Level Up Leadership: Andy Meikle

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Level Up is a podcast for anyone interested in improving their leadership skills. The series is designed to help you get to know the leaders of Experian and gain insight into the skills needed to grow your career. You can subscribe to Level Up Leadership on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud and Spotify.

Most recently, we spoke with Andy Meikle, founder of Elkiem, an organization focused on teaching leaders ways to create high performance cultures. For over 20 years, he has researched and interviewed thousands of high achievers around the world, including top athletes, academics, scientists, and leaders at Google, Tesla, NASA, United Nations, Harvard Business School, Juilliard and more.

Here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Andy:

Be mindful of who is giving you feedback.
While we can see the value in a 360º view of our performance, Andy advises listeners to remember that it may be harder for someone to give you truly constructive feedback if they don’t know you or your craft. Be mindful of where you seek feedback and act accordingly. Andy himself likes to receive his feedback from other experts and even asked a renowned actor to give him feedback on his communicative skills!

It is always best to over-prepare than to be underprepared.
Discipline and preparation are vital keys to any job in any field. If you are underprepared in your position, this can become a danger to you, your team, your goals and your organization. You should go into your work knowing what you want to do, when and why. If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s worth taking some time to figure it out.

Ask yourself about your belief system.
Andy learned early on that he needed a development belief profile for every person he interviewed. What does that mean? Every person has to believe something to be achieving the results they are—it’s what sets you apart from everyone. Take a moment to think about what you need to believe in, who you need to become and what you need to do to be a high performing leader.

Talent is important, but it isn’t the only ingredient. 
Of course, it helps to have some kind of “pre-existing gene structure or psychological structure” that makes you better at what you do, but the in the end, you need to be interested in what you’re doing. Your interest in what you do is what allows you to learn, expand and improve!

Forget about comparisons. 
Pretty straightforward, but easier said than done, right? Andy specializes in studying high performance and a common misconception people have about high performance is being “best” at something, which isn’t necessarily true. High performance is not concerned with what others are doing; high performance is your own personal definition—what do you want and who do you need to become to achieve it? When you stop making comparisons and figure out the answers, you start the journey to high performance.

Build a strong identity. 
Andy applies this philosophy to raising his children, but it’s something worth remembering throughout life. When you build a strong identity, you won’t be swayed into doing things that aren’t in your interest by outside forces. How do you build a strong identity? Have a set of beliefs that you can practice and focus on and then decide who you want to be. Make that your “code.”

We were so happy to have the opportunity to chat with Andy for Level Up.

Full Transcript

Hey everybody. Welcome to The Level Up Leadership Podcast. My name is Mike Delgado.
My name is Patty Guevarra.
This podcast is designed to help you get to know the leaders here at Experian and also gain insight into leadership skills and traits needed to grow our careers.
In this podcast we’ll talk mentorship, career navigation, handling rejection, work life balance, mental health, diversity and inclusion and so much more.
We hope you enjoy the show.
Today, we’re speaking with Andy Meikle, founder of Elkiem, an organization focused on teaching leaders ways to create high performance cultures. For over 20 years, he has researched and interviewed thousands of high achievers around the world, including top athletes, academics, scientists, and leaders at Google, Tesla, NASA, United Nations, Harvard Business School, Juilliard and more.

Mike:                            00:00                So this is actually a very special edition of “Level Up” because we’re on location. We’re actually outside the four walls of Experian here with Andy Meikle and Andy, you just did an eight-hour class, and now you’re like, “Yup, let’s do an hour podcast.” What keeps your energy up?

Andy:                           00:53                Oh, it’s practice for me. I’ve been doing it a long time so, it’s like anything, I think there’s a certain fitness in what you do, and I know when I was young, I would do a day and you feel wrecked at the end of the day. You feel like sleeping. But today, it’s just a normal day. I’ll finish this and then I’ll go do some exercise, and I do what everyone else does. I watch my diet and I watch what I put into my system food-wise, et cetera.

Andy:                           01:24                But I think it is really a fitness for job, in the sense that what you do a lot of, you tend to get a lot of energy for, I’ve noticed anyway.

Mike:                            01:34                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           01:36                Speak fitness, if there is such a thing.

Mike:                            01:40                Well, it’s interesting reading your bio, that you actually got your start as an athlete. I was wondering if you can take us back to your early days?

Andy:                           01:49                There was a sport in Australia called Iron Man. Now that’s different to the Iron Man that you see in triathlons, so Iron Man in Australia is an ocean sport, primarily upper body. So, swim, ocean kayak, Malibu board, and run. So races are still pretty long, they’re somewhere between two and five hours.

Mike:                            02:11                Wow.

Andy:                           02:12                It’s a big deal in Australia, so our races were broadcast on television on a Sunday afternoon.

Mike:                            02:18                Wow.

Andy:                           02:20                The most famous people in the country at those stage, were the most famous Iron Men in the country, because it’s very uniquely Australian, on the beach, doing your thing. So a lot of young kids are attracted into that sport, like any national sport, and I was. I just wanted to be the guy that would win that race, but I wasn’t winning, very clearly. I started off, I went very quickly to about eighth in the sport.

