The Business Gay Podcast with Host Calan Breckon
The Business Gay
Organizational Leadership and The Future of Work
Organizational Leadership and The Future of Work with Gregg Brown

In this episode of The Business Gay Podcast, host Calan Breckon speaks with special guest, Gregg Brown.

With a career spanning 30 years, Gregg is an internationally recognized speaker, advisor, entrepreneur, and business mentor. Gregg was part of the team that opened the first wave of Starbucks in Canada. His insights on change and the future of work have been featured in Forbes, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and Entrepreneur, as well as on CTV’s The Social and Global News.

Gregg has been mentoring entrepreneurs with Canada’s LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) for many years. He believes small businesses and entrepreneurs build community and create opportunities for people to express their creativity in the world. He is the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller “Spark Action: How to Lead Change That Matters” which has just been named as one of the top business books to read in 2024 by Thinkers 360.

Gregg holds a Master`s of Social Science Degree from the University of Leicester in the UK, with a focus on organizational psychology, leadership and performance and is an Associate Member of the American Psychological Association.

Watch on YouTube

► Today’s Sponsor is Ownr – Start Your Business Today!

Join the email list for news and updates

Links mentioned in this episode:

Key Takeaways for quick navigation:

  • [00:02:46] Gregg Brown discusses common pitfalls for new entrepreneurs, such as focusing too much on branding, websites, and logos instead of prioritizing revenue generation and market validation.
  • [00:04:42] The importance of getting feedback from non-biased sources, like mentors or peers, is highlighted to help entrepreneurs refine their products or services.
  • [00:11:31] Moving from a sales-focused mindset to one of building relationships and asking how to help potential clients can lead to better business outcomes.
  • [00:13:08] Gregg and Calan discuss how unsolicited direct messages and sales pitches on platforms like LinkedIn can negatively impact business relationships.
  • [00:15:46] Gregg emphasizes the importance of building agility and adaptability in organizations to navigate changes brought on by AI and the future of work.
  • [00:18:23] While AI can be helpful for outlining and generating content, it’s essential to maintain a unique voice and critical thinking skills to stand out in the market.
  • [00:25:13] Interpersonal skills such as empathetic leadership and conflict resolution are becoming increasingly important in the workplace, especially as polarization rises.
  • [00:43:38] The conversation touches on the need for workers to relentlessly prioritize tasks and maintain work-life balance to avoid burnout and increase productivity.


[00:00:00] Calan Breckon: Looking to start a business? Ownr gives you the tools you need to get started today. Trusted by companies like RBC, Futurepreneur, and the City of Toronto, owner enables Canadian entrepreneurs to start, manage and grow their business. Right now, owner is offering their sole proprietor registration for just $49. I used owner to register my business back in 2020 and it was so easy to do. When I make the move to incorporate, I am definitely going through owner. Find out how easy it is to start. Start your business today that’s O-W-N-R or click the link in the show notes. Now let’s get on to today’s episode.

Welcome to the Business Gay podcast, where we talk about all things business, marketing and entrepreneurship. I’m your host, Calan Breckon. And on today’s episode, I have special guest, Gregg Brown. With a career spanning over 30 years, Gregg is an internationally recognized speaker, advisor, entrepreneur and business mentor. Gregg was part of the team that opened the first wave of Starbucks in Canada. His insights on change and the future of work have been featured in Forbes, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and Entrepreneur, as well as on CTV’s the Social and global news. Gregg has been mentoring entrepreneurs with the Canadian LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, also known as the CGLCC, for many years. He believes small businesses and entrepreneurs build community and create opportunities for people to express their creativity in the world. He is the author of the number one Amazon bestseller “Spark Action, how to lead change that matters,” which has just been named as one of the top business books to read in 2024 by Thinkers 360. Gregg holds a Masters of social science degree from the University of Leicester in the UK with a focus on organizational psychology, leadership and performance, and is an associated member of the American Psychological association. I’m excited to chat with Gregg about organizational leadership and the future of work. So let’s jump in.

[00:02:03] Calan Breckon: Welcome to the podcast, Gregg. I’m so excited to have you. How are you doing?

[00:02:06] Gregg Brown: I’m doing good. I’m so excited to be here, Calan.

[00:02:09] Calan Breckon: Yes. So I do want to start off a little quick story.

I know that you were a mentor for Vin and Luca who were also on this podcast.

[00:02:18] Gregg Brown: Yeah, yeah.

[00:02:19] Calan Breckon: So it was very, very serendipitous, and I love them. And so I was like, oh, well, then I’m going to obviously love Gregg. So thank you for joining. I want to jump right into it. You have a whole history of business. So in all of your years of running a business and coaching and mentoring and all the other things for business owners, what are the biggest pitfalls you tend to see with someone when they are starting a business, there are a few.

[00:02:46] Gregg Brown: And the reason I say there are a few because they’re my pitfalls as well. When I started the business, my own business many years ago, so I’d worked in government and private sector, but I always had a little business on the side. So these are some of the things that I did that I’ve seen other people do. One of the first things that I think people should not do is wait until they have a logo and the perfect website and the perfect branding. Because in my first business, I was working with the woman. We were doing diversity consulting many years ago, like 30 years ago, we spent a year getting a logo. We had a brochure, because this was before Internet. The end of the year, we’re sitting in my living room and I’m like, we don’t have any business, we don’t have any people. So we scrapped that whole idea. So I think that’s the danger, is that we want everything to be perfect. And the big thing is get out the door, get revenue in, get a logo later. You can get cheap logos off the Internet anywhere that have your initials. Do something, but don’t spend $25,000 going, I’m going to brand this, my brand. No, get it out, get some traction. See if people are going to actually buy what you’re going to sell. And that’s my number one out of that.

