Scope - Design - Deliver

The Leadership Nomad

Kyle Hegarty is the founder and CEO of Leadership Nomad, he’s coach, speaker and a marketing expert also the author of The Accidental Business Nomad. In this episode we can learn about:

  • How to lead in a shrinking world
  • Invisible culture can trip us all up
  • Local geographical cultural awareness is so key global success
  • Global communication styles differ, adapt or else.

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Full Transcript Below





Steve Rush: Some call me Steve, dad, husband or friend. Others might call me boss, coach or mentor. Today you can call me The Leadership Hacker.

Thanks for listening in. I really appreciate it. My job as the leadership hacker is to hack into the minds, experiences, habits and learning of great leaders, C-Suite executives, authors and development experts so that I can assist you developing your understanding and awareness of leadership. I am Steve Rush and I am your host today. I am the author of Leadership Cake. I am a transformation consultant and leadership coach. I cannot wait to start sharing all things leadership with you.

Kyle Hegarty is a special guest on today’s show. He’s a CEO of Leadership Nomad. He’s a coach, speaker and a marketing expert and author of The Accidental Business Nomad. But before we get a chance to speak with Kyle, it’s The Leadership News.

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: When we’re all feeling a little down, a good bounce of laughter could be just a tonic to lift our spirits and improve our wellbeing. And it can also help you close business deals too. But ask the question. Do you really need humour to get your message across? Once the pressure’s off, you may find that jokes grow organically just from the conversation. We hacked happiness with Nick Marks on episode 18. And now just want to think about how can humour play out in a virtual world? Particularly if we are working across cultures. We often make the mistake of thinking that humour is performative, but we need to think it was something much more clever, more provocative, and something that actually makes sense. In the way that we communicate. Most people are just predisposed to finding things funny and given the chance we all want to have a laugh. This means that the thought required to make a situation funny is a lot less intensive than you might think, but we do need to be thoughtful of how that plays out across cultures, given the diverse range of cultural differences in humour, it’s difficult to imagine that there is a universal formula that makes sense of the world.

Over at the Humor Research Lab at the University of Boulder in Colorado, they’ve managed to take a convincing crack at putting this right, Peter McGraw was behind the research and he has a great Ted talk by the way, that illustrates that anything funny has two components in it. It must be unthreatening and it must subvert your expectations. If you take away jokes, benign nature, or this element of surprise, you end up with something that’s unfunny at best, and sometimes downright creepy. If you are looking to introduce Humor into your work, McGraw formula is a great place to start.


What surprises people from place to place and from culture to culture can be very different. So, let’s jump into explore how some of the different cultures impact in the way jokesters can get things right or wrong. We asked a handful of 10 people from different countries and cultures, how they would describe humor at their home. So, their answers provide a really interesting insight, how humor lands in different cultures, but more than this helps us to understand how a universal communication can be impacted. Humor here in Britain tends to be focused ourselves. We love to have a good laugh at ourselves and it’s delivered usually at the expense of the teller. We also tend to lean towards deep levels of irony and jokes that push the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable. Asking my kids if I’m a great dad joke teller. Hey, did you hear about the guy who had his entire left side cut off? Well, he’s all right now! Yeah, that’s exactly why I’m not on the stage.

In France, Spain and Austria, regional satire is extremely popular. Fuelled usually by competitive relationships. Germany, political satire and social taboos are often at the crux of comedy. Polish people love bitter and sarcastic jokes, and the subtleties are often lost on other nationalities. All of these different approaches to humor are interesting, but one thing that binds us is satire. If you go to Russia, Russian humor is tightly bound to subtleties of the language can often be extremely difficult to translate. In Asia comedies often deeply rooted in language, has such a vast linguistic difference that pervades across the Asian continent could be different in any one of the two countries, even next door. An example, in China, jokes are often deeply embedded into the multi-level of meanings in the words, in the writing systems.

