Removing Psychological Aggression from the Workplace with Dave Sewell

We talk about psychological safety a lot, but what does it even mean? That was the question Dave Sewell asked himself as he struggled in his former consulting gig. He watched teams leave toxic environments and it triggered something in him. Psychological aggression, the opposite of feeling safe at work, was running rampant among his clients. So he made a change. 

Before he truly defined psychological safety, he wrote the book on it. 

This week on the podcast, Dave Sewell and I talk about the science behind psychological aggression and why even subtle behaviors and responses can create an environment that doesn’t feel safe. And he shares how to flip that narrative by recognizing the inherent good in others. 

This all starts at the leadership level, where leaders recognize the power of their own body language so they can take more ownership of their team behavior and performance.

It’s such an interesting conversation with real-world examples of what happens when we set out to work with humans, not grizzly bears!

Listen on your favourite podcast player

About Dave Sewell:

Coming from a family of alcoholism and violence and being subjected in his early career to shame and ridicule, Dave has been fascinated why some leaders rule with the stick whilst other don’t and why do companies have both types of leaders within their organization at the same time? 

His research around high performing teams, in particular what causes dysfunctional teams, bullying and office politics is at the leading edge of our understanding. Dave demonstrates how to overcome these by embracing psychological safety, something that should be at the core of all leadership training.

When he’s not talking about leadership and helping teams, Dave spends his free time with his family; his wife Kirsty and his two sons Lachlan and Jamie.  His other interests are meditating and energetic healing, hiking, mountain biking and Xbox gaming. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Facebook.

Mentioned In This Episode:



psychological safety, people, leader, person, conversations, organization, team, dave, podcast, lindsay, psychologically, coat hanger, mental health, vulnerable, behavior, environment, disarms, bit, vagal tone, aggressive


Dave Sewell, Lindsay Recknell

Lindsay Recknell  00:01

You are a People Leader or a HR professional, working hard to create an amazing employee experience for your team and your organization. But between the operational tasks of your job, managing emotions and politics both up and down the corporate ladder, and trying to find some semblance of work/life integration in your own life, I suspect you could be overwhelmed and burnt-out. Even the thought of navigating the complicated world of mental health at work probably seems like too much to handle. Let this podcast can be your not-so-secret weapon to help fix that! I am your host, Lindsay Recknell, and my mission is to help great leaders like you feel less awkward and more confident talking about mental health at work so you can stress less, take more action and continue to make a valuable difference in your job as a leader, positively impacting the lives of your people. I’ll be bringing you the experts, insights and actions that will give you the skills you need to navigate mental health in the workplace and foster a workplace where everyone’s mental health can thrive.

Lindsay Recknell  01:03

I felt an instant connection with this week’s guest, Dave Sewell, coming from a family of alcoholism and violence and being subjected in his early career to shame and ridicule. Dave has been fascinated with why some leaders rule with the stick while others don’t and why companies have both types of leaders within the organization at the same time. His research around high performing teams in particular what causes dysfunctional teams bullying and office politics is that the leading edge of our understanding, Dave demonstrates how to overcome these by embracing psychological safety, something that should be at the core of all leadership training. When he’s not talking about leadership and helping teams. Dave spends his free time with his family, his wife, Kirsty and two sons Lachlan and Jamie, his other interests are meditating and energetic healing, hiking, mountain biking and Xbox gaming. It was great to have Dave on the show. So let’s get to his episode, so you can hear him too.

Lindsay Recknell  01:53

Before we get started, I want your time to be valuable here so in order to get the most from this podcast, head to my website at and download the Guide to Influence & Impact at Work which has the step-by-step action plan you’ll need to embed a focus on mental health into the employee experience of your workplace. It’s totally free and will give you the start to your action plan – steps to follow to create engagement, build a budget and a method to measure the value, influence and impact you’ll be making as you lead this transformational change in your organization.  We haven’t been taught the mental health skills we need to truly lead our organizations into the future so let this Guide and podcast be the advantage you need to elevate your career, your leadership skills and the positive impact you’ll bring to your organization. Head to and download the free Guide to Influence & Impact at Work now. The opportunity is yours and I can’t wait to see what you’ll do!  Alright, now lets get to our guest.

Lindsay Recknell  02:53

Hello, Dave, welcome to the show.

