Leadership and Wellbeing

Being a Resilient Leader with Paul Lacy

December 04, 2023 Hayden Fricke / Paul Lacy Episode 11
Being a Resilient Leader with Paul Lacy
Leadership and Wellbeing
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Leadership and Wellbeing
Being a Resilient Leader with Paul Lacy
Dec 04, 2023 Episode 11
Hayden Fricke / Paul Lacy

Today I'm very excited to be interviewing Paul Lacy, CEO and co-founder of Dream Life. Paul is most well known for his role as the co-founder and former managing director of retail giant Kikki K, a company he created with his life and business partner Kristina Karlsson. In this episode, Paul shares his journey through the incredibly challenging time of losing the business, and the work he did to bounce back and become a resilient leader for his team. 

In 1998, Paul and Kristina built up Kikki K from scratch to a global business with hundreds of stores across the planet. At one stage, they had a team of one and a half thousand staff and a turnover of $650million. Sadly, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, Kikki K went into voluntary administration - not once, but twice. Incredibly though, they’ve both been able to bounce back and have established a wonderful new business called Dream Life.

Paul shares how, with Dream Life, they continue to inspire people to chase their dreams, offering beautiful products such as wellbeing journals and stationery. With a coaching and mentoring arm, Dream Life is Paul and Kristina’s way of not only leading purposeful lives, but adding value to the lives of others. 

Paul is incredibly vulnerable as he shares about the leadership and wellbeing challenges he faced while stepping in and out of the role as Kikki K’s CEO, attempting to be more present with his family and the devastating loss of the business. While he has done the internal work on his journey to recovery,  he admits he's still very much in the process of bouncing back. 

We talk about the different models around leadership that I supported Paul in implementing, and he shares how the work we did together helped reshape his thinking in many different areas. Particularly, how leaders must learn to let go and build a level of trust within their business. We discuss the importance of creating psychological safety in the workplace, and Paul gives an example of the strategies he employed to achieve this. 

When it comes to high performance leadership, physical and mental wellbeing is crucial. Paul shares the practical ways he maintains his own health to ensure he can operate at his best. While he still feels he has a long way to go, his self-awareness and willingness to change are refreshing to see.

This is a very real, very human conversation and I hope that any leaders listening today will be inspired by Paul’s resilience in times of uncertainty, and his commitment to growth as a leader. 


Connect with Hayden:

Websites: -  https://haydenfricke.com/ 


APS College of Organisational Psychologists


Show Notes Transcript

Today I'm very excited to be interviewing Paul Lacy, CEO and co-founder of Dream Life. Paul is most well known for his role as the co-founder and former managing director of retail giant Kikki K, a company he created with his life and business partner Kristina Karlsson. In this episode, Paul shares his journey through the incredibly challenging time of losing the business, and the work he did to bounce back and become a resilient leader for his team. 

In 1998, Paul and Kristina built up Kikki K from scratch to a global business with hundreds of stores across the planet. At one stage, they had a team of one and a half thousand staff and a turnover of $650million. Sadly, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, Kikki K went into voluntary administration - not once, but twice. Incredibly though, they’ve both been able to bounce back and have established a wonderful new business called Dream Life.

Paul shares how, with Dream Life, they continue to inspire people to chase their dreams, offering beautiful products such as wellbeing journals and stationery. With a coaching and mentoring arm, Dream Life is Paul and Kristina’s way of not only leading purposeful lives, but adding value to the lives of others. 

Paul is incredibly vulnerable as he shares about the leadership and wellbeing challenges he faced while stepping in and out of the role as Kikki K’s CEO, attempting to be more present with his family and the devastating loss of the business. While he has done the internal work on his journey to recovery,  he admits he's still very much in the process of bouncing back. 

We talk about the different models around leadership that I supported Paul in implementing, and he shares how the work we did together helped reshape his thinking in many different areas. Particularly, how leaders must learn to let go and build a level of trust within their business. We discuss the importance of creating psychological safety in the workplace, and Paul gives an example of the strategies he employed to achieve this. 

When it comes to high performance leadership, physical and mental wellbeing is crucial. Paul shares the practical ways he maintains his own health to ensure he can operate at his best. While he still feels he has a long way to go, his self-awareness and willingness to change are refreshing to see.

This is a very real, very human conversation and I hope that any leaders listening today will be inspired by Paul’s resilience in times of uncertainty, and his commitment to growth as a leader. 


Connect with Hayden:

Websites: -  https://haydenfricke.com/ 


APS College of Organisational Psychologists


Hayden: [00:00:00] 

Hello and welcome to Leadership and Wellbeing with Hayden Fricke. Today I'm very excited to be interviewing Paul Lacey. For those of you who don't know Paul, he's currently the CEO and Co Founder of Dream Life with Kristina Karlsson. Paul is most well known for his role as the Co Founder and Managing Director of the large retail stores business Kikki K.

Together, Paul and Kristina built up Kikki K from scratch to a global business [00:01:00] with hundreds of stores across the planet and a team at one stage of one and a half thousand staff and a turnover of six hundred and fifty million dollars. A great team, Kristina was always the face of Kikki K while Paul was driving the business behind the scenes.

The idea of Kikki K was born in 1998 with Kristina. Uh, starting the business and then Paul joining shortly after, selling all they own to open their first store in 2001. After 15 years as the CEO and Managing Director, Paul decided to step aside as the CEO and recruit a new leader to run the Kikki K business globally and remaining involved as the non executive director. In early 2020, shortly after the global pandemic hit the world, Kikki K went into voluntary administration. Fortunately, they were able to have a second life and were bought by U. S. business [00:02:00] Erin Condren. Sadly, after only 12 months or so of heavy lockdowns and nearly all their retail stores due to COVID, Kikki K was placed into voluntary administration for a second and final time. At this point, Paul and Kristina had lost almost everything that they'd built over 20 years or so. Incredibly though, Paul and Kristina have both been able to bounce back and have established a wonderful new business called Dream Life.

