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Episode 023: A Conversation on Human Managers with Mark LeBusque

a conversation on human managers

Join Sarah Noll Wilson and Mark LeBusque as they explore what it means to bring humanity to leadership, and the power of understanding others.

About our guest

Mark is universally known as the “Human Manager” and his proven techniques for elevating leaders and energizing employees make him an internationally sought after speaker, facilitator, mentor and coach. His books BEING HUMAN and the little book of HUMAN have challenged the way Managers and Organisations view the value of the 100- year old Management system and has sparked a more Human approach across the globe.

Mark has developed and refined his “Human Manager” model over a 25-year career in sales, operations and general management, delivering measurable improvements in employee engagement, team performance and business results even in today’s climate of fast paced change and uncertainty. He has an innate ability to both speak and seek the truth, provoke humans to step into their own reality and skillfully combines practicality and simplicity with textbook theory.

Mark is Harvard Business School Trained and an accredited Practitioner in Adaptive Leadership and Instincts at Work and is affectionately known as a Certified Bogan.

Subscribe to my fortnightly blog and my twice weekly podcast available via my website. Keep an eye out for the global launch of my Human Manager Academy in September/October 2022

Episode Transcript

Sarah Noll Wilson 0:01
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of Conversations on Conversations, where each week we explore a topic, or topics, to help us have more powerful conversations with ourselves, and with each other. I’m your host, Sarah Noll Wilson, and I am- I’m so- I’m excited for multiple reasons. I mean, full disclosure, I’m going on vacation tomorrow, so I’m fairly loose and excited. But joining us today is my dear dear friend, Mark LeBusque. And so, hi, welcome to the show, Mark.

Mark LeBusque 0:32
Thanks for having me, Sarah. It’s- and I’m excited too, because I’m going on vacation, but not for another week. But it’s just gone winter here in Australia, in the so- where I’m in the southern states, and I’m heading off to the northern states where it’s, well, 34 degrees for us every day up there, so, bit like you, I’m very, very happy to be getting out of the cold.

Sarah Noll Wilson 0:52
Yeah, no. Well, so let me tell everyone a little bit about you, Mark. I’m going to read your formal bio, and then we’re going to talk about how you and I met, which was this beautiful chance meeting. So Mark LeBusque is a universal- he’s universally known as the “Human Manager,” and his proven techniques for elevating leaders, and energizing employees, make him an internationally sought after speaker, facilitator, mentor, and coach. His book, “Being Human,” and his “Little Book of Human,” have challenged the way managers and organizations view the value of the hundred year old management system, and has sparked a more human approach across the globe, which is so neat. It was always, I mean, we’re gonna get into this. It was always needed. It’s really needed now. Okay, but I have more to say about Mark. He has developed and refined his human manager model over a 25 year career in sales, operations, and general management, delivering measurable improvements in employee engagement, team performance, and business results, even in today’s climate of fast paced change and uncertainty. He has an innate ability to both speak and seek the truth, provoke humans to step into their own reality, and skillfully combines practicality and simplicity with textbook theory. Mark is Harvard Business School trained, and is an accredited practitioner in adaptive leadership, and instincts at work, and is affectionately known as a “certified bogan.” What’s a bogan? Is that an Australian phrase, or-?

Mark LeBusque 2:18
Well, it’s funny, because when I’m talking to some people around the world, they know what that term is, but a bogan’s a bit like, so, imagine this. I was- when I was fifteen, I had a, like, we call it a mullet. Like, it’s like the long, you know, the- the long-

Sarah Noll Wilson 2:22
Party in back, business in front?

Mark LeBusque 2:32
That’s the one, that’s the one. And not only did I go for the- not only did I go for the mullet, but I had colors in it, as well. So I had it colored, and also put- I got it permed as well. So I ended up with curly mullet. So. That’s what-

Sarah Noll Wilson 2:52
Are their photos? And can we include them in the show notes? These are the two questions I need to know.

Mark LeBusque 2:56
Well, I can find some photos. I don’t have a problem with with that, because I think that, you know, all the better that there are still bogans in the world. So that’s a little bit about me. That’s the bit I like most in my bio, all the rest of it, sort of, is a bit- so like, it’s a bit embarrassing when you hear people read it out, but I’m so happy to be here with you.

Sarah Noll Wilson 3:16
I’m thrilled to be here. What else, besides your sweet hairstyles, would you want people to know about you?

Mark LeBusque 3:22
Wow. Look, I’m a pretty- pretty simple human being, I like the- I’m very pragmatic. I just like the world to be simple, practical. I like- I’ve got a, I’ve got three sausage dogs at home. Billy, Frankie, and Doug. I’ve got also three children, I should have maybe mentioned the children first. I’ve got a 28 year old son, Sam, and a 26 year old daughter, Amy, 24 year old daughter, Zoey. Been married for 31 years, and we live just out of the city itself, in Melbourne. So, there’s some of the human things about me.

Sarah Noll Wilson 4:02
I love it. I love it so much. A little bit- I want to, I want to talk about our meeting. So we’ve known each other since February of 2019, and the reason I know that date so well, is because we met at Workhuman conference, that is held by the Workhuman folks, and we met at a chance moment on the expo floor with my colleague Kristin Sauter. Mark, you were wearing, I think it was “be like Frankie,” I think it was your “be like Frankie” shirt. I realized, I told Nick, I was like, oh, shoot, I should be wearing his shirt right now. And then I was like, I don’t think it fits me anymore. So, I went school librarian for you today. But Kristen complimented you- first she- well, she asked you, as a point of curiosity, said “Hey, what’s up with your shirt?” And then you explained it, and then you asked about our shirts, and then we sat down and we ended up having a fairly quickly to the point, honest conversation just about the work we did. And just for perspective for people, I think we had only been talking ten, fifteen minutes, and we we jumped right into so like, “How are you charging?” “What are you charging?” and “What does this look like?” And you’re like, I’m just gonna tell you. And here we are having this deep conversation. And, and one thing I remember from it, I don’t know if you remember this, but one of the things- because we had just, you know, we had only been- how long had you been running your company at that point, in 2019?

Mark LeBusque 5:31
About five or six years?

Sarah Noll Wilson 5:34
Yeah. So we, you know, we were on year one, and still figuring things out. And I remember you saying, oh, you know, “I charge this,” and I was like, someday, someday I’m going to charge that. And, and I don’t remember how it came up. But I said something to the effect of, “I really want to show,” like, “I really want to inspire women to charge more.” And, and you said, so point blank, “Do you know how you do that?” And I was like, no, how? And you’re like, charge more. It’s such a, it was such a- yep, that’s a really good point. And-

Mark LeBusque 6:09
I, I really fondly remember that. And I’m so glad that, that there was the curiosity about the shirt. But what I really loved most about the conversation, was that ten minutes into it, it was full disclosure. It was like, so something happened, and, you know, just the fact that somebody asks a question, I think there’s a real message in that. And look, we had a great conversation. And then we caught up and we had a- I think we had a beer later on that night, the three of us, and it was just, I came away from that, thinking to myself, I’ve found some more great humans. And I was just so grateful that someone asked me the question, but I was also reasonably grateful, and from my perspective to go- I could have said, oh, yeah, that’s Frankie, and he’s in my boo,k and sort of waved to you, and walked past, but there was actually something in the moment where I went, now, they’re good human beings, and I want to hang out with them for a bit. So, I- and here we are, again, like, three years down the track, and we still love to catch up.

