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Human Leadership Skills: Making The Common Sense, Common Practice

Two glasses-wearing men discuss human leadership skills on a podcast
Thomas Gelmi (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss how to make human leadership skills common practice

I think it was Stephen Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where I first became attached to the concept of common sense not always meaning common practice. The thought that just because something sounded obvious, didn't mean that everybody believed it or did it. I find myself, years on, still using it, and never more so than when I look at the essential, human skills required to be a strong, consistent, effective and successful leader today. Because on that topic we definitely still see a world where the common sense has yet to be universally practiced.

In my quest to help people have more fulfilling work lives, I've spoken to nearly 100 experts in the field of employee engagement, workplace culture and leadership on my podcast, Sticky From The Inside. And in a recent episode I spoke to Thomas Gelmi, an expert on leadership personality development, about how we bridge this gap between leaders who say that skills like empathy, authenticity, transparency and vulnerability are essential and needed, alongside technical and commercial skills, and those who consistently practice that. It made for an enlightening and engaging conversation, which you can listen to via the player below. And following on from that is a full transcript of our conversation, if you prefer to read about what was said.

So if you're like me and are frustrated by terms like "soft skills", which inherently seem to demote interpersonal skills to the 2nd division of useful leadership tools and behaviours, then listen, or read on.

From Knowing To Doing: Making Human Leadership Skills Common Practice Transcript

00:00:10 - Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to Sticky from the Inside, the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them, and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode, we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

The Implementation of Human Leadership Skills

Okay, today we are peeling back the layers on a topic that is as critical as it is, I think, elusive, the implementation of human leadership skills in the workplace. In a world where the term soft skills does a disservice to the foundational importance of human leadership qualities and is a complete trigger for me and winds me up, we find ourselves at the crossroads. Skills such as empathy, trust building, adaptability, and purposeful challenge are universally recognised as essential, yet there still seems to be a glaring gap between recognition and practice in the workplace. Why is something that seems like common sense so hard to make common practice?

That's the question we're exploring today with my guest, Thomas Gelmi, international coach and author of Breakthrough and The Coaching Code. Thomas has dedicated his career to unlocking human potential and fostering environments where leadership skills thrive not just in theory, but in everyday action. So today's conversation aims to shed light on this, for me, frustrating paradox exploring the barriers to integrating human leadership skills in business and how we can collectively overcome them. We're looking for more than just answers. I think we're seeking a route map to sustainably transform common sense in a common practice.

So whether you're a leader looking to inspire, an aiming to make a difference, or simply someone like me who's confused and frustrated by the gap, this episode could change the way you think about leadership and its effect on successful organisational cultures. At least I hope that is the case. Welcome to the show, Thomas.

00:02:55 - Thomas Gelmi

Thank you so much, Andy, for having me on your show. It's a great honour and pleasure to be here.

00:02:59 - Andy Goram

Oh, it's fab to have you, my friend. I've been looking forward to this conversation for some time. We haven't had that much of a conversation before this, but it feels like there's a kindred spirit here. So I'm really excited to get your experiences on this for me, frustrating topic, right? But before I get totally carried away and excited with all of that, let's just take a breath. Do me a favour, Thomas. Give us a really good introduction to you and tell us about your wide and varied background.