[00:04:07] Calan Breckon: So do you think that it goes along the lines of, you know how they always tell entrepreneurs to fail fast, especially in tech? It’s like, that’s what it is. It’s like, don’t do all the Zhuzh and all the fancy, you know, busy work. Get an actual product out there.

[00:04:20] Gregg Brown: Yeah. So. And that’s the other thing. I’m glad you brought that up. Get your product out or service. You know, like I did. I do service delivery just like you do and different service delivery. Get feedback on your product or service and not from friends or family because they’re all going to be too nice to you. Yeah.

[00:04:42] Calan Breckon: You need people who will slap you around a bit.

[00:04:45] Gregg Brown: Yeah. Get people like, this isn’t going to work, this is going to work.

Get some honest feedback around how to tweak what you need to do, whether that’s my mentors or peers, get somebody who’s not close to you to give you that feedback. And I still do that in my work. Yeah.

[00:05:02] Calan Breckon: So if you’re going to give advice to somebody, be like, fail fast, fail hard, throw it out there, make it messy. That’s something I’ve learned in my years, and I just talked about this on a previous podcast, is that if you’re feeling good about it, when you put it out there, you took too long to do it.

[00:05:22] Gregg Brown: If you feel good, that’s a good point, because I think the thing is this, you want to have some things do need to be done well and done right.

However, if you’re newly starting a business, you gotta pay your bills. Even if you’re doing it off the side of your desk and you have a full time job, you’ve gotta get the traction, and you have to figure out what the numbers are before you do that. Like, how much do I have to sell? How many widgets? How much service do I need to do? Because some things are not scalable. Mm hmm.

[00:05:57] Calan Breckon: Because human beings.

[00:05:59] Gregg Brown: Say that again.

[00:06:00] Calan Breckon: Because I was going to say human beings are just one of us if you’re the only one.

[00:06:04] Gregg Brown: I remember back in 2010, I was laid up sick for a couple of months, and what was quite funny was I said, I’m going to start another business. Because that’s, again, another challenge about being an entrepreneur is squirrel. We want to start this, we start that. So I did this whole little program that I was going to do some. I love real estate, so I was going to do this real estate learning exchange, it was called. And I worked with someone on logo because I was bedridden. I did this and I did that.

And finally, after two months, I’m like, I heard you. The numbers on this. There was no way I was going to be able to make any money charging what I needed to charge, which the market would bear, so I scrapped that.

[00:06:43] Calan Breckon: Yeah, you need to have profit. Like, there needs to be a profit that could come through that’s above your expenses, for sure.

[00:06:51] Gregg Brown: Like, or it’s a hobby, and I’m okay if you want to make baskets as a hobby or, you know, consult on the side just to make some extra cash. Awesome.

But you’re right. You need to make some money. You have to pay your expenses, and you need to pay your rent. Yeah.

[00:07:07] Calan Breckon: I think that the world did us a disservice when it started to try and say, follow your passion, do your passion. I do not believe in that. I might once upon a time have believed in that, but now I believe in. Nope. Your passion for can be those hobbies, can be those things you can enjoy, but don’t make it your business because it will very quickly not be your passion anymore.

[00:07:29] Gregg Brown: Or it can be, you know, like, I what I do, I love what I do. It is I. I have been teaching people since I was ten years old and sat down my friends in front of a chalkboard to try to teach them math. And then I taught when I was a teenager, crafts and canoeing. And I love spe, and it is my passion to do the work I do. And what you’re seeing is right as well. So I’m lucky if you can make money off your passion. Great.

And I tell people, look at what you like to do as a kid, and if you can do that as an adult and make money, that will make you happy. So when I was a kid, I used to like to build houses, so I used to like to buy and sell real estate for fun. And I used to love to teach people things, and now I get to do that and make money.

I could have gone the way of a school teacher, but I decided that wasn’t I wanted to do. You’re right.

And you’re right. Sometimes it’s about just doing work that you like to do and flipping your business and making money. That’s not who I am. And my hat goes off to you that you can do that. Yeah. There’s a world of both. Yeah.

[00:08:37] Calan Breckon: And it’s not like you don’t love, I’m not saying you don’t love what you do, but, like, it’s like, like, I love. I love to learn about finances. I love to learn about tech. I’m. I enjoy it a lot. I am passionate to a degree, but I wouldn’t say that that is like, a, like, love passion of mine. I’m talking about, like, the singing and the acting or the, like, crafting and artsy and, like, those kinds of things. It’s.

[00:09:01] Gregg Brown: That’s.

[00:09:01] Calan Breckon: That’s more of the direction that I was going in.

[00:09:03] Gregg Brown: And I love that you’re saying that, because I think it really ties in, into our business conversation, which is, you know, not, you know, people say to me all the time, I want to be a speaker. I want to, you know, be a workshop facilitator. And I’m like, there’s this many people that make that much money doing it, and there’s this many people that make very little money doing it. And it’s like, what you’re saying, you know, there’s this many people that make this much money singing.

This many people who love to sing don’t make any money. Like, not all of us are going to become movie stars tomorrow if you love acting.

So I love what you’re saying. I think it’s really wise for entrepreneurs to really think that, because that’s the starting point of starting a business.

Is this a business or is it a hobby? If you love to make soaps, market it out, and it might be fun to make some money on the side. Or is this just a fun passion project for you because you love essential oils and giving people stuff that makes smell nice?

[00:10:03] Calan Breckon: Yeah, 100%. So I guess this goes along the lines of, like, what’s one thing you should not do when starting a business?

[00:10:13] Gregg Brown: One thing you should not do is I sort of mentioned already, spend all your money on marketing stuff and all that. I think that’s number one.

