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The Effects of Soft Skills in Thought Leadership | David Wood

The Effects of Soft Skills in Thought Leadership | David Wood

How soft skills can improve leadership, communication, and growth.

An interview with David Wood about developing a leader’s emotional side and soft skills.

Not that long ago, books about emotions, vulnerability, and transparency would have been found in the self-help section. Now, business books about those same “soft skills” top best-seller lists. What has changed and why have these skills become so important?

Our guest on this episode is David Wood, a former consulting actuary to Fortune 100 companies and founder of the world’s largest coaching business, serving an audience of 150,000 coaches across 12 countries. He also hosts the Tough Conversations podcast, and is the author of Get Paid For Who You Are as well as an upcoming book titled Name that Mouse.

David shares his journey, from developing his intellect while shutting down his emotional side, to his realization that there is a great need for emotional intelligence, vulnerability, and transparency on the path to excellence as a leader. We also discuss the change in the way these necessary soft-skills have been perceived in the last decade, and how they moved out of the self-help section and onto every major executive’s must-have list of proficiencies.

Further, David shares news about his upcoming book, Name That Mouse. Much like the “elephant in the room,” there are often other smaller, more subtle problems in any workplace that are not discussed – “mice” that everyone ignores. David explains why simply naming “the mouse” and addressing it can alleviate anxiety, create transparency, and avoid negative feelings that are easily avoided.

This conversation is a fascinating look at soft skills in the business world, and why they are essential for success.

Three Key Takeaways:
  • Thought Leadership needs to support emotional intelligence, communication, and authenticity within the corporate world.
  • Thought Leadership can be used to enrich both career and our home life, giving us skills that are universal.
  • Naming a problem can give it less power. Thought Leadership should help to bring these small, necessary issues into the light.

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.



Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome, this is Peter Winick, I’m the founder and CEO at Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on the podcast today, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership today. My guest is David Wood. He’s a former consulting actuary to Fortune 100 companies. He built the world’s largest coaching business, becoming number one on Google for life coaching and coaching thousands of hours in 12 countries around the globe. He coaches high performing businesses and we’re going to do instead of spending lots of times on his bio, he’s sitting right here, so let’s just talk to Dave. It’ll be more fun. Hey, David, how are you?

David Wood Hey, Peter. I’m good today. How are you doing?

Peter Winick I’m good. So, let’s just sort of dove right in. How did you get here? How did all this happen?

David Wood Wow. Well, it started, I think, in a country town in Australia, and you don’t know this until you’re older and you look back, but I had shut down my emotional side and developed the intellect. So, what happened when I was seven years old is my little sister was killed in a bus accident and I was there and I witnessed it. And we didn’t know anything about therapy back then. And you know what you do with kids and what you do with parents and all of that. So apparently what happened is I stopped feeling and I got really good at school. I came top of the school, I got paid to go to university, and then I ended up landing an amazing consulting job on Park Avenue in the Sony Music and forward an ex on. And this is at the age of 24 five six figured I had it made. And then someone suggested I do a personal growth program. And even though they all smiled way too much and they all want, they all wore nametags.

Peter Winick And I thought, this is and they’ve got a smile. They’re showing off. There’s $40000 caps, so they made the investment. They’ve got to show off the teeth.

David Wood I’m like, This is a cult, you know? But I act my heart open. And what I discovered was I knew a lot about systems and numbers and business and money. What I didn’t know anything about was emotional intimacy, vulnerability, transparency, leadership, communication. So, I’ve spent the first half of my life getting good with the left brain stuff and the second half of my life catching up and learning all the things that I didn’t know about. So now when people come to me, I say, if you just want more money, you should go to someone else. I can help you with the money. But that’s just the beginning. We’re going to look at how you show up in the world as a partner, a parent, a leader and a human.

Peter Winick So, so how many folks never wind up spending the time for whatever reason, developing the right brain, the left brain? There’s easy ways for them to measure that. You’ve got your MBA, your consultant, whatever you can do, the analytics, you can raise your way through a spreadsheet, et cetera, et cetera. We don’t have the equivalent sort of measurement, skill or measurement ability or screening skills to develop those.