Mike:                            02:50                That’s amazing, though.

Andy:                           02:52                Yeah, well. Now I look back and I go that’s pretty cool. At the time –

Mike:                            02:56                Yeah.

Andy:                           02:57                I was very dissatisfied.

Mike:                            02:58                Really?

Andy:                           02:58                Because I just wanted to win and I got stuck at eighth, and I think that was formulative. For me, it was, “What the hell is going wrong with me that means that I can’t win?” There’s a group winning first, second, and third. There was another group that was sort of third, fourth, and fifth. I wasn’t even in that first two packs. It was so frustrating. And that was formulative because that’s what started all this research. I was just trying to work out, why am I not winning? What has happened to you? It’s hard to give you the sense of, obviously, I was dissatisfied in my cells. I’d find it difficult to sleep, and that curiosity for trying to understand high performance probably came, well, I know it came from there.

Mike:                            03:42                Have you always been really hard on yourself?

Andy:                           03:45                Yeah, I’m mad at myself when I make a mistake. I don’t like making errors. I’ve been known to ponder on errors that I make all night.

Mike:                            03:53                Yeah.

Andy:                           03:55                But I realize you have to make them, but I don’t like them when I do. I’m hard on myself, but I’m not hard on myself if I think I’m doing okay. I feel a reasonable judge of my own performance. I’m not perfect and I do ask other, and I get a heap of feedback. I get a lot of people measuring me and a lot of people actually coming up and giving you feedback, one way or another, and I’ve got a close set of people around me that I often invite into sessions and invite into my research or whatever to give me feedback, but I feel a reasonable judge.

Andy:                           04:29                So I’m not that hard on myself if I think I’m doing okay. I’m not like that. But if I think I’ve made a stupid error, I’ll kick the hell out of myself.

Mike:                            04:41                How do you know who to listen to, because tons of people give you feedback, and there’s lots of people who are critical, right? So I’m kind of curious, what do you choose to pay attention to?

Andy:                           04:52                Well, I think you get a feel for the people who, well, first of all, line of sight. Like that person who’s sane enough to be able to make an evaluation. I think people can’t see you, how can they give you feedback? Or if they’ve only seen you for a few moments, how can they give you feedback? I think there’s, then negative people.

Mike:                            05:10                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           05:11                I tend, “Oh, I’m happy to listen to a first case.” One of those things.

Mike:                            05:15                Yeah.

Andy:                           05:16                Bugger off. But then there’s a group of people who know my craft and for instance, I had one of the top stage actors in the U.K. come out to Australia, or he was spending time in Australia and I had him come in and critique.

Mike:                            05:35                Oh, wow.

Andy:                           05:36                What I do. Because ultimately, I’m a communicator.

Mike:                            05:39                Right.

Andy:                           05:40                But you’ve got to keep groups onboard for, this is the research part of my world which is a much more comfortable part of my job than the presenting part of it, because I’m not so exposed. I tend to get experts giving me feedback, and I tend to have people who know what I want. So I’ve got Paul, from my business, who knows my business really well and I’ll often be asking him, “How does this feel?” People who are in close quarters.

Mike:                            06:09                I love that you are, as you’re working on improving your teaching, your public communication, that you’re bringing in these experts, a well-renown actor. That’s actually hard to have somebody, who’s so polished, “Please sit down and watch me.” Then have to hear the feedback.

Andy:                           06:29                It did feel at the time, no, it wasn’t comfortable, too, because the last thing you want to be when you’re communicating is consciousness. Consciousness is no fun.

Mike:                            06:36                Yeah.

Andy:                           06:37                You go, because I think he said, “I don’t like the way you’re standing up there,” and I’m like, “Oh, now I have to be worried about,” it’s not enough to remember what I have to say, rather than thinking about the way I stand.

Mike:                            06:47                Right.

Andy:                           06:48                So it is uncomfortable, and for a period after you get the feedback, because I had him just knock down one of the two big improvement points I need to make? While you’re then conscious of those two improvement points in the days and weeks to come, but it does make the activity a bit uncomfortable for a while. Therefore, I think you don’t want too much of that in your head, because it can actually affect your ability to get your job done.

Mike:                            07:09                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           07:11                But it does feel uncomfortable, because [inaudible 00:07:15] is about to tell you all your shit.

Mike:                            07:16                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           07:17                They’re not going to go, “Oh, you’re good with this.” Well, they’ll try to say that, but it’s all tactical. They’ll try and make sure you don’t feel like it’s all criticism.

Mike:                            07:24                Are there other big areas like that where you’re bringing in experts to, watch me here, help me improve?

Andy:                           07:31                Well, look, there’s only two parts to my world. I’ve got a very simple job, in a sense. I’m either researching about high performance or communicating it. That’s it. That’s all I do. I just travel between those places. Now I have a business, but I rather people run my business. Really, for me, they’re my two major improvement points. Researching, I have other people watch, from the business. I have other people watch my interviews, so we videotape everything like you’re doing. If you wanted, you could take this get assessed as an interviewee, or an interviewer, I should say. All that can be assessed later.

