“Leaders… really can bring a lot of joy into people’s lives. They can uplift them, they can inspire them, they can help them connect to their purpose, they can support them, they can provide them compassion. That’s what we really care about, and the more leaders who choose to do that, because it’s got massive performance benefits as well as being intrinsically a wonderful thing, the better.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that leadership is life-changing, either for good or ill. Between them Katy Granville-Chapman and Emmie Bidston have experience of leading and training leaders in pretty much every context – military, sport, business, educational, government and public sector – and they’ve discovered that in every sphere the principles of successful leadership are surprisingly simple: know, love and inspire your people.
In this conversation we explore how they went about translating those principles into a book and accompanying course, and the benefits of writing with a supportive co-author.
Leader site: www.leaderknowloveinspire.com
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
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The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
This Summer Means Business (combined proposal challenge and writing retreat): https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=this-summer-means-business
Proposal Challenge only: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=proposal-challenge-july-2020
Virtual Writing Retreat only: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=virtual-writing-retreat-summer-2020
Alison Jones: I’m here today with Katy Granville-Chapman who served in the British army as both a troop commander and an education officer role in which she set up the education provision for British soldiers in Iraq and delivered leadership training to them. And Katy’s now a deputy head teacher and affiliated researcher at the university of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre and the cofounder of a global leadership program, which has participants in 102 countries.
And Katy’s advised, amongst others, David Cameron’s government, the department of education, England rugby and the cabinet office on leadership. I’m also here with Emmie Bidston, who after graduating from the University of Cambridge with a degree in economics and before going into teaching worked developing policies for the government in Westminster and a range of areas from education to contingency planning.
She’s currently head of economics at Wellington College and director of the Wellington Leadership and Coaching Institute, and she co founded a charity to help develop young leaders in Africa and runs conferences, coaching and leadership training for adults and young people. Together they are the authors of Leader: Know love and inspire your people, which is out today, that’s the 6th of July, 2020, from Crown House Publishing. Welcome to the show, Katy and Emmie. Firstly, congratulations. How does it feel?
Emmie Bidston: Super excited.
Alison Jones: At the point of recording, I have to admit, dear listener, they haven’t actually physically held the book in their hand. Have you? That’s about to happen.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Yes.
Emmie Bidston: Yes. We’re waiting for the post to arrive.
Alison Jones: You’re just camping by the front door. It’s so exciting that moment when you hold your book – there’s nothing quite like it. So I’d like to talk to you… Well, let’s start with you, Katy. How did you settle on those three key lessons of leadership in the book?
Katy Granville-Chapman: it’s really fun actually, because Emmie and I have been working together for quite a while on delivering leadership programs. And we were always trying to figure out what the bottom line was, what is it really, really about and what is the common thing that will work for everyone everywhere?
We were batting loads of ideas around, and we’ve been reading about it, teaching about it, thinking about it, and then we came up with these three. And then we started testing it and the more we tested it, the more it seemed to work in every context we could think of, every environment of every person we spoke to, you were like, Oh yeah, it does work.
if you really really know your people, then that will enable you to give them lots of love and really, really care for them and be compassionate and supportive in the way that’s most effective for them. And then once you’ve done those two things, then you’re able to inspire them. And leadership’s really about inspiration rather than just motivation or pushing people to do things.
It’s very much drawing out the very best in them. But you can’t really do that unless you know them really well and you love them really well. So I guess it was a combination of working together for a really, really long time and really thinking deeply about three things that would work in any context.
Alison Jones: And it works very well as a structure for the book, doesn’t it? Because each of those, as you say, builds on the one before, you know, you have to know before you can love, you have to love before you can inspire this. There’s a logic to that. And then you’ve got two chapters per principle, so from an editorial perspective, it’s a really coherent, pleasing, solid structure for the book. And I’m guessing that helped you write the thing more easily as well.
Emmie Bidston: Yes, that’s really kind of you to say that, yes, it was a lot of fun trying to think through all the amazing research out there on leadership. I think we’ve both been quite challenged by the fact we’ve seen lots of people over the years being put into leadership positions without much training and support.
