Minter Dialogue with Don Armand

Don Armand is an ex-professional rugby player, having played for the Stormers in South Africa and the Exeter Chiefs in England, the latter with which he won the Premiership twice (was voted Man of the Match for the 2017 final), and became European champions. He also captained the Chiefs and won two caps playing for England. Since retiring from rugby, Don runs SampsonArmand, experts in individual and organisational development by bringing focus to leadership processes, strategy, cultural change, team and organisational cohesion. In this conversation, we discuss his career and the state of rugby, we explore the link between captaincy (on the pitch) and leadership, how to build self-confidence and resilience, getting used to having ice baths, creating a legacy and the profound impact of relationships both on and off the field.

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Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign-off music is “A Convinced Man,” a song I co-wrote and recorded with Stephanie Singer back in the late 1980s (please excuse the quality of the sound!).

Full transcript via

SUMMARY KEYWORDS: rugby, people, put, ice bath, feel, good, play, game, self confidence, team, captain, big, concussion, captaincy, journey, understand, vulnerability, leadership, small, risks

SPEAKERS: Minter Dial, Don Armand

Minter Dial  00:04

Don Armand, it is wonderful to have you on my show. I was introduced to you by the wonderful Chris Bentley, I guess a teammate from the Exeter chiefs. When I looked you up online, Google said you’re a Zimbabwean footballer. Like what? Of course it is about rugby football, but in your words done, who are you?

Don Armand  00:26

I meant, yeah, thanks very much for having me on. Yeah. I mean, who am I always asked that. And I always get so intrigued to help you answer. Who am I I’d like to say as I identify as just good character, human just like anyone else. And as anything else added to that it’s just a substrate of that identity. So, but in terms of just giving a bit more background, father of four, I’ve got a business that does leadership development. And I used to play professional rugby for extra chiefs and had a dabble at playing for England too. So, it’s a bit of my background born in Zimbabwe. Yes.

Minter Dial  01:03

Beautiful story. So, I played rugby for 18 years, albeit far from your level. And so, I love rugby deeply. I think of the friends I they have had through it the experiences, good and bad that I’ve had through injuries and made and suffered and so on. What is important for you about rugby?

Don Armand  01:32

Probably the camaraderie more than anything. And it’s been quite an obvious thing for me post rugby and reflecting a lot because people, people often ask, do you miss rugby? And I go, nah, I don’t necessarily be but I do miss the change room, I do miss the socializing side of it, I do miss, you know, just some of the really good characters that you actually have involved there. Because I suppose if you took that group of guys and put them into paddle tennis, or you put them into, I wouldn’t, I would be like, I love penalty. And it’s just as much. Because at the end of the day, I think this about learners, like humans are social animals. So, if you find a good troupe of other chimps to hang around with, then that’s the thing that you kind of miss. It’s not really the activity, it’s not really the outcome. So, yeah, I’d say that the team, the team side of it is definitely something that I notice, especially now because I’m not I’ve gone from, you know, having maybe 45 people around me on a daily basis to maybe four or three or two, sometimes even one because I work from home. And so, you actually get to you know, you don’t know what you got to that’s gone. And it’s been a really good sign of that.

Minter Dial  02:40

So, it makes me think of two things. The first is I recently had a person on, who is responsible as a hospice doctor. And in the 1000s of interviews he’s done of people in their last moments of life. The one thing that constantly comes up, the only thing that matters is relationships. And the second comment is I interviewed a French national pay a guy called Denis Charvet. He was  inside center for France. And, and he talked about how crippling the last whistle blown for the last time he played for France, and how it really was a shock to her system. So, for you, when you ended your career, which was a few years ago now, what was that like? The surely that must have brought with it some kind of reflections and emotions?

Don Armand  03:40

Yeah, I mean, it was it was it is a slightly different in because I’ve been toying with retiring for maybe two years before actually did. So. I’m lucky enough to have a very driven wife too. And so, she was always like, what’s next? What’s next is like, Please don’t ask me what’s next I’m trying to enjoy at the moment is, but shot obviously, when you start to think like that. And it’s a really good reflection that I’m kind of reflecting on now too, because if you if you have a goal that’s further than your current goal, it allows things to move forward a lot easier. So, for instance, run the London Marathon yesterday, I’ve got three peaks come in two months time. So, I’m already looking forward to that I’m already re-energized by it. I’m not sad that London Marathon journey is over. I’m really reflective really happy. And it was the same with rugby is I knew what I was going into next and made that transition easier. So, on top of that, I got injured maybe six, five or four months before the end of the season. But it was an injury that allowed me to try and play another game. So, I did a wrist I did a really interesting wrist injury. And so, it means I could try and strap up but it just ended up getting weaker and weaker. So, I played two more games. And that just didn’t go well. It was always it was almost ruining my experience of rugby because it was pain. Unable to make proper tackles. I am unable to keep contributing with the team. Yeah. And I just after two games, I just said, look, if I carry on, I’m going to end my career in the worst possible headspace I could possibly be in where’s the two games before that, before I ended it. I probably had one of my best games for the last two years. And I said, I want to keep that memory. But it does when I made the decision was hard. There was obviously a bit of crying and everything, but it was it is it what was it? It is what it is, isn’t it. So, I’d accept that. And then I just fully embrace the last three or four months being around teammates where I could just have coffees, I wasn’t, you know, the pressures off, I wasn’t trying to get back for the entire season. I was enjoying having coffees talking, seeing chat and, and help them with their journey. And I really got to be selfless in that. And in a kind of way turned around being selfish, because I was just really enjoying doing that. But in doing so helping other people.

