There aren’t many business professionals in Manchester who haven’t heard of John Shinnick, our most recent podcast guest.
He’s the type of person who leaves a lasting impression on anyone fortunate enough to meet him. This is partly because his joy for life is contagious.
The other side of it is his innate understanding of the way people work, which has been cultivated over decades in corporate leadership as well as training, coaching and mentoring business leaders.
When a person comes to John for advice, they leave with insights that help them break down their personal barriers and aim higher in business. We divulge John’s biggest tactics and secrets for success in this blog.
What is The ‘Sniff Test’ and Why is it Important?
A former Managing Partner at Grant Thornton for 21 years, (the world’s seventh largest professional services network of independent accounting and consulting member firms) John spent his career working with ambitious professionals to help make their businesses great; 12 years of which also involved leading Grant Thornton locations.
Today, John holds two Board Adviser roles and is a Coach-Mentor for five CEOs and Managing Partners. He also an NLP Practitioner and Coach-Mentor qualified under the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.
He currently helps leaders progress personally and professionally by giving them the tools to tackle transformative projects in their businesses.
For John, the secret to successful coaching lies in the ‘Sniff Test’ (don’t worry, it’s a lot more about scoping out people than sniffing them!).
It’s imperative that the people he works with share his values and ethics (honesty, integrity, etc.). So he can connect with them through trust to help them open up and get the most out of his coaching.
This ‘Sniff Test’ is his way of understanding if a person is in the right mindset for professional coaching. As he puts it in our podcast: “If I perceive an essence that someone is presenting themselves as themselves and that they have a genuine wish to explore their own potential, they get me at hello.”
Learning how to decode your own language
If John concludes that a person will work well with him, he can begin to show them how to understand themselves better, which in turn allows them to communicate more effectively.
“It’s about asking what’s behind: “I’m fine?”, says John, “and questioning what people say until you get to the heart of what’s truly on their mind.”
Using this coaching technique, John can facilitate a person's own thinking process. By understanding themselves better, they can communicate with others more effectively - this is critical for leadership in business as Plato once put it:
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”
The value of taking time for yourself
You can practice this shift in thinking on your own. But sometimes internal and external factors prevent you from doing this properly.
In such cases, John says: “Take an annual solo holiday - this is what I do. In the family we call it my ‘Monk’s Week’ - for a whole week, the only words that come out of my mouth are “Table for one please” and “Thank you” because I’ve mentally switched off from everything. This gives me the headspace to let my mind wander and conduct a deep level of introspection.”
Be open to everything
When you’ve done some soul searching and can separate the things that drive you and things that are holding you back, you can begin to break down your barriers and remove fear. This helps you embrace whatever life throws at you.
This is key to finding new opportunities - you never know who the next person you’re going to speak to is, or the value they can offer you. If you’re closed off, you’ll miss out on experiences that might have pushed you forward.
Successful people aren’t directing, they’re leading
Giving people the room to make mistakes and not take control of things is a fundamental aspect of success.
Back in John’s early days at chartered accountancy firm, Grant Thornton, his manager (John Collier) sat him down in an appraisal and said: “I want you to make a few more mistakes.”
This isn’t the type of thing you’d expect a manager to say, but he was actually doing John a favour. By encouraging him to go out there and try new things unrestricted by the fear of failure, John had the freedom to take risks. As the great theologian, William G.T. Shedd once said:
“A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
When asked, “What should I do?”, a great leader should say “I don’t know. Go away and find out the answer, then come back and tell me about all the great things you’re going to do.”
That way they are giving their people the autonomy to pursue greatness. This is how transformative ideas are unlocked.
Managing your ‘old’ and ‘new’ brain
Another golden nugget from John was how to react appropriately to high-stress situations in business.
Essentially, we process information in two stages. First, our fight or flight instinct (the ‘old brain’ as John puts it) kicks in which makes us want to react based on our immediate emotions.
Now, if you were to react to a problem at this stage, it’s likely that you’ll go overboard and upset someone in the process (even if that isn’t your intention). But if you let your thoughts sit for a while, eventually your new brain will activate allowing you to think rationally.
“If you really need to rant,” says John, “write an email and leave it for 24 hours. By the time you come back to it, you’ll realise that there’s no benefit in communicating through rage or frustration. If you can manage your relationship with your ‘old’ brain, you’ll be 100% more effective at communicating.”
Enjoyed John’s insights?
We did too, so much so that we asked him to keep talking. Stay tuned for Part 2 of John’s podcast and another blog to follow!