Michael Tobin OBE Entrepreneur Philanthropist Maverick

Michael Tobin OBE on infinite pie thinking with Al Fawcett


So today I am speaking with Michael Tobin OBE Entrepreneur Philanthropist Maverick, Adventurer, and Author.  Michael is the recipient of an incredible list of awards including the likes of  –

  • Business Turnaround of the Year
  • Business Person of the Year
  • Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (numerous times)
  • Outstanding Non-Executive Director (numerous times)
  • The Princes Trust Outstanding Individual Award
  • Chairman of the Year
  • and Order of the British Empire for Services to the Digital Economy,

In this conversation he shares the story of tough beginnings, before going on to take an electronics engineering apprenticeship.  He then continued to push himself and progress his career, to the point of leading a tech business that was eventually sold for £2.6 billion.

Michael talks about what he looks for when recruiting people and building his teams, the leadership style and approach that has led to many calling him the Maverick Entrepreneur, and the importance of setting the vision and developing the culture that leads to high performance and success. He also explains how he attributes the successes, recognition and the ‘awards’  to the great people that he surrounds himself with.

What I really enjoy about the conversation, is that whilst Michael shares great stories, we dig into them to understand the impact they had.  We discuss how he implemented the lessons and learnings, how he continually revisited these lessons so they came part of the language, the culture and of course the behaviours.

Michael highlights the value of really knowing your people, setting a vision and then getting out of the way and letting the great people you have put in place to do a job, do their job. To trust them.  It would be easy to say, ‘well I don’t run a business or lead lots of people’ but the lessons are still there. Take the time to really get to know yourself first, become truly self aware. Define and refine your skills, knowledge, capability and capacity. Review your ‘performance’ in the key areas of life and explore what you can do to continue to improve it, to develop it, to keep getting better.

If you want to know more about Michael Tobin OBE, then head over to MichaelTobin.online where you can read about his background and experiences, details about the books he has written, his adventures to the South Pole (which I will have to get him back on to talk about in the future) and much much more.

If you would prefer to read the full transcript of the conversation then just see below –


Michael Tobin OBE Entrepreneur Philanthropist Maverick


Michael Tobin: [00:00:00] My first book was called, forget strategy, get results and it’s a bit tongue in cheek because what it was about was trying to impart a vision to your team. So we want to be famous for being the best company that does this. And then you employ all these wonderful people around you. And you say, if I get the best marketing guy that I can find, then why should I as a CEO, try and tell him what to do, because I’ve just got the best marketing guy.

So he should be telling me, and then the CFO. So I’ve just got the best CFO and now I’m telling him, you’ve got to do it like this. No! So, if you’ve got the first bit, and you’ve got these wonderful people around you and you’ve emparted the vision, right? So they will know which direction they’re going to go in. They all know what the end result is, but how they get there should be nothing to do with me. It should be, they are drawing their own lines in the sand here.

Al Fawcett: [00:00:49] Hi, I’m Al Fawcett, and this is infinite pie thinking. So let me start by telling you a little bit about what these conversations are all about. Now, I’m passionate about performance improvement and development. So I get to talk with remarkable people who share their stories. We discuss their challenges, their experiences, their lessons, their mindset, and their perspective. And of course what they did and do with them to consistently focus on getting better. Now, this is not really a ‘how to’ guide, but it is a look inside someone else’s world with a chance to see it from their side. I personally don’t think there is a one size fits all approach to things. However, we can learn from others and their successes and how it may apply in our lives, both personally and professionally. It might be that you hear something new or something that you’ve heard before, something that you do now, or something that you want to learn more about and along the way, maybe you’ll think a little differently about some of this stuff or in a completely new way. And of course, take some action as a result.

So today I’m speaking with Michael Tobin OBE, entrepreneur, philanthropist, adventurer, author, and Maverick. Whilst Michael has received an incredible list of awards, including the likes of Business Turnaround of the Year; Business Person of the Year; Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, numerous times; Outstanding Non-Executive Director, numerous times; The Prince’s Trust Outstanding Individual Award; Chairman of the Year; and the Order of the British Empire for services to the digital economy.

He shares his story of tough beginnings before going on to take an electronics engineering apprenticeship, then pushing himself and progressing his career to the point of leading a tech business that eventually sold for £2.6 billion pounds. Michael talks about what he looks for when recruiting people and building his teams, the leadership style  and approach has led to many calling him the Maverick entrepreneur and the importance of setting the vision and developing the culture that leads to high performance and success. The success is recognition and the awards that he attributes to the great people he surrounds himself with.

What I really enjoy about this conversation is that whilst Michael shares great stories, we dig into them to understand the impact they had and how he implemented the lessons and learnings, how we continually revisit these lessons, so they became part of the language, the culture, and of course the behaviors.

 Take a listen and let me know what you think.

Michael welcome to infinite pie thinking.

Michael Tobin: [00:03:13] Thank you very much. Thank you. Pleasure to be here, Al. 

Al Fawcett: [00:03:16] Cool. So I’m going to start with the big question or a big question. Many people, dream of achieving great things when they’re kids and they think about what they want to do when they grow up, but you’ve gone on to actually achieve some great things. So were you a dreamer as a kid or were you just a single focused what’s in front of me at the moment type of person? 

Michael Tobin: [00:03:40] I think probably the latter and the reason for that was I was born in the East End of London. My father was a very violent man. He was in a gang and was in and out of prison and he was particularly violent to my mother.  So at the age of seven, she managed to escape with me and we went off to Africa and what was then called Rhodesia now, Zimbabwe. But what we didn’t realize is it was frying pan to fire and they were just about to go into civil war. So having, at the tender age of a seven, sevenish, seven eight, nine, I was being petrol bombed and shot at on a regular basis and dreaming didn’t really come into it very much. It was survival mode was probably the biggest dream I had, um, to cut through the nightmares. But, and then I got back to the UK as a effectively at the age of 12 and we w we were basically stripped of everything at the airport before we left. So we had no, no luggage, no ,no money, no jewelry, no nothing. And we landed back as refugees into the UK. And we lived in a squat in Stockwell for two and a half years. 

Basically we would make money by breaking into all the old condemned houses, that were  waiting for demolition and seeing what we could find before they broke it up, and you often find upright pianos that people just left because they didn’t want to have the hassle of moving them. And so we tune them up, my mother and I tune them up and we’d roll them down  the Old Kent road and in sell them in the street markets, for twenty quid  each and we survived for a couple of years like that.

So, again, it wasn’t really my ‘aha’ this is my longterm, I didn’t plan any of that, by the way. None of that was planned. And then, I didn’t go to university, I  got out of school at 16, which you could at those days and just starting the apprenticeship in electronics engineering, and always went for a job that, that was way above my ability because I was able to blag it and B) I would, I would learn it very quickly anyway. I was always going for a job that was way above my capability or my own perceived capability at that particular moment. After the apprenticeship, I decided to push on and got moved around Europe and eventually came back in 2002 to the UK and got this business then called Red Bus, which was listed, and it had a market cap of around 6 million pounds. And then in 2015, we sold it for 2.6 billion. So, none of that was planned either. Not only the bad bits, but the good bits, none of it was planned. And so I think directly to your question, I’m very much of a kind of deal with the stuff that’s in front of you at the time sort of person.

