for a virtual webinar on the future of emotional intelligence. You don't won't want to miss this opportunity to directly interface with Tim and Junior and hear about what we've been cooking in the LeaderFactor factory. You'll walk away from the event with ways to immediately improve your emotional intelligence and a special gift at the end. You'll find a link to register for the event in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and enjoy today's episode on Leading Yourself.


0:01:27.0 Junior Clark: Welcome back everyone to Culture by Design. I'm Junior, here with my co-host, Dr. Tim Clark. And today we'll be diving into the first episode of a three-part series called The Leadership Journey. Tim, how are you doing?

0:01:38.4 Tim Clark: Doing great, Junior. Good to be with you. Looking forward to kicking off this series.

0:01:42.5 Junior Clark: Yeah, The Leadership Journey, what a title. We thought that this would be an appropriate series to put toward the beginning of the year to talk about the progression of leadership. And this is something that we've brought to organizations over many years and probably what we would teach your leaders if you invited us in. It's not comprehensive, let's say, but it will give you a place to start, it's a framework. We won't be sharing all the detail, but we'll paint with broad strokes in an effort to help orient you. And I think orient is probably the right word, just get your bearings as it relates to your leadership progress. And for those of you who help others in their leadership journeys, help them. So we hope that you enjoy and we hope that this is an appropriate start to the beginning of the year. So Tim, what do you think about the leadership journey? How might you frame it?

0:02:30.5 Tim Clark: Well, it makes me think of what Clayton Christensen would often say to his students. He would say, I'm not here to tell you what to think, but I'm here to teach you how to think. And so I think with this leadership journey is, we provide a framework, Junior. It will help listeners fill in the blanks, it will give you a tool to help you know how to think, how to think about your own leadership journey and the progress that you are making. So I think that's our goal, is to help people know and learn how to think about their own journeys.

0:03:11.6 Junior Clark: Well, I also think it's an appropriate start to the year, not least because of our name. And so it might be helpful at the beginning of the year to give people some reference. So our organization's name is LeaderFactor. Tim, how did you come up with that?

0:03:26.5 Tim Clark: Right. Well, I guess it was an epiphany one day. I think of leadership as the ultimate applied discipline. It's a factor in every decision, in every outcome, and no other applied discipline can make that claim. And so thus the name.

0:03:42.9 Junior Clark: Excellent. So our effort this year, hopefully, is to help each of you become a better leader. We aspire to become better leaders ourselves. And so, hopefully this series provides a little bit of context. Let's start off with a quote from Warren Bennis. The truth is, that major capacities and competencies of leadership can be learned, at least if the basic desire to learn is there. And we do not suffer from serious learning disorders. Furthermore, whatever natural endowments we bring to the role of leadership, they can be enhanced. Nurture is far more important than nature in determining who becomes a successful leader. What do you think about that quote?

0:04:24.7 Tim Clark: Well, it's a jumping off point Junior, isn't it? And it goes right to the heart of the nurture versus nature controversy. And Bennis is taking a stand and he's saying that this applied discipline that we call leadership is far more about nurture than nature. It's far more about your efforts and your desire to get better. And if you do have that deep commitment, you can get a lot better. We happen to agree with that. Isn't that true?

0:04:54.9 Junior Clark: It's absolutely true. And why are we framing this as a journey? Because there's a pathway. We're framing this as a journey because there's a path that includes three main parts. First is lead self, second is lead the team, and third is lead the business. And so we're going to be breaking this down into three parts, three series, one on lead self, which we're going to talk about today. One for lead the team, and three for leads the business. And so this is a roadmap. These are the three main milestones. They bleed into each other, but they are distinct. And this is the process that every leader must go through in order to get to the highest levels of contribution.

0:05:36.8 Tim Clark: I agree with that, Junior. If you think about these three parts or these three domains, lead self, leads the team, leads the business. There is a linear progression that moves through these three domains. Now, of course, you don't go through that progression and then arrive at a destination, which is leads the business. That's not how it works. It's iterative, and these domains are also mutually reinforcing. They affect each other, they overlap, they, as you say, they bleed into each other. But overall, there is a progression through these three. And I want to make a point here, Junior, if I may, as we begin this discussion. In fact, it's more than a point, it's a premise. It's a hypothesis that has been proved over and over to the point that we might say it's no longer a hypothesis. I think it's transitioned to the status of a law. Now, [chuckle] listen to what I just said. That's quite a claim. How many books on leadership contain the word law? But that's the word that I would like to use here.