Andy:                           08:11                I don’t feel that need, too much, to be assessed as a researcher, so most of my improvement is going to be in that second part of my role so hence to get a bit in on that.

Mike:                            08:21                I would love to dig in, in the research part, because this gets into going back to your days as an athlete. You felt, “Man, I’m only getting eighth place.” Which, to me, I’m like, that’s amazing. But to you that wasn’t good enough and you’re, “What is it? Why am I not getting better?” Can you take us through, at what point did you begin, “I want to start studying high performance. What is it that I’m missing?”

Andy:                           08:52                I had a bit of evidence that something about me wasn’t quite right. I think physically I was okay. I pretty may not have been physically the best specimen to win. Sometimes you get basketballers, you can say, “That person’s probably going to be better than that person.” just based on physical status, physical structure. So I probably may not have been the best-shaped athlete in terms of my physique, but I knew my mind wasn’t right. I knew that, because we were all hanging out together, prior to the races starting. You could see everyone else’s faces in the approach to the races, and I felt a lot more scared than they looked. So I just knew it. I thought that there’s something, I get too nervous before races. People would say, “Well, it’s normal to be nervous before races.”

Mike:                            09:37                Yeah, right. Right.

Andy:                           09:38                I’m, “I’m not feeling nerves. This thing is, I’m running away from a tiger.” I felt afraid. So I had that evidence on my head. I couldn’t really get my head around how to feel calm going into racing. TV cameras and –

Mike:                            09:53                Right.

Andy:                           09:54                I just couldn’t get my head around it. So I had that evidence, and that’s why I thought, maybe my insight is psychological. So I started interviewing people. I just started saying, “Well how do you handle this?” It was probably a very loose term at the start, I started chatting with other athletes.

Mike:                            10:10                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           10:11                Structured chats, being writing notes. At some point is started to realize that, that interviewing was something that was much more important to me than the racing. I realize now, at nearly 50, that, that’s absolutely the case. The research is life for me. It’s my breathing, it’s a big part of the enjoyment in my life.

Patty:                           10:37                How was that transition for you, going from a working athlete to being an interviewer and being a researcher and starting your own business?

Andy:                           10:44                Really easy. Some transitions, I know, for athletes are difficult. Some transitions between careers are difficult, but in the end, it became a real pain to have to go racing because it was interrupting my interviewing.

Patty:                           10:56                Yeah.

Andy:                           11:00                And probably there’s a bit of force, because I just wasn’t getting the results I wanted either. I was still finishing around eighth, and then I wasn’t doing as, because I was traveling, interviewing, whatever, I just wasn’t doing the sort of training that I probably needed to. I think in my life, one or two races, I was more into the teens where I finished, and that didn’t feel good.

Patty:                           11:16                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           11:16                Racing not at your best. So I think there was a little bit of exiting out of the old, which was a force, and I was being drawn towards the new, as a force. That transition was super easy.

Patty:                           11:29                It’s kind of a no-brainer.

Andy:                           11:30                Yeah, no-brainer at all. There’s not any doubt. What would’ve been hard is if somebody had just said, “Well, you have to race for another two years.” I would’ve been like, “Oh, damn!”

Patty:                           11:37                I know!

Andy:                           11:39                I don’t know how I’d get my head around that. The transition was easy, but it took a while, too. Well, like any. I was okay at Iron Man, and that had a skill set to it. But there was nothing about that skill that was transferrable.

Patty:                           11:54                Right.

Andy:                           11:55                So I had to learn a whole new set of skills, and that, clearly, is going to, and was, and did take some time.

Mike:                            12:02                Are there some skills that your work as an athlete translated over?

Andy:                           12:07                Just discipline, preparation. All the basic stuff. My job, is a job where you need to be prepared, and whether it be communicating over the course of a day or whether it be interviewing, you need to go, and I try not to over-prepare for interviews, because I find that you get some of your best stuff by letting the conversation go where it goes. You probably find the same thing.

Mike:                            12:31                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           12:34                But I do find that being under-prepared in the communicating part of my job, the presenting part of my job, is a real danger. So I over-prepare for it. I know exactly what I’m going to do, and when, and why. I realize that if I have to use notes, I’m under-prepared.

Mike:                            12:53                As you started to interview people and you started to formulate types of questions that were important to you, that you were really drilling down on, what did you begin focusing on originally, when it came to the athletes? What were the big questions you had that you were curious about, what makes them different, than me?

Andy:                           13:12                It would just be questions about the weaknesses that I had going into racing. Why? I was trying to drill and trying to look at why is this person not afraid of a negative result? How do they go and they take these risks? Because, I could never take that risk. What if I didn’t work out well? Why’d they take off in that big way, because they could’ve, but they didn’t. They defined the race but I would have taken off in that way because that could have meant that I would have finished twenty fifth rather than eighth.

Mike:                            13:38                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           13:39                So I was just trying to work out how to get my head around this feel that I was taking into races about losing. I didn’t want to lose.