Paul is a great dad as well to two wonderful children, Axel and Tiffany. I want to share Paul's story with you because it's a profoundly honest one and a real one. I had the privilege of working with both Paul and Kristina, and Kristina's story has been told, but not many people have heard Paul's story, which is incredibly vulnerable and real and human.

And he shares his, story, his personal story about his leadership challenges through this period, and also the challenges around well, wellbeing, and I [00:03:00] say the word bouncing back, yes. He bounced back, but it's taken a long time, and in fact, in some ways, Paul's still in that process of bouncing back. and he shares a very real, very human story with everyone, as well as some key learnings and lessons that I think are incredibly powerful.

So I hope you enjoy listening to the interview with Paul Lacey. Well, hello, Paul. It's great to have you as my guest on my podcast, Leadership and Wellbeing with Hayden Fricke. Thanks for coming along.

Paul: Happy to be here with you, Hayden. 

Hayden: Fantastic. Now I know that, uh, we're going to have a really wide ranging chat about a number of years of experience that you've had and we've had together around both leadership and wellbeing. But maybe before we jump into that let's start with, I know you've started a new venture called Dream Life.

A lot of people [00:04:00] may not have heard of that. So do you want to just tell us a little bit about your current venture at Dream Life?

Paul: Yeah, sure, Hayden. We um, well, our background, as you know, is, is founding, founding a little business called Kiki K, which we, which we grew from from the kitchen table at home, really, into a, into a global business that, that was very much a meaningful one and, uh, since that chapter closed, Kristina Karlsson my, uh, my Swedish partner in life and partner in business, And I have kept doing what we, what we know and what we know.

Well, between us, we share a big, crazy dream of inspiring 101 million people around the world, to discover and chase their dreams. And we're doing that through a business now called dream life. So dream life has got beautiful, inspiring products that people can use journals of all sorts, wellness journals, wellbeing journals, mindfulness journals, and all sorts of similar stationary related products that we were. Became quite famous for with Kiki K, beautifully designed. And it's also got a a [00:05:00] coaching arm or an education arm to it. So Kristina has a podcast herself, which has had nearly 3 million downloads now, which is fantastic. Um, interviewing people about their experiences with dreaming and. chasing dreams and Life?

in general associated to that. And also, uh, she does a lot of mentoring and coaching, coaching program and, an online book club for people all around the world that catch up on a Monday night to talk about, dissect and squeeze the learnings in a community from inspiring and meaningful books. 

Hayden: Fantastic. Thanks Paul for sharing that. I love the fact and the way that you have both been able to bounce back, which to talk about, but also take the things you're still passionate about and have your lessons from that experience and continue that journey, albeit via a different pathway. So, uh, fantastic.

Paul: Thanks, mate. It's, uh, that that's really been the thread for us chasing something meaningful and something with purpose. So, yeah. 

Hayden: So, let's go back a step, uh, you and I met in about [00:06:00] 2018, interesting to reflect, it's been 5 years, I feel like I've known you a lot longer than that, we started working more close together in 2019 together and, uh, you know, I felt very privileged and honoured to be coaching you and working with you because I just felt you were already an inspiring human being, uh, and you were somebody who, amazing amount in your life already at that stage, but yet you still wanted to keep developing and growing and becoming the best leader and the best human being and best father in fact that you, that could be.

I remember you telling me actually very early on that you had two young children who are a little bit older now, but Tiff and ax. And you'd done a lot of self-reflection already before you and I started sort of working together. Uh, and one of your main goals or your main goal in life at that stage was to become a great dad.

you also wanted to grow Kiki k at that stage to a $1 billion. So we kind of intentionally focused on two main areas in, in the conversations that you and I had together. One [00:07:00] was around how you find a CEO to run the business, but also to change yourself as a leader and to lead in a different way.

So that you could actually maybe have a less hectic life that will allow you to have that balance. And the second one was around balancing the demands of the business. and being a great dad and taking care of yourself and your own wellbeing along that journey. So there's lots of, lots to talk around, around those things.

Now, as we know, it's interesting, isn't it? Sitting back here this, uh, you know, a few years later, this, this kind of thing called COVID got in the way and it hit us, uh, and the goals were appropriate then, but, uh, you know, so we first focused on leadership. And, uh, you recall we did a 360 degree assessment and you got some feedback and we, we talked about how we can use that feedback to change your habits and behaviour.

So maybe the first thing I'd love to talk about is, can you share some of the, the things that you tried to change as a result of that, uh, feedback? Maybe the things you did change or the things you tried to change and, and the challenges involved in doing that.

Paul: Gee, there's a bit to [00:08:00] unpack there, Hayden. 

Hayden: got time.

Paul: You know, maybe, maybe just coming back to the starter in the setup of your question. So I went on a retreat, I reckon it was back in 2014 with a group of people that I catch up with monthly. They're all business owners and we, put a lot of time and energy into how can we work on our businesses rather than in them and, uh, into, into putting together a 10 year. High level plan of where we'd like to go with our lives and our businesses. And what I came out with at the end of that retreat was it was really important to me to be a great dad. I had had like many people uh, not a great experience with, uh, with a couple of dads and that had led me to. Really wanting to be a great dad. I just love becoming a dad. I've become a dad recently late in life. and then the other, the other goal that I had was to grow this little business, this little meaningful purpose driven business that we'd started and was, was growing beautifully and fast and demanding a lot of time into what we thought it could be to [00:09:00] reach all the people around the world That had come across it and, and we're starting to say to us, Hey, we want you in New York and can you get a shop for us in Copenhagen? And we'd love a shop in, uh, Tokyo and, and all these sorts of things. So I had these kind of twin, twin goals and I realized that, I just wasn't going to be able to do the both as the CEO of that business and being a dad was way more important to me.

So I came away from that retreat with a focus on what do I need to do? to put the business into the right hands. Someone's hands who could help steward it. And what would my role be? and hiring a CEO was top of that list. Another part of it was to build a board that could help with the transition which I thought might be problematic as I studied transitions of founders to to CEO, so, um, now that was kind of the background and then just a really, you know, fast forward.