0:06:45.5 Tim Clark: And here's the premise, or what I think we can confidently call a law. The first principle of leadership is personal accountability. This is the governing principle for leading self. This is where we begin, right? This is the first domain of leadership, but it's also the governing principle for leading the team and leading the business. It's pretty hard to argue against this premise. Let me go back to, what's the premise? The premise is, that the first principle of leadership is personal accountability. Without personal accountability, nothing happens, nothing at all happens. We are stuck, there's no progress. So this principle illustrates just how true it is that leadership is an inside-out discipline. It begins in the inner world with the empire of the heart. You begin the journey of leadership in the quiet chambers of your own soul. So you have to make a choice. If you want to be a better leader and do as Warren Bennis suggests, that you can get better through your own nurturing efforts, then you have to make a choice.

0:08:02.4 Tim Clark: And here's the choice as my friend and colleague Tony Daloisio likes to say, to take yourself on. That's how he says it. That's how he frames it. You have to make the choice to take yourself on. Your first project is yourself. You have to confront yourself. You have to take stock of yourself. And it's from that point that you make this journey and you begin. And if we looked at it as concentric circles journey, the innermost circle would be lead yourself. So we're going to start in that innermost circle, and then we're going to work out into, leads the team, and then leads the business. But we have to begin in that innermost circle. So I just wanted to start that way because it really is about taking yourself on.

0:08:53.7 Junior Clark: Well, and you can see what happens in the absence of personal accountability. And we don't want to go there. We can see that when we do it ourselves, we can see that in other people. And it's not where we want to be. So that's our invitation today. So take yourself on. As you listen and as you think, think about leading yourself as it relates to you, of course. And then for those of you whose job it is to help others along, which is many of the listeners of this podcast, think about how you might teach these principles to others to help them lead themselves. Because ultimately, that's so much of our job, is taking other people and helping them take accountability for their own lives and their own situations. So what does it mean to lead yourself? Tim, you've got a note in here about making high demands, right?

0:09:40.6 Tim Clark: I do. I just wanted to emphasize this point that leading self, the first domain, makes high demands. Leading self makes high demands of ourselves. Why? Well, let's go back to a statement by the great psychologist Albert Bandura. Actually, I'll paraphrase it, but he said, most learning is done observationally. So what does that mean? That means that we learn the most by watching others. We watch the modeling behavior of others, and we learn by imitating what we see. And so let's just think about this in the context of leadership. If you can't lead yourself, that means that you are not modeling in the right way to influence others who are learning observationally. So how can you possibly graduate and move from leading self to leads the team if you're not appropriately modeling, right? Because that's the primary way that you will lead a team, is through your modeling behavior. But you learn how to model in the first domain of leading self. Now, that may sound very simple. It is, it's profoundly simple, but it's not easy. But that's why it's impossible to move to the second domain unless you have first met some threshold requirement for leading yourself in the first domain.

0:11:13.2 Junior Clark: So what you're saying, if I'm hearing it correctly, is that if we never master lead self, that the behaviors that we exhibit that are dysfunctional as it relates to leading ourselves, will get perpetuated and modeled by other people because they're learning through observation by watching us.

0:11:29.3 Tim Clark: Exactly.

0:11:30.0 Junior Clark: Is that right?

0:11:30.6 Tim Clark: That's precisely the case.

0:11:32.4 Junior Clark: And you can see how dangerous that becomes in an organization. And many times we see this in organizations that we work with, where we will promote an individual contributor, and we'll talk about this throughout the series, that has not yet shown mastery of leading self. Maybe they've shown some technical competence in a specific area, and they do well as it relates to their role. And then we put them right into lead the team. And the behavior that others are modeling is now not healthy. And that gets perpetuated. And if you're selected based exclusively on performance in this niche area and not more broadly on your ability to manage yourself, that can get really dangerous for an organization, especially at scale.

0:12:17.2 Tim Clark: Well, Junior, think about the repercussions of elevating individuals to lead teams who have not yet learned how to lead themselves. As you say, their modeling behavior will get perpetuated to some degree, but it's not going to be the right kind. What is the net impact on everyone? Well, there's, this is where we get the cynicism and the disillusionment, right? This is where people, they lose trust, they lose confidence, they become jaded. That's what happens when you try to move to the second domain and you're not ready. And we see examples of this all around us. And unfortunately we see it with actually a lot of leaders who are in high profile leadership positions and they haven't yet learned to lead themselves. So the repercussions are far reaching and they're profound.

0:13:12.4 Junior Clark: I think one of the principles here is that there's nothing that can compensate for a deficiency here. And I think that that's often what organizations get wrong. Well, if you're technically good enough, then we'll go ahead and move you along, even though you have some liabilities here. But what we are saying is that there is no compensatory factor. There's no compensating skill that covers up a deficiency in leading yourself. And so I think this is an important place to emphasize and to think about as it relates to ourselves and to other people, because this really is where we need to spend a lot of our time. And as you'll see throughout the series, we never graduate from this. And so I appreciate the fact that Tim laid this out as concentric circles and not as points on a line. They're not points on a line. We never graduate from this. And it's something that I think we do to our own detriment. As we move increasingly higher in the hierarchy in an organization, we often lose sight of this. And so it's probably the most important thing a leader could do in an ongoing way, is to make sure that these things are buttoned up.

