Leadership and Wellbeing

Using Cognitive Psychology to Understand Yourself with Nick McDonald

November 20, 2023 Hayden Fricke / Nick McDonald Episode 9
Using Cognitive Psychology to Understand Yourself with Nick McDonald
Leadership and Wellbeing
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Leadership and Wellbeing
Using Cognitive Psychology to Understand Yourself with Nick McDonald
Nov 20, 2023 Episode 9
Hayden Fricke / Nick McDonald

Today I sit down with Nick McDonald, the CEO of Prestige Inhome Care, to discuss the power of using cognitive psychology to understand yourself better as a leader. In our conversation, Nick shares his personal journey of growth and transformation, highlighting the challenges he faced in growing his business and the strategies he employed to overcome them. From battling imposter syndrome to finding balance in his personal and professional life, Nick's story serves as an inspiration for leaders seeking to enhance their own wellbeing and lead with purpose.

One of the key themes that emerges from Nick's story is the courage to confront and overcome imposter syndrome. Despite his success as a CEO and the growth of his business, Nick initially struggled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence in his abilities. He shares how his previous career as a nurse made him feel like he wasn’t worthy of his title, despite the company turning over millions.

As a client of mine engaging in coaching strategies, Nick was able to challenge these limiting beliefs and recognise his own value as a leader. We discuss his transformation from feeling deeply inadequate to being confident in the value has to offer.

One crucial element that supported Nick's journey towards self-belief and confidence were the principles of positive and cognitive psychology. By understanding the connection between thoughts and emotions, we’re able to reframe our mindset, rewire our brains and cultivate a more positive outlook. Nick shares how this thinking helped him challenge negative thoughts and move through the anxiety he suffered.

Coming to a point in his life where he struggled to be mentally or emotionally present with his children, Nick recognised the need to balance his professional responsibilities with his personal wellbeing and family life. He shares the strategies he implemented, including setting boundaries with work, turning off his phone during family time, and engaging in activities that brought him joy and relaxation.

Nick’s thoughts on self-awareness, building a strong team and focusing on the big picture are truly inspiring for those wanting to find balance and wellbeing in their life and work. His success as a high performing leader is testament to his courage in facing the various and inevitable roadblocks of life.


Connect with Hayden:

Websites: -  https://haydenfricke.com/ 


APS College of Organisational Psychologists



Show Notes Transcript

Today I sit down with Nick McDonald, the CEO of Prestige Inhome Care, to discuss the power of using cognitive psychology to understand yourself better as a leader. In our conversation, Nick shares his personal journey of growth and transformation, highlighting the challenges he faced in growing his business and the strategies he employed to overcome them. From battling imposter syndrome to finding balance in his personal and professional life, Nick's story serves as an inspiration for leaders seeking to enhance their own wellbeing and lead with purpose.

One of the key themes that emerges from Nick's story is the courage to confront and overcome imposter syndrome. Despite his success as a CEO and the growth of his business, Nick initially struggled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence in his abilities. He shares how his previous career as a nurse made him feel like he wasn’t worthy of his title, despite the company turning over millions.

As a client of mine engaging in coaching strategies, Nick was able to challenge these limiting beliefs and recognise his own value as a leader. We discuss his transformation from feeling deeply inadequate to being confident in the value has to offer.

One crucial element that supported Nick's journey towards self-belief and confidence were the principles of positive and cognitive psychology. By understanding the connection between thoughts and emotions, we’re able to reframe our mindset, rewire our brains and cultivate a more positive outlook. Nick shares how this thinking helped him challenge negative thoughts and move through the anxiety he suffered.

Coming to a point in his life where he struggled to be mentally or emotionally present with his children, Nick recognised the need to balance his professional responsibilities with his personal wellbeing and family life. He shares the strategies he implemented, including setting boundaries with work, turning off his phone during family time, and engaging in activities that brought him joy and relaxation.

Nick’s thoughts on self-awareness, building a strong team and focusing on the big picture are truly inspiring for those wanting to find balance and wellbeing in their life and work. His success as a high performing leader is testament to his courage in facing the various and inevitable roadblocks of life.


Connect with Hayden:

Websites: -  https://haydenfricke.com/ 


APS College of Organisational Psychologists



Hayden: [00:00:00] 

Hello and welcome to my podcast, Leadership and Wellbeing with Hayden Fricke. Very excited today to be working with and talking to our guest today, Nick McDonald, who is the CEO of a company called Prestige In Home Care. I've worked with Nick on and off as his coach for the last four years and there's some fascinating stories that Nick will share with you today and I'm looking forward to that interview with Nick about the courage to begin by admitting that you don't know what you don't know and Nick certainly had that courage at the beginning of our relationship. He's going to talk about both well [00:01:00] being and leadership and some of the well being issues that he will talk about are the fact that he Uh, should have started to ask for help a little earlier to have the courage to say, I don't know what I, in the early stages, he had a feeling of imposter syndrome and he didn't even know that was a thing before we spoke about in relation to his lack of self confidence and belief in himself as a leader and a CEO of a business.

He'll talk about things like the power of positive uh, psychology and cognitive psychology to help him. To be a better leader. From a leadership perspective, Nick's going to talk about things like the balanced scorecard approach for understanding what your big rocks are. He'll talk about how to drive a high performance team and as well as that evolving to become a coach, a leader as coach.

So there's all sorts of things to look at. forward to when you hear Nick McDonald talking. Let me just give you a bit of Nick's background to help you understand who he is. So he is the founder and CEO of Prestige in Home Care. He's got a background as a registered [00:02:00] nurse. Uh, He set up Prestige 18 years ago with the aim of creating an organization that provides unrivaled home based nursing care, allowing people to rehabilitate and manage their conditions in the comfort of their own home.

That allows people to receive the social and emotional support they need to live as independently as they can. And it also focuses on his vision, which is on driving this kind of life for many people as they age. Nick's done an amazing job of growing prestige. from nothing in 2005 to today, where they support over 6, 000 clients across Melbourne, Sydney, and many regional centres across Australia.

