Julian Chapman is the President of Forrest & Company, an organizational transformation firm that helps companies achieve strategic competitive advantage through consulting, coaching, and training. He is also the author of The Managerial Leadership Journey: An Unconventional Business Pursuit. We discuss what it means to be a servant leader, the science of structuring an organization, and the difference between military and business leadership.
Listen to the podcast here
Lead Leaders And Manage Managers With Julian Chapman
My guest is Julian Chapman, the President of Forrest & Company, an organizational effectiveness firm, and the author of, The Managerial Leadership Journey: An Unconventional Business Pursuit. Julian, welcome to the show.
Thanks very much for having me. I appreciate this.
We had a chat before, and you told me about your military background in the Canadian military, and then you ended up leading a management consulting firm. I was wondering, how does that happen?
In our military, we have our regular force, and then we have our reserve force. A lot of my career was in reserve service. I had a foot in the canoe and on land. In other words, I was in the management consulting business while I was still serving in the Army. That’s where I brought the two worlds together from that standpoint. It’s a matter of being able to identify how business and the military work. I spent a lot of time training leaders in the Canadian military. It was a natural progression for me to get into the managerial leadership development piece.
I’m curious about that because there are many authors like Jocko Willink who talk about the military and how it helps people be equipped to be great leaders, discipline, culture, accountability, and all that stuff. However, what I’m curious about is what are the differences between leadership in the military and business.
There’s a core element that is around the aspect of the military. You are training people for war, presumably, although there are many different facets to that, whether it’s peacekeeping or domestic emergencies and the like. There is that element that you’re always focused on taking care of your people. That’s what I’ve tried to bring to the business world as well because there isn’t necessarily that element of taking care of your people. There’s very much an element of, “We’ve got to make money, and we’ve got to grow things.”
The military is very good at spending money but not necessarily about making money. That’s another element that’s different. It’s that aspect of the focus on you are not only as good as your team kind of thing. In the military, that also needs to be injected into business because business is about human beings. It’s about bringing human beings, bringing them along, and leading them on a journey. That’s what I’ve brought over from the difference, I believe, at any rate.Business is about human beings. It's about bringing them along and leading them on a journey. Click To Tweet
I used to be a peer group facilitator. I would bring in speakers. We had a couple of speakers who had military backgrounds. One of the members of the group said, “Steve, you have to stop bringing these military people because I’m sick of hearing about leadership in the military. It’s not relevant, in some ways.” I’m wondering. What is it that is not applicable that you learned in terms of leadership in the military for civilian business life?
It’s that you expand all rounds in the military. In other words, you are spending money. You are not looking at ways to make money. That is a fundamental piece of it all that the difference is there. The other part is that the military speaks a different language than business. Quite often, the language of the military can get misconstrued. By the same token, many of the constructs in business, whether it was empowerment years ago or the notions of continuous improvement, come from the military.
A lot of business, particularly in the United States, has been infused with that military background. It is the danger of you speaking a completely different language. It feels like it’s very different. As a result, then people have a hard time seeing the relevancy because it can be such a different language and a different approach.
Can leaders be empowering in the military?
Absolutely. In my book, I talk about the notion of where those ideas of empowerment came from. It’s about the lessons learned. There’s a big culture of lessons learned in the military that can help businesses. This is a good point about the difference. They spend a lot of time planning and arguably naval gazing in a sense of what went wrong and what we can do differently.
The business has to do a bit more of that, not go heal over and spend all their time doing planning and what the military refers to as the after-action review, which is what went wrong and how can we make it better type of thing. There’s a bit that needs to come over but not to consume the energy of an organization’s merciless planning that goes on and on. A big piece of the military is that they are always planning but business needs to do a bit more planning and not go over to that extreme.
Talking about leadership and management. You have developed a framework that maybe is called Leading Leaders and Managing Managers. What do you mean by this phrase, and what does that framework tell us?
One of the things that I’ve tried to focus on, and what we focus on at Forresting & Company, is the nature of managing managers and leading leaders, as opposed to the vast majority of business books that are out there that talk about leadership, talk about leading your team. When you are talking about leading leaders, it’s a different set of skills that you need to be leading them with, as managing is a different set as well. We often talk about this piece of, “Get out and lead your team,” but what does that look like? My book is designed for the manager of managers, in other words, not the frontline manager who’s dealing with direct reports but the individual who is going to be leading a team of leaders.