And once you’re in a job with leadership responsibility, whether it be in a hospital or in the army, there’s not that much time to suddenly decide to read every leadership book that’s out there. We really wanted to take all the amazing research and bring it together in a way that people could actually hold and remember in their heads when they’re suddenly in a situation where I think, what do I do? You know, how, how do I support my people better? Then hopefully you can remember those three things and hold them to them.
Alison Jones: Yes, it’s interesting, because they’re not tactics, but they’re actually they’re principles, aren’t they? You can embody those. And when you have a particular situation, you don’t have to thumb through looking for what I do, what’s the playbook for this situation, as long as you’re applying those principles.
Katy Granville-Chapman: We really hope so. And I think that what we’ve also found is that leadership is different in every situation, because it’s fundamentally about people. So you have to know the people that you’re privileged enough to lead and work with and have as your colleagues. and see you, can’t just say, if you want to be a great leader, do X, Y, and Z, but instead we’re saying, if you want to be a great leader, really, really know the people who are in your context at this moment in time and then really give them love. So, like you say, it it’s hopefully transferable, and not so much a do this, do that, but just think about these three things.
Alison Jones: And that’s important because as well the range of leadership situations that you cover, I mean, between you, you cover pretty much every leadership situation I can think of as well. You’ve got the army, you’ve got education, you’ve got politics, you’ve got business… It’s a very broad spectrum, isn’t it? And I guess the point is that leadership is leadership across all of them.
Emmie Bidston: Yes, absolutely. I really believe it’s about who you are, rather than particular strategies that you put in place. And that is transferable. I think it’s been really interesting with COVID-19 and, you know, so much change in so many businesses and so many sectors. There isn’t one thing you have to do, but you know, everyone’s affected differently.
And if you can really get to know your team and find out what their struggles and their strengths are now from working online and from lockdown, then you can work out how to support them and bring out the best in them and help them to flourish and to perform.
Alison Jones: Yes, it’s been a challenge for leaders like no other, this hasn’t it?
Katy Granville-Chapman: Yes, I think, and hopefully even with that particular challenge, if as Emmie says, you really know people, you know their strengths, their struggles. you’re providing them with love then as, as you said, as well, it’s not really about the context you’re in, because it’s still about fundamentally about people.
And so that’s why, I guess that we were so keen to cover as many different kind of environments and contexts of roles as possible in the book because we just wanted to demonstrate and provide examples that these three principles work, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, even in such a challenging and difficult time as that brought with this global pandemic of COVID-19.
Alison Jones: And it’s frustrating I know as an author, because of course you didn’t write it in that context, but it’s being marketed and it will be read in that context. Was that , I mean, that’s quite interesting, how have you worked through that in your own heads?
Emmie Bidston: I think in some ways it’s quite exciting because, you know, if, if the research is really thorough and if the principles are good they should really work whatever the circumstance and particularly in difficult times, I think, these principles are even more important. but that will really be the test of it, you know?
So potentially it’s exciting to see how it lands during this time. And interestingly, we’ve been working on an online course as well with the Oxford Character project and the Human Flourishing program at Harvard’s Quantitative Institute. And that’s been interesting, yes, what does this look like, to flourish in difficult times, and to take these principles and work them through during the pandemic.
Alison Jones: And we just know, don’t we, that there’s going to be so many case studies coming out of how companies have managed and led during the pandemic, which of course is a bit too late for you to incorporate the book now, but maybe a second edition. But let’s talk about the case studies there, because that’s a real feature of the book.
I mean, we’ve talked about the way that you focus on principles. So once you internalize those principles, it’s a roadmap for leading in any situation, but you’ve also. Introduced a lot of case studies from all those different arenas of leadership. And I was really interested as to how you sourced those, how you put them together, how you selected them. Maybe just tell me a little bit more about that.
Katy Granville-Chapman: I guess I’m, that was a really long process because, certainly I’ve been pretty obsessed with leadership since I was 18, when I first went on attachment with the army. And, that’s when I first really understood the power of leadership either to have a profoundly positive impact on people’s lives or to really drag them down and have a really, really negative impact and cause quite a lot of languishing and anxiety and upset and stress and pain.