Mike:                            13:47                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           13:48                So really, I sort of cast my mind back, which sometimes it is a little easier to do, than it was at the time, my psychology was I was more about not losing than I was winning. And that doesn’t help you win. It helps you not lose. And so that was why got stuck around that. That’s not losing, it’s not winning, it’s being in the middle somewhere.

Mike:                            14:10                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Patty:                           14:12                It’s kind of just keeping your head above the water.

Andy:                           14:15                Yeah. That’s exactly what it is. And if you looked at my Tri-ing schedules, there wasn’t a lot of experimentation taking place in the Tri-ing. Everything sort of locked in.

Mike:                            14:24                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           14:25                Because I wasn’t really willing to go backwards and I think the problem with not being willing to bend backwards is sometimes you have to risk going backwards to get forward. And I just couldn’t get my head around it. So my questions would really lean to the issues that I wanted to solve, I mean, in terms of my own personal psychology, but then more broadly into the beliefs, what are the beliefs that these people have. I learnt early that I needed some development belief profile of every interview that I took.

Mike:                            14:58                And what is that?

Andy:                           15:00                It’s what would this person have to believe to be achieving these results.

Patty:                           15:04                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           15:08                Because if you’re going to have beliefs, it may be one of the ways of thinking about a person’s psychology is that the beliefs are at the center of their psychology so that’s a good place to start when trying to understand the individual.

Mike:                            15:17                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           15:18                And I knew also intuitively at the time that the pursuit of the interview was to find the uniqueness of the individual. I think a lot of people are prone to a study of my performance is what are the common threads and I don’t think it’s the right question.

Mike:                            15:34                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           15:34                The right question in the interview is so well if this person is producing a unique result, what is unique about them in terms of their psychology. Now I can’t go and study their cells or their physiology or [inaudible 00:15:45] make a study of their method or their psychology and so I was trying to work out, as best as I could as a young person, how they’re different.

Mike:                            15:56                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           15:57                In that regard.

Mike:                            15:59                Do you, during this process look at academia, research that is out there about psychology? Was that useful to you?

Andy:                           16:08                I still today, don’t read anyone else’s stuff.

Mike:                            16:12                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           16:12                Sometimes listen to a podcast or whatever, but I attempt to listen to podcasts that aren’t related to my field. I don’t know, and sometimes I thought maybe that’s a weakness. I am just not interested. I don’t believe that if you’re going to come up with a new way of looking at something, you probably don’t want to listen to a whole heap of other stuff on it. It just conditions you in the same way they think. One of the great advantages I think not that I unconsciously received, more recently academic accolades or whatever, from my association different universities, but in the early days I wasn’t educated and I went out to study and just try and work out what is … why is this person successful because I wanted to learn for me.

Mike:                            16:56                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           16:58                And that, without that academic training, I now knew, gave me a very different way of looking at the world.

Patty:                           17:03                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           17:06                And so I haven’t really spend a lot of time studying other people’s stuff. I learn to go interview them.

Mike:                            17:11                Yeah. I think it served you well that you came in with a unique … you didn’t have any sort of this is the way you research, this is the way that you look at psychology. You came in kind of fresh, what can I learn about this person?

Andy:                           17:24                Yeah, any maybe that probably clearly got some downsides as well.

Mike:                            17:27                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           17:27                But it is what I decided to do and I do learn from others, right. You can tell from all the research interviews that it is not an absence of desire for collaboration but what I don’t want to do is I don’t want to approach the problem in the same way everyone else has. It’s very hard. Well I learnt very early from research people who I interviewed, it is very hard to break from what someone else has taught you already.

Mike:                            17:55                I am really curious now about as you go in to meet different people, and you’re doing a lot of prep work, you’re doing a lot of research, you have certain kinds of questions you want to ask, but then you said about their belief, that you really want to understand their belief system. Can you draw that out a little bit for us?

Andy:                           18:15                Yeah. There’s a question that I think is probably the most simple profiling question which is what would they have to believe to do that. If we look at a group of people who are acting in a certain way, we could say, what would they have to believe for them to be acting in that way? And so we can work by looking at this bunch of behavior back to the beliefs that they must have to be doing it.

Mike:                            18:35                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           18:35                What would they have to believe to be stealing from that shop. So we can work from a behavior back to a belief and so what I wanted to do is to then interact in an interview with that person so what would they have to believe to be saying that. What would I have to believe to be saying what I am saying right now?

Mike:                            18:49                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           18:50                What would I have to believe in to even be conducting this conversation? And so I think what I wanted to do is, to then to be able to describe what that person believes by re-asking that question over and over again.

Mike:                            19:04                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           19:07                It’s an inaccurate size because no bad way of trying to understand a person’s psychology. What would they have to believe to live in this time of day. What would they have to believe to be exercising out in this day. It gives you a sense as to what they believe. And so you can build a belief set, and that then gives you then a comparison point between individuals. When you’ve got that profile, that profile [crosstalk 00:19:27]

Mike:                            19:27                That’s fascinating.

Patty:                           19:28                Yeah. That’s interesting. I’ve never heard anything like that.

Mike:                            19:30                Yeah. Can you give an example of a high performer in athletics and something maybe they believe in themselves. Somebody who’s getting in the top five of an area?