Introduction To Thomas Gelmi

00:03:28 - Thomas Gelmi

Okay, I'd love to. And just as a little side note, before I begin with that, I share your frustration. That's basically my engine, the driver that keeps me going. Okay, so what about my background? It's not a very typical background if you compare to other people in my field. I don't have an academic background. I haven't studied psychology or anything alike. I had a very down to earth biography and career. I earned my first money cutting people's hair. (Nice). Yes. And then I thought, well, that's nice, but it can't be everything for my entire life, so let's try some other stuff. And I did some job hopping in my early twenties until I finally joined Swissair, the former Swiss airline. And I spent almost eight years there, first as a flight attendant, and then later I became a so called maitre de cabine, which is a purser or in flight manager, in some countries and some airlines, it's called like that. So I was leading cabin crew on the international network. And to this day, I still benefit from that experience. Maybe we can speak about it a bit later on. And I also wrote my book, Breakthrough, using the airline cabin crew work as a metaphor. And then about 20, 22, 23 years ago, I closed that chapter and opened a new one that is still open to this day. So I started working for a small consulting company in Zurich that specialized in leadership development and was employed there for eight years before I then started my own company. And since that day, my purpose is really to help people, support people in their personality development and growth and bringing out the potential that's in them, like of, you know, bringing them to full blossom, like, like a flower. And therefore, as a consequence, be better leaders, whether it's, you know, at home or in the business. That's about my background.

00:05:57 - Andy Goram

And then the thing that was so interesting is that you don't have a conventional background. I mean, what it, what is convention anyway? But I think that's what makes this topic so interesting. You know, we're nearing 100 episodes on this, on this podcast. And when I first started, I was like, well, am I, am I going to get to ten talking about this topic? Am I, am I going to get to 20? And there are so many different perspectives, maybe coming from similar places, but I think that diversity of perspective and idea that makes this such a fascinating topic.

00:06:27 - Thomas Gelmi

Yes, absolutely.

The Impact of Human Leadership Skills

00:06:28 - Andy Goram

And I've heard you say before that leadership development, it really is personality development. Right. I've heard you say that on other podcasts and bits and pieces, and I think that's what's really fascinating. And so before we dive into what you do today to try and close this gap that we've talked about, I'm really interested back in those formatives days, like, what did leadership look like to you at that stage? Because I think, like you said, you've learned. You still look back to stays in Swissair. Right. You still benefit from those. I still benefit from getting my backside kicked around a very small Patisserie kitchen. Right. From two ladies that ran a great business. But I learned a lot about work ethic and commitment and drive. What did you take from the leaders in those formative years, Thomas, has helped shape you?

00:07:15 - Thomas Gelmi

Yeah. Well, I got mainly two main impressions, how not to do it and how to do it. And, of course, there's a grey area in between. It's a spectrum. Right. But unfortunately, I got more bad examples in my early years of people who led in a way that was not very appealing to me, that did not bring out the best in me, that I didn't perceive as something helpful, useful. And so many times I thought if I were in his or her position, I would do it differently.

00:07:59 - Andy Goram


00:08:00 - Thomas Gelmi

And then I got lucky, because in my very early twenties, I think I was 21 or something, I got the opportunity to lead for the first time, take over a little team of seven people in telephone sales, selling office paper and office products over the phone to businesses. And of course, even though I had best intentions, I did everything wrong. I wanted to be a well perceived leader, someone that people loved as their boss. That was my intention. And so I tried to be. I almost became a people pleaser.

00:08:54 - Andy Goram

Yeah. Yeah.

00:08:55 - Thomas Gelmi

Right. Not saying that kindness in leadership is wrong, the opposite is true. But if you just try to get accepted and get trust and credibility by pleasing people and not giving clear orientation and also being directive when it's necessary, then, of course, that doesn't work. And so it went on and on and on. I got good examples, bad examples, and over time, for me, it became very, very clear what the key ingredients are to effective leadership. And that's what I stand for up until today.

Key Facets of Effective Leadership

00:09:37 - Andy Goram

Tell us, what are those sort of key facets, those key tenets that you hold close to yourself?

00:09:42 - Thomas Gelmi

Well, it's basically all the human aspects in interaction, whether it's in leadership, or in teamwork, collaboration, customer interaction, or in families. Right? It's the same principles. It's the human aspects. Because you see, it doesn't matter whether your business is a b2b business serving other businesses, or a b2c business serving consumers. It's always h2h. Yep. Human to human. So it's the people who make the difference. It's the people who either stick to the rules and the processes and go extra miles because it's necessary and it's for the customer or not, or they do just the minimum, the bare minimum that doesn't get them into trouble, but not more than that, or even become quiet quitters at some point. This all depends on how we feel, our inner weather condition, how well we feel appreciated at work, by those who lead, by our colleagues, etcetera. So there is almost nothing more important when it comes to engagement and motivation than how people feel and how you as a leader make them feel what conditions you create, what kind of an environment you create for people. Right?