Dave Sewell  02:55

Hi, thanks for having me.

Lindsay Recknell  02:57

It’s so great to have you here. We connected on the psychological safety front, and I think you have some really cool perspective to share. So why don’t we just jump right in? Why don’t you share a little bit with us about who you are and what you do?

Dave Sewell  03:10

Yeah, okay. So I’ve been, effectively a consultant down here in New Zealand for the last 12 or 13 years, I originally set out doing general consulting in our own strategy, execution, cash flow, that sort of thing. But about eight years ago, I was having problems with people basically executing because they couldn’t get over the people problems they had within their organization. And on two months, two consecutive months, that time ago, I fired two of my clients, which is a Scotsman walking away from money, it was a pretty hard thing to do. But the reality was, I didn’t have tools in my tool set to, to face off these really aggressive CEOs. And and they were abusively aggressive to their teams. And, and I had to walk away from that. But that started to research and me because it triggered things in me from many, many years ago, my own experiences with these hostile managers. And that set off, it’s like, No, you weren’t in ninth year of research, in the realms of what I know, knows is called psychological safety. But for the first four years of that research, I had no idea what psychological safety was. I just knew you had to be safe, but I didn’t actually do it was psychologically safe, which is quite interesting. So that’s how it all came about. And now I’ve been rolling out psychological safe programs now for five years, wrote a book and published that in the end of 2019, in Title titled safe leadership, because even at that point, I didn’t know about psychological safety. So I wrote a whole book about psychological safety not even knowing it was a thing.

Dave Sewell  04:58

I bought a book one month after publishing my one eye, and it was called the fearless organization and some words psychological safety and went, Oh, wonder what that is. And when I read, I went, Oh, my word. This is what I’ve been talking about for years. And then I realized that I was in the realms of psychological safety.

Dave Sewell  05:18

Every day’s a school day.

Lindsay Recknell  05:19

Yeah. Right. And it shouldn’t be well, it shouldn’t be. But talk about being ahead of your time. That book you referenced the Fearless Organization by Amy Edmondson is sort of the I mean, it is the the Bible, so to speak of psychological safety, you know, her her research at Harvard was was super foundational. So very cool that you were ahead of your time. Tell me what does psychological safety mean to you?

Dave Sewell  05:46

Yeah. So in my mind, psychological safety should be at the core of everything that any group does, not just organizations, but any group or church group, Scout group, sports team, you name it, if if the culture is if psychological safety is not central to this culture, we’re never ever going to have an environment where you get the best out of people. And I define psychological safety as the ability for someone to create an environment where others around them can share their ideas, share the criticisms, and even make mistakes free of ridicule and persecution. And that’s my definition for psychological safety. It’s just it’s should be at the heart of absolutely everything we do.

Lindsay Recknell  06:26

I love that. And why should it be at the heart? Like what impact does having a psychologically safe workplace?

Dave Sewell  06:33

Yeah, have? Yeah, so the opposite of psychological safety is psychological aggression. Now, that’s a really a really harsh term. But the reality of, of the psychological aggression is it can be, it can be exceptionally subtle, fun, for the simple, as I’m talking to, you know, if you rolled your eyes at something that I said, I would immediately go defensive and feel unsafe.

Dave Sewell  06:59

So you would, that roll of the eyes would challenge my your self worth in the status of who I am.

Dave Sewell  07:07

That is psychological aggression. And our brain is wired for one thing, and one thing only to aid our survival. Now, we don’t need to worry, well, most of us don’t need to worry about grizzly bears and wolves hunting us down our environment, we’ve created a relatively safe environment. So our survival is all about where we sit from, in the eyes of our peers. Where do we where do we sit in the status of our of our tribe, whether that be a work tribe, or family tribe, our sports tribe, and it’s the compromising of that status, that is psychologically aggressive to us on our brain will default to do whatever it can to maintain that status. So for example, you know, we talk about one of the things that I see is the everybody the minds when we talk about the mindset and behind psychological safety. And that mindset is, in my mind is everybody is inherently good.

Dave Sewell  08:11

And if you want to create a safe environment for people to, to share those ideas, you know, and even share the criticisms around things that are not working, and be able to perform and collaborate with people really well. They’ve got to feel safe.

