Transforming Teams and Organizations Through Effective Commuication: A Hidden Asset Everyone Overlooks

Transforming Teams and Organizations Through Effective Commuication: A Hidden Asset Everyone Overlooks

Discover the transformative power of effective communication with Simon Heath. In this compelling interview, Heath reveals practical strategies to unlock potential and reshape your organization's culture and results.

Meet Simon Heath

Simon Heath: Executive Communications Coach and author of The Invisible Asset. Connect with Simon on LinkedIn. Visit his website at


Welcome, I'm Bill Fox, Founder and Editor at Forward Thinking Workplaces. Today, we have a special guest who is going to share game-changing insights on how to transform your team and organization through the power of effective communication.

Simon Heath is an Executive Communications Coach with over 25 years of experience helping leaders inspire and connect. Drawing on his unique background as both a theatre director and playwright, Simon brings a deep understanding of what shapes audience reception and how to craft messages that move people to action.

I first had the pleasure of working with Simon back in 2011 when he was my communications coach. From our very first session, I was struck by the simplicity and power of his recommendations. His insights were so practical and effective that I couldn't help but wonder why I wasn't doing them already. Simon has a remarkable ability to cut through the noise and complexity of communication and get to the heart of what really moves people.

In his compelling new book, The Invisible Asset, Simon explores why communication culture is the overlooked key to organizational success, and how leaders can start leveraging it to drive better results.

As Simon powerfully puts it, "Every interaction is a chance to make a positive difference. By choosing to bring our full presence and commitment, we can transform our relationships, organizations, and lives."

This simple but profound insight is at the heart of Simon's approach to communication and leadership, and it's one that has the potential to reshape the way we show up in all areas of life.

In our conversation today, he'll be sharing some of these same transformative insights, providing a wealth of strategies and tactics you can start applying right away to elevate your impact as a leader and communicator.

But what really sets Simon apart is his core philosophy: that all communication is an act of leadership.

He believes that by approaching every interaction with this mindset, leaders can unlock the hidden power of communication to engage their teams, advance their strategies, and transform their organizations.

If you've ever struggled to get your message across, inspire others to act, or simply be heard in a noisy workplace, this episode is for you. Simon's practical, actionable advice will change the way you think about communication and give you the tools to become a more effective leader and collaborator.

Get ready to question your assumptions as we explore communication and his new book, The Invisible Asset.

To your forward-thinking life & great success!

— Bill

Bill Fox, Founder, LeaderONE​ & Forward Thinking Workplaces
​Pioneering Leadership from Within | Unlocking Human and Organizational Potential


Bill: Simon is you've written a fascinating new book, The Invisible Asset. What's it about and who is it for?

Simon: It's about communication and it's really for people in companies who are in a position to help shape culture. I've been a communication consultant for 28 years and usually somebody has communication as part of their development plan. So I'll come in and provide them coaching, or they say, "Oh, this is great. I'd like you to work with my team." So I go and work with the team, and I'm sure there's benefit there for the individuals, but I know that I'm just sending them back into the same environment that they left.

The meetings are going to be the same, the PowerPoint is going to be the same, the communication culture is all going to be the same. And it's very difficult to resist that gravitational pull that sucks you back into old habits.

Over the years, I've worked with around 130 companies. You see the same really simple issues happening again and again. Most of it can be traced back to communication culture, communication of individuals, and the communication environment, the ecosystem that people are working in.

So I wrote this book because despite the fact that I enjoy training people, there are these bigger issues that if companies were able to tackle, I think they would see massive improvements in their organizations. I put this book out there hoping that people in senior positions would read it, buy 50 copies for their executives, and then nobody would ever have to hire me ever again, because you build a culture where good communication becomes expected, where it becomes the norm.