So this includes all these human aspects that I mentioned, include things like empathy, for example, the willingness and ability to really put yourself in somebody else's shoes and really see things from their perspective and feel why they feel what they feel. So I'm intentionally saying, not just the ability, but also the willingness. Maybe we can get there a bit more, a bit later on. So empathy is one another one is authenticity. Being true to yourself, to your own values, but also showing up as who you are, being genuine, but also vulnerable. Vulnerability is a part, a crucial part of authenticity, showing that you're not a machine, but a human being. Right? And then of course, competence is important too, right? What you say and what you do and the decisions you make should be sound, should be the right things and the right decisions. But also knowing what you don't know is a sign of competence, which links to, again, authenticity and vulnerability.

So making it about people and putting people really at the heart of things and not at the periphery. And many companies have this somewhere. The people at the centre or we care for our people, customer focus, customer orientation and everything sounds nice, but when you look into the organisation and see how people treat each other, how they work together, how they show up in meetings, how they react to one another, yeah, there's still some road ahead of us.

00:13:22 - Andy Goram

And so like that. Well, let's get into it. Converse, right? Yeah, let's just not pussyfoot around the outside of it. This frustration you, I many, I suspect listeners sort of feel. Can you explain then why in all of your experience, from all the people you've worked with, the companies that you've helped out, why human leadership skills, despite being recognised everywhere as essential? Like you've just said in many a value statement or many a wall mural saying how important these things are, how come they're still so often overlooked in practice? What's going on?

The Challenge of Integrating Human Leadership Skills

00:14:03 - Thomas Gelmi

Yeah. Well, let me first say that there’s rarely ever bad intention behind that or negligence, but the opposite. Basically, I rarely work with leaders or meet people in leading positions that don’t want to do the best, that don’t want to act in best intentions, that have best intentions driving their actions, decisions, behaviours. But often it's a lack of knowledge, a lack of knowing the importance of these human aspects. And you just mentioned you are triggered by the term soft skills.

00:14:49 - Andy Goram

Oh, yeah, hate it.

00:14:50 - Thomas Gelmi

Same here. Same here. Because soft skills, as opposed to the hard skills almost implicitly already say it's less important. Yeah, it's something we do when we have time, so.

00:15:05 - Andy Goram

God, yeah, 100% right.

00:15:07 - Thomas Gelmi

Hard skill training, that's important. That's what is necessary to do the job. Soft skills, we do maybe somewhere in autumn, if we have a day or.

00:15:18 - Andy Goram

So, if we've got some spare budget, we'll…

00:15:21 - Thomas Gelmi

Yeah, we got some spare budget. Yeah, but it has to be cheap. Yeah. So soft skills, I don't like the term. I call them essential skills. Call them people skills if you like. Call them core skills because they are, they are essential. As I mentioned earlier, they are often the game changer, really, the one factor that differentiates an engaged team and workforce from a disengaged or an actively demotivated team member or workforce. It's these skills. Now, speaking of skills, you see, many leadership courses or trainings or programs offer the development of leadership skills. How you should lead a meeting, how you should communicate a decision, things like that. And that's not wrong, but that's only one little element of effective leadership. You see, in my opinion, there's this triad of mindset, skill set and toolset. Of course, you need to know what the main tools are to lead, and then you need the skills to apply those tools. Like this is a hammer. Okay, how do I use it? But the mindset behind all of that is what's crucial. If we go to a training and learn that there are different tools and we learn how to apply the tools, but nobody tells us what the mindset should be in applying these tools, we may not be effective. We may go back to our organisation and start applying the tools and then notice that it doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work because there's the wrong attitude and mindset behind. And so after a few weeks, I'm going, nah, doesn't work. And I go back to business as usual, and I go back continuing doing what I've always done and expecting different outcome.