Sarah Noll Wilson 7:10
Yeah. I mean, you know, we still like check in and go, oh, I just had a really tough session, or this happened. And, and yeah, I mean, it was that openness to not just be transactional. I mean, you know, this whole show is about how do we think differently about our conversations, and we- it could have been a really easy transactional relationship, or interaction, that we had, and instead it was- it turned into something much more transformational. And, you know, and I remember in our conversations at the bar afterwards of, like, you’re the first person I know who’s familiar with adaptive leadership, and you’re the first, I mean, in immunity to change, and I remember just being like, who are you? Like, I think I found my Australian counterpart.

Mark LeBusque 7:56
I thought the same thing. It was like, the excitement that comes from, like, I think it comes in a couple of ways. It also comes when you meet people that don’t think like you, and don’t, like, have the same passion for certain leadership models, and frameworks, and things like that. But it just, it was, it was a bit crazy, because we were like, you’d say something and I’d go “Oh, yeah, I love that.” And then I’d say something and you’d go, “Oh, I really love that.” And it’s like, hang on, what’s- how did this moment in time happen? And I’ve gone on a bit of- I’m a bit of “things happen for a reason.” Like, I went to that conference for reason. And one of the greatest things I got out of the conference, and there was many, was the chance meeting, and the fact that we’re now, you know, not talking as regularly as we may both like, but geez, we don’t, when we get back on to something like this, it’s like we were sitting at- in that sort of, you know, open foyer in, in Nashville.

Sarah Noll Wilson 8:50
Yeah, no, for sure. I was- we’re getting ready to go- to a conference, to the SHRM conference, and I, I made a comment to my colleagues who had never been to one of these, they said, listen, you know, our goal is to meet as many great people as we can. But the best thing that came out of Workhuman, was meeting Mark LeBusque, like, you know, and if that’s what happens, and that’s what was that was meant to happen, and, you know, and I think that, the thing that’s been really fun- I mean, we’re not, just so people are listening, we’re not just gonna talk about Mark and Sarah and how we’re great, and-

Mark LeBusque 9:22
She’d like to give a- you know what- excuse us, listeners, for the mutual admiration society, but it will stop soon.

Sarah Noll Wilson 9:30
But I think the thing that is so great, is having someone who can push you, or to validate, you know, in the work you’re doing, is then important, you know. It’s- would love to catch up personally, but- so here’s where- here’s where I’m curious, so we’ll get off the admiration train for a little bit, and we’ll get onto the Mark train. You, for all intents and purposes, were, you know, high power sales guy, you were killing it, crushing it, whatever the bro language is, you know. And then, and then there was a change, and you have been so focused for, you know, the better part of- as you’ve, you know, your 25 career, of thinking differently about what does it mean to be a manager, what does it mean to be a leader. So, I’m curious, because I’m sure we talked about this, but let’s go back, and what was your journey from being sort of traditional, typical sales, money, number-driven, to being so human first focused now?

Mark LeBusque 10:42
Great question. So there are- so it was a journey, and it was a 25 year one. So, I guess the first thing I’d say, is that it wasn’t, like, a moment, an epiphany, and then bang, the next day, I’m a different person. It started with me being- I’ve got two Marks in the workplace: bad Mark, and good Mark. So let’s start with bad Mark, who was early to mid 20s, and had been over promoted well past his level of competence. So high ego, little care for others. At that time it was all about, I remember, it was all about me getting to a certain title before I turned 30. And I treated people really badly. I treated people as units of labor, and outputs, and what they could do for me. I didn’t trust them. They had to demonstrate brilliance to be trusted, because I didn’t think anyone could do it like I could, so I had all of the- I had all the qualities of that manager that I try and help people not be, today. The micromanager playing the- let’s call it the low integrity politics. And you know, and it was really interesting, because, you know, I would never have a brilliant year, I might be 10% over, maybe 2% under, whatever it might have been. But if I think about most survival species, I reckon I was trying to survive, and thrive at the same time. Now, thriving, back then, was a better title. So I did some horrible things, including at one stage, and I’ll share this. I put a private investigator on to one of my sales people. I just saw your face.

Sarah Noll Wilson 12:24
I don’t- I don’t mean to laugh. I mean, I’m not, like I’m, I’m shocked. And I want to hear more.

Mark LeBusque 12:30
Yeah. So I’d been having some conversations with some big customers, and just asking about, you know, when’s the last time you saw such and such, and they said, oh it’s been a while. I’m like, okay. So, rather than going to speak to the person, I decided I’d engage a private investigator to follow them for a week. And, and then sat them down, and asked them to walk me through their sales report. And then said, well, I don’t think that’s what you’ve been doing. And then I showed him some evidence of things that I knew, because here’s what you’ve been doing. You’ve been leaving home at 4pm. And what I subsequently found out, which makes me feel pretty bad, was they had some issues going on that they had to deal with at home, but I didn’t care about that stuff back then. So there was this, this drive to be the best, and to be sitting around the big table with- you know, at that- in the mid 20s, that’s pretty big to be sitting around a table with, you know, the higher executives in the business, and then I got made redundant, Sarah. So, I’ve never been rejected in my life, and I’d always made the sporting teams, and I sort of got everything that I wanted. I think I was spoiled as a kid, as well. Always had the best, you know, the runners, and all the best gear, and so it set me up for a moment where I was made redundant, and I behaved like an absolute prat. So I basically told everyone what I thought of them, and then I continued on doing that. So like, I changed, and I went for work for other organizations, but, you know, nothing changed. It was all the same sort of stuff until I sort of got to a point, and I think the, I think the “good Mark” thing happened over about 10 years, where you start to listen to feedback from people, and you start to take it on, you don’t, you don’t ignore the feedback and say “Oh that Sarah, she said that, and she doesn’t like me, it’s-” So, you start to take it on, and you go, I reckon there’s some things that need to change. So some self awareness started to creep into my my world, and then I really started to get frustrated with the system. Because every time we were going to change, we didn’t, and, you know, everything changes, but everything stays the same. And I started then, I’m going to say to become a bit of a bit of a maverick and I’m like, I’m just going to try some things, which ultimately landed with my experiment that I ran for two years as a sales director, that which was asking yourself a question, of what would happen if I treated my people like human beings. Now, that sounds really bad. But for two years, I unlearned what I’d learned, and I basically sat down with an A3 sheet of paper, I wrote the word Trust in the middle of it. I wrote a whole lot of things around that, that I’m going to experiment with. Which wasn’t even including experimenting with myself, and over two years, I saw, I talked about, you know, just getting the results before. We saw results that were 200% ahead of target in year one, and 198%, in year two, on a triple target, in year two, and people said to me then, what are you doing? And, you know, my simplicity was this, I’m actually just treating my people like human beings. So that was the, that was the 25 year journey that then took me out to what I do today, which was I want to bring this work to the world, rather than to 40 people, or 400 people, or 4000 people in an organization, it’s like, take it to millions. So that’s, that’s the journey.

Sarah Noll Wilson 16:06
I appreciate you sharing that. And it’s one of the things that I admire about you, is your willingness to not only be vulnerable, but to own it. To own how you showed up, to own the harm that may have caused, likely caused, the impact that you had, and that journey of considering new possibilities, because I think that it’s, it can be hard sometimes when you’re in a system that is still operating with the old way of humans are assets, they are a means to an end, the hare to be, dare I say, exploited, for us to be more productive. And it can be hard to imagine any possibility when you’ve never experienced that. Excuse me. Or that’s, you know, the people around you.

Mark LeBusque 16:56
Yeah, look, it’s and, you know, when I talked about the impact on people at work, it wasn’t just impacting people at work, it was impacting my family as well. So, but when you’re in the middle of the system, and it’s rewarding you, and you’re feeling good, and, like, you don’t- there’s two things happening. You either can’t see what’s going on. Or you can see it, and you choose what Margaret Heffernan calls “willful blindness,” you just look the other way because it’s easier for you to do that. Because the rewards are going to keep coming. And, you know, I can blame the system. But what I really look at, is, you know, Linsky says “this is my part in the mess,” and my part in the mess was my ego was just controlling everything for me. And, you know, over time you find out, as you get a bit older you start to realize, and you start to listen, that maybe that’s not the best version of me that I could be.

