Scope - Design - Deliver

Whirlpools and Swagger

Claire Chandler is the president and founder of Talent Boost, a business growth and strategic leadership advisor and also the Author of The Whirlpool Effect. You will learn from Claire in this show:

  • How to create your leadership whirlpool
  • How to discover your profitable swagger
  • Why your “mission” is so important
  • How to spot and fix your “churn symptoms.”
  • Plus lots more hacks!

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Transcript: Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Claire Chandler is our special guest on today’s show. She is an Architect of Profitable Swagger, founder and president of Talent Boost and an author of The Whirlpool Effect. Claire welcome to the show.

Claire Chandler: Thank you, Steve. It’s great to be here.

Steve Rush: So, Claire, tell us a little bit about how you came to be author and president of Talent Boost?

Claire Chandler: Oh goodness. So that’s a bit of a long story, but I will give you the short version. So, I spent close to 20 years in Corporate America, after by the way, swearing that I would never, never work in corporate America. So, I quickly learned never to use that word, right? And I kind of advanced through a variety of roles over those close to 20 years. Started out in communications roles and marketing and branding. Took a turn in customer relations for a few years and then spent the last several years of my corporate career in human resources. And it was there that I discovered my passion for all things, talent development, in particular helping leaders and even individual contributors tap into their true potential and kind of helping them to build a path that would advance them to that goal.

And so, in 2011, after a bit of a personal health crisis, it really kind of woke me up to, you know, the whole concept of life being too short, and all of that. I decided I was going to throw caution to the wind and leave that relatively safe cocoon of Corporate America and go out on my own. And I didn’t really have a plan. I didn’t have, you know, a business plan carved out. I didn’t have a list of clients to call upon. I just had this burning desire to go out and make my mark in a bigger way. And so, for about two years, I meandered around a little bit and, you know, picked up work and develop relationships with clients that help me to identify what my ultimate niche would be. And so, in 2013, I formed my company Talent Boost where my focus primarily is on helping build better companies from the inside out. But more specifically from the top down in building up better leaders, getting them clearer about their mission, and aligning them around that shared quest.

Steve Rush: Got it, and you have this philosophy, don’t you? That talent isn’t born, it’s boosted.

Claire Chandler: Yeah.

Steve Rush: How does that come about?

Claire Chandler: Yeah absolutely, you know, there this general misconception, I think from a lot of leaders that because they do not see themselves as charismatic, you know, and they sort of hold themselves up in comparison to people like, you know, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs and some of these other, you know, real-world stage, large stage leaders. And they say, well, I could never do that because I’m not charismatic, you know, and I’m not inspiring. And, you know, I would counter that and say, everyone has it within them to play a bigger game, you know, to play full out and truly to be a leader that people follow. So, it is part of my core belief that you know, leaders are not born, they’re made. And I use the term boosted obviously as an homage of the name of my company, but really because of my core belief that anyone has it within them to become a better leader and the leader that people cannot wait to follow.

Steve Rush: That’s great, and I observed that on whole, “I can’t do this”, is just a mindset which in itself is another learned behaviour that we’ve had for many, many years, right?

Claire Chandler: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Steve Rush: Now you call yourself an architect of profitable swagger. I’d love to learn a little bit about that.

Claire Chandler: So, you know, this term profitable swagger is one that has a little bit of a story to it. So recently I started going to an acupuncturist, you know, I’m trying to, you know, sort of getaway from any sort of medications unless they’re absolutely necessary, right? And so, friends of mine have been recommending, you know, you have to try acupuncture. It’s, you know, it’s great. It’s life-changing, and so I’ve been going to an acupuncturist for a while now, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with, you know, the practice of that, but they, you know, they put a whole bunch of different very thin needles into the surface of your skin. It did various sorts of pressure points. And then you basically lay there like a human pin cushion for 20 to 30 minutes.

And so, it’s very relaxing, it’s very peaceful. And, you know, in that sort of silence, you have a chance to, you know, kind of reflect on where you are in the universe, so to speak. And so, what’s interesting is that the name of the acupuncturist practice is the Zen Den. And I thought about that and I said, you know, that’s such a brilliant marketing name because it’s not about what they do. It’s about the outcome, right? The feeling that you get, if you give these people your business. And so, I’m laying there like a human pin cushion, and of course, I’m reflecting on business and all of that. And I thought, really, what is that feeling that I get for my clients? And rather than talking about what I do or how I do it, I came upon this phrase, profitable swagger, and I thought, that’s it, that’s my version of a Zen Den.