Minter Dial  05:55

So, I suppose, you know, like, charity there. There’s always something that comes back if you look for it. And it’s a wonderful idea, this idea of having your next steps already in mind, because I think if, if that’s your sole ambition to you know, be kept for Britain, or England and then like Andre Agassi said when he became number one, it did not make him happier, playing being number one in the world. I want to talk to you about SampsonArmand in a moment, because that’s pretty cool. But what about your in your rugby career? You’ve had so many different things. As you said, you dabbled for England. You played in Zimbabwe, South Africa, for the chiefs? What about what that was the highlight of your career?

Don Armand  06:41

That’s a great question. Because it defines a highlight to find like, is it in front of 80,000 people at Twickenham? Is it in front of 80,000 people are tricking them for the Chiefs or for England is it the in front of the hat, the Home Park, the home crowd at Sandy Park, they all come with it’s like it’s like when your kid asks you who’s the favorite and you go, I mean, I love you all in your own way. I don’t have a favorite. So, highlights are probably going to be all the way back to school, my first team game, I made a really good run, like set some good confidence. After the after that game that I got lifted on top of the guys, like some of the school crowd lifted me up and were throwing me up and down, which was like, why this is stuff that you that you see in movies, you know, that can never happen. That’s something that I’ll never forget. But then again, you go and you want to be in the final. And maybe it’s just like, you know, when you don’t realize the gravity, I think it’s gravity of what you’ve just accomplished with at school you do because it’s just a school game, isn’t it and then then make it really special. But when you win a finals, like, that’s already a big occasion and you’ve won it, that’s great. And I’ve heard a podcast by Jonny Wilkinson. He says the best you’ll ever feel as those first 10 seconds off, the whistle is blown. And then after that, it just starts to like you just start to go down. And I think maybe that’s why those things they form highlights but they’re not like my favorite highlights because that school memories never fades. Like that’s one thing that I like, you can never take that list. I was never looking at what’s next. I was like, wow, this is actually happening. Whereas the final is like well, now we’re going to try and win next year and use it because of the nature of the game, the pressure that comes in like the speed that you have to be able to move forward from losses and wins. You’re just moving forward the whole time you don’t get much time to reflect. So, highlights to answer your question in a short way back to the beginning is probably the Twickenham where the more I reflect on it, the more I’m like that was actually really cool playing in Ireland and the Six Nations game at Twickenham. It’s like the more you realize, okay, that was that was pretty cool at the time, I didn’t.

Minter Dial  08:50

Yeah, at the time, he didn’t. I mean, I’ve never represented my country although I have tried a few times. But that moment you’re off the bench. Hey, Armand, your turn, Get up. Get Ready go. And then you know you’re running on the pitch… did that moment not feel like a sink-in moment or like oh my golly gosh, it’s happening.

Don Armand  09:16

Oh, no. That particular game I had one of my worst and chest infections I’ve ever had in my life. So, I was feeling horrible. I went on an eight man, which wasn’t my like seasoned position. I was a flanker. First and foremost, I always wanted to play almost like it was almost like a dream come true. Because I’ve always wanted to play eight but there’s always someone else that could play a better and I could just do flank better. So, there was a whole lot of you know, when people talk about imposter syndrome, imagine having to deal with impostor syndrome as you run on because the last position, I expected to go on was eight and it was a reason I went on. So, now you’ve got to go like okay, we always asked where’s the eighth man standing? What are these roles if we go into lineouts See, all those things were good. running through my mind and it happened to be on a kickoff. So, they kicked it straight to me to catch the ball off kickoff. I caught it. Yeah, well yeah, of course.

Minter Dial  10:09

I bet that ball floated in the air for hours.

Don Armand  10:12

Yeah, it was huge. Because you wouldn’t look at my career that Don’s great under a high ball. So, that was that was huge for me because it was like I tested myself at like probably one of the real high pressure moments, I managed to catch it so and no one will know that because it just looks you know, it’s one of those moments where it’s like, everyone just expects you to but in my head that was a big thing because that ball it wasn’t just a floaty, it was like a really high. Put it on the new guy. Let’s see if we can tackle him kind of kick. Anyway, well, so…

Minter Dial  10:47

Yeah, you would only remember it while he’s everyone else would remember it had you dropped it. And I played fullback. So, I had plenty of those up-and-unders. Anyway, so I can relate to that story. About rugby, you presumably lived through some big changes in the game. I mean, I back in my day, we had old fashioned lineouts. And the rules of rucking and mauling were so much more vague and far, far less whistled as they are today and called by referees. How do you describe the changes that rugby has gone through? And what do you think of it today?

Don Armand  11:33

I think some of them are necessary. Every game has to adapt. It has to keep modern. I think that perhaps they just Yeah, I think they have to try and make sure that the game survives. And it’s not at the moment. And I think we create a platform for like, especially with, like some of the biggest things are around health. So, mental, whether it be well-being or actually concussions and some of the bigger reasons why the tackle area was so looked upon and why they’re being bought in those big law changes was around health. And unfortunately, when it comes to health, it’s, it’s essentially one of the biggest human needs, isn’t it. So, it’s always going to pick up a big stink, when you’ve got half the people that are going this is really great, because no one’s looked after and half the people that don’t recognize the need for it going. You’re ruining the game, you know that I think some of the classic things, are these, these guys know what they signed up for? And it’s like, no, you don’t like no one really knows what concussions about. And if you did, if I said to you know, you can play this game, but if you get six head knocks, you’re going to end up with dementia, if you’ve got any sense of it probably is not worth it. And so, the changes in the game, I think they’ve come around that courage from leadership perspective to be able to implement rules without knowing the exact outcomes of it. And then you having to deal with, you know, I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at like culture change models is like you’re always going to get the laggards in your head, the early adaptors. And it’s such a good experiment to see, especially from a leadership perspective is looking at that Kubler Ross to curve change, and seeing who the laggards are. And they like, because the internet is the internet and people can just type whatever they want to learn the consequences. I literally go there’s an early adapter, there’s a Lagarde who’s in the middle, they’re probably not saying anything. And just trying to go through that and see how people adapt to change. Because I don’t think it changes much whether you’re in an organization, a sport, or in life, all our drivers are the same, the outcome just looks different. So, I think you know whether to say rugby is heading the right direction, I think what they might be missing is more commercialized like I really, I’ve always said, I really hope America takes off with the rugby because they’re going to copper copy their commercial models that NFL and they’re really good at doing that to their sport. Whereas if you get the old school rugby as a gentleman’s game, you know, we’re going to make sure that you stay quiet about it, it’s not about money, it’s essentially going to stay back and there those times it’s not embraced actually, if we commercialize it, bought lots of money in and made it what it was, it would be a better product if the point to keep the game alive was to keep people playing then that’s what they need to do. So, this is easy for me to say because I don’t have any stake in it, but you know that’s how I see it.