Their purpose at Prestige is very simple, making lives better by helping people remain in the comfort and familiarity of their own home. Beyond that extraordinary achievement, Nick is also married to a wonderful [00:03:00] woman, Lisa, and together they've got three children. Somehow he seems to make time to be a great dad as well.

On a personal level, I've really enjoyed getting to know and working with Nick. He's a very authentic and genuine person. I hope you'll see that come through in our interview. He's also very inspiring in both his style and also his passion for caring for people in terms of both his staff and also the clients who need that personal care.

And that still comes through from his nursing days. On a personal level, and an interesting fact for listeners, Nick used to be extremely fit as he competed in many triathlons. And he'll no doubt reference this in the interview that will be conducted shortly. So I hope you enjoy the interview with Nick McDonald.

 Well, hello, Nick McDonald. I'm very excited to be interviewing you today. Thanks [00:04:00] for joining us.

Nick: Pleasure to be here, mate. I've been looking forward to it.

Hayden: No worries. Well, let's, let's start. I obviously know you very well and know the business Prestige that you started some 15 years ago or so, but many of our listeners may not have heard of Prestige. So can you just tell us a little bit about the business that you have built up over 15 or so years?

Nick: Yeah, sure. Always, you know, people talk about the elevator pitch. I find it hard sort of explaining the business briefly, because I'm a big one for talking. So, I'll try and be brief, but my background as a nurse sort of led me into a particular niche in nursing, which was sort of healthcare services in the home, out of hospital. And after sort of five or six years working in that industry two of my uncles and I decided let's start our own. And so we started a company that was really built to deliver high quality care for people who wanted to remain in their own home.

That was in 2005, so we're sort of approaching 20 years. And that's still pretty much [00:05:00] the core of what we do. We, deliver a whole range of services from Kind of really acute nursing at one end through to cleaning and gardening and smoke detectors and that sort of stuff that people need to stay independent at home whether They're frail aged or whether they're younger people perhaps with a disability Anyone who just might need a little or a lot of help and doesn't want to go into a hospital or a nursing home That's kind of what we do.

Hayden: It sounds like that's a growing need too with the aging population of people wanting to not going to nursing homes, but try to live as long as they can at home, but with the support they need. Is this, are you finding that it's a growing need with our society?

Nick: Yeah, absolutely. I mean most people are acutely aware of the sort of baby boomer generation from a demographics perspective. And, baby boomers are starting to enter the sort of ages where, you know, they're probably in the market for the sort of services we deliver. So [00:06:00] there's this big bump in terms of population who are starting to enter that space where they're going to need some help.

And they're very discerning, you know, they've lived a different life to the generation before them. And so. being told, well, you better ship yourself off to a nursing home, you know, their response is, I don't think so, you know, what are the other options? And so, you kind of a perfect storm where the desires of the market, you know, what people want also aligns, you know, in terms of a government policy perspective, it aligns with what the government wants, because it's cheaper to fund services for people in their own homes, rather than building more nursing homes or hospitals.So. It's really nice when everybody's interests are kind of aligned.

Hayden: So tell me um, over those nearly 19 years now then what's the scope and size of your business? Like how many people have you got in your team now? You grew up really from yourself to this quite successful national [00:07:00] business. So just help the listeners understand the scope and size of your business now.

Nick: yeah back in the beginning was me and being a nurse I could sort of put my little nurses shirt on and I'd zip out on the road and go and see some of our first clients and help them out. And then I'd be back in the office, I'd put a tie on and, you know, be developing a website or, you know, developing policies, procedures.

So, it was very much a one man band back then. We've been very lucky to have some amazing people help us grow it over the journey. Great mentors in my two uncles, Tim Donahue and Paul Donahue. Unfortunately, Paul passed away a few years ago but his legacy is very strong in our business. I've also been, you know, about five or six years in, my sister Thea joined me and the two of us have kind of run it together for the last, you know, at least a decade.

But yeah, in terms of scope and size, you know, the business now has offices along the Eastern Seaboard. We've got three or four in. in, uh, Victoria, sort of Mornington, [00:08:00] Geelong, and a couple in Metro Melbourne couple in Sydney on, on both sides of the harbour and most recently, in fact, where I'm coming from today uh, we've got an office on the Sunshine Coast in Mooloolaba.

We're sort of along that geography and we've got about a thousand staff, you know, about 200 of them are sort of back office people, 750, 800 are out in the community working with people sort of face to face. we're looking after two or 3000 people at any given time.

And obviously, every person that you support has a family and. So, it's amazing to have such a beautiful impact on people's lives, especially, when they're in a crisis or a time of need, it's a great space to be in.

Hayden: Yeah, fantastic. Thank you, Nick. I think the listeners should have a good understanding of your business now, and I think it's just wonderful. It's such a really purposeful purpose driven organization that you're, you're working in, that you're running. I think it's fantastic. Tell me, if we move from that to [00:09:00] the conversation about you and your journey around leadership and wellbeing, you and I started working together in about March, 2019.

So what's that a bit over four and a half years ago. And I remember clearly the first time we met and then the first conversation we had. That despite, at that stage, having run a business for about 15 years and grown it from yourself, as you described there with your nursing uniform and then your tie and going backwards, at that stage it was nearly, 800 staff or something, so it was quite a big organisation even then you still felt despite that clear success, confidence and belief as a CEO and a business leader, having come from being a nurse, We're still in doubt.

You had some self doubt around that, whether we call that imposter syndrome or whatever it is. So there was that. And also you were finding that there was obviously a lot of pressure and stress in your family life and at home and on your wellbeing. And so in the end, you and I sort of talked about the two areas of leadership and [00:10:00] wellbeing we're going to work on.

And I remember in the leadership side, it was probably. You wanted to learn to be a bit more strategic, to focus on the big rocks and have the discipline to build sustainable performance over time. Because the business had grown to a certain size where it's like, okay uh, I need to learn to be more strategic, to step up.