Andy:                           19:41                Well for instance I’ll sort of go to sort of a different sporting context for you. Tommy Caldwell is a guy that recently climbed The Dawn Wall in Yosemite in rock climbing. It wasn’t the guy that free solo.

Mike:                            19:55                Okay

Andy:                           19:56                Alex Hannold. But The Dawn Wall well is a big wide 2,000 foot [crosstalk 00:20:00]

Mike:                            20:00                It’s amazing.

Andy:                           20:01                And Tommy Caldwell prefers to climb the harder side. So you free solo the easy side although whatever [crosstalk 00:20:12]

Mike:                            20:11                Well we call it easy.

Andy:                           20:13                Yeah. The easy side if you have unlimited time, it’s the easy side. But this took him many days to get up and they effectively camped on this side of the rock face and every sort of pitch that they had to climb, has a very high degree of difficulty so at multiple attempts but obviously they have rugged, because if you make a mistake from that and erupts on that, you get only one attempt.

Mike:                            20:37                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           20:39                Anyway. So it’s a 10 year project. [crosstalk 00:20:43] year project. What would you have to believe to be willing to take [inaudible 00:20:46] 10 years. What would you have to believe? And to live on the side of a rock face, to conduct that sort of thing, what would you have to believe to be willing to do that. I had to go up there and map every single one of those pitches which might take two or three hours. You had to map each one. Where I’m left and I’m glad you asked that question, Tommy, psychology is much more like a scientist than a sports person. The little detail he has to go to, he knows where his hand needs to be put, where each foot needs to be put in each one of those pitches. You have to believe in attention to detail. He has to believe little things matter. [crosstalk 00:21:30] so you slowly start to understand what it is the mind of a great rock climber. You’re not trying to over complicate it either, you’re trying to keep it nice and simple.

Andy:                           21:42                That’s the way you go about. You find simple things that you believe, oh I can win. [crosstalk 00:21:51] Breathtakingly insightful. What we’re trying to get at what are the beliefs that are driving behavior and what’s the behavior that’s driving the result.

Mike:                            22:00                Yeah. That is fascinating and just your level of wanting to understand that detail in researching that. So as you begin to do this, I am curious about reactions from your friends, colleagues, partners, that were what are you doing Andy. You’re researching high performance, because you’re going all in. You’re wanting to understand all these different details, behaviors. I am kind of curious about as you were starting out, reactions you got from others.

Andy:                           22:30                I didn’t spend a lot of time publicizing it, for a start. It’s quite a solitary pursuit particularly initially and so there wasn’t a hell of a lot of me going, just put out the high performance research now, here’s my business card. But my close friends, I always had a little bit of a psychological bend to everything I do. I the sense I guess like maybe a lawyer who’s 50 can work out. Yeah, when I was a kid I used to think like a lawyer a little bit. Maybe the good ones. Not that I want to be friends with that individual but I’d say there was always a bit of a psychological interest in what I think. I would always think why a person would do that?

Andy:                           23:16                That was always in me. Probably genetic reasons, god knows, so I don’t think they’ve been surprised that I was interested in psychology because of the questions and relationship I used to form. But virtually disappeared for a while going off on research and building a business and then came back and bringing it into say why a local environment whereas to sport was quite surprising and I was wow, I can see me doing this properly.

Mike:                            23:51                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           23:53                And I just think there was curiosity more than anything. It was probably a little bit of they were happy that there was something that I was passionate about. What are you learning? What’s coming out of all this? Because the numbers were stacking up in terms of research numbers and so probably a bit of curiosity and bit of desire to try and work out how you … because most people I interacted with, they like sport as an effect of my results.

Mike:                            24:19                Mm-hmm (affirmative). As you started to expand your research and interviewing all these top performers and all these type of fields, did you focus on categories like I want to zone in on this category and then this category or you’re just open to just high performers?

Andy:                           24:35                A bit of both. There were trips that I took, the way they were structured was obviously take research trips so there would be a certain amount of work on communicating and there’s a two week research trip and then there’s this a certain amount of work in a two week research trip and still today I probably because now I’m doing a lot of travel. Already I attempt to do my big research block so I’m doing six months research block.

Mike:                            24:56                Oh wow.

Andy:                           24:56                And then I’ll be back at work and because that works better because I can take my family with me and mind you, we took a six month sabbatical where we did a 100 or so, interviews.

Mike:                            25:08                Oh wow.

Andy:                           25:10                Two years ago and I took the kids with me.

Mike:                            25:11                That’s great.

Andy:                           25:12                [inaudible 00:25:12] is 15 and [inaudible 00:25:13] is eight interestingly.

Mike:                            25:14                Really?

Andy:                           25:14                Yes.

Mike:                            25:15                That’s cool.

Andy:                           25:16                So I introduced them to the world. And so I think the way it was intended to work you need to do sort of blocks of research and that can mean you just focus on the research itself. And some of those blocks as I say, that’s to do with interviews from a range of different fields just because you need to make an interview line out with my diary and their diary has to [crosstalk 00:25:38] and therefore Syc we’re only going to do sports people then it’s really hard so sometimes you’ll have a bunch of people but I have done over the years okay an escape from captivity. That’s my brief.