Minter Dial  14:27

Well, you do in some regards because your careers is linked to it and for me anyway I feel attached rugby even if I haven’t played. I had seven concussions in total and five of them on rugby pitch. And so, I certainly well I got over six and maybe I’ll have dementia then, but I feel like maybe I’m a laggard maybe conservative in appreciating the way I got to play rugby and I got injured and yet, I think It was one of the most formative points of my life and, and the issue. What I think we’re addressing with this whole story is this idea of acceptance of risk. And the courage to overcome it in spite of risk, if we remove the risk, what sort of adventure, is it? And so, I’m wondering if what you know, and let’s maybe chime in with notions of resilience, and how society is you have four kids? Where are we in society and this idea of precaution, health, resilience, concussions damage?

Don Armand  15:38

Yeah, it’s an interesting point, isn’t it? I think it’s, for me, I feel like people, they try to have extreme stances, you’re either one side or the other. And if we forget that there’s a midpoint. And you were saying there, but like understanding the risks and having the courage second is like that someone either argues that you’ve got to eliminate all injuries, or someone says, “You’ve got to actually just accept all injuries.” And I go, “No, you can also try and see what suits best.” So, if, if you say in a sport like paddle, you could do your knee, your ankle, your shoulder, your elbow, but you’ll never hurt your head, that’s more attractive…

Minter Dial  16:18

I’ve had one concussion on a padel court, going back. Indeed, sir, I would say during the COVID. Just stop you. But I went back for a short as quick lob, and I go for it. But my head and my racket were heavier than my feet. And so, I ended up, crashed on my head, vomiting that evening with the effects of concussion and in the hospital. But that said, on balance, it’s a less dangerous sport than rugby. So, let’s go with it.

Don Armand  16:46

That’s for example, whereas I, you know, if we can try and mitigate the long-term risks, because as you start to find out more science and everything like that, finds out more about the injuries, you’re going to have a very health conscious society coming up. And any game that doesn’t suit the health-conscious society is just not going to last. I think we can either be our heads in the sand, or we can adapt because they’re doing brain studies they’re doing body stays, I can give blood tests now that tell you your gut microbiomes. And now we’re going to go into like, are you taking painkillers every weekend to play rugby? Well, did you know that those painkillers are getting rid of your, your gut lining, and that’s going to lead to this, immediately, you’re going to have so many things that are going, what you’re doing is detrimental to their health, might be extreme. In terms of you know, our science papers work is like you don’t know how to really understand what it’s trying to say. And that’s why they can have such damning effects and be completely wrong. But at the same time, people will take those and go, you’re going to die in 10 year’s time, because you’re taking these painkillers and you’re concussed was actually that’s not what that paper says at all. But the point is, people are more aware. And I think COVID bought that, that change about. So, actually, we’ve got to make sure that we’re adapting the sports, that’s especially if it’s for the masses to be able to suit if it wants to survive, because I think any game any game that doesn’t suit is just going to, it’s just going to die out a little bit more and more. I say that, but MMA brings in a lot of money, doesn’t it? But again, those guys, they do understand the risks, they really do understand the risks, and they accept them. Like there’s no way in getting away from if you do MMA, you could break bones, you could get concussed, you are going to and they just, they know it was I think the difference is rugby as people are starting to become more aware of concussion. And that’s where you lose. You look at like, community level. Half the kids are stopping now because their parents are going: I don’t want them concussed. Whereas you look back to when you were played as a kid. And you’re like, there was no, there was no such thing as concussion back then.

Minter Dial  18:51

Well, there was but it was sort of it was an obscure concept. Really? Yeah. Oh, you got a headache. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And you’re just dizzy, and vomiting. But I wonder if if it should all be about accommodating and acquiescing to society’s demands. So, I’m just pushing back a little bit on because I observe that society doesn’t feel well. Yeah. And so, is the answer, less difficulty to actually get better in a world where we’re going to take away contact from rugby, and make it you know, make our microbiomes all perfect, and eating granola and lovely things. At the same time. We have spiraling much higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicide. It’s not the I can’t say there’s a causation in there. No, there seems like a correlation.

Don Armand  19:54

I like what you’re saying there. And I think the best way I could sum this up is Stress can do the same stress can have two different outcomes. In one, it makes you shrink. And in one, it makes you grow. And the difference is how you perceive that stress. And so, I don’t think that we should be acquiescing to society’s demands, I think we should be educating and saying, if you’re going to do this, this is what the risks are. And as soon as people have an intrinsic motivation to understand and make the choice, you get rid of the anxiety. But I think the problem is, people are doing stuff, and they think they don’t have a choice. So, therefore, the stress is making them shrink. So, we’re not empowering everyone, we’re just essentially going, Oh, you could die. You could this could happen, that could happen. So, stop doing it. But actually, it’s not that simple. It’s like, well, anything in life has its risks, that’s lean into the challenges that’s into danger. That’s how you grow. So, for instance, you know, doing ice bars, you could get a doctor that says, What about the micro traumas that you could have to your heart and all that kind of stuff. And then and you do get people saying that, but until you’ve actually gotten in, and you realize what it does for you, and how much it empowers you in everything, nothing’s going to take nothing’s going to change it. So, it’s almost having that empowered mindset versus the disempowered mindset. I speak about that, like, that’s a big thing. For me. At the moment, I think society’s got a disempowered mindset, due to the narrative has been put out there. And we’ve got to try and empower people somehow.