While we were working on that, we talked about the self doubt and so forth and feeling like you needed to belong in this position. So we talked about that and we talked about finding ways to help you believe in yourself more as a leader and feeling more control at work and at home to be more present with your young family, with your wife and your children.

Without feeling guilty about the work commitment. So balancing out your wellbeing sort of needs there. So, those are the things I'd love to talk to you about and dive into both of those in detail. I'd like to start with the wellbeing and then we'll go to leadership afterwards. If we start with wellbeing, obviously it's never a perfect journey.

There's ups and downs along self-development and self-improvement. Maybe let's [00:11:00] start with compared to four years ago, how is your wellbeing today? Is it generally better or the same as four years ago or worse than four years ago? Obviously wellbeing goes up and down, so it's not a static thing, but generally how would you compare where you're at now to then on just on the wellbeing front?

Nick: Yeah it's interesting hearing you talk about some of those things and, and reflecting, it does make me realize sort of how much we've done together, but also, the work I've tried to do on myself, from both those angles, you know, myself in our business as a CEO, but also myself as a human who, you know, wants to be the best for the people that, that are involved in my life.

I think well being, you know, broadly, I'm just dramatic. improvement since then, like, as you said, the business was still going really well then, but it's bigger, it's more complicated, you know, I've got more senior leaders in our business. It's not easier yet I'm probably coping a lot better and I've been able to probably let go of certain things you know, and to let go I've had to [00:12:00] build the team, you know, and to actually invest in, in great people and so I think at work and some of the things that we'll probably jump into that we've worked on have had a big impact.

I've probably brought in a whole bunch of things that, five years ago, I would have scoffed at, you know, you and I've talked about, you know, swimming in the ocean and cold water therapy and Meditation and mindfulness, you know, someone told me that five years ago. I would have laughed at them and told them to harden up but think that that's very naive and looking back now, you know Some of that stuff's been super helpful for my well being and just generally enjoying life.

So as you said ongoing sort of, you know, you never finished and you know, if I rated all the areas of my life most are going super well. I probably now, you know, my focus at the moment is just on fitness You know, I've of fitness put on some weight so that's definitely kind of the next hurdle, but Yeah, I think give you a pat on the back for sticking with [00:13:00] me for so long mate Four and a half years if you've got like handwritten notes somewhere we might need to put them in a vault because I'd hate them to ever get out that I, I do appreciate your support and I think it's important for, for people to realize that there's nothing wrong with getting some help, whether it's chatting to a psychologist, whether it's getting a business coach, someone in your situation who sort of crosses both those bridges, but getting a personal trainer, we do things like that, but I think probably, and I don't know if it's a gender thing, if it's a man and more a male thing, but certainly a lot of very successful business people.

See it as a bit of a weakness to go and put your hand up and go, geez, I'm struggling a bit here. Do you see or hear that or you think that's a fair statement?

Hayden: Mmm, I definitely think so and we need to try to change that and it is changing. I've got another CEO that I coach that says, we go to the gym to get a personal trainer for our body. I see you as my personal trainer for my [00:14:00] mind and we should think about it that way. It's not a, I'm going to see my shrink.

It should be the same as going to the gym, that's just your gym for your mind. So, I think it is changing, but we need to change it further. And particularly for men, probably, that is changing as well, but I think we should change that and make it a bit more normal, if you like. I'm interested, when we talk about well being, you know, you and I have spoken a lot about physical well being as well as mental and emotional well being, and even social well being, and we haven't spoken very much about the concept of spiritual well being, so there's a, there's a range of areas, and as you said, you wanted to get a bit more physically fit, which is only one One element of wellbeing, you know, we certainly worked a lot on mental wellbeing as well.

So there's a range of areas there. If we just talk about one of those elements and dive deeply into the first one that I raised, which was that concept of, you know, lower self belief or self doubt, which sometimes is known as imposter syndrome. I should say to you, you're not the only one that's suffered from that and some [00:15:00] research, it's a bit not really clear on exactly the stats on it, but I have seen stats that up to 82 percent of leaders feel like they've got imposter syndrome.

So almost everyone has felt that way at some point. I'm interested though, generally, would you say that your self belief you know, is better than where it was four or five years ago in terms of your role as a CEO compared to where it was?

Nick: definitely would be the short answer to that. I think when you and I first spoke about this, I, I didn't know that term, the imposter syndrome, but when I sort of, I remember we were in a cafe in Sandringham and I can sort of remember the conversation, you know, I was explaining how I felt.

And you sort of explained the definition or, you know, what, what the imposter syndrome is and I'm like, well, that's exactly me. but I did, I very much felt like I was a nurse. I wasn't a business person and people go, but mate, look at you now, you know, your business is turning over 10 million, 20, 30, 40, you know, you got this many staff and, everyone, aligned with your purpose.

And I'm like, [00:16:00] yeah, but it's not me that it's, that's just sort of happened. It's been a fluke. You know, it's lucky or I'd say it's fair. They love her or it's just the fact they like, what we're trying to do. Keep people at home. it's nothing to do with me. And I think as I said to you, I'll keep, I kept waiting for someone to find out.

I wasn't the right man for the job and that, you know, at some stage they say we need a real business guy in here, not the nurse who's. But I think that you know, you fast forward to today and I've got a lot more confidence. And it's interesting. We, touched on that at the time and it's probably worth noting because there might be other leaders listening that are in the same boat.

I have no issues with confidence. Like, you know, if you had asked any of my family or friends about, you know, lack a bit of self confidence, they'd fall off their chairs. cause I'm a bit of an extrovert and I've always been a leader in, in sporting teams and you know, I love having a laugh and so I, I've never lacked confidence.

It was just, I felt [00:17:00] like, well, you know, now I'm running this show and I'm not a CEO, I'm a you know, you fast forward to today and I probably couldn't pinpoint whether there was one thing that's helped with that sort of mental shift. But perhaps it's a whole bunch of the things we've done. As well as water under the bridge, and you know, you hear from enough people that they love working with you, and you know, they would have left if it wasn't for you, and I'm here because, you know, I believe in what you're doing, and you hear that enough, you go, oh shit, maybe there's something, you know, in this, am doing something that people love, and I should be proud of that, not try and sort of beat myself down and say, oh, well that, you know, Hayden thinks I'm great, but probably everyone else thinks I'm rubbish.