The other number one thing I think you should do is get out of the mindset. And this is very much a mindset thing that it’s about sell, sell, sell. I gotta go sell, I gotta sell, I gotta sell my service, I gotta sell this, I gotta sell my product that just, you know, I don’t know why we all of us have that mindset and I labeling all, but most of us have that. We gotta sell, sell, sell. And even I get into that mindset now. It’s really about how can I build relationships? How can I find out what people need and can I give them what they need.

The question is really we want to ask is how can I help? It’s a very different mindset because it takes the pressure off you because people have a choice not to buy your stuff. So get out of, I got to sell, sell, sell. Good salespeople create a conversation, and they know that the buy the sale happens in the mind of the other person. So you need to get ahead of your target audience. What do they need to be? Do nora have to say yes and have a, create a dialogue, get into what I call an engagement mindset versus a selling convincing mindset.

[00:11:31] Calan Breckon: Yeah, I would fully agree with that because I always thought selling was so gross. Like, anytime I heard that, I was like, it makes me feel very icky. But once somebody explained it in a fully different way, that they’re like, no, you never should sell. Just be a kind, open, caring person who wants to help, and that will naturally lead to sales. That’s that. Holy switched. And I was like, oh, well, I do that all the time. And so then that wholly reframed it in my mind as like, oh, just treat people with respect and kindness, which is I do, and educate them, and they will come and find you.

[00:12:09] Gregg Brown: That is such a good point. And I still think you need a sales probably. I still think you need to generate leads and do all that sales stuff. Yes, but what you’re saying is so right, because it is about how can I help? And when you create relationships with you. And all of us want referral based sales, like, that’s the number one way to grow your business is referrals. It’s not cold calling. I got a cold call. I’m like, oh, my gosh, please don’t waste your time.

[00:12:39] Calan Breckon: I got an email the other day that made me feel so icky that they portrayed it in a way that they were like, oh, can’t remember what he said, but he was like saying, oh, I like this post you did, or talking about this and then started talking about his product. All of a sudden I was like.

[00:12:52] Gregg Brown: What the this is?

[00:12:53] Calan Breckon: I didn’t ask you to pitch me. I didn’t give you permission to pitch me. I can give you permission to say something to me and say, hey, how’s it going? I liked your post, start a relationship. But like, don’t throw that shit in my face right away.

[00:13:08] Gregg Brown: Well, and you hit on another great point. Here’s a number. Number one thing not to do. So I probably have three number one things not to do.

And you hit the nail on the head.

Post sales stuff on social media and direct message people through LinkedIn, YouTube, Insta, any of them, and try to sell them your stuff, it does not work. You are not going to sell. Just because you put something on Instagram does not mean anybody’s going to buy it. And if you direct message me to buy your stuff, I’m probably not going to. And one of my favorite things I see these days on LinkedIn, that’s where my audience hangs out, who buy me is, I think someone went to, I always like someone went to a course and taught this, and now I’m getting all of this. So I get someone went to a course, financial services professionals went to a course that said, friend people on LinkedIn, then send them a message about the great financial services you offer.

What do you think? The number one thing I do is I unfollow. I immediately unfriend them or unneck them or whatever the word is, because I’m like, I can tell you, I went to a course, don’t do this.

[00:14:21] Calan Breckon: Yeah, same, same. And you can spell them from a mile away. You know what? I went to the degree, actually, on LinkedIn where you can click the settings and I don’t let anybody who’s not a friend of mine message me. And so I’ve turned it all off. You can add me or like whatever their version of it is. And then in that you can send some sort of a message or something to be like, this is why I want to connect. But if we don’t have people in common and like, looking at your profile, there’s nothing that I’m seeing. And you’re like, in the SEO world or you’re in like a something. I’m like, just because we’re both an SEO world doesn’t mean nothing to me. I don’t need whatever you’re selling or pitching. No thanks.

[00:14:59] Gregg Brown: I know. So I get people that connect with me, they’re like, oh, let’s be friends. And I look there like b, two b sales or b, two b c sales, and I’m like, I’ll connect. And if they send me a thing, hey, let’s book a meeting to talk about how I can help you. I just, I usually, I used to be nice and say this sales process doesn’t work. And I then friend them. Now I just delete them.

[00:15:21] Calan Breckon: Yeah, no time. So I want to continue the conversation along. A lot of your work is helping to prepare businesses for the future and the future of what work looks like. Because going through the pandemic, if it’s, I mean, it taught us many things, but one of those many things that it taught us is that work is going to look very different. And since nobody knows the future, how can organizations and businesses best prepare themselves for that future?

[00:15:46] Gregg Brown: For sure? So I think the biggest thing is we want to look at the trends around what the future work is. So obviously, AI, it’s the number one thing driving the conversation around the future of work. And there used to be conversations on, oh, it’s going to take away my work and blah, blah, blah. I don’t believe that. And the research doesn’t support that. The research supports, it’s going to streamline our work.

So I think the biggest thing for people to be aware of with the future of work is they need to build. And this is where going through COVID can help. The future of work’s going to change. What we need to do is build our own capabilities, our teams capabilities and our organization’s capabilities to be future ready to build those muscles that we can handle whatever comes up. And the way to do that, one of the best ways to do that is look at the agility that happened through COVID that all of us in the world had to go through.

All of us built different, change muscles throughout that about how we respond to the future.

What I recommend every entrepreneur, every team member, every leader in a bank or any big organization is sit down with yourself and your team and go, what are the new skills and abilities we learned and how can we apply those to navigating the future? So it might be stuff like, we’re good at rolling with ambiguity. We can change on a dime. Like when people say to me, my organization’s slow moving, I’m like, that’s not true.