Communication is attached to absolutely everything - change initiatives, execution of strategy, how people and companies talk about culture of innovation and culture of collaboration. But the way that you do those things is through communication. What you find is that companies give no direction on how to communicate, except for salespeople, because it's directly tied to closing sales, which is directly tied to revenue. They will give customer service representatives scripts. They will definitely focus on how they're communicating with the customer. They will focus on communicating with analysts because that directly affects whether the analysts are going to recommend buy, sell or hold, so it affects share price. They will focus on how you communicate with the media because if something blows up, they don't want to have egg on their face. They want to be able to look good in front of the media.

So they have these very narrow areas where they will pay attention to communication, but the rest of it, which is what actually comprises probably 80% of the people working in the organization's lives.

When I get on a call with my clients, I'll say, "Okay, what percentage of your work week is spent either in meetings, writing emails, building PowerPoint, having your one-on-ones?" And most people respond, "80 to 90% of my time is spent doing this." That's the blind spot. And that's why I called it The Invisible Asset, because if you could actually tap into that and build a culture which is around communicating ideas, which is about engaging people, which empowers people, which actually is focused on getting something done - which at its basic level has a point - people's lives are swallowed up by updates.

One of the jokes I often say, if you look at most of my clients' calendars, 70-80% of the meetings will have the word "update," "alignment," "touch point." It's just sloppy slapping stuff in the calendar. But this is people's time, it's how they spend their work lives.

The other thing is I coach leaders and I see communication and leadership as completely interwoven. Again, I'll talk with somebody and say, "Okay, so you're a leader in your organization. How do you spend most of your time?" "Well, 80 to 90% of it's communicating."

"Well, if 80 to 90% of your time is spent communicating and you're a leader, then how you communicate is how you lead." But we don't pay attention to that.

We go from meeting to meeting thinking, "What's the topic of the meeting? Oh yeah, it's about this project. Do I have my data? What are our sales figures?" We focus on content, content, content, and we don't focus on the medium that the content's passing through, which is human beings communicating with other human beings.

Bill: You know, I think I first interviewed you back in 2017 or 2018 for Forward Thinking Workplaces. And you said something in that interview that shows up in my mind almost every day. You said, "Every time you communicate, write an email, whatever you create, it's an opportunity to show leadership." And every time I write something, I think, "You know, how do I lead here? How do I change what I'm going to say?" It's so powerful. And that alone would transform a company or a person's leadership.

Simon: I'm glad that it stuck with you. Thank you. I do believe that that is absolutely transformative for an individual, but you look and you go, "Oh, but the company has a responsibility." So what is the expectation? What is the example? How are they supporting to build that? Because sure, it's okay for one individual to go, "I'm going to be a leader in the meeting." But if all we're doing - there's a company that I deal with where they have this format, they call it "readouts," and they have all the way up to the director level get up on these calls and read out the results from the last month to the executives. Well, if that's the company culture, how am I supposed to be a leader in that situation? Read out those numbers with a little bit of extra energy?

So the company has a huge role to play in helping to shape an environment that not only allows for people to make that decision to lead when they communicate, but creates the environment and expectation that that's what we want.

And how much happier do you think people would be going to work if in fact in meetings people were coming with a leadership mindset and we were empowered to be able to advance ideas, as opposed to being half engaged during these calls and meetings and presentations where I'm trying to half blind emails and half listening.

I think that we're all at our best - I deal with presence too. And presence is one of those funny words because nobody knows what it means. I look at presence as a product of being present, wholly present. Well, you can't be wholly present if you've got triple booked meetings back to back and you're going through mind-numbingly boring stuff that doesn't actually relate to you and you're sitting in a meeting going, "Is there a point to this? Why am I here?"

So if you want to create an environment where people are able to come wholly present and prepared and focused, then you got to take a look at the environment that you're building for them.

Bill: Yeah, that's a powerful point, Simon. And I guess related to that, this occurred to me back in 2016 or 2017, but I don't know if you've heard of something called the Three Principles and Sydney Banks. It's sort of a theory of how the mind works. I was watching a YouTube talk by Michael Neill and he was explaining it and I'd heard it for the first time. When he explained it to me, my mind went completely quiet. All the noise that was going up there on and on all the time that I didn't even really notice, all of a sudden I was aware of it and I could turn it off. And that completely changed everything for me. I started being more creative, I started writing a lot more. People started writing to me, "What happened to you?" I said, "I simply got this new understanding and I got out of my way."