Although I would say you’ve got a, sort of a vision, an unclear vision of what your aspiration could be, but how you get there is very much a kind of, especially today with the rate of change, that things change so fast. If you try and build a five-year plan, it’s out of date in six months, you’ve just got to deal with stuff.

Al Fawcett: [00:06:13] The thing of saying to kids, what do you want to be when you grow up? And the jobs that will be around or the things that they can do when they’ll be around don’t exist at the moment. 

Michael Tobin: [00:06:23] Exactly 

Al Fawcett: [00:06:23] In the same way, the things that are around now didn’t exist when I was a kid.  I couldn’t turn around and say, Oh, I want to be a web designer or whatever it might be. It just, they just didn’t exist. 

Michael Tobin: [00:06:34] Exactly. Web designers a perfect example, literally, you think about all the jobs that we now take, take as sort of standard, especially in the tech industry, none of those existed 20, 15, 20 years ago. 

Al Fawcett: [00:06:44] Yeah, no, it’s incredible. 

Michael Tobin: [00:06:45] I must admit. And I, I read, uh, so in my second book, I talk about an interview I had with the clinical psychologist and he was saying that he’s predicting on average, a person that’s in school today will have 40 jobs in their lifetime in four different careers, at least.

So different career paths. And yet back in the day, it was like, again, it was, what do you want to be when you grow up? And that was the plan. And that was the whole route from when you leave school to when you die, you were going to be this trade or you’re going to be an engineer, or, and that was it. Yeah.

Al Fawcett: [00:07:14] And that’s the thing, isn’t it. And again, it’s letting go of some of that old school thinking that is where you start to see that successes start to come, because there is still this, inate thought process of, you go to school, you get good grades, you go to university, you meet some cool people there, you stay connected with them, you get a good job as a result of that, which leads to progression, and eventually you stay there for 30, 40 years, you get the gold watch and retire. Now, obviously that’s changing and adapting slightly, but it’s almost like in a lot of ways it’s still built on that model. And I remember as you say that when I first started going off on my career path, the approach of when you wrote a CV was almost like you wanted as few jobs on there as possible, because if you were seen as well, you’ve had three jobs in the last two years, what’s going on? Why don’t you stay?

Michael Tobin: [00:08:09] What’s wrong with your attitude? 

Al Fawcett: [00:08:12] Talking about that? Obviously with regards to the fact that you have worked in a number of different industries, you’ve built incredible teams, we could apply this to some of the adventures that you go on, which we’ll no doubt talk about a little later as well, people have to be at the core of a lot of what you do, I would imagine. So how do you find the right people? 

Michael Tobin: [00:08:35] It’s a great, it’s a great question because none of what I consider are my successes are really attributed to me. They’re attributed to the people that are around me and that’s nugget number one, surround yourself with the best possible people you can possibly find and afford at any given time in the evolution.  And a kind of really crude example is  if you hang around with druggies you’ll probably end up being a druggie at some point. And if you hang around with brilliant, successful people, you’ll probably end up being brilliant, successful. And if you’re starting a business, you want to take as much kind of creativity, now you’re speaking about CVs, right? I can’t remember the last time I looked at a CV. Part of my, when I’m looking for someone, I’ll, I’ll have some sort of filtering process, whether that’s a Head Hunter or whatever. So I know that the bunch in front of me are all capable to an extent or another, but then I don’t look at their CVs at all. I talk to them.  And we talk about nothing really about the job or about the role. I just want to feel the person and I want, I want someone with the right attitude. I don’t actually care a bit like I was always going for jobs that I knew I couldn’t actually do. I don’t actually care whether the guy’s done or the girl has done this or not done it before or thinks they have the capability today or not.

Well, I’m looking for an attitude that says, actually, you know what, I don’t care. I’m going to, I’m going to work it out. I’m going to contribute. So, I can teach a skill, but I can’t teach an attitude easily. It takes forever to do that. So I’m looking for the right attitude. That’s everything for me. 

Al Fawcett: [00:09:58] I think that’s incredible because you’re right in the sense of, I’m working with organizations and we’re developing succession planning programs and things like that for their people. And there’s a number of aspects that come to that. So a lot of the time you look at succession planning and we look at it from the organizational point of view of what are the critical roles that we need to ensure that a filled and there’s a plan for it, but it’s actually just as important to look at it from the other side of it, which is the people side of it, of how are we developing them, who are the right people, what can we do to support them? So they step into those roles in the future, the best possible way. And some of that is defined by performance and some of it is defined by potential. So it’s identifying those people that have great potential, but that’s a gray area isn’t it? So when we look at these gray areas of potential, what are we looking for? I spoken on this show to some elite athletes and world champions, world cup winners, and we talk about the fact that with a lot of the people around them, there were people who actually were more gifted, more talented, but they just wanted it more. Is that the type of a wanting to see in people’s eyes?

Michael Tobin: [00:11:05] Yeah, I think so. I think it’s definitely a can do attitude. I really, I get very deflated when I’m in a conversation with somebody where we’ve got an issue or we’ve got a problem, we’ve got a challenge and someone’s sitting there and they’re coming up with idea after idea and some of the ideas are completely nuts, but they are coming up with ideas.  But every idea is met with someone else going, the problem with that, is the problem with that is… Take an idea  and rather than immediately try and find why something is not going to work, think about and go, huh, that’s interesting. Well, that’s a bit wacky over there, but how can we just run with that for a little bit? And I’m looking for someone that looks at everything in life with a kind of a half full type approach. And that doesn’t mean overly kind of risk taking and things like that. But it’s saying nothing is easy in life and if it seems easy, it’s probably probably going down the wrong hole.

But it, nothing is easy. And the beauty about nothing being easy is if you’ve got a little bit of resilience and a little bit of determination, you can differentiate yourself from your competition quite quickly, because the harder it is, the hurdles, right? Every hurdle you’re over in your race is a barrier between you and the opposition. So get over the hurdle, seeing them should be an exciting thing. Seeing a hurdle is yes. I’ve got an opportunity to differentiate. If there’s no hurdles, no opportunity to put barriers between you and someone else. 

Al Fawcett: [00:12:29] Love that. I think what’s great about that is you’re right. If we talk about the fact that some people have their aha moments and you said that, then that can be lots of other people will start to break it down, but we can do that ourselves as well. We have our aha moments, so, Eureka moment very quickly followed by what I call the ‘Ah yeah but’ moments. “Ah yeah but” I haven’t got the time, I haven’t got the money, I don’t know the right people. Whereas there will be other people put that aside and go, okay, so the things that I need to change time, money, people that I know. And they’ll look at that as an opportunity, not as an obstacle, or as an obstacle to overcome.

Michael Tobin: [00:13:05] Again, one of my books, I talk about the fear of failure and things like that. And one of the big ‘Yeah Buts’ is the fact that what if it doesn’t work? What if I fail on it? And people worry about things a lot and worry is just a completely useless emotion in a way, because there’s no value in worrying.