00:17:47 - Andy Goram

Which is crazy, right?

00:17:48 - Thomas Gelmi

Yeah, which is totally crazy. Totally crazy. So coming back to the analogy of the tools, it's like learning that there is a hammer and a drill and the screwdriver and how to use them, and then coming to a room and there's a few paintings standing around. And now what? I have no idea what to do. Right. So if I know the purpose and I have a vision and a goal, I may create a beautiful room with paintings on the walls using these tools. If I don't have that, I may just start, you know, hammering nails into the wall randomly.

The Importance of Communication Skills

00:18:36 - Andy Goram

And in your experience, I mean, you talked about there’s very often not no mal intent in this stuff. But do you think there is complacency? Do you think there is? Because it's interpersonal skills? Well, everybody knows how to do those. And so there's this kind of like, we don't have to focus on it because everybody does that.

00:18:57 - Thomas Gelmi

Yes, of course. Yeah, that's a big factor too. I mean, the moment we are born, even before we already start communicating. Right. And then at some point we start talking. We learn language very, very early on. And so we've been talking all our lives, our entire lives. So why should I now go to learn communication skills?

00:19:25 - Andy Goram

I know how to communicate.


00:19:27 - Thomas Gelmi

I know how to communicate well, in fact, many communicate, but only few really connect. That's what makes the difference. And so one of the biggest mistakes in communication, which is of course a core tool of leadership, one of the biggest wrong assumptions is that it has happened sufficiently, that it has taken place sufficiently that everything was well communicated. Just because I think I've told them and it's clear for me, I just assume it's clear for them. It must be, right?

00:20:07 - Andy Goram


00:20:07 - Thomas Gelmi

Right. And that's the biggest mistake we make, leading to assumptions that we were clear and leading to misunderstandings, mistakes, and then, yeah, a bad climate eventually.

00:20:22 - Andy Goram

Do you think that that assumption piece almost that, I guess underlying unconscious incompetence, not knowing what you don't, not knowing what you don't know, is this kind of like real catalyst for this gap that we see. So we reckon it's important, we think we're good at it. We assume because we see clarity, therefore everybody else does. And that's where it all starts to go wrong.

Why Change What's Been "Successful" To This Point?

00:20:47 - Thomas Gelmi

Yes, that is like the filet piece of it, I would say. And it goes even beyond that because the main target group I work with are leaders, people leading positions. Because they have the most influence due to the sheer fact that they are in a leading position. And so the higher up somebody has come in an organisation in hierarchy, depending on how hierarchical an organisation is still organised. But regardless of that, the higher up you come, the more influence you have, the more likely you are to believe that you got that far, because you do things the way you do them and the way you communicate, the way you show up and the way you lead. And I can understand that, of course, you're successful. You made it to the top, whatever that means, but you made it. Now, why change can't be that wrong, can it? Not very often not being aware enough that somebody already also got there, despite, despite how they have been doing things, and that if they would just look at those blind spots and shed some lights on that, how much more effective, how much more impactful they could be, how much more successful their businesses could be if they would just become aware of, of those blind spots. And of course, because they are blind spots, we're not aware of them.

00:22:37 - Andy Goram

I think that's the fascinating thing, is because we're measuring success in its immediacy. Oh, well, you've been successful, but we have no measure. We don't know what could have been achieved if you've done it another way. And I think the worrisome thing for me about this gap closing sustainably is that we're learning the behaviour of the people above us who are inverted commas, successful by doing it this way. And we don't have enough examples of the other way for people to follow a different path.