Steve Rush: I love that story and I guess it’s that whole, reflective purpose-driven outcomes that makes ordinary people vs. successful people different. Those people who are really successful, just have that core foundation of purpose, and that feels to me that you found that?

Claire Chandler: They do, and I feel like I do. And what’s kind of the bigger lesson I think in that story is that I didn’t come upon that insight of, you know, what is my purpose-driven outcome for the leaders that I serve until I was in a reflective, almost meditative state, right? And I think that’s kind of a key tip for leaders at any level and at any stage of their career. We are so bombarded with busyness, right? If you look at any leader’s calendar, the typical leader has a calendar that is chock full of meetings and calls and appointments and conferences, and, you know, all of these things. And there’s no breathing room in there. And a leader cannot truly be successful and cannot truly connect with the people that they are trying to get to follow them and cannot truly build and innovate and grow their company. If they don’t have these periods of mindful intentional reflection, you know, that’s really where the big ideas come from. It’s not during the noise, it’s during the silence,

Steve Rush: Really insightful, like that. So, you have written the book, The Whirlpool Effect. What was the inspiration for the book?

Claire Chandler: That’s another, a little bit of a story. So, when I was first setting out to write the book at that point, I had been doing a lot of motivational speaking workshops, conferences, and the like. Really directed toward employees, individual contributors, middle managers, et cetera. And the focus of that was to help them reignite their passion for their work, because I have found, and I’m sure you’ve seen the same. You know, a lot of employees are miserable at work and they’ve resigned themselves. You know, there is all sorts of jokes and memes and sitcoms around how, you know, people have just accepted that work is something that is drudgery, you know, that they have to do. It’s a necessary evil, et cetera. And so, I had been doing a lot of public speaking around, you know, helping people reignite their passion for their job. But what I was finding was, you know, that sort of topic and those sessions were really well received. They were going over like gangbusters, but the problem was the audiences were getting all charged up and re-invigorated, and going back into their workplaces to have more enlightened conversations with their managers about, you know, how they wanted to even just slightly tweak what they were focused on at work so that it was more dialed in to what they were passionate about. And they were actually getting that fire kind of snuffed out because the leaders that they were being sent back to were not as enlightened. And so, it dawned on me, I was focusing on the wrong end of the spectrum. And so, I started to kind of carve out this outline for this book that spoke directly to those leaders at the top, because it’s, you know, it’s another one of my core beliefs that the biggest impact on a company culture is the behaviour of its leaders. And it has to start from the top, down. So, you know, I started to kind of rough out this outline for this book and, you know, a couple of the shifts in mindset that I feel a lot of leaders have to go through. And I was trying to come up with an analogy for what true leadership looks like. And I had this flashback to my childhood, and so grew up in New Jersey, born and raised here where the summers are very hot, very humid. And it always just sorts of worked out that the most popular kid on our block was the one with the swimming pool in their backyard, right? So, all the neighbourhood kids would congregate there. And invariably, during the course of that hot summer day, one of the kids in the pool would shout whirlpool and everyone immediately understood what that meant.

It meant we stopped, whatever else we were doing. We followed each other around in a circle. And after a couple of laps in the pool, we created this whirlpool effect where we could pick up our feet and be swept along with the flow. And I thought of that childhood memory and I said, that’s what real leadership looks like. You have a very clear message that your people immediately attach the right meaning to, they see how they can contribute to achieving that outcome. And they enthusiastically and eagerly contribute their, you know, their best skills, their hands, heads, and hearts to achieving that end goal. And so that’s where the term, the whirlpool effect came about and really became sort of the guiding focus around a lot of my work with leaders.

Steve Rush: I love the metaphor of creating that energy swirl almost, so if you’re a great leader, then you run at pace and you’ve got people running with you, you just create that energy flow that lifts people off their feet almost.

Claire Chandler: Yeah, the flow is absolutely the key there.

Steve Rush: If you were thinking in leadership space, leadership terms. How would you describe that whirlpool effect from an organizational viewpoint?

