In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Bob Buckley from Twelve Scholars – a training provider specialising in leadership development.
Interview with Bob Buckley at Unity Radio – The Real Sound of the City.
Lee: Good afternoon. My name is Lee and this is the Logros Show in association with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce only on Unity Radio – The Real Sound of The City. We are broadcasting live here from Media City UK. Today my guest is Bob Buckley and Bob owns a company called Twelve Scholars which is a training provider and specialises in leadership development. We are going to be looking at what he trains business owners for in terms of improving how to be a better leader. Tell us a little bit about yourself please.
Bob: I love challenges, the bigger the better! I like business challenges and I also like bicycle challenges as well, when people talk to me outside of work I’m always on the bike. When I’m not working with clients or businesses I’m out on the bicycle long distance cycling and stuff. I love helping other people seek challenges and Twelve Scholars is all about leadership development and there is no better challenge than how to develop yourself and how you can improve. Looking back I saw a real gap in the market for how people can learn. There is a lot of podcasts out there, a lot of stuff on the internet and a load of books. There is a lot on social media.
Lee: People are listening to podcasts all the time, when they are going to work and for some they are replacing it instead of listening to music. Everyone wants to consume more learning.
Bob: I think the way people learn is completely different these days. I’ll do a shout out to my nephews now, one is ten and one is eight. Ask the ten year old a question and he’ll go straight to google. Ask the eight year old and he will go to Alexa, so he is already using audio and the power of technology to help him which I find is mind blowing!
Lee: Tell us about Twelve Scholars.
Bob: Twelve Scholars is all about interviewing twelve people who have got passion and are experts in one specific subject, so we are looking at leadership. Our first launch is all about being proactive. We interview twelve people who are known for being proactive.
Lee: What kind of help do you offer to other business owners?
Bob: We help inspire the next generation of leaders. When you talk about leadership people think about captains of industry and chief executives, but actually everyone can be a leader if they want. It could be a small business, it could be a mum or dad or a social enterprise at your local church and what we are looking to do is inspire those people to achieve more.
Lee: Who in your view would be a good leader in society today that people can recognise and say, I can vouch for that as well.
When you talk about leadership people think about captains of industry and chief executives, but actually everyone can be a leader if they want.
Bob: Well I think there are role models all around you and for many they are in unsurprising places. If you look for famous people you may be looking in the wrong places. I think you should be looking for people on your street or in your workplace, in those hidden areas.
Lee: Who do you like in sport?
Bob: A lot of team sports have great leaders. It’s hard to pick individuals in solo sports, when you have teams, whether its football, rugby or cycling, you’ve got leaders throughout the pitch.
Lee: I do a little bit of cycling and it’s quite a challenge. When they are working as a team how do they maintain that pace? So someone goes to the front and they take turns don’t they? How do they maintain the momentum?
Bob: If you are cycling in a line like a Peloton the person at the front is typically working 30 – 40% harder than everybody else because of that slipstream effect. If you are sat at the wheel of the person in front you will find it easier because you are conserving energy. When the person in front becomes too tired then you can take over. Cycling is about saving energy.
Lee: So we were talking earlier about identifying a good leader. How do you do that when you go into a business? What is your process?
Bob: You’ve got to start with, let’s look at the company. No matter how big or how small everyone can be that leader but it’s being very clear on what those roles and responsibilities are within the firm. What is the company trying to achieve? I think it’s going back to basics then, strip down; what are they there for, what are they trying to achieve and look at who’s doing what at the moment.
Lee: Can you give us a little bit about your history Bob. Can you give us a condensed version of when you were 16 – 17 to where you are now?
Bob: Unlike most people these days I got paid to go to university by a paper company. What most people don’t know is by qualification I am a paper scientist.
Lee: What is that?
Bob: I spent 3 years at university and not only was I rowing at university but I spent 3 years learning how to make paper.
Lee: As in from pulp?
Bob: Yes from trees from recycle from rags. I got a job out of it, there were only 12 people on my course and we all got paid and went straight into employment.
Lee: So what happened after university?
Bob: I worked at a paper industry in South Wales at 23; I was shift manager running factories. I was based in South Wales and I had a shift of 24 people. They used to report to me days and nights. I was working 12 hour shifts working New Year’s Eve when most people are out celebrating. Bank holidays I’d be there on the front line with my tea keeping the production line going!
Lee: From being in employment and having that security, what was the trigger for you to want to go out on your own?
Bob: A lot of the people at the time were saying, why are you going to do something different when you have a good job, a good pension and everything going for you within your company? Why are you going elsewhere?
Lee: What was your why?
Bob: I suppose it was looking for that bigger challenge. For me I felt very safe in employment and I just fancied a challenge of setting up a new company.
Lee: What would you say for someone wanting to go out on their own, have you any tips?
Bob: It’s difficult because everyone has their own different perspective on risk. You look at some of the most successful people out there and there is a guy called Ben Francis who runs Gymshark. When you were asking before about role models and leaders I would put Ben right up there. He has done some amazing things with his company. He started out by holding down one or two other jobs until he got that traction. One of the things people don’t realise until they set out in business themselves is it can be lonely. If you’ve got that side hustle and I know from personal experience, it keeps that mental state going and it keeps you involved with people because it is lonely when you are setting up by yourself.