And so I guess, because, it’s the same for Emmie as well. I’ve been looking at it for such a long time. I think that I try to store in my head and write down – because we’ve been teaching it for a little while – these case studies, so I guess it was kind of a cumulative process of a real passion and fascination by leadership, that led us to have a really broad range of case studies.
And because we work in schools, I guess that it’s relevant because you know that the young people that you teach will go on and do a range of different careers later. So I think probably I didn’t want just to kind of limit my research and thoughts and reading to school or the army, but I really wanted a really broad understanding of leadership.
And I think that’s the same for Emmie as well.
Emmie Bidston: Yes. And I think I’ll really learn from you on this Katy: Katy’s really good at saying yes to everything, you know, it’s a real strength, she’s so positive. And so every kind of opportunity over the last 20 years where someone said, do you want to get involved with this? Do you want to try this? Could you help us with this? Katy’s always said yes. And we’ve tried to get alongside people and out of that has come a whole network of contacts that has also really helped over the years.
Alison Jones: That’s so interesting and those contacts in all those different areas, presumably you’re in quite an unusual position, being able to see connections and parallels between them then.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Yes, I think so. I think we’re really, really lucky. And like Emmy says, we have been very, very blessed with opportunities, I guess. like Emmie says, when you do just say yes to everything, then the more people you meet and the more people you find with a similar interest, you know, real passion, for leadership, and that really enables you to get insight into different industries and different ways of doing things. And I think that’s been really, really powerful for the learning as well, and…. yes.
Alison Jones: ‘Yes’ is the message we’re taking away. I love that. I’ve just finished listening to Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes. So this is resonating deeply.
Emmie Bidston: And people say yes, we were surprised by how kind and generous people were. So, you know, amazing professors like Adam Grant and Amy Edmondson would just say yes when we asked to interview them, who were just really generous with that time.
Alison Jones: And why do you think that is? I mean, I have my own theories here, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Well, I guess that Adam Grant’s written the most amazing book Give and Take, and it’s all about, how givers do come out on top. And it’s something he really believes in. So I guess he was starting from a naturally, very generous position. and I guess he… yeah, I guess he’s promoting it, but we thought because he’s so extraordinarily busy that he wouldn’t possibly be able to respond to us and to help us, even though this is what he’s writing about, but that was incredibly kind.
Something that the book comes up with is that actually when you do help people, it helps yourself as well because it really enables flourishing because it releases oxytocin in your brain, which gives you lovely, warm content feelings, but actually also it’s good for your health. There’s quite a lot of research that your physical health improves when you either give, witness or receive compassion too.
So there’s some really cool research, especially by, I love Dacher Keltner’s research, the university of California, Berkeley, and Annie McKee and Richard Boyatzis have also written really, really powerfully on this. So actually, when you do give, when you’re generous, when you say yes, and you help people out it benefits yourself, although most people don’t do it for that reason.
But again, it becomes a habit because every time you do help someone, you feel better about it. And so I guess that then the more you do it, the more you realize that it’s a good thing. It’s a kind of win, win, I guess.
Alison Jones: Yes, it’s brilliant. It’s wonderful that we’re designed that way. Isn’t it? I just love that fundamental principle of how humans work. And if you’re listening and you are wondering about reaching out to people to ask them to endorse or read or comment or for research, this is really important because actually, you know, you’re not asking them for a favour, you’re inviting them into a mutual favour and that’s a very cool place to start from, isn’t it, rather than sort of worrying about asking somebody.
Emmie Bidston: Definitely that’s the way to see it. and, we love, you know, people reach out to us and that’s given us some amazing contacts. I think we all benefit from living that kind of openhearted, kind way.
Alison Jones: Yes, I love that. And the book is, it’s very practical as well. So you’ve got the case studies in there. You’ve also got questions that aren’t just woolly reflective questions. Not that there’s anything wrong with woolly reflective questions, that can be very powerful, but you structure them in a way that it’s like, you’re imagining the book being used or you’re envisaging the book being used as a coaching tool for leaders to use with their people.