So, I think I've just got better at that, and, You know, it's empowering, it makes you feel good, to give yourself a tiny pat on the back and, and you know, when you hear that from someone to embrace it rather than talk yourself down makes you feel better, makes you happier.

Hayden: Yeah, it's a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing [00:18:00] that. I want to delve into a couple of things there. You said something interesting as it's like you're a confident person, but you had self doubt about being a CEO because you, your mental mindset was I'm a nurse. I'm not a CEO. So the confidence issue was not generalized.

It was actually specific. How you saw yourself, your identity, and the fact that you didn't have a business degree and so forth is quite fascinating. It shows that you can be generally confident, but feel like an imposter in a particular job and feeling like you're being found out. And then as you say, There's not one thing that you, that contributed the change over four or five years.

It's not like you woke up suddenly one day and went, right, I don't have that anymore. It's a series of things. So if we just explore that for a moment, I wonder what some of those things might be. For example, we actually did a fair bit of work on some fundamental management and leadership strategies.

And I wonder whether that helps you be more confident. Go on now. Yeah, I can use those. There were some [00:19:00] foundational skills you didn't have and that helped you. Plus we worked on the wellbeing and your mindset at the same time. So you just reflect now, what are some of those things that you think? Helped you to progress towards being more confident in your ability as a CEO.

Nick: Yeah, I mean, it's interesting you highlight the specific element of that because I remember even before I started Prestige I was working for another home nursing business and I started to get some more responsibilities there. Well, geez, now I'm in charge of this area. I'm just a nurse.

And so I studied an MBA purely to get a bit of paper behind me that I could say, well, I've done a business course. But then obviously you jump to yellow, you know, that went all right, but I'm not an accountant and so much business as numbers. So I think it's easy to sort of focus on the thing that perhaps you're not as strong at and say, that's the reason why.

I'm not good enough, but you know, I think you can easily change your thinking and we, you know, we might jump into it, but, you know, the change your [00:20:00] thinking book like to actually challenge that thought process and say, I'm pretty good at finance for a non finance person and, you know, I've got great finance people around me.

That's not the only part. There's a bunch of other things. In fact, you know, the more I mature, the more I think people just want to follow a great vision. People want to be inspired. They want to work with someone they like. They want to, you know, share their talents in an organization that's doing something meaningful.And if I rated myself, I'm probably really good at those things. And they're more important.

 One of the most powerful things, I don't know if I've told you this before, but one of the most powerful things was just that, that's why it sticks in my memory, that conversation we had in the cafe, when you said, that's normal mate.

Heaps of great leaders think that. I'm like, what? You know, I thought it was just Nick the nurse. but, hearing that that is normal, I had the exact same sort of revelation when when I turned 40, I'm, 48 now, when I turned 40, I, I had anxiety for the [00:21:00] first time ever and, you know, compared to some of the people I know that have, you know, had a real challenge with that, it was pretty minor, but I'd never felt it before and I thought I was going crazy.

and the first chat I had with the psychologist back then to go, Oh mate, I'm afraid I'm going crazy. I'm not quite sure if this is fixable. And he said, well, hang on mate, I'll be the judge of that. What, what's wrong with ya? And I just told him some of the thoughts. He goes, mate, you've just got anxiety.

And he said, yeah, I don't know what the stats were. So many people have it. And A, you're not going crazy. And B, it's no big deal. You'll be able to work on it. We'll give you some strategies. That in itself really helped with the anxiety, and I never felt it as bad from that day. And likewise, you saying, mate, you're doing an amazing job.

And, in fact, there's heaps of leaders in the same boat as you who sort of think they're going to get caught out. don't know what they're doing. That's just human nature. That was probably one of the biggest parts for me, just hearing that and going, okay, I'm normal, that's cool.

Hayden: I think [00:22:00] that's a great story. And I think the idea of normalizing is so important particularly in today's society where everything needs to look perfect. You know, we look on Instagram, we look on any social media, everyone presents as I've got all my shit together. But I know through having these more confidential conversations that actually there's a lot of people who don't have it all together, but they don't feel safe.

to tell people because there's a stigma around not having all your shit together. So I think normalizing it and knowing that you're not alone is a good starting point. Absolutely. So I'm glad that helped you. 

Nick: Can I jump in? I got a quick question for you on that because it raises an interesting thought for me. I feel like I gave myself permission to own that lack of certainty or it was a bit easier because I'm a shareholder and, and a founder and the other shareholders, you know, have largely been family and friends.

They sort of got your back even if you are struggling and so I think for me I had no problem kind of Opening up about that and being [00:23:00] honest as I've been with you know with having sort of anxiety back then I told all my mates because I'm like well someone else is probably going through the same thing But I wonder if a CEO who is, an employee and, reports to a board and I wonder if they would be as comfortable to own up to those sort of feelings.

I don't know if you've got thoughts on that, but you know, I feel for me, it would have been a lot harder if I thought maybe telling people that I've got concerns or I've thought, am I the right person here? Am I going to get caught out? If you verbalise that, someone will go, well you're thinking that, you're probably not the right person, we're going to replace you.

Hayden: I think there's three things that I'll reflect on in that context. One is, it depends on whether you, the environment is psychologically safe. Whether it's a family business or not, you know, what's your relationship with the board like and what's your relationship with the people around you like, particularly those that are going to judge you.

And if you feel safe to be vulnerable, then that's going to make a big difference. The second one is if you have the [00:24:00] courage personally to take the opportunity to be vulnerable despite the environment that you’re in and the third one is probably the social norms of our society and the culture that you’re in and whether or not those social norms and the environment you’re in enable and encourage to get rid of the stigma around mental illness around anxiety around imposter syndrome and all those issues and if the social norms not only of our western culture but of the organization that you belong to actually encourage that well then you're gonna you're going to be encouraged.

