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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Sean Pillot de Chenecey interviews Skip Bowman.

Skip is an inspirational keynote speaker, writer, and facilitator on transformational global leadership. With a strong foundation in Organizational Psychology and research, his programs catalyze growth, inspire cultural change and drive global collaboration. He is also an expert in leading organizations through crises like we are seeing today with COVID19.

Skip is the creator of the ”Safe to Great” concept which is based on his own research and consulting on how to apply concepts of psychological safety and growth mindset in global companies.

Connect with Speakers Associates

Episode #137

Achieving transformations in business and culture through principles of “contagious change”.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (00:11): Hello, this podcast is care of Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau representing a select group of the business world’s finest thinkers and thought leaders founded in 1999. Today Speakers Associates operate out of nine offices across seven countries covering the UK, Europe and Middle East. I’m Sean Pillot de Chenecey author of The Post-Truth Business and Influencers & Revolutionaries, which are being followed by The New Abnormal. In this series, I interview a range of fascinating individuals, proudly represented by the bureau. These change agents and industry experts give an update on their specialist areas of knowledge, and also on their motivations and viewpoints regarding the future of business.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (01:11): So today I’m pleased to be joined by a really inspiring individual, Skip Bowman. He’s an inspirational keynote speaker writer and facilitator on transformational global leadership with a strong foundation in organizational psychology and research his programs, catalyze growth, inspire cultural change and drive global collaboration. He’s also an expert in leading organizations through crisis. Like we’re seeing today with COVID 19. Skip is the creator of the Safe2Great™ concept, which is based on his own research and consulting on how to apply concepts of psychological safety and a growth mindset in global companies. Soon available in a book Skip has been sharing and implementing his ideas in leadership and organizational development projects for companies across the world for many years. He’s also the founder and chief transformational officer at Global Mindset, a consulting company dedicated to making global organizations safe for great work. As all jobs become more global every member of a company needs a global mindset. The ability to be confident and competent with the unknown and unusual globally savvy. He speaks that and leads workshops in Europe, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. He uses two working languages, Danish and English. He grew up in Perth, Australia and has spent the majority of the last 25 years based in Europe. Skip’s approach is based on four values, challenge, explore, create and inspire. For him, the key mission of leadership and organizational development is to inspire change with original training and consulting methods that touch the hearts and minds of leaders, helping them to see and feel the reality of global challenges and find the courage to think and act differently. Finally, in, during the last 20 years, Skip has worked with clients like Amcor, Merck, Danfoss, Siemens, Rambøll, BHP Billiton, Brüel & Kjær, HBM, GN, Ericsson, Nestlé, Mölnlycke, VELUX, SimCorp, and Tryg. So, Skip after all that deeply impressive bio, how are you?

Skip Bowman (03:24): I’m really good. I’m sort of inspired by your pronunciation of those complicated Danish share corporate names, but no, it’s a very difficult language to speak. Yeah. Yeah. So you did, you did okay. You did. Okay. I hope none of them, my Danish listeners are offended by that

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (03:42): I can imagine even now, or when the, when this podcast gets published, there’ll be sort of Danish listeners, you know, spitting out their coffee with rage as they hear me sort of blundering through their thing. One of those.

Skip Bowman (03:53): Well, certainly one of those companies has an almost impossible name to, to kind of read in English, but that that’s it, that’s the fun of having learned Danish over the well speak Danish fluently second language for me, but yes, a very tricky language to learn. It does help me when I work with the Danish global companies that I spend a lot of time doing anyway. I’m good. How are you?

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (04:13): yeah. Yeah. Fine. Funny. Thank you. Very good, indeed. So, so so tell me, Skip, just to yeah know, just start somewhere perhaps a of entirely relevant to the conversation. I mean, as I mentioned in your bio, you grew up in Perth, Australia, but spent the majority of the last 25 years based over in Europe. So yeah, perhaps just take us through your background and how exactly you got to where you are now and indeed why you do what you do.

Skip Bowman (04:40): There could take a all day. I, I would start, well, I, you know, I think one of the most important things I, I learned from a, a very old member of my family, who said you always should be looking forward. So I I’ll do the very quick version in the sense that, what, how did an Australian end up here? I think it it started, I was a diving it many years ago. I did accounting and finance and I found that really boring. I, my first degree in that, and then I became a diving instructor and I discovered that I was really good at creating safety and teaching people to do something which for a lot is very anxiety creating. So I actually had a very early experience with creating psychological safety when somebody’s about to jump black dark water with no moon and it’s 20 meters deep, full of sharks.

Skip Bowman (05:27): So how do you create psychological safety? And also when you do that underwater where you can’t say any words, so there’s a physicality to psychological safety. So I, I, I, I discovered a passion after a passionless study of accounting and finance, I discovered a passion for teaching. And I then went back to once I learned Danish there’s a roundabout. I ended up in Denmark and I was an O pair. I looked after small two small boys for a year in Switzerland and learned French. And then I ended up more or less in Denmark. And I went back to university studies, psychology and languages. So I’m a psycho linguist specializing in particular back then around cross-cultural psychology. What, what happens to us when we use second languages? What’s the impact on psychologically super fun. And then I got a job in Erickson running leadership development and did a lot of global leadership development for a number of years with them.

Skip Bowman (06:24): And then I joined an insurance company and ran human resource development. That’s that trigger name, which you mentioned earlier in Dan report choke. But it’s so I worked about for about eight years of my career internally. And then I became a consultant more or less and had been working, you know, with companies in various different industry sectors, that kind of thing. And, and I particularly enjoy the leisure development, which is focused around organization development. In other words, we’re mm, working together to create, you know, great customer outcomes, great, you know, bottom lines, you know, agile logistics, whatever that happens to be. I think leadership development should be a team sport. So I think when it’s anchored in that way into the business, it becomes a far more healthy discussion rather than it becoming totally absorbed with already fairly self-absorbed executives.