Just tell me a little bit more about that.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Yes, I guess we wanted the book to come alive and to be worked through and used, and to give more than just a thought process, but actually be something really practical. And so I think that that was a really fun part for us. And I think probably cause we’re teachers as well, I suppose our natural way of doing things is thinking how people best get to learn or what’s going to be the easiest way for people to learn.
And you can learn a huge amount from a book, but we think, especially with leadership, you learn even more when you try it out. And so you think about, “Oh yeah, I really want to learn to listen better,” but actually you need to try that and think about, well, what’s my impact? Is my impact improving, on my team and the people I’m lucky enough to lead because I’m listening more effectively, or do I actually need to do something slightly better? Do I still need to work on that? Do I still need to make it better? So I guess we really wanted to increase the impact and increase the learning by asking people to do something practical with it, rather than just have it sitting on a shelf.
Alison Jones: Yeah,
Emmie Bidston: we all know how you can go on and get an amazing training course and be like, Oh, that’s absolutely brilliant. And then you come back to work and you’re so busy. You just don’t put it into practice and you lose all the benefits. And one of the real highlights with some of the courses we’ve run over the years is that to get the qualification, we did a diploma in global leadership and education, you have to do these assignments that involve working through these leadership exercise with your team, which are not the same as the book, but we’ve tried putting these into practice and then reflecting on the impact of that and involving others in that. And that’s what was the most powerful aspect of the leadership courses that we run.
Alison Jones: And have you had any feedback from people who’ve read the book on using that in the white heat of leadership?
Katy Granville-Chapman: I think what’s been really helpful is actually designing the course based on the book, really with our friends at Harvard and Oxford and they were amazing. That was such a joyful experience to work with them because obviously they’re incredible academics, but also very excited about teaching and learning because of the settings that they’re in.
And so they had really positive feedback on the exercises and helped us take them even further. And now people have started to do this course, the Leading and Flourishing in Difficult Times, and it’s really nice because it asks people to write comments on the impact of what they’ve been doing, and so that’s a really lovely record for us to see how the book is working for them and what the impact of that is and what their thought process is. So I think that’s been really really helpful. I’m really glad we used the book in that way and put it online as well. Obviously there’s much less content online because you can’t fit a book into a 20-hour online free course, but, I think the practical element of that has been really nice for us to see.
Alison Jones: Yes. And I love seeing where you have a book and a course, they do complement each other really well, don’t they? Because there’s the pedagogical stuff around the course and your assessments, your reflection, your working with people, but the book allows you to go more deeply into the principles and the thinking and the theory behind it as well.
Emmie Bidston: That’s really what we hope we have. They’ll be a really nice combination together. That means it can have more impact. I think that that’s what we’re excited about. We love all the academics, we love the research, but it’s the fact that we might be able to help somebody become the best leader they can be and that might change the lives of the people that they’re leading and could really have a ripple effect that really excites us.
Katy Granville-Chapman: I really agree with that. And then I think one of our big things is really trying to spread flourishing and joy and fulfillment as much as possible through leadership because leaders really can have that impact. They really can bring a lot of joy into people’s lives. They can uplift them, they can inspire them, they can help them connect to their purpose, they can support them, they can provide them compassion. That what we really care about, and the more leaders who choose to do that, because it’s got massive performance benefits as well as being intrinsically a wonderful thing , the better from our point of view. And that’s certainly what gets me up in the morning, to really help people be more joyful and happier at work.
Alison Jones: Yeah, I love that. It is interesting, isn’t it? Because there’s no reason why you wouldn’t lead like this. It’s more satisfying for you, it’s more productive for your organizations, it’s better for people and yet, and yet we see… anyway, that’s a whole new podcast.
Tell me a little bit about what it was like writing together, because when I talk to people who have co-written, it goes all the way from, you know, “We actually sat down and wrote our own bits completely separately and then we put them together at the end,” to “We wrote every word in consultation.” So where are you on that spectrum?