Claire Chandler: Too many people I think overly simplify what that flow really is all about, and they too easily dismiss that as well. You’re talking about employing engagement. While I’m a huge believer in employee engagement and the power of that. The concept of flow goes even farther beyond that, because engagement can often be considered, you know sort of empowering and embedding more of an above and beyond mentality in an individual employee. Whereas flow really implies more of a group contributed collaborative flow. And the outcomes of that are, if you can get all of your employees or at least the majority of your employees around this concept of this, you know, this energetic swirl as you so eloquently kind of described it, what you end up getting is yes, employees who are more productive, but they’re more productive and enthusiastically so. Because they see a deeper connection between what they individually bring to the table and how it moves the needle toward the company’s mission. So, you see an increased productivity, you see an increase in innovation because people are willingly bringing their better ideas to table. They’re creating an environment where there is a higher tolerance for not failure for failure sake, but failing forward, right? Stumbling forward in a way that you learn from, and that you can immediately address, you know, and continue to enhance the organization. And that starts to have outcomes such as profitability, market competitiveness, growth of the organization, a far greater attraction from a brand perspective. So, you’re not fighting out in the market for talent where you first have to overcome that they don’t have brand recognition, but now you have a reputation out in the market that the right talent wants to come work for you. So, it improves your, you know, your cost of attracting the right talent. Your ability to retain the right talent and mobilize them in the right direction to help you achieve that flow. And then of course, if you do it the right way, and you create this sort of sustained whirlpool effect, it really generates then a company that can be profitable over a sustained period of time.

Steve Rush: It’s really neat, and I think what we can see happening across the world now is organizations are spending much more focus and time thinking about, “how do they retain and grow and develop their teams”, as we come out of this post-pandemic world, right?

Claire Chandler: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think one of the mistakes that companies tend to make, and one of the stumbles that a lot of them are making right now is, you know, when the pandemic really hit and it started to affect every company of every size in every industry, a lot of those companies had to make some very difficult choices about, you know closing down divisions, closing down, you know, entire businesses in some cases. And it impacted, you know, the employment of a great deal with people. And so now some of those companies that are looking to, you know, build back up, they’re seeing the candidate market as a buyer’s market. And that’s a huge mistake in my opinion, because, you know, just because there are more people available out in the market, does not mean they are the right people to help you build something.

And in fact, if you get them now and you think, well, because you know, there’s a supply and a demand issue here, and the supply is greater than the demand. I can get them for, you know, a quote-unquote, discounted rate. You’re treating those people as a commodity, and what ends up happening is as soon as they’re in a position to do so, they’re going to jump ship. You can’t build a company. If your people are constantly going through a revolving door. So rather than looking at this as a buyer’s market, I really encourage companies to look at it as a builder’s market. And the key difference there is you’re not looking to scoop up available talent, you’re looking to intentionally bring on the right talent, who are the people? What are their skills? What is their mindset? You know, what are core? Genuine strengths that are in line with the mission that you are trying to achieve? That’s how you build a better company. And that’s an opportunity that a lot of these companies are facing right now because they had to prune because they had to cut back when the pandemic was at its height. You now have an opportunity to build back up in a much more strategic way that’s aligned with your mission.

Steve Rush: So, if I’m a leader here today, and I’m listening to you speak Claire, what would be the first thing that you would encourage me to do to start that whirlpool effect off?

Claire Chandler? Absolute, first thing that any leader and any business has to get right, is mission clarity. And I’ve mentioned the word mission a couple of times, and a lot of people say, oh, we’ve already got that. You know, we’ve got that knocked, we’ve got a mission statement printed on the wall. Mission statements are almost, always not the same as a mission, unless it’s a company that is very enlightened and evolves, right? So, a mission statement from my viewpoint is really meant to, it’s kind of built the wrong way, right? So, it’s built with a lot of flowery corporate language that’s outward-facing. A mission though, is this, you know, it’s the equivalent of the word whirlpool, right? It is a very simple magnetic. Some would call it sticky, you know, call to arms that everyone in the organization can embrace, can understand, can see their place in and, you know, enthusiastically want to contribute to. So, you know, for any company and any leader, I would say, don’t blow past that. Like you either already have it well-established or it’s even the right mission. You have to get crystal clear on the mission because it is absolutely foundational to anything else, you’re going to do to build a whirlpool effect.