And then we get to USA and Canada and both a hugely influential in the field of entertainment and have a diverse range of different comedic styles. In general, though, you can expect the humor from the US to be fast-paced with a lot derived from stereotypes and ethnic differences. And American humor loves to play on the absurdity of seemingly normal events. Whereas Canada often focuses on the light satire, the irony and the parody. South America, Brazilians might describe the humorous, sarcastic, dry, or in touch with the dark side, whilst in Mexico, mockery is used as a way to break down differences and tensions and Argentina humor, by contrast, is littered with references to their history and their national identity. So, in summary, humor is an intensely human habit. It’s our way of showing affection, breaking down boundaries and sharing common belief systems while satire having some fun. So, if you are going to introduce humor to your conversation, through communication, just be thoughtful of how that lands in the nation you’re sharing it with. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. If you have any news, funny stories or insights, please get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Kyle Hegarty is our special guest on the show today. He’s the Managing Director of Leadership Nomad. He’s an entrepreneur, a business coach and author of The Accidental Business Nomad. Kyle, welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Kyle Hegarty: Good morning, good evening, wherever you are, wherever we are.

Steve Rush: We’re speaking to you in Singapore today?

Kyle Hegarty: I’m in Sunny Singapore. Not a bad way to start the week.

Steve Rush: Yeah, awesome. So, Kyle, you’ve been referred to as the Indiana Jones of international business. How did you get to where you are now?

Kyle Hegarty: First of all, I’ve been quietly accepting credit for that, but the actual quote was this book is the Indiana Jones of international business. It was in reference to the book that I wrote, not necessarily about me, but I guess I can take credit. I, don’t know, you know, you take the compliments when you get it. You know, I’ve been doing international focused work for nearly 20 years. I packed up and moved from the United States to Southeast Asia here in Singapore, back in 2006. And for many people who do work in Singapore, they know that it’s really kind of a stopping ground to do work elsewhere. We’re a tiny little dot of a city state here of about 5-6 million people. While this is a nice little place, most of the action is outside of Singapore. So, it becomes a bit of a hub to hop around and I’ve been hopping around some somewhat interesting places ever since. And I think some of the stories that we can get into later might aluminate that.

Steve Rush: So, what was the key focus of the work that you do with Leadership Nomad?

Kyle Hegarty: I’m focused on, I guess it goes back to what I’ve learned in the last 20 years, because what got me over here 15 plus years ago, I came over and set up my own business, which was a marketing agency. And our job was to build sales pipelines for other companies. And I was also of course building my own sales pipeline. So, I was my own client in this case. Most of what happened was I was working for western companies who were rushing into Southeast Asia over the last 15 years. And they were using us as one of the first starting points to be able to get a foothold into the region. What we did was got exposed to what started out as dozens, and then turned into hundreds of companies who were trying to figure out how do you break into a new market? How do you expand? Not just from a sales and marketing standpoint, but then from a delivery standpoint. And so, what that turned out to be from me, was not only to get more experience in terms of pipeline building and how to do that in different, extremely different and diverse markets. But what I found on kind of accidentally was the fact that this invisible culture piece was tripping all of us up in various ways. It didn’t necessarily mean you; you got your marketing wrong. Maybe you did, maybe your product wasn’t a good fit, but more often than not, it came down to this other people problem, this communication challenge. And so, as my business evolved, I ended up pivoting a little bit, still do some of the marketing and pipe building. But what I started focusing more on was how do you enhance communication within teams?

How do you put that client facing? So, what I’m spending my time doing now is working with companies who are trying to figure out, okay, how do we deal with a distributed global team set up? How do we tighten our communication strategy internally? How do we figure out how to communicate outward to our customers, to keep them and to wow them into expand upon them? And so, a lot of my work has expanded towards more consulting and coaching that focuses on global remote teams. That’s a very long-winded explanation for a very simple question you asked.

Steve Rush: That’s great, great response. And naturally, it’s the unintended consequences of not being really thoughtful when you move to different jurisdictions and different cultures, right?