What I mean by leaders is managerial leaders. One of the things that I talk about as well is that the word leadership and leader has been used for all sorts of different things. I’m trying to be very specific that it’s about managerial leadership because we talk about great golfers or leaders in golfing. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the nature of managerial leadership and that the two are interwoven. That you can’t be a great leader without having management skills, as you can’t be an effective manager without leadership skills. It’s not two separate things that management isn’t a bad word, and leadership is the be-all and the end-all.You can't be a great leader without having management skills, as you can't be an effective manager without leadership skills. Click To Tweet
It’s that you have to bring those two sides together. It’s the notion of bringing tasks and people together, management of tasks and leading people. We don’t do that particularly well in business. We get terrific taskmasters who are managers who don’t care about their people, and then you get great leaders who care lots about their people but they don’t set up the systems to enable the people to flourish underneath.
You spoke also earlier about the elements of each. We talked about management, which is creating clarity, authority, and engagement. The leadership was authentic, servant and transformative. Could you talk about these ideas and what each of them represents?
One of the things about the management side is that we don’t spend enough time clarifying what the work is for our people. One of the things for managers of managers is that they don’t spend enough time clarifying what are the expectations as managers. We tend to get focused on our technical know-how, and we focus solely on our technical know-how.
When you are in an organization that has people, you have to be doing things and setting up the work. Defining what people are accountable for and what authority they need to be able to get that done. Much of the work occurs laterally in organizations as opposed to in the stove pipe piece. Organizations don’t spend enough time clarifying what is the authority. If I need to get service from someone else or be able to say, “You can’t do that over there,” those things have to be defined.
We don’t spend the time to do that. We leave it to people to try and work it out. I talk about an issue in the book about what’s known as sanctuary trauma. It comes from the first responder world. The idea is that those first responders, the fire ambulance see trauma all day long. Sanctuary trauma is when they come back into the workplace that is supposed to be their sanctuary but they find that they are suffering trauma because they can’t get their work done.
They are not sure what their expectations are. In fact, that adds more trauma to them. Fifty percent of first responders feel sanctuary trauma, let alone the trauma of what they see in their day-to-day work. It’s because there is no framework. We haven’t set up the management. That’s the side of managing managers. The leadership side of being an enlightened leader is about being an authentic servant and transforming. That’s the skills that the leader of leaders has to pull out of their leaders and ground them in being authentic, servant and transformational.
Management is all about clarity, creating clarity of expectations, and giving the authority to the people who need to make the decisions, and then you also told about engagement, which is keeping the people engaged the whole process so that they don’t disengage. They stay connected and keep doing this thing. In leadership, you talk about authenticity, which I get servant and transformative.
I would like to dig into these latter two words because servant leadership is becoming a cliché in some circles. I don’t understand what it is. I would love some clarity on it. Could you elaborate? What does it mean to be a servant leader? Does it mean that the leader has to be very humble and lead from behind? What does that even look like?
What it looks like is the recognition that, as a manager, I’m accountable for the output and working behaviors of my team. I have to take care of that team. I refer to it as the Golden Rule of Leadership. It’s knowing your people and promoting their welfare. Don’t put them into situations that are going to be difficult for them. You need to know their capability.
Where servant leadership comes from is not from sitting behind but from engaging with, being empathetic with them and making connections with them. It is about taking that to heart. It is about recognizing that, “I can’t win. I can’t be successful if my people are not successful.” I have to remove the barriers to their success. Remove the interferences that get in the way of their potential business.
I was thinking about a lot of people saying that the greatest leader of the twentieth century was Winston Churchill. I was wondering, would you characterize him as a servant leader?
I suppose, I would. Servant leaders still have to make tough calls. They still have to make very tough decisions. They have to balance that task in people. There are lots of examples in Winston Churchill’s life and during the Second World War where he made those calls for what he believed was the greater good and what probably was the greater good. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be where we are. I would suggest that he took that into account. He was certainly transformational.
He’s probably more transformational than a necessary servant, whether you take his speeches in the House of Commons during the war as being transformation, as inspiring life into the British people in the darkest hour or the empire in the commonwealth at the time. In the darkest hour, that’s the transformational side. Probably he’s more transformational than a necessary servant. He also grew up in the military. He did as an officer.
I understand servant leadership. Let’s talk a little bit more about transformation. Obviously, Churchill was transformational in the way he spoke and inspired people. Is it all about inspiration to be transformational or are there other aspects to it?
At the core of transformational is having a vision of what you are trying to do. We teach our leaders that they need to be able to tell our story, “Who am I?” which is the authentic piece, “Why am I here?” which is the servant piece and, “What am I trying to build?” which is a transformational piece. There is an element of vision, but it’s also the recognition that nobody comes into the workplace fully formed. There isn’t the perfect employee or the unicorner, as we say in Canada, the narwhal, that perfect individual.