0:14:21.1 Junior Clark: Okay. So let's talk about the nature of contribution. And we want to give some credit to Paul Thompson and Gene Dalton. And we're going to talk about the four levels of contribution because it works really nicely with lead self, lead team, lead the business. So the first level of contribution, level one, is contributing dependently. Now, what characterizes this phase? You willingly accept supervision, you demonstrate success on a portion of a large project or task, you master basic and routine tasks, you show directed creativity and initiative, you learn how we do things as a team, you obtain essential resources. So that's level one, contributing dependently, and that's where we all start. This is inside of lead self. So inside lead self, we have dependent contribution, which is where we all must begin. Tim, anything you'd add to this stage?

0:15:18.8 Tim Clark: Yeah, this is path...

0:15:19.7 Junior Clark: The level?

0:15:20.9 Tim Clark: This goes back, Junior, to path-breaking research that, as you said, Paul Thompson and Gene Dalton did when they were at the Harvard Business School, I believe in the late 1960s. And they studied a lot of technical people, engineers, people that had science-based jobs and roles where they needed a lot of technical competency. And as you say that, that contributing dependently, that first level, it requires you to get good at those things, to develop the technical depth and be able to perform those tasks well and become competent in that way. But you're still dependent, right? You're learning, you're in a learning mode, you're contributing meaningfully, but it's still dependently. I think that's what characterizes this first level.

0:16:13.4 Junior Clark: When we graduate from dependent contribution, you can imagine what comes next, independent contribution. So that's level two, contributing independently. At this point, we assume responsibility for definable projects. So the buck stops with us on a few things. We develop broad business perspective, not as narrow as we were in dependent contribution. We stimulate others through ideas and knowledge. We develop credibility and reputation. I think that one is interesting. We build a strong internal network of relationships, and sponsors are promising these individuals to prepare them for leadership roles. So that's where we're at with independent contribution. This is inside lead self. These are the two of the four levels of contribution that live inside lead self. Then in level three, we have contributing through others and then contributing strategically is level four. And we'll get to those in the other episodes. But it's important that we recognize this progression. It may seem obvious, but that's the beauty of these frameworks that we're going through, is once we understand the nature of contribution, once we understand the progression of leadership, we can do a few things.

0:17:26.2 Junior Clark: We can see where we are in that journey and where we might need to go next in order to get to the next stage. And we can do that with other people. When we see someone else come in to the organization, we're going to say, "Okay. What's your responsibility to lead yourself?" And we're going to start off where? In dependent contribution. And these are the things that are going to characterize your contribution over the first little while. And where do we want to move you? We want to move you to level two independent contribution. And hey, you know what? If you stick around long enough and you do what you need to do, you're going to eventually contribute through others, which means this and this, and then contribute strategically. So you're giving people a vision of what the future might look like, what it might include, and probably some of the steps that they're going to need to take to get there. And so for me, this is incredibly useful because it gives us a map and it says, "Okay. You are here." with a little dot. And then it has this dotted line of where we can go if we apply ourselves. Now, that's oversimplifying things, but it might not be. This is what has to happen.

0:18:31.0 Tim Clark: Junior, here's a great way to think about it. And so for listeners, I want you to think about a capital letter T. All right? If you write a capital letter T, how are you taught in school to write that letter? You're taught to start at the top and write a vertical line from top to bottom. So you're going to go, you're going to start at one point and you're going to go down. That represents developing depth in what you do. This is what you're doing in level one as you're contributing dependently, you're learning your skills, you're learning technical, so you're creating depth. So you're drawing that line that goes from the top to the bottom. Now, why do you do that? Because depth precedes breadth. What's the second line that you add then to create that capital letter T. So you draw your line from top to bottom, you bring your hand back up, and you go from left to right, and you draw a horizontal line across the top to complete that capital letter T. That horizontal line represents breadth that comes in level two after you have first established your technical depth.

0:19:50.7 Tim Clark: So the breadth always follows the depth. Why? Well, you've got to gain credibility and you've got to get good at something. Before anyone is going to listen to you, before you can develop your own confidence, your own sense of self-efficacy, and then just the confidence in others. Then the credibility that you can work with people in a meaningful way and that you can carry your weight. Isn't that interesting, Junior? How that T model of career development really summarizes it nicely? Let's begin with the depth and then let's add the breadth. And if you think about career development, that is the typical way that careers develop. You don't generally come in or begin a career as a generalist. You don't begin by developing breadth and then developing depth in a particular area. I suppose that that could be true later on in a career. But typically the breadth comes before, or the depth comes before the breadth.