Steve Rush: And metaphorically, I guess, is exactly the same principle when you were that kid in your backyard and everybody shouted whirlpool. It’s when everybody can shout the mission statement and have consistency and they all own it. It’s people jump in that metaphorical pool and start the energy swell, right?

Claire Chandler: That’s right, and started in the right direction, right? There was always a kid growing up who thought he was, you know, a smart Alec and would start to swim in the opposite direction. And you know, one, because it was kind of fun. It’s sort of like when you walk up a down escalator, right. And two, you know, in business, that’s the other metaphor for what I call churn, right. It’s swimming against the tide. It’s going against, you know, that energetic swirl where everyone else is moving in the same direction.

Steve Rush: And you’ve got three churn symptoms that you call out in your book, haven’t you? So, the first one in the I read was good people walking out the door is an example of that churn system. Tell us a bit about that?

Claire Chandler: Yeah, so, you know, there were so many different examples of how churn works against your whirlpool effect in your business. And that, to me is one of the absolute key ones. It is often the most obvious, and it is very keenly felt that we keep losing our best people. We keep losing our best performers, you know, and often leaders make the mistake of concluding, well, we must just not have the right people. So, we have to throw them all out and start over again. And again, it goes back to that concept of, you know, there’s a difference between the best talent, the available talent, and the right talent. And you know, when your best performers are walking out the door, it’s because they are not seeing a deep connection between what they offer and what your mission is.

Steve Rush: That’s really neat. And again, just simple, visible that if those people are not in the pool, you’re not going to create that whirl.

Claire Chandler: That’s right.

Steve Rush: The second one you have in there, which I found really quite funny when I read it through, was, they’re not saving the drama for their mama.

Claire Chandler: Yeah. So, you know, every company knows what this looks like, right? Just about every leader that I have worked with, who has called me in to help them build a better company, you know, says to me, I thought I hired adults. Why do they keep acting like petulant children? Why is there all of this office drama? Why is there so much infighting? Why can’t people just behave? And it is such a pervasive infectious in a bad way, a symptom of churn and a symptom of a company that is not fully functioning under the whirlpool effect when you have, and you perpetuate, and here’s the key one, you tolerate that kind of behaviour. You know, it really can detract from, you know, the mission you’re trying to achieve.

Steve Rush: It’s pretty infectious, isn’t it?

Claire Chandler: It’s hugely infectious. And unfortunately, that’s always the case that the bad behaviour tends to spread more virally than good behaviour.

Steve Rush: Yeah and the third churn symptom you have is, and I think for me, it really kind of underpins most of these things around core values, just not “walking the walk”.

Claire Chandler: This brings up for me the concept of consistency, right? So those same companies that when you ask them what their mission is, they turn to look for which wall they’ve got the poster, you know, where their mission statement is printed. These are the same companies that also post right next to the mission statement, their quote, unquote, core values and core values are great. Don’t get me wrong, right? It’s been said that your mission pushes you, your vision pulls you and your values keep you from veering off the road. But if the values are not actually embedded in the culture, if they are just a bunch of nice words, but they are not lived, what ends up happening is just like this drama, this negative energy that is infectious, you get what you tolerate. And so, part of the reason that your best performers are leaving, is because there is inconsistency in how you are holding people accountable, not just for their performance, but even more importantly for their behaviour.

And that goes back to right talent, right? So, you could have, you know, three different people that on paper meet the essential requirements of a job that you’re hiring for. But you want the right talent, not the quote, unquote, best performer. You want the person who gets it, right? Who embraces your mission, who can clearly see their place in the pool and can clearly, and enthusiastically contribute to that. And so, when you’re in an environment where there’s a lot of drama, there’s a lot of values violation. Where those core values are not actually lived and people who violate those core values are not immediately addressed. That’s how you lose your best performers because they say, you know, I’m not getting rewarded for the contribution I’m making. And the people next to me who are bad actors are not being held accountable. Why would I continue to contribute my full head, hands and heart to achieving this mission when the other people around me don’t? and it’s tolerated and it’s okay that they don’t. So those are just three of the examples of churn. And in my experience are the three that most often show up and work against that energetic swirl in the pool.