Skip Bowman (07:26): So how do we get people outta themselves? And one of the ways to do that is to link it very much into the business process that we’re trying to improve and to sort of our understanding of the human connections that drive businesses and how am I currently impacting those human systems, those connections in ways that create growth, create trust, create safety, or do the opposite are coercive, controlling blocking breaking, creating friction. And, and so I’ve been doing that for a long time in various different con you know, continents and so on. I still love that the most. Obviously when you’re working in an organization like that, getting to know the organization, becoming an effective change agent in lots of different industries with different people, different nationalities is something I enjoy a lot. I have been successful doing. Also navigating the politics whenever you change anything there’s politics.

Skip Bowman (08:21): And, and I do like that. And I think there’s a huge role to play for outsiders in these things, because it’s very hard for organizations to hold the mirror up and take a good look at what we’re currently doing, cuz the vast majority of people are caught up in ideal culture rather than an actual. So one of my jobs I often say is that I’m a court J I have to make people laugh about the things that aren’t so nice to talk about. Mm. And, and that’s probably the biggest art I’ve had to learn. You know, I’ve been thrown out of a few companies every now and then because they didn’t like what you’re telling them, which is natural enough cuz you’re, but I’ve learned a little bit better that art of being more of the court jester to make people safer in their ability to be confronted with the things they don’t really want to know about themselves. And that’s a little bit of what I do. So that’s why the word chow is important in my values I think it also leads into courage because if you just challenge and make people feel miserable, you undermine their courage to change something. So I’ve become better at that. Particularly when we’re talking about big organizations, like 20,000, 40,000 people where the ego at play, there is massive.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (09:39): Yeah.

Skip Bowman (09:40): That’s, you know, tricky, but a lot of fun. So that’s the kinds of things I do, which means that, you know, I’ve been with transformations of businesses, people wanna do major changes. They feel they wanna work differently. They feel, they want to engage their people differently. They wanna more people driven strategy or a more efficient strategy. And, and I’m been involved in that kind of thing, implementing strategies and using leadership and psychology insights to make that happen. And it’s a bucket of fun as they say, where I come from.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (10:09): . And, and on that, I mean, can you talk about any case histories or is it all yeah, wrapped up?

Skip Bowman (10:17): No, I mean, I think some of the projects that I, that obviously one of the ones I’ve cut my teeth on many years ago was the BHP on all business turnaround, which which was very inspiring to be a part of, I didn’t lead that project, but I was very much part of it. And training, you know, leaders that are, could have been locomotive drivers or, you know, supervisors of basically gangs who work on the railway line or could be, you know, leading a factory or repair facility in port Headland in Western Australia, you know, helping people that aren’t, aren’t necess early as accustomed to, to thinking abstractly, to think about self reflection, to deepen their self-awareness mm-hmm working with them. I found extremely interesting. It was a, it was a transformational project, very simply put back in 2005, they had about 50 iron or carriers parked outside port.

Skip Bowman (11:15): He and you could, could basically sell as much iron or as you could pump through the mine railway line, port mm-hmm . And what they realized was that it, it would’ve taken too long to build infrastructure cuz the railway line is about 700 kilometers long. Mm-Hmm wow. So you can’t put in next railway line, but what they realized was the vast majority, they want double production that the, the most, the quickest and cheapest way to do that was through leadership development. In other words, creating a culture that was more constructive growth oriented mm-hmm , which I think to be honest for a mining company was very bold. So it was really interesting to see how they latched onto these ideas, difficult ideas, what we call systemic ideas about personality. Rather looking at personality as character driven trade driven is to look at what is the impact in these situations of my preferences and how am I resolving lots of these issues using three, these quite complex stuff.

Skip Bowman (12:15): And yet it really did help them start to understand the, the, the connectivity, the, if you like the various positive or negative spirals, they were creating in their human interactions. And even for people who are you know, not used to that found some of the tools we were working with them and they’ve inspired for me, what I, I work with today. I’ve sort of developed those ideas since then, you know, how do we take a complex systemic leadership idea, interactive idea mm-hmm and make it easy to teach, easy to use, easy to practice because if, if, if your tool you give to people, they can’t actually sit down in a workshop surrounded by locomotives and people, if they can can’t use it in that context, it’s not a lot of use, is it?

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (12:57): Mm

Skip Bowman (12:58): Mm. So that’s the tricky part. Go ahead.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (13:01): No, no I say on that, that exact point about leading organizations or helping organizations through crises, you mentioned there about, you know, the, sort of the, just that, that organization faced at that time. And I also mentioned your buyer though. Obviously one of the things you’re doing at the moment is leading organizations who are helping organizations to develop as they’re dealing with COVID. So yes. So what sort of things have been happening? I mean, I mean, naturally perhaps unfortunately we’re still in early days yet of the, of the whole COVID challenge or nightmare have one wants to look at it, but what are you talking with with, with leaders and with teams about the moment in terms of how they should be reacting to this or dealing with it, et cetera.

Skip Bowman (13:49): Well, there’s, there’s both things that have worked for them and, and some things that haven’t this is obviously the most extraordinary crisis we’ve seen. It’s very unusual in character. If we look at some of the previous ones, I mean, I was in one in 2 0 2 and the financial crisis, obviously. And a lot of other smaller ones, I was part of a transformation organization. It wasn’t so much a crisis, but they had a very poor profitability and we did a massive turnaround in two years, know, hearing our company some years ago, but this one’s very different in the sense that it’s impact on the business is very UN we’re an UN territory. And I think I think if I think of the early days I think the, the was, we we’ve, I’ve been challenging leaders on their ability to anticipate the future. Mm

Skip Bowman (14:38): Yeah. And in sense to shift their thinking, I have a, I have a bit of a a belief. Well, my experiences that most organizations are very much in the past rather than in the present. And the reason why I say that is that years ago, we used to, we used to do sort of strategic planning where you create a vision somewhere out there, and then we’d sort of try and reach the vision. My argument is usually that your, the, the kind of future that you really have to adapt to is already present, right? Mm-Hmm, , it’s here already. You’re just unable to see it because you’ve got various blinding, you know, blind spots your, your choices or the people who, who, who made the strategy originally have created some, some blinkers that mean that you don’t actually see the evidence that would counter your current strategy or provide opportunities to grow.