Minter Dial  21:24

Putting my foot last time into an ice bath, I recall the feeling. And my cousin Molly was sitting in his bath smiling away, and just applauding life, if you will, while I was deep breathing, thinking of all the shuttering pain? Yeah. I mean, I tried and, and, and my excuse was, I’m 15 years older than he is. But I suspect that’s not going to hold water when I’m speaking with you. What is it about educating yourself that gets that pain to be just a little less horrible and excruciating and unbearable.

Don Armand  22:03

So, it gives a different perspective to the same situation. So, for example, and it’s probably a really good example, because it’s a it’s a tangible thing, that very kind of standard on stress, is if your champion always call it your champ, you’re in a, you know, by biology is fight or flight survival, that’s at a core essence, if you’re not, if you think that humans on how to survive an amazing, we’ve got a lot to learn from you, or you’ve got to just get a balance. And it’s just saying, when you’re in extreme heat or extreme cold, your survival instinct is going to kick in. And so, that’s going to make you want to get yourself away from it. But if you can almost take charge of those, that chimp the survival instinct, say, Look, this is going to make us better, I know that it’s going to be cold, but it’s going to be activating this and it’s going to be applying this, this is what it’s this is what’s going to be happening. It’s going to be making me stronger for doing this. All of a sudden, you put your foot and you’re like, Yes, this is still cold, but it’s good for me, it’s still called No, no, I’m going to go down, it’s still really cold. But it’s good for me. And just because you’re telling yourself, it’s good for you, you’ve got that strength to carry on, where’s the person that just goes, Oh, I like the idea of an ice bath. Oh, my goodness, this is cold, there’s no way that’s good for you can sit like they haven’t got any structures to fall back on, when the pain gets sore to go. This is what’s meant to be happening. This is how remember, this has been spoken about you are meant to be going through this. And as soon as because I think it’s that fear of the unknown. As soon as you make the unknown known, people able to predict and then be more resilient, but when you put someone into the unknown, they their resilience will drop, because they don’t know whether it’s going to kill them or not. And I think that’s the difference. So, if you can educate people on things, they know that they’re going to survive, and they’re going to grow, or they know that they’re going to die, so they’re not going to do it. And I think that’s at the end of the day is what if you try and be deep and simple, it’s going well, you will survive if you do this, but it’s going to be tough, but on the other side of you better or actually don’t do that, because you’re not going to survive. If you do this, then you will see people will take like stop doing the stuff that’s really bad for them, and they’ll start doing the stuff that’s tough, but they know they’re not going to die. And that’s why they can enjoy that so they can be resilient. And I suppose probably a really good example.

Minter Dial  24:22

Yeah, I suppose it also you know, maybe depending on the character needs to be anchored into some facts. What is it good about, you know, like just wishing a prayer Dawn says good for me. Not enough. You know, for me, I’d need to know that my this is going to help me with this issue. It’s going to do this to my body, the chemical biochemical reactions or this that, that that might help me getting in. And that is my little monkey brain. Speaking of monkeys, went to how having a relationship with somebody married for 28 years myself, knowing that we are we have a project together, allows us to get through the fights and the confrontations that inevitably happen. So, it makes me think of the same idea sort of going into the ice bath. It’s a challenge, it’s a fight. But I know why I’m doing it, we have a project, he me in the ice bath, you know, to make something better.

Don Armand  25:21

So, and I think it’s one of those, I can’t remember the saying exactly. But it said, if you want to get the best out of people, you have to unite them into something bigger than themselves. So, that project, that’s where you want to go is bigger than where you currently are. So, you’re going to do whatever it is to get there. I think ice visors is a good example that your marriage is enrolled. And by the way, 28 years is very respectable. And that is uniting is bigger than just yourself. And that’s why we can put ourselves forward to it. And I mean, back onto your thinking about facts I’m trying to put, I’ve put together an ice bath course for exactly that. Because I get frustrated when people buy an ice bath, use it for three weeks, and then sit there looking at it going. I’m a failure. I can’t do it. I’m like, No, it’s just, you just need to know a little bit about that. And it’ll help you like, there’s so many different reasons people do it, health, desire, just wanting to change just for a challenge. And data. And people are thinking about that as soon as you start to really hone into your reasons why you’re doing it. And then you can look at how you’re doing it. I like everyone says, I could never do that and said, that sounds like a challenge. Can we talk and then I try and get them in? Because we all people just walk around with these blokes all the time. I’m like, no, like, there’s no difference between you and me. And ice bath tolerance, there’s literally none. Unless you’ve got like some really deep medical reason not to. It’s just a mental thing. And if it’s just a mental thing, great because we can build that up. And that’s obviously an analogy for life and stress. And, you know, we’re going to play rugby because of injuries or not, and resilience and all that kind of stuff. And I think that’s where we go back to empower empowering mindsets is such a key thing to be able to do. And this is where society’s heading.

Minter Dial  27:01

Makes me lean into this idea of the bigger why. And while many people might have some vague idea of why they exist, and what it’s all about, it’s never I think one of the challenges is making it crystal clear. And then then you can anchor into it in such a tighter away.

Don Armand  27:22

Yeah, I think, yeah, I think we have to, how do you make something that’s really big crystal clear that I think sometimes it’s the smallest, it’s, yeah, that is the challenge, when you can make a bigger goal crystal clear to and crystal clear probably means that everyone that sees it understands it, rather than just 1/3 of the people see it, understand it, I think that’s when you get more unity.