I had planned to transition out of the role of CEO. We hit some challenging times Christina and the board asked me just to stay, state of the helm, which I did kind of got through the [00:10:00] challenging times and I was reasonably exhausted at that point. And so we went, went back and said, let's, let's hire a CEO, which we did.

It didn't work. A year later, uh, for various reasons some of which I certainly owned uh, a year later, we hired another CEO and that person had four years 40 million bucks, a supportive board. And in the end that didn't. Didn't work out too well for all sorts of reasons. But so, yeah, that kind of led us to when we caught up, Hayden.

I think it was kind of at that point that the board, Kristina and I decided that I was best to jump back into the. Into the role of CEO and it was a new context and it was a new team and you know, you, you help me with models. You'll remember the name of the models around, you know, types of leadership that are appropriate to various stages of a business.

Hayden: I want to ask you about something you've just said, which is really, uh, useful for the listeners. I think to understanding that is, I think you and I discussed this in the early stages was, on average, it often takes founders [00:11:00] of a business, a number of guys up to around three guys of, of replacing themselves and learning to step away.

Uh, and that's a really big challenge. You'd started the business, you'd taken it from nothing to, you know, uh, for 15 years to a very successful business. but you're not alone in the challenges of finding someone else to run your business and, and learning about yourself in that process. And that's why we got to that point.When I met you, you'd tried a number of times. So even that's a fascinating lesson. Maybe you might want to even talk about that. Cause that, that drives you to reflect on yourself as a leader too, right?

Paul: Totally Hayden. After that retreat, I reached out to a bunch of people that I knew who had been through something similar. I, I, I often like to ask who, you know, who's gone through something that I'm going through and see what I can learn from them. So, Brett Blundy was one that I got in touch with, who's an incredibly successful Australian businessman known Brett for years through the Retail Caper.

So, I spoke [00:12:00] with Brett and he said to me, uh, in his inimitable style, he said, Paul, you're gonna, you're gonna screw this up three times. Like it's, it's not going to work straight away and I was so curious. I was like, why, why, why, why, why, why? And you know, I got all the, all his insights into why. And then I thought, well, of course, now that I've got the insights, I'm not going to mess it up. so, yeah, I, I went into it thinking that it was going to be tough and thinking that it was something that had to be managed really carefully because you know, founders have built it from the ground up. They find it hard to let go is a big part of the problem. And I think that in part made it difficult for the CEOs that we hired. And if I could say my learnings from this, if I had my chance to do it all over again, I would have grown someone from within and we had a fantastic person and we, and we let him go. He, he, he chose to, to go in a different direction. And um, you know, I look back and I say, gee, that was such a sliding doors moment.

He was so good. I wish we had have invested in that person and growing him because transitioning to [00:13:00] someone outside of. The business having to build trust. Yeah, it was, it was really problematic for us. And we didn't, we didn't through that.

Hayden: That's a fascinating lesson. There's a guy called Jim Collins, who's written two famous books. One's called Good to Great and one's called Built to Last. And, uh, in the book, uh, Built to Last, he looks at companies that have lasted over 200 years through World War I and II and the turn of the century and etc, etc.

And one of the things he found in these companies that did last that long was they typically didn't You know, parachutes, amazing CEO in from outside, they grew them from within and they spent a lot of time doing that, not just quickly, they would take, uh, be very deliberate about grooming the, the next CEO for years, uh, 

Paul: Level two leaders, right? Is it level two leaders? He talked about, I just devoured those books as I was trying to work, work out how to be a better leader myself, but also how to, how to transition, 

Hayden: [00:14:00] That's right. And that level two leadership was about the kind of interesting, contrast of two qualities, humility plus will. Strength of character, and resolve and drive, but a lot of humility rather than high ego. So fascinating work by Jim Collins. Anyway, back to you now. So it was at that stage that you and I started working together after you'd had a few, uh, learnings and a few failures and stepping back in and you and I started working on so what do you need to change in that situation about yourself and we we worked on a whole range of things from you know how did you create psychological safety to create an innovative culture we worked on even slowing down and listening more because you're someone who really wants to go fast and drive things so you had to find a way of slowing down to empower people and we even talked about things like the Cuneven Uh, leadership model where you had to make a decision based upon the business and change your style of leadership.

So I'm, I'm interested in, you know, obviously some of those models you forget, but what stands out to you as some of the things that [00:15:00] you actually were able to start to employ in your new leadership style?

Paul: Even taking it up a level, Hayden, I had come from being. On the board for four years and finding it incredibly frustrating to be um, whilst liberating because it allowed me to be the dad that I wanted to be. We took the family and we lived in Sweden and um, gave them a year living in mum's country while we still worked on a bunch of projects.

 So I'd gone from board level to then jump back into the business. And I think the best thing that I did was actually to start doing work with you. And that led me to a whole lot of self reflection, and I believe we kicked off with 360 degree review from key stakeholders board members and high level execs, and that was very confronting, And refreshing, but confronting, 

Hayden: that because it is, if you go into that situation when you say, yep, I'm the founder, I'd moved away, I'd moved up to be board level, I had to move back down again, I had to get some [00:16:00] feedback to know where to start, uh, and that confronting nature is sometimes too much for people, but people like you go, no, I actually need that, tell, tell me about that.

Paul: uh, listen, I, we're all works in progress is how I view life and changes bloody hard at a personal level. And, and of course, awareness is the start of it all, and I reflect on our time together and you certainly, the process you took me through helped me, um, become aware of things and then change, changing it as hard.

But, you know, I'm a curious guy by nature. I wanted a great outcome. and I wanted to be a great leader. I've really aspired to being that. I don't think I've ever hit that, but I've always aspired to that. So, you know, I was curious and I welcomed it. And the feedback from the 360s had various themes in it.