It doesn’t change anything. I have this kind of principle that I try and instill in the kids is you have to go, when something is not right for you, then the option of doing nothing and leaving it, making you unhappy is not an option. So you either have to apply the, love it, leave it or change it mode. So if you can change it, then do so. If you can’t change it, you’re either going to have to walk away. So there’s not an issue for you anymore. Or you have to learn to actually love what it is today. And so there’s your options and worrying about things is a little bit the same, right? It’s Oh, I wonder, I’m really worried about tomorrow’s interview.

If there’s something you can do to mitigate the risk of tomorrow’s interview, i.e. do a bit of reading, bit of research, go through a couple of scenarios with yourself, whatever that is. And do it. And if there’s nothing you can do, then why you worrying because there’s nothing you can do. Right? And invariably things are never as bad cause we don’t, we never worry about the past and we never worry about the present, we’re dealing with the present, but we worry about the future. And invariably, we apply worst case scenarios to the future, which already make us walk into an environment with a negative approach. And if you can ignore that and say, okay, I have everything that I can possibly do to swing this in my fortune, in my favor, I’ve done. So now I should be going in with my line, should be set as I have the best possible chance of getting this right. Because everything I’ve wanted to do everything I could do. I’ve done. 

Al Fawcett: [00:14:43] Yes. And that’s the key, isn’t it?  We hear this phrase all the time in the business world and often what we see and we hear is you read the books, you listen to the clips, the Ted talks, and you’ll hear these phrases. And they’re great, but if all we do is leave them a sound bites, but one of the things is control the controllables. We hear this all the time. What can you control and just focus on those, but what you described there is taking a next level of going, just position yourself as what can I do to put myself in the best possible readiness, but also mindset to impact this because you’ve got no control of the outcome. You’ve got control of the input. 

Michael Tobin: [00:15:23] Yeah, you can control input. And then other people. Yeah, John Paul Sartre said something amazing. Right? I relay this to everybody that I work with. And he said in football, everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team. You can draw all the plans on the board and you can, you know, design the greatest plays and everything else. Unless you tell the other side, they don’t know your plan. So they’re going to end up messing them up in some way, but that’s the beauty of it, right? That’s why it’s so clever. So you’re right. You can only influence the things going in. You can plan, we’ll prepare it all, but stuff happens. The world happens to you and that’s fine too, right? Because it’s not supposed to be predictable. And what we shouldn’t be doing is we shouldn’t be fearing an outcome that is negative. Because again, what I say to the kids is we try to ban two words at home. One is, one is mistake, and one is failure. So instead of saying mistake or failure, basically we, we say we’ve just realized, we’ve just learned how not to do something. Okay. And every quote, unquote failure is a learning process. And I think one of the issues that we have in the UK generally in Europe generally versus the U.S.  is when an entrepreneur crashes and burns early on. And let’s say they go bankrupt. He’s a pariah in English. Oh, don’t lend him any money. He went bankrupt in the U.S. they go, that’s one thing he’s not going to do again or no. Yeah. So he’s just been de-risked as an investment. So there’s a real difference in that. And as long as you can apply, because no one gets everything right, every time. So as long as you can apply a learning process to getting things, quote, unquote wrong, then they are simply those hurdles on your journey.

Al Fawcett: [00:16:54] Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s really fascinating from the point of view of again, that mindset and that approach and looking at it as a learning experience, but also hopefully starting to allow people to drop the masks a little bit. Masks of perfection. I think that in the past, that always used to be this, these people are flawless. These people never make mistakes. They’re successful entrepreneurs. They’ve got it. And all of a sudden when you pick past it, okay, they’re people too, and they’ve had as many daft ideas. I can quote many people that I’ve seen who would be the ones that would be quoting those, what you were, classes, daft ideas, where somebody else in the room would be going, well, yeah, the problem with that is we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work, rather than sitting there going, okay, that’s an interesting idea, we did try it before, so what would we need to do differently this time if it was going to work this time. But what’s different with those successful entrepreneurs, is they go, Oh, so you tried that before, okay. So they’ll either ask that positive question or they’ll go, I’ll go somewhere, who’s prepared to try it. So they don’t just let that sort of chip away at them and stop them. So I have a mantra within the business of do stuff that matters with people who count in places that inspire. So they do stuff that matters is all about what is our focus point at the moment, we can do lots of things, but what’s the stuff that really matters at the moment.

The people that count, who are the people that I need to connect with the people that are going to help me to get this off the ground, the people that are going to make this work, the people who are cleverer than I am at this type of stuff. 

And the places that inspire is, am I creating an environment that allows them to flourish and for me to flourish? And that can be as much a mindset environment as it is a physical environment. And it’s that situation of allowing people to express themselves in those ways, rather than always cutting them down all the time. Ah no,we tried that before, Oh no, that won’t work because in the end you get people who just throw their hands up and go, you just tell me what you want me to do then. And it becomes transactional. It becomes, it just becomes about a bunch of actions to be completed. And that’s not where great things happen in my mind. 

Michael Tobin: [00:19:00] I think, so my first book was called forget strategy, get results. And it’s a bit tongue in cheek because what it was about was trying to impart a vision to your team.

So we want to be famous for being the best company that does this. And then you employ all these wonderful people around you, and you say, if I get the best marketing guy, that I can find then why should I, as a CEO, try and tell him what to do, because I’ve just got the best marketing guy. So he should be telling me what, and then the CFO. So I’ve just got the best CFO and now I’m telling him, you’ve got to do it like this. So if you have got the first bit, when you’ve got these wonderful people around you, the CEO’s job is, and you’ve imparted the vision, right? So they all know which direction they’re going to go in. They all know what the end result is, but how they get there should be nothing to do with me.

Yeah, it should be. They will, they are drawing their own lines in the sand here. And they will have very different routes to that end goal. And my job is almost like a conductor in an orchestra, just trying to keep all of those elements in the same harmony. And so everyone is doing a fantastic thing in their own wacky world, and I’m bringing it into what the big picture looks like, but I’m not telling them what to do.

Al Fawcett: [00:20:10] And that’s great. And I, I, 100% agree with that, and I think that it’s the sort of thing that I come in and work with businesses on, but I want to hear from your experience and the way that you’ve done these things of how does that look and feel? So somebody listening to that goes, that’s great, bring in the right people, let them do their job, but what does that look like to you on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis? Is that, review meetings where you come in and review the vision and where are red flags and what do we need to be aware of? Tell me what’s going on in your world, what challenges and obstacles and that I can take away. How do you keep that ticking along? 

Michael Tobin: [00:20:49] It’s really interesting point, and I, again, talk a lot about this in, in, in most of my books, but for me it comes down to trust. And this time of COVID and the zoom meetings and all this sort of stuff has changed, completely changed attitudes of trust between employers and, you know, management and staff. Because up until the zoom has been around for years and I’ve been using it for a long time. And yet all these companies, insist on people coming into work, trudging through hours of, in a pain on tubes and trains and buses, and God knows where to sit somewhere, which is inconvenient and then have to leave early every now and again, too, because they’ve got to go to a dentist, it’s got to do that. And, and, and, and suddenly we’ve had to trust people and guess what it works. And thinking about what that means on a daily basis is again, if you’ve imparted of the vision, by the way, if you don’t trust someone, they shouldn’t be working for you. End of story, that’s it. So if they are there by definition, we’ve now agreed that you trust them. So if you trust them and they trust you, then you say, guys, look, I don’t even, I don’t care if I don’t see you right here, you know what you need to be doing. If you have a problem on your way that you think I can help with,  I’m here 24/7 for you. But if you don’t, I’ll see you when it’s done and I really don’t need to manage any of my team,  in any of the businesses I’ve ever had. Because if I do, then I must’ve got the wrong person in the wrong role.

