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5 Star Leader Podcast

Episode podcast for leaders - guests share inspiring, relatable real-world short stories of great leadership that guide and inspire them. Discover stories that inspire and guide everyday leadership and help grow your leadership storybook. Hosted by Andy Gaskell, Founder of Synergy Positive Ltd.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Warning: This podcast has few episodes.

This means there isn't enough episodes to provide the most popular episodes. Here's the rankings of the current episodes anyway, we recommend you to revisit when there's more episodes!

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5 Star Leader Podcast - Episode 5 - James Groves

In Episode 5 of the 5 Star Leader Podcast, Andy speaks with James Groves, Managing Director of Indigo Swan, a multi-award winning Energy Consultancy based in Norwich, Norfolk. A hugely successful enterprise: it has won ‘Most Trusted Consultancy’ awards in the Energy Sector 3 times in the last 5 years and has also won the Eastern Daily Press Small and Medium-size Business of the Year in 2018 and 2019. James is a passionate, people-focused leader who, along with his co-Directors and team of ‘Swans’ has fostered a positive and holistic workplace culture based on happiness, people first and an unrelenting focus on continuous improvement. He was also nominated as a finalist in the Director of the Year category of the EDP Awards and last year appeared as a TEDxEd speaker where he shared his philosophy that guides his approach to leading and learning. In this episode, James shares with Andy his 5 leadership insights which guide and inspire him to live into better leadership..in his own way, including: Go to 03:00 Caring about your people on a personal level Celebrating individuality and caring about people at personal level. We hear about James’ leadership journey, his first leadership role at the age of 20, and how he sought to understand people first as a basis for his approach to growing as a leader. He also talks about the inspiration and guidance he takes from the book and learnings of Kim Scott of ‘Radical Candour’ fame - the importance of knowing your people whilst challenging them directly. James also touches on how this approach ripples beyond the office, and how other ‘Swans’ create appropriate levels of rapport with potential and current customers and clients at a personal level. We even hear how simple, engaging information is included in their CRM so there’s a consistency to their internal and external engagement. It’s completely consistent with their mantra: ‘how we do anything, is how we do everything’. Go to 08:50 Happiness First James talks about how the team crafted Indigo Swan’s core values - why ‘Happiness First’ is top of the list and what it continues to mean to suppliers and clients. We talk about how the Swans bring happiness to life day-to-day in the office, how it is organically linked to to the traditional ‘results’ focus and the importance of a ‘safe habitat’ for the team to come to work whilst being the individuals they are. It’s a holistic and consistent approach that continues to underpin low-turnover of staff and business success. Go to 15:25 A holistic approach to goal-setting James talks through the Indigo Swan approach that places the importance of investing in personal goals parallel in importance with company and professional development goals. Recognising that people have a life trajectory that transcends the workplace, the Indigo Swan approach is inclusive of personal aspiration, and truly aims to invest in people, their goals and even their eventual departure from the company in pursuit of something that really matters to them. It’s about mutual support, celebrating the successes both in and out of work, and fostering a positive culture. Go to 20:54 Learning and improving - the ‘no blame’ culture, feedback loops and the ‘Cyg-not’ process. James tells the story of how the ‘Cyg-not’ process was created. Bringing the company core values to life, alongside understanding and stimuli from learning organisations and human factor-related books like ‘Black Box Thinking’ by Matthew Syed, James outlines how their continuous improvement systems works. It’s a fascinating process that brings a multitude of business benefits: efficiency, streamlining and retention-positive to name but a few. Alongside a ‘Brainbox’ process, it is also a clear example of ‘what people say and do matters’: the integrity of the feedback loop, that suggestions and improvements receive consistent attention and everyone in the team operates in the knowledge that learning from errors and where opportunity to improve can be seen at the ‘coalface’ is celebrated as a positive. It builds psychological safety, trust, integrity and most importantly, has driven results and success. Go to 28:25 Observe and listen - you never know what you might miss James candidly shares the insight that he had no formal leadership training early in his career. By observing, listening and signposting the importance in investing in potential leaders that actually actually want to lead (vs. the ‘accidental manager’) he explains how he has used listening, watching, and intentionally ‘tuning-in’ to his team members ‘as the whole person’ as an accessible and natural way of engaging his team. He also extols the benefits of diversity of expertise: being surrounded by the ‘right people, who love the bit they are responsible for’. It’s a compelling, organic and common-sense approach accessible to all.