Skip Bowman (15:30): Cause people always think that the, you need to create a vision five or 10 years ahead. No, I think if you really look closely at what’s happening right now, there are loads of opportunities. And I think that’s really what I’m inspiring people to to think about is there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of sticky thinking in organizations. In other words, status quo com sort of like a conservatism, that kind of stuff. Mm-Hmm, where I think the companies that I’ve seen, who, who, who make bold decisions, for example, saying, we, we are going to, we are going to operate from home indefinitely, which is what a, a large Danish, pharmaceutical, no orders. Cause she chosen to do. Yep. There’s no point. There’s no point speculating. There’s no point, oh, maybe this maybe that no, a strong strategic position we’re gonna work from home indefinitely.

Skip Bowman (16:23): And there’s a couple of other companies done the same said, you know, flexible working home, working as much as you want forever. I like that. I think that’s taking, looking at the situation right now and using that to drive a change that is in the best interests of the workers and the company. Yeah. and I like that kind of thinking, and I think I’ve, I’ve back in, in, in April, I was consulting to a, a global company Danfo and their team, they were still planning you know, sort of traditional product launches. And I said, you’ve gotta be kidding, mate. There’s no way you’re gonna be able to do that. You need to totally rethink that strategy. Totally rethink that and digitalize it. And they were just saying no, but it might come back and say, if you are spending your time wondering whether it’s gonna come, you know, whether we’re gonna do this, whether COVID, O’s gonna go away, you’re wasting your energy where your energy would be better put into digitalizing also for that matter, because digital is the way of the future COVID has just accelerated trends that were already present.

Skip Bowman (17:26): So yeah, there is nothing new there. What I’ve been trying to do is to get people to be more courageous, bolder, particularly in big companies, if you don’t act boldly, people just don’t get the message, you know, it just gets absorbed in somewhere in middle management. It just disappears yeah. Yeah. It’s stuck there somewhere.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (17:49): And, and then, I mean, I mean, I’m very, very aware that you travel a great deal and Tobi. And so when you travel around either physically and or when you are dealing with perhaps, you know, at the moment so in a global clients via the wonderful world of zoom or whatever have you tended to find certain cultures certain territories national attitudes, et cetera, that lend themselves more to dynamic change in accepting change, as opposed to being, you know, really holding back to in, and being very resistant to this, you know, are this basically put, are there certain cultures just lend themselves to going for it and, you know, being genuinely dynamic and, and open to the future, as opposed to digging their heels in.

Skip Bowman (18:42): That’s a really, I mean, there’s a massive risk of generalizing here which I’d like to avoid, but with a huge emphasis, I think, I think almost every culture is capable of, of rapid change. It just looks very different.

Skip Bowman (19:00): China has massively, I mean, it’s probably the most significant economic change societal change in a, in a, in a large nation state ever in 20, 30 years, unbelievable amount of change. Now that’s a very top down approach but still has to be, you have to take it out off and say, wow, that was pretty, they’re pretty agile. It’s just different agile to a entrepreneurial, more decentralized American way of doing it. Right. Mm-hmm where a lot of small businesses, a lot of entrepreneurialism a lot of freedom thinking ti kinds of types, you know, Silicon valley types.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (19:45): Yeah. Yeah.

Skip Bowman (19:46): It’s agile, but it’s just different and it works different. It’s got a different method. So, and if you look at, sometimes we underestimate, I mean, if you look at, you know, cultural study, we, we know that there are top down cultures, you know, big power, distance cultures. We often think of them as being traditional. That’s true, but quite a lot of them operate in economies that have enormous challenges every day. For example, I always say to people in, you know, a lot Indian companies have to be extraordinarily agile because their infrastructure doesn’t always work. So you have to be really creative. What happened in Europe of course, is Europe has very sophisticated, very reliable logistics, except of course COVID. And what we found is suddenly all their supply chains felt because they’re so tightly screwed, but it screwed together. But in India, they probably, they wouldn’t blink an eye at, oh, something went wrong here or the power went off or

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (20:42): So they

Skip Bowman (20:42): To that, but our systems are so, so lean, right? Mm-Hmm, we become also vulnerable in a different way. So I think I think every culture can have people adapt, particularly when they need to, or when they feel there’s an opportunity. I think it takes a different form. And I think all, you know, we can, we can develop agility with also a certain level of cultural sensitivity without saying that, I mean, right now one would argue that Western economies are actually not particularly reform orange. They’re actually rather conservative. So the interest it’s, it’s, it’s a, you know, it’s a hard thing to say that one is better than the other. I certainly think Latin American cultures, but right now they’re so, so negatively impacted in say Brazil the, the, the, the Corona crisis, there has been just horrible, horrible to watch. Anyway, there’s some reflections no, no simple answer, but, but, but I, you know, I’m enthusi, I think you can create change anywhere. And I think agility can be found everywhere, whether it be Vietnam or India or China or Denmark, lots of agility, just very, very front because of the economies and the leadership style.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (21:50): Mm-Hmm mm-hmm . And then, and on that point, taking that point forward, I know that you certainly sort of your approach is based around those four values of, you know, challenge explore, create, inspire. So perhaps just, you know, unpack those in, in, in some detail for the listeners to, to take ’em through exactly how you approach those and what you talk with teams about.

