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Cracking the leadership code with Alain Hunkins
Episode 3121st November 2020 • Success Inspired • Vit Müller
00:00:00 00:54:12

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My guest today is a leadership speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach Alain Hunkins he leads and designs seminars on numerous leadership topics, including team-building conflict management, communication, peak performance, innovation, engagement, and change.

We talk about four essential needs that people need to have satisfied for them to perform at their best, what a road map to leadership looks like, effective leadership style and lot more. 

His book 'Cracking the leadership code' is available on Amazon


  • (00:00:16) - Introduction of my guest today
  • (00:01:48) - Alain's journey towards leadership coaching
  • (00:04:16) - Roadmap to leadership, Alain talks about his book 'Navigating trust'
  • (00:05:56) - Four essential needs that people need to have satisfied for them to perform at their best.
  • (00:15:49) - Authoritative, directive leadership on it's own does no longer work
  • (00:24:32) - Stop trying to be the in-charge superhero, promote collaboration instead
  • (00:27:20) - Get outside of your comfort zone, conquer your fears and see new world of possibilities
  • (00:30:41) - Who were your role models when you were growing up?
  • (00:36:11) - It's all about, what's important, you have to align your values to the behaviors you have in your life.
  • (00:40:43) - Alains success in his coaching business and impact on his lifestyle it had
  • (00:43:01) - More that we can treat people at every age with respect. The more respectful a world we're going to create
  • (00:46:37) - Dealing with power struggle - example of when kids throw a tantrum
  • (00:49:09) - Top tip from Alain on how to be a better leader

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[00:00:04] Welcome to the success inspired podcast, a business and personal development podcast to help you accomplish more in life and realize your true potential. And now here is your host Vit Muller

Introduction of my guest today  

Vit Muller: [00:00:16] Hello, everybody. Vit here from Success Inspired Podast. My guest today is a leadership speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. Over his 20 year career. He's led over 2000 groups in 25 countries and his client include Walmart, Pfizer, Citi group, General Electric, State Farm insurance, IBM, General Motors and Microsoft. He has led and designed seminars on numerous leadership topics, including team-building conflict management, communication, peak performance, innovation, engagement, and change.

[00:00:52] Please. Welcome to the show Alain Hankins. 

Alain Hunkins: [00:01:00] Thank you so much of it for the introduction. And I am really excited for our conversation today. Thanks for having me. 

Vit Muller: [00:01:07] You're welcome. Great to have you in the show. And since I've already introduced to a little bit, what's something that not many people know about you. 

Alain Hunkins: [00:01:14] Uh, most people don't know that I come from a family of musicians. Uh, my father's entire family. He's one of five siblings. They're all professional musicians as were both of his parents. And I played the violin starting at the age of five really seriously all the way until I was 18. In factmy 13th birthday, I performed in Carnegie hall with a youth symphony orchestra of New York.

[00:01:35] So little known fact about me. 

Vit Muller: [00:01:38] That's a fairly famous place. I've heard about it. 

Alain Hunkins: [00:01:40] Carnegie hall, you know, they, they say, you know, the joke about how do you get to Carnegie hall practice, practice, practice. 

Alain's journey towards leadership coaching

Vit Muller: [00:01:48] Now let's talk about your expertise. You you're a leader, you coach leadership. Yeah. What were the first steps, um, that, you know, in your career that, that led to be, you know, a leadership coach?

Alain Hunkins: [00:02:02] Yeah. So for me, I've always been really interested in people specifically. Why do people do what they do? And if you think about it, doesn't matter what industry you work in as a leader, you're first and foremost, you're in the people business. So I think that was the connection there. Right? Cause it's all about working with people.

[00:02:20] You know, if we want to get anything done, that takes leadership. With, with yourself and with others. So I studied lots of different things. When I was in undergrad in college, I was a dabbler and I studied psychology. I studied theater, I studied Buddhist scripture. And then I actually went on and trained as a professional actor, which in some ways has a lot to do with motivation and behavior, because it's an actor.