Yeah. And once you get the right people doing the right thing with the right vision and inspired and things drop into that, so you have to think about incentivization. So again, one of my businesses, they were okay paid, but I knew that they would always get offers with more money. So I had to create a different program of retention for them.

And so. I, they were, I knew they were the early to mid thirties in their kind of profile. And I said to them, okay, over the next two years, I am going to allow each of you to have a 12 week residential program, that’s going to be broken up over that period in any major university on the planet. Whether that’s Oxford, Wharton, Princeton, Stanford, you choose it. Go out there and knock yourself out. Come back to me within the next three weeks with a program. And it doesn’t need to be anything to do with your role. It’s what you feel you need personal development on. And we’ll spread it out, so it’s not an impact on the business. You’re not taking 12 weeks out of the business. You’re going to do a week here a week there. I’m paying all your flights. And we’re not taking it as holiday. It’s all there, but that gave me a minimum two year probably three-year retention program. And each one of those costs me 30 or 40 grand. Now they knew that there was no, they could get a better salary somewhere else, but they would never get an opportunity to spend 12 weeks out of the company, being paid a higher salary where they’re going to be needed every day to, to improve themselves out with anything they needed for that role. 

So that you think of things that give incentivization in a different way. And the one way of doing that is knowing and talking to your people, right? And when you engage with them and everything about them, then you know, what makes them tick and what’s important.

I’ve had a guy that, that stayed with me simply because I gave him an extra few days holiday because he was divorced and he only had  every second weekend to see his child. And so leaving on a Friday to go up North, to see his kids for the weekend, save them the hassle of having to go up on a Saturday, being tired on the Saturday when they see them and driving back on the Sunday. So he said, if you could just give me extra time, I don’t need money. And so we get just gave him Fridays off. He was so loyal because he knew that that was invaluable to him. It was more than money.

Al Fawcett: [00:24:25] Thats amazing stuff because what people want, and it goes back to your thing of know your people, and again, it’s a phrase that gets thrown around, but that’s genuinely knowing your people in the sense of people want to do meaningful work. So it goes back to your remote working thing. I don’t think people get up in the morning and go, today  I choose to do a crap job. What can I do wrong today as a choice? but they get up in the morning and they go, I want to do a good job. I just need to know what that is and how I contribute and what my role and responsibilities are. And the funny thing with the remote working is that as you say, there’s this thing, but we can’t let them work from home because what if they don’t do their job? 

Michael Tobin: [00:25:12] And if you can’t trust them, there’s this software. I’m trying to think of what the name is now, but I think it’s called talent IO or something like that. Anyway. So what it is, is like a call center can be remote. And the manager of the call center has like hundreds, like a massive zoom call on his screen and everyone’s there, but he’s spying on all of them working through their camera. So they have to sign up to the fact that he could look and you could be a developer and he can watch your keystrokes even online. So he can like, you know, back in the day when I was a kid, I had French lessons and they you’d all sit in a, in the language lab and you’d have your headphones on and you and little microphones. And the teacher would just flick between all of you to make sure that listening to each individual person. And you always knew, you could always tell when the teacher came on, because you’ve got the sound in your ears a little bit differently like that. And then you go, Oh, I’ll try really hard now because she’s listening to me and then I’d get then when she was gone again, and this is the point, right? If you are observed and monitored and when you’re not observed and monitored, you’re almost like I don’t have to  do anything now,.  It creates behaviours saying, look, outcomes based here. We know what we need to achieve. Now, whether you want to get up at eight or eight in the morning, 10 in the morning, work till midnight. I don’t care and I’m not going to watch. We all know what we need to achieve. And, and we will be judged combined on doing that. And I trust you to pull your weight. And if I don’t trust you to pull your weight  then I’m putting someone else in there. 

Al Fawcett: [00:26:37] Exactly. That’s a sensible conversation that’s had at the start. So this managing of expectations is that simple, because you know what we expect from you, and we know what to expect back as a result, as opposed to, I need to stand over your shoulder every two minutes to ensure that you’re doing the right thing.

And then what happens is, and you see this in management development all the time, the core element of development is to avoid them doing the job of the person below them, because what they’re doing all the time is right, the way you need to do this is, and this is what you gotta do. And if I was you, I would do… It’s  not mentoring. It’s not coaching. It’s not developing. It’s telling. 


Michael Tobin: [00:27:18] important thing that I, I tried to do all the time in most of my, when I was CEO, most of my businesses is the doors are always open. And if someone comes and it would happen three or four times a day, someone come along, I’ve got a problem.  I just want to run it past you. Or I’ve got a bit of an issue. And then I’ll explain what the issue is and there, and then they wait for me to opine and all I would do is what do you think? Because first of all, they all know what they already would do, but they want some sort of like rubber stamping of their guess or assumption.

And secondly, again, coming back to the fact that if he’s the best guy that I could find for that role anyway, then he’s probably right. And certainly, I wouldn’t know better. So he comes along and you say, what would you do? Oh, I think I would do that now. In my orchestra in my conductor role, I might say, did you know, over there and who’s playing the drums, he’s doing this. So that might influence what you’re about to tell me. But other than that, If you think that will that’ll fix the problem, then that’s what you need to do. 

Al Fawcett: [00:28:12] And that’s the key. It’s so easy for our ego to get in the way and say, I need to be the font of all knowledge. I need to be the person that fixes the problems, whereas actually the right person to fix the problem is probably the person who’s coming with the problem.

And as you say, it’s creating that environment where it’s, so what do you think you should do? Or what’s your plan of action with this? Or what other information do you need or whatever, powerful question it gets them thinking. And it’s taking them away from that place of people come in and the question is asked, so what do you think you should do? And all they’re doing is trying to guess what’s in your head. And actually sometimes the manager or the leader is actually going right,  keep guessing until you get what’s in mind and that doesn’t help either. So that powerful relationship of, I trust you. I want you to think this through, come to me with ideas and solutions, as well as the challenges and I all I’m here is to guide your thinking, to hold a mirror up and say, okay, you’re the most relevant person to work this through. So let me work it through with you. But you’re driving. I’m just coming along for the ride. 

Michael Tobin: [00:29:22] Yeah. It’s you know, and I think that’s a hundred percent, they’ve got the comfort, you know, you can read every book that’s ever been written on how to ride a bicycle, but the first time you get on one, you will fall off. So, you know, the telling them how to do it is not teaching them how to do it. And, but you’ve like a pair of stabilizers right on the side of the bike. You’re there in case there’s a wobble. But you want them to improve. You want them to know and learn how to do it. And eventually you take the stabilizers off and off they go.

So then you have a bunch of fantastic tour de France winners in your hands. Yeah. As opposed to you being a hundred thousand copies of a stabilizer, I think that’s the key is being around and having encouragement, words of support, that sort of thing, but also a little bit of wisdom too, to allow them to maybe help them to think about things in a slightly different way, but it’s gotta be them thinking about it and it’s gotta be then coming up with solutions.