Dave Sewell  08:28

And everybody will know nobody lies in bit. Okay, that might be a tiny, tiny percentage of the population in the world that lies in bed in the morning goes, right? I think today, you know, hi, I haven’t upset Lindsay in a really long time. I think today, I’m going to go at work, and I’m just going to make her life hell. Nobody thinks like that. And the reason why sorry, the vast majority of us don’t think like that. And the reason for that is if I go to work to really go out of my way to upset you.

Dave Sewell  08:56

How is that going to look? What’s that going to look like in the eyes of others?

Dave Sewell  09:01

Is everybody else around me actually going to start to trust me, is anyone around me actually going to want to, to communicate with me and work alongside me when they see how hostile I am towards you? They won’t. So my mind won’t do that because my mind would that would mean that my mind is consciously saying, Hey, Dave, let’s go to work and lower our status and the tribe. Said no human being ever. So that is why when we if we hold that, that that mind mindset of everybody is inherently good. And we see people not being inherently good, it should trigger our curiosity to ask questions as to really what’s going on with Lindsay today, and why is she behaving that way? Or why is she being hostile to me to me that just No, because that’s not who she is. And allows the ability to open up a wonderful suite of questions to not only find out what’s happening with Lindsay, but actually probably to be fair to give Lindsay the support she actually needs.

Dave Sewell  10:06

And that is psychological safety.

Lindsay Recknell  10:10

I have to admit that when you talked about how the brain is not wired for grizzly bears, I immediately thought I’m Canadian. Maybe there I am wired for grizzly bears. Survival attempt.

Dave Sewell  10:28


Lindsay Recknell  10:29

But I loved what you said about the mindset and the idea that we go in thinking that everybody is inherently good, or at least that is a mindset we should aim for. Because often, again, our brains are deep are wired, defaulted for negativity, right. And pessimism and the the idea that we’re all inherently good when somebody is ticking us the heck off. It’s hard to remember sometimes. So it’s like that connection, you draw, you draw between curiosity, for sure. And the idea that we are basically good, and we have everybody’s best intentions at heart.

Dave Sewell  11:06

Yeah. And the, and the issue that we have, we can’t have psychological safety in an environment where there is even just a touch of psychological aggression. So my my so I was I was working with a team yesterday. And, and we, I was actually taking them through Patrick Lencioni is Lencioni, his five dysfunctions of a team which which folds really well into my long student or program. And we were talking about the elephant in the room. And I make every team do this. And I make them really think hard about what’s that one issue that they don’t, they’ve never dealt with, it sort of sits in the background, everybody ignores it re hopes it goes away, because it’s just too awkward and too big to deal with. And in this particular team, the elephant in the room was the behavior of the leadership team. Now, this is the first time I had that I’ve been stressing out for nearly two weeks in preparation for this session yesterday. My wife knows all about it, although she’s sworn to secrecy. But she probably sick of me saying it because even myself as an external facilitator, I was knowingly going into what potentially would be a hostile environment.

Dave Sewell  12:15

And when we do that we can’t hold a place of so I can’t hold the place of judgment. Because the opposite of that. Opposite, I refer to it as opposite it probably is, the psychologists will probably smash me for saying, well, there’s no way that the opposite of everybody’s inherently good is judgment. But bear with me on this one, is when you can hold that place of everybody’s inherently goof. Well, we have a tendency to do is because our brain is wired for a threat, the brain will, will will see someone either not performing well, or coming into work late all the time, and, and the brain will then label that has to label the threat for it to be real. So if you’re going to come into work all the time late, you’re going to be lazy.

Dave Sewell  13:07

If you’re going to keep making mistakes, you’re careless, you don’t care. I will label you as being someone who doesn’t give a shit. Excuse My French. So it’s but but that’s what we do. We judge each other. So when the minute we we judge someone, other than anything other than the name, we are being psychologically aggressive. And when I went into this, this session yesterday, there was there was judgement for Africa. And I had to keep pulling them back and going. Okay, let’s reset. Remember, we’re all inherently good. So why why would why? Instead of saying, She’s, she’s just always aggressive. It’s just who she is. What questions could we ask that particular person to find out why she’s in that place?