 At the time, I kind of thought I had been at board level and my interactions with stakeholders had been at board level and had been. You know, for 2 years, I'd been highly frustrated [00:17:00] in mind. We had the wrong person running the business and I was seeing a beautiful brand that we'd built a beautiful connection with millions of customers around the world. So, so many things were good and so much about the execution was good, but there was a lot about it that was suboptimal. In fact, there's a lot of it that was actually poor. And so I was really frustrated in my style and it came through in the feedback. My style was you know, I'd be asking questions in board meetings, but they were, they had an accusatory tone to them. I was highly frustrated. I could see this beautiful business that we'd grown in a high risk. So I'd come back into the role with that as a background, just being really, you know, probably scared. yeah, incredibly worried about the direction that the business was taking.

 And I wear my heart on my sleeve as you would know. and that was something that I found quite hard. change. Yeah, that was the context and I can remember having discussions with you. One of the things [00:18:00] we're working on, I remember very well as you need to talk in that in other people's language.

So, trust based relationships were reasonably difficult. I've been a bit of an agitator. For reasons that I felt were valid. And I think history plays out that it was valid. The business went into administration shortly after and I think a lot of that was my fears were and concerns were valid.

But you know, I'd come from being in that sort of zone and then I needed to jump in and build, build trust and build a team with the key execs and with the board that I was the right guy. for the job. and as part of that, we worked on, slowing down to step into other people's shoes more understanding, their dominant thinking styles and behavioral styles.

We did HBDI and we looked at, you know, who was yellow. And of course, I'm a, I'm a really high yellow and that has its own problems. And people in my team were high blues and analytical and process driven thinkers. And so I, so I had to change a lot of the way that I was relating to people, but you know, and which I, which I think I had [00:19:00] some success with, and probably fell short in many, many ways at the same time. 

Hayden: Paul, I'm gonna, I'm gonna stop you in this story, uh, and just probe into a few things there, just fascinating. Firstly, maybe for some of the listeners who might be listening to this for those who don't know, the HBDI model is the Herman Brain Dominance Model, which is all around, whole brain thinking, and the yellow is right brain, which is all around that big picture, creative, innovative, visualising the future and the why, etc.

And that's Paul's sort of main strength, and some people he was talking to were much more left brain, and particularly blue, upper left, which is all around that. logical, rational thinking, problem solving, critical evaluation and judgment, sort of, and if you're talking a language that's all yellow brain, innovation, creativity, and you're talking to someone who's highly analytical, sometimes those two worlds don't connect.So, yeah, that's certainly what we did. 

Paul: Just adding to that,Hayden, and so part of the tools that you armed me with as we did this self reflection work, that sort of the things out that I needed to get better off [00:20:00] that one example, I created a A template for myself, and I would look at it before I walked into a meeting, and I think about who's in the meeting. What's their dominant way of looking at the world, and then I would prepare myself to communicate in a way that would resonate for all those various people in the room. So, so, yeah, you know, in many ways, that was, that was very helpful. 

Hayden: Fantastic. So let me go into that. It's great. So, you talked before about awareness, right? So, you know, when we talk about behaviour change, you have to start with a high level of self awareness. And you talked about that earlier. So, the 360 was a place to start. You have to go to a skill of being able to actually learn to change yourself.

So for example, uh, learning to adapt yourself to the situation intellectually. You can learn that in a moment. I can teach you a model, uh, whether it's HPDI or any other model that's out there. You also have to be motivated to actually want. And then have the skill to do what you just said, maybe [00:21:00] whatever it is, build a framework or write it down or, you know, and actually put it into practice.

I'm interested because a lot of people think if you have awareness, you should just change, but that's only step one of many. So tell me about that challenge of going from awareness to actually changing it, which is hard.

Paul: if only it was so easy. I mean, I guess we're just in grant, you know, as human beings, we form habits and our neural pathways are set in lots of ways. And we repeat them over and over and over. And you know, I think one of the books you gave me to read about change of thinking gave me fascinating insights into all that.

So, I was so curious about all this and I was, motivation to change was not a problem, you know, I was just. I mean, but the execution was a hard thing and 

It's gosh in growing a business. I found that too. You can get the strategy. The execution is the hard thing in those moments, making the right, the right calls.

So I found it helpful to have the scaffolding of things like, uh. A template pre meeting to guide me, you know, it was almost like it was almost like safety rails and little notes about [00:22:00] you know, I think about the energy that I want to create when I walk into a room or think about the energy I want to create when I'm, uh, meeting with people, how do I want them to feel to be more conscious of that?

And for me, I needed that kind of written down a little prompter before I went in and You'd have to talk to other people to find out how successful or not I was at that. I'm sure you'd get varied response because change is bloody hard, which is why I liked catching up with you in our You know, we'd sit and have a coffee and I'd get to reflect and you'd ask me those you know, great searching questions and then it'd be like, oh shit, you know, I just, yeah, I didn't quite get that one right.

 So then it's like a, okay, mental note to self in that situation, try to breathe, try to think of how the other person's feeling. Try not to go too fast. Try not to scare them with your high yellow creativity, positivity. try to be more realistic and calmer talking with the blues and greens.

And yeah, it's a process. I guess some people are just naturally good at[00:23:00] all of that. I, I wasn't, and probably still am not naturally good at that. I tended to be, as you talked about, Paul, you need to use another language. I was kind of like, I just want to speak louder. Yeah, why aren't they getting it?

Hayden: You 

Paul: That was my first inclination. I'm in too much of a hurry. We've got, we've got this whole world to inspire. We've got shit to do, you know, obviously that style didn't work and understanding what was the right style, you challenged me to think about it's not command and control anymore, you know, from startup, it. was all about, right guys, they were going to jump on board and that's how we're going to do it. And then gradually as people respect and started to step forward. I'd be letting go. But yeah, it was a very different

situation. I walk back into in 2019. 

Hayden: It's not easy at all. And I think that's why I wanted to talk to you because you've got a real story and a journey and in fact, many people that I work with don't have your ability to deal with some of the challenges along the way. A lot of people think I'm [00:24:00] getting coaching.