0:20:56.5 Junior Clark: You'll probably do some exploration at the beginning. Right?

0:21:00.4 Tim Clark: Yeah.

0:21:00.9 Junior Clark: So you're not going to build a ton of breadth, but you'll experience some different things. And I think that that's advisable so that you can see what you're good at and what you're interested in, see what your aptitudes are, and then you dive in on that. But I agree, and one of the things that has been most gratifying for me, is working on some of the breadth and the depth too. I guess, we're always going to want to go a little bit deeper and a little bit more broad, but it helps you see things holistically. And that's one of the other, I guess, pieces of this idea is that the leverage that you have goes up as you go through these stages of contribution and the nature of your contribution changes. You move from tactical work, short-term work that's execution driven, and you move to more strategic, more organizational issues that are longer term and holistic. And so if you attack a long-term strategic organizational issue with just depth, it's not going to go well because you're not going to be able to see the forest from the trees.

0:22:06.6 Junior Clark: You need to be able to see how the parts work together. You're going to have to see how the functions work together. All of the people that are included in this particular decision, you're going to have to be able to forecast out potential consequences intended, unintended. And we'll talk about that in episode three when we get to lead the business. But the nature of your contribution does change as you move through these steps of contribution. Okay. So lead self, why does everyone not do this perfectly? Why is this not something that we can just check off? One of the things here that has to be true, is that no one can do the work for you. And that's the premise of a lot of the rest of what we're going to talk about today. So Tim, you mentioned personal accountability. That's where leadership starts. Put another way, no one can do the work for you, yet many rely on the organization to help move them along.

0:23:05.5 Tim Clark: Yeah, they do.

0:23:06.5 Junior Clark: And they believe that it's the job, the role, the responsibility of the organization to grab them and just move them through and push them through. But that's not the best way to do it, is it?

0:23:21.3 Tim Clark: No, it's not. And so this brings us, Junior, to a second premise about leadership development in general and professional development in general. And the premise is that you are primarily responsible for your own development. You must own your own development. The organization, the institution, the team, whatever organization or social collective that you may be a part of, they may be able to help you. And you may have a great boss and there may be training, and there may be resources, and there may be opportunities, and there may be responsibilities, and there may be projects. All of these things may be available to you. So rich opportunities, but ultimately you are responsible for your own development, and you can never shift that responsibility to another person or an institution. If you do that, then you're putting your entire personal and professional development in jeopardy. So this is a very important premise.

0:24:29.3 Tim Clark: We don't shift that burden, we don't transfer that responsibility to anyone else or anything else. You are and forever will be primarily responsible for your own development. Now, sometimes people, they, I don't know how it happens, but they get mixed up, they get confused, and they develop a mentality and an attitude and a mindset that says, "Well, teach me, train me. Tell me what I need to do. Tell me what I need to learn. Tell me what I need, where I need to go. Feed me."

0:25:04.5 Junior Clark: Feed me.

0:25:04.6 Tim Clark: Feed me. This is an attitude of dependency and learned helplessness. And as we say, Junior, and this goes, this obviously connects into the way that we learn and the way that we approach learning. We advocate a learning disposition and mindset where you are agile and self-directed, and you're not reliant upon the institution. You don't develop learning welfare where you rely on the institution to carry you along, the machinery of the institution to carry you along. That's so dangerous. And yet we see individuals that do this. I don't know if they're always consciously doing it, probably not. But this is something where you have to become incredibly intentional and you take full control and you take 100% responsibility for your own development. It's not something you can delegate. It's not something you can slough off to anyone else. So that has to be clear from the beginning as a premise for personal and professional development.

0:26:14.6 Junior Clark: It's worth each of us taking a second and asking that question and seeing what the answer is. What do you think as it relates to your own development, whose responsibility is it? Do you really believe that it's your own responsibility? That's an issue worth thinking through. It's an issue worth chewing on.

0:26:33.2 Tim Clark: It is, Junior. And let's ask a follow-up question. So we could ask people, do you believe that you are primarily responsible for your own development? And I dare say that most people would raise their hands and say, "Yes, I do. Sure. I'm with you." Okay. Here's the second question. What are your patterns? If we shadow you for a week, what do we see in terms of the way that you learn, the way that you grow, the way that you develop, the way that you interact, the way that you engage? Would we see behavioral patterns that support that point of view? Would we see that? We should. We should be able to see the behavioral evidence that that is how you approach your personal and professional development. We should be able to see it on a daily basis as you take responsibility, as you take initiative, as you are intentional and deliberate about identifying skill and knowledge and competency gaps and closing those gaps, giving yourself, setting goals for development and learning, giving yourself informal curriculum, whatever that may look like, whether it's experiential, whether it's reading and watching and listening, whatever it may be. But we should be able to find some evidence that you are being purposeful about your own development. We should be able to see that.

