Chris Brindley MBE on infinite pie thinking with Al Fawcett

Chris Brindley MBE on becoming Britains Best Boss

Chris Brindley MBE on infinite pie thinking with Al Fawcett

Chris Brindley MBE on becoming Britains Best Boss

If we are in the same organisation, it is all about delighted customers and delighted colleagues…

I want to start by recommending you have a notepad and pen ready for this one.

Chris Brindley MBE shares the stories and insights from his experience and believe me there is a lot to share. Just a quick look at his CV shows this. Chris has worked for Metro Bank as Managing Director, held Sales and Marketing Director roles in Nat West and British Gas. He has been voted – Britains Best Boss; Most outstanding workplace; Sales and Marketing Director of the year; and UK Non Executive Director of the Year by Institute of Directors

Chris is currently the Chair of Rugby League World Cup 2021 Board. He also works to deliver sport and physical activity to the population of the North West and as a result in 2018 was awarded MBE for service to sport.

In this conversation we discuss the key elements to

* building teams
* coaching and developing people
* the role of leaders
* goals and target setting
* creating the right environment for success
* the need to constantly review the rule book
* the importance of deep practice
* how the only true way to mastery is through taking action.

This is a great example of what infinite pie thinking is all about.

You can follow @Chris_Brindley_ on twitter

Chris also suggested that we speak with CEO of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Jon Dutton and former Leicester and England Rugby Player Leon Lloyd or you can find other great conversations for the infinite pie thinking podcast here.

Chris Brindley MBE on becoming Britains Best Boss on the infinite pie thinking podcast with Al Fawcett

Full transcript of Chris Brindley MBE on Becoming Britains Best Boss

Chris Brindley  00:00

At the age of 19, I created a mission statement for me, which was to consistently deliver outstanding results and develop winners in life. Follow the process of what makes success happen, overlaid by a real caring for your colleagues. I’ve just been blessed with having some outstanding people in my team that ultimately  have allowed me to just go on stage and pick a few trophies up. I wanted to grow the individual, because that’s the developing winners in life. If they’re good in life, then quite frankly, they’re going to be good at work. I realised that motivation is only a temporary state. So everything I talk about is contracting. I contract with every individual on an emotional level. How do we get the team to win, in which we’ll all share the victory. I’m always looking to be coached. Therefore, I embrace feedback.


Al   00:54

Hi, I’m Al Fawcett, and this is infinite pie thinking. Today, I’m speaking with Chris Brindley MBE, and I warn you now, this one may require a notepad and pen. We’re going to be discussing the key elements of building teams, coaching and developing people, the role of leaders, goals and targets setting, creating the right environment for success, the need to constantly review the rulebook, the importance of deep practice, and how the only true way to mastery is through taking action. Take a listen. Let me know what you think.


Al   01:26

So Chris, how you doing? 


Chris Brindley  01:27

I’m really good Al, thanks for asking. Yeah, learning lots of new stuff through, through the lockdown. Pretty structured, pretty disciplined. But in a good good place. Family are all safe and well, and I think that’s the underlying priority for probably everybody at the moment, that their loved ones are safe and well and getting through it.


Al   01:47

Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s sort of it’s almost like it reverts back to the whole Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, isn’t it? Have I got that base foundation sorted? Are we safe, secure a roof over our heads, food on our table? Yeah. And and people feeling healthy and happy and, and safe. Right, Chris, you have one of the best CVs that I’ve ever seen. And I’m going to work through it a little bit here. So you work for the Metro Bankers, and correct me if I’m wrong on some of these, you worked for the Metro Bankers as the managing director, you held senior roles in NatWest and British Gas, you’ve been voted the Britain’s best boss, most outstanding workplace, sales and marketing director of the year, UK non executive director of the year by the Institute of Directors. You’re now the chair of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 board, you work to deliver sport and physical activity to the population of the northwest of the UK. And in 2018, as a result, were awarded the MBE for service to sports. Right. So. Where did that start? Because I can’t imagine as a young lad, you turned around and said one day, I’m going to be the sales and marketing director of… or I’m going to have an MBE for… Where did that start?