I'm just going to improve. I'm just going to go up. It's often two steps forward, one step back. And I think that, Uh, that one of the skills of anyone wanting to change themselves is be okay with that discomfort when you're not succeeding or when you want to go back to your natural style under pressure, if you are not good at being uncomfortable, you won't change.

And I think that's one of your strengths, you constantly wanting to grow, but you're also willing to be uncomfortable and then work through that and then come back to my sessions that we had and go. I don't, I think I stuffed up on that, but the fact you admitted that and we worked it through meant that you kept on improving, uh, all the time. And I think that's, 

Paul: Yeah, I think it's good. I think it's essential. And, you know, growth only happens when you're uncomfortable. That's just really how it is. And, you know what else helped Hayden? I think involving other people. I don't think it's ever a one, one, solution for one person.

So we ended up with a great language in our exec team when we did the HBDI work with all of them we all got to understand our styles and we had a common [00:25:00] language. And as the leader, I absolutely was giving permission. I'm trying to think about, you know, was that my role to give permission?

I think it was to call each other out, including me. you know, so we would have meetings and um, our head of people and culture would say, Paul, you're being very yellow, you know, we need to bring this back to being green and we've given those things names and we've created little graphics to represent them and we had a bit of fun with it.

It was kind of, you know, name your weakness and when it shows up we can have a laugh about it and that was really helpful because it helped in those moments. 

Hayden: I love what you did with that. I think, you know, I've used this model and many others for years, but some organisations grab hold of it and do something with it and others don't quite know what to do with it. But two things that stood out to me. One is the common language. I think that's so powerful to create the culture and any tool needs to have a language that's non threatening that everyone can use easily and become part of.

The daily language to help each other that's, that's not personal. It's not you, you're meaning to piss me [00:26:00] off. Uh, it's more about, oh, we've got a different style here that needs to be thought of. And one of the things you did that I hadn't seen other organizations do, you made it part of your email signatures, you know, and you called it, instead of a weakness, they it a superpower. My superpower is. So I love the creativity that you guys did with a framework like that.

Paul: Yeah, all that was really helpful. So as far as embedding change, having the other people on board, having common language, having honesty, openness, psychological safety, those things were just so, so valuable. Had I just gone about trying to be a leader that was changing as an island, I think it would have been highly problematic. 

Hayden: And I, um. you know, in my book, that you, I'm sure, have read, uh, there's a big part of that that I talk about social norms, which is about social norms outside of work, but also at work, the culture that you, and it's about the people that you surround yourself with, and I think that's such a good point to remember, and I'll ask you a bit more about that perhaps in relation to wellbeing in a moment.

[00:27:00] Let's move to wellbeing. So while you're trying to change your habits in terms of leadership and you're getting back into the business, and trying to be the best leader you can be, you still have this other goal, which sometimes is in conflict with that, which is about being the best dad you could be and also taking care of your own wellbeing.

Uh, so you mentioned before, uh, a book. By Sarah Edelman, change your thinking. That was one of the tools that I taught you around, uh, taking care of yourself mentally. We also talked about, you know, part of that was a connection between your thoughts and emotions. So, some of that frustration you felt, for example, or anger that you might have felt, what are the thoughts that are leading to that?

So we did a fair bit of work around that. We also did work on even little things more practical than that. Controlling your diary. Uh, you were having back to back to back meetings, so particularly as a yellow brainer, It was creating the space, like you wanted about three hours a day in your day to think and reflect.

So, and then we also did some sort of physical health things around diet, exercise, sleep, [00:28:00] just taking care of yourself. So I'm just interested, while we're trying to be a great leader, what were some of the things that helped you improve your own well being at the time?

Paul: Yeah. Well, I think a lot of these things you cover so well as you talk about leaders getting their own shit together first and a new terrific book. But I have to say, Hey, no, I've had, I have moments with this. So, my partner Kristina is just fantastic at holistic wellness and finding a way to start the day with journaling and a great morning ritual and fitting your exercise in and things like that.

Whereas I'm, I'm not as great at that, so some of the things that did really work for me that we talked about, we're putting white space in my calendar in between, in between meetings, so not rushing from thing to thing to thing. Having a walking meeting, just around the block and, and meeting rather than sitting in a meeting room uh, just moving, being conscious of, uh, hydration and having a water bottle with me.

You know, funny how when you've got a water bottle at hand, you drink more water and, and how important that is. So certainly for me, I feel energized [00:29:00] by just sipping away in a glass or water bottle. 

But yeah, you know, I like maybe um, a lot of people. A little bit manic, you know, when I'm on, I find myself all consumed by it. So yeah, I wasn't, I wasn't a shiny example of someone who probably ever found that sense of, real balance. I was very emotionally invested and certainly in the second era when I came back in, I mean, it was the frigging house was on fire. You know, the business was in diabolical trouble, whilst at the same time we were negotiating with the world's largest stationery manufacturer to buy us, which would have been an incredible outcome. So we had this, yeah, there's two things going on that were, that were really challenging from a, from a leadership point of view.

So, you know, well, I got some things right and it was very helpful actually in, catching up with you because I kind of felt I had permission then, as we talked about things, you know, and um, I could get it intellectually, but, but somehow, you know, I needed that reminder of, you know, from you, Hey Paul, how have you, [00:30:00] you been looking after yourself?

What have you been doing? And then I'd have to kind of think through what have I been doing? And gee, there's some gaps. I could've, I could've got up just a little bit earlier and jogged around the block, and then that would be the um, the little prompt of, you know, do that tomorrow. Make sure I keep doing those things. 

Hayden: It's the small daily habits, isn't it? And as you say, some people, like Kristina, are very good at disciplining that, and others have to work a bit harder at it. But I love the fact that you were, you were prepared to be vulnerable. A lot of people ask me what makes someone coachable and one of the qualities is being vulnerable and being honest and being open and you were totally comfortable doing that.