0:28:14.3 Junior Clark: Yeah, we have an assessment. It's a small self-assessment that we'll share in just a couple of minutes to ask some questions about your own learning habits. So stay tuned. So what we're saying here is that for most the learning habits are deficient, and that's often the gap between where someone is and being able to adequately lead themselves over the long-term. So how do we combat this? Now, there are a whole host of things that we could say, dozens and dozens and dozens that would be right on the money. But we've picked just two, two things as things that almost everyone, if not everyone, could improve to become better at leading themselves. And the first one that we picked is be coachable. Now, there's a lot behind, be coachable, and we're going to unpack it for you. We have a coachability assessment that looks at two factors.

0:29:14.9 Junior Clark: We may have mentioned this before in previous episodes. The first is willingness, and the second is self-awareness. So if you think about that as a four-box model, you have your two axis. Willingness, let's say, is on the Y-axis, and self-awareness is on the X-axis. If you're high high, we say that you're accelerating. If you have high willingness and low self-awareness, we say that you're progressing. So let's stop here for a second because that may have thrown some people. High willingness, but low self-awareness progressing. Why did you put that label progressing, Tim, on high willingness, low self-awareness?

0:29:53.4 Tim Clark: Well, I think you can, if you have that combination right, you're willing, but you're not very self-aware. You're likely going to continue to make progress, but you're not accelerating, you're not going as as fast as you can, because your low self-awareness is a limiting factor. So it's slowing you down, but it's not, you're not grinding to a halt. You haven't stopped, you're continuing. But that low self-awareness is the bottleneck in your progress. Is that fair?

0:30:29.3 Junior Clark: Yeah. I remember the first time I saw this model, progressing surprised me. It was surprisingly positive. I thought high willingness, low self-awareness. Why do we not have something more negative? If you look at the other combination, low willingness, high self-awareness, we label that with limping. I thought that that was an interesting label. But the more I thought about it, "Okay. Which of those would I rather have willingness or self-awareness, or which of those would I rather someone else have if I'm coaching them?" Let's put it that way. I would rather they be willing. Because self-awareness in and of itself is not valuable. It's only valuable if we can act on what we're aware of. So if we are self-aware but not willing to do anything about it, we're going to halt, we're going to limp. Now, if I bring a bunch of willingness, I can overcome a lot of other deficiencies and I can work on that awareness and I can work with other people and I can figure out what it is that's holding me back. Willingness, it is really difficult for a high willingness person to not get better. So it's like impossible.

0:31:41.9 Tim Clark: I think that's true.

0:31:42.5 Junior Clark: I've seen this before, where you might have someone who is not the sharpest that you've ever seen, or they don't have the awareness of some people that you've worked with, but they come every day with high willingness, they just get better. They just get better.

0:32:00.4 Tim Clark: Yeah.

0:32:00.5 Junior Clark: And they keep doing it over and over. And then the last combination here is low, low, which is just failing. That's the label that we put there. Low willingness, low self-awareness. That is not a combination any of us wants to have.

0:32:12.1 Tim Clark: No.

0:32:13.1 Junior Clark: And hopefully, hopefully we don't, never will. [chuckle]

0:32:15.1 Tim Clark: Junior, I want to go back to what you said. I think it bears repeating a little bit for listeners, so that this is clear in your mind. Willingness can debottleneck low self-awareness. Now, let me say that again. If you have high willingness, but you're not very self-aware, it's low. Over time, your high willingness will debottleneck, it will release, it will actually increase that low self-awareness, but it does not work in the reverse order necessarily. Low self-awareness does not, or high self-awareness does not debottleneck low willingness. Does that make sense? Because your willingness is your will. It's your free will, it's your volition, it's your agency to choose to get better. So it works in one direction.

0:33:14.5 Junior Clark: One of the points here, that I was thinking a lot about in preparation, was that you will not always have the luxury of a coach on the other side. So when I say be coachable, what probably comes to mind to most people is allow other people to coach you. But that's not what I'm saying in its entirety. I'm also saying be coachable to yourself. Many of us, if we're going to take responsibility for our own development, cannot wait for a coach to be on the other side. We can't wait for a mentor or an advisor or a friend to be on the other side. We need to take stock of where we are. We need to open up the aperture, increase the self-awareness, and increase the willingness, and then do our own coaching. So think about the best athletes who have ever lived. They get to a point where they coach themselves. Now, I'm confident they would welcome the healthy criticism of anybody as long as it's warranted. But the best of the best are able to tweak their inputs based on the results that they see.

