Interview with Leadership Expert and Entrepreneur Gregg Ward
Author Gregg WardToday, I am bringing you an expert interview with the wonderful Gregg Ward. Gregg is a speaker, author, consultant, facilitator, trainer, executive coach, and CEO of The Gregg Ward Group - a professional consulting, training and coaching firm.

For over 25 years, his focus has been on respect and leadership, and on the powerful and measureable benefits that they bring to leaders and their organisations. He is a real industry thought leader who has more experience than most, and he brings this experience into his writing.

You may have heard of Gregg’s previous book, Bad Behavior, People Problems & Sticky Situations: A Toolbook for Managers and Team Leaders, but today he is here to talk about his new release, The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways to Influence Without Intimidation. As well as chatting about the book, Gregg will also give us some insight and advice into respectful, and effective leadership.

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce today's guest: Gregg Ward.

Hi Gregg, thanks so much for stopping by the Activia Training blog. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?

Thanks so much for this opportunity, it’s my pleasure. I’m an author, speaker, consultant, facilitator and executive coach on the topics of Leadership, Respect, Emotional intelligence and Executive Presence serving industry and government.

From what I gather, you’ve had a very interesting and varied career, how did you find yourself where you are today?

I must admit, even I’m a little surprised at the unexpected route my career – maybe I should say careers - have taken. I look back and sometimes I think I’ve lived three lives: the first was as a professional actor, scriptwriter, director and producer in New York City, and in the UK during the 1980’s and early 90’s. At the same time, I started using live, professional theatre as a training tool on complex issues for various organizations, including the New York City Police Department.

My second life was as a freelance correspondent, theatre and film critic on assignment for five years throughout Europe for various UK media, including Scotland on Sunday, The Independent, The Times of London and even for BBC Radio. I covered mostly the arts and culture beat. But, I did get the chance to go to Berlin in 1989 to cover the fall of the Berlin Wall where I recorded reactions from both East and West German Berliners. It was incredible. I still have a piece of the Wall.

Now, my latest life is what I do now, writing business books, speaking and facilitating leadership training.

Your upcoming book, The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways to Influence Without Intimidation is due for release later this month. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

The Respectful LeaderFirst, I should say it’s what you might call a “business fable,” and it’s a pretty quick read. You can read it through in about the time it takes to fly from London to Frankfurt. It’s about a new CEO in a fictional, yet realistic, mid-size manufacturing company who discovers that disrespectful behaviour by his leadership team is eating away at his company’s morale, productivity and profits. At first, he tries to command and bully them – but that approach completely backfires.

Then, as things are getting worse at work and at home, he starts taking the advice of a self-described “little old lady” named Grace, who works in the maintenance department. Grace brooks no disrespect from anyone and gives the CEO a tough tutoring on what it means to be a Respectful Leader.

Through trial and error, he eventually realizes that the only way he can turn around his company’s fortunes is to focus on changing his own disrespectful behaviour. That’s the fable part of the book. The second part of the book is about the concepts and practices found within Respectful Leadership.

What inspired you to write a business fable rather than a traditional non-fiction leadership book?

Most business leaders don’t have the time or willingness to pour through a lengthy how-to leadership book filled with data and complicated processes. They want something short, useful, and entirely reflective to their stressful reality. If it’s entertaining, that’s a plus. Business fables meet their needs really well. So, I made it my mission to write one that’s a quick read, practical, useful, and a good, believable story at the same time.

Are you working on any new projects at the moment or what’s next for you?

To be honest, although I’ve written other books, this is my first one that’s being brought out by a major publisher. John Wiley & Sons is the biggest business book publisher in the world and they have big expectations. So, I’m a little overwhelmed with everything I have to do to market The Respectful Leader effectively. There’s an old saying in publishing: “The really hard work starts when you finish writing the book.” I’m finding that’s totally true. Now, I am planning to write a follow up book called The Respectful Leader on Teamwork, but I won’t get started on that till next year.