David Wood Yeah, I can’t tell you how many, and I’m biased because I tend to hang out with people who are on the personal growth path. Sure. My favorite mix is people who are really successful in business, and they’ve got the emotional intelligence to be able to go deep and really communicate. I think our society tends to reward left brain stuff, or at least has in the past, and it rewards a masculine orientation, which is I’m going to set a goal and I’m going to achieve the goal. And I was just on a couples podcast yesterday, and they said men in particular tend to focus on the money and the revenue. I think it’s shifting with people like Bernie Brown, giving us statistics and showing us that leadership requires vulnerability. And I’ve been saying for the last few weeks, keeps coming out of my mouth. Weak is the new strong.

Peter Winick Yeah. Well, I would argue that if we were to magically pull up a list of the top selling business books of the last 15 years north of 60, maybe 80 percent of them would have been marketed if they came out prior to that time frame as self-help books. So the kiss of death from a marketing perspective, when you put something in the self-help category, self-help category is men tend not to buy those books, right? So now when you look at things like listening skills, emotional, you know, emotional intelligence, collaboration, introspection, you know, vulnerability, authenticity, those would have been packaged as self-help books years ago and been in that that sexual in Barnes and Noble. But now, because it’s packaged quote as a business book, guys aren’t afraid to read it or walk in with the men are from Mars and put that on their desk or something.

David Wood That’s a that’s a really good point, and I love how you rattled off from the top of your head a number of different skills that that I think are very important. I’m writing a book right now with my coauthor Shane, a list and it’s called Name That Mouse, because the elephant named that mouse because that is not the only animal in the room. And it started as a soft skills book that started with like, Let’s connect deeper, and that’s one of my highest values. But then I realized I don’t want to leave out the corporate world. I don’t want to leave out the masculine. I don’t want to leave out, and I’m not talking about men. I’m talking about masculine energy. I don’t want to leave out leadership because I believe I believe transparency and revealing, and authenticity is a critical leadership skill. So we’re trying to we’re trying to couch it so that, yes, we want to hit the self-help group and we want to also hit the corporate market so that people can use this to make more money if that. That’s what they want.

Peter Winick And I think ways I’ve seen that done is to really Trojan Horse bury the lead. You talk about the business benefit and outcome and then, you know, to me, the litmus test is if I read the book, whatever the book is, do you go home and say, Hey, honey, let’s you know, I had this book on communications and whatever. Let’s try to have one of these kind of conversations because there’s a framework in here, right? People don’t go home with their Six Sigma books and say, Hey, honey, let’s let some you know our relationship isn’t quite efficient. Let’s try to get it to be, you know, black belt in efficiency and cut out the waste in our relationship. Yeah, she’d probably throw the book at your head, right? Like that. So, I think it’s almost organic or natural or intuitive for someone to say, would you share this with someone in your life outside of work? Right. And I think that’s an interesting litmus test. You know, what are the thing? And listen, there’s nothing wrong with, you know, we all need to understand the piano we all need to understand about. Like, there’s things that we need to do in business that we need to do. But it doesn’t mean that those are the things that we’re talking about over the dinner table.

David Wood Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, that’s my plan for the book that people will someone in the corporate setting might take it home to their partner and their kids and someone at home who’s reading it might be like, Hey, maybe we should get our team reading this so that we can have more transparency and start naming mice with each other. We all know about the elephant in the room. Right? You see it. I see it. No one’s saying anything. But many creatures in the room are much more subtle. Maybe I suspect you see it. Or I’m wondering if you’re annoyed at me about what I did last week. Or maybe like I was two minutes late to this. So this call and I named it, I named it, and I apologize. But if I didn’t, that would be a mouse that’s running around the room for me. And I’m wondering, is Peter annoyed at me? Should we talk about it? Should we not? Let’s stop all the second guessing and all the crap that happens inside and just not naming these things. And one of the things I think stops us from naming mice is we think that it’s going to be a big thing or someone’s going to have to fix it or deal with it.

Peter Winick And what if

David Wood I, this is some new language that people have started sharing with me and I want to spread it throughout the world? I just want to name it.

Peter Winick So I love what you did there because giving people a common language methodology and framework is the first step. Right. So if we had gone, you and I were both fluent in what naming masses and you made me fluent pretty quickly, then we can say, Hey, you know, whatever it was, I told you, I was going to email you that report at two o’clock and I got it to you at 2:30. In that email, I might say, I just want to call it the mice. I acknowledge I’m 30 minutes late. Hope that doesn’t screw up. And you might say, actually, yeah, it kind of did, because I was going to do better that. Or you might say, No, no worries, mate. You know, I wasn’t going to get to this before o’clock, but thank you. But it shows an acknowledgment of a slip and a respect in a way that’s not saying, Oh, I screwed up or, you know, it’s like naming mice that sort of neutral. It’s like, Oh, yeah, oh, these mice.