Lee: In terms of wellbeing and mental health and coping with daily challenges in the workplace, you may have a poor leader above you which often causes you to struggle and want to change your job. What are some strategies that you give to people to help them to maintain a positive mind set in the workplace?
One of the things people don’t realise until they set out in business themselves is it can be lonely. If you’ve got that side hustle and I know from personal experience, it keeps that mental state going and it keeps you involved with people because it is lonely when you are setting up by yourself.
Bob: You can surround yourself with positive people and really take a close look at your friendship groups and who you hang around with at work. You are most heavily influenced by those closest to you.
Lee: There is an expression you are a product of the five closest people to you.
Bob: Yes, people, books, music, anything that is close to you, so really have a good look at that and do something about it.
Lee: Yes it’s a toxic detox. Everybody have a look around you – who are you getting rid of!
Bob: A phrase I’ve recently heard is, you walk into a room and some people are mood hoovers. They’ll take the atmosphere out of the room. So just be really careful of those people around you, they could be at work or at home. They could be in your friendship groups outside of work so be mindful of that. Keep yourself busy and yes it’s nice to switch off but when you are around busy people, guess what you become more productive. Also try to find something that brings you back to who you really are. For me its fitness, whether it’s going for a run or to the gym, on my bike or going for a swim.
Lee: Your business is all about training staff in companies to be better leaders. Let’s get into some of the no no’s first so what do you think would make a bad leader?
Bob: It goes back to the root cause and it’s all about having standards. I was told at a very early age you get what you are prepared to accept. As a leader you get what you’ll tolerate and if you don’t accept it you’ll get something different.
Lee: That goes for relationships as well doesn’t it?
Bob: Relationships, children, all that you get what you are prepared to accept.
Lee: How much do you value yourself? How much are you prepared to put up with before you go no, I am worth more than this.
Bob: In the workplace everybody likes to be liked. Sometimes trying to please everyone I would consider a no no, as a leader because when you are trying to please everyone, you will end up with something being mediocre. Leadership is all about being bold, making things happen and if you are trying to please everyone sometimes it’s a bit of a compromise.
Lee: If someone wants to be a better leader in the workplace or a team, what would you say they need to be aware of in themselves?
Leadership is all about being bold, making things happen and if you are trying to please everyone sometimes it’s a bit of a compromise.
Bob: I think leadership is very simple and it’s all about inspiring people. Whether you are in business in sports or at home it’s about inspiring people to do something that they wouldn’t do normally. All good leaders have that inspirational quality. I think what gives you that quality is being interested. If you can be interested in people and what they are doing, then you will inspire them to do greater things.
Lee: You talk a lot about growth mind set from an individual and business perspective and it’s important for personal development that people continue to grow. These days particularly with mental health it’s important that people try and grow as individuals and I think the youth of today are recognising that. What is your view of a good healthy growth mind set?
Bob: It’s all about that continuous learning and for me it’s about doing things and taking action. Sometimes taking no action can be a positive thing if it is deliberate procrastination, but on balance to keep things simple you have got to do something. You can’t just wait for other people to take actions for you; you have to be on the front foot the vast majority of the time.
Lee: Do you have any tips for procrastination because it is the worst thing that stops people from doing things.
Bob: At times I can be the world’s worst procrastinator. I have a book at home about how to avoid procrastination.
Lee: What’s the top tip?
Bob: I haven’t read it yet, I’ve been procrastinating! However over the last twelve weeks I have been interviewing proactive people and asking how they overcome procrastination to learn from them. Some of the key skills are don’t overthink things. Just do something, it’s about having standards. If you can do something at a base level it doesn’t have to be excellent at day one, it could be satisfactory for now. Then you can learn, move on and it can be good tomorrow and excellent will come in time.
Lee: Okay so small steps. How do you eat an elephant? The punchline is one bite at a time! Now we are going to finish off with the strap line of the show, achieving excellence. It’s a model that people can live their lives by to improve how they live or what they want to achieve. In your opinion how do you achieve excellence please?
Bob: I think achieving excellence is really difficult and in many ways people start looking at excellence, but that’s the wrong place to start. I think you need to look in the opposite direction which is try and define what poor is. No matter where you are I think everyone can describe what a poor job looks like. It could be poor restaurants; it could be a poor meeting. Everyone can describe what poor looks like and if you take meetings for example, it could be turning up late, being unprepared, going off topic. If you agree that’s what poor looks like we then agree as a team let’s not go there. We then look like at what is satisfactory? As a minimum what do we expect from this meeting and we define what that satisfactory is. We all agree and we all sign that off. That’s our first step to achieve excellence, get that satisfactory first. Then we can get to what good looks like, so we’ve gone from poor to satisfactory. We’re now talking about what a good level of service looks like and that’s what people should be achieving day in day out where possible. Once we’ve got that then we can look at bells and whistles which is excellence. That’s over delivering and creating that wow factor and what happens is once you have these definitions in place, over time what was your satisfactory then becomes poor. What was your good then becomes satisfactory and what was excellence becomes good. When we are working with people that is the basics of continuous improvement and achieving excellence.
Lee: Brilliant. Thanks very much Bob for coming in.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno
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