00:23:07 - Thomas Gelmi

Yes, yes. And here comes another phenomenon, unfortunately, that we can observe in organisations, especially larger organisations, that the higher up you go in the organisation, the more likely you will find dominant alpha males. Ssorry to say, but that's reality still. Okay, so people that tend not to show too much of those human aspects, but being quite tough in how they deal with each other and among each other in executive boards, you know, and decision making bodies, that’s not because that’s what it takes to be successful at that level. Thats not the reason. The reason is that these are characteristics and qualities that are being incentivised. Thats how you get to the top. Thats how you get promoted. The one that’s the loudest, the one that takes up the most space in a meeting, the one that’s to answer first. You know, it's like being back at school, almost the same principles apply. And in a corner maybe sitting a quiet person that has the right answer, that has the solution, but they will not speak up because it's not safe. Because first they don't get the space to speak up. They may be rather introvert as a personality, so they don't take the space if they are not invited and encouraged to take it and to speak up. And because maybe the climate in the organisation or in the team is not safe enough to speak up and have a different opinion, even though that different opinion may be the doorway into a creative solution that is needed. But no, I'm being quiet because it's not safe. I'm going to be ridiculed, I'm going to be cut off while I'm talking. So, I'll rather say nothing. And that's why people with other characteristics tend to be promoted. It's not the case in all organisations and every organisation I work with, but still way too many.

00:25:35 - Andy Goram

Yeah, the psychological safety aspect I think is really interesting because that, that person sitting in the room, I think there's lots of different things at play. That person sitting in the room doesn't feel like they can put their hand up and if they do, well, then you're not part of our crowd, right? So, you don't belong. And the whole point of psychological safety is that you feel like I do belong and I can have my say, right? And I'm going to be listened to. But also the other side of this, I guess non-human centred leadership that's successful is in some views the unseen fallout of that behaviour throughout the rest of the organisation. And it's not unseen because you have to look at turnover and effort and productivity and all those sorts of things. It comes back to that relative success, that relative performance piece. And I think, I hope we're starting to see a shift in what an atypical leader look, I don't think there should be an atypical leadership profile. It's most likely these are the people who put their hand up first to be leaders. That doesn't make them great leaders. And I think the development of these skills or the ambivalence of these skills, looking at that kind of like pseudo performance thing, yes, we perform well, but we have no idea how we could have performed if we differently is the issue we've got. Because do companies see a real need for this stuff? Because we're doing great stuff already.

Shifting Organisational Cultures

00:26:58 - Thomas Gelmi

Yeah, yeah. So true. I am a bit hopeful based on recent developments, especially here in central Europe, where it becomes more and more difficult for many organisations to find people, to find good people post pandemic, that's a big issue. So it's about finding and binding good people. That's one of the biggest challenges many organisations have. And my hope is that by understanding how these human aspects and their development and the cultural change in the organisation can actually resolve that to some extent. That is really my hope. And I'm seeing it right. Because it's not that there are no people out there, no good people out there. It's not that they have suddenly disappeared. Poof. No more good people. Where are they? Where have they gone, to another planet or what? No, they are there. But especially post pandemic or during the pandemic, many have, have had an inner shift also, a shift of values that leads to people not accepting and tolerating everything anymore that they used to tolerate before the pandemic. And so it's a matter of being treated respectfully in an appreciative way, being given autonomy, being given more freedom to choose what they do, when they do it, where they do it. So actually, being treated like adults is a big, big demand that people have nowadays. And now they meet organisational structures and leadership cultures that are still more, let me say, traditional. Right. Because it takes some courage to change those cultures. It takes some courage to do things differently, especially when the business is pretty much going well. Right? We're still missing good people, but it's going well. And now why should we suddenly make such a shift or such a change? Is this really safe?

00:29:20 - Andy Goram

We're going to break it.

00:29:22 - Thomas Gelmi

Exactly. Exactly. So that's why you don't do it overnight, but you do it in baby steps. This applies on an organisational level, but also on an individual level. The changes, the development, the shift that's necessary is done in baby steps. One step at a time.

00:29:45 - Andy Goram

Do you think that's another factor, though, that puts people off getting behind this stuff, this tension between getting results now and long term development? The baby steps, well, that's not getting me what I need now. So therefore, let's just do something. Let's do something more brutal and get on with it.