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David Wood So you’ve raised I think there are two very important points here, and I want to distinguish them. The first is the idea that we could just name it. I just want to name that. Yeah. Hey, this is a first date. And I notice I’m feeling a little nervous. I notice I want this to go well. You don’t have to do anything with that. I just wanted to name it so I can move on and let go right. That in itself can be incredibly powerful. When I’ve named something, you can actually, it has less power over me. But the second thing that you raised, is we’ll call it the next level. Once you’ve named it, you could use your example was, Hey, I notice I was late on that report. I said, I get it to you by five o’clock. I didn’t. I want to apologize. All right, that’s naming it. And you’re apologizing, but you could go further. You could explore impact. You could check for impact. How is that for you? I just want to check, did it throw you out? Did it not?

Peter Winick I wonder, did it mess up your day or your evening or whatever? Yeah, yeah.

David Wood And we in the book trailer that we’ve already created, we I don’t think we go into that. So listeners, you’re getting an extra step that’ll come out in the full book. And that is how is that for you? Like, Hey, I notice I did that or I said that or I’ve just shared something.

Peter Winick How? Well, what’s interesting in that is you might be thinking, Oh, geez, he’s really going to be upset because I got him that email half an hour after that. Oh my god. And I know, you know, Oh man, whatever, they’re going to be like, Oh, actually, you know, I was out of the office until the end of the day. I went for a bike ride and I know, he said 2:30. But are wasn’t going to. So it’s a non thing, but you actually sort of gain some little level of respect and trust by at least two, even though it was late and didn’t have an impact. It doesn’t mean it resolved you of the issue of owning the lateness.

David Wood Yes. This this skill, if you and I invite listeners, if you want to play with this, just go and start practicing it whenever you wonder if there’s impact or how it is for someone. Just check in. Hey, I just want to know how, how is that for you? And I want to model it now because I didn’t do it at the beginning of this call before we hit record. So I just I know I was. I was late for this call and I do want to check for impact. Was that frustrating? Was it annoying? Was it no big deal?

Peter Winick I just played it on technology and figured it out like, Oh, there we go again with the, you know, the tech issues. Yeah. OK, interesting. But and the other piece I want to talk about relative to naming the mouse, it’s a classic example of that could be in the boardroom, right? That could be on a sales call that could be a manager to their direct report. It could be over the kitchen table. So there’s something there’s a litmus test that I’m always looking at because I’m in the saying, Oh, could I? You know, like you mentioned, it could use it on a date, right? Hey, I’m usually not this awkward. I’m feeling goofy tonight. I’m nervous when I’m nervous and whatever it is, you can at least get clean. You know, I normally don’t put my, you know, fork in the in the coffee or whatever. Right? Yeah, put it out there.

David Wood Which brings us to some of the benefits of this. Let’s suppose you’re on a date and you notice your brain says, Wow, I’m clumsy. All right, your brain says that inside and then the brain might go. I’m pretty nervous. And then you might and then you might notice, Oh, I want this to go well. Now you have an opportunity now that you’ve revealed your own experience to yourself, which doesn’t often happen because the mind can bury all these things. But once you’ve noticed it, you have the opportunity to name it. I just want it name just as you did it so beautifully, Peter. And then what that allows? Firstly, I might relax. Once I’ve named it, I’m probably going to be more chill. I do this on stage in front of audiences. OK. I’m feeling a bit nervous and I’m excited, and I’m going to take a deep breath. You’re welcome to join me. That gets me more connected and present in my own skin. But the other thing is, if my date was noticing that I’m pretty clumsy and she’s like, What’s going on with this guy? If it’s now named, my date can go, Oh, I totally get it. All right, you’re a bit nervous. You know what? I’m a little nervous too, and now we can relate and connect, and when it

Peter Winick becomes another, it brings you closer, not further apart the awkwardness. I’m feeling, and she might be manifesting their awkwardness in a different way. It was a little bit more reserved, you know, because then we can talk about when we’re nervous, how do we each respond? And that’s a conversation that’s authentic. That’s transparent, that’s vulnerable, right?