Kyle Hegarty: So, the problem used to be the word move. You would get to the ex-pats learning curve that everybody goes through. And I was joking with some friends here is that, you kind of see the people who’ve just got here. You can just tell; you can tell the companies that are just starting to put in a marketing campaign or a sales strategy. That was one of the things that triggered my work and triggered the reason that I wanted to write this book, because the patterns kept happening over and over again. I’ll give you one specific example. A friend of mine runs a pretty well-known or pretty large fast-food chain. And he manages the fast-food chain for the entire region. And one of the things he said was, and he deals with some venture capital people who come in and they invest, or they look to figure out where they going to expand their fast-food chains and what countries. When the person who gets hired, who’s responsible for that expansion, you could tell within a first five minutes of a conversation, whether or not that expansion was going to work based on his or her leadership.  And I agree a hundred percent with that because what he was getting at was the fact that you can have a conversation with somebody. And if they think that their approach expanding into a new market, if they think their way is the right way, if they think their way is the only way, if they think that they’ve got it all figured out, there’s going to be problems. And in the fast-food example to get into even more detail, it often comes down to local tastes and preferences, and you can almost line up fast-food chains that made it versus ones that didn’t make it. And you can see those that pivoted, that adjusted, that were flexible, that adjusted their menus slightly, that adjusted their ingredients slightly, how they went to market versus those that kept to their original script from their home country. And to me, I think that industry is one fascinating case study of exactly what I’m getting at, which is, you know, you’ve got to have a leadership style that has that level of flexibility. And to be humble enough to acknowledge the fact that you just don’t know everything right off the bat.


Steve Rush: I remember the first time I ever went out to work in Southeast Asia, and it was a trade mission, and I was going out there to drum up new business and I made the fatal mistake of not paying enough attention to somebody’s business card. For me, you know, it was just a little bit of paper I used to keep my wallet, but for these people, it was their badge of honour. And it’s those subtle nuances, isn’t it? That when you move to a new jurisdiction or indeed not even from a physical perspective, you just integrate with those jurisdictions is having that awareness, right?

Kyle Hegarty: Yes, here’s to take that to the next level, which is even when you start developing the awareness and the business card example is a perfect one. I remember this story that came from my professor years and years ago because he was focused on Japan and he had this story and he was in the banking industry, very large client. They went out to dinner, I think it was an American, might’ve been a Brit. Expat would come out, and they said, look, you’ve got to respect the business card, right. You’ve got to, you know. They kind of explained, they coach the guy before this dinner, put it on the table, be very focused on it. Show respect for the business card. Fine, all good. He does the two-hand, he bows. Okay, so far so good. Halfway through the meal, someone spills something over the table. It was like a tray of duck sauce or something. And instinctively, we’ll call them American for the example. Instinctively, he just, oh, don’t worry. He picks up the business cards and he start scraping the duck sauce into a napkin with the business cards.

Steve Rush: Oh no.

Kyle Hegarty: And the client and his face goes just completely pale and in Japan there was nothing said or done externally, but they lost a quarter’s worth of business, which was about a $20 million dollar hit because of this, you know, perceived insult to what had happened. And I liked that story because he was told and he knew, but then when you get into the moment, something hits, we flip to that, I don’t know, you call it the croc brain or your instinct. Because our instinct is where we come from, it’s what we’re used to. His instinct was to help solve the problem quickly and to use what was in front of him to do it. And it overrode what he had just been coached on. And I think that’s a really important piece because, you know, I can come in and tell people all these little pointers and things, but when the moment happens, whether it’s a conversation or a physical interaction, that’s where you’ve got to dig a little bit deeper. That’s where the practice comes in. That’s where you’ve got to spend more time kind of internalizing this stuff and it takes time and it takes effort.

Steve Rush: Right.

Kyle Hegarty: But I think that the business card things, a good example of that.


Steve Rush: Exactly right. So, with the world that has been shrinking emotionally through communication and culture and mediums of ways that we can communicate. That’s probably just been expedited so much, isn’t it? Through COVID-19?


Kyle Hegarty: I mean, yeah.

Steve Rush: What do you see has been some of the real challenges or opportunities even, that real shrinking is now providing us?