Al Fawcett: [00:30:16] Yes. And again, what’s happening as a result of that is that you are getting development as well because you’re enhancing your skills as a leader, as a developer of people, you’re gaining the information in relation to what you said a minute ago about I’m going to point you in the direction of this person over there that had a similar problem. So it might influence your thinking. It might not give you the complete result. But it will influence your thinking. So you start to actually step away from trying to be the best person at fixing that problem and being the best person of guiding and developing the people around you.

 A challenge that you faced, or no doubt faced as a result of people and getting the best out of them is, one of your biggest successes was the merger of two companies. Now that in itself there’s process change and there’s workflow change and there’s system change. But the bit I’m interested in, as you can imagine, it’s the people side of change. So you’ve now got two companies and there’s going to no doubt be, well, hang on a minute, there’s going to be people in that company that do my job and they’re not going to need all of us. How do you manage 

Michael Tobin: [00:31:31] that?

 Yeah, I tell a couple of these stories in that same forget strategy, get results because I’m bringing two businesses together that were in the same industry, but we’re very different style-wise one was. Um, very methodical. It was the kind of the IBM of data centers, if you like. It was the very traditional process driven paperwork. And then you’ve got the others which were not Cowboys, but wild West real entrepreneurial and cut the deal. And worry about the paperwork later. Both massively valuable attributes.

And one of the values of putting those together is you get the kind of entrepreneurial growth trajectory of one of them, but with a process that kind of underpins it beneath that allows you to continue growing without the business kind of exploding at some point, because you have done all the logistics.

And so there were two things. I, first of all, when I told my team, which was the more entrepreneurial, one of the two that we were going to buy this other one. Yeah. Are they really worried that exactly. For the reasons, Oh yeah. Integration. That means there’s two people, one job for every senior leadership position and all this sort of stuff.

And I said, look, no, again, coming back to this worry thing, don’t worry about it. It will fix it out. You have to work it out somehow and they just couldn’t get it. So I had to think of a way to articulate the unnecessaryness, if you like of worry. And so I took them on a trip up to Scotland. We used to go away for our management meetings on a regular basis and took a bus up.

And we just over, the Forth road bridge, the old one, not the new one as you go North that there’s a massive aquarium right on the Firth of Forth. So I took them there. They thought they were going up to it for a whiskey tasting in Edinburgh, but we, we stopped there. And as we all got on the bus with, I said to them, okay, two by, two get your breathing apparatus on your wetsuits and everything and then you go. And this place is massive. It’s really enormous. And actually you think you’re in the open sea when you’re in it, because it’s that big anyway. So they were puzzled and then they started getting into their wet suits and things. And then like I said, okay, then you go. And as they were putting their feet over into this massive aquarium, which was about 60 foot down from there.

So literally as a really deep, and then they saw the shark fins around in front of them and they started to panic and I was sworn at and there’s few choice, words and things, but they all did it. They all went down and all went to the seabed and they, there was no nets or anything else. And the sharks were coming right up to you like this, you could, you weren’t advised to put your hand out and try and touch them, but you could. And so when they came out, I said to them, okay, we’re going to debrief. So I said, okay, how did you feel when you realized what you were about to do? And they said, Oh, we were terrified. I hated you. I wanted to call my lawyer.

And it was just ridiculous. I said, okay, you were terrified. How did you feel when you actually own the seabed with this thing that you were terrified about right next to you’re inches away. How did you feel then? They said we’re still a bit scared, but we’d realized that actually they were obviously well fed and they weren’t going to eat us, but it was still super exciting.

I don’t want to do it again, but it was amazing. And then, so I said, how did you feel when you came out? And that was in the past. And he said, Oh, it’s something I can tell my kids, I’ve got this amazing experience. I really never want to do it again. But my God I’m so happy. I did it. And instead, I can’t think about those emotions, right.

And every time you’re approached with a challenge that you suddenly find yourself being fearful of, think about when you’re going through it. It’s probably, you’re probably going to learn a lot. And at the end of it, you’re going to have a fantastic experience portfolio from having gone through that. But then there’s another example when we eventually did merge these two businesses together and then basically just enlarged the management team pretty much.

And there was some overlapping countries and things, and we had this bigger team and then virtually all of them managed to see the bigger picture and they put down their years of fighting each other. And now they’re sitting around the same table, but there was a couple of them that just couldn’t get it. They just couldn’t bridge that kind of, I’ve been competing against you since the beginning of time. And I just of, so I took them up to the North pole and we stayed in, we stayed in an ice hotel in the North, very, very North of Sweden inside the Arctic circle. And it’s amazing. Every year they build this hotel out of ice blocks that they cut fresh and they brought in. The room’s ice, the chairs, ice, the tables or ice, the beds ice, everything is ice. And it’s about minus 30. And so we’re all having this dinner of ice plates and then a few vodkas in the bar afterwards. And I made sure that there was copious amounts drunk. And then I explained to the team, the sleeping arrangements and what they didn’t realize was that you have to sleep in these large double sleeping bags, two per bed for body warmth. And so the ones that didn’t get on together, I made them sleep together and they were the best of friends in the morning because one of the things you can’t get in an ice hotel is an ice toilet, of course, because it would melt  for obvious reasons. So having had copious amounts of alcohol in the middle of the night with no electricity or you have torches, then the guy that needs the loo has to wake the other guy up who hates him and then say, can you follow me outside? I need to do my business outside. And I need someone to watch me with a torch in case I fall over, because if you fall over your die of hypothermia straightaway, so someone has to monitor you. So now this guy that really doesn’t like you, then it has to be forced to come out in the freezing cold in the middle of the night, to watch you do your business, right? And then you can warm your feet up on his bottom afterwards, but they say, so, you know, that kind of shock situation to make people realize that it’s only a bloody job. Right. We all, again, just as you started this podcast, nobody gets up in the morning and wants to do a bad job here. We’re all in it. We have the same vision. Don’t come into work and say I hate you because you do it different to me. Try and get value out of everything. And diversity is great. If we were all the same, it’d be a really boring world. So differences of opinion are great. So we embraced them. We did that shock to get them over the line, but it worked.

Al Fawcett: [00:37:21] So let’s go to the shark story for a second. You said that they, you got them dressed up in two by two. So did they go into by two? Yeah. So how were the people feeling? One who went first. But also the people standing on watching them go in, did that make them more worried and anxious when they stand there watching somebody else go in or did that start to alleviate the fear?

Michael Tobin: [00:37:44] Interesting. So two by two plus one guide. So there were three of them getting in. One of them was the guidance to my team and I was the first to go in. I wouldn’t expect them to do it if I didn’t do it myself. So that was point 1. And I think that the more they saw people doing it, there was, uh, there were two people originally that refused to do it, and one on medical grounds and one, because they were just too scared, but as they went in two by two, two by two, two by two, the one that was too scared, changed his mind and did it. Right. The one on medical grounds couldn’t do it. And that’s fine. That’s yeah, but the one that was too scared changed, so clearly there was one of two things, or maybe both happened.  Either his fear, subside when he saw people going down, not getting eaten and coming out again, or he suddenly became a little bit nervous about the only one that didn’t do it. How are my peers going to think about me after this event? Or a bit of both? 