Sarah Noll Wilson 17:53
That “willful blindness,” I think is a such a powerful one. Because, I mean, we see that in organizations. I mean, we see it with ourselves, we might be like, yeah, maybe there’s something true about that, but probably not, because I have really good intentions, and I’m a good person, and therefore I’m, you know, kept from anything, any negative impact that I might make. But we certainly see that in organizations, especially if you have someone who is quote unquote “producing,” who’s productive, who, right, is the brilliant jerk there. Yeah, they’re getting stuff done, but they’re leaving some cuts along the way. And, and that’s a choice too. So a lot of the work you- I know that you do, and you and I do somewhat similar work, although maybe we approach it different- I- okay, so here’s how I explain Mark to people who I talk about you, is I go, Mark is not afraid to go for the jugular. Like, he is not afraid to just call out the bullshit. And I will just lovingly remind them there’s a jugular I can go for, which can be just as effective. But let’s talk about- let’s talk about common traps, or patterns, that keep people, particularly managers, let’s talk about people who are in those positions of power and authority, that have a ton of influence not just over the organization, but also over the people. And you know, what are some of the most common patterns- I mean, there are things that you’ve talked about just with your own experience, right, being too focused on the ego-chasing, the title-chasing, the, you know, chasing the, I mean, literally chasing the power. But what are some of the things that you see that people might not- what do I want to say? It’s kind of sneak- like a sneaky, right? Does that make sense?

Mark LeBusque 19:45
Yeah. Absolutely. It does. So look, the common thing I remember when in the, in the sort of transition into a- let’s call “good Mark,” that the biggest common trap is that we fail to look at ourselves as the first experiment, because we are an experiment. And this is what really started to change things for me, that if I was going to, if I was going to become a more human manager, that it had to start with me, and it had to start with me asking myself the questions that I wanted to avoid, like, what sort of give- it’s almost like giving myself my own performance review, and not just about the technical stuff, but really more about how I turned up as a human being. So one of the common traps is that we allow others to do that for us. And I’ll give you the great example. And I do think there are some good ones, but there are many of them that are just lazy, and that’s psychometric profiling. So what we do, is we get profiled, and it’s like, oh, that’s me. Therefore, that’s okay. Because that’s the way I am, I’m a red, or a blue, or whatever it might be.

Sarah Noll Wilson 20:53
I’m having a red day.

Mark LeBusque 20:54
Yeah, I’m having a red day, and it’s okay. And, you know, these are all the other red people, and they’re like me, but I don’t seem to get on well with these. And it’s like, you know what, it’s called, I call it corporate crystal balling. So it’s very, very easy for me, or anyon,e to hide in that. That’s just me. And that means you can avoid doing the hard work. So I think that’s the starting point, is that the common trap is that we allow other people to put us into a box, and then we can then justify the way that we are. That’s the first one. I think the second one is that we, we only see one type of work. And I see two types of work. There’s the technical work, which is really, really important. It’s the projects, the programs, the processes, the strategy, all of that day to day stuff that’s sort of like the engine room of the business. It’s very tangible stuff here, and we can see it. It’s in KPI’s, and these things. And then there’s the human work. And that’s the intangibility of compassion, empathy, all of those sorts of things. The connection, belonging, all of the things that I haven’t graded, but I have such a visceral reaction to the term “soft skills.” I’ve just done a podcast about that where I was very not so complimentary about those that use that term. I call them essential human skills. Now, the trap here for for a manager, is that they say, I’ll do that other stuff when I’ve done the real work. So that’s a story that we tell ourselves. And that story is given to us when we become a manager in what I think we get handed, which is the informal management 101 book. Don’t show vulnerability.

Sarah Noll Wilson 22:36
If we’re lucky.

Mark LeBusque 22:37
Well, yeah, but this is the bad book I’m saying, okay?

Sarah Noll Wilson 22:39
Oh, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Keep going, I’m following you.

Mark LeBusque 22:41
Don’t show vulnerability. Don’t show weakness. Make sure you look like what you’re doing. Make sure you micromanage your people, make sure that you show them that if they like you, they’re going to be brilliant, because you’re brilliant. So there’s all of these things. And I think that’s the other trap, is we- what I want to see people do, is combine the strength of their technical proficiency, with their humaneness, and see the power that comes from that, which is no more 3% over, it’s 200% over. And then I think the other one, is look, we’re competitive beasts. Alright? We’re competitive, so- and we keep, we keep talking about collaboration, but the way that we work, is we’re basically competing with our peers, we’re competing with our people that report to us, we’re even competing with our own, why not managers, and that doesn’t allow us to get then into the human areas of connection, and belonging, and, you know, cooperating, and doing all of those sorts of things. So I think it’s very much about- I’ve talked about this a lot, and you know this, Sarah, it’s like, the last thing I’m going to say, is if you turn your mirror around, this is the last tip I’d give to managers at the moment, is if you are truly wanting to become more human in your management style, more effective, is turn the mirror around from facing outwards, to facing inwards. And that’s, this is the hardest work to do, because you might see some things you don’t like.

Sarah Noll Wilson 24:07
It’s the- you know, when I- I was just talking with a client today, of when we talk about, when we use the word curiosity, we’re not talking about to be curious when it’s comfortable and fun. That’s easy. I’m talking to be curious of when do I micromanage, who am I in competition with, that I don’t need to be, because I think that something that has just become so crystal clear, for me especially over the last four years of having this front row view, like you do, I mean, we have a really unique perspective and opportunity to see lots of different teams, lots of different organizations, is that there, yes, there are people who are malicious, narcissistic, who truly don’t care, right, no, you know, we’re going to drive profits regardless, that does exist. I’m not gonna say that that doesn’t. And there’s a much smaller group of people who are just, you know, constantly intentional showing up, right, in a very human way. But the vast majority of us fall somewhere in the middle. And I think sometimes when people think of ineffective managers, managers who might create harm, managers who are toxic, they think only about the group that- and it’s like, no, no, no, that, this happens a lot, and we don’t even realize it, because we’re so, you know, the, the mirrors out, the story we tell ourselves as loudest, instead of what’s the reality. So I want to unpack a couple of things that you said. One, anyone who knows me, and knows our work, and you can already hear how we share a lot of similar values, is that idea of experimenting. And I love that language, of we have to look at ourselves as our first experiment. And so I want to just expand on that a bit of from your perspective. Why is that language so important to you? And I’ll just, yeah, I’ll just stop there, you know, because it’s very intentional for you, as it is for me. But I’m curious to hear when you think about like, you are your first experiment. What is it about that language that you think is important, and unlocks something different than, like, “read this book” and “do this stuff?”

Mark LeBusque 26:20
Yeah, this is- we could go on forever with this. So, for me, I think we get this craziness in our mind that there’s just one big goal at the end. And let’s go after the big- they call it the big, hairy, audacious goal. And what I say, is that, that we are an experiment. Life is an experiment. Life also includes work, which is an experiment as well, and that is a- they are a series of small experiments. So, you don’t- we seem to have this crazy idea that we need to go after the big thing. And I say no, let’s break it back down, as managers, into a series of small, safer experiments, that if they don’t quite go, right, there’s not going to be a significant drawback to you as the human being, or to your team, as well. But the experimental mindset means that it’s okay for us to try things and fail. I love a term, I’ve got a dear friend here by the name of Julie Tickle, who’s the head of- she’s Chief People Officer for a big organization here in one of our states, and she calls it “flearning.”