Mike:                            25:53                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           25:53                And so I mean I had to break out of maximum security prison, because I just wanted to understand how do you really get innovative when it really matters and so I had people who broke out of … There’s an organization in Columbia called FARC which used to capture people hiding in a jungle. Well how do you get a person out of that.

Mike:                            26:12                Wow. That’s areas I would not even think.

Patty:                           26:14                Yeah. No.

Mike:                            26:14                I wouldn’t even think about that.

Andy:                           26:17                Well that’s high performance right?

Mike:                            26:19                Yeah.

Patty:                           26:19                Yeah.

Andy:                           26:21                How do you get yourself out of a bond.

Mike:                            26:22                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           26:25                Because what are you going to find yourself in if you go out to something big enough? You’re going to find yourself in a bond. How do you get yourself out of a bond. The next question we ask is to tame, [inaudible 00:26:33] whose best in getting out of a bond in the world?

Mike:                            26:36                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           26:37                And that’s where you land.

Mike:                            26:38                Interesting.

Patty:                           26:39                People who break out of maximum security prisons.

Mike:                            26:41                Yeah. [crosstalk 00:26:43] I would never go there. That’s so fascinating you went there. In my mind I’m not thinking –

Patty:                           26:48                High performance. [crosstalk 00:26:49]

Mike:                            26:49                I’m not even thinking prison breaks. Or what’s happening in Columbia, it’s so fascinating that you actually went there. That’s so cool.

Patty:                           26:57                That’s very cool.

Mike:                            26:58                That you’re curious and actually do the research.

Andy:                           27:01                Yeah, and that’s the way we tend to operate. We have a wide definition of what high performance might be, because I think it is, although it’s not traditional high performance, there’s no rule in ranking and breaking out of captivity. It still is a pretty unbelievable human act to be able to accomplish and so we define that as high performance and then you try and stack a few up and see if you can learn something from it.

Patty:                           27:26                You worked with a lot of different people so, leaders, activists, athletes, scientists and you’ve studied a lot of people, people who break out of maximum security prisons. I am curious about what some of your stories with these high performers are, if you have very memorable ones.

Andy:                           27:44                There are stories that are memorable for different reasons. I think sometimes the story or the experience is memorable because you’re in a different place.

Patty:                           27:54                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           27:57                Probably one of the most impactful 10 days or two weeks of my life was, interviewing a bunch of the existing Samurai warriors.

Patty:                           28:05                Wow.

Andy:                           28:06                So I often know this when I’m occasionally in communicating you want to make sure that it’s a story that’s sort of entertaining and it’s a flats bar or whatever and you want to make sure there’s something in the middle of all that. Little creative bits of events. [inaudible 00:28:22] going to those Japanese interesting stories a bit because I just found that those guys, they had such a clear way of thinking and it’s actually different [crosstalk 00:28:33]

Patty:                           28:33                Right.

Andy:                           28:33                Experience, the experiences themselves to sort of work their way into stories and there’s a bunch. There’s one guy [inaudible 00:28:46] Sensei who, every time I got distracted in the interview, he would punch me in the face [crosstalk 00:28:52] and that doesn’t happen a lot in life where you lose focus and somebody punches you in the face.

Patty:                           29:01                Yeah.

Andy:                           29:03                It’s memorable for me. There’s a bunch of those different things and sometimes it’s much more simple. The first person that ever said to me you need to study human uniqueness was this philosopher, he’s sort of 83 years of age, he’s wearing one of those cravats, those scarfs that came out of the twenties, and I remember I was trying to get to the camera and turn the camera because he’s already talking and he said I know what you do, and I said well I do, and he said you study human uniqueness, don’t you, and interestingly I do but I never actually articulated that.

Mike:                            29:36                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           29:38                There’s just little bits and pieces that for me, had made a difference and I think there’s stories that I remember the ones that have shaped me because I’ve gone through this since I was 22, 23 years of age.

Patty:                           29:52                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           29:52                There’s been a huge part of this research that has helped me to learn.

Mike:                            29:59                What do you say to people that are just like give me, and you’ve been doing a lot of research, just give me the top-line stuff. Just tell me what does it take to be a high performer.

Andy:                           30:09                Talent. Be good a son. I must do a freaking tattoo on my back. [crosstalk 00:30:18] something. It’s true and everyone loves the stories of the yoga coming and whatever, it helps to have a bit of talent and what I mean by talent, is a pre-existing ability to do what you’re about to do and if you’re a basketballer, you better be tall. There’re examples of ones who are, but you’re probably better of being tall. You assume you’re better off having large feet and so it starts there and then the next is, have you go an interest in this thing that your body could be probably good at or your mind could be good at. And it starts off boring doesn’t it, high performance. It is, can you do at high level, based on your pre-existing gene structure and psychological structure, are you built for this.

Andy:                           31:06                Do you have an interest in it and then it starts getting interesting. It starts getting then beyond that start broader, stop looking at your method. Stop looking at the sequence of which you do things. What’s going on in your mind. That’s where you start. I think all this stuff that we can then control, what is your emotional intensity of that I guess.