Skip Bowman (22:10): Well, I think the, one of the key, the, if we take challenge, the, the key to the value out of any external consultant is our ability to look from the outside in it’s actually not a very difficult thing to be clever about other people’s businesses, if, if, even if they were, if the people in the business stepped out of it for long enough and stopped drinking the Kool-Aid, they could see it too.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (22:35): yeah.

Skip Bowman (22:39): But unfortunately that’s not always that easy to do so that’s our role, and there are very different methods for doing that. But I think, you know, in my approach, particularly when we look of cultural transformations, looking at leadership culture, ways of working it’s about mapping it where they are right now, mapping it in an honest, accurate, systematic way so that we can create a picture of where we really are today. And as I said, that’s that very, is very much a confronting process because particularly when you work with top leaders, top leaders don’t ever really get the truth. And that’s a world documented fact that

Skip Bowman (23:15): A weird sentence. So landing that challenge, landing that sense of where are we really moving them from symptom management to something, some deeper problem solving, for example, there’s a lot of symptom management in organizations. So that’s the challenge. I think then it’s about exploring that because you ha you, if you want to change a culture, you, you, can’t just, I mean, you can force that change in some sort of, you know disruptive behavioral engineering kind of approach. But I tend to look at it differently in the sense that we’re trying to create a sense of awareness and a set of tools, collaborative tools. When I say collaborative means that people can talk and dialogue together to bring about the change themselves. So in that sense, we have to explore our reality and our future all sounds a bit fluffy, but we need to be able to talk differently together about how we could do these things differently.

Skip Bowman (24:14): And that’s the exploration phase and people are so caught up in their everyday business that providing opportunities to explore. And if you wanna take the classic theory, you OWA, you know, letting go process, getting into that deeper exploration phase and to test ideas, to test hypothe, to prototype that’s where the creative create part comes in. You know and often you have to create spaces where prototyping can take place. And I think that kind of micro entrepreneurial is, or micro prototyping in organizations is pretty important, you know, and you have to ring fence these, these businesses sometimes simply because the, the sheer momentum of status quo is almost impossible to, to break. So that becomes the last and, and if you take inspire it’s, it’s about particularly what I call contagious or positive change change fails because people usually either lose their way get lost, or they run out of energy.

Skip Bowman (25:17): Yep. They’re the two key reasons, not because they don’t like the idea or it’s not the right idea. They get lost on the way there. In other words, they don’t have a great scoreboard or they don’t they just simply run out of energy and that’s the inspiration. You need those things in a change process, a big one because it is very hard to change personal habits, but it’s also very hard to change organizational habits. Mm that’s kind of a, a quick walk through that process. But I, but I think the big difference is that when I see say I’d like to enable people not only to change now, but to change into the future, that’s, that’s that mindset, mindset shift to, to move from reactive to some sort of self transforming form of, of thinking self transforming kind of organization, cuz I’ve vast majority organizations, a, a stuck in fixed or what I would call safe mindsets playing it safe. So that’s, that’s kind of the, the journey which, you know, varies depending on each client and so on, but you need those elements really to be successful.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (26:23): Mm-Hmm . And in terms of the specific points you mentioned earlier on about future of work and, you know, dynamic organizations doing things like just say right in, here’s a bold decision we’re gonna work from home or allow you to be, have sort of flexible home working forever or certainly on an indefinite basis. What about the, the impact of that? Have you noticed any, any sort of impacts already beginning to appear, even though it’s only been effectively a few months or perhaps even just a less than that for some organizations who have really got their heads around this in terms of how this, you know, revolution, if you like, of what working from home is AC is actually impacting teams and impacting leaders. When, you know, we’re all effectively talking through the same small screen from a, from our home you know, is, is that having a, sort of a, a dynamic impact? And if so, what is it, how are you playing around with that?

Skip Bowman (27:23): Are, it’s a, it’s a fascinating, it’s like cold Turkey. It’s like everyone went to, went to social interaction anonymous and is, is being, we , You know, it’s we also need to group therapy online just to get over our need to, you know, to hang out socially. Yeah, yeah. I think it’s it’s cause I wrote recently I getting the question quite a lot at the moment is what is organizational culture if everyone works from home?

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (27:50): Yeah.

Skip Bowman (27:51): Good question. I don’t think there’s an obvious answer. What I do think is that it disrupts how we understand and, and perhaps forces to rethink a little bit what our corporate values, what is organizational culture? How do we onboard? How do we mentor? What does all of that look like?

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (28:11): Yeah.

Skip Bowman (28:12): And I think in reality for some HR people, the, the it’s sort of like the curtains being pulled away and there’s absolutely nothing behind cause there’s not an easy answer to that. I do have some to it, but they’re not easy ones. But essentially there’s a, there’s a certain MIS mystique wizard of Oz style here, mystique about organizations that has been peeled back. Yeah, yeah. And means we have to reconsider the relationship between the organization, what we call the psychological contract technically speaking. And I think that’s under revolution right now. And I think, you know, I, some things that I’m, I’m, I’m FA I I’m curious about, cause I think we need to be curious rather than saying, oh, this is a solution. I’ll just take these five steps and you’ll be brilliant. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, there’s not a one thing. One thing there has been research remote work, which actually was fairly clear on a number of things. One of which it predicted, oh, it, it demonstrated this is some, some years ago it demonstrated really clear that people would work harder if they were working remote. It’s called job related impression management. So I work harder because I fear that if I don’t I’ll be forgotten.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (29:31): Yep.

Skip Bowman (29:31): So that’s number one. Now there are two types of impression management. The second one is a social impression management. In other words, trying to seek the favoritism of your boss or powerful cliques at work. Yeah. Now in a remote management remote setting, it’s not possible or severely limited. So what they discovered was actually for minority groups, remote work was better. Yeah. Yep. because it’s actually more inclusive. It sounds really bizarre. The problem is, is that the vast majority of exclusion at work, as opposed to inclusion happens below the radar. In other words, it happens in ways that are deniable or not obvious. People always think that you know, something obvious like, oh, they didn’t pick the lady or they didn’t pick the, the African for the job. That’s obvious stuff. The less obvious stuff is all of that power group inclusion, exclusion stuff going on every day through eye contact, through voice through, you know, the way they move around the office, all sorts of ways of indicating who’s who’s in and who’s out schoolyard stuff.