Sarah Noll Wilson 27:27

Mark LeBusque 27:28
Like, yeah, I love it. Y’know, flearning is about failing and learning at the same time. You can’t do that unless you have an experimental mindset, because the great experimenters of the world have been people that haven’t just had a linear rise to “Oh, that worked. Well, all that went well.” They had times where things didn’t go well. So I- I’m gonna give you a very concrete example, is when I went down the path of good Mark with the what would happen if I treated my people like humans, my first experiment after the question was, I now to need to experiment with how I look at trust. And I basically did a 180 to go from you have to earn my trust, to you have my trust implicitly until such a time that you don’t have it, because something’s happened between us. And what that did for me, the data that came back from that, for me, was twofold. One was that the relationships seem to get better, and not straight away, but when it was demonstrated that I had people’s backs and whatnot. And the other side of that really was that I had to spend far less energy on watching for when they weren’t trustworthy, just making the assumption that they are trustworthy. So I could use that energy for good, and not for evil. So that’s, that’s an example of the experimental mindset, which I know that you love it as well. And how do we teach it into people, that I think we say to them, and for people that are listening, it’s like, small steps. Don’t run too many experiments. At the same time, I always tell my clients, go back and do one thing, right? And then one of them will go, I want to do three things. And I go, that’s because, you know, you’re such a- you got a busy mind, but guess what’s going to happen? You’re not going to do any of them. So just go and do try one thing. So that’s where experimentation, I think, becomes critical as a manager. To be effective for yourself, start with yourself, and then encourage others to do the same thing.

Sarah Noll Wilson 29:36
It’s a- no, I mean, you’re singing to my heart on that one. I am, you know, especially when it comes to building, rebuilding trust, it’s these small moments, you know. I mean, big moments can break a relationship for sure. But it’s just the consistency of smaller moments. And, you know, the way I always think of it as like, micro intent, like, micro actions, for macro impact. You said something that I wanted to go back to, because I know it wasn’t intended as a throwaway. But, you know, one of the things with the show, is we always want to, I want to find moments of pausing from the standpoint of this is a practice you can do, right? So for people who are listening, a practice you can do, is what small experiment do I want to run? Just one thing, and make it small, so it’s not “I’m gonna listen better,” it’s “When I’m in conversation with Mark today, I’m gonna listen differently to him.” Make it real, real micro. But you said something when you were talking about when you work to flip your mindset around, you have my trust, you earn my trust, versus you have to lose it, it cost you less energy. And I just I want to explore that a bit, because I think sometimes we hear, when we’re doing work related to relationship building, when we’re, you know, doing work with human, is it feels so inefficient or ineffective, right? That it’s like, it’s just not as- it’s not as efficient, when in actuality, spending a little bit of time upfront actually will make you go further, faster, longer. And so I’m just curious to get your thoughts and to tease that out a bit, because I think sometimes we think, oh, it’s new, and it’s different, and it feels cumbersome, instead of realizing it’s actually going to free up a ton of space in your head. It’s going to free up a lot of worry in your head if you’re just like, okay, well, I’m going to trust them until they give me a reason to not. And I need to have trust in myself that I’ll know when that moment is, right? I mean, we can talk about that related to remote work, and people are like, “Well, people aren’t really working.” Well, how were you measuring them before, because they were sitting in the seats? Is that how you were measuring? Right? No, like-

Mark LeBusque 31:41
I think it’s, you know what, it is the greatest example, and if people aren’t taking this as an example of why you can implicitly trust 99.99% of your people, well, they’re so caught in the old system, that they should maybe consider a new career in, I don’t know, back office somewhere, where there are no people. So here’s the thing. My survival instincts were kicking in really hard at me when I started to say “I’m going to change the way I look at trust,” because it was telling me don’t do that, because something bad’s gonna happen, and then you’re going to look bad. So keep using that energy for seeking to find the time where people aren’t trustworthy, which can justify the story within your mind. So I was, there was a story that people can’t be trusted, and so that’s where I was, that’s where I started. And that burns up a lot of cognitive energy. So- but also gonna say this, some of these people I’ve worked with, for up to ten years, in this new team, that I had- in different ways, maybe not directly with them, but indirectly- and I’ve actually done some pretty bad things to them. And at times, they’ve done some things to me. So there was this other little file that was there going “Remember this file in your bad news filing cabinet,” but I talk about this a lot, the 80% of our thoughts are negative, 20% are positive, like, just pull the file out, and remind yourself, Mark, that things won’t go well here if you become gullible, and you become soft, and you just become the pusher, because that’s what, that’s what this voice was telling me. If you’re gonna go down this pathway of implicitly trusting, you’re weak. You’re vulnerable now. You’re all these things. And, you know, I had to hold my nerve on that. And I use those words a lot for myself and for my clients, it’s like, this thing is not going to get better in a week, right? It actually took months for me to start to see that this could work, and there were moments where I could have slipped back into the old way, but I had to hold my nerve in those moments. And they were scary, too, I can say.

Sarah Noll Wilson 31:56

Mark LeBusque 32:10
Because they’d be like, what if this doesn’t work? What does it do to my career? So there was a whole lot of conversations going on in my mind. But the overarching conversation was related to that question, of what would happen if I treated my people like human beings. And I think it took about three or four months before we started to really see that it was kicking in, but- and they were, they were uncomfortable months. But as we’ve talked about before, if you’re not in some level of discomfort, you’re not really practicing leadership.

Sarah Noll Wilson 34:21
Right. Yeah.

Mark LeBusque 34:24
If that makes sense.

Sarah Noll Wilson 34:26
Yeah, no, it totally made sense. And what was coming up for me as you were talking, a few episodes back, we interviewed somebody, Nick Papadopoulos, who’s a coach who specializes in working with men and intimacy. And one of the things that we spent a lot of time talking about, particularly I mean, we were looking at it through the Western lens, but you know, there’s a lot of similarities between our cultures, with a lot of differences. But how those beliefs are so much stronger in men than women, because it’s like the worst possible thing for you to be weak as a man, and emotions are a weakness, and being vulnerable is a weakness, and having relationships is a weakness. And it’s one of the things, especially since that conversation, and since I’ve been exploring that, it’s made me wonder, you know, again, because largely, the people who are still in positions of power are men. That like, that’s part of that, you mean, that dominant culture, behaviors, of you don’t have relationships, you don’t show emotions, you don’t get close. And yet, and this, and I don’t say this in a disparaging way, it’s just the cultural conditioning, right? And yet, because I know you see it in your work, that when people have the opportunity to feel safe to, like, actually express how they feel, when they have the opportunity to connect with someone deeply, when they have that opportunity to be able to show their full human self, we all crave it as humans, and I know even in your work- so for those of you, if you start following Mark, and hopefully you will, he’ll post photos of his workshops, and his workshops are not behind desks, everyone is sitting in a circle very intentionally. Very intentionally, to turn up the heat a little bit. And I can imagine that that untangling, or that unwinding, almost, I mean, we are- humans are wired for connection, wired to be seen, we want to be safe. And yet, right, we’re having to undo so many rules that we’ve been told, especially in the workplace. Well, no, you can’t, can’t do this in the workplace. I just said a bunch of stuff. So I’m curious to know what comes up for you as I-