Minter Dial  27:46

This is a good conduit to talking about captaincy, and leadership. So, you had the chance to be captain of the Exeter chiefs. You presumably observed Captain see while playing for England and the other teams that you’ve played for? What is the place of the why and or coming for a bigger purpose? I mean, the fact is when you’re a professional athlete, you know, you’re there for a job, you know, the but the coach tells you stuff and you know that you’ve got to win and I win, I get money. How do you organize captaincy to be effective in your in your experience?

Don Armand  28:29

Well, you know, I always thought, because I got the leadership business. Now I realize how much more there is to it than just being the natural self. And I sometimes go I wish I’d actually done some leadership training when I was captain or actually been around people that were really focused on it. Because as good as some people might be naturally, there’s just some aspects that are good to talk about be surrounded by so that you can actually do a more effective job. And I think the first thing you realize is that not everyone thinks the way you do not everyone’s motivated by the same thing. So, where you see like a coach that I’ll use money as a thing, like some people just don’t, money doesn’t I’ve got everything I need. There’s no There’s no reason that putting a incentive is going to make me get up in the morning and be more motivated. And some people are there’s also some people that need that why like, what am I putting my body on the line for what am I putting my why am I going into rugby and sacrificing time with family? For what, just to win one season. Again, I’m not motivated by just winning, I want to know I’m part of something bigger. And I think that’s where effective captaincy would come in because they would, especially from a sport perspective, your captain would have to be have a good relationship with your coaches to make sure that they know how to get the y set properly. So, the coaches on deviating from what the captain said. So, we talked about alignment there. And then being able to split that down into the team because I think there’s definitely times where you can get a super talented team that unmotivated. And as soon as you try throw money at them, it’s honestly, it’s, the man is going to do well for the first 30 minutes. And then they going to be like, You know what? That doesn’t matter? Because there’s just levels. And I think that’s where your question about the why the why will always come in at the darkest moment. And that’s why you can see we transfer this over to people living with, like life ending diseases and everything. The ones that have a why to live, either overcome it, or last a lot longer. Because that fight and then goes deeper than anyone else can actually try and motivate either them. That’s why you can try and motivate someone, and it just falls on deaf ears because they don’t have the why they are. So, I think having a deep Why is the thing that gets people winning a tight game was with one minute to go. Because they have that extra bit of energy that comes from flip. If we lose this, we don’t get x. And if that’s the moment that you need it, you need a big why. And I think that’s, you know, looking back at the Chiefs journey as they always wanted to win the double. And that would last that was like a 12-year journey. And so, that would mean that when you at the beginning of season lost the game, it wasn’t the season was over, it was what can we learn to get closer to the double? What can we learn to get close to the trophy. And I think that’s that’s a difference is if you if you unite a big goal united with a big why, then the journey can always you always get to look forward to something. Because if you fail, that’s okay, because now we get to learn. Whereas if you don’t have those, the why and then the bigger goal, you failed it, it’s very hard to get perspective because you’re zoomed in. So, you want to be able to zoom out and be like, Look, it doesn’t matter, we just know not to do that again, because that’s not going to get as close to the goal. So, I think effective captaincy is having a very good understanding of the why of the bigger goal, but also being able to change the message that it stays the same but gets interpreted differently or said differently to the different individuals and what motivates them. Because if you get a touchy feely message to someone that’s not touchy feely, they’re going to probably think you’re an ineffective captain, and then vice versa. So, it’s a bad read, I think I suppose the simplest answer is understand the individual differences and how that it’s not just ever one size fits all, you have to be able to have high performing environment. If you want to get the best out of individuals, you have to treat them as individuals within a team, not just treat them as a team have the same robotic kind of people?

Minter Dial  32:37

Well, what underlies that principle means getting to know each of them. Yeah, and in a personal manner, because are you interested by money? You know, you’re going to say that right away to a stranger? Maybe? Maybe not? Are you interested in the big? Why? Well, what’s the why? I’ve never heard of it before. It’s not a concept I know. And we’ll figuring out how to get under the skin of each can be challenging, because it requires some sort of vulnerability, how do you what sort of what ways do you architect that type of vulnerability when you are leading and wishing to adopt or adapt the message according to the person you’re talking to?

Don Armand  33:22

I think, well, if you’re the captain, you have this with the understanding that extra privileges that come with being captain, and more so elevated to coach like, you have to be able to spend time with people, because you can’t force vulnerability. But you can force not force you can nurture connection. And when you nurture connection, vulnerability is a side effect. I mean, sport has different ways where certain rugby you can get someone to do a three-slide presentation of who they are, where they’ve come from, what are the highlights or the hardships, immediately your credit report in the room. Now, if you’re doing that, and then as the captain, you’re remembering that and go afterwards going to go and just spend two minutes be like flip, I didn’t even know that you were going through that I’m really sorry. Or while you’ve come from that background, that’s essentially a way of getting vulnerability. And then you can pick out very quickly who the people are that weren’t prepared to be vulnerable, and you just spend more time getting to know them by just asking them simple, plain questions, you know, and you’ll pick up and might take longer with some, but that’s where that that leadership takes efforts. And it’s not measured. And it takes personal effort, I think, especially in a team environment, because everyone wants to feel like they’re part of something bigger. But they won’t necessarily know that until you dig a bit deeper.

Minter Dial  34:41

So, I’d be interested to know I’ve discussed this a couple of times over the hundreds of podcasts, but the difference between captaining a professional team and a national team obviously didn’t Captain England but what did you observe any differences and what it takes? Is it just the same skills are just a different ballgame?