Chris Brindley  02:59

Oh, look, look Al, it started when I was three months old if I’m being brutally honest, when my father walked into a council flat that me, my brother and my mother were living in at the time. As I say, I was in the cot, three months old, and that night he walked out on the family. And it was, it was a tough childhood, we didn’t have a lot of money. I had a abundance of love from my mum and I had some great teachers, a primary school teacher, a guy called Ray Woods. Secondary school, head teacher. And I was not academic, what I had a love of was sports, and what the great teachers and head teachers in my life had for me, were they taught me about how to get life values through the vehicle of sport. And as a result of that, I got my first job in that way, so I was printing chequebooks. And because I was still obsessed with sport, all sports, but at that time, you know football, I did my coaching badges, my FA coaching badges. And what I realised really quickly was the principles of the coaching badges I could apply really well at work, and there weren’t many other people doing coaching. There’s lots of barking orders and lots of screaming and shouting, but not a lot of coaching, which was making people better. So at the age of 19, I created a mission statement for me, which was to consistently deliver outstanding results and develop winners in life. And beneath that statement, and I still carry it around with me today, is three pictures. I want you to win. But winning was about setting new standards so I could lead the way for others. The second picture is three arrows in a bull’s eye, and that was about being good at lots of things, because I think when you lead, you’re often having to manage situations and people and they’re all different. You know, I’m a big fan of the balanced business scorecard in the business world. You’ve got to manage your financial, you still got to keep your customers delighted. You’ve got to make sure that you’re a great leader for your colleagues. And ultimately, you’ve got to manage operations and risks. And what, what happened as a result of taking the coaching principles into the workplace, I just got bigger jobs leading bigger teams, and the principles are still the same. So, you know, it was the real, follow the process of what makes success happen, overlaid by a real caring for your colleagues, who then became self motivated to wanting to be the best they could be. And literally, as a result of that, you just, you just got, as I say, got bigger jobs. I’m an obsessive goal setter, you know, I set goals all the time, short, medium, long term. And no, I never set a goal that said, I’m going to be Britain’s best boss or sales director of the year. But what I did set goals was for our teams, about how can we just be the best we can be? Typically today, you’ll call it marginal gains. And at the age of 40, I remember waking up on my 40th birthday, and my wife, Elaine, said so what, what now? I’m pretty sure you’ve got some goals. And my goal was, by the time I’m 50, I don’t want to be working for anybody else. And I want to be a respected administrator in sport. And she looked to me says, well that’s interesting, but you’re a banker. I think that’s what she said. She said, what makes you think you’re gonna do it, she said, I know you love sport, but you’ve not got the, you’ve not got the understanding of it. And I said something that I look back on now. And it was, it was the real making of me in sport, which I’ve said, even though I’m an exec in a bank, I’m going to go back and do my apprenticeship. At the age of 40, I went back and did my apprenticeship in learning how sport works. I took on the chair of the charity role at Greater Sport, and then I started getting exposed to decision makers in sport. I was bringing some real clear business processes and principles that were lacking in sport at the time. And as a result of that, you know, you get offered another opportunity. And, you know, my motto on my emails is ‘Carpe Diem’, so I will seize every day. When somebody gives you the opportunity to go and, you know, take on a new role or a new opportunity, then I seize it with both hands and give it my best shot. Underneath all that though Al, it’s all about the people. I’ve just been blessed with having some outstanding people in my team that ultimately have allowed me to just go on stage and pick a few trophies up. I sometimes do feel that it’s not about me, it’s definitely about the teams that I’ve led. And I’m delighted when some of those people in those teams get on to bigger and better jobs, and I’ve played a small part in their development, then I’ve done my job, as the likes of Ray Woods and Colin Cross did for me when I was at their school, so you know, it’s underpinned by hard work, underpinned by values. But I’ve had a wonderful mum, wonderful mentors along the way for which I’m truly grateful. 


Al   07:55

That’s fantastic. Like you, I have an absolute love for sport, you know, we often use sports principles and stories and analogies in a business setting. But I love the fact that you actually took it the other way as well and could see how you could take the business principles and your experience and knowledge and apply it within that environment as well. The key bit for me, or one of the elements that stood out for me, was even your mission statement, which you said you wrote as a young man, was others focused. It had the element of how do I help and support others about it and develop them? Because if I develop them, then surely it’s a win win situation? Because it helps me. Yeah. But you said about having great people around you. That doesn’t happen by luck. Yeah. How did you go about defining what a good team looks like for you, identifying the right people, supporting them and developing them and creating an environment in which they wish to stay? But knowing at what point it’s right for them to move on as well?


Chris Brindley  08:57

Oh, absolutely. You know, there’s a great phrase isn’t there, from Peter Thompson that says, he was once challenged about his training budget, and somebody said, what if you spend all this money on your people, and they leave? To which he said, well, what if I don’t and they stay? I just think that’s just such a great quote. And you know, everybody who’s running the business at the moment should think long and hard, at the moment, about when they’re coming out of this situation, the best people investing training at the moment. You know, the ones that see it as a cost and not a valuable will slash the budget. So, you know, ultimately, I’ve got some models and I think, part of today, I feel like I’m obliged to share because I care about sharing with others. So there’s a few few principles that have underpinned my leadership style. I’m an avid reader. And I tend to look at people who done something that I admire, and I want to go and find out what their success formula was. One of the early books I read was Stephen Covey’s Highly Effective Habits of Highly Effective People. And it talks about the emotional bank account which I was working in a bank at the time, so it resonated. But it’s such a simple model, it says, relationships are like bank accounts, that the best way to have a healthy bank account is to put many credits in and don’t take a lot of credits out. And ultimately, that’s how I still apply to this day, every relationship that I have. I look at the balance, and it’s my responsibility to put credits in. I’ll do everything I can not to take a credit out, but if I do, because I think it’s needed, then I’ll explain why that debits gone out. So I’m obsessed with having healthy bank accounts, and understand what credits look like, it might be something as simple as a thank you for a job well done. I think we got out of the habit of saying thank you. And, you know, I’m noted for being obsessed with saying thank you for a job well done with a high level of sincerity and authenticity. So I look at relationships. And therefore I’m always putting credits in, recognising birthdays, anniversaries. I went on video and told, you know 4,500 people, if you’ve got young children at primary school, you don’t need to book any leave for sports day or nativity plays. Because ultimately, I thought it was really important that that young child at primary school, when they look up at three o’clock on that June Thursday, the first person they would want to see is either their mum or their dad. And I don’t think it was my responsibility to stop them going, and same with the nativity plays. And it’s not really hard, Al, to work out. If you’re a leader, you sort of know that sports days are in the summer. And I reckon this year, and every year, nativity plays will happen in December. So if you can’t plan ahead for that, you probably shouldn’t be in the job. So, so the first one was about really understanding people and Dan Goleman, and emotional intelligence, as well as COVID. And then the model I still carry through and I learnt this from an old boss called Graham Hardy. He talked about a very simple people strategy, and he called it RICES. And it’s the word ‘rice’ with an S on the end. And it stands for something as simple as this. They R stands for Recruitment. How do you recruit? What do you recruit against? Do you recruit against values? So at MetroBank we talked about recruiting for attitude, training for skill. Because ultimately, culture meant everything. So we we did psychometric profiling, we had in-depth assessment centres, we talked about customer experience, we knew exactly what we recruited against. The I then stands for Induction. And it was really important how we induct our people. We inducted our people all about culture. And it was about how we got here, what do we stand for, and people genuinely gave me the option of leaving on the first day when we talked about culture at MetroBank. You know, you got to do a conga around the office at three o’clock. And you have to go past the boardroom. And the reason you went through the boardroom was it was made the glass, and there was a board meeting going on. And the job of the board was to applaud and stand up and give them an ovation, to recognise the fact that they’ve joined the revolution, because MetroBank was all about creating a revolution in banking. So the I is important. And I see some companies that don’t do particularly well at the R, and they don’t do or do particularly badly at the I. Here’s your laptop, there’s the canteen, crack on. And we talked to them about the C, which was Competence. Because, one thing I’ve learned in sport, the elite performers have a pathway. And actually, there’s lots of development going on all the way, in a logical and sequential order, is tested in milestones, and actually development plans for every individual athlete or team player. And we want to create the same experience where we invested heavily in people every time, and you know, I’ve dedicated 12 days minimum per person to investing in them being better at who they are, as well as what they do. So I wanted to grow the individual, because that’s the developing winners in life. It’s a good in life, then quite frankly, they’re going to be good at work. And then there’s some people actually they have a desire to be more than competent, there will be excellent. And that’s almost the elite pathway programme. So actually talent planning. So we spend a lot of time, and we didn’t do it ourselves. We brought in the very best of who there is out there, we got some good guest speakers and you know, some people who sort of achieve their goals and talked about, you know, Frank Dick springs to mind, valley people and mountain people. And he’s probably one of the greatest athletics coaches ever to of walked the world and exposing some of my talent to the likes of Frank, they realise that they have the ability, provided they match it with their own desire. And I just create the environment to let them flourish. And then the S is Succession planning, so I’d spend a lot of time getting people ready for the next job, either internally or externally. Sometimes people had to leave my team to go and learn externally and that’s why I went to British Gas. I’ve been a banker for 28 years. I was obsessed with the question, is leadership transferable? Or does it have to be based on the products? Look, I hope nobody emails me and says, can you fix the 300 boiler with a telescopic? Because the answer was in 2010 when I was paid maybe to know that, I didn’t know it then, I certainly don’t know it now. I don’t think British Gas brought me in to fix boilers. I think what they brought me in to do was lead a team that fixed boilers, installed boilers, with a high level of customer excellence, and doing it the right way, being collaborative between the guys who did the specs, working with the guys who did the installations, and the guys that did the follow ups and the service and repairs. So when somebody says to me about people is RICES: recruitment, induction, competence, excellence, succession, and if you’re on a succession plan, you’re going to apply for a job, and therefore, you go right back to the top, which is someone who’s going to recruit you. And even if you’ve been in an organisation for a while, and the job is different, I still insist on a different sort of induction. And you just go through the process again. So it’s a virtual circle. And, you know, when Graham Hardy told me that, I thought is genius, and I’m going to use it, I’m going to execute it relentlessly, and I’d like to think I have done. 