Mark LeBusque 36:43
Yeah, sure, no, I think that’s- I love the curiosity with this. So I just ran a session only two days ago, with about 30 people. And there was not a PowerPoint slide, for a day. And they’re like, they walk in, and they see the room, and they’re all. And I wish I knew what it was, I know that this is gonna sound a bit self indulgent, but there’s something that I do pretty quickly where people start to open up, and I just got a lovely email back from one of them today going “We cannot believe what happened in that room in within the first 30 minutes.” And maybe one thing I do know, is if you’re going to do that work, you better go first. So I’m very, very good at putting myself out there, and I say to my clients, anything I expect you to do, I’m going to be the guinea pig. I’m going to be the one that goes first. My stop story, my ghost story, judgments about other people, I’ll put it out there. So I think that’s, that’s an important part. We just have to create the environment where people start to realize that, you know, we’re not going to come up the front and catch each other falling backwards, and then say we trust each other. We’re not going to go and play paintball, or go- and you know, I don’t mind some of that stuff people do. but the real work, is the real work of the humans in the room. And I often often talk about this, that particularly we are privileged in the work we get to do, Sarah, to help other human beings to become- I don’t like this word, but I’m going to use it- “better.” Whatever “better” means. Now, with that privilege comes risk, as well. About the way we go about it, I use this as a bit of a, I get people to judge me on something. I asked him if I would prefer vanilla, or mint chocolate chip ice cream. And most people go mint choc chip, because vanilla is boring, and, you know, you’re a bit of a way out there sort of a guy, and I’m like, well, actually I like vanilla, and let me tell you why. And I say to them, did you get an agenda before we came here today? And they look at me, someone will say yes, because I think they think that’s what I want to hear. And I’m like, well, you didn’t. Then I say this, is I like vanilla ice cream, because I can add to that whatever I want on a particular day, to suit the circumstance that I’m in. And I say my work is very much like that, and the ingredients in the room. I asked him what the ingredients are, and they say it’s us and I go well, you’re different ingredients that are yesterday, or last week. And I think this is really important, as a manager, to realize that every day the ingredients change. You can start with the base of vanilla. But you’ve got to then work with the ingredients in the room, and when you start to say that to people, they start to open up, and finally within, like, half an hour the other day, like, people were sharing some pretty deep stuff, and this, and I’m going to just quickly say this: understanding other people is undervalued. So this understanding the-

Sarah Noll Wilson 39:48
Say that again.

Mark LeBusque 39:49
So understanding others is undervalued, and this is where the- this is where the gold is, I think, When the understanding starts, like- the beauty of us catching up three years ago, and not just talking the technical stuff, means that we know each other pretty well now, and we look forward to conversations. If you don’t know each other well, in the workplace, you’ll be in a situation, I’m not looking forward to that conversation. Because really, my conversation is transactionally based, usually around a KPI sheet, or a performance review, or something like that, rather than actually no, Sarah the human being. And I think that’s where we gotta get to.

Sarah Noll Wilson 40:31
And, you know, and to the point that you made earlier, and something that we share, I actually just was talking to a potential client today, who was talking about wanting to do Myers-Briggs and I said, “I’ll just I’ll let you know, very transparently, we don’t practice any kind of assessment, because to the point you were making earlier, okay so we can learn a lot about ourselves, and we can learn a lot about other people, when we just slow down enough to pay attention. When we slow down to, you know, I mean, one of the favorite phrases from, you know, the body of work of “Adaptive Leadership,” that we both have a strong foundation, that’s part of our strong foundation, is listen to the song beneath the words. And it’s always, you know, it’s amazing when you can put people in that situation where they can connect on that human to human level. I mean, we’re just, you know, talking to somebody today about if we want to heal a relationship, I mean, one, there needs to be ownership of the harm that was caused. And another way we can do that, is to start to spend time with each other as a human. Now, I’m curious to get your thoughts on this, because this actually came up in a show that I was on earlier today, and we were talking about the impact of relationships at work, are ultimately they’re temporary, right? They’re temporary, you might be there for a couple years, maybe you’ll be there for 10-15 years, but, you know, we know that people are moving. And what impact does that have on, you know, our willingness to dig deeper, our willingness to share, our willingness to take risks? And so I’m just curious to get your thoughts on that.

Mark LeBusque 42:13
Oh, look, I think that we, we, it comes back to a mindset there, as well. Like, I’ve got some very, very dear friends that I worked with 15 years ago. And I think there’s a relational piece here between the amount of time we invested in each other, to get to know each other as human beings. So, you know, I know you’ve got a dog. I know I’ve met Nick for the first time today. But I’ve heard a lot about Nick. You’ve- we’ve talked lots about our own challenges in our business. So we’ve actually spent some time talking about the human things, before we’ve got into the business of the, you know, the real business, as people call it. So I think that- whilst people come and go now, you know, my very dearest friend has been my dearest friend for 45 years, and we can just pick up the phone now and talk like we were still 10 years old. And there’s something in that, and that’s because we’ve invested some time, and that then becomes, it’s not about what I can get out of that person. Because- and I’ve done that, don’t worry, I’ve been the person who wants to get something. And once you’re not- once you’re no value to me, well, that’s it, we’re done. It’s a very transactional relationship, versus a very transformational human one, which means that, you know, at times, you will receive a sneaky little message from me going “How ya going?” And as you said, and then we’ll come back, and then we’ll, we’ll chat for about half an hour, and then we’ll be like, gotta go, now we’re going to do some work. But the beauty of that is that we something keeps drawing us back. And it’s because we’re interested, we are interested in each other. But we’re also interested to deepen our understanding of each other. And I think, I think there’s a really, it’s a really convenient story for us to say it’s very much around things come and go. But at the same time we’ve got to get past that, and say, what am I prepared to invest in deepening my understanding? And what am I prepared to give about myself so that that person can understand me? That’s a big one for managers. Because, again, the old management 101 rulebook said, don’t get too close to your people, because one day you’re gonna have to have a difficult conversation-

Sarah Noll Wilson 44:27
Gonna have to fire them.

Mark LeBusque 44:29
-and then- and you know what? That’s, that’s not right. It’s a myth, because I think the more you know your people, the easier it is to have those conversations.

Sarah Noll Wilson 44:38
Yeah. 100%. I love that, I really appreciate those questions. “What am I prepared to invest to understand someone,” and “What am I prepared to invest to help them understand me?” And because so, so many of- and this goes to relationships generally, challenges that come up, grubs that come up, are usually some kind of value conflict, right? Difference of preferences, and maybe there are some things that we can’t find the middle on. Right? I mean that- we’re certainly living in a time where that, in some areas, is becoming harder. But, you know, it was interesting when, when the question was posed, and we were talking about it, for me, I go, I’m still spending, I’m literally spending most of the time, most of my- I spend more time, other than my husband, because we don’t have children, I spend more time with my co-workers and colleagues, than I do the rest of my family, than I do the rest of my friends. Even if they’re only with me a year, or two years, I’m still spending fundamentally more time with them. And, for me, anyway, I want to be connected to the people who I’m going to be spending a ton of time with. I want to understand them, I want to be able to support them, and have their back, and build a relationship where they’ll have mine as well. And so I think it’s, you know, that sort of identity of, I leave myself at home, and I come to work, and I’m my work self. And it’s like, well, no, you’re still a human with needs, you still have a heart, you still have- right? Like, you want that safety. And, I mean, we’ve just been sold such a bill of goods, in our, our capitalist society, of, like, you cannot have- Fundamentally, it is interesting, and it’s not- it doesn’t always happen. But there are times where, you know, people will- you’ll see the shift of, I’ve been told my whole life, as a manager, don’t get too close because you’re gonna have to fire them. And now what you’re telling me is I actually can get close, and I realized that’s how I want to show up. And then they start showing up differently, and then the team starts showing up differently, because they’re having authentic human connections.