Steve Rush: Collectively, if these three things are present as well, it has the effect of almost pulling the plug on the pool, and all the water leaks out. And you’re not left with much else.

Claire Chandler: It is extremely difficult, if not impossible for a business to grow, to succeed, and to sustain on a profitable level. If they have any of those three symptoms of churn over a long period of time, let alone if they have all three.

Steve Rush: Now we are going to give our listeners, the opportunity to find out how they can get a copy and where they can find some more information in a little while. But before we do that, this part that shows now where I turn the leadership lens to you as a leader in your own, right. So, this is where we’re going to explore your kind of leadership experiences and hack into your leadership mind. So, Claire, what would be your top three leadership hacks that you could share with our listeners?

Claire Chandler: Hmm. The first one I’m going to go back to is that concept of clarity, right? And again, that sounds really simple. The phrase that I always use with people is keep it stupid, simple, right? There’s this, acronym kiss. That is, keep it short and sweet or keep it simple, stupid. My mantra is kept it stupid, simple. And what I mean by that is a mission that is overly wordy, flowery, corporate ease, a type of language is not one that people are going to embrace. The best CEO I’ve ever worked for was one who came into a company. And he said we are going to be about three things, employees, customers, and efficiency. And that was it, and that was our mission. And that was what we were going to all about in every single employee, without exception could see a connection between what their individual role was, what their natural strengths were and how they could help positively impact at least one, if not three of those pillars of the mission.

So, you know, keeping it stupid, simple around that clarity is absolutely my number one leadership hack. I’d say my second one is, you know, it’s not enough just to get clarity. You have to have a very deep connection. When you can make a connection for people between the mission you’re trying to achieve and how they can individually contribute to that, both through the role that you’re asking them to fulfill and the superpowers, if you will, that come naturally to them. You’re going to accelerate the performance, the innovation, the market competitiveness, and the growth of that company. So, clarity is foundational, but connection is really where you accelerate growth. And then, you know, I would have to say my third hack is really more of a day today, you know, in my experience, you know, top time management tip for anybody.

And it’s the concept of touch paper once. So, kind of going back to what I said earlier about how a lot of leaders have very clogged up calendars and they don’t have any breathing room in between to get to kind of that, that zen place, that profitable swagger kind of an outcome. Part of it is because we are constantly revisiting the same decisions, the same pile of paperwork, you know, the same sort of to-do list. And so, you know, whether you’re talking about the papers on your desk, the decision that is brought to you, you know, even going out in the field. I mean, I learned that mantra from a construction company who said, every time we’re hauling dirt off of the site, every time it has to change hands, you know, from one vehicle to the next, it costs me money. So, the fewer times you have to touch the dirt, the more money you save. And so, when you translate that into how you manage your time? How do you manage your to-do list? So, to speak. Your decisions that you have to make both at work and at home when you touch paper once. You get to far more efficiency, and that’s where you start to get to even cost-effectiveness.

Steve Rush: Three really great hacks. Thank you, Claire. The next part of the show we affectionately called Hack to Attack. So, our listeners will be familiar with this now. This is where we have experienced something in our life. Maybe some adversity hasn’t worked out as well, whatever the case may be, but that adversity or the misadventure, the bad results we’ve used as learning in our life. And it is now a positive force of good, what would be your Hack to Attack?

Claire Chandler: Hmm. You know, I’d have to say this happened to me at least twice that I can think of. But more recently I was scheduled to speak at a conference in New Jersey and Atlantic City. And I was preparing to, you know, it was a two-hour workshop and I had this slide deck, already to kind of reinforce my key points, et cetera. And I had it all, you know, ready to go. And I go to save it on my laptop. Cause now I’ve got a pack and I’ve got to head off to the conference and my laptop died, not battery dead. The motherboard just completely decided that was the day it was no longer going to work. And of course, because I was under, you know, a deadline, I had not saved the latest version. I had not put it onto a thumb drive yet. I had not printed out my notes. And so, I had, you know, this sort of moments of absolute panic. And I think a lot of leaders, a lot of speakers, a lot of people, in general, have had this moment where they go, what am I without my content? How will I be able to impact and get my message across, you know, without this, what is essentially a prop? And so, I ended up, you know, I couldn’t cancel, I thought seriously about canceling. And then I said, that would be ridiculous. So let me, you know, let me go down there and let me kind of do my thing. And what was great about that moment was what I thought was a source of empowerment for me. This presentation deck was actually a crutch that once I lost it, it freed me up to make a much deeper connection with my audience because I wasn’t relying on props. I wasn’t relying on content. I wasn’t relying on pretty graphics or sound effects or bullets on a slide to make my point. And what ended up happening was it was a much more intimate, impactful, effective conversation between me and my audience. And so that was a really big lesson for me, that we get so reliant on other things and other people to help magnifier our impact. When really the best source of that impact is right inside of us.