They change like this. Everybody went virtual March 12 or whatever it was in 2020. That’s fast.

So let’s find out what drivers were able to make us move fast and how we can replicate that. Because change future works like this.

I think with AI, which is, I would say the number one thing, I think we have to really, and organizations are figuring this out. I think as entrepreneurs, we have to really stay true to this for every type of entrepreneur, people are hiring you because of you. People are hiring you and buying your products because of you. If you use AI to generate all your content, all your conversation, and don’t edit it to put your voice in, you just sound generic. So you have to use your critical thinking skills. And the research is showing that critical thinking skills are going to be more in demand for everyone. As we start to look through AI. Go, hey, I’m going to use this word or not all your people listening. And, you know, I can see an AI generated email. This is a momentous occasion that’s going to be extra frigging fabulous. And it’s going to do, and I’m like, this is not you.

[00:18:23] Calan Breckon: Yeah, there’s definitely differences in the voice, 110%. And as an SEO person, yeah, I do use AI to help craft and help create outlines. And it’s, it’s, for me, it’s the difference of looking at a blank piece of paper going or blank screen being like, okay, what do I need to create here? And then just taking an outline, being like, roughly, this is the direction you should go in, like a template and going, okay, I have a roadmap to follow. Now, that’s who can really benefit from using AI, using those critical thinking skills.

[00:18:58] Gregg Brown: You’re so right. And I think, you know, the big thing with that is, you know, you’re still the expert in your world, Calan. You know, like, all the people listening are still the experts in their world. And if you’re listening, yes, use AI to help with structure and find a different word for something. But ultimately you want to bring your wisdom, your expertise to the table. Anybody can use AI, but people want you. People want your product. They want your service. We have to make that assumption. Yes, help AI write it or whatever, but then edit it so it sounds like your voice, because that’s what the future work is really about, uniqueness.

How do you stand out? I don’t care if it’s a product or a service. How do you stand out?

[00:19:44] Calan Breckon: So would you say that a lot of that also comes in the package of soft skills as well? Developing a lot more of those soft skills?

Just from my kind of perceptions, this might not be correct, but my perceptions are kind of, we’re going from old guard to new generation. We’re going through generational change right now, definitely. And a lot of that is going from leave your emotions at home, don’t talk about home life, work. This is a certain type of roboticness to it when you come to work, and this is how things look, and things are kind of shifting to kind of have a little bit more of those soft skills and acceptance of that, there’s that transition happening.

[00:20:25] Gregg Brown: You’re right. So COVID prompted that. So COVID was the first time in our lifetime that here in North America and western Europe, obviously, when there’s conflicts and wars and all that stuff going on in other parts, COVID was the least of their worries, just to be clear. So I’m very much talking western Europe, North America. Cause that’s what I can speak to.

It was a life defining moment for all of us who were here, and it was the only time where we had that intersection of personal and professional. And that has changed the workplace for sure and for good, I think.

I don’t call them soft skills because I think they’re the hardest skills to teach. I call them interpersonal skills. So, yeah, I call them the hardest skills I can teach anybody to do a plan or a strategic plan. Teaching someone how to lead their team or communicate is so much harder. So I call those interpersonal skills. And I believe that as we become more tech focused, as you’ve seen the rapid advancements in technology, your interpersonal skills are even more important. And you cannot hide behind a text message anymore.

The great thing with tech is we can see each other all the time if we need to. Even if I’m talking to someone at a distance who lives in South America or Europe, if we’re going to have a conversation that could have potential conflict or disruption, something in it, we need to do it with video, because I need to be able to see you, and we need to be able to talk. So you’re 100% right.

The interpersonal skills for people are going to be ramped up. And this is the other key thing, especially in tech, people that are technologically based and thought based that way. And I’d say this, with any profession that has a lot of terminology, you have to learn how to translate for your buyer.

So in the old days, a tech guy would come up, let’s pretend 20 years ago, tech guy would come up to me, hey, I need this cable. I need this. I’m like, I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. Can you just speak in terms? And then I’d be told the problems between the chair and the keyboard. I’m like, I’m not the problem. I don’t understand you. So it’s like you were saying earlier about learning about finance. When people talk to finance about me, they might as well be speaking Arabic, because I can’t understand a word.

[00:22:49] Calan Breckon: Yeah.

[00:22:50] Gregg Brown: So I need translation. So all of us that have product or services to sell have to learn how to translate our language so that our buyer can understand us, which is what you’re saying. Definitely.

[00:23:03] Calan Breckon: Definitely. And in terms of everything that we’ve been talking about here in this last little bit of the conversation, directionally, what do you think? Directionally is good for the overall workforce, but that leaders have been struggling to grow and evolve with, I think leaders.

[00:23:20] Gregg Brown: And I include myself and I include you in this. We don’t know how to listen to people’s personal stuff, and we don’t necessarily want to because we got work to do. I’m generalizing.

So this is a challenge, I think, for all of us as leaders, and anybody listening here is a leader. Leaders, not about a job title. You know, I’ve worked with frontline admin professionals who can rope people into doing anything, and I’ve worked with CEO’s who can’t get anyone to do a thing. So leadership is about a mindset, not a function. I just want to put that out there for everyone so they know where I’m coming from.

I think the big thing is we want to solve everyone’s problems. And, you know, I can diagnose you. I’ll diagnose everybody listening. I’ll diagnose myself. We’re all really good problem solvers.

And the problem with being a really good problem solver, Calan, and you know this, and all your listeners know this, is that you want to solve everyone’s problems.