You took your barriers down and you know, hopefully we had a safe environment to do that, but that allowed us to explore the things that were hard and then we worked on them. 

Paul: It'd be a waste of money waste of money and time, wouldn't it, if you sat there bull dusted your coach and yourself? 

Hayden: Some people do that sadly, but those that are able to let their guard down typically benefit more from it, yeah. [00:31:00] Tell me there's two sorts of things I often talk about and the sorts of things you talked about earlier were kind of very small, simple, pragmatic things like go for walking meetings you know, create space in your diary.

They're all quite simple little things that can make a big difference to you though. The other thing I touched on before was that change your thinking book, and I often think, which is all around cognitive psychology, and I think to me, it's probably one of the most, if not the most profound kind of tools or frameworks I've ever learned in my life as a psychologist.

I try to share that with others like yourself, but without needing to be a psychologist. It's almost like, how do you, how do you summarize 60 years of sort of research into something in a way that's, It's easier to digest it and utilize and yet it's not a magic wand. It doesn't fix you, but it, it's, it's a framework that helps you think about things differently.

You mentioned it before. I'm interested, you know, what was the lesson you got out of, that that still sticks with you perhaps, uh, that maybe the listeners might, might be able to grab hold of as [00:32:00] well.

Paul: Oh Hayden, there were, there were many there, you know, one lesson was just how valuable it is to stop and think through the sorts of insights that have come out of that positive psychology movement, which I think is where that book had its origins or that person. 

And there's so much in there that's connected to, you know, ancient wisdom, but, you know, a key lesson is just to pause and challenge your thinking and try and understand it better. So, um, it also gave me some, some labels for my thinking, which I thought was fantastic. So, remember there's one in there, uh, I think they call it catastrophizing and I could see myself in that as I went through and they gave great examples in that book and I could just see, I shit there's one that I do. Need to limit that. So, that was very helpful because when I'd kind of catch myself with that sort of behavior or that sort of thinking was very quickly able to associate this label with it and realize it it was just thinking I have the ability to control thinking. I can pause my thinking is not me and you know, identify that and then, uh, [00:33:00] you know, take a breath and reset. So yeah, that was really helpful to get the language and there was a high, you know, if I, if I pulled that book out now, you'd see scribbles all over it and notes and, uh, corner pages and, uh, and things. But Yeah.

I found it really, really refreshing. There was a couple of chapters in particular where, you know, I read through it and it was almost like, uh, Oh, you know, like. I kind of get this now, helped the learning And the um, the self awareness land.

Hayden: And on that note, I think that was what I was going to say before, I think one of the things about a framework like that is, and if you're not like me dealing with it day in, day out, but even, you know, a couple of years later, you still have the, you, you remember these things, the first part is about awareness, that you're often unconscious, we're not even conscious, a lot of people who aren't exposed to this are not even aware they've got these thoughts going around their head that are causing them or contributing significantly to them feeling negative emotions, such as frustration or anger, uh, or depression or [00:34:00] anxiety, so the starting point is to go, oh, actually, it's my thoughts driving that, being more aware, and then choosing, I am not my thoughts, I can actually choose if I want, to ignore that or change that, I don't have to be my thoughts, and I think even that realisation is such an important one For most leaders that don't understand that and if you can learn to do that and manage your emotions better You're gonna be a better leader, right?

Paul: Hey, there, there is no doubt. And not just leaders, but people in general, I see that in recent times, my beautiful 12 year old daughter as she's growing up and learning about life and you know, I can see that we've had discussions around thoughts and you're not your thoughts and recognizing them and stepping back from them. It's just so, it's just such a fundamental human learning, isn't it? And it can really It can really free you up. 

Hayden: Spot on, that's why I say I think it's the most out of everything I've learned. It's probably the most powerful tool that you can even teach your [00:35:00] kids as well and It's not a magic wand. It doesn't fix you. You still have some negative emotions I do you do but you have a tool to utilize there at least when that happens.

Paul: No, it's really, it's really good. And then the other one, and I I, think it might have been something that we talked about was um, Stephen Covey when he talks about there being a gap between stimulus and response and that that's this kind of a moment in time where you can, you can recognize something and you get to pause before you Rick, and that is within, that's within all of our control, as difficult as that can be. But um, certainly that was another learning that was very helpful. 

Hayden: I'm not sure if it was Covey. It could've been if I, if it was i'll, I'll do him a disservice. But certainly the guy that I think about the most around that, beyond the behavioral psychologist out there, like Skinner and others, is probably a guy called Jonathan Haight, H-A-I-D-T. And he wrote a book called The Righteous Mind, and he talked about the two parts of the brain, the prefrontal cortex here.

And the limbic system, the back, and the limbic system is the emotional part of the [00:36:00] brain, the analogy was the elephant and the rider. The elephant's the emotional part of the brain, the elephant typically goes where it wants, but the rider, the, the rational brain, sometimes gets to steer that elephant where it wants, but we, we tend to think.

That the rational brain is always in charge, but it's not. It's the emotions that are in charge and the rational brain sometimes kicks into gear. And the only way the rational brain can kick into gear, if we pause and stop and reflect. If we don't do that and we're just on automatic pilot, it's our emotions in control.

Paul: She'd be great to come out of school knowing all this stuff, wouldn't It? 

Hayden: It would be. And then we'd all be perfect, right? 

Paul: Well, wouldn't that be good? Wouldn't that be good? The imperfects.

Hayden: The last area I'd love to focus on, you've touched on the change to Kikki K, so as some readers or listeners would know you know, Kikki K sadly did go into voluntary administration twice, the first time, you were actually, brought out by, uh, Erin Condren, and then [00:37:00] that sort of Went okay for a couple of years, but then this global pandemic occurred and, and you coped, but you only got, two years outta that.

And then, uh, it went into VA again. And, and that was when you sort of lost everything pretty much. And I, you know, saw you through that period and I'm just amazed how you coped. And it was amazing to see the resilience, but I know you struggled. So it wasn't all perfect coping. There was some struggling in there.