Al   16:18

I think that’s fantastic. I love having frameworks. Frameworks give you an opportunity to drive a process through, but it’s not being so wedded to them that you’re sitting there going right, are we in the R at the moment? Or should we move into the I? It’s using them and lifting off the page and making them a reality. Rather than just have I ticked the box to say, I’ve completed that bit.


Chris Brindley  16:35

Yeah. But on that Al, what great leaders do is realise this freedom within the framework. Exactly. You know, and that gets into the whole subject of situational leadership. And ultimately, what I see leaders get paid for is judgement. Judgement, when actually you sit there and say, on this occasion, that process will not work. Yes. And the lovely story I’d share with people at MetroBank, one of our values was ask if you’re not sure, bump it up. And what that meant was, it took one person to say yes at MetroBank, it takes two to say no, our job is not to say no to customers. So what we’ve seen what we when we created the ask if you’re not sure, bump it up, it takes two to say no. The rule was if you thought you’d say no to a customer, before you tell the customer no, you went to the most senior person available on your premises and said, I think I’m at the place where I might have to say no, can you help me? And because it’s the most senior person, the most senior person might sit there and go, well done for following the process. But on this occasion, it’s dumbass rule. So we’re just going to give the customer the answer, yes. But you’ve done absolutely right to refer it to me. Often, though, there were great opportunities to coach, where we asked what makes you think you’re going to say no? Have you not considered this? Have you not considered that? Or the alternative was, I’m not happy with it either. And we have to say no, because that’s what the regulator says we’ve got to do, because we’re bound by the regulator and the law of the land. So, that opportunity meant it gave the people confidence to approach the senior leadership team and say, can you help, and it was just the most amazing culture. So, that whole bit about freedom within the framework, which is the framework is right, most of the time that will get you there. But some situations, particularly when you’re dealing with other human beings, means that we get paid to exercise judgement. And I just think that’s a real skill. Because I’ve been dealing with people in the last few weeks that quite frankly, they’ve followed the rule book, but they don’t know why the rules in there, but they religiously followed it. And quite frankly, they’ve pissed me off. And as a result, I’ve taken my business elsewhere. So well done, you’ve followed the rules, but actually what did the human being want? And how could you have met their needs? And that’s why MetroBank is so special in what it does, is it doesn’t have computers that say no, it has humans that go to senior people with the premise of seeing if we can say yes, and that’s pretty special. 


Al   18:55

Chris, you’re very dangerous here, because you’re so you’re giving me so many gems that my mind is firing at about 100 miles an hour, and I’ve got about 16 questions, all in different directions from from what you’ve just said, which is brilliant. So the first thing that I love is with regard to your RICES is the fact that becomes a virtual circuit, you talked earlier about the fact that you kept getting bigger jobs. And I’ve seen people who do well in something, and then they’re given a bigger job, but it’s either too big for them, or they haven’t got the competence yet for that job. But they’re left to flounder because they don’t go through that process of going, okay, we’ve recruited you for this job because you’re the right person from a character point of view, we’re going to instil the right sort of programme to help you to do that. And we will induct you effectively, because your internal, you know the business, right, you’ve been here for three years, or whatever it might be. So surely, this is just a bigger job and you’ve seen other people do it. So just do what they do. And we fall into that trap. I love when we get to the bottom bit where it’s about the people who want to move from competence to excellence, and then that succession planning, was that an opt in? Or an opt out? Or a combination of both? Was that a sort of a collaborative approach of sitting down with somebody saying, oh, I’ve identified potential in you. And I think you can go places, let’s work together on how we achieve that?