Don Armand  35:03

From the different clubs I’ve been at, so like those that say Stormers, Chiefs, England, it was a really interesting to look at that that dynamic between how the coach coached and interacted with the captain, and how that split down into the players. So, the one that treated the captain as an equal cost opinions, who wasn’t doing it in a dictatorship style had a much better cohesion in the team than the one that was kind of like running it like it was a you know, 50 million pound plus revenue business where you had your hardcore leader, or manager for the show, I say, we’re going have you got your accountabilities have you done, your responsibilities and how that’s going. And it’s my way or the highway, and how that spilled down to the, you know, it really tested the strength of the leader. And I’m not saying that team is on purpose, because it doesn’t really matter. It was just the relationships and how that it stopped. So, I think sometimes a coach’s style can really stifle the ability for a captain to Captain well, and I think where you get alignment between Captain style and coach style, is where you get alignment all the way through, because they’re on the same page. But if you get a captain and a coach that on a different page, or even a coach and a coach on a different page, that spills down. And so, we always like keeping it simple. Even if you’re going to cultural alignment programming in a company, it’s always it always starts at the top. And I know that people say it, but like, if you’re not aligned at the top, I’m not going to waste my time with anyone else, because you will just ruin the whole thing. And we when you can see that and see with your body language, but I think it’s that it goes even deeper. And it’s like, if you’re not aligned with yourself, stop bothering it any anything outside of you. Because if you’re not aligned with what you’re doing, it’s just going to be taking energy, and it’s not going to work. When the chips go down, and the heat really comes on. That lack of alignment is what’s get highlighted. So, the more you can work on alignment with self, then team and all that kind of stuff, the less inconsistencies you’re going to get.

Minter Dial  37:14

Amen. Yeah, my, my further fourth book was called you lead how being yourself makes you a better leader. Like you’re in your title on LinkedIn, you say lead yourself before you lead others. So, let’s just stay in on that a second. Because you talked about building yourself confidence as well. How do you think about the idea of actually knowing yourself

Don Armand  37:40

and not being scared to fail. And I think that’s a that’s a big one. And by not being scared to fail means in by virtue of that you’re doing stuff. Because when you’re doing stuff you’re trying, and when you’re trying, you’re putting yourself out there, and you’re getting to really know if you’re good at something if you’re not so doing a lot of work on if you’re with a partner, being able to like how willing are you to apologize? How willing are you to listen to someone else’s opinion? How willing are you to recognize when it’s your self-importance at play, or your ego at play? How I mean, if you can really reflect on the statement, we judge others how we judge ourselves. And when you’re speaking or fighting, listen to what you’re saying and understand that you should be saying that to yourself, and not getting that chimp that comes and goes, no, no, you’re right. It’s them. That’s where that leading yourself becomes a big thing. Because if you can recognize what you’re doing to others, that’s coming from somewhere inside because you can’t see things that aren’t part of your thought process. And it’s having that humbleness to be able to say, well, I’ve got some work to do. I’ve got some work to do. But it’s hard because some people say that that self-aware journey can just send you into such depths that you end up being completely frazzled. But actually, I think that there’s a point that you have to keep going, you have to make sure that you’re always looking at yourself leading yourself. Because if you can lead yourself, you can recognize those things and others and when you can recognize them and others, then you have a much better ability to lead them because you aren’t faking what you’re doing. You’re having a bit of intrinsic connection with others. And that’s why I like there’s a someone told me the guy’s name, but I can’t remember it, there was a principal underwriter 1938. And it was theory and experience. I know the date was 98. But I keep forgetting the name. But they were saying the principle of if you’ve just got theory, it’s not going to take you far enough the experience is what can really take you to the next level. And then I’ve always thought that if you can combine theory and experience that becomes a very good way of interacting and say if we were put into the leadership context leading it’s like, I know this tool works not because the book tells me it does but because I know how it applies. But the tool simplifies my experience through that theory and then that’s why we should try and explore this and Do it in your way. So, yeah, that’s, I can go on and on about that.

Minter Dial  40:05

That’s good. Well, I’ll make sure to find that quote, and we’ll put it in the show notes on the thing. It it’s true that we’re behind theories. It’s not like the idea of knowledge and, and models and everything. And what I liked about the way you described it was that this idea of getting to know yourself, you sort of ask yourself questions, like, you know, how willing or what’s the presence of what’s the motivation of, and Shane Parrish, who wrote clear thinking, borrow this thought from somebody else, which is make the invisible visible, where you have these motivations, but they’re sort of within you. And until you’ve made them explicit, and you make connections into them, it’s very hard for you to really understand what’s motivating you, the monkey brain and such.

Don Armand  40:53

Yeah, I like that kind of like the sums up for me the Johari Window.

Minter Dial  40:58

Have you seen that? I have, I can’t remember exactly.

Don Armand  41:01

That, for anyone listening. Basically, there’s four quadrants, the one quadrant is the things you know about yourself and the things other than others know, the second quadrant is the things you know, but others don’t know. The third quadrant is things that others know about yourself that you don’t know. And then the fourth quadrant is the things that you don’t know about yourself, and no one else knows. And you get you expand or you shrink, those boxes are expanding, whichever you can look at it by asking for feedback by trying things by really going deep. And obviously, the smaller that block of things you don’t know, and no one else knows, the more aware you are. But the bigger that block, the lesser where you are. So, that was a really, that was the kind of one thing that started my self-awareness journey, because I was like, Oh, I think that that last dark space, the dot, you know, that like similar talks to move faster. And he talks about like the elephant graveyard? That’s so like, we don’t touch the darkness. And that’s kind of where I was like, I need to go there. So, I was exactly like similar. You go on a journey, and you experience exactly what’s in there. And

Minter Dial  42:00

I do feel that Well, I mean, that’s, that’s basically one of the core tenets of a book I’m reading, which is this notion of darkness and our ability to lean into the darkness, it’s sort of easy to put yourself on an Instagram post and looking fantastic. And look at me, I’m ripped, I just did this great workout. And such but you know, showing you crying after being beaten, or, you know, after failing big Lee in some way or other. It’s, it’s a whole other space. And as a society, I feel like we are, we’re less prepared to do that, except to talk about it. Because it’s, it opens up too many worms and put costs us in a bad light.