4 Dec 2019

Rank #1

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5 Star Leader Podcast - Episode 4 - Giles Bradford

Andy speaks with Giles Bradford, Communications and Engagement Manager for Bradfords, a builders’ merchant with an illustrious history that has been trading for nearly 250 years, serving the South West of England. Giles is a former Royal Navy Officer who specialised in flying helicopters for the Royal Navy’s Commando Helicopter Force and who has a lifelong passion for being on the water. He also has a deep interest in studying and practicing servant leadership, helping teams excel and understanding what makes people tick. In this engaging and revealing episode, Giles shares 5 stories that guide and inspire how he lives into better leadership…in his own way, including: (Go to 02:05) Be the bow-man before being the skipper. Giles shares an insight from sailing that is applicable to anyone leading a team. He offers his view that ‘you need to have been the bow-man, before you can be the skipper’. He talks about the interplay within a team, the positive synergy, communication and the shared understanding. But most importantly he talks into the requirement to trust one another: for the leader to know and have experienced what other members of the team at the coalface are contending with, in the knowledge that everyone wants the ‘boat to go faster’. His story speaks into the need to ‘trust the man on the ground’ (a military phrase) – and the truism that ‘the quietest boats are always the fastest’ – a metaphor worthy of consideration when examining communication during tasks within effective and cohesive teams. (Go to 06:53) Maximum growth with minimal direction. Giles’ second story takes us back to his school experience as an avid sailor. Fond memories of an exceptional teacher and the environment he set up for growth, enjoyment, resilience, problem-solving and camaraderie. Modern business words like ‘empowerment’ spring to mind when hearing Giles’ recollections of his teacher who had an almost unconscious and organic way of leading the activities and development of those in his charge with minimal intervention. As Giles put it …‘he was only there to pick up the pieces if required’. And later in the story we get to hear of how this approach played out when Giles and his fellow students were put through their paces in an outdoor activity: the organisation, the problem-solving but most of all, that ability to know the importance of looking after those in your team – that at its heart, leadership is about people. (Go to 12:30) Right words, right sentiment, right time. Giles shares a pre-deployment anecdote from his time flying helicopters for the Royal Navy. It is a story set in challenging circumstances, and an honest reflection on the impact one inspirational leader had in renewing a positive mindset and resilient approach in his unit as they prepared to deploy to a warzone. (Go to 16:50) Understand the context and the principles behind it..and you won’t go far wrong.  Giles shares the story of returning from military operations and highlights the ‘normalisation’ process. He speaks of the re-integration process, the desire to do the right thing – not just an internal activity, and to do something that created value for both returning comrades and the community. It’s an anecdote where we see the value in serving the community, the growth and development of individuals who had yet to formally experience leadership roles and an example of that most challenging aspect of ‘leadership’: taking a risk to suggest something ‘different’ than what your team might ‘want’ to do – in order to ‘do the right thing’ in line with the context and principles behind it. (Go to 21:55) When things get complex…stop and make sure everyone is on the same page. Giles shares his recollections from his flying career in the Oil and Gas sector. Whether you are an aviator or not, the transferable message is powerful: in complex and complicated times, ensure your team are on the same page, regularly. Don’t let any members of the team get ‘behind the aircraft’. Have a process to make sure you bring everyone with you, and attack each new part of a challenge together. And Giles shares his candid view on how his inattention to this ‘press on’ behaviour was manifesting itself beyond work into his home life – and how he now intentionally guards against it going forward.