Chris Brindley  20:14

It’s always about collaboration with the individual. Again, it’s great debriefs. What I’ve learnt from sport is what great coaches and great athletes do is they have real clarity on the course, what is the outcome they want to achieve? And actually, you know, I use the grow model, what’s the goal? What’s the reality of where we are now? What are the options to bridge that gap? And what’s the level of willing desire, and therefore, it is always a discussion. I’ve had people that I’ve recognised, that in my belief they have talent. They said to me, not at the moment, Chris, because I’ve got a young family, it might mean moving to Edinburgh. I’ve never forced people down that route. What I do though, is I realised that motivation is only a temporary state. And I described the word motivation as motive for action, somebody might not have the motive for taking the action to go onto a development plan, because they know the parents might be able to leave, they don’t want to move to Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, somewhere else, what they say is, look, I’ll give you a great job, I’m not ready for that yet, either personally or professionally. And therefore we sit and map out that pathway. And we’re all different, we have different motivations, different skill sets, and different strengths and different areas for development. So everything I talk about is contracting, I contract with every individual on an emotional level. And therefore, it becomes a very personalised approach for that individual. And therefore, for me, great leaders and Terry Lena from Tesco was one that, you know, I studied, I’ve met, I’ve seen present. He realised that his job was to walk the floor more than spend time in the boardroom, getting to understand the individuals and what motivates them, and how he could play a part in their individual journey. So the answer, Al, is it’s always around not doing something to somebody because I want to do it. And it’s, these are some options, how would you like to explore them? And agree a plan of action that will be beneficial for you, beneficial for your family, and other stakeholders personally, but also will add real value to the organisation. And again, at MetroBank, we realised that there were people who were outstanding at the job, but didn’t want the responsibility. And we acknowledged that, we respected that. We call them heroes, because some people want organisations that just everybody’s clambering for the big next job, and they’ll literally trample over the teammates back to get there. We wanted a blend of a team, where people say, I’ll do you a great job, but I don’t want the responsibility. I’d like to go home at night and relax and stuff. Others sit there and go, I thrive on responsibility. I want to be on that succession plan. Please tell me how to get there. And getting there was about performance, but also their image and their values and their behaviours. Never once did somebody get the big job, because they solely were good at the job. Even I’ve worked in sales, I’ve seen some outstanding salespeople be given the sales leaders job and fail miserably, because they didn’t have the skill set and the boss assumed, because they could sell, they could be sales managers or sales leaders. And quite frankly, it’s a totally different skill set. Yeah. I’ve seen some of these people, bomb in performance, but were still bombing competence. And it’s not helped them, it’s not helped the organisation. So when you talk about that collaboration, it has to be collaboration. I don’t like anything being done to me, I just as a human being, I’d like to explore the options and come to an agreed state. So that’ll be my view.


Al   22:07

It’s funny what you say, because obviously, from a sales perspective, if we put the sales element on this for a moment, is that as a salesperson, if I go out to buy something, I can either be your easiest sell, or your hardest. If you get me to buy from you, there’s a whole different perspective, because I’ll sell to myself if you hit my hotspots, if you find out what’s important to me, I’ll hold my hand up and say I fell into this trap early on in my career, when I first became a sales manager, is I sort of assumed that all I needed to do was teach people how I did it, and they’d be pretty good at it too. And then what I realised was that I had to do exactly what I did for my customers, I just got new customers, my customers are my team. It’s like, right, so what’s important to you, what do you want to achieve? How do we go about achieving it? How do I help you to get there, which ties me into you mentioned earlier that you are an avid gold setter. Now, obviously, in a sales environment, they’re setting your own goals, but there’s often you know, from a business perspective, there’s often goals slash targets that are set for you, and then you must have had to set them for your team. So how did you go about that contracting, that connection piece of sitting down with them and going, okay, here’s your target. How do we how do we work this through?


Chris Brindley  25:13

Yeah, it’s fascinating. You know, I’ve had a long career in sales. And I’ve been in there when people have told me because I’ve done really well, I’m getting a bigger target. And somebody has not performed well, well they’re getting a lower one. I say also. So we’re punishing good performance. You know, I did get a job as a sales director, and, you know, it was never going to be about 50 in your team and they all, they all get a 10% increase. I sit there, I sat there and did a lot of insight, as we’d call it now. And I started to look at targets from a performance as well as potential, because if you’ve maxed out the market, giving you a 10% increase, actually wasn’t necessarily fair. Whereas somebody who’s got 90% opportunity in the market, but couldn’t be asked, what why should they get a 3% increase? So typically, what I’ve always looked at is, I look at empirical evidence where I can, and you know, I’ve worked in a company where we were asked to sell solar roof panels, and 80 districts, and somebody told me that the target was two per district, in the United Kingdom. And I said, I’m not doing that. And he said, well, no, it’s fair. I said, it’s not fair. If you work in Inverness, selling solar panels in Iverness is not as easy as selling solar panels in Brighton, and you know, the reasons Brighton is, it’s got a Green MP, it’s got better climate. When you do that research, you realise that the right answer is 15 for Brighton, one for the North Scottish, and actually somewhere in between for others. So I’ve always sat down and got the people who need to achieve the target in the room and said, if the team achieves its objectives, we all win, rather than teams where one runs around like a diva, because they’ve smashed their target, and they’re thinking it’s all about them, and the team’s floundering. Because if you’re in my team, and you’re top of the league table, if you can’t tell me who you’ve helped and coached further down the league table, then you’re not a great team player, you’re just a great salesperson. So I’m a great believer in sitting there and sharing out the challenge, and negotiating and collaborating into how do we get the team to win, for which we’ll all share the victory, not a win lose, where one individual walks out of a target meeting punching the air, goes on that night and says, I’ve got an easy target, they’ve got a really tough one, that’s good news. You’re in the same team wearing the same shirt with the same badge. So for me targets, I’ve seen it we’ve done horribly, which is divide and conquer, versus collaborate, and let the team achieve the team target. And that’s when we all go the steps, lift up the cup, and then we’re all on the team photo with a trophy. Not one person going it’s all about me. Yeah.