When I talk about being present, the enemy of being present is the voice in your head. It's a challenge and we tend to tackle these things at a surface level.

You can go to an active listening skills course and they will tell you to make eye contact, don't look at your phone when you're talking to somebody, nod, give visual verbal feedback, have open body language, ask relevant questions, and then paraphrase back to the person what you heard them say before saying your own piece.

When I'm doing group sessions, I'll often ask people, "Can you think of somebody past or present professionally that you would characterize as being a truly excellent listener?" And routinely less than half the group will put up their hands. The people who put up their hands, hand shoots up immediately. The rest of the group kind of squint up their face and stare at the ceiling and think about it.

I think it's universally recognized that listening is a good thing. When we encounter people - I mean, I will often ask them about this, "Tell me about that person." And invariably they have enormous respect for them. Often they were a mentor, had some sort of significant impact on their careers. I go, "Well, you can go to a LinkedIn Learning Active Listening Skills course."

People pump through these active listening skills courses in the thousands. And yet we don't really seem to have tackled that, because they still seem to be very rare, despite the fact that people go through these courses.

It's because the enemy is the voice in my head. I'm forming my response before the other person's done talking. I'm still stressed about the previous meeting. There's a Teams chat going on, a sidebar conversation, while we're supposed to be focused. So being able to be wholly present, bring my full self, either when listening or speaking, is very, very rare. But the people who do that, they're the people who are extraordinarily successful. They're the people whose careers advance and who have an impact on the people around them.

Bill: What are some of the key mindset shifts and first steps you recommend?

Simon: So the first one, this is going to sound completely self-evident, is to recognize it's important. You want a mindset shift? Focus on communication. Make that your major area of focus. So the reason it's called The Invisible Asset is that people don't pay attention to it.

So the first mindset shift is pay attention to it. Recognize how important this is.

The second piece is talk about it. Organizationally, as senior leaders, talk about the communication culture that you want to build. Talk about how you want to structure meetings. Talk about what you want from people and for people who are attending those meetings. Talk about what the point is that you're trying to make when you're making a presentation, when you're building the endless slides.

So very, very simply recognize that this is the majority of what the majority of the people in your company are doing all day long. So recognize that that gives in and of itself a massive opportunity to improve productivity and engagement. And then second, talk about it at all layers, talk about communication, make that a topic.

When a leader is having their weekly one-on-ones with the director board, talk about communication. We only ever talk about it if there's a problem. And once you have to then talk about it as a problem, then it's an emotional situation, it seems remedial, "Oh, I'm a bad communicator." No, no, just create the expectation that this is important.

So I know that sounds unbelievably simple and obvious, but in large part because it is unbelievably simple and obvious, it's seldom done.

Yeah. I mean, I can talk all sorts of - the whole first chapter of the book is about how do you actually communicate strategy within an organization, which is largely taken from John P. Kotter's approach to how do you communicate change vision within his 1996 book, Leading Change. There's all sorts of very tactical things you can do once you've made that decision and started talking about, "Okay, now here's how you actually do that in your organization."

But the first step in terms of your question around mindset and first steps, recognize it's important and start talking about it.

Bill: Drawing from your experience as an executive communication coach, what are some of the most common communication challenges you see leaders and teams struggling with?

They're in the weeds. They're in react mode. The first thing that I do with my clients now is I help them clean up what they're dealing with. So I tend to work with director and above. And you know, I'm fairly blunt. I'm nice about it, but I tend to say, "Let's be clear. You don't do anything. You're not doing the work. And if you are, in fact, you shouldn't be. What you do is you advance the strategy. That's your job. Your job is to advance the strategy."

So there's no way that you can advance your strategy if you're just in constant react mode.

If you're in back to back to back to back meetings and you're spending the first five to 10 - you're probably five minutes late or three minutes late - and then you're getting the first five to 10 minutes getting up to speed, and then you're just reacting to responding whatever's in front of you, you're not advancing the strategy. You're just on a treadmill.