Mark LeBusque 46:50
Yeah, so just to cap the things on that, I talked about energy before. So if you’re not trusting implicitly, you’re wasting energy, but you’re wasting more energy when you’re trying to deviate away from who you are as a human being. So who do I have to be right now? I’m on a podcast with Sarah, I better be this way. And who do I need to be when I’m on a call in 30 minutes with a potential new client? Who do I need to be when I go and engage with one of my family members today? But this- the absurdity of leaving stuff at the door, whatever door it is? I loved your quote, I saw one of your quotes today, which was brilliant, was about this whole idea of that- now, I’m gonna get this wrong, but you’ll be able to help me out. It was like, you know, it’s about, it was it all about how you turn up in certain situations that, you know, leave your home stuff at the door when you get to work-

Sarah Noll Wilson 47:41
Just like- yeah, my- this is- I have to give credit to my colleague, Teresa, because this came out of an interview, and she made that, like, she said, “Isn’t it interesting that we spend all this time at work going, well, how do we get people to leave their home stuff at home, but we never think about how do we help them leave their work stuff at work?”

Mark LeBusque 47:58
So, so, Teresa, I’m going to use that quote at times, and I’ll- I will actually quote you on that-

Sarah Noll Wilson 48:03
Properly credit her.

Mark LeBusque 48:06
Absolutely, because I think that’s important. So, here’s the thing for me, I used to do with my people. I used to give them a sheet with 400 words on it. Different feeling words, and I got them to cross out the word “good,” because good’s like- that’s your “get out of jail free” word. “How ya going?” “Good.” Oh, you’re good. So I’d check in with them at the start of the day, and the end of the day, and look, particularly, for some of my people, because what they weren’t good at doing was unpacking their mental suitcase at the end of the day, or leaving their suitcase at work, they’d take it home. And it was so full of stuff that when they opened it, clothes went everywhere, all the yucky stuff went everywhere, and they- you know, someone would have to pick up their dirty laundry at home. So, I really think this is an important one as a human. Someone who embraces the humanity in management, is you’ve got to role model yourself, if you want your people to do it, don’t be the one that’s that’s playing the game of “Oh, look at Mark, now he’s- this is- this is Work Mark.” Work Mark, when he was bad, what he would do, some days he’d walk in, and he wouldn’t say hello to anybody, and go straight to his office. The next day, I’d walk in and walk around the office high fiving people and asking them about how they were, and how was your weekend. People would look at me like, who the bloody hell are you, mate? Now, that took a lot of energy, so I think there’s something in this for people. It’s just like, I think this is- I hope I do this pretty well. I just try and show up as myself, and some people appreciate that, and love that, and some people don’t. And you know what? I also say this, Sarah, they’re both right.

Sarah Noll Wilson 49:40
Right? It’s- you know, just like you talked about your journey of “It doesn’t change overnight.” This untangling, it takes a long time, and I think you and I have been incredibly fortunate, because somebody once said, “You’re just so authentic, I mean, you’re just you whether, you know, whether you’re on stage, maybe it’s just a little amped up version of you.” But, you know, I always feel, you know, it’s such a good compliment, people are like “I just want to be friends with you, I think you’re-” you know, but I- and they said, you- like- how did you get there? And I said, well, one, I’ve been incredibly fortunate, as have you, to be rewarded for my authenticity. And even now, sitting in front of you, I’m more myself than I was when I was sitting in front of you in Nashville. And, you know, and so I think about that, not just for myself, but I think about that for my colleagues, I think about that, how can I reward people when they share a little sliver of who they are, right? How can I acknowledge and appreciate- make it safe? Because, I mean, I- and that goes back, and I can give you the props, I mean, you can give yourself the props, too, but part of the work that you do and why you’re able to make a space so safe so quickly, is because very quickly people- you know, we have really good bullshit meters. And they’re like, oh, Mark is just this is who he is, this is, he’s no fuss about it, and no- and, you know, I’d hope, and I like to think that we do the same fairly quickly. And so then people start to open up, and it’s not as simple as saying, hey, take down the mask, because I think that- and this is a thing, gosh, this is a thing that has come up in so many of these conversations in so many different perspectives. Sometimes it’s so melded onto our face, we don’t even know it’s there. And we don’t even realize that, you know, the rules we’ve created for ourselves, or we’ve allowed other people to create for us, is masking this true authentic self, whatever that might be. And, you know, and that’s something that- and I’ve mentioned, I mentioned this when I was talking with with Nick- Nick, not my husband, Nick, Nick Papadopoulos. But then my husband, Nick, not to confuse, we were talking one night, and. you know, and he made this really powerful, like, he made this observation, he said, you know, what’s so sad, is because of all these gender roles, and all these other roles that have been placed on us, it’s like nobody gets to just be their true self. You know?

Mark LeBusque 52:24
It’s an interesting one, like, I often get described as the big bloke with a warm heart, because, like- I don’t know. And then also I get described at times as intimidating. So at the other end of the scale, like, you’re a bit intimidating, mate.

Sarah Noll Wilson 52:41
Yeah, ’cause you’re honest.

Mark LeBusque 52:43
Interesting thing, of what you just said, how can- how I- sort of what I’m picking up is how, maybe, for managers, how can you- you know those moments where someone shows some vulnerability, and god help us, they start to show some emotion, and they might shed a few tears. What I see in the room, then, is just a whole lot of like, oh, geez, where do I look? Like, what do I do?

Here, give them tissues, because I want them to clean themselves up because I’m uncomfortable.

Yeah, tissues come to them, and stuff. So we had one of those a couple of days ago, a really, really, what I call a powerful act of leadership. And what I love in the room, is you can see, the people are sitting, and you can almost, it’s almost like they pop at different times. It’s- someone’s about to pop, I call it, and this amazing young female in the room, she said, “I want to say something,” and I went, okay, here we go, this is gonna be it. And she started to cry, and she talked about how terrified she was to speak up. And we’ve got the usual reactions. Here’s my point for managers. My response to that, because there was an apology, and the use of the words, “I broke down,” and I said, “Can I explain to you what I saw? What I saw was- it was an incredible act of leadership via vulnerability. You didn’t break down, you actually showed and demonstrated strength. It’s just that we’re conditioned that that’s breaking down, particularly in the workplace.” And then the word was used, “I’m embarrassed,” and I said, “You should be proud.” So my point is this. When these things happen, and you’re a manager, I know it’s hard, because we’re human too. But just check yourself in that moment, and when you hear some of that language, offer the person, through curiosity, “I wonder if that breaking down was actually strength.” “I wonder if embarrassment was something to be proud of.” And I also wonder what other people in the room think, and they were like, oh my god, that was amazing. Now we don’t take those opportunities, because usually what we end up doing, is “Oh, what do we do here?” And you know, for the big bloke at the front of the room, that’s me, so that’s been hard to- when it first started happening, like, I get told this, when people walk into the room, Sarah, “You’re the guy that makes us cry.” And I go, “Hello, and welcome. My name is Mark.” But I don’t make anyone cry, I like to think I create a space where people can- they’ll might shed some tears through leadership and strength, not through something else.

Sarah Noll Wilson 55:24
Yeah, it’s the- I did a session once, and it was a banking group, and I appreciated the question, he raised his hand, he said, “I’m gonna be honest, Sarah, I don’t know what to do when tears come. I just don’t even know.” And I said, so like, how do you show up, or what’s the story that comes up, you know? And it was- I want- I don’t want them to feel bad, I don’t want them to- right? So, the perspective I offered, is I said, “For me, tears come up when something’s important. So what are the tears telling us?” You know? And that reframe, you know, I want to- I want to pause a little bit on that language that you’re using, because we often talk on the show, or in our work, of leadership is on a roll, it’s an act, and sometimes we get so caught in thinking leadership is leading out front, or leadership is, I don’t know, being really decisive, and quote unquote, “strong.” And by strong, we mean not emotional, detached, and all of that. But, you know, anything we do that has a, like, a positive or productive impact on the group, you know, that act of courage, that act of vulnerability, that, you know, likely, I assume- I’m making assumptions, but I’ve been in situations where maybe somebody speaks up, and they’re the only. Maybe they’re the only woman, maybe they’re the only black woman, maybe they’re the only LGBTQIA, maybe they’re- and that act of leadership is revealing to other people, hey, this is a reality that exists in this group, and you might not have been aware of it, and now you have the choice to do something different because you’ve heard this, you know, and not just being sympathetic, but now you can do something different. And yeah, that that’s a powerful act of leadership.