Al   28:00

But it’s interesting, then, because the first scenario isn’t a team. It’s a bunch of people who are grouped together under one line manager or whatever it might be. That’s not that’s not a team. I had a great experience once, many years ago, when I joined a new team. And my boss sat down with me and we were chatting about the setup and the expectations for the future and how it would all work. And he turned around to me and he said, look, this is what we want you to contribute to the teams, but you are more than welcome to lead this team. In fact, I’m going to encourage you to lead this team at some time in the future, the one thing that I’ll ask you to do is to find your replacement. And it was fantastic. Because what it did is it made me actually start to think about what my role and responsibilities were. So actually to be able to define what I did, where I add value, how I was going to do that. So understood my job better to be able to identify the right type of people that would be suitable for it in the future.


Chris Brindley  29:00

Honestly Al, that is such an insightful thing, because one of the things I do when I when I do my programmes is I walk into a team, and I’ll put my hand up and say, who’s ever said this the first day back from holiday? Oh, wish I’ve never gone, what a mess. And I said, if you’ve ever said that, then you need to buy a mirror and look in it. Because the reason it’s a mess, is because you’ve not explained to somebody what your jobs about. And it’s, it’s part of that process of getting them ready to be your successor. But some people don’t share anything with their team about their job. Yet two weeks every year in the summer, they say, oh, can you deputise for me? And you’ve actually not got them ready, so how are they ever going to be able to perform in a in a high performance situation when you’ve never got them ready? On the basis that you sort of know a few months in advance you’re going on holiday in the summer, why wouldn’t you get that individual ready? Why wouldn’t you sit there going, I’ll brief you before the meeting. You go in it on your own, or I’ll come with you, but you’re going to learn, then you go in on your own, and we’ll get you ready for the time when you go on your own, and I’m not outside the door. We’ll pre brief, we’ll debrief, we’ll coach, we’ll work out who’s in the room, what their thinking is, how they might behave, I’ll get you ready. But when you walk on that stage or on that field, you’re going to perform, because you know the rules of those games. And as a result of that, that’s when you can sit there and your boss goes, I’m going to succome, you can leave there, you can get promoted, because you’ve already got your eyes, identified your successor. And it’s not just a paper exercise, they’ve already demonstrated the level of performance. And I just think that’s just genius. 


Al   30:39

Yeah, it’s a simple thing. Same boss did a situation for me, and I’ve taken this principle forward with a whole bunch of things. It was a situation where he turned around and he came out with this phrase, and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. He said one day, you are gonna look back on this and laugh. And I went, yeah, probably, he said, why wait? So I apply that principle to so many things. My kids might turn around and say, oh, when I grow up, I want to be… I’m like, why wait? Do it now. 


Chris Brindley  31:07

Do it now. 


Al   31:09

You know, it’s your carpe diem principle? Yes. He said, hey, if you want to be an author, start writing, if you want to make music, start making music, if you want to be all of these different things, because we’re so often we’ll go into the okay, so let’s sit down and work out what you need to do, what’s the path to getting there? And that’s great, but what’s the starting point?


Chris Brindley  31:32

Chinese proverb says, journey with 1000 miles starts with the first step, just take the first step. 


Al   31:38

So I think that’s great. And the other thing that you said earlier about their breaking up of targets and all the other bits and pieces, is that fair doesn’t always mean equal. Agree. You know, in order to be fair, it doesn’t have to be right, we break it into equal chunks. I think there’s some really, really key principles to tie into. Right, we’re covering some ground already. So we picked on people there for a little bit, you know, to me it’s create connections account, it’s all about relationships, it’s all about how we develop them. You’ve talked about processes, and you talked about trying to avoid or not trying to, you’ve obviously done it, avoiding that tick box principle. You I mean, you and I are both worked in regulated environments, and therefore it can sometimes come into that premise of right, okay, there are certain rules that we have to apply for. How do you turn a process into that that’s really effective, because many top coaches will talk about, forget the score, focus on the process, trust the process, trust the process, trust the process, great believer in that. But there are a lot of people, as we’ve talked about a moment ago, that get so wedded to a process that it becomes a tick box exercise, or they almost become oh, it’s more than my job’s worth to go outside of that. You gave one example, which I think is absolutely fantastic about that decision making process of, if you feel that the process tells you that you have to say no, then go and see somebody else. But how do you create an environment or develop people to see a process, and then try and lift it off the page and own it for themselves?