Kyle Hegarty: Yeah, it is absolutely, I think challenges and opportunities at the same time. So, the book that we’ll talk about in a little bit, but I wrote this book and it was finished really at the end of 2019. I think we did some touch up stuff in January. I think I got, you know, we put in a footnote about this quirky little illness called COVID that might be causing some issues. You know, writing in January of 2020. What’s happened is that everything just rapidly went, virtual teams got distributed, everybody’s working remotely and we’re using the technology to make it happen. The technology is the least of our problems. In fact, as technology expands, communication skills flatline. If anything, they might even be decreasing. So, one mistake that I think a lot of times gets made is that people mistakenly think that clear technology equals clear communication and it does not.   So, all of a sudden now that we’re all distributed, whether it’s in a domestic or overseas, there’s a lot more conversations happening. And there’s, you know, you’ve got this kind of geopolitical cloud over everybody where there’s protectionism, there are trade disagreements, traditional trade is statistically, but, you know, the data says that it’s slowing down, but at the exact same time, the digital trade is expanding. The digital driven conversations are increasing. This conversation that you and I are having is, I don’t know if we’re paying anything to have this conversation from what 6-7000 miles away, crystal clear. The ability to have these conversations is much easier now than ever before. So, you’ve got this kind of dual thing going on, where there is this growing protectionism, insert any country first. UK first, America first, India first, China first, Singapore first. And any of these countries has that momentum going, but at the exact same time what’s happening is that we’re all on Skype and Zoom, eight plus hours a day, trying to figure out how to work together better. So, I think that the people that can embrace that paradigm and that contrast to the ones that are going to be able to sleep better at night and at least have a little bit fun during this crazy ride.

Steve Rush: Yeah, and also communication of course, is not just verbal. It’s through that nonverbal communication and in my experience of having coached some execs through this; has actually lost the capacity for that nonverbal communication. So, they’ve having to be much more thoughtful in that little square, that is the Zoom window now.


Kyle Hegarty: Yeah, it’s body language is massively lost. I don’t care how good your computer screen is because you miss that informal interactions, you know, it’s the elevator ride up to the meeting. It’s the moments right after that conference call ends, where you hang up the call and you kind of look at the guy sitting next to you and you go, you know, the little eye roll where you go, oh, here we go again. It’s these little small interactions that actually build additional rapport, it enhances communication. It drives the purpose of what is trying to be communicated, or what’s going to actually happen. All of those things are temporarily out the window and it will remain to be seen how much of the face-to-face stuff comes back. The clients, the companies I’m talking to, none of them are planning to go back to the way things were at least in that a hundred percent going back, it’s this whole mix of hybrid. And right now, quite frankly, it’s a mess. I mean, nobody knows exactly what it’s going to look like. So, I think that at least a quasi-remote world is what we are all up against. And that lack of small interaction, that lack of body language, the lack of even just that harder to define personal, you know, being in the same place with somebody physically. I think we’re going to have to get used to adjusting around all of those factors that actually help build relationships. And that’s going to be easier for some than others, but I do believe that there’s tools that can help everybody try and march forward in a way that helps out how teams get together and how people end up becoming stronger leaders.

Steve Rush: Right, your book, The Accidental Business Nomad published the beginning of this year. What was the real pivotal moment for you when you thought, right? That’s, how I’m going to put pen to paper and I’m going to share some of these lessons.

Kyle Hegarty: So, the original book, the title was different. And I’ll tell you what it was in a minute. I had a client many, many years ago, this American guy out of Texas. And he was exactly what I had mentioned earlier in this talk. He was one of those guys who just was convinced that he was right. He knew what he was doing. His way was the right way. He had this software that was doing very well in the United States and North America. Think they’d had some success in in Western Europe. And they took on one client through a referral in Southeast Asia. And so, he reached out to me and said, okay, I want you to be our marketing person across the region, blast out our message because we’re going into Asia. Because I’ve read a time magazine article that said, Asia is hot, right.