So for example, I'm a big believer in having communication plans, strategic communication plans, little mini elevator pitches. So who do I need to convince of what in the organization? I was working with a woman in finance recently. And because I'm an advocate for always being prepared for communications, often I get called into these vendor calls where there's some sort of problem. I don't know what the problem is before the call. And then I just hop on and I help to try to resolve it.

So I can't really plan for that. And my response is, "Well, yeah, you probably could have planned to get a sense of what the problem was from whoever invited you on the call in the first place. But that aside, do you have a vendor strategy?" And she said, "Well, yeah." So there's an overall corporate strategy of how you're trying to move your vendor community. She says, "Yeah." So every single time you hop on a call, you're directly talking to a vendor. That is an opportunity to communicate your larger vendor strategy to that vendor. But if you don't have that plan, if you don't have that little elevator pitch of this is what I want to be communicating to the vendor, you're probably just going to be reactive. And maybe the call goes great. Maybe you help solve their problem and they're super happy. Great. But you were in the weeds.

And so if you don't have a plan and if you're not looking for those opportunities, you're just going to be in react mode. And that's the vast majority of the people that I see and that I work with teams.

They're just in the weeds. And again, one of the things I always say to leaders is everything about your professional life is going to try to drag you into the weeds. All day, every day. Every email, every PowerPoint, every meeting, it's going to try to suck you down. Your job as leader is to not get dragged down.

But it's not reasonable to think that simply, you know, through the power of your leadership capabilities that are intrinsic within you, you're going to resist that. You need to be able to look at and say, "These are my strategic objectives. These are the people that are attached to the strategic objectives. Now, I'm going to build a plan for what I need to communicate, what I need to convince all these different people of so that I can make sure that in all these situations that are trying to drag me down into the weeds, that I'm elevating it and making sure that we're focused on the goal of advancing the strategy. Does that make sense?

Bill: Absolutely. And I guess while you were talking, what jumped in my mind was it gets back to personal presence again. The whole idea that most of us are so reactive. Somebody says something, we react. Because we don't observe that voice in our head, we don't take that moment to respond, you know, more consciously. It's more automatic reaction. And so we get stuck in the weeds.

Simon: I have a colleague who teaches conflict resolution and he's got a lovely expression. He says, "Pausing to take a breath is the difference between reacting and responding." And well, that's in the moment. Again, I would like that person to have thought through and planned for the communication. I mean, really.

Four Simple Questions for Preparation
And then I'm not talking about, because most of the time when I talk about this with clients, they go, "Yeah, I totally agree, but I don't have time. For me, I should be prepared for everything." But preparation can be quite simple and it can be done by asking yourself four simple questions:

  1. What does the world look like through my audience's eyes? What's their reality?
  2. What's the one single idea I need to convince them of?
  3. Why should they believe that idea?
  4. And how can we do it?

Those four simple questions can help prepare you for any communication.

Bill: Your book introduction states that any effective change needs to involve both individuals and the organization as a whole. Can you share an example of how you've seen an organization successfully transform its communication culture at both levels?

Simon: Yes, I've got a great example of a company that I've been working with for about the last four years. They're actually quite an inspiration. I came on - the board had been wanting some different types of communication from their senior executives. I worked with and I trained the whole senior executive team. Then I was working with the chief human resource officer and she said, "Well, you know, these executives now have bought into your approach, but they're asking their teams to start building the materials, following your methodology. And the teams are kind of going, 'Well, what do we do with this?'" So we want you to come in and work with these teams. So I did that.

And then she said, "You know, we've got this leadership development program and there's all sorts of wonderful stuff. They do DISC assessments, they have a mentor, they will go through a 360, but we would really like to incorporate communication as part of this." So at one level, there was kind of this systematic bringing of the training down into the organization.