So there's kind of two things I wanna know, what did you do to cope through those tough times? But then, and also as part of that, I wanna understand support networks and friends who used that before. So what did you do personally, but how did others help you? And then we'll go to what did you do to kind of move forward? To begin to move forward?

Paul: Gosh, man, it's a, it's a long one. Um, It was only a year between one administration and the next. you know, we're in lockdown through all of that. We negotiated this Savior to partner with Erin Condren, out of the US. We'd never met them. We'd only done them on Zoom [00:38:00] as we were all locked up in, uh, in kind of house lockdown.

 So yeah, it was, it was highly challenging. How do we get through? You know, I think we all deal with things differently. I found it really difficult. The second time around. So we had gone through. Yeah, we've gone through hell really to end up in, uh, in the 1st administration.

I jumped back into the CEO seat knowing it was probably too late but doing whatever we possibly could to, find a way through. It's possibly too late and then we fell off the cliff. And of course that goes with You know, these feelings of letting down so many people shame, uh, all sorts of things that um, that as a founder, I'm sure I wouldn't be alone in having those sorts of feelings when you go through something like that.

 You know, people have lost jobs, people have lost money. Some people have lost lots of money. You know, it's, it's just a, it's just a hell of a time and then found a new partner. So there was almost this sense of, you know, [00:39:00] euphoria that we're back and you talk about coping mechanism. We had just an amazing team of human beings that stuck fat through that first administration. Our head of people and culture, Stacey, was just, A rock and fantastic and a bunch of other people I could name. I could name many. So, as a team, I think we supported each other, which made it easier. So as a founder, and I was very deeply emotionally involved and financially involved, of course, which is very different to the execs. But part of a support network with us was the team. It was just such a caring environment that we consciously created since we started the business and set out to create a culture that was amazing and it was really strong and helpful during that time. We worked like mad under lockdown conditions to get the business up and running again and find a way through.

And then the Aaron Condren guy who, kind of had the, who was the money guy behind all of that. Read the paper over in Texas and heard that our government wasn't getting people vaccinated quickly enough and, did some [00:40:00] research based on that and he decided that Australia wasn't coming out of lockdown for months and months and months.

And so he tipped the business back into administration. We had a different view. We thought we were going to be coming out of lockdown and, uh, our view turned out to be right. He's turned out to be wrong, but it doesn't matter. It's just what happened. Just that rollercoaster of. You know, build from nothing, hit challenge, fall off cliff, find a way back, new partner, work like crazy to make it work again. and someone just cuts the thread, yeah, it was heartbreaking. And um, you know, I was exhausted. I'd gone from working, I can't even, couldn't even begin to tell you how much I've been working at just around the clock on high alert, body full of cortisol for. Week after week, after week, after week, after week, and it was really tough. In terms of um, you know, support networks around my partner, Kristina, life partner and business partner, you know, we were just so. physically locked [00:41:00] in a friggin house as we went through all of this, but I'm so close and in so many ways.

So, she was, uh, just an amazing support. But of course we were, we were going through crisis and, you know, over the years I'd carried her at times. She'd carried me at times. We both kind of needed carrying. so we just had to lift up the chin and just keep going. I think I found the role our kids played was phenomenal. You know, they somehow found their way to understand what was going on. And they were incredibly supportive. Um, You know, they could kind of sense at times when things are really bad and one of them would just come up and throw their arms around me. and so that, that really helped to secure human, human connection and um, and it kind of got you back into, well, shit, you know, it's just a business.

It's just money. The most important thing is um, family, friends, love. there's not much more when you get to that and when you kind of lose all of the things that you, you kind [00:42:00] of thought you had, they're the things that are, that are most important. Friends were amazing.

I can remember the day after, just trying to think which administration it was, Hayden, isn't that terrible? It was such a mess, but, um. when, uh, you and, uh, and Matt and Ollie turned up, we're in lockdown, we weren't meant to hang out together, and we, we sat on the nature strip outside of our house, and you guys brought a couple of beers around, and you just kind of threw your arms around me, you know, it was a, it was such a helpful thing. And you know, I think it was, it's kind of like, you've lost a person, you know, the grief, you know, it's a real feeling of grief. That's the closest I can think to explain. but you know, that was so helpful. I had some other buddies that would just ring from time to time and, You know, how are you, mate? It was amazing how something so simple was you know, helpful. So yeah, just this, this sense of having some friends around and some support around help through some of the darkest of times. And [00:43:00] then, after, you know, I don't know if it's a post traumatic stress thing or a, but you know, it's, it's really heavy.

I had a very challenging time for months and months and months. And You know, I, I still kind of feel a diminished capacity to deal with, with a lot of um, stuff all at once which I would have just eaten up in days gone by, you know, I feel, I have felt quite beaten up, bruised and battered, but whereas Kristina, on the other hand has been amazing at you know, going through the grief more quickly, I don't think she missed a stage but going through it more quickly and then getting to the point of, well, We've got a choice here.

I can lie down and curl up in a ball or get back up and keep going. And you know, I think she was, she was much better at that. So it'd be interesting to see the insights, but certainly I think the key for her were things like all those basic holistic wellness things. She would journal every morning and just dump her thoughts.

It was her way, if she calls it morning pages, and it was her way of just getting all of the chatter out of her head. She would [00:44:00] take you know, a moment to sit with a candle and a cup of tea, just to sit and... She kept up walking. She stopped drinking alcohol. She embraced, you know, meditation regularly.She found ways to help other people through the toughest of times. And that gave her energy of knowing that she was being of value to, to other people. So, um, Yeah it's interesting how different people cope in the same situation, but you know, I've probably still, uh, you know, I've got, at some stage I'd love to, I'd love to jot down a lot of the learnings from that and pass them on.Cause I think we learned a lot and reflection will be helpful to sift through that. 

