AB Thinks  →  27th May 2022

Lessons in leadership for a modern world

AB Thinks

In the 63rd episode of The Internal Comms Podcast, host Katie Macaulay speaks with Mike Roe, CEO of Tensense, a data insights company with a diagnostic tool that delivers insights on organisational experience.

Drawing on a 28-year career in the police force and years of experience coaching other chief executives, Mike shares his lessons on leadership, authentic listening, and strategies for intuitive communication.

In a world where leaders need to be ever more adroit, flexible and agile, new thinking and leadership approaches need to come into play. But new insights are essential, too. Mike explains how Tensense hopes to tap into the emotional, intuitive reaction of people to where they work, in order to offer a predictive picture of organisational experience (OX).

This is a fascinating conversation covering a swathe of lessons in leadership – here are four of them:

#1 Meet the needs you can
Mike argues that if you identify your top five personal needs in your world of work, and then you check in against them, you will know whether you’re in the right role, job or business, and whether or not you are enabled to be the best version of yourself.

For leaders and managers to identify those five personal needs is pretty critical, he says (although “it doesn’t always mean we meet them”) because it can instigate a better conversation about how that person can contribute.

Mike performs an exercise asking people to identify those top five personal needs, and then score them as to what extent the need is being met. If they say three out of five or below, there’s a problem. But that’s not the end of the exercise. Mike then asks them to pick a sixth need, because it pushes people’s thinking. Often, he says, number six is something that should have been in the top five. Purpose, balance and environment are always key.

#2 Listen authentically and ask powerful questions
For Mike, leadership coaching was transformative, particularly for his ability to listen authentically to his colleagues. He’d previously believed he had an open-door policy, but realised that he’d often skip ahead when his colleague began talking, assuming he could see the problem and offer a solution.

He told Katie: “I often now look back and think they probably left the room, walked back down the corridor thinking ‘that isn’t what I went for in the first place’. And, of course, we now realise that people will often start talking to us about something, knowing that that’s not really what they want to talk about.”

Now, Mike says, he approaches these conversations differently. When somebody comes to talk to him, he asks what they would like to get out of those 10 minutes. What’s the goal of the conversation for them?

He really listens to what they’re saying, but also tries to pick up on whether they’re skirting the real issue they want to discuss. This is where powerful questions come in. For example, asking ‘What are you not telling me?’ has led to Mike receiving remarkable feedback he wouldn’t otherwise have heard. Powerful questions can be simple – ‘Tell me more’ – because people aren’t used to truly being listened to, and will seize the opportunity to share those valuable insights.

#3 Don’t be assumptive
In a similar vein to #2, Mike says it’s key to check that everyone’s on the same page and not assume you’ve taken the same points from a conversation. “I think we can be very assumptive. And we miss out on the truths and the opportunities,” he says.

He emphasises the importance of summarising what you heard and playing it back. And that works in reverse, too: ‘Tell me what you think I just said?’ or ‘Tell me what we’ve just agreed.’ He suggests then following up by asking how confident, out of ten, the person feels about this task. If they give you anything less than an 8, go around it again.

Why? Because “we spend our life with misconceptions, misunderstanding, misrepresentations,” he says.

#4 Tap into the story of your organisation
Leaders are overwhelmed by data that they need to make sense of and use to take action. But, when a crisis hits, it’s crucial that they can tap into the right information at the right time to understand the real story of their organisation.

Mike believes leaders need a picture of total experience across an organisation – what he calls ‘organisational experience’, or OX.

Tensense began when behavioural scientist Dr Mike Carter built a diagnostic tool to deliver OX insights, which cover the performance, threats to and opportunities for an organisation, focusing on performance energy, motivation, team attributes and culture.

Mike says, “this is for me as a CEO, what can I tap into on a daily basis that tells me ‘What’s the story in my organisation? Across my organisation? And how can I, in real time, tap into what the significant opportunities and threats are in a way that we don’t get with employee engagement?’”

Through OX data, which is integrated with financial information and other business metrics, Mike claims leaders can take a more predictive, forward-looking view of what might be happening.

The details of how Tensense works are fascinating – listen to the episode to discover more.