This is, you know, 2007 kind of stuff. And he sends over his marketing material that he wants me sending out across the region and its material that got baseball imagery. So, you know, North American, certainly American spelling and baseball imagery and phrases, idioms like, oh, knock it out of the park. And all of these kinds of very specific targeted localized phrases. And I was just disassembling it one by one, right? I was just kind of saying, taking it apart. You do not want to be marketing in other parts of the world like this, because you are sending a crystal-clear message that you do not know these local regions. You don’t know the markets. You will be perceived as a foreign company that is just trying to sneak in here. And he got really, really frustrated. And he goes, well, it’s all Asian, so why don’t you just slap a dragon on it and make it Asian. And that was the moment for me, that I go, you know, there’s this concept that I started labelling as slapped dragon behaviour. And I still laugh at it many years later, the original title of the book was going to be called slap dragons, which was exactly about that mindset. You can do that with a physical product, slap a dragon on it, or even in a mindset and thinking about coaching or leading teams, that your way is the right way. And that there’s some superficial changes that you can make, and it’ll all just work out. And so that client, I think was the caricature that drove me to put this book project together because there were so many variations of him out there.

And there still are to this day. And over the years I was keeping an eye on stories of foreign companies. This does not have to be a western companies coming over to Asia and making mistakes. It’s happening the other way as well, so you get a lot of Chinese, Indian companies from around. Ozion who started expanding elsewhere. And it’s a disaster because they bring their ways, their norms, and they think that’s going to work. And so, the book was really born from this belief that companies have rapidly gone global, but people have not. And I wanted to tell those stories and start looking at ways to be able to help get over that mindset and what we can do to overcome it.

Steve Rush: And it goes back to your kind of first five minutes impression thing. The same happens in exactly the same way when we’re trying to communicate in a new environment. If that internal gut feel says it doesn’t feel right, you’re going to lose credibility straight away, right?

Kyle Hegarty: I started out in one of the early chapters, just highlighting just the typical learning process. I mean the journey that anybody takes when they’re learning a new skill, which is the first step is, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. And then the next step is that magical moment where you realize that you don’t know what you don’t know. And it’s one of those really important steps to be able to overcome in so many situations in the last 15, 20 years, there’s been so much cash sloshing around. There’s been so many, especially tech companies rushing into Southeast Asia because they’ve got high flying stocks back in their home stock market, and they just start slapping dragons onto other regions and, you know, throwing money at problems. And in many cases, they kind of got away with it for a number of years, because there was just so much money, right? You could just kind of buy your way into these, especially the big companies. That’s what they were doing, and I believe here in 2020 and beyond, I think that that party’s over. The moving forward, I think we’re really going to have to buckle down and get a lot more thoughtful about not only how we think about markets, but probably most importantly, how we think about people.

Steve Rush: Right.

Kyle Hegarty: There were just so many countless examples of foreign managers coming in. High-Paid execs, who, you know, you pay somebody huge salary and you send them to the other side of the world. And man, they might start getting these illusions of grandeur. And so, because of that, you know, they bring their management style. They bring their communication style, their working style, their expectations and things don’t work out. And what ends up happening is they end up getting moved around and they ended up going home. And in many cases, they don’t ever go from that stage where they don’t know what they don’t know to, they realize that they don’t know what they don’t know. So, I found a lot of tech companies were actually really guilty of this over the last 15, 20 years.   Then the third stage where you’re trying to get to is okay, now that I realize that stuff’s different here, what can I do about it? And that’s where I think a lot of the longer-term ex-pats are in, I put myself in that category right now. We’re still trying to figure this stuff out. We test different ideas, different frameworks, different styles, different approaches. Let’s see what works, let’s adapt. That fourth and final piece would be mastery, which I write about one character, I think had achieved that to varying degrees. But, you know, that is the journey that I see and the fact that nobody’s really traveling. And there’s probably a lot fewer ex-pat assignments being handed out these days. Means that people are doing this stuff virtually. And so, all of this stuff that we’ve been talking about, you know, now has become distributed. And a lot of those learnings, those moments where you make your business card mistake at the table with the duck sauce, where, you know, you don’t get the body language, it’s much harder to realize that you’re making these mistakes virtually. So, I think that we’re in for quite a ride when it comes to global teams and some of the people who are going to be leading those teams, especially for the first time.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Kyle Hegarty: And that’s what I’m spending a lot of time working on, which is, you know, if you’ve just inherited or you’ve just been nominated or are promoted into your first global role and you can’t travel, that’s a tough gig. But the good news is, there’s answers out there, but it takes work.