But as I was working with these leaders at the VP and director level, a lot of what I started to see was they were in this communication culture that was just grinding them down. So they had monthly business unit meetings and these meetings were honestly four hours long and they had 60 to 80 people on the call. And during the call, people would go through, they would read out numbers, their results for the month. Then they would get asked a couple of questions by senior executives, which kind of felt like a shooting match. So you just hope that you handle the question and they move on to the next person.

And I went back to the CHRO and I said, "These meetings are a real problem. On the one hand, they're a massive waste of time - 60 to 80 people on a four hour call. But the other thing is that the teams are spending the week before that call building the PowerPoint decks. These calls are monthly. So that's one week out of four every month that teams are just building decks of slides so that they can read them out to the executives and hopefully not get shut down with the questions."

It's also disempowering for the people on that call because they're just cascading up numbers. These people are smart. They run their organizations. They know it inside out. And here they are just reading out their results and hoping the questions aren't too bad. So you're disempowering, to my mind, the most critical part of the organization, which is the director level. Furthermore, we talked about the meeting culture and these people are just back to back to back to back. Like it's - you're just going to burn them out and they can't be leaders because they're just in react mode.

That company has now moved their monthly business unit meetings to quarterly. There are fewer people on the call. They've provided templates that are focused around communicating more high level ideas than just pure information.

And this is the one that I'm really excited about. They've put the communications and IT team together where they're building a template for all meeting invites. Every meeting invite - it's not quite up yet - but every meeting that goes out in the future, people will have to put in an agenda that says, "This is the point of the meeting. Here's why it's relevant to the people that are invited. Here's what we would like to see as an outcome of this meeting." Cause people complain all the time, all the meetings with no agendas. Just build a template for people so that it just becomes normal.

So to me, there is a really wonderful example of a company really taking this serious and going - and the thing about that, building the templates for the meetings, it's free. You don't have to hire me to do that. It's a couple of hours working between IT and comms, and it's going to have massive, massive ripple effects for the entire organization.

So you're gonna have fewer stupid meetings. People that are there are going to know why they're there. Most people, when they're not really paying attention in meetings, they're replying to emails because they've made the assessment that replying to emails is a better use of their work time than focusing on what's going on. If all of a sudden, every time I went to a meeting, I knew my time was going to be used well, chances are I would come more engaged, chances are I'd be more focused and present when I was there.

So those are simple little things where a company has taken this on and, you know, obviously bringing me in to do all that training costs money, but honestly, they don't even need that. Like there are things that you can do organizationally that don't cost the company anything that are going to have a massive impact on morale and engagement and how people have time available to them.

Bill: The book description mentions that communication doesn't show up on the balance sheet and there are no KPIs to measure it. How can organizations quantify the impact of their communication efforts?

Simon: They can't. That's why they haven't done it. You can find things like you can look at your engagement scores on the employee engagement survey. You can ask them questions. You can, I don't know, create a baseline, make changes, track productivity past the baseline. You can look at employee retention. You can look at some tangential stuff, but you can't really, which is why they haven't.

My example earlier, which is sales, you can quantify that. So, you give salespeople training, you can track that and quantify it. Companies tend to often only do the things that are immediately quantifiable and the things that aren't don't get done.

And to me, that's why using your expression, there's this giant pot of gold sitting there that has been completely overlooked because nobody can actually put a number to it.

Bill: In your experience working with organizations, what are the most limiting assumptions or rules that companies have about communication and how can challenging these assumptions lead to breakthroughs?

Simon: So the biggest thing is shifting from information to ideas. I teach a very simple structure. You may or may not remember from way back when, but it's very simple. It's basically an essay structure. It's connect with your audience, communicate an idea, convince them of the idea with why, how, or both, come back to the idea and turn it into action.

And people look at this and they look and they think, "Oh yeah, I remember this from grade 10 English." It's an essay structure. It's also how podcasts tend to be structured. It's how nonfiction books are structured. It's even how reports are written, add in scope and methodology. It's how we're trained to write. And then we throw it out when we get into the work environment.