Whereas if no one's ever done that before and you're the first person to stand up and say, Oh, I'm a bit anxious, then that's going to be harder. So I think those are all the factors that are important. generally in society, I kind of want to really encourage more people and particularly more male leaders to talk openly about some of these issues.

I have heard. A phrase which I like recently by Adam Grant and it's called confident humility. which is about [00:25:00] saying, I don't have all the answers, but I'm confident we can work it out which is really what leaders need to demonstrate. They don't need to be a bumbling mess and be vulnerable all the time.

People want to see a confident leader, but a humble leader at the same time. So confident humility is something that I think would be worthy of striving for.

Nick: And I think people respond well to that, don't they? They see through someone who looks like he's always got his act together or has all the answers and never shows any vulnerability. It makes it hard to trust that person, I think, because we know no one's got it all squared away. And I think, I would encourage as well uh, any leaders that are in that boat whether you're a CEO or, you know, whatever you're doing, if you feel like I'm not mentioning that because I could lose your job.

We've never had a better labor market. You will get another job if you share that and you have the courage to share something like that. And it ends up with someone going, shit, we don't need this bloke around. You don't want to be there. [00:26:00] Like just wear that you'll get another job and you'll be happier.

So, you know, I'd hate to think there'd be a Nick McDonald out there saying, Oh, I'm not going to bring any of this up because you know, I'm fearful that I might lose my job. there's so many more opportunities out there and. Being true to yourself, I think is so important.

Hayden: Spot on. That sort of leads us to and links in with something you said a few minutes ago, which I wouldn't mind exploring for a moment. The change your thinking stuff that we worked on as well, which I think has had role to play in your Improvement in your belief in yourself. So it was Sarah Edelman's book called change or thinking that I introduced you to and the concept of cognitive psychology and Starting to understand the connection between your emotions how you feel whether it's anxiety or self doubt and your thoughts That might be leading to that.

I'm interested what forgetting the Psychobabble behind it all what did you learn about yourself in relation to? The thoughts and the connection between how we feel and how you [00:27:00] might be able to change some of that to feel a bit better.

Nick: Yeah, I mean firstly For your listeners Hayden is I think he must have a photographic memory because he remembers every book He's read he remembers every author and the title and I'm if possible the polar opposite of that So you have thrown a few books or titles my way Hayden and I've I've read many of them, but that one in particular was, you know, really stuck with me.

you know, when I first read that, I, I even though it seems logical now, I just didn't connect that your emotions, you know, how you were feeling was purely as a result of something you're thinking. I remember trying to challenge you so I'm like, yeah, but what about if someone cuts you off in the middle of traffic and flips you the bird and you just get angry.

That's nothing to do with anything except that person's being an idiot and you're angry at them. But again, if you sort of unpack it, yeah, well, I'm angry because they shouldn't be cutting me off. Everyone should [00:28:00] drive, according to the road rules, people should drive like me. But, like, that's not how the world works.

So, I think understanding that the way you feel is actually just directly attributed to the way you think, and the extension of that is something I'm still probably grappling with. that You can actually just change the way you think, which will, in effect, change the way you feel and that you can actually, organically rewire your brain by doing that.

A bit like, you know, we get bigger biceps by doing bicep curls. If you do the work, to sort of go through that process and change your thinking, it actually rewires your brain and becomes easier. I think, being able to stop and go, I'm feeling this way, I'm sad, I'm feeling vulnerable, I'm a bit scared, I'm nervous, and then going, okay, why do I feel that way?

And then obviously the important part, you need to go, okay, well, how do I dispute that? You know, how can I say, well, I'm nervous, what if people don't like this, this podcast? Well, you know, some people might not, and [00:29:00] that's okay, but others might love it. And at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if most people don't like it, they're not going to come to your house and tell you.

You won't even know. So, you know, I think. Yeah, it's probably a somewhat trite example, but, you know, being able to sort of dispute the feelings the thoughts to then change the feelings, that's been massive. I mean, in fact, I've started teaching it to my kids because kids have no idea how to manage their emotions and, and obviously they can't connect those dots.

If I can't do it as someone that's been around for 40 years, you know, how can they connect those dots? So. It's pretty powerful.

Hayden: Fantastic. I love your stories there. They make it real which is fantastic. And I want to move on to your home and your kids in a moment. But just to share, I came across a term recently that I hadn't shared with you around this. it's to become. An emotion scientist which you kind of talked about then when you feel something, first of all, label the emotion, label it as nervous or anxious or, you know, I'd be quite specific [00:30:00] about the label of the emotion, but then ask yourself, why am I feeling this way?

Just be a scientist and, and look and ask yourself that question. And if you get good at that. You'll get better at managing your emotions on a day to day basis. what you just described then was you being an emotion scientist and going, why am I feeling this way? So it really, really nice.

You wanted to become more present at home as well. And you spoke before about your kids. That was one of your goals because you felt like you were always on, you know, growing this business and you come home and you're still thinking about work and you had to switch off and so forth.

And so I'm wondering how's that going now? And if so, if it's a bit better, what are some of the things you've done to find a way to, to be more present with your kids as they're, as they're growing up?

Nick: Yeah, that was a big one, and, and, you know, you talked about right back at the start, you know, wanting to be a bit more of a strategic leader, but also wanting to get a bit more balance. And, you know, all jobs are hard, right? Whatever your job is, it's hard. You know, there's people in our organisation at all different [00:31:00] levels, and I don't look and go, well, I'd love their job, because that'd be easy.

They're all hard, but you know, when you are a founder or if you're an entrepreneur, you're always thinking, you know, you actually never get to clock off and early days, you know, I was the only after hours person. So, you know, I remember I was doing a lot of cycling, then I'd have to take my phone, I'd print out all the rosters, I'd print out all the phone numbers.

I'll be on Oliver's Hill and my phone would ring and my stomach would tighten and I'm like please tell me this isn't a work call and sure enough it was and so I'd have to get it all out and basically, you know, try and work out why hasn't someone gone to a client that needs them and who else can I send.