Emmie Bidston: I think the main thing was, it was an awful lot of fun writing it together. I can’t now imagine writing a book on my own. It just brilliant for our friendship. It meant every time I felt a bit discouraged or thought, you know, you’ve got that imposter syndrome of, “Really, you know, have I got anything to say? Am I good enough to do this?” we have each other to support and encourage one another. And I think we fell somewhere in the middle of what you were saying. So we planned out all the book and the content together and the structure, and then we would kind of pass the chapters between each other. So one of us would maybe kind of put in the outline and the research then the next one would kind of write it up as a first draft and pass it on and the other person would change it. So, we passed it between us and that seemed to work really well for us.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Yes, I totally agree with Emmie because, I really now can’t imagine writing a book on my own because it was so much fun and, it is quite hard. And like Emmie says I totally had imposter syndrome. I was like, Oh my gosh, there’s no way I’m good enough to write a book. So we really encouraged each other and yes, it was just much, much more fun doing it together.
And I think, I guess because we had been working together. for a while so we really understood each other. We’ve got slightly different strengths, as Emmie said, Emmie’s much more creative. And I like the research side and she loves the research side as well, but she’s definitely much more creative and a brilliant, brilliant storyteller.
So I think we were able to bring slightly different things to the book, as well as making it a way more enjoyable process working together.
Alison Jones: I love that thing about inoculating yourself against imposter syndrome. Brilliant. Actually, I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but when the other person’s writing the book as well, then you can see why THEY should write the book, obviously. Because we can always do that. So clearly the book needs to be written and they’re the perfect person to write it., so you’re just giving them a hand. And you both think that, and the book gets done. That’s hilarious. I love that. And if there’s people listening. .. tell us a little bit more, I guess, about what writing looks like for you. And then I’m going to come and ask you for your best tips for people, but you know, what did you discover through the process of writing. I guess I’m asking?
Emmie Bidston: Ooh, that’s such a good question. I think one thing is that we both love exercise, so we’re both running and biking and swimming and things. So I found all my best ideas and whenever I got stuck, if I went for a run or a bike ride, it all clarified.
Alison Jones: I hear you.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Yes, definitely. And just doing it. I think that’s the key, because the first thing you write down, it’s not going to be that great, but it’s so much easier to edit than write that first thing. So I just say, just do it, just write something. it doesn’t matter what it is. and especially when you’re working in a partnership because you can help each other, make it better and better, and yes, definitely keep up with the exercise.
Alison Jones: It takes quite a high level of trust. Isn’t it? When you you’re writing, you know, crap, frankly, which is what you kind of start writing, because you’ve got to start somewhere. Sorry, but you know, and that’s bad enough when you go back and read and go, who wrote this, but when you’re passing it to someone else as well, that’s quite vulnerable-making, isn’t it? How did you manage that editing each other’s work thing?
Emmie Bidston: That’s so interesting. Because one of our favorite researchers and authors is Amy Edmondson who wrote The Fearless Organization, which is all about how, people and organizations that flourish have this psychological safety where you feel you can kind of be really honest with each other. And I think luckily Katy and I have that. So I think certainly for me, I know that Katy believes in me, she believes in my strengths, she supports me and thinks I am wonderful and therefore I can totally take it when she tells me something’s not right or not good. And actually I’m glad when she does, because then I might believe her when she tells me good stuff, because I know she will also tell me the truth when something’s not the best it can be.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Yes, it was pretty amazing to have that partnership because I feel exactly the same about Emmie, actually, I’m in a position where I’m really, really grateful for her more critical feedback, as well as her encouragement. So yes, really, really welcomed the points for improvement and “Oh no, this is completely on the wrong lines.” because I completeluy trust that Emmie still really values me as a person. And it’s just the work that, she’s saying needs to be a bit different or a bit better. And because we were in a partnership, we were kind of doing it for each other. So, that really helped me because I probably found it hard to do it for myself.
But, so things like, yes. I would really, really want to make the improvements and make it as good as I possibly possibly could. So that was another reason I really, really welcomed, you know, putting forward some stuff that wasn’t that good and then getting it much improved.
Alison Jones: Yes. And that accountability to each other is hugely helpful in just getting stuff done as well. Isn’t it?
Emmie Bidston: Yes.