Skip Bowman (30:47): Yeah. But it requires actually being seen and it requires interaction in a physical space. Now you remove the physical space. You can’t actually, it becomes harder. I mean, you control somebody, right. You can that’s the, the web equivalent, but it’s hard to exclude and include in a subtle way without a physical space. So we could be looking at a workplace that is actually better for introverts, better for people who aren’t the main, who aren’t members of the main culture. And potentially also bosses might discriminate a little bit less based on their own preferences terms of hiring who gets the jobs, that kind of thing. Yeah. So there’s some, some really powerful positives here. There’s a slight problem though. And that is the vast majority. I see the vast majority, I’m exaggerating a little, quite a lot of leaders, right? Yeah. Are controlling, dominating types.

Skip Bowman (31:40): Right. So they like to see people squirm. You’re not in a physical space. You can’t actually exert power because they’re not there. Yep. So a lot of leaders now previously in COVID and now sort of can’t even operate with the idea, their employees aren’t visible to them because that’s because what they’re feeling is that sense of rebellion, at least the fantasy of rebellion, and they’re not all their laziness and all this kind of theory X stuff. They’re imagining that, which is, which is the mindset of somebody who I would call is, you know, a controlling, competitive type. So a lot of that you have to come back to work, has got to do with some of the insecurities and fantasies that these very, how a hungry narcissistic type of leaders have. If they don’t have an audience, they can’t be an narcissist. Yep. It’s very hard to do online. I mean, you can try, but it’s not, it’s not easy. The, the, the, the web interactions are enormously ego it’s humiliating more or less.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (32:45): Yep.

Skip Bowman (32:46): So you’re talking away the boss narcissist, and there’s no response everyone’s on mute doing something else. That’s pretty scary. Really. Yeah.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (32:54): I think it’s

Skip Bowman (32:54): Very democratic. I’d rather like it being a bit of a rebel. I think that’s kind of cool, but

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (32:59): Yeah. Yeah.

Skip Bowman (33:00): So, so this, so I think that’s really intriguing. And so it, it impacts a lot about how, what we assumed was how things should be done. And I think that’s super healthy. Absolutely. Because if we want more workplaces where more people can, can work flex, because that’s not just good for business, it’s good for their life, their wellbeing, their ability to be parents or and so on. There’s lots of really cool things with that. Digital can enable it. We’ve just proven, you know, price Waterhouse. 75% of global bosses are happy with home working.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (33:36): Well,

Skip Bowman (33:36): If you’d asked them six months ago, they would, it would’ve been, it would’ve been completely the opposite answer. So that’s really extraordinary. So then the question comes, and of course the CFOs love it. They love this. No, no travel. ,

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (33:51): That’s brilliant.

Skip Bowman (33:53): They’re saving a fortune. So even the bottom lines are looking good. So unless you, of course there are some industries badly, but, but of a lot of the businesses, you know, some of the ones that I work with are doing really well because a lot of their cost has been removed from the business.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (34:07): Yep. Yep.

Skip Bowman (34:08): And the next thing will be, which I thought was funny when you see all the Regis, for example, advertising, oh, you can just work down the street instead of going to your office. So I think you will see this, this movement to satellite where you, you gang up with a bunch of people who live locally, but they all work for five or 10 different companies. That’s a really interesting idea.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (34:30): Yeah.

Skip Bowman (34:31): Why not? And so anyway, so I think it’s fascinating. And I’m curious to see these companies that allow to approach it openly to explore new ways of doing it. But it will mean that like, like recently London is struggling because nobody wants to go to London anymore. So the whole concept of London as this enormous sort of work station with all its amazing hotels, pubs entertainment, so on it’s completely crashing to the ground because nobody wants to go to work.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (35:00): Yeah, absolutely

Skip Bowman (35:02): Fascinating.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (35:02): How interesting. Yeah, absolutely fascinating. So on that, by the way you mentioned right at the beginning of the conversation that one of the things you’ve noted is that a lot of the trends that were already there or were emerging or that you were noting have effectively been speeded up by COVID. So, you know, one of them certainly and it’s obviously a broad Multilink area around the sort of the, the future of work linking into how cities operate and all the rest of it as, as you were just mentioning, is there any other ones that you’ve been talking about recently or advising on with, with your clients in terms of saying right. You know this is how COVID has acted as a, a great accelerator or indeed in other areas, a great break, you know, I know you mentioned, so, you know, some things have speeded up, some, some things that we thought were gonna get huge this year have just quietly fizzled away and other ones who have gone backwards. So yeah. So, so what, what other sort of things are you talking about when you advise clients?

Skip Bowman (36:03): I think the, the two biggest challenges we have at the moment, they, they could be equally as big is climate change and robotics,

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (36:15): Right? Mm-Hmm yeah.

Skip Bowman (36:18): They’re both really, really, really big. And that’s gonna require a level of collaboration, a, a different way of working for lots of reasons. Let me just take robotics or, or digitalization or automation. Yeah. The research was pointing prior to COVID that by 2030, between let’s say let’s, I use the right big fat round numbers, 50% of the workforce would lose 50% of their job content would be lost to automation and digitalization and they’d have to relearn. Right. That’s 50% of 50 that’s a lot.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (37:00): Right? Yeah.