Steve Rush: And investment and practice, I think, was the other thing that you said earlier, because this isn’t something you can just reframe right away.

Kyle Hegarty: Yeah, I had, it took me, you know, we’ll talk about tools later. You have to change sometimes how you phrase things. I talk about, you know, communication styles and I’m used to a direct communication style, but a majority of the planet is not. A direct communication style is asking a straightforward yes or no question. This is going to get done in time. Do you understand? Can I help you? Right. I mean, just basic close ended questions. I’m used to that, and especially under pressure, under stress, that’s what I fall back on. And what I had to do was to figure out how to rewrite that or re scripted or rephrase it all, to be able to be more effective in different conversations. And what I had to do, I physically had to print out stuff that I had on my wall, in front of me and my desk at home which had different phrases. So, it helped me avoid, in this example, close ended questions. So, stop using the words, you know, can, can you do this? Does that make sense? Is this clear? Try to get rid of those words out of my vocabulary for a lot of these conversations and then change them to what could be called softer or just variations of phrases. I wonder if we should take a minute just to backtrack and just walk me through what your next step is. And so that’s a very important difference. The difference between those two ways of communicating can make or break a relationship and a team success. And if you’re a small business, can make or break your entire global strategy, which sounds a little bit extreme, but definitely seen many, many companies closing up shop after spending a couple million dollars, finding that they just weren’t making any traction.

Steve Rush: And it says tiny little things. That means such a lot too.

Kyle Hegarty: That’s what I’ve seen and you know, and it’s not easy. Maybe I’m more of an extreme case. I mean, I needed to really, really work on this stuff. And that’s why I had these printouts. I know it’s a weird kind of example, but that’s how I was able to stop myself from making the same or from using my communication style that I was used to, and to be able to adjust.

Steve Rush: The book is a bit of a survival guide for a shrinking world and it’s full of survival tips. And by the way, I love the way that you presented the book and it is quirky, and some really great stories in there. The one that was really funny, and I really wanted you to kind of share with our guests is, and you titled this, when Confucius just Skype Socrates.

Kyle Hegarty: Yeah, and the 2020 version, I probably could have updated it to Zooms Socrates. Some of us are still using Skype, but, you know, there was a little bit of prescient there and the fact that this is really what we’ve all turned into, right? Which is this Skyping, WebEx, Zooming teams all the time. What I was trying to get at with that chapter, there’s a lot of research that’s happened. I’ve been talking this whole conversation about different communication styles, different working styles. I’m not the first person to ever go through this. You’re not, this has been going on for ages, these challenges. And there is an entire industry of research and researchers that have, and continue to look into exactly these challenges that we’re talking about here. What these researchers are doing is they’re looking at cultural, communication style, working style differences in different parts of the world.