Don Armand  42:41

Yeah, and I think it’s, I think that the next stage to that, as it also gets interpreted, interpreted the wrong way. And I can’t remember if I said this, too, I said, if you’re on a, like a self-aware journey, and you use vulnerability as a thing with, say, your partner or your team, so maybe in leadership, if you’re vulnerable with a team, because everyone says you’ve got to be vulnerable. But if you’re vulnerable, someone’s going to take advantage of that vulnerability, they’re going to undermine everything you’re trying to do, because they’re just going to make you seem weak to your team, they’re going to be like, Oh, this is not the kind of, because they know how to put points together that are seem logical. So, you have to and like, I also think like Instagram and social media, it’s like, if there’s 100 points that you would need to know, to understand why this person is crying, why they’re being vulnerable, and what makes that so powerful, Instagram will give you five of them. And by having only five, you won’t get the full context and you go, Well, I don’t want to be like that, and you move on. But you don’t recognize the depth to which that goes in the strength to which that actually allows you. And I think that’s the problem. That’s one of the issues or challenges. I think that social media is amazing for certain things, you can get really good points across that you wouldn’t have come across before. But they also lack a depth that you would need to really take a core principle that can change your life. Because you’ve just moved on within the first 10 seconds and gone. Well, that guy’s I don’t understand why he’s putting that on here. And then if you even go, oh, this is interesting, that guy’s crying or that girl’s crying. And you’re going to look at the comments and the comments are filled with people that don’t understand it and are, you know, just, why is this on Instagram, this person that and they can argue and you just go okay, maybe they’re right. And I think that’s where the challenge comes in is like, we have to as people, we have to learn to think for ourselves, but we haven’t been taught to think for ourselves. And I’ve hopefully trying to learn that. But there’s so many answers raga why was I doing that? It’s just because that’s how you’ve been taught to do it. But if we can learn to think for ourselves, think critically and take each case individually and go actually no, he has got it wrong or he has got it right not because of what everyone else has said but because how I see it. That’s when you get I think a lot further is learning to think for yourself.

Minter Dial  44:59

It It does need you to have a strong moral compass, something that you’re aware of what do you mean by good and bad? And are you doing it for performative reasons? Or is there a proper link between you and that goodness? And at the same time? Are you aware of your badness, because it’s very easy to pontificate or, or call out bad things. But I regularly talk about how we hold up to a higher standard that we hold ourselves to things like a psychedelics or artificial intelligence or even politicians. We are we’re very quick to call it’s easy to criticize others than it is to know ourselves. Yeah.

Don Armand  45:46

Yeah, I agree. I think in some people in some people, I think they are some people like they can be quite critical of themselves and not critical of others around that. That’s an interesting balance.

Minter Dial  46:01

Which brings up this point of self-confidence. And I wanted to had tip because you were recording this the day after you ran a sub four minute, a sub four hour sorry, Marathon, the London Marathon. Congratulations for that. Thank you. How does one build self-confidence without going overboard into arrogance?

Don Armand  46:22

That’s a good question. I think that there might be certain traits that people have that are always going to keep them human, like keep the humility, humble, sorry. And I think that sometimes overconfidence can come across as arrogance. But, you know, certain people will be born with what everyone else sees is imposter syndrome, I think is a blessing. Because it stops you from being a bull in a china shop wherever you go. And that, again, that’s just looking at something in a different way. And I think there might be extremes to imposter syndrome that everyone’s adopt and thinking, Yeah, that’s me. But actually, there’s some people that are the extreme imposter syndrome that I would say that’s impostor syndrome. And there’s some people that just need to build their confidence. And they think that they have impostor syndrome, and that starts to cripple them. So, building self-confidence for me, is about learning not to lie to yourself. So, I’m going to do this. So, then do it and do it small. Because I think what we do is we see someone on Instagram, we get told by an advisor, you should, you know, go for a 20 Kilometer 20 Kilometer total, like, load run in a week. But they don’t understand what you’ve got going on your past where you’re going, when you’re present what other time demands you have. So, then you go, yeah, I’m going to do that, we’re going to do that. And then you don’t do it, that doesn’t build your self-confidence. So, I’d say like, building your self-confidence starts with the small things that you do every day. So, if it’s just going, I’m going to make my bed every day. And you commit to doing that, you would never think you’re building yourself confidence until you’ve done it for six months, and you go, I’m able to do something else now. And then you start to habit stack all these other things, because you’ve started something really small. So, that’s just speaking from experiences, my journey is like, I’ve not a person that was notorious. I never used to make my bed, I never used to have a morning routine, nothing I used to literally for rugby, I used to wake up at five to seven, with my clothes on the floor, get my clothes on and leave at seven o’clock, that was my morning routine. Whereas now, it’s like cold shower, make the bed, get dressed ice or ice bath, do a bit of exercise, do some journaling, if I have time for it. And doing those everyday, even if I don’t feel like it. That’s built my self-confidence way more than when I was a top performing rugby player. Like now my self-confidence now because I do things for me that are really small, every single day, have brought my self-confidence up to be able to go, I’m going to run a sub four hour marathon when everyone says no, you’re not, that’s really hard. How can you do that. And I know that all I have to do is the small bits of training for three month’s time, for the previous three months. If I do those, the sub four marathon isn’t going to be hard to get if I don’t do those, then I’m not going to go get them. So, it’s like the self confidence in that analogy would be your sub for our marathon, but it’s not the sub for our marathon that gets your self-confidence. It’s all the training you do for that. Does that make sense?