Steve Rush: Great revelation, I guess, as well at the same time. Cause it’s probably informed how you do things now, right?

Claire Chandler: It very much, very much did. Yeah. Yeah,

Steve Rush: Yeah, that’s lovely. Thank you. The last bit that we want to explore with you is to give you a chance to have a bit of time travel now. So, you get an opportunity to give Claire some advice when she was 21. What would your advice be to her?

Claire Chandler: It’s such a great question. You know, I loved being 21. I was still in college at the time. At 21, you had the worlds completely in front of you, you know, and there’s this vast unknown, but unlike when you get older, the unknown is exciting. It’s not something to be anxious or fearful about. And so, you know, looking back at where I was and who I was back then, I think my advice would be to take more risks. You know, I’m a fairly spontaneous person, but deep down, I’m a pretty conservative person when it comes to risks. But when I looked back at the road, I’ve traveled since 21, the greatest lessons I’ve learned, the greatest impact I’ve had on others. The greatest impact they’ve had on me was when I kind of threw caution to the wind. You know, it was sort of like the decision to leave corporate and just go out on my own, not really having a plan. It’s in those times of taking risks and stretching yourself and jumping into the abyss, not knowing, you know, where or when, or how, or if you’re going to land. That the greatest growth and the greatest insights occur. And, you know, I didn’t have a clue as to all of that at 21. So that’s something that I would absolutely tell my 21-year-old self.

Steve Rush: I love that, and the principle of risk-taking of course, we learn as we perhaps get a little bit older. The downside is maybe not as severe as we may have thought to anyone, because we’ve got a bit more life experience, right?

Claire Chandler: Yeah.

Steve Rush: Brilliant hacks. Thank you for sharing all of those Claire.

Claire Chandler: Absolutely.

Steve Rush: Now this is the opportunity for us to help promote what you’re doing. Now there’s a few things that I wanted to mention. One, you’ve just written another book, which is available for our listeners to also get a copy of. Where would you best like our listeners to find out a little bit more about Talent Boost, a little bit about the books that you’ve written?

Claire Chandler: Sure, so the best way for your audience to track me down is, I do have a website. They’re free to go there and visit, but if you really want to get to know more about me, about my work and either of the books, you can go to There is a resources page on that site that has a couple of resources available for download, they’re all free. That leaders and employees can contest out, can apply, and immediately get some positive impact in their business.


Steve Rush: Brilliant, and what was the inspiration behind the latest book?

Claire Chandler: The latest book, which came out earlier this year. I co-authored with a colleague of mine, Ben Baker, and it’s called Leading Beyond A Crisis, A Conversation About What’s Next. And it was really sparked by this, you know, this global pandemic world that we live in now. And it started out as a series of conversations between Ben and myself that we put out on YouTube and as we looked back at those, you know, we realized there were a lot of lessons for leaders in there about not just managing the crisis, that’s right in front of you, but maintaining an eye on the longer term horizon that you’re trying to get to. And some ways and some hacks, if you will, for doing that. So, you can find a link to both that book and The Whirlpool Effect on my website. And they were both also available on Amazon.

Steve Rush: Super and we’ll also make sure that all of those links will be in our show notes.

Claire Chandler: Excellent.

Steve Rush: Claire, it’s just left for me to say, I am super grateful for you taking time out to come and join us on The Leadership Hacker Podcast. You’ve been an awesome guest and I wish you all the best with whatever happens next for you.

Claire Chandler: Thank you.

Steve Rush: Thank you Claire.

Claire Chandler: Thank you, Steve. Same to you. I appreciate it.



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