00:29:59 - Thomas Gelmi

Yeah, but look at the farmer. The farmer sows the seeds and doesn't harvest the fruit like two months later. That's not how it works. That's not how organic growth happens. And we are human beings. We are part, no, we are not even part of nature. We are nature. So same principles apply. And I often really compare people in organisations to plants in a garden, and the leader is the gardener. Now, what's your job? Your job is to create ideal conditions for each plant in your garden, to fully blossom and bring out the best in it and become what it can be. And the rose bush will become a beautiful rose bush. It will never become an oak tree, even if you try to convince them. And the oak tree is going to be a beautiful oak tree, et cetera, et cetera. And there's a palm tree and other plants. They all just need ideal conditions. Not more, nothing more, nothing less. They won't grow faster when you pull them once a month. They don't grow faster when you shout at them, when you kick them, when you push them. None of that helps. Ideal conditions. And these ideal conditions may not look the same for each plant. So if we transfer this image into organisations, you have a team, you have a department, you have a bunch of people, and you have a certain biodiversity.

00:31:34 - Andy Goram



00:31:35 - Thomas Gelmi

So different people need different conditions, but they all need ideal conditions so that they can thrive and they can bring out the best in them and become the best possible version of themselves. That's leadership.

00:31:54 - Andy Goram

Yeah. And I want to pick up on something that you said before, because I'm sure anybody listening to this conversation will go, oh, this is just a whole bunch of common sense, which comes back to the introduction. Right. We said this was common sense, but we said it wasn't common practice. Yeah. You mentioned a word which is an absolute trigger for me, in a positive sense, in intention before. So we're aware of. Of the importance of these essential skills, these human skills. We know that when they are put in place, because there's myriad examples now, when these things are put in place, the sustainability of a business, the continued success. I mean, there seems to be irrefutable evidence, right, that this stuff works. But what is it about that's missing, perhaps in some organisations, in some leaderships, about the intentional understanding and use of these essential skills in all the work that you do, Thomas, is that a factor? Is that a missing piece of the jigsaw?

Awareness and The Process of Change

00:32:53 - Thomas Gelmi

Well, yes, of course. Awareness. Awareness. Look, in the beginning of any change process needs to be awareness. We cannot change what we're not aware of. We can only change and control what we're aware of. What we're not aware of often controls us, has an influence on us, but we're unaware. So we think we're doing fine. We're acting in best intentions, not being aware as I said, earlier, being a successful manager, not being aware of all the things I do that demotivate my people, that trigger, that irritate my people, that jeopardise my people's mental health, I'm doing it, but I'm not aware of it because nobody tells me, because I've already reached a certain level where it's maybe not safe to give me candid feedback. I may not even invite candid feedback, so it's a blind spot.

The awareness is the first step, and there's tools for that. There's, for example, a 360 degree feedback process we can do, asking in an anonymised way main stakeholders of that person, what they think, what they particularly like, and where they see the potential for change in that person, which raises awareness. And then based on that awareness, the next step is knowing options, knowing alternatives. So, if what I'm doing or if what I have been doing as a leader has some potential for improvement in some areas, well, what are the alternatives? How can I, how should I be doing things differently? That's a matter of education. That's a matter of learning how it's done, how I can show empathy in a conversation where I don't feel empathy naturally. That's a part of being professional. And then once I have the alternatives, I need to come up with clear intentions. This is what I'm going to do differently from now on. Small steps, baby steps. But this is what I'm going to try to keep start, stop doing. And then discipline, consistency, keep doing it, observe the effect, reflect on it, correct, fine tune, repeat. So that's basically the process. It starts with awareness.