Al Fawcett: [00:38:44] Yep. It could also be when he’s hearing those people, even before the debrief going, oh my God, that was amazing. You don’t want to be that person that’s driving home on the bus or in the taxi or on the plane or whatever it might be. And go and hearing all these amazing stories and going part of it. 

Michael Tobin: [00:39:01] Yeah, exactly, exactly. And I don’t know about you, but whenever I, I traveled around up until this year travel around the world a lot, but whenever I go to a new place and I think I’m like, Oh, this is beautiful, amazing. The first thing I do is I plan a return trip with my wife, because I want to share that feeling. Yeah. I don’t want to be the only, there’s no point in having this wonderful feeling. If you can’t share it, it’s that. I don’t know what it is as a human trait, but it’s that kind of, that you need to share that, that feeling of wonder or success or all those things.

Al Fawcett: [00:39:35] Yeah. Yeah. All the awards that you’ve won, you mentioned about the fact that at the beginning, you’ve won all these awards, but you also put it down to the team of people around you as a result because you share that story. Right. So it’s not just about your emotion. Yeah. We’re storytellers and we want to share the story of success and we want to share it with the people who participated in it.

And absolutely, I think that’s fascinating. Like I say, I love the story in itself, but I love the lessons from it. And as I say, that person, probably not wanting to feel like they’ve all got a story to tell and I haven’t now, so there’s all those sort of lessons, but, how did that apply back into their day job?

Because I’ve seen many people that go on team building courses and they do some exciting things, or they go to a management development programs and they learn these new skills and they learn these new things and they come back to their day job and a number of things can happen. You can either apply it brilliantly and implement it brilliantly and you go, I’m actually going to change myself and that’s great. You can leave it until the perfect scenario. So you go, that’s all fantastic, but I’m really busy at the moment. Once I’ve got the time and energy to apply that properly, I will, and never get round to it. Or you come back and you just hit everybody so hard and fast with this new found information that you’ve got, that they turn around and say, yeah, you’ve been on a management development program, haven’t you we’ll give it a couple of days and that’ll wear off.

So you’ve got on this shark retreat, you’ve made them aware of the fact that worrying about something in advance is not positive. It’s not going to be effective, but they come back to their job the following day or week, or whenever it was, knowing that potential challenge of merging and we still got that two to one ratio or whatever it might be. How did they apply that learning into that day job? 

Michael Tobin: [00:41:29] It has to be continuously brought to the surface that the lesson has to be continuously brought to the surface and muscle memory doesn’t kick in after one, one experience. Yeah. So what was important about doing something like that was, we would then be in a meeting and someone would go, Oh yeah, but this was going to happen. And I’d say, remember the shark tank and everybody around the room will have exactly the same emotion of my words. Then it has no ambiguity in terms of what that means to anyone. So they could immediately see the reaction of that person was exactly what everyone was doing before the shop tank thing. So it was just a, it’s a trigger to raise up an issue that you could detect. And I used to also have an Indian Yogi and there’d be a friend of mine called Jagdish Parikh  from Mumbai. He is a great businessman and, but he was also a Yogi and I would bring him every year for a two day session with the management team where he would hypnotize us.

Or he, he taught us effectively how to self hypnotise and he would try to install behavioral changes of calmness and thoughtfulness, and one of the great lessons that he taught and I needed to do it every year and people are going to, Oh, what Jagdish again? Yes. Because everything you’ve learned you’ve forgotten in the last year, so we’re going to do it again and we’re going to do it every year for a decade.

He would teach you for example,  as you were having a debate in a meeting and maybe tensions are rising and things are getting higher and you have certain triggers in your body. Your knee might start going up and down. And if you can identify your personal triggers where you will, where they are, the sign that your attention is increasing and you could end up shouting. You don’t have to be in a business meeting. You could be at home, you could be with your partner. You could end, you can sense. The trigger will tell you that you’re on a path here that unless you change that path, it will end up in a screaming match. So before that happens, you need to release the valve and you can do that by certain actions that you could, they’re like traffic lights. 

For example, when you’re late for something, if you’re late for a meeting and you’re driving there, it seems like you always hit these red traffic lights. That you know are always against you. We’re actually, there’s no difference to any other day. You just notice it more because you’re late. You think they’re making you late, but there’s nothing to do with, it’s not their problem. It’s you just left late. But the point is we are getting angry with the traffic lights. So when you see red, it means you are associating it with this anger. What it’ll do is it’ll trigger things. If you find your trigger point where your foot is twitching or something, then lean back in the chair and then you reset, right?

So it’s, uh, keeping control over your kind of mental state at any given time. And we sometimes we easily get kidnapped into a space that we probably regret being in later, whether we’re arguing or shouting or whatever. And we often think how, how on earth did we get to that point? How did it escalate to that point?

And there’s little things you can do just to break the process. Yep. And very often when I find myself in an argumentative situation with either my partner or I I’ll actually just detach and there’s a kind of a method that he makes you come out of. You’re almost like a third person position coming out, come out of your body, observe the argument from the third person position and it all looks really stupid. And you just start laughing because it’s so ridiculous. And then once you start laughing in an argument, then, then it just breaks it down anyway. So there’s little things like that I think are really important. And again, nothing should give you unpleasantness to the point where, anger is again, as I said it’s a really crap emotion because it doesn’t do anyone any good. Including the person that has the anger. So if you can channel it in a different way, if you can channel it into desire or if you can channel it into resilience or if you can channel it into different attitudes, then it’s much more valuable than just having anger. So methods, ways of converting that, right. It’s really important. 

Al Fawcett: [00:45:24] Yeah, absolutely. Again, if you think about it from, I’ve spoken to a number of sports psychologists, and they talk about heightened emotional states, and you can see these things where people are, your teams are shoulder to shoulder and they’re ramping themselves up and they’re getting themselves into a heightened, emotional state, but it’s controlled. And if you are angry, then you have lost control and therefore you won’t be at your peak performance. 

Michael Tobin: [00:45:49] You know how many times I’m sure  everyone listening will be able to look back in their recent past and see when they’ve observed two people arguing. Yes. And then you think, how stupid are you?  Because they’re saying the most ridiculous things to each other. Yeah. But you did that now. They’re suddenly becomes five years old. And as an observer of this, it all looks so ridiculous and you want to try and calm it down and all that. But yet when you’re in it, You can’t do that? 

Al Fawcett: [00:46:15] No, like you said, you lose that control. Absolutely. And again, it goes back to something you said a moment ago. I really liked about the fact that you kept bringing your yogi back because it’s the skill of mastery. Whereas so many people they’re so quick to go, right? I’ve got that. Now let’s move on to the next thing. Let’s move on to the next thing. Let’s move on to the next thing. But actually it’s that ability to go, you’ve taken that into the unconscious over the last 12 months, all we’re going to do is you can spend a bit of time bringing it back to the conscious, make you aware. And self-awareness is key in all of these things that you just talked about.

So if you think about what you’ve done there with the trigger points and all the other bits and pieces is we’re just reflecting back and using our self-awareness to go, okay, that’s about me. This isn’t about external forces. This isn’t about the fact that person pisses me off. This is about how I’ve allowed myself to build up that.