And they’re trying to measure what those differences look like. I’ve talked about how my communication style was more direct. Well, you can go out and see data that shows you country by country, where other countries fall on a communication spectrum. Now this is all macro data. So, you know, you got to be careful with this because obviously it does not reflect every individual, it’s kind of, you know on a bell curve, but it’s a really good starting place to be able to measure this stuff. They are measuring how people like to handle conflict. Do they like to be direct and confrontational to solve problems, to kind of talk through issues and be kind of just going for it, or do they solve problems in very different ways by saving face, by using back channels, to be able to get to conclusions?  And there’s not a right or wrong answer here, but if you can understand what those differences are in these different working styles, if you can understand it, if you can start to measure it, then you can start coming up with ideas as to what you’re going to do to overcome it. So, the example of the Confucius versus a Socrates was looking at some of the background of this stuff. It’s like, where did these differences come from? And I was referencing heavily from a few research books that have come out and what I did, having read it, you’ll understand this. I basically took a lot of this heavy academic research and I tried to synthesize it and see; how the author explains this to me after one too many drinks at a bar? And you’ll notice in many of the chapters, there’s a lot of bar scenes and what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to have some fun with this, but how do you take this somewhat dry topic of cross-cultural data and all this research, if you read the primary material with which I’ve slogged through. Oh, my God, the acronyms and the way they phrase things. I mean, they’re not oftentimes writing for a general audience. They’re writing for their peers. And it’s really hard to get through if you’re not used to that writing style, but what they’re writing about is so important and it’s more important now for people than ever before, since so many of us are now just working globally, whether we deliberately did or now it’s, you know, in many of us it’s accidental. What I’m trying to do then is say, okay, here’s all the stuff that I’ve read. Here’s also what I’ve seen. Let’s push this through a couple of bar room conversations to be able to give you the survival guide, just to get you started. And I think that that comes into a pretty big way in that chapter of a Confucius Skyping, Socrates as told through a half drunken Taiwanese guy, as he’s explaining some of the different research, the different stuff that’s out there and especially the East versus West differences.

Steve Rush: Yeah, and it’s those contradictions, isn’t it? I think it was really quite neat.

Kyle Hegarty: One of the things that’s frustrating, certainly as a coach, as a trainer of this stuff, is that, you know, people would just say, well, just tell me, give me the answers, what do I do? And it’s oftentimes it’s complicated, and sometimes it’s more tricky. You can’t just bottle this stuff up, and some of the contradictions, I feel like that’s a very western approach. Which is, what is the survival guide? Even my approach to this was a very western approach to trying to articulate what these challenges are all about. Whereas other parts there’s more of an embracing of the contradiction. The contradiction itself is the answer, and that gets kind of very flighty and metaphysical and theoretical. But it’s kind of a fun conversation if you’re willing to go there from time to time. But I think it also helps explain some of the mindset differences and some of the ways business is so different in some parts of the world. And in China, one example when they did a recent crackdown in air quotes of some of the lavish spending from government and CCP Officials, and they were going after these guys who were spending all this money. So, one of the things that they prevented was, you weren’t allowed to use five-star hotels, and this could decimate a hotel, especially if you’re in Beijing and you’re running a five-star hotel, what do you do? Well in China it’s very simple. You knock a star off of your hotel and business continues as per normal and problem solved. And it’s that kind of lateral thinking, which is one of those things that I think many westerners myself included kind of chuckle at because you wouldn’t think that as necessarily the immediate answer, but in a place like China, that would be the immediate way to think about it because there’s more of this kind of a swirling contradiction of the way to solve problems. All you have to do is knock a star off and everybody’s happy.

Steve Rush: So, I’m going to turn the leadership lens on you now. And I’m going to tap into your leadership mind and ask you to share with our audience, Kyle. Your top three leadership hacks?

Kyle Hegarty: I’m going to give you a 2020 version of this just because it’s, you know, we’re in such a weird fluid time, but one tool that I’m using a ton with companies and with my coaching, it’s a variation of, it’s what I’m calling a communications contract. You can look these things up. There is variations of them all over. I’ve kind of built my own. That takes into more of a global team perspective. A communications contract is a way to take a step back, take a breather with your team. And just to acknowledge almost to use it as an example is an excuse to rewrite the rules of engagement. Some of us were just thrust into a remote team environment. Some went to A-B team splits, some are inching back to the office. Some don’t want to go, some do. It’s a mess, and there’s not going to be a one size fits all answer. A communications contract is a way to get a team coming together and to walk them through a series of questions, just asking everybody to come to a general agreement as to what are we going to allow and not allow from a communication standpoint, what technologies are we going to use? What are the rules of engagement or off hours conversations? What’s the expectation if something pops in over the weekend? How are we going to check in with each other? How are we going to deal with the softer relationship building stuff? When some of us like these Zoom wine tastings, but others go crazy with this stuff. What are the rules here? And it’s kind of a helpful way just to have a team go through this exercise to be able to write their own, come up with your own plan of attack here.  I have my own template. I think it’s available on my website,, but you know, look that up. So, I find that that’s a really helpful one. The second one, if you are dealing with any type of overseas international global team situation, there’s data out there.