Chris Brindley  33:12

Yeah. So a few things are, I think, number one, I think a lot of processes are handed down and they’re handed down from somebody who’s probably not seen a customer for 20 years. They’re a functional specialist, and they write the rules in a silo mentality, which is all about prevention. And, you know, some departments I’ve worked in, I’ve nicknamed them business prevention units. And the works, you know, they get paid the same day as me. Or ultimately, why I always have my people who sell correctly and sell well, is they generate income. There’s lots of other people that have a very important role, but ultimately, are a cost to the business. So there always needs to be an understanding of each other’s position. And I talked about the beach ball, if the world’s biggest beach ball was half red and half white, and you sat behind the red bit and I sat behind the white bit, and somebody asked what colour is the beach ball, we’d shout out a very different colour. Then what would happen is, because I’ve shouted out a different colour to what you see, you’re just going to shout your colour louder. And that’ll set me off, I’ll shout louder, then you’ll start getting abusive and so will I. And the sadness is, we just waste a lot of energy in the same company, arguing. The real real skill is to walk around the beach ball, because when you walk around the beach ball, often what you find is red and white. And most situations around that rules bit is no one’s explained the why. You know, classic Simon Sinek starts with the why. So, you know, in jobs that I know I talk about beach balls, I bring beach balls into meetings when I know that we’re gonna have alternative views, the opposite of right is left. Sadly, most people think the opposite of right is wrong. So, because I’m different, I’m wrong, right? No, no, no, no, no. Ask me a question. What makes me say that? I might have some empirical evidence, I might have some opinion, I might have some experience. And neither one’s right, but we should all be in the mix. So it goes back to let’s start with the end in mind, or the classic Stephen Covey. What is it we want to achieve? And if you’re in the same organisation, it’s about delighted customers, delighted colleagues, little or no risk with the regulators and actually have financial stability. Once we realise that’s the cause, as adults, understanding the beach ball principle, we should sit down and says, therefore, what’s the right way to do it? What’s a different way to do it? Not, what’s the wrong way to do it? What are the flags? Where can we compromise? Where can we look to start on a journey, but modify it if need be? So when it goes down to rules, number one, engage the people who are going to have to execute the rules in front of customers. And ideally, involve the customers. If we, we said we need you to do that, that or that, how would you feel? I’ve had one bank write to me, asking me for more information than a government department, right? And I’m sat there going, why? No one can tell me other than, well, they’re the rules. And I’m saying, well change the rules. Right? And, and you sit there. And again, using metrobank as a great example, we have something called no stupid rules culture. Anybody could write to me as the MD, if they thought I was responsible or any of my team was responsible for a stupid rule. And as a result of that, we discovered lots of stupid rules that were getting in the way of colleagues and customers. As a result of that we stopped them straightaway and, and really recognised and rewarded the person that sent up the stupid rule. And we have something called Yammer. So we were able to go to all company, and real highlight those people that had highlighted a stupid rule. We calculated the time savings, the cost savings, and we recognise those people. And basically, getting rid of stupid rules became an obsession. We had a no stupid rule of mailbox where any colleague could email that mailbox. It was my responsibility to read that first email, and then share it and say to people, can we do this differently. And one of the things again, metrobank did as a trailblazer is, we had lots of people that left their cards somewhere. Students tend to leave it behind a bar. People who change jackets or bags, leave it in a bag, and they get to a place where they got I can’t find the card. And as a result of that they ring the bank and what the bank is typically done in history is cancel the card. About two hours later, they find the card, they ring the bank and they say I’ve found the card, they go well, too late, cancelled it. Well, where’s the new one? Well, it’s about three days away. Now Metrobank, a, printed cards instore, so you could, if your card wasn’t working, or it was lost or broken, or anything else, any store, you could walk in, 15 minutes, chips pinned, replaced. And, and as a result of that, we then realised what if we could create using technology, the ability to suspend the card when it’s not in your possession. And when you find it, you can reactivate it, we did that in 2013, it took most of the other banks till 2017 and 18, to get anywhere near that. And that was because somebody came up with this is getting in the way, it’s not great for a customer saying, I’ll send you a card in one to three days. Because it was the customers money they were trying to access. Our job was to help it make it easier for customers to get the money. So that’s when we use technology to change the rules of the game. And funnily enough, everybody else followed.


Al   38:50

I’d like the start with why, why is this rule in place? What are we trying to achieve? And again, you mean you’ve quoted Covey a number of times, the other one that I love is seek first to understand before being understood. So it’s put yourself in the shoes of the customer. What is the customer’s experience there? What are they thinking? What are they wanting? Are they are now becoming a fan or a brand advocate of yours? Or are they actually thinking, Man, this is just a pain in the backside, regardless of the fact that every other bank might have been following exactly the same rule. And the rule was put in place for a reason. But again, so you’re in that situation where you were saying about the customer experience. So we’re putting ourselves in the situation of the customer, and what do they want and why they want it. Now you might have somebody write to you about a rule and the defence mechanism from a senior person will often be well, that’s just the way it is, we’ve got to deal with it. Or people will try and find a workaround. And you either end up with more rules, because they put layer upon layer upon layer to go ah, well, we’ve seen these people are trying to work around so let’s put a rule against that, and we put a rule against that and we put, and it and it just becomes unwieldly, rather than sitting back and doing exactly what you said of what is the problem we’re trying to fix here? And I think that that’s where we get distracted, and it goes back to your grow model. That’s often when I’m coaching people, the first question I ask, what’s the problem we’re trying to fix? Let’s get really focused.


Chris Brindley  40:12

Yeah. Al, look, people, people who listen to this podcast will recognise it, right. I think companies that have the most ridiculous side of process for expenses. And basically, you have to do this, you have to do that, you have to do this triple sign. And basically, if the receipt says two pound ninety one, and you claim two pound ninety two, then quite frankly, you get your expenses claim back. And you know, you put a poor black mark against your name. But when you say, why are you so draconian in your expenses, you say, Chris, in 1963, somebody stole 22 pence. And therefore, we decided to put in a absolute belt and braces expenses system. So how many staff are working for you at the time? 5000. So one person lied and cheated, and the 4999 have now been penalised. And it goes back to what I said earlier. Be careful when you persecute the innocent, right? If somebody’s cheated, deal with the cheat, because nearly everyone else isn’t. So, but the system works against them. And there’s a guy called Larry Winget, an American. And he says this when somebody says, why, why does this have to be? Somebody says, because that’s company policy. Or that’s the way we’ve always done it. And Larry Winget has a great face as well, the good news is today, you get to choose to do it differently. And I think you should have a regular review of the rulebook. Because rules are often outdated, and not relevant. And the person who put the rule in left the organisation 20 years ago, so nobody knows the why. Yeah. And we talk about, I talk about the difference between inside out and outside in. Rules are often inside out, we’re gonna make them up inside and the outside the customer and the colleagues, you’re gonna, you’ll, you’ve got to follow them. Actually sit down and go, what does the customer want? Absolutely your point Al, from the outside, when they look in, how do they want to be treated? And the rules should be designed to make it as easy as possible for that customer to get the product or the service in a seamless, easy way, working on the basis that they’re all honest, right? They’re not cheats, they’re not liars. And actually, we do everything to deliver excellence and satisfaction. 