And one of my early bosses said to me, there’s some great things about being a problem solver. You’ll always have a job you’ll always have people buying your stuff because you’re problem solving stuff for people. The downside is you’re going to want to solve everyone’s problems. And when people bring their personal stuff to work, you don’t need to solve it. Because the thing is this, listening and acknowledging what’s going on for people can move people down that path of change. So, you know, if you’ve had a bad day at work, not where you work now, of course, but other places, and you go home after work, you’re like, oh, my gosh, I had the most rotten day. Calvin was on me about this and Maria wouldn’t stop me about that. And so he wouldn’t go, stop going on about that report. I had a rotten day. And the person says, well, did you talk to them about it? Did you think they’re trying to problem solve? You get frustrated. What you really want them to do, which deescalates, is, hey, Calan, it sounds like you had a really rough day.

[00:25:13] Calan Breckon: Empathize, empathize.

[00:25:15] Gregg Brown: And that’s what empathetic leadership is about. Thank you for bringing that up. Because using empathetic leadership moves people down that path of change. And I believe it’s going to be one of the number one skills required of leaders, whether it’s small organizations or big. The other skill that’s going to be required, too, which is really interesting coming from the research, which will be of interest to your listeners, is conflict resolution.

The reason being this year alone, 50% of the planet is going through elections and people are becoming more polarized. And you can’t necessarily not have those conversations at work. Conflicts will arise. So how do we mediate those and have that conflict discussion?

[00:26:00] Calan Breckon: I’m so glad you brought this up. This is probably my biggest, I don’t even know what to call this. This is my biggest issue, or irk with the world, is the polarization. And I think social media, because we were, we were a child, we’re still a child generation of social media. We still don’t quite understand it or know it or what it does to us. We’re starting to learn, but it’s definitely not been good. In many ways, this, this hyper polarization and this siloing of people and their beliefs and their systems has completely broken down. And also the digitization of not seeing people in real life. You say things to people online you would never say to them in real life or to their face. And I personally think and feel and have experienced that when you are with somebody in person having a conversation that you disagree with. That’s totally fine. People will are more open to having the conversation, whereas online, they shut it down. They go, nope. This is my belief system, and I. And that is such a huge disservice to not only yourself, but for the world at large. I’ve always said that if you want to get anything done, you need to be a bridge maker, not a bridge destroyer.

[00:27:15] Gregg Brown: You need.

[00:27:16] Calan Breckon: You need to be able to have those conversations with people. Like, I would sit at a table with people that I hate, with homophobic people, and like, everybody from the spectrum, I would sit at the table with them and have the conversation, because if I don’t sit there and have that conversation, they aren’t getting a bridge to them. They don’t know the things that I can share. And it’s not my job to convince them of thinking differently. It’s my job to show up authentically and share the knowledge that I have. And if they want to accept it or take at least one grain on, great, because I’m sure there’s something that I can learn from them as well, even if I don’t agree with them. And I think that that’s going to be huge in the workplaces, is being able to understand the concept that understanding and empathizing doesn’t mean you agree. And I think that people put us in those two separate camps of either you’re with me or against me.

[00:28:10] Gregg Brown: I agree, and I know, and again, what the research shows around this is most people want to play in the middle. You know, if you look at the most, most people are left to center or right to center. If you want to just talk about politics. Most people don’t hate lgbt folks.

We see that on the news or this, but it’s really not most people. And I think you hit a really good point, which is there’s a big difference between activism and advocacy. I believe activism is needed. I am not that person. I am more of an advocate. So what that looks like to me is this. And I think your analogy of sitting at a table.

I have worked with people who maybe don’t understand lgbt people. I just. Just a couple of months ago, I remember nobody. A couple years ago, we have a lake house out in the country, and a couple who are friends of ours said they’ve never met any gay people before. This is in 2022, 2021 that they knew of. Right? And I’m like, that, you know, of.

And they were surprised that they said, you know, you’re just like us. All you want to know is what you’re going to have for dinner and who’s doing the laundry and where you’re going to eat. I’m like, yeah.

So what’s important about that is this is just living your life. And of course, you have to feel safe to do it. I’m not saying go somewhere that you don’t feel safe. Not what I’m saying.

If you just live your life as you Calan, as me, Gregg, and again, for a trans person, that’s a completely different conversation. So I can’t speak to that because I’m not trans myself, but any trans person that I’ve worked with or talked, it’s a real different conversation. So I’m just speaking from my truth is that I’ve been able to, I don’t know if I’ve changed minds, but I’ve been able to open minds by just being me and sitting around the table. I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything, just being myself.

And I think you’re right. It’s that armchair. You’re never going to change anybody’s mind on social media, so don’t bother. Like, don’t be an armchair warrior. Don’t get into fighting matches. Don’t worry about correcting things. If it’s hate stuff, yes, report it. But you’re not going to convince anybody with a meme or a graphic or this. You’re preaching to the converted. And it’s been. I’ve had to learn that.

And I think the thing is, this is the polarization. This is the bad thing about social media, which I agree with you. We see the polarization. We don’t see the rest of us in the middle, and the majority of us are even in the US. If you look at Republicans versus Democrats, most Republicans are not jerks. Most Democrats are not jerks. Most people just want to play in the middle and get along.

[00:31:01] Calan Breckon: Yeah, the majority, I would say, of probably wants to be in the middle and get along. And then, and there’s always a swing back and forth for a little bit of balance on each side. But, like, the extreme swings are too much. Too much.

[00:31:14] Gregg Brown: And that’s what it is, and that’s what gets the press. And we’re seeing that in Canada here as well. So, you know, we’re not immune. And I really think, and you have this back to business, you can run things based on fear, or you can run things based on the benefit and good that you can do. And you have a choice as an entrepreneur to do that. You can do fear based selling. If you don’t do this, this is what could happen, and I’m fine with that if that’s your model. Or you can do, yeah, this is going to benefit you in some way. There’s different ways.