I have to recognize that my job is to transform them into the great employees that I’m looking for and that they don’t immediately come like that. All too often, we are anchored by our technical know-how, and we forget that when we move up in the organization, it’s about the management of tasks and leading people. It’s not about my technical know-how or my ability to read spreadsheets. I have to be pushing that and delegating as much as possible down to my people and recognizing that I have a mindset of transforming them, helping them grow and flourish in the workplace.
That’s a great way to express it. In your book, you have this triangle which has technical knowledge at the bottom, and then you have leadership and management. I’m thinking about one of the entrepreneurial authors who was the first one to draw attention to this multifaceted nature of the job, Michael Gerber, who said that, “Most people who start a business are technicians, and they need to become managers and entrepreneurs.” These functions need to be field, and you have to do less of the technical and more the managerial, eventually the visionary work, the leadership work, the entrepreneurship. That’s fascinating.
It’s a good segue to talk about Forrest & Company because you are an organizational effectiveness, firm management consulting firm. You have companies to transform leadership, management, and organizations. What I’m wondering about is what it does differently from some of the productized frameworks such as EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, which also talks about the vision, execution, team health, and how to mold an organization into a better organization. Presumably, you do this at a higher level. I would be curious as to what it is that you do that is more sophisticated or higher level or more advanced than these cookie-cutter approaches.
It comes from where we came from. We started off as a leadership development firm. Training, and coaching, and then the realization that all of that training and coaching, you puff people up and get them going and then they run smack into a wall inside the organization. Those are the systemic issues that are in the way of the organization. I talk about this as organizational pain. We try to focus on managerial accountability. What are managers truly accountable for?
The role of managerial leaders in an organization is critical. We look at the lens of organizational health through the lens of managerial leadership and what are the systems that need to be put in place. It’s a different approach. EOS, as I understand it is certainly for the entrepreneur that’s in startup mode. Ours is much further along but the principles are still the same for larger firms. When I’m talking about managers and managerial leadership, I’m talking about the third level.
Beyond getting employees to do something, it’s about now how you set up the systems to make the managers accountable for making sure that the employees are doing the work because the employees are the critical part here. That’s where the execution occurs. All too often, what ends up happening is that in more mature firms, you end up with layers of management, which we could spend a whole show on the layers of management because there is a result of not having effective managerial leadership. We keep adding and adding.
We spend time helping organizations to identify the organizational pain that’s getting in the way and interfering with them, then how do you structure accordingly? First of all, it starts by defining the strategy. “What do we want to be when we grow up?” Strategy is one of those words that everybody uses but very few people have a common definition of it. For us, strategy is, “What is it that the organization wants to be.”Strategy is what the organization wants to be. Click To Tweet
A piece of that is then how do you structure the organization accordingly? We use the science of Stratified Systems Theory work done by a fellow by the name of Elliott Jaques, who wrote the Requisite Organization and a variety of different books on Stratified Systems Theory as the science behind how you structure your organization. The science part is about building an organization based on human capability because it is human beings that are going to do the work, and we are not all the same. We are all diverse in our capabilities.
What are the basic building blocks and Stratified Systems Theory, now I’m getting into far too much detail here, is about, “How many layers do I need?” If I want to be this type of organization that is changing the world, then I need a certain number of layers based on the human capability to do that. For the entrepreneur, when there’s in startup mode the book, The Pursuit of Prime by Adizes, speaks to the nature of that curve of as organizations are growing and you start and it’s just, “Go.” You then must start putting systems in place as you get further along. It’s about what is the right amount there, and that’s where the science piece comes in. That’s the definition but our focus is on the managers.
The final question on this topic, the Stratified Systems Theory, that’s very intriguing. You say that organization is based on human capability and there are unique multiple layers because there are many people with the span of control. Is it the span of control?
It’s not a span of control. This is where our businesses have tended to focus because it’s an easy one to measure. Human capability is made up of four things. One is skills and knowledge. We have a set of experience, skills, and knowledge. The next is our attitude and our motivation. Do we value the work? Those are the first two. Those are the two that most organizations look at when they look at human capability.
Another one that is going to define whether I can imply my capability is, “Am I able to behave reasonably?” When I’m under stress and pressure, it’s okay to lose my temper every now and again but if I can’t keep it under control, that’s a problem. The last one is the governor of it all. That is cognitive capacity. “Do I have the cognitive capacity to conceptualize the work that needs to be done?” That’s where Stratified Systems Theory comes into play.
It’s based on the early works of PI’s work around the development of children but it’s about how we develop in our cognitive capacity and that our cognitive capacity matures over time. It’s about recognizing that the things that I did when I was twenty, I couldn’t do the things that I can do now that I’m 60 because I can conceptualize things. I can work in ambiguity. I can do those constructs. It’s about recognizing what are the levels of cognitive capacity that we need in the organization. Once you’ve decided that, then make sure that you have the right people in the right role.