Michael Tobin: [00:47:08] Because no one actually should be able to upset you because you shouldn’t be as susceptible to be upset. We have immediately at some kind of everything is about me. So it’s Oh, you did that, therefore, I don’t feel good about that, but maybe you shouldn’t have, you shouldn’t care.

Maybe there’s something else you should be. You shouldn’t allow anyone else to have that power over you that upsets you and you should be able to deal with things in a more sort of adult way and say, okay, well, why on earth? Did you do that? And did you think about doing it this way? And what was your thought process when you did that? Were you trying to make this happen? 

Al Fawcett: [00:47:43] And sometimes it’s as simple as you can do the internal thing of going, okay, that doesn’t work for me. And that’s as clear as it is because it’s not an anger thing. It’s not a, you shouldn’t do that or that’s wrong or whatever. I’m not judging what you’re doing,I’m telling you it doesn’t work for me. And there, you can respond to that in whatever way, shape or form. So if the kids do something or they’re asking for something to go. Oh, I’m sorry that doesn’t work for that time. Doesn’t work for me. I’m being really clear on my thoughts, but I’m not getting all frustrated and angry and, and, and then defining them as people as well, which is something that people can fall into the trap of, you’re a bad person.

Michael Tobin: [00:48:20] And I know, I agree with that. I know another thing is interesting because obviously we will have experienced more with the lockdown situations, but working from home, I’ve actually seen people on zoom calls where they’re being very nice to me on the zoom call and then their kids walked in and they say, get out, get out!  and I say hang on, say Hi, who is that? Tell me about them, because we our work and life is not balanceable.

We have great aspirations, work, life balance is a nonsense. You will always fail at one or the other if you’re trying to balance them. If you try to integrate them. You can be successful at both. And so I always encourage, if I see a little kid in the back of the zoom call, I’m going who is that, tell me about them.

And I like the fact that this is very often when we have things going on at a meeting. The first thing I said earlier on first thing I do is try and find out about the person. And we’ve got a great opportunity with zoom calls in people’s rooms, bedrooms, and front rooms. And God knows what we can find out so much more about them because. they are disarmed to an extent. They are in their comfort zone, but also there’s stuff going on around them, that isn’t business. So I think there’s a great opportunity for us to actually try to integrate our work and life better. Yeah. And I use the analogy very often as if your two passions are long distance running and weightlifting and your aspiration is to win a gold medal. You’re probably not going to achieve your aspirations by keeping up with both of those, because your body shape needs to be completely different for both of them. Yeah. But there’s the third way. There’s a 45 degree angle where you could, okay. I’m going to do the decathlon, which requires me to do some weightlifting and it requires me to do some running and I’ll win a gold medal in decathlon, right.

So your aspiration is, is tick. Yeah, gold medal. You’re still doing both of the things you love, but you’re not doing them to the XL point of needing to be a gold medalist in either of them. Yes. Right. 

Al Fawcett: [00:50:17] Yeah. So it’s not compromised as such, but it’s also, it’s not forgoing one for the other either. And that’s the thing I used to find the same. So when I originally traveled a lot for work in the past, my mindset was always I’m going away. So I’m going to be working. So I will take lots of work with me. So I’ll sit in my hotel at night and work so I can make sure that when I get home that I’m at home. But then I would go away and I’d begrudge being away because all I was doing was working. I wasn’t seeing these beautiful cities, then I’d get back and I’d go, ah, but I’ve still got lots of stuff that I need to do. And if I was at home, I felt I needed to be at work. And if I was at work, I felt I should be at home. The guilt kicks in all of that stuff. And I think that it’s the phrase work-life balance, which I find really fascinating because I think it’s the actual act of trying to balance it that keeps us off balance. 

Michael Tobin: [00:51:05] Correct. A hundred percent agree. And from my, from my book, live love, work prosper, which is the whole point about work-life balance not working and it has to be intellectually. And I read that there was a, there’s a thing in there about, I think a 79% of this demographic interviewed admitted to lying to their partner about working from home.

And if you think about that, where’s that going to happen? Where’s that going to end in a relationship where you bring you’re about to leave, right? And let’s for argument’s sake, say it’s man and wife in this way round, but it could be any way around, but the guy is leaving. He’s an aspirational, mid-career, he’s got some peers that are all going for the same promotion and he’s about to leave early because his wife is going to go out for the one night out that she’s had in the last two months, instead of looking after the kids.  Please get home on time because I want to go out. And then as he’s walking out, the door, boss comes along and says, Oh, I need this done by tomorrow. And Oh my God, what do I do? What do I do? So he comes home. And then he pretends he’s ill and sits in the bathroom on the toilet, trying to do all his work. And, and then in the morning around the water machine in the office he’s Oh, did you get, Oh yeah, that’s terrible, man. Now he’s, he’s engaging endearing with the office staff and lying to his partner.

I’ve had business affairs in the past, which ended terribly and I regret them now. Is there any wonder things like that happen? If you’re starting off lying to your partner and endearing yourself and talking about the truth to your work colleagues.

 And if he comes in and goes, okay, love, I know that was your time tonight, but. I’ve just been lumbered with this. Now ‘we’, so immediately you’re on the same side. Right? We have an issue here. So we have an issue. You’ve got to go out, but I have to do this. I can not do it, but I probably won’t get them promotion. Therefore we can’t afford the bigger house for the other baby coming in nine months time, but that’s an option. Right. And then you can get, and we’ll probably have an issue. I’ll tell you what, I’ll phone with friends and you’ll need an hour for that. And I’ll tell them I’m going to be an hour late and everything’s fine. And so that compromise, first of all, it doesn’t create conflict between the two people that should be solid anyway. So you come back, you come round on their side and say, look that outside horrible world out there is against us, but, well, how can we fix this as a team? And then you’re resolving everything because you’re getting the work done, but you’re also, you’re dealing with it as a team. So you’re not enemies of each other, if you like.

And I think that’s, it’s an important way. It’s an important distinction to try and find these 45 degree angles in life, because if you compromise you, you will do a crap job of both. Yep. And if you don’t, you’re going to be positioning yourself in a binary world where eventually you do piss a lot of people.

Al Fawcett: [00:53:42] Yeah. Like the positioning, right at the start of, like you said, it’s almost a ‘we’. It’s the visual imagery of ‘we’ are in this together and we’re pointing in the same direction and it’s that degree of clarity. And that becomes solution focused rather than, I’ve already come up with a solution and I’ve just got to try and manipulate the situation to fit in with it. It’s like, how do we work this through, and that works in a lot of scenarios. 

I’m a great believer in challenge rather than conflict per se. I know you can have healthy conflict, but it’s that ability to have healthy challenge across a table in a boardroom or in senior leadership meetings or whatever it might be. And it’s ability to challenge as long as we’re all focused on the same. outcome.

Michael Tobin: [00:54:27] That’s right. Your vision has got to be, the vision has got to be there for everybody. And that’s why I like vision rather than a strategy, because a strategy is too prescriptive and doesn’t allow for the rate of change that we have the world that we now live in.