Hayden: I think we might do that either offline or maybe that's another podcast actually. Um, it's interesting, isn't it? I was about to joke and say, well, lucky you're married or partnering with such an amazing woman. But on a serious note, I'd like to just pause for a moment, actually, And reflect, first of all, to say, you know, thank you for sharing that with me and whoever's listening.

I can feel and hear the emotion in your voice as you're reliving those challenging periods. [00:45:00] And I remember them well. And you know, a lot of people might, that don't know you well, might go, oh, yes, they've been successful and he's an amazing person. Anyone who's successful in life also has to be able to go through various challenges, whether it's this or others and, and, uh, you know, life's not always a bit of roses.

So, yeah, thank you for sharing that. I think that's really helpful for anyone else that's listening that's going through difficult times to realize it's kind of normalizing it, go, it's, it's okay, we can, we can get through. And as you say, though, we get through at different paces, uh, different stages and Kristina was able to go through the grieving stages quicker than you.

And that's okay too. So thank you for sharing that. That's really insightful, I think, for some leaders, I'm sure. Let's start to close off. The last few things I want to do is just think about the lessons. Couple of lessons in three areas. about sort of leadership and, and business performance, any lessons about wellbeing, uh, and any lessons about yourself to finish off with.

And maybe, [00:46:00] uh, in the time we've got, we'll just do that briefly, but, uh, maybe it's a, it's a whole other segment, uh, to do this deeply in those areas. But yeah, let's start with leadership or, and, or, business performance, any kind of key learnings or reflections in terms of what you've learned.

Paul: think two things that come to mind for me in terms of leadership and just the value of working with someone, not being an island. Being open and curious and, and having a coach, you know, having someone that can challenge you and help guide you high value, the amazing value well beyond what you pay for it and invest in it. You know, it sounds like a, just a blinding flash of the obvious, but. You know, build a fantastic team with a great culture that, that underpins, you know, I think about, about the crisis, crises, one after the other that we went through, and we just had this wonderful, amazing exec team that, yeah, just couldn't, couldn't have even imagined it. Getting through in the way that we did with the dignity that we showed to all of our people and all the [00:47:00] affected people 

Hayden: Before you go on to the next point, I do want to just pause for a moment on that point. It's interesting, isn't it? When you say it's blindly obvious. Uh, I remember asking, uh, a group of executives, the CEOs, about 40 at a breakfast I ran once, who thinks that building a high performing, leadership team is, is really important and everyone put their hands up.

Who thinks it's in the top three things that you should be doing, uh, and everyone put their hand up. Who thinks it's the most important? And I think most of them put their hand up. So it's in the top three, two or one things a letter should do, right? And I said, Okay. Thank you. Who's ever built a high performing, uh, highly cohesive team and about half the hands up went up.

And then I said, who's ever maintained that for more than 12 months and about, you know, quarter of their hands went up. So yes, it's an obvious thing you should do, but not many can do it. And for those who can do it, they don't usually sustain it for very long. So yeah, I just wanted to point that out.

Paul: hard to do. Now, you know, I think back and we did some work [00:48:00] with, with steeple on high performing teams and that was fantastic. I mean, that was really, really helpful. again, you can't do stuff on your own. so Yeah, highly, highly recommend that. 

Hayden: Thank you, Paul. Now, the other area I wanted to probe into then any, what are your key learnings or lessons about? Well being and maybe about yourself as well in that journey. Hmm. 

Paul: I think, I'll, I'll start with self um, that I can, you know, I can cope with a lot more than I thought I might be able to cope with and that you've never got it as hard as others was the other one. I would often think um, there are hospitals full of people that are going through the worst of COVID right now.

I'm sure they'd love to be in my position. We would have a photograph of a great mate of ours who had a retail business, too, that was we used to buddy up with and share information and learnings with, and he passed away very quickly a few years back. So we'd, Kristina and I would often say in the darkest of times. Just Danny would love to be here, wouldn't he? So, yeah, just that sense that you can, the learning [00:49:00] that you can cope with a lot and that other people have a lot worse. So if you can, you know, you can reframe even in the toughest of circumstances. 

Hayden: Of your many wonderful qualities, Paul, that's one of them, I think is just astounding that whilst you were able to go through this difficult period. You still had a lot of time for thinking about others being worse than yourselves and putting it in perspective and saying, you know what, what's most important?

It's money we're losing, but we still got our family and we've got our health and so forth. So the fact that you're able to do that in the most darkest of times is one of your great qualities.

Paul: Thank you. But, uh, thank you. And then on wellness, I think a key learning is the simple things. Have huge impact and I probably have made that learning from, you know, when I've implemented them consistently, you know, it's, it's just helped, helped remarkably. And, uh, and also from when I, you know, look back and I haven't periods where I, where I haven't, [00:50:00] you know, whereas I'd let the daily meditation practice sleep. and feel different. and, you know, there's something else in there around the power of community when you're doing things, when you, when you team up with a, you know, a walk and talk, or, uh, I think some, you know, a couple of the walks that we went on in some of the 

toughest of times, we got to chat and get some exercise at the same time. And it just helps showing up with somebody else. You show up, you know, I tend to show up with other people a bit less, proficient at just showing up for myself. 

Hayden: I recall those walks fondly that we had, And even the tables were turned and I was in hospital recently and you came and supported me. So it goes both ways when we're in our darkest times, if friends really turn up and just be there for you is really, really powerful.

And the simple things, you know, it goes back to B. J. Fogg, who's written the book Tiny Habits. And it's about those little tiny things you do every day that are so crucial as well. So yeah, Paul, some fantastic lessons for others. For us as well to reflect on these a few years later, [00:51:00] but hopefully listeners got a lot out of that as I'm sure they did.

So we might take this chance to wrap up for me now. Thanks very much for sharing of yourself, giving us this time. I really, really appreciate it.

Paul: No I'm really happy to be here, mate. And thanks for all your help and support and counsel along the way. And I feel I might've left people with more questions than answers today, but good to be here with you.

Hayden: No worries. Thanks, Paul.