Dave Sewell  13:59

And then we went deeper, and they’ve now got a whole suite of questions now that they can no ask each other. And there was tears. There was there was lots of there was underlying. With one lady there was underlying trauma that surfaced from from a childhood, which she’s no going off to get help with. But it’s amazing what comes up when you’re in when we’re in that, that aggressive place, but if we can switch it to, to a more psychologically safe place where people can open up, it’s amazing what happens in a team environment. People get closer together, they understand each other’s backstories more, they know don’t need to judge because they know why someone is coming in from that direction of that approach. It’s fascinating to watch a team just unfold and grow in that space. When they’re not the star. It’s it’s a wonderful experience.

Lindsay Recknell  14:51

Sounds so powerful.

Dave Sewell  14:54

it is. Yeah, yeah.

Lindsay Recknell  14:57

It sounds so transformational and I’ve been

Lindsay Recknell  15:00

In an environment like that, I did a workshop once. And I can still remember a lot of the characters in the room. And at the beginning of the day, what it looked like and felt like in that room and the end of the day, what it looked like and felt like as they built that trust over the day, and so am I understanding it correctly that the leader in question that they were struggling with was not in the room?

Dave Sewell  15:25

Oh no, they were there in the room. So yeah.

Lindsay Recknell  15:28

That so often, the team has a has an issue with the leader, but the leaders there and so they don’t say anything, how did you get them to open up a book that and have the leader to hear that and kind of sit with that and help them through it? Like, yes, powerful.

Dave Sewell  15:47

So actually, with this particular one, the leadership behavior, the leader, it wasn’t the there was two company directors and then for executives, and the leadership behavior was was targeted at all of them. And it was quite interesting. So all of them were coming into this meeting vulnerable, they knew that they were going to be talking about their own behaviors. And in particularly two of those leaders had three people leave in the last two months.

Dave Sewell  16:16

All of them citing hostile environment. One suggested bullying. So this was raw, this was raw. But what I did was we, we we set the premise that we weren’t going to dive into each and in each individual’s personal behaviors, what we wanted to do is we were going to table the issue that people were leaving, we were going to table the issue, why they were leaving, put that out on the table. And we were going to then discuss amongst us, what would have been the scenarios and the behaviors that would have led them to believe that they were, you know, they were they were feeling bullied. And, and what happened was, there was two of the leaders that were feeling directly implicated with this. So they were they were feeling really uncomfortable. But interestingly, what happened was they spoke first, and and where they were coming from, they were not getting the support that they needed to help those team members from the directors.

Dave Sewell  17:24

So it immediately went right up to the top and the directors when actually you’ve got a point there because we didn’t know how to deal with it. And the last time we were in that situation, that person came, right. But but the last person came right through good luck rather than good management. And in this, the subsequent person didn’t she fell over when she left and not in a very nice way.

Dave Sewell  17:50

And there was the two directors, then when actually we need to step up, we need to step up and support you. So they actually got really vulnerable and confess Actually, yes, we haven’t done our job. And then they started to have more open conversations. It was it was quite incredible to see once they went to two directors to go and actually Yeah, we were that everybody else started to relax and going oh, actually, okay, well, I’ll go in this part of what I’ve done wrong. And yeah, and then the conversation went on there. Well, let’s look forward. And how can we do this better? It was really good to watch that unfold.

Lindsay Recknell  18:23

There is Authentic Leadership in Action. Like, there is not a better case study for why Authentic Leadership matters.

Dave Sewell  18:32

Yeah, completely. Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s so profound change, and no change can happen almost instantly. The minute what somebody says a statement is super vulnerable. Everybody sees it, and they can and they can tell it’s genuine. And it it just removes that it actually disarms the fight or flight response.

Dave Sewell  18:54

And when someone gets vulnerable, and and they’re sincere about it, they have a Steven Porges. Who, who did a lot of research around the vagus nerve and produce the book, The Polyvagal Theory, talks about how the vagus nerve as well as being connected with all our major organs, controls our the tone of our voice box, and an eye and the muscles and controls the muscles in our face. So when we’re stressed, we lose the the the control of the muscles in the face and everything drops. And our vagal tone when we’re stressed, we start sending like a bit like a machine gun and we start doing this and do this, do that do the next thing and our voice and our voice starts going to attack and that is aggressive. But when someone gets vulnerable and really looks in themselves and actually explains where they’ve come from and own takes ownership of that. What they inevitably do is that vagal tone becomes smoother and more what Steven Porges talks about more melodic or

Dave Sewell  20:00

Don’t ever think my my vagus nerve has ever been melodic, it’s a bit, but I can make it go smoother.