Patty:                           31:30                Would you say those concepts are mandatory like have a pre-existing talent and then having an interest in it or do you think someone can still succeed without one of those?

Andy:                           31:40                It depends on what he defines success. I think if you’re saying to me have I ever me a person who is the best in the world who wasn’t genetically made or wasn’t interested in, I go no.

Patty:                           31:55                I guess achieve high performance.

Andy:                           31:56                Yeah. That’s an extent unfortunately the way we define high performance is probably best in the world or something. And so or at least in that pocket of people but if I then say well what is a good way of defining high performance for a person individually, I think what a person needs to do, is to answer the question what do you want. Because I then think once a person understands when they say that’s what I want, that is what high performance is for them, in my opinion.

Mike:                            32:22                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           32:22                You forget about comparisons. My job is to use comparisons to go and work out whose worth interviewing and we have to define that in a very narrow range otherwise I’m not worth listening to as a researcher. But in terms of a personal definition of high performance what do you want, and then we have to come up strengthening and say okay, well who do you need to become to be the sort of person that can create that. And I think that’s the simple process that happens with high performance. In that way there’s no limit and whether that person says well I want to be the best Iron Man in Australia, whether that person is actually good enough talent-wise, that will happen down stream.

Mike:                            33:00                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           33:02                But let’s decide what you want first. I think that is probably a generic definition of high performance [inaudible 00:33:08] something. Your more personal definition is just decide what you want and that’s now high performance feel and I think anyone man, using a better method, is well researched and well sequenced and all that stuff, can probably get better than what they are today notwithstanding some really bad luck or through the generation their body or mind.

Patty:                           33:30                I like that. So it’s what do you want and what do you believe?

Andy:                           33:35                What do you want. What do you need to believe to get, and what’s your method.

Patty:                           33:37                Yeah.

Andy:                           33:37                What’s your sequence and how’re you going about this. Step one. Step two. Yeah, I think some people believe, we’ve seen a bunch of stuff happening this last year that’s been pretty extraordinary, the breaking of the 2-Hour Marathon. There’s been a bunch of stuff that’s been really interesting and I think people look back and I think it’s that they improvise their way there. People are improvising their ways to those goals. It’s method.

Mike:                            34:03                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           34:05                It’s well thought through first, second, third, and all you’ve been doing in these programs is we’re just working out, we’re just getting an aura, do this then do this.

Mike:                            34:14                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           34:15                It’s going to be fine. Just follow the formula. There’s a formula to this and any of you can go on any of these interviews, I mean you can go on an interview the team of people that have been part of breaking the 2-Hour Marathon, you’re going to find method, formula. You’re going to find this is what they did first and what they did second and that’s what my job is in the method part of my research. What did you do first, what did you did second. And as long as we follow the order, and as long as what we will tend to see an uptake, all other things being equal, they tend so see an uptake in what people want which is the result.

Mike:                            34:47                I think what I love about your sessions and they’re fascinating because they come in and you’re going to have eight hours with Andy right and there is not a part Wayne, it’s Andy talking with you.

Patty:                           34:59                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike:                            35:01                Asking really deep questions to get you thinking and then you’ll read on the board a little bit but I found the entire eight hours totally engaging, totally interesting and I’m really curious about because you ask really good questions and I guess that’s part of being a really good researcher.

Andy:                           35:18                Yeah, that’s also part of having the time to think about what questions should I ask, I’m not out there inventing it [crosstalk 00:35:24] What question should I ask next. I thought of that.

Mike:                            35:30                Yeah.

Andy:                           35:30                And I hope they are good questions and I also hope people aren’t bored. I’m pretty sure there’s a percentage of people that are bored but I think very carefully. I’m doing the best I possibly can to create the chance of a person getting a better method or observation of inside belief or whatever it is that might improve their chances when it comes to high performance and I take that role very seriously.

Mike:                            36:01                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           36:04                I love it and I feel I’ve got a job to do. I hope that is the case but if it is, it’s not by accident.

Patty:                           36:13                You mentioned you have two children. Is there any specific way you’re cultivating high performance with them?

Andy:                           36:22                I’m not as interested in high performance with those kids as I am trying to just make them really good kids.

Patty:                           36:28                Right

Andy:                           36:30                I think to an extent, you sort of cast off high performance in people. I think it tends to run on its own and that horse bolts, so I’m more interested in trying to give them what I perceive to be a really balanced, honorable childhood and both of my kids, when I took them away on that sabbatical, I told them at the start of the sabbatical that their job in the six months is to use these interviews to develop a code. Now code, depending on how you define it, is a set of beliefs that you want to live.

Mike:                            37:07                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           37:09                We did all those interviews and they were at the end of the interview write the interview up like I did and then I’d say what would that person have to believe? Do you like their beliefs?

Mike:                            37:17                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           37:19                At the end we’re in New York actually and I said now is your chance, you’ve got two weeks to write a code and they’ve got a little book that they all have and this was a number of years ago and they’ve got a little book of all the insights that have come out of their own sort of thinking on it. [crosstalk 00:37:40]

Mike:                            37:40                Oh wow

Andy:                           37:40                And then at the back of their book is their code.