Skip Bowman (37:00): Even CEOs probably between, I think the estimate between 10 and 20% of their job would be redefined through automation. Mm. So that’s really interesting, but the problem is, as we’ve seen in the past, I make the comparison to the reason why Australia was colonized during the industrial revolution. And that’s kind of where we’re at right now, because the dislocation of the workforce, it took, I think about 60 to 80 years for the English economy to adjust to that dislocation caused by the industrial revolution. We’re gonna, we are facing a significantly larger dislocation of work and workers massively. It’s a massive of one and it’s coming faster. And that’s gonna require a focus on, on the job learning. But also a societal question around retraining, which is so big. It’s so big that it divorces COVID, we’re just not talking about it.

Skip Bowman (38:00): Now, what we do know is that COVID is accelerating the, the implementation of robotics. Cause that’s clear mm-hmm if you want a supply chain or a, or a retail outlet to be less people dependent. In other words, people who get sick and die, right? Yeah. You put robots in and that’s what we’re saying. And because of the, the nature of the current situation, it’s actually the business case for doing it is becoming increasingly attractive, both from a supply chain security point of view or a retail outlet, you know, point of view. So this is really drastic and that’s why the, the levels of unemployment you’re seeing in America and Europe and elsewhere, aren’t really any surprise seen from that perspective because we knew they were coming.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (38:49): Mm.

Skip Bowman (38:50): And we’re not discussing this, we’re discussing Brexit and we’re discussing all sorts of other weird things

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (38:56): You had to mention. It

Skip Bowman (38:57): well, unfortunately the impact on jobs earning power and so on. And the insecurity generated by these issues. The thing about digitalization, it’s it, it’s a, it’s a punishment without a Punisher. You dunno who to blame, right? It’s a computer, you can’t blame a computer, right. So who’s who, who are you gonna blame for, for this level of insecurity? Your job’s being replaced, right? Mm, hard to say. So then it becomes another target. You’ll pick immigration or you’ll pick politicians, or you’ll pick whoever you want to choose. So we’re gonna have to solve that because radicalism societal unrest result from people feeling their job security, their life security ex, et cetera, are influenced negatively. And that will ha is, is clearly happening. And, and climate change will only accelerate that the amount of retraining required in the transport industry or whatever other industry, the coal industry, you know, all those heavy industries, we’re talking millions of people.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (40:00): Mm. Yeah.

Skip Bowman (40:02): And it’s gonna require, you know, that’s why I think growth mindset makes a lot of sense because, you know, we have to help. Yeah. We have to create that change. We have to help people become better at changing, evolving, you know, developing new social relationships. So that’s, that’s why I see these two as really, really big issues. And, and COVID has just made it obvious or business leaders now know that they can outsource their workforce. They’ve just tried it.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (40:27): Yeah.

Skip Bowman (40:28): And how to go pretty well, actually.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (40:33): Okay. Then, so moving on something separate as I’m too fascinating. What about, yeah. In terms of, you know, obviously well known, you’re a very, very inspiring speaker. What about issues that inspire you? So where do you get your yeah. Where do you get your inspiration from you? A great reader? What your listener or what

Skip Bowman (40:54): , I, I, I would like to read more than I probably do, but you know, I think there, I’ve always been a bit of a fan of the, of I grew up in I studied humanities and psychology. So I’m a bit of a fan of the, of, of how we’ve deconstructed the past. And at the moment, I’m a bit interested in how we are rethinking the story of NASA. Mm. And mankind’s first foot on the moon. And the reason why I say that is that I am very interested to, to explore stories of women and leadership mm-hmm because they, they are hidden. Yeah. And Margaret Hamilton is another story, which I I’ve started to use quite a lot to illustrate it because she was the person who invented the phrase software at NASA.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (41:49): Yeah. Yeah.

Skip Bowman (41:50): And I think hers is a story of being the, of software test designer at, at NASA in the sixties, you know, a mother helping support a husband going through a Harvard. I think it was, yeah. You know, these are stories of women in the sixties that have been completely hidden. Yeah. Yeah. And we’re sitting today with, you know, and I think we need those stories. Leadership literature is full of men, white men typically. Yep. Yep. And I think that’s a pity and I, and we know that that’s just, it’s not because it’s because we need to work harder at surfacing the stories they’re there. We just have to work harder at surfacing them and not just choosing the usual suspects. So I’ve been reading a bit about that. Because I’ve been reading about Apollo eight in particular, and there’s a re there’s a couple reasons just in short, a simple one, because it must have been very odd to be the first person to be shot out of a gravity. You know, I think, I think fundamentally there’s something, but that’s pretty bold stuff, you know? Yeah.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (42:50): Yeah.

Skip Bowman (42:50): And then hope that the gravitation of pull the moon just hooks you back in I think that’s,

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (42:56): Yeah. That’s a big hope.

Skip Bowman (42:57): Yeah. And I think to be those three men, unfortunately, but that’s how it was that sense of moment that famous shot earth rise taken from the back of the moon with the earth and the distance. It’s an extraordinary moment. And just psychologically, I’m always fascinated by how we deal with the unknown and unusual and what that’s gotta be the ultimate one to be on the dark side of the moon as the first, first human, to do that, to look back upon your own home, you know, all those thousands of kilometers away. I think that’s absolutely fascinating psychologically whether they even thought about it, whether they were busy taking photos or navigating, I don’t know, but, you know, I like to sort of perhaps reflect on how do we, how do we manage wonderous things, you know, mm-hmm and what it’s like to be the first person. And I think that’s helping people thirst for get excited about exploration, about discovery. That’s an important, positive motivator rather than getting worried about losing their jobs or something like that. So I’m interested in those explorers. I love explorers, Shackleton all that lot, but I, I, I, I feel like bored listening to myself, talking about white men. So, you know, I’m trying to move on from that.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (44:13): Absolutely. And it’s been fascinating. I think talking earlier on about, you know, when one gets to the the end of 2020, and I’m sure we’re all rather hoping that we get get the end of 2020 sooner rather than later. We look at if, if the wonderful Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand isn’t person of the year, then I think everyone’s being absolutely outraged. I mean, what a, what astonishing example of leadership she’s she shows all and links. Totally. As you’re saying into all of the points you’ve been talking about, that is you of, you know, growth mindset and, and all the rest of it.