Alison Jones: Yes. So if I was to ask you what your best tip would be for a first time business book, author, what would you say? Let’s start with you Emmie.
Emmie Bidston: Ooh, it’s pretty well what I said already, which is write with your best friend or someone you really trust because it will be a much more fun process. and then I guess find where you’re most creative place is and that is exercising for me, that is out on a bike in the woods when I can think clearly, but it might obviously be different for somebody else.
It might be a cup of tea in the morning or a specific place where you write. But I think, yeah, finding your support, even if you’re not co-writing, somebody who will cheer you on, and finding your place to write.
Alison Jones: Yes, that sounds very psychologically healthy. And Katy, what would you add?
Katy Granville-Chapman: Oh, I would so agree. Writing with a really, really great, your best friend, would be my number one tip by a mile. I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own, but I think, read as widely as possible and read over long periods because that will really help you take what’s most important because actually it’s quite interesting cause people write… there can be quite a lot of difference in leadership philosophies and what people are writing about and what people are emphasizing. But if you read widely enough, you can probably find what you really believe to be true or what you really believe works universally. But I think that takes a little bit of reading first, over quite a long period of time.
So, yes. Write with your best friend and do lots of reading.
Alison Jones: Yes, brilliant. And it’s funny because a lot of people are nervous about reading too widely in the field because they feel that they will be over-influenced by people’s ideas, that they’ll be derivative, but it doesn’t work like that, does it? If you read really widely, it feeds your own thinking.
Katy Granville-Chapman: Oh, totally. And the more widely you read the less influenced you’ll be with one person or another. I think it’s easier to form your own ideas if you feel that you’ve got a really good grasp of the fields and a really broad grasp of the field.
Alison Jones: And it also helps give you a sense of perspective, I think as well, because no book is ever the last word in a topic. Is it? You’re just part of the conversation, aren’t you?
Emmie Bidston: Absolutely. And that idea of, you know, standing on the shoulders of giants, we’re all building on research over hundreds of years, and I’m wanting to add a small bit to that, but yes, we’re a whole team. There’s lots of people out there writing amazing things.
Alison Jones: Yes. Brilliant. Great tips. Thank you. And I’d also like to ask you both for a business book recommendation. I mean, honestly, I’m not going to shoot you if it’s not a business book, obviously, but you know, something that you think anybody who’s listening, anybody who’s aspiring to write a business book. it would be helpful for them to read, Katy let’s go with you first on this one.
Katy Granville-Chapman: So I guess two, if that’s possible. So the first one that I really really connected with, was Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, and they talk about mindfulness, hope and compassion as being three really key elements. but in terms of style and easy to read, I absolutely loved Adam Grant’s Give and Take.
Alison Jones: Yes. Do you know, I’ve not read either of those two. I know of them both, but they’ve been on my to-read pile. So it’s interesting that that’s that’s punched them up the huge pile quite a long way. And Emmie, what about you?
Emmie Bidston: I’m going to stick with the one I mentioned earlier, which is Amy Edmonson and The Fearless Organization. I love that principle of psychological safety.
Alison Jones: Yes, absolutely. I love that one. I have read that one, it’s a while ago, but it’s brilliant. Thank you. They are great recommendations. That’s brilliant. And if people want to find out more about both of you, more about Leader, where should they go?
Emmie Bidston: You can go to my website, which is www.leaderknowloveinspire.com. And you can find a link to the book there – and just a shout out for Crown House Publishing who were amazing, you know, editing and helping us through this process. And there’s also a link on that website to the course, which is free for anyone who’d like to do it, Leading and Flourishing in Difficult Times.
Alison Jones: Fantastic. I’ll put all those links up on the show notes at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com if you’re in the middle of a run right now, or out on your bike and you haven’t got a pen and paper at hand. It was such a pleasure to talk to you both, and what I love as well is the way that your passion for leadership and the trust and that engagement has really spilled over into the way that you write the book as well. It’s a lovely example of walking your talk.
Emmie Bidston: Thank you so much. It’s been lovely to meet you.
Alison Jones: Great to talk to you both. Thank you so much for your time
Katy Granville-Chapman: Thank you. I loved your questions. They were brilliant.