So that feeling of never switching off is very stressful. You know, it's a bit like when you know you've got an assignment due. If you just did it and it's done, you'd feel good for a while, but knowing it's hanging over your head. And um, my kids are now Bella's 12, Jack's 10, Ben's 6, so, you know, you wind back 4 or 5 [00:32:00] years.

they're all very young and I was working a lot, but also when I was at home, I'd be sort of checking my emails, I'd be getting sent things, you know, I'd be, I'd be reading a book to them or they'd be reading and I'd be checking my phone and I sort of became aware of that and wanted to change it.

In terms of what we did, a whole bunch of things, my own wellbeing and, and trying to fit exercise in and, and trying to do some. Some things that, you know, made me feel a little better emotionally like meditation. I've done some yoga, swimming in the ocean we talked about. You know, the things that most people know what makes them feel calm or what makes their heart sing.

Doing a bit more of that for me to make me better for them was important. But also, just physically turning the phone off or putting it away. You know, because I'd get home, say I get home at 6 o'clock, my kids are in bed at 7. 30. You got one and a half hours, that's it. And then you can jump back on the line if you need to, but being present for that bit [00:33:00] and also sharing with the team, that's what I'm doing.

So if you don't hear from me. You know, that's why the other thing that sticks in my mind that we did back then, and this is probably part of a bigger picture, you know, giving yourself permission to manage your own time. Like I always felt like if I left at six o'clock and there was a few other people there, I'm like, geez, what are they going to think of me that here, here Nikki is swanning off at 6 PM and I'm still working, you know, so I always felt like I had to be the hardest working person or do the longest hours.

and talking with you and realizing, well, hang on, I've done that for 15 years. I've sort of earned my stripes you don't have to all be doing the same amount of work or in the same way. And so, you know, I remember one thing I said, all right, well, Tuesday mornings um, we live about two and a half K from the kids' primary school.

I said, I'm going to walk them to school on Tuesday. So they do some exercise. So I do, and that we got an hour or so. together so I just put that [00:34:00] in my diary and so it just looks like I'm not available till 10 30 on Tuesdays and I just felt like that was so indulgent and almost like oh geez I hope no one finds out but it was powerful I've done it with a few other things as well and you know you're still working hard but just giving yourself permission I guess to balance out all areas of your life is a big part of the the solution I think.

Hayden: I love that story and hopefully you tell your staff now instead of hiding it because you want to be a role model for well being, so, that's, that's a nice story. Tell me you know, I'm listening to this story and the listeners might be too kind of going, well, geez, he's, he's really come a long way in, five years.

But sometimes you don't, when you're in the moment, it's not that easy. There's a lot of challenges along the way to developing yourself as a leader and as a human being. What are some of the challenges, like what gets in the way of, change? What makes change so hard? Have you got any thoughts of the barriers or challenges that you faced?[00:35:00] 

Nick: Yeah, I think first and foremost, I'd hate for anyone and probably this isn't going to be a problem, but I'd hate for anyone listening to think, oh, geez, that guy, he's got it all together and look at how far he's come. I feel like still that I'm just bumbling my way along and, and I'd have to put my hand on my heart and say, just dramatic improvement in that time we've been working together, but I don't for a minute think I've got all the answers or I'm any sort ofbenchmark. So that's, I guess my preface to not being an expert. But I do think one of the challenges is that there's always things working against you. You know, I mean, I'll just think about the last few years in our business. we had covert, you know, we had a massive cyber attack, not on our business, but on the data center where our staffs held it, not all our systems out for two or three weeks.

 You know, I lost my mother uh, had a couple of injuries, I've had to travel more so I'm more away from family. All these [00:36:00] things happen and you go, well, it's no wonder I'm not training well, or it's no wonder I can't meditate, or, it's no wonder that I'm not as present, you know, I just think knowing that that's actually normal, you know, that is life.

You never get a clear run at it. So fitting something in around those things, as soon as you acknowledge, well this is, that bumpy road is normal, and so that's the path of which I've got to find the balance, that's part of the challenge, but also not making it perfect. You know, you and I have talked about, you know, Oh, well, you know, had to travel at last minute notice, didn't have all my stuff, couldn't do a weights program.

Well, there's no gym there. It's like, yeah, but could you just do, you 20 minutes of, you know, squats and push ups and sit ups in your hotel room? Well, of course you could, but it's very easy to go, nah, I can't do anything because of this. So I think, I gave those examples of things that have sort of, you know, been hurdles for me to overcome the last few years, but everyone has their own.

Maybe you've got a divorce, maybe [00:37:00] you've got a sick partner, maybe you, your kid's having issues at school. Like, there's always something that is making it very difficult for you to get a clean run at something. So I think that that, acknowledging that that actually is the normal don't wait for one day when things settle down because never will just acknowledging all that sort of okay, that's life and then getting on to the other stuff.

Hayden: Yeah, I think what you've said is absolutely spot on, Nick in that we all have stuff in our lives and if we wait until we're all perfect to sort it out, we have to, it's almost like we have to fly the plane and fix it at the same time. We can't land the plane, and sort it all out and fly again. We have to kind of be flying that plane while we're, we're fixing it at the same time is the analogy I often use.

And, you know, as you've shared there, you've got all sorts of things, whether it be COVID, your mother passing away and all sorts of challenges, you have to make sure you're taking care of your wellbeing as that's happening and you've shared some good examples how that can take place.[00:38:00] 

If we shift from well being to leadership, because, you know, I have a strong belief, as I know you do now, that there's a strong connection between how you take care of yourself and how you drive performance over a sustainable long term rather than short term performance you know, one of the things you wanted to do was to lead in a more strategic manner, to focus on the big rocks and to be more consistent in the way and disciplined in the way that you made decisions along the way.

So if you just start with a high level view on that, how do you think you've gone with finding a way to be more strategic and focus on really important big rocks?