0:34:28.3 Junior Clark: So what does that mean for you? What does that mean for me? It means that in a social interaction, if I'm dealing with other people, I should have the awareness to observe the interaction. I see the consequences, I see that this thing went really well, this thing didn't, and then I can come back and I can say, "Okay. Here were my inputs. This one was deficient. I didn't come with the right intent. I didn't spend enough time, I didn't... " whatever the case may be. And then I coach myself and I say, "Junior, hey, that didn't go as well as it could have. What can you do to change it?" Well, this, this, and this. So what does that mean? It means that we probably need to develop the willingness and the self-awareness and even higher doses if we're going to coach ourselves, because we don't have the luxury of deferring that to somebody else. So it's our responsibility to develop these traits and then coach ourselves.

0:35:15.2 Tim Clark: Think about a time Junior, and for all the listeners, think about a time in your life when you felt that you were plateauing in terms of your personal development, your professional development. You had reached a plateau and you didn't feel that you were progressing or getting any better. If you analyze that experience, what are you likely to find? Go right back to these dimensions of willingness and self-awareness. And inevitably you're going to find that you're bottlenecked on one or the other or both. That's what locks you in to a place, that's how you get high-centered. That's how you get stuck. And then how did you get unstuck to resume your journey of development? Well, at some point you had to increase your willingness and your self-awareness so that you could get going again and generate some new momentum and start growing. But there's no other way. So that's just pause and do a little self-reflection there.

0:36:20.1 Junior Clark: I would venture to guess that for most of us, it's a willingness issue. It's not an awareness issue. And I've thought a lot about this, especially, as it relates to me and my own development. Where do I think I fall? And I think for many of us, if we took five minutes and asked ourselves, what are the things that we're doing that are bottlenecking us as leaders? You'd be able to write down a list. Almost, I guarantee that 99% of those listening, myself included, we wouldn't have to stop writing in that five minutes.

0:37:00.2 Tim Clark: [chuckle] no.

0:37:01.8 Junior Clark: We would be able to create quite a list. Okay. So what does that mean? That means it is not an awareness issue. It means that we know exactly what we need to do. We know exactly what we need to work on. It's a willingness issue. Why? Okay. So why are all of those things that we just wrote down still issues? Because the things on that list were probably going to be on that list a week ago and probably six months ago, maybe it was a slightly different list a year ago. But how can we get to the point that we just keep crossing those things off the list? We'll always have a list, but how do we keep that list rotating? How do we keep that list smaller and smaller and smaller bottlenecks? It's willingness. And so I think that that's an appropriate invitation for all of us to think about why is this such a willingness issue, what is it that's holding us back from having a little exercising a little bit more will and improving. And there are a lot of reasons, I think that we do what we do, and there are reasons that those things that are on the list stay on the list. But I think it's a healthy invitation for each of us to exert a little bit more will against that list and we get a little bit better.

0:38:11.2 Tim Clark: Yeah. Well, Junior, we could do an entire separate episode on motivational psychology and what gets in the way of greater willingness and being willing to just put forth the exertion that's required.

0:38:26.1 Junior Clark: Yeah. Well, we need to decrease our tolerance for the things on that list. And how do we do that? And maybe that is worth an episode, but we need to decrease the tolerance, 'cause as long as there's tolerance for those things, we're going to keep seeing them in ourselves. Okay. So that is number one, be coachable. Number two, never stop learning. So I mentioned an assessment. We've given this assessment to many Fortune 500 leaders, it's short, we use it as part of a workshop. And I want to read from these items, a few of them, I won't go through 10. And I want you to think about the answers. To what degree do I identify my own learning needs before the organization does it for me? To what degree do I have a personal learning plan that is independent from the organization? To what degree do I enthusiastically seek and embrace feedback? How collaborative am I in my approach to learning? How self-directed am I in my learning habits? How often am I re-learning? To what degree do I experiment and try things as a way to learn? To what degree do I use failure as an opportunity to learn? How confident am I in saying, I don't know? And to what degree do I incorporate learning into my daily life and natural workflow? So, Tim, what are some of the answers you've seen? What are some of the patterns that you've seen as people respond to these questions?