Dave Sewell  20:06

And what happens then is someone’s talking about that and being really vulnerable. And, and, and and disarming the road stress response system, thus the controlling them in the facial muscles come up and the motions are coming through on the facial muscles. That in turn, disarms everybody else around them.

Dave Sewell  20:27

And it disarms their stress response system. So they come down. And then when that point, then we’re open to listening to what’s actually being said, because this person in front of them, is actually being vulnerable and genuine. And we can see it in their face, in the face the body language, and we can hear it in their vagal tone. And it’s a wonderful thing to get to that point, because it just disarms the room takes the heat out of what’s going on. Wonderful. And as facilitators and consultants, if every consultant and facilitator, understand understood that and knew the real power of their own body language and the vagal tone, their their jobs would be so much easier. I’m sure there’s 1000s of them out there that is aware of that, but the be equally as many that isn’t aware of that, it’s a really good skill set to have. Yeah,

Lindsay Recknell  21:19

the science of this is incredible. Like even just so what what came to mind, as you were speaking was the, the concept of mirror neuron neurons. So the idea that we are our neurons recognize ourselves in each other, and I can picture this room and and when people are lowering their stress response, the mirror neurons of the other people are picking up on that and in turn lowering their stress response, even if the other people aren’t doing anything intentionally. They’re just unintentionally picking up on the the thoughts and feelings and facial expressions of the other people. And I think I think that that’s lost in a lot of these conversations. And I imagine that this is similar to you, we go into a client and we say, we are here to talk about team performance. And in my case, we’re here to talk about the language of mental health and people go gaawwwddd.

Lindsay Recknell  22:20

But then you hear about these experiences, and how much unintentional science is happening, even if we don’t want to the the beauty and the power and the transformative ability for that and for teams and for leadership and for organizational performance at the highest level, because at the end of the day, we are here to make money to feel fulfilled at work. And that is why this work matters. Because so

Dave Sewell  22:51

yeah, yeah, I mean, it’s all there. I mean, it’s the the research in this field over the last decade or so, certainly over the last 40 years percent in the last decade has grown immensely. And yeah, the research is pretty conclusive that, you know, if we can, if we can stop this thing going out of control and being triggered, and collectively, we’re able then to, to have more deep thought deep conversations and figure out really complicated problems.

Dave Sewell  23:22

I mean, the the capability of us as a, as a group grows hugely over the individual in scenarios like that, and the group will benefit from it. But it just takes one person that is not in that space. And it ruins everything. And people don’t understand that. And that’s, and that’s the biggest takeaway, I think that my clients get is actually, we’ve got, if you.

Dave Sewell  23:52

I’m going to deviate a little bit here, bear with me. So I have something that I got that I got shown many, many years ago. It’s called a T radar, ci radar, a really sophisticated piece of equipment that measures energy emanating from the body. Do you want to see what looks like? Yeah, that doesn’t do much for a podcast, but see, we’re on the camera. Anyway. So here is my T radar.

Lindsay Recknell  24:15

Could you describe what this looks like to us, please?

Dave Sewell  24:18

So this this looks and actually is a metal coat hanger.

Dave Sewell  24:24

So here’s what it’s a bear with me so you know, we’ve got the scenario where you walk into this meeting that might be saved. You can there’s half a dozen people in the room, and the room feels it feels off there’s something not right. The eyes are picking parts are seeing the people in the room, but it’s not there’s something missing. And you immediately your radar goes on.

