Lessons learned from The Diary of a CEO’s Steven Bartlett and why ‘the outcomes of the business will most correlate to the team you build’

Steven Bartlett is an entrepreneur, speaker, investor, author, and host of the wildly successful podcast The Diary of a CEO. Last month, he came to Australia to give a series of business talks, including an intimate one-on-one chat with The Growth Distillery’s Dan Krigstein at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney.

Ahead of New Corp’s D_Coded event “Data fragmentation, Signal loss and Privacy concerns demand a new approach.” tomorrow at ICC Sydney, we thought it the perfect time to revisit some key takeaways from Bartlett’s illuminating chat.

“I have to give myself less credit…”

“…for achievements, as there are forces driving from the subconscious.”

Steven was a “poor black immigrant in a white English community”, as he puts it, and he believes that fuels many of his drivers.

Physical and mental health is a tectonic plate under everything.

Barlett prioritises sleep, nutrition, exercise, and friendship.

Emotional regulation is important.

Self-assess, keep a diary and have mechanisms to view yourself objectively.

The stories we tell ourselves…

are more important than any advice he will give.

Talk to a professional

Steven estimates that 40% of businesses fail due to the CEO not getting therapy.

Keep a committee of people around you.

Like a personal board of directors that will tell you when you are being great – and when you are being shit.

Humility is an incredibly important thing.

His original business, Tweetchain, became very different through humility, curiosity, and learning to be successful.

Principles to guide businesses for growth

Culture. Failure. Do it now. Be the team that out fails the competition.

“My first business failed because I did not pivot,” Bartlett said.

“Smarts is actually not that important.”

Resilience and adapting are the most important. Resilience is built through exposure therapy, which involves setting goals that are one step beyond an individual’s capacity so they stretch but do not break.

The biggest barrier in 2024 is culture.

“Strategy in business is vastly overrated. Culture is massively underrated.”

Companies are people, processes, and systems to achieve values.

There is a set of behaviours to deliver those values. “In business, there is a growing cowardice in leading teams. Being clear on expectations. Based on first principles, values, and behaviours, and being clear on what your culture is.”

Obsession on 1% improvement.

Big steps forward are difficult to find. 1% improvements. Marginal gains. Tiny steps forward lead you somewhere special: a feeling of progress.

“The small things that are easy to do are also the things that are easy not to do.” People behave according to their incentives; companies do not incentivise experimentation to try the 1% improvements.

The biggest cost in business is the time you waste making a perfect decision.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

Keep taking risks. 

Especially after success.

AI: we have never seen disruption on this scale.

Spend time on this priority.

“Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are both usually right.”

That’s a quote from Henry Ford. He’s also usually right.

A business is a group of people.

Business is about who you hire. The outcomes of the business will most correlate to the team you build.


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