0:39:49.6 Tim Clark: Well, I think, here's my experience. When people take this self-assessment the first time through as they're going through these questions and reflecting on them, they engage in what I would call the first layer of analysis, and it's kind of a superficial encounter with these questions. And they think, "Oh, yeah, I do this or I don't do that, or I'm pretty good at that." And then what I'll often say is, "Okay. That's nice. Let's go back again and let's dig a little deeper, let's really explore what you do behaviorally. You may think that you're doing pretty well, but let's plumb the depths of your patterns, your actual behavioral patterns, you're learning patterns on a daily basis." and once you dig deep, I think, this is where people start to have aha moments, they often will have an epiphany about what they're not doing. And they kind of assume that they were doing a pretty good job, but in actuality they're really not doing it, or at least they're not doing it consistently. But let's just take the first question, to what degree do I identify my own learning needs before the organization does it for me? When was the last time that you sat down and really took inventory of your learning needs and you preemptively identified those?

0:41:19.0 Tim Clark: Assume that you would need those or you can forecast the fact that you will probably need a certain skill or competency in your role, but the organization is not tapping you on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, you need to learn this, you need to become skilled in this." you're doing it ahead of time. That's just the first question. So think about the time and effort and reflection and analysis that could go in to a thoughtful response to that first question. Let's take the second question. To what degree do I have a personal learning plan that is independent from the organization? Again, this would be evidence that you are taking primary responsibility for your own learning development, and the evidence of that is that you have a learning plan that you put together independent of the organization and you're pursuing that. Those are just the first two questions, Junior. And I won't slog through the rest, but these questions raise some pretty significant issues and they dig deep, they're penetrating questions, and they get to the heart of an individual's learning disposition and learning habits. Either you are doing these things or you're not. So that's what happens when people spend some time with this.

0:42:46.9 Junior Clark: Yeah. At a first glance, you might brisk through them and say, "Oh yeah, I've learned enough." that's often what I'll see, is people saying, "Yeah, I know enough to do my job well, and if there's updates to the way that things are done around here, I'm pretty on top of that." But it's not enough. It's so dynamic that if you do not identify your own learning needs before the organization does, your skill set will become obsolete and that'll become increasingly true. And of course, that's dependent upon where we are and what we're doing, but I think it's more true than ever. So, Tim, I wanted to take some time and put you on the spot for a second.

0:43:31.5 Tim Clark: Oh, really.

0:43:34.5 Junior Clark: I wanted to ask you, what are some of your learning patterns? Because you strike me as someone who has some. I know you do, which is why I wanted to take a couple of minutes and just ask, what are some of your learning patterns and what do you do in response to some of these principles owning your own development? Becoming T-shaped your approach to learning, saying, "I don't know." tell me about some of your patterns and some things that you do personally to learn?

0:44:06.9 Tim Clark: Okay. Well, so I read, I read a lot, and one of the things that I do is, when I read I don't, sometimes I read very carefully and slowly, other times I skim, but I try to harvest what I'm reading and then I try to apply it. And so I have this pattern, Junior, where I do highlights and then I'll go back and review my highlights and I'll take notes from those highlights and those notes go into file. It's what I call the gristmill file, where I have notes and observations and insights that I gather. And another thing I do is at the end of the year, I'll go through all the books that I've read, and I will try to synthesize and distill out the critical insights that I glean from each one. I'm actually doing that right now. So that's something that I do, especially, with... Yeah, and reading. And then I try to read in a balanced way, and I try to read broadly way beyond my home disciplines, so that I can try to make sense of things. And then I try to be balanced and dispassionate and objective about it. So if I'm reading The Wall Street Journal, which I do, I also read the New York Times, because I need to get an impartial view of what's going on, and I need to be able to do my own thinking, and that means I need to understand arguments on both sides.

0:45:40.4 Tim Clark: For example, it might be a political issue. So I do that. There are periodicals and journals that I subscribe to and I read very consistently. Another thing though, beyond that, is I'm trying to become a better questioner. I'm trying to get better at inquiry. We talk about the fact that if you ask a what question or a why question or a how question, that you're transferring the most critical thinking responsibility to the person or persons that you're engaged with, and that's true. And so I'm trying to become a better asker of questions, to ask more thoughtful, more penetrating, more revealing questions. So that's another thing that I'm trying to do. And then in our day and age, Junior, it's amazing what's available in terms of video. That medium has become so massive, and as I say, the biggest barrier to learning today is not access for most people in the world. Now, I know that it's still access for about one-third of the world's population, because based on recent data, one-third of the world's population is still not connected to the internet, did you know that? Pretty incredible.

0:47:04.2 Junior Clark: A third?

0:47:05.3 Tim Clark: Yeah, a third. Yeah, one-third. And so their primary barrier, in many cases, is still access. But for the rest of the world's population, the primary barrier is often not access, it's motivation, everything is accessible. It's at your fingertips. It's the motivation that becomes the barrier. And so I try to remind myself of that, and that helps me to be very grateful for the learning assets and the information and the resources that are available to me. And so that's something that I try to think about a lot. And I could go on and on, Junior, but there's a couple of points there for you.