EOS says, “Gets it once it has the capacity to do it. Gets it stands in for cognitive capacity.” It sounds like. Do they get it? They conceptualize their job. Once it is the motivation and capacity to do it is the skills and knowledge. Behavior is the other facet of it. It’s the core values and how well they fit the culture and the behaviors that are expected to be exhibited in the culture.
Will they value them because I may not value that? That fits into the attitude and motivation, “Do I value where this company is going?” The difference between cognitive capacity, skills and knowledge we accumulate. We are either born with it or it can be injected into us. You can train someone. Cognitive capacity matures over time, and some people like the Mozarts of the world, can write a concerto at the age of nine.
I, still at 60, can’t do that. Some of us have a greater degree of cognitive capacity at our earlier ages, and it matures much faster. Others don’t necessarily mature as quickly. They mature at a standard rate but if they’ve started at a lower level, it may take them longer. Not everyone can be president of the corporation. Not everyone can handle that cognitive capacity to handle that complexity, which all flies in the face of small liberal attitudes that everyone can be anything they want to be and that there is a governor on us.
If they do everything that is required to get to that point, they practice and learn more, then maybe they can get there but probably not everyone.
The premise is that you can’t change someone’s cognitive capacity externally. It matures. It’s about identifying whether that person has the right cognitive capacity for that role because it’s very unfair to put someone into a role because they want to be a vice president and expect them to deliver on that role. We’ve all seen it. It’s a version of the Peter Principle. Someone who’s doing a brilliant job now and we promote them up, and things start to fall apart. We think that those are skills and knowledge things. We coach and train them, and then what we begin to see is that they become disaffected and disengaged with the work. That’s because they can’t figure out how to do it.
It’s about helping managers to be much more effective at recognizing people’s cognitive capacity and making sure you are not putting someone into and throwing them into the deep end or the analogy that I draw is you put them into a sandbox. A sandbox that is big enough for them that they can maneuver around it but you don’t want them in a little tiny sandbox where they are cramped in. You don’t want to put them in the Sahara where there are no boundaries, and they can’t figure out where to go and what to do.
You have to give them room to grow but you cannot overwhelm them. I want to talk about your book, The Managerial Leadership Journey. What is the premise of your book? Why did you write it? What is it trying to achieve?
There are three things that are core to the book. One is the idea of a professional managerial leadership core that we need to become professional in our managerial leadership. It is the one skillset that doesn’t matter whether you are in the public sector, private sector or anything. It is the one common thing but we don’t take it as a profession. We see it as an add-on to my technical know-how. The other is the element of managers as managers or managers of managers.
The fact that we have to focus on managers, teaching our managers, and growing our managers and leaders as distinct from growing employees. The third one is that it’s a journey. I’ve made all the mistakes known unto manor beast in my career. It’s a journey. It’s about learning from it. It’s about continuous improvement. That perfection, while it may be valuable, is always outside of our grasp but we have to continue on this journey and learn as we go along. Hence the managerial leadership journey.That perfection, while it may be valuable, is always outside of our grasp but we have to continue on this journey and learn as we go along. Click To Tweet
It’s progress, not perfection.
It’s the perfect way to describe it. We need to think of it as a journey and that we are continually improving ourselves as we go along. It’s not a one-and-done thing. It’s not, “I’m going to inject this into my organization. I have to be disciplined.” Back to your very first question, the military taught me one thing, and that was personal discipline and that stick to positiveness. We’ve lost that. Be disciplined on your journey and realize that it is a journey. It’s about getting to an end state eventually but it’s that journey.
Those are some great ideas. You have to lead the leaders. You have to manage managers. Technical knowledge is probably important but not enough or sufficient. What we talked about in the second part of the organization is how you build an organization that is able to grow where people have the cognitive capacity to grow into their roles.
They are motivated. They have got the skills, human capability and organization that ties it all together. If our readers would like to learn more about you, I recommend you check out The Managerial Leadership Journey on Amazon, which has only five-star reviews where else can they connect to Forrest & Company and yourself?
We have a website for the book that has elements of the book that are downloadable because there are worksheets in there. There are things for people to reflect on in their journey. It’s ManagerialLeadershipJourney.com, and then ForrestAndCo.com is the website of our business. Those are the best places to find us.
Julian Chapman, the President of Forrest & Company, thank you for coming to the show. Readers, if you like a custom operating system that takes your business to the top of the mountain, then visit StevePreda.com. Thank you for your attention. Thanks again, Julian. Have a good day.
All the best. Cheers.