David Wood Exactly. So the withholding, the mice not naming them keeps us distant. I hope she doesn’t work out how nervous I am, but naming of it can actually bring us closer together. And I would. I would suggest I don’t have hard data on this, but I would suggest nine times out of 10, maybe eight. You’re going to feel close to the other person. They’re going to feel closer to you or both. Now, if that doesn’t happen and sometimes it won’t happen, I might share it. Name amount, mouse with you that I’m annoyed by something you did last week. I’ve got a friend who cancels a lot when she’s when we’ve got plans because she’s got health issues now to name a mouse with her. If she might have a reaction, she might get defensive. She might feel upset. I say, hey, do it as kindly as you can. And if they do have a reaction, they do get upset. Stick with them. Stick with them while they have it. Explore the impact. What’s that like for you? Oh, that sounds really frustrating. You know, practice some empathy and then usually they’ll get over it. And if not quickly, hey, I’ve had people take a couple of months to get over something that I have named. Sure. But if they do get over it and they come back now, we’re closer and the friendship is stronger. If they don’t and I’ve just blown their circuits, then maybe we weren’t supposed to be connected anyway.

Peter Winick Yeah, and it’s not. The intent is not to use the mouse as a weapon, right? It’s to just name it, period, not to beat in the head with it.

David Wood Oh no. Look, you can do that.

Peter Winick And that’s called being a jerk.

David Wood Yes. And it’s also called what we do when we’re hurting, right? And if we don’t have the skill, so you may do that accidentally and then you get to go and repair it. Hey, I noticed I wasn’t. Oh, can you name a mouse with you? When I name that last mouse, I think I did a bad job and like, I’d like to try it again. I want to do over all very.

Peter Winick You can get it. So, I want to I’d like to shift for the last few minutes that we have here to the sort of the other side. OK, so I get. The methanol, it’s interesting, very interesting. Let’s talk about the business models, right? Because as a fault leader, there’s lots of ways to try to get your work out into the marketplace and make a living with it, right? Because we want, we want have impact, but we also need income. Right. So, what are your thoughts or and you can either look. Backwards or forward in terms of things that you’ve done in the past are things that you’re planning on doing. What does that look like for you?

David Wood Are we talking about the model to Max to choose between impact and income or to maximize both?

Peter Winick No, no, no. I’m well, you can maximize both MS and what are the underlying business models for you? OK with naming them or what have they been and what might they be differently when you watch the new platform? I name the mouse.

David Wood Yeah. One that I did use. I wrote a book years ago called Get Paid For Who You Are and the model I used then was to give the book away for free and and use it as a fundraiser to raise money for the Rainforest Foundation that was created by Sting. So we raised sixty grand, gave the book away for free. We had people sharing the book for charity because we’d give the book away and say, now that you have the book for free, would you like to donate a few dollars to the Rainforest Fund?

Peter Winick So what you might have paid for the book give a fraction of that or some of that amount?

David Wood Exactly. And on average, I think, you know, 60000 books and on average people paid a dollar, so $60000. And then I I said, this is what to do if you want more help doing that, here’s our online course. And then we did a big launch and made money on the back end. Now this one is very different. This one, I’m focused mainly on the impact. I just want to spread this far and wide. I don’t really expect books to make money. And just recently, I’ve been thinking, well, I need to allow for the possibility, as Jack Canfield said to me, one. At least allow for the possibility that

Peter Winick you’re not you’re not going to give it back if they decide that there’s ways they’d like to throw it at

David Wood you. Yeah. So what we’re going to do, I think we’re going to take on a charity as a as a partner and will donate a percentage of the proceeds. 10 to 20 percent of the profits of the book will go to a charity that’s related to communication. And then regarding money, I’ll probably just put something in the back. If you’d like support for your team, for your company, for your relationship. Here’s where to go to get help from China. My coauthor or to get help from David, we’d I’d love to do name that mouse workshops for four companies. I think Zoom calls and face to face workshops get them revealing and practicing. So that’s the that’s the model from someone who’s not really attached to making money from this project.

Peter Winick Got it. Well, this has been great. I appreciate your time and sharing where you are and where you’re going in the journey. Great stuff. Thank you, David.

David Wood Thanks, Peter. This was really fun. I’m feeling lit up today. Cool.

Peter Winick To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our web site at to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

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