Skip Bowman (44:46): Very Savvy, very savvy leader and worth and worth studying closely represents a very powerful model for the, for now and for the future. Absolutely. There’s something, something cool about that. Anyway. Yes. Go ahead.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (45:00): Mm. Just in terms of, again other things that inspire you for the point of view of not so much personalities or, but actual sort of, you know, organizations and brands and products or whatever that are out there, do you look around you and you I mean, I dunno, do, do you sort of examples of, of say yeah, organizations or brands or whatever that, where you would say here is organization a or B or brand a or B that really, really clearly know what they’re doing? You know, they’re, they’re leading by example, this is how to do it.

Skip Bowman (45:38): That’s a really good question. The hard part here is that there’s so much branding and storytelling associated with most companies. If you take the classic corporates like Netflix and et cetera. Yep.

Skip Bowman (45:53): And you, you know, it’s tricky to say whether we’re, whether we’re really seeing what it is or what it, isn’t interesting. Netflix, as CEO was in trouble recently saying he wants all his managers back as quickly as possible in the office, which I thought was rather interesting. So, so sometimes your heroes aren’t necessarily what you expect. And that’s in general, there’s way too much hero worship in leadership. And, and while I’ve seen great great companies, I think I’m more interested in, in where can we find excellence, no matter what it is. And I think in most organization, I tend to find lots of excellence in leadership in pockets that you may not expect and forms that you might not expect. And I, I tend to be more interested in those examples, cuz I think otherwise again, we’ll go to the usual, you know, we’ll say something like Jack ma if I ask young people today

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (46:43): yeah,

Skip Bowman (46:43): They’ll they’ll particularly in an international setting, they’re gonna say something like Jack Ma, Steve Jobs still a bit boring. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and a load of other people and they’ll say something you know, Tesla’s boss. Yeah,

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (47:00): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mr. Musk, yeah.

Skip Bowman (47:02): Say, well, how do these people help us in any way, because they’re impossible to emulate impossible. Mm-Hmm so, and, and it’s nice to have a sort of like a big vision and so on, but sometimes I say, well, look, you know, maybe it’s better to build a composite picture of somebody who inspires you and say, well, look, I had a previous boss who, who showed really great trust and faith in me as employee. Right. And maybe other things he wasn’t so good at, but he was really good at that. So he would be my part of my composite picture of what great leadership

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (47:35): Looks like. Yep. Yep.

Skip Bowman (47:37): And I might grab a, so I create a mosaic of people who I feel because we, we tend to want to make all our leaders perfect, which they absolutely are not. You know, and, and I think then I think a composite might be more or helpful to say that, you know, I’m working towards emulating being inspired by, by that person. You know, in my case, I think Margaret Hamilton inspires me in her sense to, to positively challenge and rebel against some, some old fashioned thinking. I like that that story inspires me and that she was a whole person in terms of looking after a family. I think that works for me, but there could be other leaders. I mean, at times I think Elon Musk is, is a bloody genius. There’s no way you’d wanna be like him or , there’s no way you necessarily wanna be led by him.

Skip Bowman (48:26): Yeah. So, you know, I said, so that’s why I might look at that and say, you know, I think there are some examples of companies that have made great decisions about, you know, supporting their employees and their communities during COVID 19 shown a lot of leadership being quick to make bold decisions about, you know, how much their products cost how we would distribute them, how we’ll pay our employees, how we’ll, whether we’ll furlough them fully paid, or I think they’ve been bold decisions. And I think there’s lots of examples of companies that have shown a responsibility, which is cool. And I would raise all of those ones up and say, that’s the people we need to be recognizing. So I don’t, I I’d be, I I’m always a bit cautious about saying, oh, this company is fantastic because often what I’ve found is when I’ve dug into them a little bit they weren’t as fantastic as we thought to take VW, for example.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (49:19): yeah.

Skip Bowman (49:20): How do you think that went be went? Yeah. Yeah. You know, brilliant dig into the surface, you know, trouble, trouble. So, you know, they might have a great brand, but, but, so I think keeping it a little smaller, the people we aspire by maybe using a composite as a way of doing that, you may have preferred a big brand there, but I, you know, I’m gonna stick to small, smaller targets. Yeah.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (49:43): Think fantastic. And, and I thought it was really interesting what you’re saying there about you know, almost like perfection as the enemy or is a unrealizable ideal as opposed to building that mosaic up of, you know of achievable, realistic examples of those who’ve yeah.

Skip Bowman (50:03): People who’ve changed your life. Who’ve significant in your life emulate that change the, for about in you. That’s fantastic. Doesn’t need to be bigger than that.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (50:12): Okay. Well, a as we begin to head towards the end of the talk and it’s been absolutely fascinating. What about, so what’s coming out for you then skip over the next sort of whatever few months et cetera. What’s on the horizon.

Skip Bowman (50:25): Well, obviously I’ve got some, some massive editing work on a book safety degree. Mm-Hmm, very excited about that. I think the problem was that suddenly, you know, we were talking about the future of work and then COVID hit and I was relooking at my, the chapters. I’ve been writing a little bit about this. I , it’s such to watershed moment. You, you almost have to sort of re-look at it again and, and rethink it because post COVID world is really weird, you know, post, you know, we’re in the post travel tourism, right. It’s all gone weird, very strange. Mm. So I’ve got a lot of work to do with that. I’ve got some, you know, these lot of all virtual coaching development, ongoing change management. I mean, I think it’s been, I’ve done a lot of virtual training over the last six or seven years, cuz most global companies, that’s the only way to do that.