Dave Sewell  24:51

So this is a Tai Chi instructor told me this, like I said over 20 years ago and I had not didn’t understand the significance of it. And what she did was she paired this up. And we had to stand in this whole boat 10 meters apart. And one of us held the coat hanger where you would hang over the hanger and hang the trousers over. And we’d point the hook bit towards the stomach of the person in front of us. And then the tai chi instructor would say to that person, think of something wonderful. Imagine surround yourself with all the people that you love in the world or go to that place that you just absolutely love. And then the other person with the coat hanger, we’d have to walk towards them. And as they walk towards them, they will get to a point where the hanger would swing to the left or to the right on its own. I was like, Whoa, what’s this. And what was happening was the coat hanger was picking up the energy field of the person. And then the tai chi instructor says, Now I want to the person that was thinking about the this wonderful environment, put yourself into the scariest place that you’ve ever been. Try and get yourself inside a coffin and imagine being buried alive. Or if you’re scared of heights, put yourself at the top of the skyscraper or something like that. So when we did that, the person put into that place. Now interestingly, when I do that, know what I didn’t realize back then. But what I did, what I see now is, the minute you ask someone to do that, you watch their face, everything in the face drops, because they would have been having fun and smiling and thinking about all the lovely things before. But the minute you ask them to go into that place, both everything drops, the face gets serious, it’s really interesting to watch. And then the hook, the coat hanger swings back to face the front. So fast. And so the person with a coat hanger has to keep walking towards this other person. And they might have picked up their energy at say, five or six meters away. And then, but as they walk forward, they pick up the energy field of this person who’s now scared, maybe one meter away,

Dave Sewell  26:48

one meter away. And so the body brings in all the energy together. Now I know this is sounding a bit woowoo at the moment. But here’s the thing. I don’t there’s I haven’t seen any any any scientific evidence around this stuff to be fair. But one of the things that when when people understand that, you can imagine walking into a room, and you’ve got someone down in the bottom there that’s in that scared space. Right? There’s fear or the shame, or there’s embarrassment, or whatever it is, and they’ve gone defensive. So what the body is doing is picking up visually, I can see that person.

Dave Sewell  27:20

But the body’s going energetically, I’m not seeing them, we’ve got no connection, alarm.

Dave Sewell  27:28

Because again, from the body’s perspective, when it’s it’s feeling psychologically unsafe, everything withdraws into itself. And as as, as individuals, if we don’t feel safe, often what we will do is we will withdraw ourselves verbally, if we can, we will get out of the room. But often we won’t partake in conversations, we will just shut down. Because we’re too scared to see anything for fear of persecution. So that physiologically the body does it verbally, we do it. And visually, our face just drops. It’s it’s really fascinating. So when when I explain that to my caught my, my, my my clients, when they go into the next meeting, and they’re feeling that they’re instructed, the first thing you got to do is deal with that in the room, don’t even start having a meeting when that’s going on. And that’s why. So we can if we get everybody in the room to become or feel psychologically safe by addressing what’s going on, then you can have a better conversation. So you go a little bit different there. But you weren’t expected that way.

Lindsay Recknell  28:32

Which is the beauty of doing a podcast I have to tell you is getting to meet really intelligent creatures like you who are who are bringing this cool, unique, but truly like cool and unique insights. I think the one of the beauties of this work that we do in this industry is that we don’t know so much. And it’s only through conversations with people like you and I, where we get we get to learn that language. We get to learn the science and we get to learn, like explanations for behaviors we see out in the world.

Lindsay Recknell  29:10

Yeah, and, you know, I like what you said earlier about how we all bring our own stuff into the room. And our behavior is going to show up based on that mindset we come into the room with

Dave Sewell  29:25

absolutely, you know, yeah, you’re right with that. And, you know, I’ve seen in another group last a couple of months ago, and a similar situation happened where something went down within the team and they were they were skirting around the periphery of this topic. And again, it was about again, it was about a member of staff who who had complained about one of the leaders and the the person that one of the one of the senior leaders had gone and investigated that and spoke with the person directly and got information from them about the behavior of this other leader. And, but this other leader didn’t get the feedback. The leader didn’t get the feedback, because the one who investigated was too scared was not feeling psychologically safe to deliver that feedback. So they sort of just went on notice what it is, you know, we’ve started it now it’s okay. So I’m sitting there in this session, I’m going, No, that’s not what happened. And everybody looks at me, and I’m going, I’m not going to sit here with information that I know that will develop you guys. I say that needs to come on the table. You we’re not being psychologically safe here. We’re hiding stuff. Where’s the being able to give feedback? And you know, whether it’s criticism or whether it’s ideas? Where’s we’re not doing that here? Why not?