And then most of what we focus on in work environments is information. So when people go into meetings, they prepare the data. We're there to talk about a project. I'm asked to present on a topic. Finance, classic examples. Here's an embedded table of numbers. There's a bit of commentary on the side. I'm going to present the information. And corporations build entire internal communication cultures around pushing and sharing information.

So when I teach my structure, it's all ideas. And people look at it and they go, "Yeah, that makes sense." But then they try to figure out, how do I pick up this structure, which is built around ideas and humans? It starts with audience. And they try to go, "Well, how does that apply to our weekly update meeting where all we're doing is running through milestones achieved or numbers or what the KPIs are?"

So people make the mistake of thinking that... And I mean, we've had a data revolution and data drives everything these days. And you go, "Well, yeah, but maybe the pendulum swung a little too far where all we're focusing on is information as opposed to what are the ideas I need to convince the human beings of?" Yeah, I think that's where the biggest, simplest shift is. That's a big one.

Bill: And that's something you helped me with when you were my coach 10 years ago or so. And I found it so difficult, even though I had the basic idea and I started implementing it, every time I sat down to do something, I'd have to get out your manuals. Okay, refresh my memory how I want to look at that because I don't know, there's something about we want to go in this other direction of focusing on the information and not the idea there. That's a big one.

Simon: A lot of the work that I'm doing with people at an individual level is really helping them understand how to organize their thinking and how to focus their thinking. Everybody has ideas, but a lot of the time... And it's funny, I'll be in a one-on-one coaching session and we'll be looking at something and I'll ask a question and the way they explain it to me based on the question that I asked is the way that they probably should communicate in the first place. But it takes somebody asking the question.

A lot of the time people are being... As people move up in their careers, they're often asked to be more strategic in their thinking, but they don't tell them how to be more strategic in their thinking. And there's a couple of really simple things that I suggest for people.

One is always ask yourself the question, "Who do I need to convince of what?" But one of the things I encourage people to do is pay attention to the questions the executives are asking. That is your best opportunity to learn.

And normally, let's say, take the finance example. Well, the finance person has put through the numbers and here's some of the results and conversions are up 12% in April. Invariably the questions that the executives are going to ask, they're digging down towards two things. They're trying to understand the why behind the numbers and/or they're trying to figure out what are we doing about it? Why and how?

And so we go through this whole rigmarole presenting out the numbers, but then when you finally get into the conversation, really what we're trying to understand is why and how can we respond? I go, "Well, why don't we start with that and then use the information to support it?" We could save ourselves a lot of time and get to the point much more quickly.

Bill: Among all the strategies, tools and techniques for effective communication, how can individuals and organizations cultivate a deeper connection and awareness in their interactions?

Simon: This one, so this is important on so many levels. So much of the stuff, Bill, I say this is so obvious. Like I almost feel kind of embarrassed saying it because I'm like, that's obvious.

One of the most obvious and important things that answers that question is put yourself in your audience's shoes. Always. That's your starting point.

And this is important on so many levels. So in terms of empathy and, you know, by putting yourself in your audience's shoes, you understand their world is probably going to affect how you communicate. It's going to probably reduce conflict. It's going to change some of the language that you use. It's also going to help you position your arguments in a way that are going to be more successful because you're starting from a place of understanding of where your audience is at.

But even at a strategic level, people just don't do it. I was working with this woman. She was an IT for a large organization, VP of IT, and she was describing a meeting that she'd had recently where her team was having difficulty with strategy and innovation and the team were kind of in conflict. So now she and the head of strategy and innovation had to get on the same call. And she says, "Well, it went pretty well. Like we really listened to what they had to say and I think they appreciated that. And really, you know, my response was, it's not 'no', but it's not now because this really isn't a strategic priority and we don't have budget for it."

I said, "Okay, well, I'm glad that the meeting went well, but I've never met this head of strategy and innovation, but I'm going to guess that they're probably an ex-Google, ex-Amazon employee that was brought in as a disrupter because they see your internal IT as being a bunch of dinosaurs. And so when I'm the head of strategy and innovation, and I hear it's not a strategic priority, I think, 'Sorry, strategy and innovation is not a strategic priority.' And you say, 'Well, you don't have budget for this year.' I don't have any trust you're going to have budget for next year. So I'm just going to go above you and I'm probably going to go talk to the CIO or somebody that actually gets it.'"