Nick: I Think that's been an enormous shift and it's funny how so many of these things. I mean, it's probably no revelation to you, but. even during this conversation, realising how many of the things interconnect. Because I think one of the things that has helped me be a bit more strategic, and focus a bit more on the big rocks has been addressing that imposter syndrome and [00:39:00] giving myself permission.

So, you know, I'm not sitting in every meeting. I'm not. You know, oh, you're the one that knows how this works. Well, someone else can work that out. I'm going to work on these five things. You know, I think that's what's going to add the best value to the business and giving myself permission not to be in every little detail, but also sharing that with others.

It's not because I don't care. It's just. We all want these things done. I'm going to do these ones, you do those ones, and if you struggle, I'm here for you, otherwise, I think you'll be fine. So I think that connects into the imposter syndrome or, to at least, you know, feeling like you've got to be the hardest working guy in the room.

A few weeks ago, I spent 10 days traveling up the east coast trying to find another target for us to buy because that's one of my big rocks. Find another acquisition, you know, another business that does what we do, that we can bring together. I, I've found at times, like, geez, how good's my job, I'm just driving along the coast.

I'm ringing people, I'm having coffees. But no one else [00:40:00] can probably do that. You know, that's something I'm good at and that people want to speak to the founder and. fact that you can do that and then allow others to do things they're good at you know That's taken a bit of learning for me Yeah, the other part is, as you said earlier, leading by example, like, you can't say one thing and do the other and especially with team, you know, one of the things, if you had have asked me this question, what has been one of the key things that you've done in your business that's helped you charge forward over the last four years, one is about the team, you know, we didn't really have a sophisticated exec team back then, And so it's no wonder that Thea and I wearing a lot of hats.

And I'm sure there'll be people listening that go, yeah, that's great, but, you know, you want to put on a general manager operations, they cost you 200 grand, where do you find that money? Well, we have the same, but we didn't have it. we weren't making so much that we just could afford to put on two or three new executives.

But again, we were properly prepared to invest in that, take a step backwards, to then [00:41:00] take two or three steps forwards. And I think, I look back now at the people in the team and it's no wonder that Thea and I can focus on probably more discreet areas of the business because we've got great talent in the team.

You know, you've got more players on the field.

Hayden: Isn't that fascinating? only looking back that you can realise that. But at the time, it was like, jeez, really? Can we change this? But I remember you had an executive team, I think of three or four very small and people that were doing the best they could, but you didn't have the capability in your team below that you needed to be strategic.

So you needed to jump in and be So in order to change your leadership style and be more strategic, one of the first things we did was work out who's going to be on the team, and build the team, and build the best team you could. And isn't it fascinating to think back now, the team you've got enables you now to be much more strategic in the way you operate.

Nick: and to get the balance, you know, there's no way I could be working reasonable hours. If I didn't have all [00:42:00] those people doing the best they can in the hours they're at work as well. And I think one observation I'd make as well as, again, a learning if you like, it's not just about who you can add to the team.

Like, I'm a people pleaser, you know, I want everyone to love me and I mean, I think most people are wired that way. I've never been one to go, you know what, your performance isn't quite great, you're off the bus. I'll try and help people, coach them. And probably if anything, I've been guilty of just allowing them to stay on the bus, even though I know for a while they're not sort of meeting the obligations of their role.

Because they're a good egg. I like them. You know, I love Hayden. He's a good bloke. You know, he's great fun to work with. He's so passionate about this place. You know, he's on our team. So I go, yeah, but he's hopeless at his job. I'm like, well, so what? And so I think who you need to get off the team is equally as important and probably even more difficult than who you're going to bring on.

And we did have a couple of those, you know, really [00:43:00] difficult conversations and things that most people don't like. Most people don't like those really awkward, confronting. uncertain conversations where you say to someone, Hey, we don't think you're good enough in this role or this isn't the right fit for you anymore.

We're sorry, but you're off the bus. No one likes those, but I think some of those changes have been critical for us in terms of moving our business forward. And you just don't realise till you make those changes, the impact that might be fine for me to go. I still love, you know, Joe blogs, because you know, they're, they're a good egg, let's keep them on board, but you don't realise the impact that's having on some of your other team members, you know, until they go on and those other team members start to really flourish that you realise, you know, perhaps it was fine for you to suck it up, Nick, but.Others were either leaving or, or really suffering as a result.

Hayden: Yeah, look, that's a really important point you bring up. And I've got to say that [00:44:00] having hard conversations, dealing with the conflict is one of the things that leaders at all levels struggle with, right? Because we don't want to offend. We don't want to damage our relationship, but we do want behaviour change in the other person.

But sometimes we avoid the conflict. because that's more scary for you and the other person, but we end up not getting the drive in performance that we need unless we find a way of doing it. So we chatted about that a lot, but your ability to have the courage to lean into that and go, you know what, this is uncomfortable, but I know I need to do it.

And it's only in hindsight that you look back and go. That was hard, but that was worth doing because look at what we've got now and look at where we are now. But when you're in that moment, it doesn't feel like that because you don't know how it's going to turn out. So I think that's a great example that you've done and a great example for other leaders is to make sure that you, you can't create space and capacity for great people in your team, unless you move on [00:45:00] anyone that's kind of not that you need them to be. So, yeah, tell me if we jumped down from that to your other goals around the, you know, once you're strategic and you got the big rocks worked out and your top five things you want to do, you've got to be disciplined and consistent and decisive in the way you kind of just.

implement that over time. Do you feel that's something that you've learned as well? And if so, tell us about that journey because it's not just about being strategic about, it's about execution and implementation as a leader. So what have you learned as a leader in terms of your own things or frameworks or models or anything you've learned about the disciplined execution of your ideas?

Nick: I mean there's been a whole host, if anyone's sort of looked at your book, a lot of the models in there that you've generously shared with anyone that buys the book are the things that, a lot of them we've worked on. And I can think about a handful. I think, you know, we were just talking about changing behaviour.

Obviously, your first [00:46:00] strategy isn't just to kick someone off the bus. Your first strategy is to try and help them grow and change their behaviours. And we talked a bit about the bears model, 

you know, and that was good for me. In terms of framing up the conversation, you know, what is the behaviours that, you know, that aren't working?