Al   42:27

Love it, love it. I could talk about all of, each of these individual things for hours and hours and hours, but we won’t for now. Maybe we’ll pick up again another time. 


Al   42:36

Do you know what? I think it’s certainly worth thinking about isn’t it, we sort of pick a very specific topic and really deep dive into it. You talked earlier about the fact that you went back at 40 and did an apprenticeship. And I think that’s brilliant and I find that really fascinating, because what you wanted to do is you wanted to build from strong foundations, truly understand it, again, correct me if I’m wrong, strong foundations, really understand it and build through to mastery and excellence. And I think that unfortunately, we’re in such a world of and again, I’m generalising here, but it’s very easy in this world to find shortcuts and hacks and just read the headlines, for example, and skim stuff and think I know that now. So we’ve mentioned a lot of things. And there might be people nodding away and going, yep, I know that. But how much genuine research have they done? How have they applied it in their life and whatever, and taking it, because everything that I hope that what people are doing as a result of what they’re hearing here is that they’re going to go, that was really fascinating, I’m going to go and read a bit more about or I’m going to see about how often does that impact me? And how could I do it differently? And rather than just go, oh, yeah, I’ve heard the grow model before, it’s something you know, about coaching.


Chris Brindley  42:38

Why don’t we do a series? 


Chris Brindley  43:56

It’s fascinating, Al,  when I interview people, and and I say the grow model? They go yeah, I know that. See, I was always taught to ask a good second and third question. So when they say I know that, I said, well, there’s the flip chart, why don’t you just talk me through it? And I usually get the impression of a goldfish, because they’ve heard the word grow, they can’t, they don’t even know the fact that it means goal, reality, options and will, and even those that say they can go, they’ve got a good memory, I go, that’s fantastic, so just give me five bullet points under ‘G’  that you would be talking to one of your team about if you’re going to lead that plea, suddenly gets interesting. I think there’s lots of people that have got a soundbite that they then believe is expertise. And when you talk about mastery, for me, Matthew Syed’s book called bounce, when it talks about 10,000 hours. You know, I had, I had a real chuckle in the petrol station before lockdown when there was a real argument going on between the bloke behind the counter and another bloke, and the bloke, the customer said, I know my rights. And the guy behind the counter goes, how do you know? He said, I’ve read them on Google. And you sit there and go, no, that doesn’t mean know your rights, it means you’ve read something that’s reinforced your opinion that you started to create a belief system about, it doesn’t mean it’s right. It just means you’ve read it, and you picked up the words of maybe, right, and it’s fascinated. So I’m a great believer in having more than an inch of veneer on top of chipboard, and then when it gets scratched, you realise that it’s chipboard. I’d encourage more people, that the things that interest them and the things that the role dictates they need to be good at, just have a level of depth so you can ask good questions, and therefore, as a senior leader, you can overview effectively, and you won’t get mugged, or, you know, sent down a blind alley by somebody that knows what they’re doing, but chooses to do it the wrong way. And that’s what leaders should do, is have a good enough ability of information to ask some great questions and know when somebody is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. 


Al   44:05

Questions are the key to good conversation and good coaching. And it is about the quality of the questions will drive the quality of the thinking and improve the thinking of the individual and make them think and then that will impact their emotions and their behaviours as a result of that, so the actions that they take. So I agree with that, there’s that we’re going into quote mode. Now there’s that wonderful quote of Bruce Lee that says, I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times more than the person who’s practised 10,000 kicks one time, because again, it’s that mastery, it’s that real depth of knowledge, it’s that understanding of, if I do it this way, it works. If I do it this way, it works. If I do it this way, it works. And if I did it slightly differently, that time it’s wrong. So I’m going to practice it again. And that genuine mastery of it. And again, another quick quote, Stephen Covey, once again, to know and not to do is not to know. It’s that fantastic thing of so many people have said to me, yeah, I know that, great, what was the last time you actually applied it and did something with it? Yeah, and, and great, then you don’t really know it until you’ve tested it, and come unstuck and failed at it a few times, and adapt didn’t change. And that’s when you really know what works for you and what doesn’t.


Chris Brindley  47:26

And I think Al, what what you know and one last thing, people should work out what they want in their toolkit in their kit bag. And then they should work out the tools that they need, and then learn how to master the tools. And, you know, I, when you started talking about the Bruce Lee quote there, I thought of golfers. Because, you know, amateurs play more than they practice, professional practice more than they play. And they can master all the clubs in their kitbag, even though the last club they want to use is probably a sand wedge. Well, guess what, what I, when I,  I’m not a golfer, and I’m just just doesn’t do it for me. But I admire any professional at the height of their game. And when a professional gets in the bunker, some of those shots that they do, it’s, it’s just unbelievable. And they have the belief system, that bit in the bunker is equivalent to just being on the play away or being, you know, on the putting green. They believe they can actually get the ball in the hole from the bunker. I then see some amateurs, literally, who you think they’re on Blackpool beach because they’re digging the biggest hole and having 30 shots at it, because they’ve never mustered the sand wedge. And you know, they’ve never had a lesson of a pro. So all that is go seek out the best at what you want to be in terms of technical skill and become a master at it. Then apply your own desire determination, attitude, work ethic and funnily enough, I think you’d be really good at what you do consistently. 