Mark LeBusque 57:16
I also wonder this, too, as you were talking, I’m thinking about this, Sarah, that- because we are so conditioned to be in a transactional, fix it now mindset, get it right, what’s next, get that right, all this sort of stuff. When these moments arrive, the “quick, fix it now, transactional mindset” actually doesn’t work for emotional situation. So one of the things I hear quite regularly, is like, “Little Mark-” Little Mark sits on my shoulder, and Little Mark’s been on my shoulder for like five years, now. And when emotion turns up, and I’m wanting to go to the quick fix and the box of tissues, Little Mark turns up and goes, “Hang on a minute.” So my point is this, as I think we’ve- we’ve got to allow that- we’ve got to allow time for processing. And perhaps we’ve got to allow time for, in that moment, doing nothing. Because doing nothing is doing something. That’s allowing people to-

Sarah Noll Wilson 57:16
Especially in that moment.

Mark LeBusque 57:17
Yeah, allow people to process, because everyone in the room would have had an experience of what’s supposed to happen when tears turn up. And that can be a gender based thing, it can be a whole lot of different ways, and it’s like, we don’t all react the same way. These days, for me, I’m- I have a lot of empathy for those people. And I have, I actually have a- I’m very proud of them, when they do it. But early days was like, oh shit. What am I supposed to do now? And I’m sure people saw that on my face. And I guess the point there is, you’re gonna get better at this over time, people, you’re not going to be great at it to start with, but if you embrace it, you’ll get better with it. And if you show some emotion yourself, it doesn’t mean you need to walk into the room and cry, but if you show some emotion and some vulnerability, people will be okay to do the same thing. They’ll start to mirror what they see coming from their manager.

Sarah Noll Wilson 59:09
1000%. And anyone who’s listening to this, whose organization is, you know, exploring things related to mental health, if they’re exploring things related to inclusion, if- right, like, we can’t ask people to do things we’re not willing to do. I mean, I just had a situation this week, we had a retreat, and we were, you know, focusing on dreaming about what’s next for us, and how do we move, and I was pretty emotionally depleted because of a situation that happened within a close relationship. I just- it was, I was- I had an emotional hangover, is how I felt, and was still quite emotionally tender. And, you know, and I just- I apologized, I said, I apologize that I’m not having the energy I usually do. Right, like, or I’m not as light, or I’m not as- I said, so if you’re picking up on that, that’s nothing to do with what we’re talking about. I’m just, I’m exhausted from from the weekend. And Amy, you know, so beautifully reflected back to me, she said, thanks for role-modeling a human first company.

Mark LeBusque 1:00:18
That’s it.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:00:17
Like this is- you know, and even though I know this, and even though I preach this, we again, it’s that unwinding, and that untangling of those rules, and those, like,shoulds, and, and all of that. And it’s so- I think what’s so fascinating to me- I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I’m gonna go with it- it’s quite easy. But we complicate it, and we go, oh, what do I need to say? And how do I show up? And just, you know, what does it look like to just sit with someone, and-

Mark LeBusque 1:00:19
And what’s the script?

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:00:22
Right, right. Oh gosh, we hear that a lot.

Mark LeBusque 1:00:43
What was the script I was given to make sure that I can transactionally deal with this situation? And it’s not a transactional deal. We’re not, we’re not buying services here when we start to crack into emotions. And the other- a word that was coming up for me, when you were talking before, was, and this is for both managers, and for people, who are in our spaces, you’ve got to be kind to yourself, like, this work is bloody hard work. And you will deplete all sorts of things. Your emotional fuel tank, your physical fuel tank, all those sorts of things get depleted. So you’ve got to actually be kind. I say that to people, particularly when I’ve done Immunity to Change with them. The first thing I say to them is don’t take this home to your nearest and dearest, and go, I had this amazing revelation about myself today. And they’ll be like, I’ve been telling you that for 20 years, so you said that- There’s that one, and the other one is be kind to yourself, because that can stir up a whole lot of emotions. And, and I think we need to practice. If we’re going to be kind to others, if we’re going to be empathetic towards others, if we’re going to be compassionate towards others, we actually- this is where experimentation comes in- you need to experiment firstly with yourself. And I love that you shared that vulnerable story, because sometimes when we walk into the room, people think we got our shit together.

Right? You bet they do. Boy, you bet they do.

He must be. He’s walking two feet above the ground, and- You know, there’s some there’s some family health issues going on in our, in our immediate family at the moment, with Allison’s dad, and those things play on my mind. And, and there’s other things. And it could be simple things, like we’re going on vacation next week, or did I turn the iron off at home, or whatever it might be, but we’re human beings as well. And we’ve got stuff going on. And I think other human beings need to understand that. So be kind, is I guess what I’d say there. Be kind to yourself when you are maybe starting to step into some work you have been avoiding.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:03:03
And especially now, ’cause we deplete so much faster.

Mark LeBusque 1:03:06
We do.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:03:06
You know, we’ve been through- we’ve been through a lot. We’re still going through a lot. And so maybe that’s a, that’s a question for the audience listening, is, you know, what’s one small experiment you can run to be a little kinder to yourself. And especially- and that’s for everyone, but, you know, you and I know that leadership can feel really lonely. Managing can feel really lonely. Running a business can feel very lonely. You know, you don’t always have somebody with whom you can share, or talk to, or bounce ideas off of, or maybe say “I don’t, I actually don’t know.” Or- and, yeah- and it’s a gift that we can give ourselves. Mark, we could continue talking, and I know Nick is probably listening to going to just do another 20 minutes, and we’ll split it into two. But it just means we’ll have you come back. I want to be respectful and thoughtful of your time, and- but I am curious to know, you know, it’s the question we ask everyone. What was the conversation that you had with yourself or with someone else, that was transformative?

Mark LeBusque 1:04:15
I think a conversation with myself. Now, you know, trigger warning on this one, it may trigger some people, but I’d spoken to you about this before, losing my dad to suicide. So when I went out to start doing- when I first did this little experiment in the workplace, the experiment was really about- I did it because I felt like it was the right thing to do at that stage. Just at that point, it was the right thing to do, and that’s what I would tell myself. But when I left the corporate world, and got into doing my own thing, I had a lot of time early on, because I didn’t have a lot of work. And I sat down, and I was asking myself a lot of questions around why I was doing this work, and what- the conversation I had with myself really ended up with coming out with four words. And it really came from a conversation about what drove me in this, and the big word there was “belong,” but it was “making every human belong.” And it was very much driven by a note my dad left, which talked about belonging, and the burden that he’d become. Now mind you, he had two attempts. This was a note he left after his first attempt, which was unsuccessful. And then he successfully did what he did. But that’s the conversation that I had, which drives me today, which is about what does belonging mean? What does belonging mean in different environments? And can belonging actually happen in the workplace? A strong sense of belonging to a group of people, like you said before, that you may or may not spend a lot of time with, if they move on. But you do spend a lot of time within, in your day to day. So that conversation, where I sat back, and I had a really difficult conversation with myself about are you really serious about this, because if you are, there’s something driving it more than “it’s the right thing to do.” And you know, and I talk about, I talk about what happened with my dad all the time with my clients. And I think, again, they say “Oh, shit, that’s pretty brave,” and I go, no, I want you to understand me. And they go, now we get it, because you don’t give us any fancy marketing brochures, or anything like that. You just come and tell the story. And then they go, “We understand you now.” And I think that’s the conversation that was difficult, that I could have avoided, but I had it. And I’m very, very grateful that I had. That doesn’t mean that I don’t spend- every day I think about what happened 20 years ago. Not that I could have changed that, it’s just that it’s always there, that continues to drive me to do what I think is the good work that I do.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:06:57
You’re such a gift, Mark. Thank you for sharing that. It’s an interesting-

Mark LeBusque 1:07:01
My pleasure. Hopefully people will understand the Bogan a bit more than what they did an hour ago. Now, you know what I’m trying to do-

I like that you go back to that, like, okay, now what I really hope people leave with, is the fucking-

No, you know what I just did, then I used humor, which I shouldn’t have done, to defuse the tension.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:07:19
Yeah, to defuse the tension.