19 Nov 2019

Rank #2

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5 Star Leader Podcast - Episode 3 - Kevin O'Brien

Andy talks with former colleague and friend Kevin O’Brien, a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force who has an avid interest in military history and Polar exploration. Kevin’s mantra is “every day is a school day”. In this second episode  with Kevin, we hear three stories that guide and inspire how he lives into better leadership in his own way, including (Go to 01:41) Sir Ernest Shackleton CVO OBE FRGS FRSGS was a British Antarctic Explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic. Kevin tells Shackleton’s story of fortitude, being trapped in and living on the ice for 10 months, crossing the Southern Ocean in a lifeboat and in particular highlighting Shackleton’s qualities that marked him out as an exceptional leader. This includes anecdotes about how Shackleton understood his team, broke down barriers of rank, knew how and when to inspire tired crew members in a way which didn’t draw attention to their suffering. It is a tale of an eternal optimist, a man who never lingered on things and willingly carried problems with a ‘move on’ attitude. (Go to 09:28) Richard ‘Dick’ Winters was an officer in the US Army and was a decorated war veteran. Best known for commanding Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during WW2. His story and that of his comrades was made famous through the HBO Series ‘Band of Brothers’. Kevin shares a number of anecdotes from Dick Winters’ actions, and reflects on his ‘Leadership at the point of the bayonet’ guidance that is still used as a leadership handrail for junior commanders on the battlefield today. The assertion that mental resilience comes from physical fitness, the importance of preparation and study - mastering your craft, the vitality of the 3Cs - Courage, competence and character in developing your team by example. We also gain an insight into the importance of delegation - to increase your capacity to use your creativity/innovation to create winning plans full of imagination and agility under pressure. Humility - don’t worry about who receives the credit and finally, never, ever give up - it won’t last forever, opportunity will always crop up… (Go to 20:03) In Kevin’s final story, he shines a light on the heroism of Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart, US special operations soldiers posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour for their actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993. Their story is known to many through the film, Black Hawk Down. Kevin tells the story of 2 experienced leaders who knew the bigger picture was grim - but saw a way to help their commander re-gain initiative and momentum. They made a decision for the bigger team. It is an exemplary anecdote of selflessness and the power of a positive culture - and a willingness to make their own fortune: their commitment to ‘leave no man behind’.


14 Nov 2019

Rank #3

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5 Star Leader Podcast - Episode 2 - Kevin O'Brien

In Episode 2, Andy talks with former colleague and friend Kevin O’Brien, a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force who has an avid interest in military history and Polar exploration. Kevin’s mantra is “every day is a school day”. In this episode Kevin shares two stories about key individuals that guide and inspire how he lives into better leadership in his own way, including: (Go to 03:12) David Lord VC DFC was a transport pilot in the Royal Air Force. Lord received the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions during the Battle of Arnhem while flying resupply missions in support of British paratroops. Kevin shares the insights he takes from Lord and his crew’s action:  their clear understanding of where their task fitted into the critical overall plan, the selfless commitment to complete their mission, their airmanship, crew-cooperation and poignant anecdotes from those on the ground who witnessed the heroism above. (Go to 16:12) Captain Lawrence Edward Grace "Titus" Oates was a British army officer, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died during the Terra Nova Expedition. Oates, afflicted with gangrene and frostbite, walked from his tent into a blizzard. Aware that his ill health was compromising his three companions' chances of survival, he chose certain death. Kevin shares the insights he takes from Oates’ action and life, including his courage, his humility, his resilience and application to carry out his task despite forlorn hope and the inspiring legacy his action provides for those who touch a famous statue of him at Eton College where pupils say: ‘we touch it everyday in the hope that some of his courage will rub off on us’…


13 Nov 2019

Rank #4

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5 Star Leader Podcast - Episode 1 - Andy Gaskell

Andy shares his own guiding and inspiring stories that shape how he lives into better leadership in his own way, including: (go to 03:25) The history teacher that engaged and inspired by investing the time to know what made each pupil 'tick'. In doing so, he could bring the lesson syllabus to life, tailored and crafted in ways that every pupil could individually resonate with.  (go to 08:02) The support teacher whose magnetic humility, example and storytelling from his military and mountaineering experiences immersed you in the possibility that you could achieve more than you perceived possible too. (go to 14:45) The Ugandan mountain guide whose joy, zest for life and positive mindset transcended materiel possession. His true happiness was inspirational. (go to 20:31) The self-coaching opportunity that parenting presents. Learning from your children about your conflict triggers and the power and clarity of their feedback. (go to 26:06) The vitality of 'running your own race'. The temptation to 'look around' vs. leaning into your own plan. Brutal honesty - it's all on you - you create your reality. Don't let others adversely shape how you show up in your mind, or in the world. Only you will know what each thing means to you - and no one can take that from you. It's your mind - harness it!


6 Nov 2019

Rank #5