Advertisements on tv, sometimes they’re fear based, sometimes they’re not.

[00:31:49] Calan Breckon: Yeah. So in saying all this, where do you usually find the most friction when dealing with organizations and change? Is it the workforce? Is it the leadership? Is it somewhere in between?

[00:32:02] Gregg Brown: So I think the deal is this. I think in organizations, small or large, everybody thinks the leader has the answer and they don’t. So I believe this, and I’d say this in a one or two person operation, or 50,000, sometimes as a leader, you’re at the front pulling people along. Sometimes you’re at the back, this little silent bulldozer guiding people because you’re really clear where to go. Nine times out of ten, you’re leading alongside your team. You don’t have a clue either.

And yes, you have a goal you want to get to, and we have to lead alongside our team. And I think the hardest part is for leaders to admit that, hey, I don’t have all the answers.

And I think it’s also the workforce’s piece to not expect the leader to have the answer and to ask the questions. So I think it’s sort of a dual piece because even during COVID everybody was leading alongside their team. Nobody knew what the heck was happening, and we still have to get things done. So it’s a mindset shift that I don’t need to have all the answers. I’m in this with you and I’ll let you know things when I know them, when I can let you know them. And we’re going to have to work in more of a symbiotic relationship. So, because I think middle managers have it really hard in organizations because they’re like, these people above me want this to happen. These people haven’t started yet. So you’re sort of always doing that tension.

But I think everybody has a difficult, hard, if you want to look at it, that I don’t think there’s, I think there’s, if you’re the CEO, you’re pressured with the board or you’re pressured with high level finance stuff that you probably know more about than I do because, you know finance stuff, whereas if you’re the frontline person, you’re running on that treadmill, trying to keep up in a different way by completing tasks.

[00:33:47] Calan Breckon: Definitely. So is there anything specifically that you would say to leadership and what leaders should know?

[00:33:56] Gregg Brown: Yes, I think leaders should get really clear on the language that they’re using with their team, and not to use euphemisms and buzzwords. So let me give you some practical examples of that. So one of the pieces I like to say to people is future focus, your language.

So by that means, if you talk about how things used to be, hey, we used to do it like this, we used to do it like this, you’re just going to do more of that. So what we want to do, because we want our brains to figure things out quickly, right? Because you don’t have all the time in the world, our brains tend to work against us, so we want them to work for us. So let me give you a quick tip on how to do that. If you’ve ever written a paper for university or school, or, or even bought a new car.

So let’s say you wrote a paper for school on evaluation, or for you might be SEO optimization.

All of a sudden, you start to notice things online. People are like, someone’s talking about SEO here. Oh, there’s more online here. Look, there’s something on the news. Because your brain is pulling in ideas, and it creates neurons, neural pathways, and all this sort of brain science stuff, which I don’t want to go into, but it’s pulling in information faster than conscious thought. Now, don’t we want that to happen at work? So what we often see at work with leaders is to be like, we don’t know what we’re gonna do. We’re not trying to figure this out. And just like writing a paper in SEO, you’re not gonna get any ideas on how to figure this out. So you wanna future focus your language and say stuff like, we’re gonna figure this out.

What do we need to do to figure this out and ask those questions? Because if you start asking those right questions, your brain will generate ideas in two to three minutes. It sounds simple, but when you’re under pressure, you forget to do it. And it’s one of the most life changing things I can tell people is pay attention. Now, this isn’t positive thinking, so let’s just. I hate positive thinking, because most of the time it’s used at the wrong time. This is brain science about putting a stake in the ground and going, okay, it’s like when you buy a new car, if you’ve ever bought a car, you start to notice everybody else has the new car, or someone’s been pregnant, they notice everybody else is pregnant. Doesn’t mean there’s more new cars, doesn’t mean more people are pregnant. It just means you’ve triggered your brain to notice.

Pay conscious attention to get your team to notice what you want them to notice, because we all get stuck in our box.

[00:36:19] Calan Breckon: Yeah. Directional thinking and awareness of the thing.

[00:36:22] Gregg Brown: Awareness and catching it. Catching the thoughts you think before you go into a meeting, before you go into a sales conversation. And it’s because the thoughts you think drive your actions and your behaviors and drive. Because the language that you use is the currency with which you get your work done.

It has. If you use the wrong language, you disengage people. If you use the right language, you engage people.

And I wrote a paper years ago, which I’ll send you a link that you can pop into podcasts. And it’s on my website, dot called six things to say during change. Six things not to say. So stuff like, don’t say stuff like, it’s going to be all right because you don’t know that, right? So you want to say instead stuff like, hey, these things could happen. We’re going to work it out together. And again, it’s not positive thinking instead of like, oh, that’s a third world problem. Well, other than that being insulting, it diminishes that person’s experience at that moment. So there’s tricks and tips that as leaders, we want to do to not disengage our team. I’m gonna make sure I pop that link in, but it’s on my website,, and just search for six things to say.

[00:37:37] Calan Breckon: Yeah, we’ll make sure we have that in the show notes and links. I want to just double down on what you said because it is really important. I noticed this in my life, and when I made a change in my life to be like, okay, when people talk about all these negative things, and then I get really drained, and I’m like, oh, I don’t want to listen to them, but I’m a good listener. So I just let them bitch and moan, and then I feel drained. They feel better, but I’m like, but nothing’s actually changed. And so I implemented, like, this. People are allowed to do, like, ten to 20% of bitching with me, and then the rest of it is the figure out stuff. And I didn’t teach them that. I just asked better questions when it happened, and my questions were always going to be, okay. We’ve gone over, like, what’s going on, but, like, what thoughts do you have on, like, what you’re going to do about it? Or what you’re going to change about it, or, like, what ideas do you have? And it was just me guiding their thought process without them maybe knowing or understanding that I was guiding the thought process.