[00:02:44] You are putting yourself under the microscope and trying to inhabit other characters that you play in. Drama. And so from there, I got involved doing teaching, using arts in education, leadership, training, and conflict resolution facilitation in junior high schools and high schools in New York city. And from there, a friend of mine said, have you ever thought about working in businesses?

[00:03:06] No. He said maybe you should check it out. To make a long story short. I ended up moving into doing corporate training and involved with management and leadership training. And I found that working with adults and doing this kind of work felt like the sweet spot. And that was in 1997. So fast forward 23 years, I've worked with over 2000 groups in 25 countries.

[00:03:27] And the great thing about working with so many groups is you start to see patterns emerge. So a big part of my focus and my. Thinking on leadership, isn't just theoretical it. Isn't just like I sit around and write books in my office. It's actually having been out in the field, working with training, coaching, and especially listening to leaders and the stories that they tell specifically what they struggle with, because it's a lot harder than it looks.

Vit Muller: [00:03:54] So in a way, it's like what you said at the beginning. We, you know, you practice violin, it's, you know, it's, you're honing on that, that, that instrument you keep on practicing and you get to Carnegie hall in the same way you've been, uh, you know, you've been going around the world, talking to these different business groups and honing on your, on your skills.

Alain Hunkins: [00:04:13] Yeah. Yeah, very much. Yeah. 

Roadmap to leadership, Alain talks about his book 'Cracking the leadership code' 

Vit Muller: [00:04:16] That your, your new book, um, 'Navigating trust' promises to be a roadmap for leadership. Can you unpack for the listeners? What is that roadmap look like? 

Alain Hunkins: [00:04:25] Sure. Well, then the needs to be clear, the new book is called 'Cracking the leadership code. I had another ebook called navigating trust, but no worries about that.

[00:04:32] So the book is called cracking. The leadership code. The subtitle are the three secrets to building strong, wrong leaders. And yet it is designed to be a roadmap to help any aspiring leader to basically shorten their leadership learning curve. Again. Yeah, you can spend your whole life practicing. And getting somewhere, but wouldn't it be helpful to have a guide to accelerate that, that success progress?

[00:04:56] So the three secrets of the subtitle are connection, communication and collaboration. And the book is designed to introduce these main three principles, but then to dive deep into the good, the bad and the ugly as to. You know, what's going to trip you up as a leader. What are the pitfalls you will fall into?

[00:05:16] And then how do you get out of those and what are the specific practical tools that you can start to apply or to use the word we used before to practice, to increase your leadership skill? Because leadership is a skill that is developed over time. Some people ask, you know, are leaders born or are they made?

[00:05:36] Well, last time I checked, every leader was born. No one was hatched. However, once you're born, that is just the ticket to entry. And some people might have certain natural giftings and abilities, but if you really want to develop yourself, you're going to need to practice and strengthen these core connection, communication and collaboration skills.

Four essential needs that people need to have satisfied for them to perform at their best. 

Vit Muller: [00:05:56] Now talking to more specifically, what are some of those, um, collaboration skills. 

Alain Hunkins: [00:06:01] Okay. Let's talk about collaboration. Sure. So if we look at getting other people to work well, both with you and with each other, one of the key elements that leaders need to do, and I call it becoming a motivational choice architect.

[00:06:18] Now what I mean by that is if you try to make someone else be motivated, you're basically resorting to the old style command & control. Like you're going to be motivated. You're going to meet and learn to like, no, I'm not like don't, you know, that doesn't work. So instead it's almost like we've got to use some aikedo , right?

[00:06:35] It's like, like martial arts, you know how you work with the energy that's there already. And so instead, what you want to do is think about how can you design an environment where people can perform at their best. And what I found in my research is that there are four essential needs that people need to have satisfied for them to perform at their best.

[00:06:57] And I'll just walk through these in turn. So the first need that we have is safety. So people need to feel safe. They have to feel physically safe. You also have to feel psychologically safe because when people feel safe, it actually allows their central nervous system to relax. And it then frees up their executive functioning of their prefrontal cortex.