Steve Rush: Right.

Kyle Hegarty: There is decades of research that looks into some of these working style differences. I try to lightly and in a fun light-hearted way, introduce that concept. There are other books, I’ve listed some of them in my end notes and footnotes as well. It’s worth reading up, if you find that you were working more and more in a international environment. And then the third one, and I’m sure I’m not the first to say this, but you know, this is a time for introspection. You can’t adapt. You can’t change your behaviour unless you understand what your behaviour is in the first place. So one of the things I think that happens for thoughtful ex-pats people who go through that culture, clash, that learning curve is that you end up learning a lot about yourself, because the stuff that you do on a daily basis, most of the time, we don’t really think about it. But then when all of a sudden, when you’re put into a foreign environment, your behaviour actually starts sticking out. And it’s these moments where you can actually reflect and say, well, oh, that is kind of the way we do things, but I’m noticing it’s not the way this person is doing it. Again, without putting a right or wrong lens onto it. Let’s be able to define what makes us tick. So, understand, take the time to understand our communication style, our working style.

Steve Rush: Yeah, great advice. Thank you so much. So, the next bit of the show we call Hack to Attack. So, this is where we explore with you, something that hasn’t worked out so well, but you’ve used that as a lesson in your life and is now a force of good. What would be your Hack to Attack?

Kyle Hegarty: Oh man. In many ways, the book was exactly that, which is like, you know, I’ve kind of put myself into these stories to say, here’s the goofy mistakes that I made. And you know, there were many of them. I guess my bit of advice would be, you’ve got to be able to treat people the way they want to be treated, rather than assume you want to treat people the way you want to be treated. And that was one of the big lessons that I’ve learned along the way, in terms of making mistakes, in terms of hiring people who I think were the right fit and managing people and incentivizing people who I would incentivize the way I want it to be incentivized. And so, all of this goes back to that self-awareness and the ability to realize that your way isn’t necessarily the right way.


Steve Rush: Wise words, Indeed. So, the last bit that we get to do together, Kyle is, you now have the chance to do some time travel. You can pump into your 21-year-old self and give yourself some advice. What would your advice be to Kyle at 21?

Kyle Hegarty: Slow down, and that would be my advice, slow down. These things, you know, I think I’ve always had that not aggressive, but certainly forward-thinking ambition to just constantly trying something else, something new, getting frustrated quickly if things don’t work out. And I think that one thing that I’ve learned over the years is develop your core thesis, your core purpose, your ideas that you want to try and let them kind of evolve at their own pace at their own time. You can’t always force things to go faster because oftentimes the faster you push the slower things end up working, and I’ve seen this time and time again, especially in global teams, if you want to speed up results, you’ve got to actually slow down. And that’s one of those contradictions that we talked about here today, which, you know, scrambles the brain a little bit, but that’s also what keeps things fun and interesting. So that would be my advice to myself.

Steve Rush: Awesome advice. So as folks have been listening to this, we want to make sure that we can connect our listeners with a bit more of an understanding about what you do. Where’s the best place we can send them?

Kyle Hegarty: My websites,, and there’s bunch of links there to resources, to the book, et cetera. So that’s probably the best place. The only real social media I’m on is LinkedIn. I play around on Twitter a little bit, but so LinkedIn, you can find me through my name, my Twitter handles is @LeadershipNomad as well. That’s it, That’s the space I play in.

Steve Rush: Awesome, and we’ll put those links in the show notes as well.

Kyle Hegarty: Thank you so much.

Steve Rush: So, Kyle, it just leaves me to say, thank you ever so much for taking time out of your busy schedule today. It’s been really, really super meeting with you, speaking with you and learning more about the survival guide. That is The Accidental Business Nomad and wish you every success of what you do next. And thank you for being on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Kyle Hegarty: Yeah, thanks for the invite.




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