[00:38:36] Gregg Brown: You were coaching them.

[00:38:37] Calan Breckon: But, like, it’s like, you know, those friend conversations or even parents. Parents do this, you know, when they get under our skin and you’re just like, ah, you can guide the conversation and be like, cool. So you’ve talked about all the things you hate or like, this awful person, like what? And then just ask those open questions and guiding into the direction of, like, figuring things out or, like, problem solving. But it makes a huge difference. And you really are the curator of your own life if you choose to actively engage with it.

[00:39:06] Gregg Brown: Well, I love that. And I think, you know, the corollary to that, or the caution is you have to be clear on your timing of that, because if someone is really having a bad day, you just want to be in it with them. Yes. What you’re saying is not that. I know. No, no, no.

[00:39:20] Calan Breckon: But there’s the social.

[00:39:22] Gregg Brown: There’s that. Yeah. Where you’re just like, there’s an indigenous saying. I think it’s the Navajo in the US. I love it. I’m 90% sure it’s Navajo. If it’s not that, I apologize. But it’s indigenous saying in the US says, I will listen to your complaint three times.

The fourth time I turn away.

Yeah. And it’s really, you know, at the core of what you’re saying is some really good indigenous wisdom around that, because, like, you, you know, I will listen just to some complaints, but eventually I’m gonna start asking some questions, say, hey, is it okay if we look at some ways to try to problem solve this a little bit? Because you keep repeating that.

[00:40:03] Calan Breckon: Yeah.

[00:40:04] Calan Breckon: Because sometimes it’s like if they’re just bidging, and it’s like sometimes you just need to sit with somebody if they’re having a bad day. We all have those. And understanding that this isn’t regular for this person, I need to just sit with them and be with them in empathy for this moment. But it’s the. It’s the reoccurringness of it. It’s like, okay, you’ve talked about this, like, every time we’ve seen each other in the past, like, you know, five times we’ve seen each other, it’s now time to move off of this. That’s. That’s the moment you bring that kind of stuff in.

[00:40:32] Gregg Brown: Yeah. And I love that. And I think.

Yeah. And I think you know what you’re really saying here underneath, just from what I’m hearing you say. And it ties back to business as well, which is one of my number one tips I tell people, is follow your gut and intuition.

If something feels like it’s right to do now, it probably is right. If it feels wrong or this feels like the wrong group of people or something, it probably is. And you have to distinguish between real fear and fake fear, which is a whole other conversation. But when you follow your gut, like when I know I’ve taken on business I shouldn’t take on or have a conversation I shouldn’t have, based on what we were just talking about, it’s always come back to bite me in the butt. Like, it’s not in a good way. So if I start problem solving someone’s stuff and it’s my gut says, don’t do it, Gregg. Shut up in listen. And I start. It bites me. And same with business. If I go down the bus, I take on piece of it, I’m like, this isn’t good business. I should say, no, it’ll always bite me.

[00:41:35] Calan Breckon: Yeah. So we’ve talked. Oh, sorry. I was going to say.

[00:41:38] Gregg Brown: I was going to say it really ties into what you’re saying, which is following your gut instinct about when it’s right to step in when it’s right, not when it’s right to take on business when it’s not.

[00:41:49] Calan Breckon: Yeah, definitely. So we’ve done leadership. What about workers? What do they need to know.

[00:41:58] Gregg Brown: About change?

[00:41:59] Calan Breckon: Yeah.

[00:42:00] Gregg Brown: Yeah.

I think that they need to know how to relentlessly prioritize.

So let me just explain what I mean by that. The world of work is picking up everything’s. You think it’s fast this year? It’s gonna be faster next year. So everything’s gonna be faster.

There’s only so much time you have during the day, and you shouldn’t be working 60, 80 hours a week. Yes, there’s peaks and valleys, but you have to have a quality of life outside of it, depending your age. Although you are going to want to have peaks and valleys.

I think the piece about prioritization is learning as someone who’s a worker person in the organization, to say when someone delegates something to you, if you can’t prioritize it yourself, is to have the dialogue and say, hey, yes, I can do that. And this is the impact on either my time, on the scope of work I’m doing, or you’re on a budget, or cost, or whatever you’re managing.

This is the impact are you okay if I do that? Because you might have to prioritize something that might be a different priority to you than it is for me. And if we can have a dialogue around, hey, yes, I can do it. And this is the impact. Are you okay with that? It allows us to have a quick conversation to make sure you’re prioritizing the way I need you to prioritize if I’m the leader.

Sometimes relentless prioritization means changing things every, and you know this, changing every half an hour to an hour because stuff comes in. And prioritization doesn’t mean not everything you do is important and urgent.

[00:43:38] Calan Breckon: Oh, yes, the matrix. What is it? Is that Eisenhower?


[00:43:46] Gregg Brown: Importance matrix.

[00:43:47] Calan Breckon: Yes.

[00:43:48] Gregg Brown: Most people run their work by the emails that come in. Don’t.

Not every piece of work you come in is urgent and important. So I used to have true story. I still have right here a pile on my desk of stuff that comes in. So some stuff that’s urgent and important, which I do right away. Sometimes I have that’s important that’s not urgent, like fill out this form and I put it lower on my list. Some things are urgent, but they’re not that important. So I sort of, if I have some space, I do them, but they might be urgent to you, but I don’t really care. That’s my own. I can discriminate on that. I have a pile of stuff I print out because, I’m sorry, I print them out to all people that don’t want me to print, but I do. It’s called my non urgent, non important pile. I go through it once every six months and do you think I might miss something? But it wasn’t that urgent or that important or someone would ask for it. So there’s a lot of work we have that is make work that you don’t need to do. And if you’re unclear, ask someone.