Speaking of teamwork, what would you say is the secret to keeping a team motivated?

I believe that managers need to treat everyone on their team with respect. In my book and training programs I talk about what I call the Seven RespectfulDo’s and Five RespectfulDon’ts: these are the essential practices of Respectful Leadership every manager needs to engage in to motivate their teams. These include being courteous and friendly to everyone, getting your emotional ‘shift’ together, regularly acknowledging people for their talents, skills and efforts, giving them constructive feedback in private, apologizing for disrespect, and refusing to tolerate disrespect by anyone on the team.

You are the first leadership coach I have found who really focuses on respect - why is mutual respect so important between a manager and an employee?

Because when employees feel genuinely respected by their boss, they’re much more likely to work hard, stay loyal and go the extra mile when the going gets rough. They’re also going to be more respectful to others, including their bosses, colleagues and customers. I don’t know any manager who doesn’t want an employee like that. And, don’t forget, respect and trust go hand in hand. All the best teams have high levels of trust. So, mutual respect just makes really good business sense. That’s why it’s so important.

In your opinion, is leadership an innate skill, or something people can learn? Are some people simply natural born leaders?

Sure, there are some people who just seem to be naturally good leaders; but I honestly think good leadership skills can be learned by anyone, if they have a genuine desire to learn. There’s an old saying, “you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink.” If someone sincerely wants to learn to be a good leader, I can work with them and we’ll make progress very quickly.

But, if they’re only motivated by personal self-interest, or positioning themselves for promotion, or if they make excuses like not having enough time to learn, or they get defensive when getting feedback, then I would prefer not to work with them, because it’s just going to be a hard slog for everyone.

Being a good leader isn’t hard; but it does take intentionality, consistency and a willingness to examine yourself and your behaviours, and apologize for your mistakes if necessary – which it probably will be. If they’re up for doing that kind of work, then anyone can learn to be a good leader.

Gregg Ward presenting
What advice do you find yourself repeating over and over in regard to leadership?

“Get your shift together.” What I mean by that is, if you’re a leader, you can expect that all sorts of problems are going to be falling into your lap on a regular basis. And, the reality is, you’re going to have all sorts of shifting emotional reactions to these problems.

If you’re constantly flying off the handle or openly expressing negative reactions to problems, or maybe even cursing at, taking out your frustrations on or berating people publicly, you won’t be respected. People don’t like to work for leaders they don’t respect. So, you have to “get your shift together” before you react to problems. That means taking a deep breath, putting problems into proper perspective and choosing appropriate outlets for anger and frustration. That’s what I find myself repeating over and over to my clients.

How do you hope the field of leadership and management will change moving forward?

We’ve reached a point in business where the old command-and-control, carrot-and-stick management techniques just aren’t working anymore. Any employee who’s got some decent experience and skills wants to be able to put them to good use in a work environment that’s positive, respectful, empowering, and even fun. They also want to be able to make a difference not only for themselves and for their families, but in their jobs and in the world.

Leaders who don’t recognize this new reality are going to find themselves struggling, constantly managing conflict and turnover. I want leaders to start replacing command-and-control / carrot-and-stick management with Respectful Leadership.

And, all the research tells us that Respectful Leadership is actually good for the bottom line! Fortunately, I think a lot more leaders are starting to become aware of the power of Respectful Leadership. I just hope – with all the challenges we face in the world – that we can keep going in the right direction.

Finally, is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

All I know is that if you want to make a real, positive difference in the world then don’t let anyone tell you “you can’t do that.” Figure out what that specific difference is that you want to make, what you need to do to make it happen and who you need to help you. Sometimes you’ll have to be really creative, but mostly it’s all about perseverance and not giving up.

Well said! Thanks for stopping by, Gregg - it was lovely to have you here.

Gregg's book, The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways to Influence Without Intimidation is released on August 1, 2016, and is now available on Amazon, as well as other online booksellers. If you'd like to connect with Gregg, make sure to say hello on Twitter at @GreggWardGroup.