Patty:                           37:43                That’s so cool.

Mike:                            37:44                How cool is that?

Patty:                           37:45                That’s so cool.

Andy:                           37:47                I’m no expert in this although one of the amounts of research that I did because I just wanted to be a better dad, I went to interview some of the top child psychologists. [crosstalk 00:37:55]

Mike:                            37:55                Of course you did Andy.

Andy:                           37:59                I did and said just give me the hint [crosstalk 00:38:00] if you want healthy kids what are we [inaudible 00:38:03] and there’re a couple of things that came out of that, and particularly with little girls where I live there’s two problems that if you end up with problems that you may face, drugs –

Patty:                           38:17                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           38:18                And anorexia. You can end up with violence but when you’re in a situation where there’s great risk of violence where we live and so I’m trying to protect those kids from those two problems. Now how do you protect a kid from getting into drugs or getting into a situation like this sort of more eating disorders or whatever, al that stuff. The answer to that is a strong identity or a passion for something because a passion for something, they’re too busy to take drugs. A strong identity, they know when to say no.

Patty:                           38:50                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           38:51                So how do you build a strong identity? You have a set of beliefs that you can practice and focus on and you decide on who you want to be. That’s a code.

Mike:                            38:57                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           38:59                All they’re trying to do as parents is to expose them to different things so that if they find their passion, they can find their passion.

Patty:                           39:03                Right

Mike:                            39:05                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           39:05                A guy can’t control if they have a passion for something, you kind of go, I tell you what, if you don’t get passionate about that, I give you six smacks, tomorrow you get the wooden spoon or whatever it is the old school method of consequence, identifier of the dime.

Mike:                            39:17                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           39:18                But when it comes to their code, their identity, you can’t, as a parent, have an influence over that like a church has an influence over a person.

Mike:                            39:28                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Patty:                           39:28                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andy:                           39:28                They’re offering up beliefs and ask in practice people their beliefs so I just said I offer to them, here’s a set of beliefs over a sabbatical, do you want them? Write them down, is this something you want. I’m no expert on this.

Mike:                            39:42                I love the fact that you just dug in. How can I be a better dad, going to study this.

Patty:                           39:51                Yeah.

Mike:                            39:52                You just went all in. [crosstalk 00:39:52]

Patty:                           39:52                And you interviewed a child psychologist.

Mike:                            39:52                That is so cool.

Patty:                           39:52                Yeah. Very cool.

Andy:                           39:54                That’s more driven from fear of being a shoddy one.

Mike:                            39:56                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Patty:                           39:57                Great.

Andy:                           39:58                I don’t know really the vision of what a good dad looks like but I pretty much know what a shoddy one looks like. I don’t want to be that one.

Mike:                            40:03                Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Going back to your questions. So I remember coming into one of the very first sessions, the very first hours with you and you had people raise their hands and you’re asking a question around how do you help build up a company in less than a year and then you asked a question around who has been in the company more than whatever, four or five years and I remember raising my hand up and then you called us all out saying that many of us have been institutionalized. And I remember just getting upset and going, he’s right. I was realizing yes, there’s bureaucracy that I’ve kind of been part of. And I also haven’t pushed back on certain things that I did when I was new to the company. So immediately, just that question, that was to me, kind of insulting.

Mike:                            40:58                It was the right question because it totally resonated with me and probably got back, I told Patty, I’m like, I got to tell you this question that Andy said, because it was a very powerful question, statement about who I am at Experian and how I’m doing. Because I like to think of myself as a high performer, I’m curious, I’m trying to be innovative and greedy.

Patty:                           41:23                Right.

Mike:                            41:23                But then you’re right. If you’re with a company for a certain period of time, you start to accept things and that becomes a problem.

Andy:                           41:32                I just think, if you look at the mind, of anyone who hangs out with a lot of people, day in and day out, call it institutionalization, call it conditioning, give it a name, in corporate life I want to be jargon for that reason, I want to call it a name that has a negative connotation, institutionalization, but if you can imagine that our job in that room is to create changes in behavior, now what institutionalization does, it creates consistency in behavior or any other type of conditioning that takes place, it’s consistency of behavior. So if I’m to have a pattern interrupt of a person’s performance so they went into that room and a certain trajectory and they could come out with a different trajectory, I hopefully need to allow the person to see that maybe that they’ve become too conditioned in their method. And that’s my reason for bringing that out. And it is something that I do concern for you guys in large organizations, large enterprises, that over time, you don’t realize what’s happening to your mind.

Andy:                           42:39                You could do it if you’re hanging in a school or a university for any period of time. It’s just a lot of people stay in companies for 10 years for any [inaudible 00:42:47] what five, 40 years. This is something to have on your mind, because that runs on its own and the idea around bringing that to your mind is you can have pretty clear defenses as long as you’re aware that it can happen. No, there’s a logic for that and there’s a logic for doing it early in the pace so that you can get a chance to hold a second shift [crosstalk 00:43:12]


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