[00:44:48] Calan Breckon: Yeah, big time. I have like, set rules of, like, when I work as an entrepreneur specifically, as well as like, I do not start work before this time or I don’t do face to face work or like, I don’t have to be at my desk until this time and then I leave. Hard leave is like 05:00 p.m. Like nothing is ever going to be that important or urgent enough. And if it is, I will know. And it is a high barrier.

[00:45:13] Gregg Brown: Love that. So one of the things you really hit on that I want to touch on because it’s so important for business owners is to learn the rhythm and flow of how you like to work.

So you’ve really hit on that. So I. So, for example, if I have to do numbers or deep admin stuff, I have to do it first thing in the morning so I can direct all my energy to that.

I tend to not book, podcast interviews, anything, numbers, anything after 03:00 because I’m basically brain dead. I’m a 07:00 a.m.. Person. That’s the way I work. So if you have control over that, anyone that’s listening, find your rhythm and go with it and do what Calan says, because I love what you’re saying. Develop the ritual. So, you know, I come downstairs to my, I’m lucky I have my own office, turn everything on. At the end of the day, I put my computer down.

[00:46:05] Calan Breckon: Same.

[00:46:08] Gregg Brown: I might, if there’s something going on that I’m waiting for, I might bring my mobile phone upstairs. I have two phones, one for work, one for home, even though I have my own business and I bring my mobile up just in case. There’s a few things I might. There might be a few little straggly things I have to do before five or six for people in different time zones because I work internationally, blah, blah, blah. And then it goes off.

[00:46:32] Calan Breckon: Yeah, because there’s nothing. I mean, unless somebody’s dying who’s very important to you, there’s very few things that are going to be that important. It’s, it. It’s more often somebody else is putting the urgency into it because of their anxiety around it, or they’re like, you know, their experience with work. For me, I’ve never. I’m like, I created being entrepreneur for a reason. It’s so I didn’t have to live that lifestyle of anxiety and anxiousness.

[00:47:01] Gregg Brown: You are so right. It’s like, I can’t. So the number one distractor I was reading, which I just love, and I believe it’s true, is where people text you after hours. Hey, do you know where this file is?

No, no, no. Go look it up yourself. Like. And I don’t see that to be mean, but what I do say is, you know, by the time you respond to them, they’ve usually found it. And what I’ve encouraged everyone to do, and I have this at the bottom of my emails, is I say very clearly, my work hours may not be your work hours. Feel. Don’t. I’ll tell you exactly. It says, feel free to respond during your normal work hours because some people like to work at night. I don’t. But it does say my work hours may not be yours. Feel free to respond during your normal work hours because there’s no pressure for you to respond to my stuff at 10:00 at night just because I wake up and go, that’s a great email.

Permission to opt out?

[00:47:57] Calan Breckon: Yes. Yeah, I think technology kind of. We went down this rabbit hole of, like, overperforming, especially in North America. We’re so perform, perform, perform. Like, you have to deliver. You have to be available at all times and sell your soul and sell your life. And it’s like I. The part of me that learned about this is I moved and lived in Europe. I lived in London for over a year. And I got. When I first started my part time job, I had six weeks full paid holiday right off the get go. And I was like, I’m sorry, what?

Because they believed in, like, no, no, no, no. Like, you need to relax and rest in order to become your best self to come back to work. And I think we’ve missed it. In North America, you actually get more productive. It’s a totally counterintuitive. I get more productive, the lazier I allow myself to be because I force myself to only do the things that are going to move the needle forward in business.

[00:48:53] Gregg Brown: Yours. That is so good. I used to tell people I’m lazy at heart, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I just have always. I’ve always wanted, and not everybody’s like that, but I’ve always wanted to work life balance. And I don’t think it’s true that everything gets balanced. Sometimes it’s peaks and valleys. Sometimes life takes over. Sometimes work takes over.

And some people are the opposite of that. And I think everybody can be who they are. You just don’t want to burn yourself out. And that is a real key point, is that we just don’t want to burn ourselves out.

[00:49:26] Calan Breckon: Yeah, exactly. Life comes in, ebbs and flows. Gregg, this has been an absolutely phenomenal conversation. Where can folks find out more about you if they want to check out what you do?

[00:49:37] Gregg Brown: Absolutely. Go to is my website and I’m all there. Or you can check me out on LinkedIn. I’m on instagram at Greggbrownto. Like Gregg Brown, Toronto. G r e g g b r o w n t o. You can get that all there from my website,

[00:49:56] Calan Breckon: Awesome. And I’ll make sure to have those links in the show notes. Thank you so much for being a guest today, Gregg, thank you.

[00:50:02] Gregg Brown: So enjoyed talking with you.

[00:50:09] Calan Breckon: thanks again for tuning in today. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button. And if you really enjoyed today’s episode, I would love a star rating from you.

The business Gay podcast is written, produced and edited by me, Calan Breckon. That’s it for today. Peace, love, rainbows.

Calan Breckon
Calan Breckon

Calan Breckon is an SEO Specialist and host of "The Business Gay" podcast. He has worked with companies such as Cohere and Canada Life and has been a guest on the "Online Marketing Made Easy" podcast with Amy Porterfield as well as featured in publications like Authority Magazine and CourseMethod.

More Episodes


Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. These are products I’ve personally used and stand behind. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only. You can read my affiliate disclosure in my privacy policy.

© 2023 Calan Breckon