When I said this to her, she was like, "Oh my gosh, you probably, it's probably totally what he was thinking." A couple of months later, I met this individual who's head of strategy and innovation. Yes. Ex-Google. And it was exactly right. And that's exactly what he did. He went and talked to the CIO.

But the thing was I'd never met him. I just saw the title and I put myself in that person's shoes and I thought, "Well, chances are this is their perspective." When we do that simple exercise of putting yourself in the audience's shoes, it's amazing how quickly stuff starts to fall into place and make sense. And we all know we should do it, but very rarely do we. We're just running from meeting to meeting and I'm focused on my own priorities. This is my problem. And this person's getting in my way. Simplest thing in the world, put yourself in your audience's shoes before every meeting, every call, before every presentation, just always be thinking about the audience.

Yeah, that's so important. I mean, I think back to my life in the corporate world, a dozen years back before I got into consulting going out on my own. And that was the day was filled running from one thing to a next, one action list to another. You know, that was the culture. It was all about getting things done. And if you know, if you got it all done, you had to look busy and find something else, look like you were getting something done. It was just nuts.

I never actually quite trust - so one of the things that I've learned having been a coach for almost three decades is that a lot of people don't actually know what they're supposed to be doing. And being busy makes them feel that they're contributing and doing a good job. I never quite trust somebody who always says, "Oh, I'm so busy." But it's actually, it's a culture, like exactly what you're describing. It's almost a mantra. You open up every meeting. "How's it going?" "Oh, well, it's busy. Yeah, super busy." I go, "Hmm. Then you're probably not doing what you're supposed to be doing."

I remember one individual, he was saying - the conversation's confidential, right? And I said, "Yeah." Sometimes when I'm done work, I go home. I live by the lake and I've got a kayak and I'll go off because I know that I'm going to be busy and I'm probably gonna have to work overtime. And I'm going to have to - he says, "What do you think of that?" And I said, "That's just smart." Means that as an executive, you actually know what your job is so that you know, when everything's good and you can take a little bit of a breather. You also know when you need to be all hands on deck, because this is the direction that you need to be headed in. But so many people get validation from being busy.

Bill: In all your years of coaching, Simon, what is the single most important truth you've discovered about communication and how has it changed the way you approach your work in life?

Simon: Well, you already said it. It's that every single interaction, even if it's not you that initiated it, is an opportunity to make a positive difference. So corporately, if the mindset is that I'm going to try to bring my full self to this and make a positive difference.

Quick example: I was working with somebody, clothing company, somebody came in, they were doing a whole SAP implementation, enterprise-wide software. He said, "Oh, this was a terrible presentation. It was just a canned presentation. She wasn't a very good presenter, you know?" And I kept thinking, "If only she had basically said - she did everything he said not to do. And if only she'd had a thesis or only if she'd said, 'Here's three or four things you could do on your team to help prepare,' it would have been so much better. Do you think I should give her the feedback?"

I said, "Well, I don't know. Some people like feedback. Some don't. But at the end of her presentation, did she ask, 'Are there any questions?'" He said, "Yeah." And I asked, "Were there any?" "No, crickets. Everyone just wanted to get out of there." I said, "Okay, so wasn't there an opportunity for you to ask, 'Hey, what are three or four things that we could do to help prepare our team for implementation?'" And he kind of put his head in his hands and he said, "Oh my gosh, you're right. We would have started a conversation, would have totally changed the meeting." I said, "Right. Well, see, the thing is, is that you didn't see that as an opportunity because it wasn't your meeting and it wasn't very interesting. So you kind of checked out. There's nothing I can do. No tool I can teach you to make you ask that question. That's a choice."

The Power of Choice
And as I've gotten older, even - I live in a very small town of a thousand people. I'm now very aware that there's a choice. Every time I interact with somebody in the grocery store, every time there's a kid on the street that wants to pet my dog, always, there's a choice. And I can be constantly making a positive difference if I make that choice. That is the number one, most important thing.