Skip Bowman (51:15): I’ve been pioneering it, to be honest. So the switch for me was relatively easy into virtual. And I’ve been running sort of like executive change management programs and I, yeah, they are with coaching with assessment change leadership, assessment coaching, and some virtual seminars. And that’s been going really well. People have been surprised to how effective it is, but I think you still need the one-on-one component. The digital coaching is what I call digital coaching, which means, you know, zoom or telephone calls, creating that intimacy. That one to one will be crucial in virtual development for leaders because without reflection and without feedback, I think it becomes a, a little bit too, like leadership development comes like a takeout menu. You just take the food that you, you like. And unfortunately leadership development is about things you like, but also quite a lot about other things you don’t like some things you need to learn. Right. So I think there’s there, there’s a role to play of a challenging supportive outside I giving you that kind of coaching, that kind of mirror experience. So that’s what I’ll be doing. I also have a crazy other project with my wife, which is renovating a, an old farm and turning it into a small hotel with 19 bedrooms.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (52:30): Very nice. And where’s that?

Skip Bowman (52:31): So it’s in France, so I’m relearning French and, and learning to to discuss tiling in the local hardware shop in France, which is exhausting. It’s mentally, mentally demanding language learning is is a really tricky thing. And it’s good for you, even though you’re a little bit older to go through that humiliation of learning of sounding really stupid in a foreign language. So, so I got always lots to do, and I also have a, I have a small seven month year old daughter, so I’m partially on paternity leave. So I’ve got lots going on

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (53:09): Mm, wow. That’s long. And in terms of the hotel, by the way, is part of that gonna be used as a sort of, I know a sort of residential location for yeah. For courses, et cetera.

Skip Bowman (53:19): Yeah, I think so. I think we’re, we’re probably starting a little smaller than that. But it’s a passion. I think there’s something I have this thing about. I, I read recently that, that you know, we are full of different cells, you know, there’s a positive schizophrenia that we have lots of potential in us. And, and when I, when we, when we’re working on our project in France and living there, you know, I feel like a different side of myself is, is activated in a really cool way. And that’s nice. I, I get bored with people saying, I need to be myself. I say, no, no, I wanna be some other self

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (53:54):

Skip Bowman (53:55): To explore that, to take that take on that new skin or let go of the old skin and, and, and reshape it a bit. I enjoy that. I think, I mean, it’s, it’s also a bit frightening at times, but everyone’s so worried about being authentic and I’m sort of more interested in saying, well, who else could I be not, not in a sort of like weirdly schizophrenic way, that’s multiple personalities, but you know, what other life could I lead? And I think that’s if I’m going to train people in change management growth mindset, Hey, I’ve gotta keep doing it and keep exploring in, in my own way, I’m not gonna fly around the dark side of the moon, but, but if I, I can do things that, that, that present existential challenges to myself in a positive way, I think that’s all good.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (54:42): Yeah. Yeah. And just, so this is, by the way, are entirely clear about where they can track you down or follow you. So where are you on the, their social media, et cetera?

Skip Bowman (54:52): Well I think if you look up, Skip Bowman is a fairly unusual name, except of course they have an Admiral of the submarine forces in America also called Skip Bowman. So ,

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (55:06): I can make funny, extra ordinary sort of mystique in . Yes,

Skip Bowman (55:09): I do nothing. I know nothing about driving an, an atomic sub. But I think it’s interesting, but I dunno how to do it. So Skip Bowman is relatively easy to find me. I have a website for the Safe2Great™. It’s So you can read about and see videos talking a little bit about our process. The book is gonna be, has a whole series of tools for mapping mindset, both for leaders, teams, and organizations. And we are, we have an accreditation process, so you can be accredited to be able to use these tools and to, to be join our, our you know, movement of people who want to make organizations safe for great work. So that’s, that’s the ambition with it. I think COVID has slowed us down a bit, but I think on the other side of this, there’s there’s a lot of opportunity for that. So that’s where you can find me. I’m on LinkedIn. I blog very regularly on multiple things I’ve talked about today. I blog on regularly on LinkedIn around, around exactly these issues, the future of work and change leadership, hopefully presenting a, a provocative, challenging take on things. I think there’s way too much on LinkedIn, which is just re you know, re-saying the same thing I think.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (56:23): Yeah. Yeah.

Skip Bowman (56:23): I’d like to see people who are telling stories that, that, that disrupt us a little bit. That surprise us a little bit. I think that’s really cool. So that’s where you can find me and, and book yes. The book Safe to Great will be out. So that’s the S O O N . And I’ll note that down.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (56:45): Fantastic. Okay. Okay. So literally last question. It might always go through the sort of the famous sort of elevator pitch. So so there you are, as you get into a lift with Mr. Elon Musk in the sort of in the near future, he turns around to you and says, come in, Skip tell me exactly what it is that you are up to and why I should come in and speak to the team. about what it is that you do go on there. What’s the elevator pitch.

Skip Bowman (57:09): I say, as Elon Musk, I’d probably say that you are a complete asshole. And if the leaders in your organization are somewhat like you, your organization’s operating at 30, 40% under the capacity that’s capable of. If you learn to develop a growth mindset.

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (57:26): There we are. That’s an excellent elevator pitch has to be said. So Skip Bowman, the inspirational keynote speaker, writer and facilitator on transformational global leadership. Thank you very much, indeed.

Skip Bowman (57:49): Pleasure

Sean Pillot de Chenecey (57:49): Thank you for listening to The Speakers Show podcast. Please leave a rating on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. And also it’d be great if you could subscribe to the podcast itself, you’ll find it also on Google podcasts, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcast app. Thank you.

Podcast host

Sean Pillot de Chenecey speaker

Sean Pillot de Chenecey

Foresight strategist, author and podcast host Sean Pillot de Chenecey is an inspirational speaker, who’s also consulted for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Sean has a very deep level of knowledge regarding the genuine issues impacting brands from a cultural, social and business perspective.

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