The Impact of Unintentional Behaviour

00:35:38 - Andy Goram

I think that's really interesting because we think about the shadow that you cast as a leader, and that's not meant to be a dirty, Machiavellian, nasty thing. That's just what we say do. How we act, all impact. Right. The people that we work with, some of those things we see, we're aware of, some of those things we don't see, some of those things are intentional, some of the way that we're perceived, completely unintentional. And I think it's always surprising to me when you shine a light on some of those things, people, things that the way that they act, they have no intention to harm, hurt, offend, embarrass, whatever, somebody. But that's exactly how it comes across. And they're mortified when they, when they find out that's how people feel about things. Right. So that awareness is a huge step, I'm sure. Sure, yeah.

00:36:26 - Thomas Gelmi

And the unintentional way of going through one's days. I call it autopilot mode. Yeah. With my aviation background there, that's where it shines through. Are you on autopilot mode not knowing what you're doing and how it comes across? Like, for example, a manager sitting in a meeting and answering emails while the discussion is going on. Am I aware what I'm doing?  And am I aware of the effect it has on others and the impact it has on others? And is that my intention to have this effect, or am I aware? Am I mindfully present and I notice, oh, no, no, no, that's not the right thing to do now. It's not the right signal to give to others. So I close my laptop and I listen to the conversation that's going on. Big difference. Big difference, right?

00:37:27 - Andy Goram

Massive. And even in that situation, that person can be thinking, hey, look at me, I'm killing it. I'm multitasking. I am saving the world on email, and I'm in this meeting kind of directing operations. And the reality is every answer is going well, what's the point of speaking? That's the stuff that kind of happens.

If we look, we look forward, Thomas, if you've got the power of the world at your hands and we're looking to try and transform this common sense that we keep banging on about, but actually make organisations recognise and make this more common practice, what do you think the key things that have got to change are? What would you change?

Keys To Raising Awareness in Organisations

00:38:12 - Thomas Gelmi

Well, I would really raise awareness and show practical cases, which there are plenty of, you know, you can do some research with. After three, four clicks, you got measurable evidence of how these human aspects are linked to productivity and profitability of an organisation. That's really not a secret anymore. So I would, you know, really raise awareness, have these kind of conversations with those responsible in leading positions in organisations and help them normalise these human aspects. Help them normalise. Because, you know, one of the other reasons why this common sense is not so common in organisations is because of the huge pressure there is and the huge pressure to meet the KPI's, the key performance indicators and to achieve the goals and, yeah, generate the profit.

00:39:25 - Andy Goram

Always that tension.

00:39:28 - Thomas Gelmi

Yes, always that tension. And of course, if you're under such pressure and you're not able to act as a buffer, you will transfer this pressure right down to your people in your team. So everybody's under pressure and everybody is like, you know, out of a comfort zone constantly. Not every now and then, but constantly everybody's in an elevated level of stress, which does not help make good decisions and be productive. Right? And no wonder we or people develop stress related physical and psychological symptoms, right? So because of that huge pressure and this huge focus on the numbers, the things that fall by the wayside first are all the human empathy, authenticity, compassion, all of that. And then, yeah, of course, no wonder we call them soft skills, because…

And interestingly enough, empathy, the ability to show empathy, is one of the main distinguishing factors that make us human, that really distinguish us, that make us human. And at the same time, the ability to be naturally empathetic and show empathy is limited to a very small circle of people, usually our family and friends. That's where we naturally show empathy. That's where we naturally listen when somebody tells us, talks about something. That's where we show these behaviours, these human aspects outside that circle, in an organisation, when you have to have a difficult conversation about an annoying topic with someone you really don't like, empathy may not come so naturally. And then it's about developing the ability to show up in an empathetic way and show empathy, even if you don't, if it doesn't come, you know, naturally. Being able to show empathy and act in an empathetic way to build relationship, build rapport, connect, build trust. So that's being professional. Right.

And maybe to close this part, one of the main, or one really nice situation I had a few years ago was at the end of a twelve-month executive coaching program where a colleague and I coached twelve executives in the automotive industry over a year, we did a final workshop and we exchanged the final conclusions and main takeaways from the program. And then there was this one guy who said, the most important thing I learned and I realised in this program, is that you can improve the numbers, the financial figures of the organisation, by not focusing on the financial figures, but on the people. And I got goosebumps because, yes, he's got it.