And it's true of work. But it's, and when you make that choice, everything comes to life. Like you have more agency, things are more interesting. You have more interesting conversations, you know, positivity emerges where you didn't think there was any. Making the choice to fully invest yourself in making a positive difference in your interactions. Nothing's more important than that.

Yeah, that's excellent. Several times during this interview, Simon, you've made me recall an experience. This goes back 20 years. And I was working together with a master salesperson. We were in business together. And he had this ability when interacting with a customer, when somebody would ask him a question, especially a triggering question, there was never immediate response. There was always a pause. And you could see, you know, something interesting was formulating there. He would always come back with, you know, appropriate response that was unexpected. You know, that was higher level thinking. And at the time I just so admired that trait because I tried to do it, but it was almost like I would automatically respond. It's so difficult to stop yourself, but I think I finally have mastered that, but it's taken a long time.

Wow. We didn't even get into breathing in this interview, but breathing is what keeps you grounded, keeps you centered and the ability to stay present. And that was the difference between reacting and responding.

Yeah, it really is the ability to breathe and stay grounded and present so that you respond in the way that you would like to.

Bill: My last question here, Simon, is in your book, you emphasize the importance of communication and driving organizational success. How do nonverbal aspects of communication, such as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice fit into this picture?

Simon: It's massive. We're communicating nonverbal cues all the time, but I will relay a story. You will notice I tell a lot of stories. I'll relay a story on that front.

This fall I was actually doing an in-person session. I don't do many of those anymore. And I was teaching the executive team at a huge housing development corporation and housing development, you know, ex-construction people can often be quite aggressive. And we started talking about this and there was a number of the executives that in the moment had the realization. They were like, "You know, if I get off a really stressful phone call and then I walk down the hallway to the kitchen, that's reflecting on me. That's my body language. And I bet you every single employee in the office knows to stay away from me and they're walking on eggshells."

And so unprompted, this executive team started talking about this and they said, "You know, we set the tone for the entire organization and how we walk down the hallway, the facial expression that we have in meetings, on calls, has a huge impact on how people feel in the office. And it is our responsibility to create the environment that people are going to want to like coming to work for, that they're going to bring their ideas forward, that they're going to bring their best selves." And they'd never even considered that. Never thought about it. What are they doing? They're there to drive results.

And the last chapter in my book is called, "Don't Be an Asshole," which, you know, I think is simple advice. And yet I think anyone who's ever had a job very clearly recognized that it's advice that isn't always followed. And being able to set that tone and create the environment is the leader's responsibility. And we do it through our words. We do it through our actions. We do it through our facial expression. We do it through our body language. We do it through our tone of voice, all of it.

And so, and human beings are mirrors, right? So how, what I project bounces back. And so if you're, if I'm creating anxiety or tension or anger or stress, well, that's going to create a mirror response in the audience. So as leaders, it absolutely is my responsibility to set a positive tone.

And again, some of that comes down to facial expressions, but a ton of it also comes down to breathing and a lot of it comes down to choice.

Bill: How can people get in touch with you, Simon?

Simon: Well, my website has a whole ton of content on it. It's And there's a bunch of free content too. There's a bunch of articles that I run.

Bill: And I've read your articles many times. I've gone back there and now you have this great book and you know, it's a wonderful book and you shared a lot here today. So I hope a lot of people go out and buy it.

Simon: Thank you, Bill. I appreciate it. I appreciate that you read the book before the interview.

Bill: Yeah, that's a thing I commit myself to doing.

Simon: It is appreciated.

Bill: You're welcome.

Simon: Well, it was really lovely being back in touch with you, Bill.

Bill: Thanks. And thank you for doing this and absolutely all the best to you. And hopefully we will stay in touch.

Simon: Yeah, you're welcome.

Bill: And I've benefited so much from your advice and you know, insights over the years. At least I can do.

Simon: Thank you very much.