Dave Sewell  30:54

And then this leaders did say, All right, well, this is nice to hear the conversation went and I saw that 40 odd year old CEO, turn into a little scared 12 year old boy standing on stage, doing his first speech to an assembly in the school. Honestly, he was so uncomfortable. And so over his body, like he was fidgeting, he was stuttering, and stammering His arms were crossed, his legs were crossed. And honestly, if I said, you can leave any time, he would have bolted for the door. And it was interesting to watch that. So you’re right. And it’s about, you know, this the poor leader. I mean, I spoke to him afterwards. And that’s when he said, he says, I just I just felt like I was that time when I was put on stage at the assembly. And I had to, I had to recite my first poem. That was that was horrific. So he doesn’t sit in that seat anymore. The thing is, I’m not sitting in that seat anymore. Let’s do you sit somewhere else. He says sort of jokingly, but you know, it took a lot for him to step into that place. And this is what stops teams actually performing, to the level that they really need to. It’s that fear of the reaction of the person in front of them.

Lindsay Recknell  32:06

And the fear combined with sometimes not having the language and knowing what to say,

Dave Sewell  32:11

yeah, yeah, yeah. And also, if that if the issue is a personal issue, I don’t know what it’s like, over in Canada, I can only imagine it would be horrific in the States, because the litigious environment they live in, we’re not so bad in New Zealand, but even then, nobody wants to address a problem. If the word anxiety or depression, or trauma has been mentioned in the past, you know, if someone has suffered from that in the past, or we’re not going to go there. So even if that person is misbehaving, not behaving well, because they’ve been diagnosed with having anxiety, we can’t have that conversation. And it’s just the fear of the unknown. Well, why not? Yes, that person is suffering from anxiety. But if they’re, if they’re acting out, then surely they need support.

Dave Sewell  32:59

And it’s not acceptable for them to behave that way for the rest of the team. So we’ve still got to hold them accountable for how they’re behaving, we might have to support them differently. But the fear of having that conversation, because it’s anxiety or depression, or it’s rife, certainly over here in New Zealand. Yeah, yeah.

Lindsay Recknell  33:18

Well, that is absolutely the same experience that we have here. From leaders who kind of are more mature in this space all the way down to leaders who are not mature in this space. It absolutely exists in all the places. And I imagine that everybody listening has had a can resonate with that has had some sort of experience in that realm. Dave, this has been incredible. Can you tell us please how people can get a hold of you when they want you to come and have these kinds of conversations with them?

Dave Sewell  33:47

Oh, sure. Hey, nothing, nothing too hard to remember. Just It’s as simple as that. Yeah. I didn’t want to complicate things too much. But yeah, so that’s my website. LinkedIn is you can you can search me on Dave Sewell NZ is is is my name on LinkedIn.

Dave Sewell  34:10

Yeah. So feel free to reach out, you know, love to have these conversations. And I think that’s how we ended up connecting was it was through LinkedIn and just having that that connection. So I, you know, DM me, I love having a yarn with people that have got the same interest. It’s great all around the world. Yeah.

Lindsay Recknell  34:27

Amazing. Well, we will for sure link to all those places, including your book, and we will we will read it alongside the fearless organization. And you know,

Lindsay Recknell  34:38

yeah, thank you so much for bringing your ideas and your examples. It’s been really, really great to learn from you today. Dave, I really appreciate you and thanks, Lindsay for the opportunity just again, just to have the chat and, and obviously popping me on your podcast, you know, really privileged and for that to happen from my perspective. So thank you so much.

Dave Sewell  35:01

I will talk to you again very soon. All right. Thanks, Lindsay.

Lindsay Recknell  35:04

Take care.

Lindsay Recknell  35:06

Thanks for joining me for another awesome episode of the Mental Health for Leaders podcast. To make sure you don’t miss any future episodes, please go to and subscribe to have these episodes delivered right to your inbox each week. You’ll also find all the show notes, links, and resources that my guests mention on the show and the link to the Guide to Influence & Impact at Work freebie I mentioned at the beginning of the show.  You’re listening to this podcast because you know our people need us more than ever but being a people leader and HR professional is especially hard right now. If the thought of figuring out how best to support your people, and yourself, feels overwhelming and impossibly hard, let’s talk. I don’t promise I can make it easy but I can make it simple so let’s do that together. Go to and download the Guide to Influence & Impact at Work now. Until next time, take good care and as always, call me if you need me.

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