If its a vision. If you’ve, if you’re a sailor and you live in Dover and you decide, you know what, tomorrow morning, it’s Sunday, I’m going to sail across to Calais, and I’m going to have a nice moules frit for lunch. And then he gets up on Sunday morning and he realizes the wind is blowing completely against him. He doesn’t just go, well that’s it then, because the strategy said, I’m going to sail over with the wind behind me and blah, blah, blah. And he says, actually, you know what, it’s going to take me a bit longer and I’m going to have to tack a lot more, but I’m still going to get there. And my vision is I’m going to have moules frit in Calais.

So the how to get there has changed materially, but the vision is the same. So once you’ve got that vision clarity for your team, Then they know that everything that any one of them will be doing, even if it’s slightly different to what they thought they might be doing will be to achieve that end result. And that’s where the trust comes in. 

Al Fawcett: [00:55:29] Yeah. You said earlier about the, what do we want to be famous for as a business? So if you start with that positioning, what are we want to be famous for as a business? And that becomes the vision. Then you can hold everything up against that. You can turn around and say, so if we do that, will it take us on our journey to be world famous at…? Will it take us on our journey to be famous for? Will it take us on a journey of providing the best customer service, whatever it might be. And it also means that it gives us the opportunity as you look at the last 12 months, people would not have had this in their strategy over the last 12 months that they’re having to close down offices and people working from home and infrastructure changes, and that wouldn’t have been strategically planned at all.

But also you’ve got that situation of that ability to actually see things. So I see it like a little bit like a map and as CEO, you’re the compass. So you’re effectively saying, okay, so this is where we’re looking to get to, but what I need to understand is where everybody is positioned on the map. And what’s the terrain that’s in front of them because your terrain might be completely different than mine.

I can be sitting to go, and this is a straight path straight to, and that person turns out I’ve got a bloody great big mountain in front of me. And what we can do is you can turn around as a team and go, what resources do we need to provide Jim over there to help him get over that mountain? 

Michael Tobin: [00:56:47] Exactly. Exactly. This is a hundred percent part of the deal. You know what I mean? And you’re right. This strange year has been amazing for some people that, that have been able to pivot their approach successfully to, to take advantage of situation. This is a business that I chair in Bristol called ultra leap, and that it’s, it creates the sensation of touch in midair using ultrasound.

And so of course now when nobody wants to touch anything, COVID. They’ve been able to create a touchless screen. So instead of going into a, into a subway or a McDonald’s and using their touch screen, now you can do that from six inches away from the thing, and you can still see the button moving on the screen, but you’re not touching the screen. So there’s no COVID transmission things like this and it’s flying. And because they they’ve thought about the negatives and trying to take advantage of opportunities that will always present. If you think about the world as a kind of a mass of energy and where some things spins one way, there’s an equal and opposite reaction somewhere.

And you’ve just got to identify where those are and COVID is a terrible thing. And I don’t want to see this any longer than anyone else, but I think it’s a very acute example of a massive unpredicted challenge that is the maximum disruptor you can possibly have. And I just wonder whether we’re looking at some of the defeatist companies and I’m not trying to be bad to anybody here, but I think some companies with perhaps a more defeatist attitude might almost give up in that scenario where a less defeatist attitude would try to find the pivot if you like.

And maybe there isn’t one in airlines. I think it’s very difficult to find a positive for an airline at the moment, but also I think there are some that are probably on the cusp of being able to switch to some of the restaurants that have gone into home deliveries is a great example. And my, my wife interviews a lot of chefs and during this COVID has been amazing because they’ve all got time on their hands and they’ve all been talking about how they’ve completely changed their business too.

Yeah. Obviously the social distancing in restaurants is different, but they’ve, they’ve all gone into tasting menus because they’re reducing their stock to make money. So having a tasting menu is a lot better than having 25 things that people choose from on a la carte, having home delivery kits that they’re going to continue with, even when things open up.

They said no people, this is a new product and it’s not going away. So there are things, even in the most challenged parts of the economy, people have been incredibly inventive and creative and looked at things and said, okay, I’m not giving up here. How do I pivot? And it’s been super interesting. 

Al Fawcett: [00:59:19] Yeah, it has been, it’s been amazing. The positive I want to try and take from it is that it’s in certain situations, it’s given people the time to stop, reflect and reset. So one of the things that I often talk about with people and in organizations is the difference between capability and capacity. What are you capable of can be completely different to your capacity.

So sometimes organizations, whether it be they try and grow too fast and therefore, as a result of that, their cashflow is impacted or their ability to deliver the level of service to their customer is impacted. And that can be a capacity issue because everybody tells them growth is good. Just get as many customers on board as you can and they can’t actually service that. But it can come down to the individual and they have the capability of doing so much more, but they haven’t got the capacity because they’ve just filled their time and their days with so much activity, their to do list is so massive. And this is almost given some people that opportunity to go, my to-do list is just gone out the window. So I can either woe is me that, that, and go, Oh my goodness, what am I going to do with tomorrow? Or they can sit and go, wow, what am I going to do with tomorrow? And it’s a slightly different attitude.

Michael Tobin: [01:00:30] And it’s attitude, right? It’s attitude. Again, it’s the same thing as the very same word.

So the different attitude means so much difference. It’s so important to have the right attitude on everything. And I think, again, coming back to the kind of what life integration, why would you turn around and shout at your kid when you’re speaking nicely to your employee on the zoom call? I like to think of my role as I have stakeholders that are investors, employees, customers, suppliers, my family, they’re all stakeholders in me. I don’t do well. They will not do well. I need to be aware that all of the people that create my life as a whole on my stakeholders and they have a vested interest in me and I have that responsibility to deliver. And we shouldn’t distinguish between all the stakeholders and they’re all equally important.

Al Fawcett: [01:01:18] And on that note, I could talk to you for hours and hours, but on that note, all that is left for me to say is, thank you ever so much for your time today. I’ve taken notes upon notes, and I’m going to listen to this one back a number of times.

Michael Tobin: [01:01:31] It’s been a pleasure and does say my heart goes out to, to everybody that’s suffering in this challenging time, but I know we’ll be through it soon. And we’ll all be looking back on it as a learning curve, I hope. 

Al Fawcett: [01:01:41] Okay. So once again, I want to say thanks to Michael for sharing your stories and perspective on things such as goal setting, recruitment, team building and more importantly, the value of really knowing your people, setting a vision, and then getting out of the way and letting the great people you put in place to do a job, do their job. To trust them. 

Now it’d be easy to say, well, I don’t run a business or I don’t lead lots of people, but the lessons are still there. Take the time to really get to know yourself first, to define and refine your skills, your knowledge and capability and review your capacity, to review your performance in the key areas of life and what you can do to continue to improve it, to develop it, to keep getting better. 

If you want to know more about Michael, then head over to Michael tobin.online, where you can read about his background experiences, details about the books he’s written, his adventures to the South pole, which I’m going to have to get him back on again, to talk about in the future and much, much more.

I’m going to put the links in the show notes so you can find them there. Now as always, also want to say thanks to you for taking the time to listen. And for those of you sharing these stories with people, you feel may enjoy and benefit from them. And of course, to everyone, who’s taken an extra few minutes to leave a rating and a review.

I really appreciate it. And it does help more people to find this and get something out of these conversations. Now if you want, you can always reach out to me via all the socials or over  at infinitepie.co.uk. And you can let me know what you think, what you’ve taken from it,  and of course what you’re going to do as a result.

 For now go and do stuff that matters.

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