Al   48:55

I want to pick you up on something that you said a second ago, and this will be, I think this would be a great way of wrapping this up and finishing this. You talked a minute ago about the fact of the requirement for practice, in order to be able to go and play effectively. So just expand on that a little bit more, because I think that we’re so good at just being busy, and getting out there, and you know, getting in front of the next customer, getting in front of the next customer that we actually see that as almost our practice. So how do we how do we ensure that we almost take that sports person mentality of, I practice a lot in order to be at my peak performance when it counts, so. 


Chris Brindley  49:30

So number one, I think it is practice. I always remember being told the biggest lie of my life at school. Teacher told me practice makes perfect. And the problem is I was doing it wrong. So it’s never gonna get me anywhere near perfection. I think it’s practice makes permanent. So if you’re doing it wrong, and you continue to practice doing it wrong, you’ll get the wrong outcomes. I believe coached practice helps you, so I’m always looking at people to give me feedback and observe me, what I do. That isn’t necessarily anybody more senior, it’s who can help me be better at my job. And that can be somebody that joined yesterday, who might be better at PC skills than me because I’m 55. So I’m always looking to be coached. Therefore, I embrace feedback, feedback with how can I do this better? And, you know, Clive Woodward started it off when he coached the England 2003 Rugby Union World Cup team, Dave Brailsford coined the phrase, marginal gains. So for me, it’s always taking a step back and going, how was my performance? And I have a very simple process for performance. And it follows sport. Number one, how well did I warm up? And what is my warm up like? Secondly, how do I peak perform? And what are the, what are the examples of what good would look like in peak performance? How do I warm down, and then my QRT, which is quality recovery time. And if I can just leave the listeners with this practical example of that model, and we’re going to use meetings as the example here. I see people run into a meeting late, and I know they’ve not read the papers, they haven’t thought about the questions they are going to ask, the haven’t thought about the outcome of the meeting, they haven’t thought about the fellow attendees at the meeting, and how they think and how they could be influenced, but they just rush in and wing it. Then there’s other people who prepare meticulously, really thorough, and it’s the preparation that often plays a great part in that peak performance. They know what questions are going to ask, they know what objections are going to come, and they know how to handle those objections and overcome them, and keep people on course. But then again, I’ve seen people in meetings have one objective out the meeting to survive it. They say nothing, they ask no questions, and the first thing you say out of the meeting is, that was shit, I don’t agree with it. But you were in the meeting, you have a responsibility, right? If you don’t agree with it, to actually at least just voice your concerns in the appropriate way. So peak performance, what would peak performance look like? The warm down is interesting, I see lots of people who have back to back meetings, or they are four or five meetings in a day. And actually, there are three or four action points for all this to do, as a result of them being in a meeting, they get to the end of the day, and they’ve got 16 action points on a list. They go home, and instead of having quality recovery time with the family, they get on a laptop and start sending emails out with all the action points. As a result of that, you create a culture where people have to log on at night, because they know if they don’t, there will be a lot of work when they get there in the morning. My warm down when I lead team meetings, is I allocate time before we leave the room to make sure that any action points are dealt with there and then on the spot. So if that meeting is finishing at quarter past 10, at 10 o’clock somebody in their team or other teams know they’ve got some work at 10 o’clock in the morning, they don’t have to log on at 10 o’clock at night. So I ban emails between six o’clock at night and eight o’clock in the morning. If it’s an emergency, pick up the phone. Basically, we’ve cut the oxygen off of the email culture where everybody works late at night. I can’t stop people working, but I can stop you sending them. So put it in the drafts box or get better at sharing out your workload during the course of the day. That’s the power of warm down. And then the QRT is actually before you go into your next meeting, if you smoke, go for fag, go for a walk, get some fresh air, go to the toilet, get a brew, do whatever you do, and then get ready and leave yourself appropriate time to warm up again for that next meeting whenever that is. And that then becomes that virtual circle, warmup, peak performance, warm down, quality recovery time, warm up, peak performance, warm down, quality recovery time. If all meetings and all attendees at meetings have that as the model, the meetings will be outstanding in terms of outcomes, and people actually might even enjoy them because they’re making the business grow, and they’re growing as individuals and their demonstrating the most outstanding teamwork. 


Al   54:10

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. It’s that thing of, are you making conscious, effective decisions on how you’re spending your time and the effort you’re putting into it? Look, Chris, this has been fantastic. Speaking of going on for hours, we could go on for hours with this. I’m sure we could, we’d play tennis with the quotes and the books and the bits and pieces. The stories you tell are fantastic. What I’ve loved is the fact that they are applicable, they are for people that can pick them up and do something with them now. The takeaway that I’ve taken from you is to work out what works for you, what resonates with you, how you would apply it in your job and how that will make you and those around you better, and then go and master that, become really, practice it and master it and that become really good. I hope our conversations will continue. You’ve given me so much food for thought and I really, really enjoy our conversation today, so thank you. 


Chris Brindley  55:02

Al, it’s been an absolute pleasure and we get to shoot the breeze again, either with the record button or without record button, and I look forward to that day.


Al   55:12

So once again, I want to say a big thanks to Chris for sharing all those stories and insights. There were some real examples of what infinite pie thinking is all about. If you got some value from this conversation and you know others that may benefit from hearing this too, then my one ask is that you share it with them. This is how we’re going to build the community, and in turn, means that we’ll be able to reach out to more great guests who demonstrate their infinite pie thinking. If you want to know more about infinite pie thinking then head over to, and check out the ways that we can help. Thanks for listening. Now go and do stuff that matters and have a great one.

1 thought on “Chris Brindley MBE on becoming Britains Best Boss”

  1. Pingback: Jon Dutton - infinite pie

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top