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Bossing It: Daniel Shaw on Being in a Rep Sports Team and the Effect of His Leadership


Managing director at Perceptive on the kind of leader he strove to be and his biggest lessons

Bossing It: Daniel Shaw on Being in a Rep Sports Team and the Effect of His Leadership

Daniel Shaw, managing director at Perceptive is passionate about growing brands and driving profitable outcomes for clients through better customer intelligence. Over the past 15-plus years, Daniel has achieved this for brands across a diverse range of industries and markets.

He has been instrumental in building Perceptive into the leading technology-based customer insights agency in Australasia, winning several milestone clients and awards along the way. As Managing Director, Daniel is focused on harnessing the collective power of Perceptive’s highly skilled researchers, analysts, data scientists, creatives, developers, strategists, and account managers to deliver great work for clients and continue to grow the agency’s capability.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Daniel> Honestly, I’d say sport. That’s genuinely where I got my first experience of leadership. I’ve been involved in a lot of sport, particularly team sports while I was growing up. I quickly learned that the ability for individuals to positively influence the people around them was a huge asset to a team and its culture. 

LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be—or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Daniel> In terms of figuring out what kind of leader I didn’t want to be, it was seeing examples of bad leadership where people tried to lead through a sense of power and authority. When I encountered leaders who belittled and pushed others down instead of building them up it really cemented in me that it wasn’t the kind of leader I wanted to be. 

LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Daniel> The biggest lesson came from my time in a representative sports team. The team captain before me had a big personality. He was loud and had quite a dominate character, which worked for him and his style of leadership. So, when I became captain the next season, I felt that was how I had to lead, and it didn’t gel at all. People who know me know that’s not my personality. In the end, the coach pulled me aside and explained to me the reasons why he’d named me captain and suggested I try using those strengths to find my own leadership style. Sure enough, his advice worked, and it was a real revelation. Leadership is not a cookie-cutter thing. It needs to be authentic and work with your natural strengths as a person.

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so, how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?

Daniel> I’m not really someone who has sought out leadership roles. I think it was more a result of a drive to progress myself and a genuine desire to grow and support the people around me, so a natural outcome rather than a singular desire to lead. 

In terms of realising I had it in me, I think it came from reflecting on what I’d done, seeing the progress, and realising I was making a difference and growing the people around me.

LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned?

Daniel> I’m a big believer that anyone can be a leader and we are all leaders in some part of our lives. The hard part of it is unlocking that mindset in people and finding a purpose and leadership style that is an authentic extension of themselves.

At the same time, I also believe leadership can be taught and honed. Some people may be more naturally aware of the impact they have, while others might need guidance or to be taught a framework to unlock their potential. My point is the ingredients are there in everyone. Some people naturally have the behaviours while others might need a little structure or support to realise their potential.

LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?

Daniel> There are certain aspects of my work that require things from me that I know are needed to be a good leader but don’t fall into my natural personality and disposition. My ability to recognise and work through those moments largely comes from knowing and understanding my personality traits and holding myself accountable to make myself step outside my natural tendencies and comfort zones. 

LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?

Daniel> All the time! Whenever something doesn’t go as you want it to or as planned. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of life. For me, one of the major lessons was understanding what I can and can’t control, and also being honest when failure occurs and not shirking responsibility or shying from reality. Leadership is most important when it’s hard. That’s how you learn. When things fail you get your biggest lessons, so it’s important to understand what happened, how you got there, and how to take it forwards. 

LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?

Daniel> My default is to be as open, honest, and transparent as possible, but I do believe that 100% transparency is something of a myth as there is value in being careful and considered. Ultimately, if the goal of leadership is to have a positive influence on the people around you, there will always be situations where a careful and considered approach is needed to achieve the best outcome, despite my preference for transparency and openness. 

LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?

Daniel> In terms of developing my own leadership skills, I never had a specific mentor assigned to me, but I’ve been lucky to have many people in my life to learn from. From parents to sport and its coaching support through to my professional career, I’ve been surrounded by successful people in a number of different fields and seen so many examples of people being good leaders in different settings. So, it’s been more an informal, learn by example development. 

As for mentoring aspiring leaders, it’s not in a structured sense, rather my approach is more supporting the people I interact with, being there when people need it, and recognising and providing praise and feedback when I see great things happening.

LBB> In continually changing market circumstances, how do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through difficult waters?

Daniel> For me, it starts with myself. The last few years have been super challenging, first a global pandemic and then straight into the pretty uncertain times we are now experiencing in the economy. There’s been a lot of uncertainty and challenges for people to overcome personally and professionally. So, the biggest thing for me is making sure I have a good and clear long-term perspective on everything that’s happening. The advantage I have is I’ve been in Perceptive for 15 years, so I have seen the business go through challenging times before, such as the GFC, as well as consecutive years of huge growth. Looking at today’s challenges from that long-term context helps me understand that this is just one point in time. That’s not to downplay the current challenges, but it gives me the bigger picture and the knowledge that this too shall pass. With it, I can provide a sense of direction, which in turn provides a sense of purpose. So the coping starts with my own mindset, which then allows me to support others.

LBB> As a leader, what are some of the ways in which you’ve prioritised diversity and inclusion within your workforce?

Daniel> Part of it is policies and structured training, such as all the work we do with Rainbow Tick and unconscious bias training, to make us aware of and understand the dynamics that can be at play and that have historically stunted diversity and inclusion in the workforce. I also think a large part has been fostering a culture in the business that is very welcoming and understands the value of diversity. By nature of what we do at Perceptive, we seek to understand people, and in doing so, we attract naturally curious team members who welcome diverse people, ideas and thinking. 

LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with increases in remote and hybrid working patterns?

Daniel> Hugely important. Company culture has been a massive part of Perceptive’s success story. I’m a big believer in the Peter Drucker quote ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Culture always has, and always will, continue to be something we place a huge amount of emphasis on. 

As for keeping it alive, during Covid it really came down to living our values and supporting the team as much as we could. As we’ve evolved into a hybrid way of working, it’s been about making sure the things that would happen naturally in the office still happen even in a hybrid set up. We’ve had to recognise that some of the things that once came easily have become more difficult. For example, the shift to hybrid work has really highlighted the importance face-to-face time has on culture. So now we’re focusing on making the most of our face-to-face time together and prioritising that time for project collaboration and employee experience. 

Ultimately, it comes down to finding the right balance that enables the right culture and has all the flexibility of hybrid work.

LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Daniel> I can’t say there’s been a specific resource. Rather, it’s the people I’ve worked with and learned from. Seeing leadership in action from all sorts of people from all sorts of situations across my life (and continuing to see it) is the best resource. You just have to be open to continuously learning from the people around you.

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JSK Communications, Mon, 08 May 2023 03:21:56 GMT