0:47:49.2 Junior Clark: No, that's awesome, that's fantastic. I'll add a couple too, that one of the things that's been really useful to me is, if you put an umbrella statement on it, would be to consume quality information. Now, there's a lot of information out there, most of it is not quality. And so over time, for me, I've found a few different channels through a few different mediums that work well for me. So newsletters, newsletters is what I use to keep up on just the day-to-day, and I try to spend as little time there as I possibly can while still staying somewhat informed. It's important to stay apprised of macro level issues but you don't want to spend too much time there, in my opinion. Blogs, there are some really, really great blogs and sub-stacks out there of thought leaders that I like to keep reading. And then three, is one that I think it gets glossed over a lot, which is why I put it here, which is history. Most of us do not know our history as well as we should, and there's so much to be learned. Most of what could ever be done by any human has already been done and talked about. Not a lot of new principles, right? We're just not good at remembering things as humans. And so history is a very, very useful category of reading for me. Biographies as well, I'll put that in the same category, is to reading biographies to just see what other people have done, how other people have lived, and the way that they've made decisions across time.

0:49:23.1 Junior Clark: We're in a unique place in this day and age, but so were they when they were alive. It was a unique time and place for them, and the things that they had seen every day, or we're seeing on the day-to-day hadn't been seen before, and we forget that. And so we think our time is so novel. Yeah, well, so has every year been since the beginning of time for everyone who experienced that year. And so people have done amazing things, that is important to read about them. And they've done some horrible things, it's important to read about those too. Podcasts, that's another medium that I really love. Podcast, an interesting one. I'll give you some others that are a little bit less straightforward. One that came to mind that I've made a pattern over the last, quite a few years actually, is asking other people, especially those who have done things that I haven't done or are further ahead of me in the timeline. I'll ask, what's one thing you wish you knew when you were 40? Or what's one thing you wish you knew that you just barely learned? I've learned more from that in like a five-second question than thousands and thousands of pages of books.

0:50:29.9 Junior Clark: People are wise, many people are wise and they may be wise even if they don't know it, just through their own experience and they have little gems that you can uncover if you ask them questions like that. That's been very useful to me. And then two more things. One is use AI. AI, I know it gets talked about a lot, but as a learning tool, there's almost nothing better because you can tune all of your prompts to your own learning style, and so that makes it amazing, in my opinion. If there's something that I don't know, that's the first place that I go to try and learn more. And then the final thing that I'll say is, be curious. I have the great privilege of having kids who are curious, kids are curious by nature, and it's been just a wonderful reminder to me over the years to see life through their eyes and ask obvious questions. What is that? How many times have I heard that question in recent years? What is that? Why? Why? Why? Why? I don't know, I don't know, but let's find out.

0:51:38.9 Tim Clark: And don't stop asking.

0:51:40.5 Junior Clark: Yeah. And then I think asking those types of questions are so helpful, is so helpful to all of us. How does a refrigerator work? I don't know. Go find out, go ask. How does photosynthesis work again? Go ask again. And so those types of things help me just continue to have a learning mindset, asking obvious questions, asking basic questions about stuff that has nothing to do with what I'm doing at the moment. What kind of a bird is that? Or how do they make asphalt? Or how do you put the best sirloin on a steak? There are just all of these things that you can learn about if you want to, if you want to apply yourself. And just making that a habit, I think is a useful thing. So I'm on a monologue, so I'll stop, but those are a couple of things, food for thought too.

0:52:29.2 Tim Clark: I love that. Well, Junior, it all comes back to this first domain of leadership, which is to lead yourself. And as we said at the beginning, the premises, that all leadership begins with the principle of personal accountability. If that accountability is there, then you will willingly debottleneck, your low self-awareness and your low willingness and you will make progress. That's where it begins. It begins in the inner world and the empire of the heart. So I just want to come back to that, that's really the premise for the first domain of leading yourself.

0:53:07.2 Junior Clark: Yeah. Well, I very much appreciate the conversation today, Tim. Next episode, we will be talking about lead the team, and after that we're going to be talking about lead the business. So tune in to those episodes, I think you'll find them very useful. So with that we'll say thank you everyone for your time, your attention. We appreciate your listenership very much. We're grateful for all of the work that you do in the world and we are here to support you. We will see you next episode. Bye-bye.


0:53:37.4 Freddy Shelton: Hey, Culture by Design, listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You can find all the important links from today's episode at And if you found today's episode helpful and useful in any way, please share it with a friend and leave a review. If you'd like to learn more about LeaderFactor and what we do, then please visit us at Lastly, if you'd like to give any feedback to the Culture by Design podcast or even request a topic from Tim and Junior, then reach out to us at or find and tag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture something you do by design not by default.


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