Minter Dial  49:32

It does. I wonder to what extent announcing that you want to do a sub for our to others participates in the sticking to and the consistency of your small routines. Yeah.

Don Armand  49:48

So, interestingly, I never announced to anyone because that was something that I was almost like there was a different side is fear of failure because if you tell them but now they’re going to so I probably only I told six to seven people that actually wanted to do that. Everyone else I was just running. So, but for me, it was like a deeply it was a deeply personal goals, like they had this notes, which has got the marathon times on it the pace times. So, 8:46 miles per mile, 5:27 kilometer. And I ended up and that was like trying to get 3:51, I ended up getting 3:56. So, I was just short of that pace. But I never announced anyone that other than maybe one or two people that I trusted. And then the day before, I would almost test, you know how you like I’m trying to break sub four and both people I said, Oh, that’s really difficult. If only it was that easy. And then I had to stop telling. I was like they’re just going by their own self-confidence, their own beliefs, how they’ve tried how they see it are creating barriers for me. And so, yeah, I didn’t answer just because exactly one of the tests that is like was, it was all about creating accountability for myself, which was a big focus. I didn’t want to be accountable because I’d set it because I feel like if you can do things for you, and just you build your self-confidence up, if you’re doing things for other people, you’re actually building up your accountability, self-confidence, I think there’s a difference.

Minter Dial  51:15

So, I would like to just dovetail that thought into ambition. Bigger. Why? Let’s say that, Oh, I really want to win a tournament. whoop dee doo. You know, I won the tournament. Oh, yeah. I did everything I needed to to win the tournament with my partner are playing. And I did by the way, but not. So, what is it not important that? Is it enough to say, I’m just doing this? Because I want to build my confidence? Is that a big enough? Why? I mean, why are you trying to build your confidence? Maybe you know, where? Where do you put the flag in the sand as to the link with some bigger ambition purpose of what you’re doing?

Don Armand  52:03

Yeah. So, it’s so interesting of you. When you were talking there, my mind went to well, actually, why am I trying to build my self-confidence is because I’ve got a very big, hairy, audacious goal, that if I’m speaking at someone’s funeral, I want to give the best eulogy of that person, I want to be the person that people can come to full strength at a time when they’re feeling at the lowest. Because I think there’s a massive privilege in that. But that takes, that takes self-confidence to be able to step up and go, I know that I’m going to deliver this well, because of that person. And I also, when I’m on my deathbed, I don’t want to have any regrets. Because and I don’t want to have, I want to be able to lift my kids up when I’m 70, I want to be at my grandkids, I want to be fully present. So, when you talk about self-confidence, that’s almost become a byproduct of me trying to build that 70-year-olds or nine, whatever age I’m in on my deathbed, being healthy if I even get to death. But if I just drop dead one day, when I’m older, it’s like all of those things. I know that I have to keep healthy in order to keep healthy, I’ve got side of the ice bath every day. And if I’m doing ice bars as then started to build my self-confidence, I’m like, wow, when you actually have self-confidence, these things start to happen. So, if you set big hairy goals, and you have that, that why to keep going on them. The journey towards setting them allows you to uncover so much more, as opposed to so for your, for your example there. If you just want a tournament, it’d be great when you bring in ego earlier is like maybe that’s where you go, maybe it’s not. But if you actually go, I want to win a tournament because when I’m when I have grandkids, I want to look back and say, this was the journey I went on. That was it. There’s no ego in that. Because you’re doing it for something that’s like I was like, I’m a big person for legacy. And it’s not about your name and legacy. It’s about like, what characteristics have you instilled in the generations coming after you that are going to be they’re still in play when you’re no longer around. And you only install those by doing and those are the kinds of things I’m discovering with by setting that initial big hairy goals, that vision the why all of these things start to get uncovered because you’re working towards something. But it only started with one small thing which was I think it was like cold showers. Because I was like I need to I need to be consistent. So, you start one thing and then all these other things start to get uncovered.

Minter Dial  54:23

Lovely. Well, maybe you know maybe it’s the epigenetic legacy. Don it’s been great to have you on the show. I really want to thank Chris again for putting us in touch and chat with you about all things rugby leadership legacy great topic so um, you run the Samsung Armand leadership legacy. How can people follow you track you down hire you what are the best links that you can like to send people to?

Don Armand  54:50

Thanks very much for having me on today. It’s been amazing. I really enjoyed being able to chat to people at a at a good in-depth level. And that’s my thing. But LinkedIn is probably the ease just placed because it’s way it’s I manage that. So, I’m posting on there every Tuesday and Thursday replying to messages, you can go through the website, but essentially, it’s quite outdated. It’s left update that was LinkedIn has direct contact to me. And even if it’s just following or messaging or having conversations, it doesn’t have to be getting work. I think like building relationships to me is far more important because, you know, I think you have a good network of people, there might be two years down the line where we’ve chatted and either need work from you or you need work for me. But if you don’t make those connections, then the connection isn’t there.

Minter Dial  55:39

Amen to that done. As we said at the very outset, it is all about relationships, fabulousness Stan, I look forward to having a chance to share a real beer in real time in real place somewhere along the line. Stay in touch and thanks again for being on the show.

Don Armand  55:56

Thanks very much Minter.

Minter Dial

Minter Dial is an international professional speaker, author & consultant on Leadership, Branding and Transformation. After a successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots and has spent the last twelve years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. He has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and figure out how best to integrate new technologies, digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dial up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He’s author of four award-winning books, including Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence (2nd edition) (2023); You Lead, How Being Yourself Makes You A Better Leader (Kogan Page 2021); co-author of Futureproof, How To Get Your Business Ready For The Next Disruption (Pearson 2017); and author of The Last Ring Home (Myndset Press 2016), a book and documentary film, both of which have won awards and critical acclaim.

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