Mark LeBusque 1:07:20
So, I’m very sorry, listeners, because I tell people not to do that, and I just did it.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:07:25
What a beautiful celebrate, that catch.

Mark LeBusque 1:07:27
There you go.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:07:28
Yeah. Mark, for people who are listening to this, and are going, hmm, I think I’m ready to sit in that circle, or want to learn more about what it’s like to work with Mark, where is the best place for them to connect with you?

Mark LeBusque 1:07:41
LinkedIn is a great place, and seriously, reach out and send me an invite. And if you want to have a chat, just do that. I learned that from Marty Linsky. He’s like, he says “Just send me an email, and we can have a chat,” and he will have a chat with you. So, please reach out on LinkedIn, and my website’s just www dot Mark LeBusque dot com.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:08:00
Oh my god, I’ve been pronouncing it wrong. Why didn’t- you didn’t correct me.

Mark LeBusque 1:08:04
Because you’re a flawed human. It’s okay, it’s okay. Don’t worry.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:08:09
Aww. I don’t think I’ve ever heard your last name. And I realized-

Mark LeBusque 1:08:13
It’s okay, you know what, don’t-

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:08:14
No, I apologize. LeBusque. I’ll say it correctly next time.

Mark LeBusque 1:08:15
I’ve been called worse. Don’t worry about that.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:08:18
I know. But the name is so important. It’s so important. It’s so important to get right.

Mark LeBusque 1:08:23
Maybe I didn’t say anything because I was avoiding the conversation with you, who knows? But-

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:08:26
You’re like, shit, Sarah, I’ve known you for three years, and you’re saying my, like, name wrong. I mean, I normally just call you like “Australian Mark,” is usually how I des- I was like, I’m corn, he’s croc. Like, this is- and “croc” meaning “crocodile,” not like, you know.

Mark LeBusque 1:08:38
So the other pla- there’s, so on the website, there’s books, and there’s podcasts, and there’s blogs, and you can sign up and get a fortnightly “Marks Musing’s” newsletter. The other thing I’ll quickly mention, and I’m really excited about this-

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:08:50

Mark LeBusque 1:08:51
-is the “Human Manager Academy,” which is a, which is a modularized version of what happens in the room, because lots of people want to work with me, but I can’t be everywhere at once. So that’ll be coming out in September, which is- there’s a leading self module, there’s a leading the team module, and there’s a whole lot of really, really cool things that have been developed. And at the back end of it, you then get into what they were calling “the forum,” where, for the next 12 months, you will be in a global community where you’ll be sharing your experiments that you’ve been running, and you’ll be hearing from me at different times, or like, giving you gentle reminders, Little Mark’s sitting on your shoulder going, “Hey, have you done that thing that I taught you about?” So I’m super excited about bringing that to the world as well, but it’s actually been a delight to talk to you again.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:09:40
Yeah, likewise, we will share all of that information in our show notes, and, you know, we follow along, and we’ll be sure to share- I’m, personally, I’m excited. I’m going to be one of the first people to sign up, because I’ve always said I’m like- I just, I wish we could be- someday, someday, we will share the stage, or we will share a room,

Mark LeBusque 1:10:03
It will.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:10:03
It will happen. And you know, so I’m excited to continue to learn from you, and I cannot- I cannot recommend enough, that when that does come out, I have no doubt it’ll be full of insights and “Aha’s!” and pauses of “Hmm. Maybe I do this.” Because every conversation I have with you, there’s a moment of, oh, shit, he’s asking me that question. And it’s a really- hm- okay-

Mark LeBusque 1:10:30
As always with me, it comes back the other way. So that’s what I love, is that, it’s, you know, I think early days, it was like, I’ve only been out for a year, and you’ve been out for five, but I don’t, I don’t feel that anymore. It’s like we are equals, we are sitting on the same footing, and that’s what I love about, love about you. So, thank you very much.

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:10:46
Likewise. Thank you so much for joining us today, Mark.

Mark LeBusque 1:10:49

Sarah Noll Wilson 1:10:51
Our guest this week has been Mark LeBusque, and I just- I want to name, that for three and a half years, in my head, the last name was different, and I’m so glad he clarified it for me, because our name is some of the most important words to us, so we want to get it right. So, Mark LeBusque, not Mark “Le-boosk,” and- just gonna own that one. There’s a number of things I always- I always enjoy being in conversation with Mark. And the one- that question he posed, of what am I prepared- what am I prepared to invest to understand this person, and what am I prepared to invest for them to understand me? I just really am struck by that language, of investing, and being intentional. So that’s something I’m going to hold on to. What are you going to hold on to? What comes up for you? We really we do want to hear from you, I want to hear what resonates, I want to hear what questions come up for you, what connections you make, what it makes you think of, what- anything. So, connect with us. You can reach out to us at podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com, P. O. D. C. A. S. T., Nick’s gonna laugh at me for spelling it out. But podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com. You can find me on social media, where my DMs are always open, you can shoot me an email. You can also, if you’re interested in learning more about the work that we do and how we can help your team have conversations that matter, check us out at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com. You can also pick up a copy of my latest book, “Don’t Feed the Elephants!” wherever books are sold. You can also pick up copies of Mark’s book, his latest one “Being Human,” and “The Little Handbook of Being Human,” I highly recommend both. And if you would like to support the show, please consider becoming a patron. You can visit Patreon dot com slash Conversations on Conversations, where not only your financial support will support the amazing team that makes this show possible, but you’ll also get access to some pretty great swag and additional information. And if you haven’t already, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show. You can do this on iTunes, Spotify, or other podcast platforms. This helps us get the word out, it helps with the algorithms, and continue to bring on amazing guests each week, like Mark. A huge thank you to our incredible team who makes this show possible, to our producer, Nick Wilson, our sound editor, Drew Noll, our transcriptionist, Olivia Reinert, and our marketing consultant, Kaitlyn Summitt-Nelson, along with the rest of the SNoWco team. And a big final thank you to our friend and guest, Mark LeBusque. Again, I can’t recommend connecting with him enough, and following his work, and learning how to be a more human manager. This has been Conversations on Conversations. Thank you so much for listening, joining, and giving us your time and attention. And remember when we change the conversations we have with ourselves, and with others, we can change the world. So please, take care, make sure you rest, rehydrate, do what you need to do to recharge, and we will see you again soon. Bye.


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Sarah Noll Wilson is on a mission to help leaders build and rebuild teams. She aims to empower leaders to understand and honor the beautiful complexity of the humans they serve. Through her work as an Executive Coach, an in-demand Keynote Speaker, Researcher, Contributor to Harvard Business Review, and Bestselling Author of “Don’t Feed the Elephants”, Sarah helps leaders close the gap between what they intend to do and the actual impact they make. She hosts the podcast “Conversations on Conversations”, is certified in Co-Active Coaching and Conversational Intelligence, and is a frequent guest lecturer at universities. In addition to her work with organizations, Sarah is a passionate advocate for mental health.

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