What's the effect that's having on other people? Then, asking and listening, you know, about their views and, and then maybe coming up with some solutions and sort of refocusing on those. I mean, you could probably explain that better because you got the photographic memory, but I think, having those conversations chain behavior is, powerful.

Hayden: Just before you go on Nick for our listeners, so yeah, the BEARS model is a framework that we developed at Steeple for having difficult conversations, which starts with the behaviour you have observed the effect on, on you or the team or others, then to ask and really listen to what they have to say. And then that R is the refocus on what you would like to see instead of the, What's the positive version of [00:47:00] what you would like to see in the final S is to agree on a solution together.

What, what are we going to change and do together? So having a framework for difficult conversations usually helps people that are a bit uncomfortable and anxious about having those hard conversations. So obviously that's been something that's been helpful. 

Nick: yeah, I think, I mean, one of the others, you know, one of my goals working with you was to become a better leader as a coach or to bring coaching in, which I had probably done a fair bit sort of organically. But. If you had said, Oh, you're a good coach, I would have gone, Oh, I mean, I just help where I can.

I don't, I don't see myself as a coach. And so having a little bit of structure to do that coaching with, you know, the people that I lead as being powerful, the, the grow model. You know, around sort of what is the goal that they want to develop, as a coachee. I don't know what you call uh, uh, someone you're coaching, but you know, the person you're working with, what do they actually want to develop?

Where do they [00:48:00] need to improve? What's the reality? The R in the grow, you know, where are they at right now? And then the O is around options. Okay. What can we actually do to shift that needle and make some change? And after that sort of brainstorming, the W is about what will you do? So, you know, there might be a whole host of, potential uh, strategies you could try, but, you know, let's get some that are reasonable and are not biting off more than you can chew and then, agree to those ones you will do.

That framework's been sort of helpful, I think, in terms of the conversations with people about the areas they want to develop. Often it's self directed, but sometimes it might be you sharing, you know, hey, Hayden, you've got to get better at the numbers, you know. You seem to struggle with a P and L. that's something that we need to improve your, you know, financial literacy, for example.

So whether it's self directed or, or perhaps something that you as the manager want to see that I think having a model for that coaching is really important.

Hayden: I think there's two [00:49:00] things in relation to what you've said that are really worth calling out. One is just the realisation that as a leader, you can and probably should be a coach not all help you here and there, but actually your job as a leader is to build the capability of the people below you.

And that is both there. technical and professional capability and their personal capability and, people want that as well. So, the first thing is to recognize that as a good leader, being a coach as a leader is actually something that people want. And secondly, learning a framework, whether it's the grow model or other to actually help you be a good coach as, as a leader.

It doesn't mean you have to be a psychologist or someone that's got 30 years of experience like I have, but you can still. coach others and help them be the best version of themselves. So that's a really good story that you've shared there. Nick, we're coming to the conclusion of our chat.

I think what you've shared around both wellbeing and leadership is really helpful for others. I'm interested as a last thing, is there anything [00:50:00] else you want to share both on either? Wellbeing and or leadership that you've learnt as a over the last four years that you maybe you want to share with the listeners as a last overall comment

Nick: Yeah, I guess two quick ones that I was thinking about coming into this chat around things that I've learned and given the time we won't, we won't necessarily dig into them, but. We've talked a bit about B. J. Fogg's book about tiny habits, and for me the lesson there was don't try and boil the ocean, you know, you can just start with something tiny, laughably simple change will then grow into a habit.

anyone that's interested in, you know, if you're finding it hard, if you're procrastinating, that's a really good one. And the other one that you and I talked about a bit, which again, you, illustrated this for me and it helped clarify some of the challenges I was having personally was the elephant and the rider and the two parts of the brain, you know, the, the rational part of your brain, your thinking and what you think you should do, you know, being the [00:51:00] rider in the elephant and the rider analogy.

And the emotional part of your brain being the elephant and, you know, you might say, okay, I'm going to go here, but then the elephant just charges off another direction. You can't really control it. And, you know, I was having some of those issues, you'd finish your dinner and go, well, I'm going to, you know, I had a ripping clean dinner.

I'm going to stop there. And next thing you've cracked open a pack of Tim Tams. You know, and I'm like, I just, how is this happening to me? And so I think that elephant and rider and knowing that that is a challenge, you know, there's, there's no magic fix to that and, and being okay with that and being kind to yourself and not sort of beating yourself up both of those have been very helpful for me.

Hayden: Just to build on those briefly as we come to a close, the elephant, the rider is from a guy called Jonathan Haidt, H A I D T, and he's written this great book called The Righteous Mind, and it is a way of understanding that sometimes we don't all make rational decisions, the rider is rational brain and the elephant's the limbic system, the [00:52:00] emotional part of our brain, and we like to think we're rational human beings, but sometimes our emotion just takes over and that elephant being the emotion goes wherever it wants and the only way we can actually introduce our cognitive brain and our prefrontal cortex is to pause.

slow down, stop and reflect and deliberately engage that rider or that cognitive part of our brain, the rational thinker. If we don't do that, we're just going to go off and in automatic pilot. So I'm glad that was something helpful and, and even normalising that, that everyone does it and it's, it's normal and it's not just you, Nick.

So knowing that helps. And the other one, BJ Fogg, sometimes. A psychologist, we can overcomplicate things and focus on cognitive psychology and all these big changes that you need to make in your life. But sometimes small things help to build those habits. And so, you know, for others that's something that stood out and I think helped you to focus on the laughably small changes.

So thanks for calling those things out, Nick, and thanks for sharing your story on this podcast. [00:53:00] I am sure that many leaders and many people will enjoy listening to some of your journey around leadership and well being. So thanks for joining us Nick

Nick: Thanks for having me Hayden, it's been awesome. Yeah, I'm on LinkedIn or you can find me through our website if anyone sort of had questions or things that they thought I could help with very happy to do so.

Hayden: Fantastic, thanks Nick

Nick: No worries. See ya.