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GREAT IDEAS: Start with Your People by Brian Dixon {Interview}

How a business coach's humbling experience led to better leadership and better relationships

“I’m the last person who should be writing this book because I don’t naturally love people. In my darkest depths I see people as a means to an end.” 
Brian Dixon, author Start with Your People

Improving work culture - start with yourself

“Brian puts projects over people”, “When you don’t have Brian’s attention it’s like you’re in a dark shadow”.

These were two of a number of negative responses (in amongst the positive ones) in an anonymous 360-degree feedback of business coach Brian Dixon, a former teacher and school founder.

The confronting results of the 360-degree assessment and the changes he made to the way he treated those around him will be published in a new book in September 2019: Start with Your People.

Main lessons from Brian on improving relationships
  • Sometimes you have to rip off the band-aid in order to move forward. The 360-degree feedback opened my awareness to how other people saw me. It’s hard to see how we come across to people. What a gift.
  • Type A, hard-driving people are focussed on results and projects. We think we’re inspiring and motivating. [However], it can be seen and heard as demanding and unappreciative.
  • I realised if I was to live at my highest level.. I needed to do some work on myself. And that began with learning how to put people first in my business. And, my business took off. 
  • I want to be an inspiring leader. I want my people to feel loved. But when I’m focused on the results, I forget the people. 
  • Your team will never be perfect, but they’re your team, and therefore they are your dream team. Just for one week, treat them as if they are the most talented in their field.
  • My argument is that if you treat them like high performers they will rise to the occasion. I know this from being a K-12 classroom teacher.
  • I always wanted to be one of those people who wrote thank you notes. I had a box of personalised notes, and for one year it sat on my bookshelf untouched. After the 360-degree assessment I realised people need appreciation. If I don’t say anything, they’re assuming the worst. I’m assuming the best, but they’re assuming the worst. Over six months I wrote over 200 thank you notes. The return on investment of time it took was exponentially worth it.
  • How I dealt with someone who bugged me. One day I bought a bunch of tulips and anonymously put them in her mailbox with a typed note “I hope you have a great day.” I now had a secret, and, I realised, I had agency. I had power to make someone’s day, even someone I didn’t like. Over time we became friends.  I benefited more than her by that act of kindness. 
  • I’ve read hundreds, maybe thousands, of business books over my career and it’s very rare that they talk about the home dynamic.  
  • We do not live two different lives, we live one life. What happens at work affects home, what happens at home affects work. Writing a book about people; it has to start with home. 
  • My wife doesn’t have to be my kryptonite, she can be my superpower. Your home team is your support. I’ve learned that the hard way; when I don’t include them, it leads to miscommunication.
  • I have kids aged 3, 6, 9. You could treat them as a liability, but what if [instead] you see them as your legacy? I say “Hey kids, I’ve got a big presentation tomorrow so if you could think of me tomorrow, that would mean the world.” They get excited to be included in my life. 

Brian's GREAT EIGHT, answers to our eight getting to know you questions:
  • Recommended book: The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran. What if you could have New Year four times a year? It teaches quarterly planning. 
  • If you could co-author a book with anyone in the world who would it be, and what’s the book title? [American life coach and TV host] Marie Forleo, she has a new book coming out “Everything if Figureoutable”. I think my book is the perfect complement to that message. Everything is figureoutable, when you start with your people. I don't know the title. Or, [author] Dr Brené Brown.
  • Best piece of advice you can share? I call it the one hour exchange. Go to bed earlier one hour and wake up one hour earlier. What you get is an hour of power. 
  • What's been your lowest moment, and how did you recover from it?  Reading the 360-degree assessment was a low moment. And, there was a time where two projects that I had put a lot into; in both of them, the client said, "You know what, we're going to do version 2, but we're not going to include you in it." And that feeling of... feeling left out of a project, especially because both projects were very successful... I didn't take it well.....Looking back at a couple of those moments, it was the beginning of the book. 
  • How do you relax?  As a high achiever it’s really hard. Two ways, I go on a really big run….and I’ve discovered float tanks. You can be lost in your thoughts. 
  • What’s a fun fact that’s not widely known about you? When I read books to my kids, I love to do all the voices. The big bad wolf, the little pigs. 
  • What do you think is the secret of success? Start with your people. Look at the people in your life right now, instead of dreaming about that client that might one day hire you, instead of focusing on the external, look at the people and serve them well. Ask your people "What can I do to make your day today?" 
  • What is your prediction for 2025?  People are going to become even more important. Manual labour will be outsourced [to robots] but human relationships will be more important than ever. 

Members of The Growth Faculty can hear or listen to the full interview with Brian Dixon as he describes how the 360 assessment hurt, but ultimately changed the way he related to people. Simply log in to On Demand and click here.  

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