[00:07:17] And they're not all in that fight flight freeze state, and they can relax and focus on doing the higher level cognitive creative problem solving they're trying to do in their job. So safety is the first big need. Second big need is energy. I mean, you know, this from your work is that people do better when they're energized.

[00:07:36] So an easy example, anyone who's worked in an office or in a business knows what it's like to sit through a two or two and a half or three hour meeting that hasn't taken a break and, you know, you're just going and going. And you're just like, I can't co you literally cannot focus because physiologically we are not wired to go that long with high level thinking.

[00:07:57] So, one thing to consider, I call it use the 90 minute rule. We basically have a 90 minute threshold, and then we're done. So as a leader, design breaks put breaks into your time. I know that sounds so common sense, but design breaks into things so that people can refresh. Now that's a shift. A lot of people think what overtaking a break.

[00:08:16] We're wasting time. It's like, no, not taking a break is actually way less effective. So what you think you're gaining in efficiency, you're actually losing an effectiveness. So we've covered the first two. We've talked about safety. We've talked about energy. Third thing is people want a sense of ownership over their work.

[00:08:34] They want freedom and autonomy. To put their own take on it. So yes, you want to define the outcome. They're trying to get to and frame the project, but don't micromanage every little step of the way. Give them some latitude to express themselves because when people do that and they take ownership, they are so much more engaged in the process.

[00:08:56]So that's third it's ownership. And the last one is getting people a strong sense of purpose. The fact is there are certain things that will get you out of bed getting started because it matters to you. People want to feel like what they're doing is bigger than just a job or a paycheck or a transaction, right.

[00:09:13] They want to feel like what they're doing really matters. I'll give you a quick example. So I was working with a medical device company in Minnesota a few years ago, and this company makes very high tech devices to help, um, release time release medication. That's a machine that's internal for recovering cancer patients.

[00:09:33] So I was there to work at the corporate office, but. They said, you know, we have our factory right across the street. Would you like to go and take a factory tour before we get started? I said, I'd love to. So I took this tour of the factory and I saw someone working there. Her name was April and she was doing some work that was this amazing combination of high tech, but also high skilled craftsmanship.

[00:09:53] And so she was working away at this little thing in this high-tech machines and she was taking a break and I came over to, I said, April, my name is Ella. I'm here for on a factory tour. Can I just ask you some questions about what you do. And so can you explain what exactly you're doing here? And I'm expecting her to explain how she's going to take this wire and it gets soldered.

[00:10:11] I mean, that's what I'm expecting her to say,

Vit Muller: [00:10:12] like a technical answer, 

Alain Hunkins: [00:10:13] a technical answer. And she says, well, I help save people's lives. What do you do? And I was like, Whoa, like she was, that's the big picture. That's the purpose. 

Vit Muller: [00:10:21] That's amazing.

Alain Hunkins: [00:10:22] And I found out that was no accident because what the company and he does is every quarter.

[00:10:27] So four times a year, they have an all company town hall where they invite patients who have used their products to come and speak to all the employees about what a difference their product has made in their lives. And so. April's clued in because she's hearing it directly from the end. So many of us feel so disconnected from the work that we do.

[00:10:48] So if we, as leaders can give people that sense of purpose and it can be anything, you could be sweeping floors somewhere, but you know what those floors need to get clean. Every role has a purpose. And as leaders, we have to remind people what that purpose is regularly and passionately. 

Vit Muller: [00:11:06] No, that's, uh, that's amazing.

[00:11:07] And that's so true for so many other businesses as well, like yeah. Right in fitness, good example too, right? I mean, that's, that's, that's where I'm from. We, you know, at the gym we do these regular challenges. And at the beginning, when we do an info night and we try to get a couple of people to share their story, On their past challenges that they have tried with us before to share it with the new people, but also share it in our staff and trainers there.

[00:11:34] And it really sort of helps us sync in that purpose. Like you said, like, what did that do for them? Like they've lost weight, they've increased fitness. They may be a parent parents. They've got kids now they've got more fitness. They...



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