00:43:03 - Andy Goram

Someone gets it. Someone gets it.

00:43:04 - Thomas Gelmi

He's got it. He's really got it. And yeah, it's a change of paradigm. It's a change of mindset for many. And again, it takes a conscience decision to go in that direction and, you know, make more room for these aspects.

00:43:20 - Andy Goram

Yeah. And a big element of bravery in some cases as well, to.

00:43:24 - Thomas Gelmi

Yeah, yeah. Courage.

00:43:26 - Andy Goram

Yeah, courage.

00:43:27 - Thomas Gelmi

And it may. It may take courage to show up with your true colours and say how you feel. Yeah, yeah.


Sticky Note Wisdom

00:43:37 - Andy Goram

I think we've done that today. Definitely say how we feel about this stuff. Thomas, I've come to the bit in the show that I call sticky notes, which is my kind of very lazy attempt to summarise everything that's in your brain on three little sticky notes. So, I'm going to ask you, my friend, if we're thinking about turning essential skills from just the common sense into real common practice in business, what three sticky notes would you leave behind today?

00:44:03 - Thomas Gelmi

Okay, do you mind the colour? Yellow, orange? Any preference?

00:44:06 - Andy Goram

Whatever you choose, my friend.

00:44:08 - Thomas Gelmi

Whatever you choose, I pick the yellow ones, like in your face. Okay. Yeah. Three sticky notes. Very simple. If you want to bridge the gap and make human leadership skills common practice in your organisation. Number one, normalise the human side of leadership, including empathy and authenticity and vulnerability. Yeah, we spoke about it. Normalise the human side of leadership.

Second sticky note, prioritise personality development as opposed to developing leadership skills. Develop leader personalities. There's nothing in nature that doesn't grow from the inside out. Same with humans, same with leaders. It has to come from the inside. So second sticky note, prioritize personality development.

And the third, if you have an organisation, start with top management. Don't start with the middle managers. Don't start bottom up. Start top down. Be the example, be the change, first that you want to see in the organisation. Demonstrate that you are willing to. To develop the human aspects, that you are willing to be an authentic, genuine leader, that you care for people and that you, yeah. are a compassionate leader, a conscious leader. So that's the third sticky note. Start with top management. And if you're the owner of an organisation, it means start with yourself.

00:45:57 - Andy Goram

I absolutely love that. I think that's just so important because we all love to think we'll filter stuff up from the bottom. But if you do and the top, don't get it, they squash it. So you've got to get everybody on the top, right? Be willing to take that lesson, that attitude, be the role models, and then we'll see some learned behaviour. Thomas, I have absolutely loved talking to you today. It's been absolutely brilliant. I found yet another kindred spirit on this topic. So that's good. I can share my triggers. Before I let you go, Thomas, if people want to find out a bit more about you and the books and the coaching, where can they go, my friend?

00:46:34 - Thomas Gelmi

Well, there's various doors you can go through and find me. One is LinkedIn, where I'm very active. Another one is TikTok. So I have a TikTok channel. And of course, go to my website, it's Or just google me. There's articles, other podcasts and stuff you find about me.

00:46:57 - Andy Goram

Brilliant. Well, I've thoroughly enjoyed our chat today. I wish you all the very best on the quest to make common sense, more common practice, and thanks so much for joining me today my friend.

00:47:06 - Thomas Gelmi

Thank you for having me. It was a big, big pleasure. Thank you, Andy.

Podcast Close

00:47:09 - Andy Goram

Brilliant. Okay everyone, that was Thomas Gelmi and if you'd like to find out anything more about him or any other topics we've talked about today, please go ahead and check out the show notes.

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forward. If you have, please like comment and subscribe. It really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the sticky from the Inside podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world. 

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